Living in the moment, or with awareness of the here and now can be a good thing. It allows us to appreciate what we have at any given time. It comes with a caveat, though — you have to be aware of the reality of both the individual moments which create your lifespan and keep an eye towards the future. You can drift and dream through life, if you’re lucky enough, but that won’t help you when real life problems arise and you hit an iceberg sometime in the nebulous future. It also doesn’t help others connected to you, whether by blood, acquaintance or species-specific commonality (i.e. family, friends or simply fellow human beings). That’s not even counting the plants and animals.
In other words, you have to be willing to be aware of not just yourself, and how you fit into the universe, but how connected everyone and everything else is that shares this planet with you. You have to be willing to care about them, too, and look at a future where they can survive, too. Believe it or not, living in the moment doesn’t mean that you are the center of the universe. And yet…your actions do directly and indirectly affect the planet and all of its inhabitants.
Worst case scenario, we completely strip the earth of all valuable resources and damage the atmosphere to a point where the sun’s radiation fries the planet and everything on it because we humans didn’t do enough in the time we had available to stop it. Why wouldn’t we stop it and save the only planet we have? Do you really want to give up
They all go away unless we humans start taking Climate Change seriously. The plants and animals don’t have a voice or a choice. Will humans care enough about the future of their own existence to finally give a damn before it’s too late?
This quarter’s BeZine theme is “Toward a Sustainable Earth” and is a worthy goal for all of us. And, while humans are to blame for a lot of the planet’s woes, they’re also coming up with good ideas all the time to repair the damage we’ve done and be more eco-friendly going forward. Here are a few lists to give you hope (and inspiration?):
I hope if you’ve read this far, you’ll decide to join us in being aware of how your own actions (or inaction) are affecting the planet, and maybe look at how youcan be more sustainable, too. 🙂 If we all do a little, we really can do a lot!
A few years ago, our friend Pat gave us a funky little birdhouse resembling a camera.
We never expected anyone to occupy it, but to our delight, recently a pair of Bewick’s Wrens took up residence.
They built a nest, and a week ago, the eggs hatched. Now, when a parent approaches to feed the nestlings, they all peep, “Me, me, me!”
Both parents share childcare, feeding the babies…
…and changing diapers too. The nestlings poop into mucus bags resembling pea-sized white balloons, nature’s zip-locs, which contain the mess until their parents remove it. Eco-friendly disposable diapers!
Day after day, from sunrise until sunset, rain or shine, the ‘wrents’ forage for insects for their young. Every five minutes or so, they bring food and remove the fecal sack on the way out, keeping the nest clean. They’re averaging over 300 deliveries per day!
How can such fragile creatures, weighing no more than 3 or 4 ounces, sustain such a grueling pace? Not once, but twice each season, Bewick’s Wrens produce a brood.
Once common back east, they’ve all but disappeared east of the Mississippi. Pesticides took their toll, and loss of habitat. Conditions changed, other populations moved in. House Wrens expanded their territory into that of the Bewick’s Wren, and aggressively destroyed the eggs and nests of Bewick’s Wrens.
Illustration of Bewick’s Wren by J. G. Keulemans, 1881.
A subspecies, Guadalupe Bewick’s Wren, native to Guadalupe Island, Mexico, went extinct in the 1890s, due to habitat destruction. The San Clemente Bewick’s Wren died out in the 1940’s, due to habitat destruction by feral goats, and cats. In California, development of canyons has caused a sharp decline in the Bewick’s Wren population.
When I saw omnivorous crows and Stellar’s Jays swoop in, I moved my office to the dining room table, where I could keep watch and shoo them away. So much can happen, and so quickly. Babies can fall from the nest. A brood can fall prey to a cat, a snake, an invasion of wasps. A parent can be snatched by a Cooper’s Hawk.
Last week, one of my own little Bewick’s Wrens was caught by my neighbor’s cat, who took it home via the cat door. My neighbor saved and released the wren before it was harmed. I was relieved that it returned to its nest. If birds feel threatened by lurking predators, including humans, they sometimes abandon the nest, leaving the babies to starve. It seems harsh, but instinct drives them to protect themselves, so they might live to breed again, and perpetuate the species.
