Becoming 89: A Poem

13 Nov

Becoming 89


Somehow as the sun sets

The thrill of being alive startles


Is it love alone

Or your starlit smile


The play of Istanbul

The enchantment of kediler


This thrill of life persists

Despite the world


Despite unimaginable

And hideous atrocities


We must not avert our eyes

Or escape to the suburbs of the mind


The faith of this hour

Is anxious patience


Panic prescribed as sanity

‘Thanks Greta’


Remember to observe bravery

Along the Gaza fence


Remember refugees

Human and desperate


And those killed and maimed

Because their skin is darker


Or their god(s) differ

Despite being the same


Then and only then

Succumb to flowers and maidens


Only then visit forests

To bless magical animals


While living and dying

Keep your gaze, affirm


This impossible faith

By smiles, by tears


This forever fervor

Keeping birthdays precious


To be old and engaged

Is to be truly young


To be old and enraged

Is to be truly young


To affirm the affirmable

And fight the abominable


Is to be truly young

Great fortune at 89





Richard Falk

Istanbul, November 13, 2019

27 Responses to “Becoming 89: A Poem”

  1. Gene Schulman November 13, 2019 at 6:23 am #

    Happy birthday, Richard.

    Spinoza called what you are feeling, ‘conatus’. Can’t be helped.

  2. safiya November 13, 2019 at 8:01 am #

    Happy Birthday!! Beautiful poem! Continue on and I am so grateful to have found your blog site and read your many brilliant, insightful and fearless articles!

  3. Corinne Whitaker November 13, 2019 at 8:04 am #

    Dear Richard,

    Lovely. “the suburbs of the mind” is a striking phrase. Many happy returns to you.

    Love, Corinne

    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:23 pm #

      Thanks, dear Corinne, your reality as artist and visionary bestows beauty, hope, and joy.
      A birthday gift that lasts throughout the year! Love, Richard

  4. safiya November 13, 2019 at 8:07 am #

    Happy Birthday!! Beautiful poem! Continue on and I am so grateful that I found your blog site. Your articles are brilliant, insightful and fearless!

    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:20 pm #

      Your affirming words aware are part of what makes my life feel precious even at 89!!

  5. maryryanblues November 13, 2019 at 8:46 am #

    Don’t think my last comment saved. Happy birthday Richard and thanks for all you do. You are a true inspiration. I havn’t read all your blogs, but I save them to study them and try to understand world politics. Thanks for all you do.

    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:19 pm #

      Your tender words are the loveliest of birthday gifts!

  6. Irene Gendzier November 13, 2019 at 8:47 am #

    A very very happy Birthday and wishing to read many many more poems to come! irene


    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:18 pm #

      Dear Irene–among the joys of birthdays is to recover a moment of contact
      with those we love! Thanks for your words so generously encouraging even my
      amateurish poems. Hope your life exceeds what the world offers! With love, Richard

  7. Mark Selden November 13, 2019 at 9:21 am #


    I think that you are perhaps the youngest 80 something of my acquaintance.

    Well, Peter Dale Scott, Noam and Dan Ellsberg are somewhere in that league, too.

    Perhaps you reveal some of the secrets in Becoming 89.

    The Asia-Pacific Journal


    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:14 pm #

      Mark: The only secret of extreme old age I have discovered is ‘defiance,’
      maybe a spillover from a litany of political disappointments.

      As for such preeminent personalities as Peter, Noam, and Dan–I defer to them
      when it comes to wisdom and achievement.

      I hope you are flourishing to the extent that the world permits.

      warmest greetings from Istanbul,


  8. Paul November 13, 2019 at 10:39 am #

    Thank you!  Much needed words of inspiration from an inspirational man. Paul, who became 80

  9. Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka November 13, 2019 at 10:55 am #

    A poetic manifesto; a moral and ethical declaration which should inspire and guide us all. Happy birthday, Richard!

    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:10 pm #

      Thanks, Dayan, your words a cherished birthday gift!!

  10. Nasir Khan November 13, 2019 at 12:08 pm #

    Dear Richard Falk, I wish you a happy birthday and many happy returns of the day!

    Your life is a glorious example of how an academic and political activist can make a great contribution to the cause of peace and justice in the world, especially in the Occupied Palestine.

