Why Alexander the Great Left Nubia

Stories from the Talmud retold by Mirian

Alexander the Great was famous for his military might. When countries heard he was approaching, they would all but tremble with fright!

One day, Alexander the Great had set out to conquer a small village in Africa run by women. Word got out. The Nubian leaders gathered their skirt in their hand, and with their head scarves flaying in the wind, bolted towards the queen. A quick meeting needed to be done!

In quick hushed voice they spoke in their native African tongue. What should they do? How can they ever defeat the Great Alexander. Slowly slowly a plan was devised.

The day came. Alexander the Great and all his military might approached.

They came and towered over the entrance of the village. Lo and behold! Without weapons, the women came out. One by one, led by the queen in all her regality. It was a quiet but noble and beautiful procession. Drums played suspensfully in the background and no one spoke a word, save the the excited wind blowing around them.

Finally, the queen spoke.

“I salute you, the great and mighty Alexander. You are well known for your fierceness in battle and for your great victories.”

Everyone listened intently.

“We women have protected and defended our village alone. And we have been successful! Now, if you should come and attack us and win, what would it be said? The great Warrior fought with women and won?! What kind of victory would that be?”

The Queen paused to let the idea sink in. Then she continued, “Now supposing WE WON? What would be said then?”

With a faint smile, Alexander the Great, conceded, “You are wise. I will not conquer your land. Now fetch some bread for me and my men and we will be off!”

The queen bowed graciously and returned with her whole procession back into their village. As soon as they were out of sight, again they hurried and huddled to think and talk.

He needs bread? they wondered. Surely, there is a trick to this! So they, again, devised another plan.

After a few minutes, once again the whole solemn procession came out bearing bread. By then everyone had dismounted from their horses and waited for the bread. The women passed bread to everyone. However, when they bit into the bread, they realized it was hard! Each bread had inside of it gold!

“What is this!” Cried Alexander.

“Great and mighty Alexander” The queen began, unperturbed, “would you really be satisfied to come all the way over here… for a morsel of bread?”

With this, Alexander nodded and left. But before he left, he wrote on the gate of their city: “I, Alexander of Macedon, was a fool before having come to this country of women in Africa and having received their advice.”

A Fate

A Poem by Valentina Cano

Sleep, like a warming glove,
must come to me.
I cannot sit,
awake,
processing thoughts through sieves
of fears and grating doubts.
The night has tightened around me,
a net of silence,
my legs straining to run,
my head a half turn
from twisting off this bed of sweat.
I peer closely in the dark.
The threads I hold so tight
cutting into my trembling skin.

MUD

A Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

When my son digs the pond for his garden,
earth and grass and small branches stain his skin.
The rains come with thunder and brilliance,
the pond fills with water, twig and turtle.
Frogs avoid it, but snakes come to drink,
and the King of Deer leaves its track in the torn grass.
The pond is a great success and water lettuce take root.
Many days he watches an egg become
whole and living and dead. He remembers
many things and keeps neatly printed journals.

2

My wife studies wood,
a shape to root and decadence,
the forms of men in grain.

What color superman when his strength comes from a tree?
What hunger photosynthesis? Carbon dioxide? Radiant energy?

She sees a man go into the tree,
find a sleeping place safe within its folds,
and she draws him a power over rain,
directions for sun-heat and light-fire,
strength over the movement of root.

3

My daughter expresses color in algebraic equations.

4

And my grandson holds his hand out to be cleaned.
Inarticulate, he waves it like a wand,
an incoherence we understand to mean:
“Please, take this mud from my palm.
I only meant to see how it felt,
but now it is a part of me.”

5

Somewhere ash is running,
Building waters,
A great turbulence underground.

6

The importance of life
is always in the remembrance of the dead,

not the hell we fall against,
but the blazing heat of the Laplanders,
the fierce fire that cannot go out in Vinland ,

a prayer to wood and fresh kindling,
the anger needed to warm a soul,

7

how mud bakes itself into brick
somehow

Gone With the Wind

A Poem by Linh To Ngo

To live in this life, one needs a soul
For what, you know? To let go with the wind
Wind swept yours away
But not that sure will bring you another’s

To live in this life, one needs a heart
For what, you know? To stop someday
That very moment one’s life stops
But not that sure it has a beginning moment

To live in this life, one needs a love
For what, you know? To be broken
Leaving a deep wound
But not that sure it would heal someday

To live in this life, one needs so much
There are things those never can be enough
Don’t cry, my dear
I would be living with you in your life, tomorrow.

A Conversation with My Grandfather–Part 2

The silences between me and my grandfather grow. The more he speaks, the less I say. He is ignorant, but not stupid. He lingers longer than he should in the silences, desperate for validation, for connection to a family he suspects no longer accepts him for who he is. He finally leaves, limping away back across the shared yard that separates our homes. There is no resolution for either of us.