The balance between survival and destruction is precarious. Driven by their survival instinct, they make tough choices, and work themselves half to death to ensure the survival of the species, if not their brood. Ironically, we call them ‘birdbrains’, and claim to be the intelligent ones.
We’ve overpopulated this planet, yet instead of conserving our resources, we’re tearing through them like there’s no tomorrow. Instead of protecting the future of our young, we tilt at windmills; but some countries are embracing them. Iceland gets 100% of its energy from renewable resources. 99% of Costa Rica’s, and 98% of Norway’s energy is clean and renewable. Those socially responsible governments have taken the lead, right across the high ground, and shown the whole world that it can be done.
While humanity teeters on the brink of self-destruction, other governments are taking action, but in the United States, our corrupt leaders ignore grave warnings of virtually every climate scientist in the world. This administration behaves like common looters, greedily stuffing their own pockets, while the building they were hired to protect burns all around them.
In a BBC interview, scientific genius, the late Stephen Hawking, said that pollution, coupled with greed and stupidity, was the biggest threat to the human race, and that climate change would be humanity’s extinction event. “With the development of militarized technology and weapons of mass destruction…the best chance for the survival of the human race might be independent colonies in space.”
But what if, instead, we could be tireless caregivers, make those tough choices, those sacrifices, and be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the survival of the species–all of them? What if we could think like a bird that gets spit out by a cat and flies straight back to defend its nest? Unlike birds, people can’t just pick up and go make a new nest; we have only this one small planet to call home. Unlike people, even birds know better than to foul their own nest.
“In trying to explain this linkage, I was inspired by a traditional African tool that has three legs and a basin to sit on. To me the three legs represent three critical pillars of just and stable societies. The first leg stands for democratic space, where rights are respected, whether they are human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, or environmental rights. The second represents sustainable and equitable management and resources. And the third stands for cultures of peace that are deliberately cultivated within communities and nations. The basin, or seat, represents society and its prospects for development. Unless all three legs are in place, supporting the seat, no society can thrive. Neither can its citizens develop their skills and creativity. When one leg is missing, the seat is unstable; when two legs are missing, it is impossible to keep any state alive; and when no legs are available, the state is as good as a failed state. No development can take place in such a state either. Instead, conflict ensues.”
Photo credit ~ Kingkongphoto & Celebrity Photos from Laurel, Maryland, USA – Wangari Maathai 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner – under CC BY-SA 2.0
In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country. Infused with her unique luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story of courage, faith, and the power of persistence is destined to inspire generations to come.
The Green Belt Movement (GBM) is an indigenous, grassroots, non-governmental organization based in Nairobi, Kenya that takes a holistic approach to a development by focusing on environmental conservation, community development and capacity building. Professor Wangari Maathai established the organization in 1977, under the auspices of the National Council of Women of Kenya. MORE
Fiqoo, the village farmer, wasted a lot of water. The other farmers knew about it but they could not do anything because Fiqoo would get very angry and start shouting. As a consequence, water became more and more scarce by the day.
The people said, “The crops will not grow and we all will die if we don’t start saving water today.” The Water Drops, terrified of the situation, gave an emergency call and got all their friends together. Out came the tin cans, the spades, the buckets, the only clay water container called Gharra and his buddies.
The plan was to start a March to Save the Water. They would march together up to the fields to try and convince the farmer.
When Fiqoo saw them coming he knew that it was something serious. He did not shout but was alert and concerned. “Fiqoo Babaji, we must save water in the village. The crops need it. They will not grow and all life will be in grave danger. You must stop running water when the earth is sufficiently saturated.”
“Oh, I do! I do but sometimes I go to sleep and feel so lazy.”
“No water. No crops. No crops, no food. No food, no people, no animals, no insects. No nothing!”
The chorus grew louder and louder.