    Your incessant struggle for the people of Palestine is glorious. Over the years you have exposed the false narratives of Zionists and debunked their powerful propaganda and support for the expansionist policies of Israel and its crimes against a captive population in the international forum and the media.

    Thank you Richard Falk for all you have done and continue to do for peace and justice!

  11. ray032 November 13, 2019 at 1:57 pm #

    Happy Birthday Rickard!

    You still have your Active Mind, and that is a Blessing for us who Love, Respect and Admire you for the many Accomplishments in your Life.

  12. Jerry Alatalo November 13, 2019 at 2:38 pm #

    Happy birthday, and thank you Professor Richard Falk. The best is yet to come!

  13. Paul Wapner November 13, 2019 at 4:26 pm #

    Happy Birthday, my dear friend. May you continue to be startled and to remind the rest of us how to open our eyes.

    I have one quibble with your touching poem. You write,


    Succumb to flowers and maidens

    ONLY THEN visit forests

    To bless magical animals”

    I may live too much in the suburbs of the mind but, for me, opening to the world’s wonders need not be postponed until one has sufficiently stared at the horrors. In fact, I think “succumb[ing] to flowers” & “bless[ing] magical animals” partly prepares us for looking squarely at the “hideous atrocities.”

    Put differently, I’m unsure that one can sufficiently absorb and practice one’s responsibility to injustice without, simultaneously, opening to life’s marvels. The suggestion feels too sequential to me.

    I may have misread your poem.

    I have not, however, exhausted expressing how much I care for you. Happy happy 89!

    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:09 pm #

      Paul: Your affirming words, the best birthday gift I could ever hope to receive!

      You are right about the sequencing of exposure to the deeply inhumane and the wonders
      of nature and love. I am, perhaps, too much under the lingering resonance of Adorno’s
      inhibiting words: “It is barbaric to write poetry after Hitler.” I may have the exact
      words wrong, and it is at best an inhibition to be heeded, but also to be transcended.

      Let’s arrange a meeting on one of our coasts sometime soon. We return to SB on Dec. 5th,
      but Zimbabwe comes first.

  14. Maria Landi November 13, 2019 at 8:48 pm #

    Thank you deeply for this manifesto of hope and love for life and humans.
    Wish there were many thousand spirits like you in this world that needs humanity dearly!

    • Richard Falk November 14, 2019 at 11:01 pm #

      Your tender words, a lovely birthday present! Richard

  15. Beau Oolayforos November 14, 2019 at 8:54 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    It goes without saying, but Many Happy Returns.

  16. Kata Fisher November 17, 2019 at 8:12 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk, Your are there where I hope to be – not in this age, but only by Spirit free. In whispers of pine, and evergreen leaves. It’s not for this world, for nothing is of Him? Everything is caused by Him. A Wonderful Designer who stood up, and is standing. Thank you for everything. As I thank you, so, I do remember St. Sthephen. I hope all Grace and protection of Martyrs and Saints guides your on your way that maybe is soon or not too soon. I will pray that your passing into everlasting grace be accompanied by only Holy Angels that are submitted to the will of Most Holy One. It is never too early to pray for most wonderful passing on experience. I can only imagine how glorious you passing on will be. We only love you for the person you are and are in His presence. Trust me you were difficult to be loved – just because of Him. Please forgive me – if you really not interested about hearing about passing on possibilities. 🙂 K.F.

    • Richard Falk November 18, 2019 at 2:07 am #

      Kata: You pose difficult post-mortality identity issues that I have
      not about. I thank you for stretching my boundaries of awareness. Greetings,

  17. Darlene Coffman November 18, 2019 at 4:05 pm #

    I am grateful for this opportunity to wish you a belated Happy Birthday but also to tell you that your compassionate, peaceful nature that shows through your writing is an inspiration to me who has yet to conquer the beast in myself as I rail against the injustice ‘out there’.

    • Richard Falk November 18, 2019 at 9:10 pm #

      Thanks, Darlene, for these affirming words. Stay calm, dedicated,
      yet letting it happen, and you will achieve what you are seeking–
      faith and persistence with some satisfying distractions to suit
      your sensibility is the best formula for fulfillment that I know..

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