Perhaps it is cowardice on my part. I don’t want to lose a man who has been a constant in my life, even as he spouts social vitriol as a matter of course. I fear confrontation because I am not nearly as sure of myself, my liberalism, my instinct for social justice, as he is sure in his dogma of social exclusion, fiscal Darwinism. I am young, he is old. I am inexperienced, he has decades of life behind him. Respect for the elder is long lost, but the intimidation of a long life remains, to those with a sense of humility at least. I trust my own ignorance more than I am certain of his. I remind myself of Yeats, a cliche who nonetheless remains insightful for his time and ours: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity”. Whatever else you might say of him, my grandfather’s anger is passionate and motivating. I have no such passion for life, an apathy born of a comfortable, middle-class upbringing. Comfort does not breed revolutionaries without concentrated intent, and more rarely, without a privileged conceit. These are personal failing which plague not merely my relationship with my grandfather, but my life composite.

Recognizing these personal failings, I nonetheless believe there is legitimacy in a certain kind of silence. There is a silence that smothers the rantings of a madman. There is the silence of a shunning. There is the silence of the persevering laborer, working to implement change, not wasting breath on those who never will. Whatever it’s the source, silence must be justified. So I strive to justify mine.

I give to just causes. I call my representatives. I educate myself on matters of social justice and political controversy. Perhaps most important of all, I participate in my democracy. I educate myself on my representatives and I vote. I vote even when I believe it will make no difference, so that I may say to myself, if no one else, “I have not been silent.” It is not all that I can do, but something has been done.

There comes a point where people are lost to you. My grandfather cannot be saved because he believes he is already saved. He is white, evangelical, blue-collar America–he was born saved. So I will not seek to save him. I will seek to save myself, to save my children, to save those who cannot save themselves. I may be silent; but in silence, I will work out my own salvation.

A Conversation with my Grandfather

An Essay by Blake Hurst

There is an image of the tribal elder, memory etched in the lines of their face, hair silver with time and decay, eyes deep beneath their brows like ancient pools where spirits dwell, whom we all believe, whether we realize it or not, is responsible for our being here.

There is an image of these elders, men and women, sages and chiefs, leading their people through barren tundra on the path of mammoth and elk, towards warmer climates where our ancestors gathered wild grain, fresh fruit, drink sweet water thawed from the snow of the hill lands.

There is a place in our memory, the memory of animals, the memory of lived history, where we remember the wisdom and grace of these elders; their ability to heal, their ability to preserve, their willingness to serve their children till the very moment the light of life was extinguished in their eyes and they were laid to rest in the earth they had walked for an age.

I struggle to believe in these elders anymore. I wonder that I ever did.

Reverence for the aged has been a constant of human culture, and their value, in experience, in wisdom, has been extolled age to age. And yet, I wonder if we have confused reverence with pity. I wonder if we have looked upon gray faces, brittle bones, and dull gazes, and thought to ourselves, in our heart of hearts, ‘Dear God, is that what I am?’. We have compensated for fear and discomfort with respect and a willingness to forgive which is not extended to those in their prime, to peers, to equals.

I am no longer willing to forgive.

My grandfather sits beside me. His face is wrinkled, his head is bald, his teeth have rotted long ago, replaced by artificial dentures, but his eyes, his eyes are bright, but they do not smile. He speaks at times about the beauty of chickadees and the laughing of squirrels, and there appears, for a moment, a remnant of the elder.

But he continues speaking, and his thoughts turn to those he hates: to Muslims who intend on establishing sharia law in the United States; to protestors, no, ‘rioters’, who defy the police, defy the government, anarchists, ingrates, he calls for a firing wall for all looters; he recalls Mexicans who cross the border, who steal American jobs while living off American paychecks, who vote Democrat, turning honest, hardworking red states purple, or God forbid, blue; and yes, of course, he hates Democrats. Queer-loving, God hating, welfare state enabling Democrats. He hates them most of all because they are impossible to see. Muslims, Mexicans, Black Lives Matter protestors, all of these are obvious because they are not white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant. But some Democrats are. Some actually pretend to be Americans like the rest of us. All the while, they plant subliminal messages in 5g networks, working with the ultra-rich and China to sell out the United States to the godless Communists. He is a godly man, so he does not swear. But damn them to Hell. God bless the United States as he remembers it.

I say nothing. Finally, he leaves. He leaves me wondering what value we ever saw in those who have lived so long. We decay and call it beauty. We grow resentful and morose and call this experience. We long for the years of our youth, denying the inevitability of change, and this is lauded as wisdom. I long to be proud of my grandfather, to believe in the elder once again, and the power of body and soul in the latter years of life. But I now believe that true experience is found not in age, but in disappointments and frustrated hopes. Perhaps in this, the modern elder, girded with hate, sure in simplicity, seeing black with one eye and white with the other, teaches us more than we realize.

Will and Testament

A Poem (Sonnet) by Morris Dean

Time was, we carved the cello’s Venus mound,
Composed the music for the melody,
And aged the ocher wood to free the sound
To sing the cello’s heart from memory.

And now we with our son and daughter breathe
The honey’s forest fragrance tongued by bees
From flowers’ lips, and to our kids bequeath
The living golden sweet of our heartsease.

Let’s share the sun-ripe orange of our mind,
And show our kids to bite as we have done
The dulcet fruit within its gilded rind,
To hear the vibrant song our throats have sung.

Music, when soft our honeyed voices die,
Will vibrate in their liquid memory’s eye.