“STOP. Stop, yelled Fiqoo. I promise I will take care. I’ll never waste water again.
“Sign! Sign! Sign an Agreement the citizenry demanded and everyone was happy when the agreement was signed and adhered to.
The village was finally on way to water sufficiency. There was a ray of hope for the future.
Lesson: Together we can solve problems and together we can save for our needs
The world is literally a greener place than it was twenty years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage. A new study shows that China and India—the world’s most populous countries—are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect comes mostly from ambitious tree-planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries.
Ranga Myneni of Boston University and colleagues first detected the greening phenomenon in satellite data from the mid-1990s, but they did not know whether human activity was a chief cause. They then set out to track the total amount of Earth’s land area covered by vegetation and how it changed over time.
The research team found that global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests. At least 25 percent of that gain came in China. Overall, one-third of Earth’s vegetated lands are greening, while 5 percent are growing browner. The study was published on February 11, 2019, in the journal Nature Sustainability.
The maps on this page show the increase or decrease in green vegetation—measured in average leaf area per year—in different regions of the world between 2000 and 2017. Note that the maps are not measuring the overall greenness, which explains why the Amazon and eastern North America do not stand out, among other forested areas.
“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation,” said lead author Chi Chen of Boston University. “That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation.”
This study was made possible thanks to a two-decade-long data record from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. An advantage of MODIS is the intensive coverage they provide in space and time: the sensors have captured up to four shots of nearly every place on Earth, every day, for the past 20 years.
“This long-term data lets us dig deeper,” said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and a co-author of the study. “When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Now with the MODIS data, we see that humans are also contributing.”
China’s outsized contribution to the global greening trend comes in large part from its programs to conserve and expand forests (about 42 percent of the greening contribution). These programs were developed in an effort to reduce the effects of soil erosion, air pollution, and climate change.
Another 32 percent of the greening change in China, and 82 percent in India, comes from intensive cultivation of food crops. The land area used to grow crops in China and India has not changed much since the early 2000s. Yet both countries have greatly increased both their annual total green leaf area and their food production in order to feed their large populations. The agricultural greening was achieved through multiple cropping practices, whereby a field is replanted to produce another harvest several times a year. Production of grains, vegetables, fruits and more have increased by 35 to 40 percent since 2000.
2000 – 2017
How the greening trend may change in the future depends on numerous factors. For example, increased food production in India is facilitated by groundwater irrigation. If the groundwater is depleted, this trend may change. The researchers also pointed out that the gain in greenness around the world does not necessarily offset the loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions such as Brazil and Indonesia. There are consequences for sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems beyond the simple greenness of the landscape.
Nemani sees a positive message in the new findings. “Once people realize there is a problem, they tend to fix it,” he said. “In the 1970s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss was not good. In the 1990s, people realized it, and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data.”
Some data courtesy of Chen et al.,(2019). Story by Abby Tabor, NASA Ames Research Center, with Mike Carlowicz, Earth Observatory.
As of March 2019, 15% of the wall is complete with significant gains made in Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia.¹ In Senegal, over 11 million trees had been planted. Nigeria has restored 12 million acres of degraded land and Ethiopia has reclaimed 37 million acres.²
The UN Environment Program website gives detailed information about Sustainability; the challenge taken was to make the planet safer and sustainable for humans and other living beings. The result in 2015 was the adoption of seventeen goals with specific objectives to be achieved by 2030. These were adopted by the international community as a way to address sustainability issues and environmental injustice.
The Goals are :
1. No poverty
2. Zero Hunger
3. Good Health and Well Being
4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
6. Clean Water and Sanitation
7. Affordable and Clean Energy
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
12. Sustainable Consumption and Production
13. Climate Action
14. Life Below Water
15. Life on Land
16. Peace Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals
“meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
“The three main pillars of sustainable development include economic growth, environmental protection, and social equality. While many people agree that each of these three ideas contribute to the overall idea of sustainability, it is difficult to find evidence of equal levels of initiatives for the three pillars in countries’ policies worldwide. With the overwhelming number of countries that put economic growth on the forefront of sustainable development, it is evident that the other two pillars have been suffering, especially with the overall well being of the environment in a dangerously unhealthy state.
