For Abbie Hoffman, in Loving Memory

As we leave peysakh, but before we leave the month of April, I'm taking this moment to remember the irrepressible Abbie Hoffman, one of my heroes, who died of his own hand on April 12, 1989. When I reviewed his book, Soon To Be a Major Motion Picture, in Jewish Currents in January, 1981 (“Hoffman's ultimate antic,” I wrote, “is his sobriety, which is intense and personal and confirms the best hopes we may have had about 'the real Abbie'"), I was very happy to receive an approving letter from him, which we published in the March issue. Years later, when I heard of Abbie's death, I wrote the following poem, which was published in The Reconstructionist::

The Whole World Is Watching

At three a.m.
Jonah calls to me
from his disordered crib.
I scold him back to sleep,
then stand alone in the dark bathroom,
listening to the free splash of my pee
and thinking about "Steal this Urine Test."

The kitchen light
is like the guru's touch,
shooting sparks through my forehead.
I peel one of the ripening bananas
from Jonah's stockpile.
When our grandparents were introduced to these things
at Ellis Island
they didn't know to peel them first.
Not even the rabbis knew.

The sprig of forsythia above the sink
is becoming a green-leafed twig.
I wonder how many of my friends back in the city
understand how forsythia changes.
Until I got a dog
I didn't realize it myself,
only vaguely thought I was walking a different path
not seeing those yellow bushes anymore.
Then the dog led me to the same places each morning
and I saw what happens,
flowers passing into leaves.

The whole world is watching
as my forsythia turns green above the sink.
I am a greenhorn,
trying to learn the names of things:
forsythia yielding to lilac, lilac yielding to peony,
peony yielding to lily.
I am an immigrant from the Woodstock Nation,
throwing out my banana peel,
giving my soft belly a squeeze
and turning out the light.

Two hours remain
before Jonah will cry again
and I can lie with him beneath my blankets
until morning.


Blogger Lao Qiao said...

Abbie Hoffman was both a leftist extremist and an original thinker. We don't know how he would have responded to 9/11 had he been alive. I will assume his ability to think would have won. Hoffman wouldn't have looked upon the attack as a logical response to American policies. He wouldn't have overlooked the honor murders of women and gays in the Islamic world but would instead have understood the meaning and destructiveness of blind faith.

Most of all, I believe he wouldn't have remained silent about statements by Nasrallah like the following: "If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them wolrdwide."

10:52 AM  
Blogger Cyber said...

Thanks for the reminder about Abbie, a major influence on my early life.

Here's a poem I wrote just after he died:

Fire in the Belly (Spring 1989)

A fifty two year
Fire in the Belly,
A fifty two year long

Abbie Yo-Yo
the political pacifist
the fighting friend
a gorilla among guerrillas
a guerrilla among gorillas

Using humor to progress the movement,
He used the movement to progress humor;
A funny revolutionary
in a funny Revolution
for the Hell of it

Abbie is finally in
The Woodstock Nation
LBJ is Dead
Abbie Hoffman is


11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Name a right wing jew?

you cant, can you!

Its just not in your blood son.

6:38 PM  

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