The Brundtland Commission report puts forth a conceptual framework that many nations agree with and want to try to make a difference with in their countries, but it has been difficult to change these concepts about sustainability into concrete actions and programs. Implementing sustainable development globally is still a challenge. Because of the Brundtland Commission’s efforts, progress has been made.
“After releasing their report, Our Common Future, the Brundtland Commission called for an international meeting to take place where more concrete initiatives and goals could be mapped out. This meeting was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A comprehensive plan of action, known as Agenda 21, came out of the meeting. Agenda 21 entailed actions to be taken globally, nationally, and locally in order to make life on Earth more sustainable going into the future.
“Economic Growth is the pillar that most groups focus on when attempting to attain more sustainable efforts and development. In trying to build their economies, many countries focus their efforts on resource extraction, which leads to unsustainable efforts for environmental protection as well as economic growth sustainability. While the Commission was able to help to change the association between economic growth and resource extraction, the total worldwide consumption of resources is projected to increase in the future. So much of the natural world has already been converted into human use that the focus cannot simply remain on economic growth and omit the ever-growing problem of environmental sustainability. Agenda 21 reinforces the importance of finding ways to generate economic growth without hurting the environment. Through various trade negotiations such as improving access to markets for exports of developing countries, Agenda 21 looks to increase economic growth sustainability in countries that need it most.
“Environmental Protection has become more important to government and businesses over the last 20 years, leading to great improvements in the number of people willing to invest in green technologies. For the second year in a row in 2010, the United States and Europe added more power capacity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. In 2011 the efforts continue with 45 new wind energy projects beginning in 25 different states. The focus on environmental protection has transpired globally as well, including a great deal of investment in renewable energy power capacity. Eco-city development occurring around the world helps to develop and implement water conservation, smart grids with renewable energy sources, LED street lights and energy efficient building. The consumption gap remains, consisting of the fact that “roughly 80 percent of the natural resources used each year are consumed by about 20 percent of the world’s population”. This level is striking and still needs to be addressed now and throughout the future.
“The Social Equality and Equity as pillars of sustainable development focus on the social well-being of people. The growing gap between incomes of rich and poor is evident throughout the world with the incomes of the richer households increasing relative to the incomes of middle – or lower-class households.This is attributed partly to the land distribution patterns in rural areas where majority live from land. Global inequality has been declining, but the world is still extremely unequal, with the richest 1% of the world’s population owning 40% of the world’s wealth and the poorest 50% owning around 1%. The Brundtland Commission made a significant impact trying to link environment and development and thus, go away from the idea of environmental protection whereby some scholars saw environment as something of its sake. The Commission has thus reduced the number of people living on less than a dollar a day to just half of what it used to be, as many can approach the environment and use it. These achievements can also be attributed to economic growth in China and India. MORE [Wikipedia]
Transportation is a key in addressing clean-air challenges. It drives economic activity and is fundamental to human welfare, but it has a negative impact on the environment and human health.
Transport activity is increasing around the world as economies grow, which means that the sector’s emissions are also on the rise. That’s largely because 95 per cent of the world’s transport energy still comes from fossil fuels. To achieve this goal the use of bicycles and electric cars is advised.
My visits to the once peaceful tourist hill station of Abbottabad reveals the considerable increase in the number of vehicles in the city. Roads were cleaner emptier and quieter in the 1980s even but gradually the population registered a substantial increase and so did the transport. Now in the current decade it has been declared as the Gateway to China under the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) program, resulting in more traffic and transport means.
Bicycling is not possible due to the heavy traffic and hilly areas but electric cars may replace those running on petrol.
The UN program on Transport encourages the following measures:
1.Share the road
3.Global Clean Ports
4.Global Fuel Economy Initiative
5. Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles.
A short Note on Cycling
Cycling leads to a longer and healthier life.
Cycling is popular for a variety of reasons. It helps to reduce the risk of diabetes, some forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and depression. Research from the United Kingdom found that cycling to work is linked with a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to commuting by car or public transport.
The health benefits of cycling daily rather than taking a car for short trips outweigh the risks of inhalation of air pollutants. Daily exercise prolongs life expectancy by approximately 3.4 years whereas inhalation of polluted air reduces life expectancy by 1 to 40 days. Regular cycling boosts physical fitness and is an efficient way to prevent obesity.For further information please visit: Cycling, A Better Mode of Transport.
New Biosphere Reserves will be designated during the forthcoming annual session of the International Coordinating Council (ICC) of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme on 19 June at UNESCO’s Headquarters.
The 34-member MAB-ICC, is the governing body of the intergovernmental MAB Programme, established in 1971 to establish a scientific basis to improve relationships between people and their environments and contribute to sustainable development. It will hold its 31st session in Paris from 17 to 21 June.
Participants will review recent developments concerning the Programme and examine applications to join the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which currently numbers 686 sites in 122 countries, including 20 transboundary sites. Biosphere reserves are sites of recognized importance for conservation of biological and cultural diversity that aim to foster positive social transformations and to work as instruments of practical implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through voluntary engagement.
A number of side events will also take place during the session:
17 June, 12.40-1.15pm, opening of two exhibitions, “Our Biosphere, Our Future. Local Actions for the Sustainable Development Goals” and “Forest Art in Biosphere Reserves and in Natural Protected Areas”
19 June, 6.15 to 7 pm, presentation of exhibition on biosphere reserves’ goods and service
20 June, 3pm to 4.15 pm, panel on biosphere reserves and peace, organized by the Republic of Korea and the MAB Programme
20 June, 6pm, Jane Goodall Institute presentation on 60 years of research at the Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve (United Republic of Tanzania) and environmental conservation initiatives at the site, followed by roundtable discussion.
Editor’s Note: As we go to publication, I am awaiting a response from UNESCO on how you might register or get tickets to this event should you be interested. I’ll incorporate that info into this post when it comes in, so check back later. Thank you! / J.D.
We are listening to the Old Voices,
from the Meat Time, before the Water Tap
was drilled and capped ‘in the last days’ they say,
deep into the rocks. They talk of water as though
it could be made to run freely without a click-stop.
They say that Tap used to mean a long hose, metal
like the ragged sharps the runners dodge around,
that water could be made to pour out of, just pour
and pour, like the sand in the sand bath; that long ago,
for thousands of years, there was no thought
of the Water Tap.
We are listening to the Recording
of the last ones, the Artists. They tell us about
‘sheep in fields of green’, ‘luscious’ they say it was,
like the eyes feel drinking the shift of sand at sun up
and that these sheep grew a coat over their skin. ‘Wool’.
They say it could be cut off and used to cover a man,
to make him look and feel not as he is. These were animals,
bred for clothes, even for food, and many more than sheep –
hundreds of different kinds. That was the Meat Time,
before scrubbing for roots and picking off the bugs
from our skin.
They say they tried to save it all:
water, metal, ‘plastic’, all that was more than roots,
they tried to save it but the End Rain came too soon
and all they could do, the Artists, was leave us The Words
to tell us, for each lost thing, how it might be made again.
They talk as though there was more than this one story, this
one Box in the sand telling of rain and how it was water.
They say there were animals that leapt and swung in the air,
like the bugs hop, and they were called ‘birds’. ‘Beautiful,’
they say, ‘how they would always begin to sing again
after the end of rain’.
from ‘Only Here till Friday’, Bibliotecha Universalis (Bucharest), Eng/Sp, 2016.
Ascultăm Vechile Voci,
din Vremea Cărnii, înainte ca Robinetul de Apă
să fie forat și astupat ‘în ultimele zile’, spun ei,
adânc în pietre. Vorbesc despre apă de parcă
ar putea fi făcută să curgă fără sistem de oprire.
Ei spun că Robinet însemna un furtun lung, metalic
precum coțcarii zdrențăroși evitați de contrabandiști,
că apa poate fi făcută să scurgă din, doar să scurgă
și să scurgă, ca nisipul în baia de nisip; că odinioară
timp de sute de ani, nu exista gând
despre Robinetul de Apă.
ultimilor, Artiștii. Ne spun despre
‘oi pe câmpuri verzi’, ’seducător’ spun că era,
ca ochii savurând mișcarea nisipului la răsărit
și că aceste oi fac blană peste piele. ’Lână’.
Ei spun că putea fi tăiată și folosită să acopere un om,
ca să pară și să se simptă altfel decât e. Acestea erau animale,
crescute pentru haine, chiar pentru hrană și nu doar oi –
sute de diferite feluri. Aia a fost Vremea Cărnii,
înainte de a trudi pentru rădăcini și de a culege gândacii
de pe pielea noastră.
Ei spun că au încercat să salveze tot:
apă, metal, ’plastic’, tot ce era mai mult decât rădăcini,
au încercat să salveze, dar Potopul a venit prea repede
și tot ce-au putut face, Artiștii, a fost să ne lase Cuvintele
să ne spună, pentru fiece lucru pierdut, cum ar putea fi refăcut.
Ei vorbesc de parcă ar fi mai mult decât această poveste, această
Cutie în nisip spunând despre ploaie și cum era apă.
Ei spun că erau animale care săreau și se avântau în aer,
cum saltă gândacii și li se spunea ’păsări’. ’Frumos,’
spun ei, ’cum întotdeauna începeau iar a cânta
după sfârșitul ploii’.
Those sweet Pacific blues
made me take fertile
thinking that green
would just be there
and it seemed
even the eucalyptus
felt a bit unique,
stolen of, standing out in
its starkly brown bare bark.
For a time,
everything was whole
growing out into itself:
live oaks and Kentucky grasses
and we were all going on forever
for years it seemed like some kind Heaven
favored us in those paradise days.
how I took them for granted,
how I felt protected and enhanced,
how it rounded out my wheezes,
how it was classical beauty,
solid in that clear light.
But dirt oozed in with McCarthy, Strontium-90
and the bombing bomb teething death.
Contaminations in the air.
A damnation took over the earth damnedly.
New smoke and blights and fires. The air soot crazy.
Oil wells leaking dredge. The balance tilted.
And we paradise kids went deep sea fishing for more,
catching the most wonderful people:
Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, Paul Robson, Joan Baez,
all with hope in their arts
that we might live
in camaraderie with the stars’ light
as bright as the sequoias ranged high.
It is we rebels who must lust after our land,
lust without greed,
lust ever for change
to cleanse the world, scourge its filths
with our Pacific-blue kindness.
this rough-barked sequoia stump, sitting in majesty
in its coastal home, victim of wildfire, burned down
to its gnarly roots, its nicks, holes and char, eons
of scars, life seemingly cut off, goddess snake alive
inside the concentric circles, the smell of wood and
scorch of fire, at the verge of our infinity, in its truth ~
haunted by the geometry of limbs, the calculus of green,
the algebraic eloquence of a world within a world ~
Photo credit ~Bay Nature.org: “The Bay Nature Institute, based in Berkeley, California, is dedicated to educating the people of the San Francisco Bay Area about, and celebrating the beauty of, the surrounding natural world. We do so with the aim of inspiring residents to explore and preserve the diverse and unique natural heritage of the region, and of nurturing productive relationships among the many organizations and individuals working towards these same goals.” Read more HERE.
mountains rise round, Mother’s ever pregnant belly
and the aspens dance with paper-barked madrone,
screeching their yellows and reds, brindle and feral
like the snaked hairs of Medusa, they are warning
looming over me as i lay miles away on a mesa,
the bones of my ancestors, the heart of my child
the pelts of the brown minks my father sewed
the vultures circle, mesmerized by my demise
i feed on the pinion and ride mountain lions
down slopes, into valleys, a wanderer, lost and lost
looking eastward, seeking John Chapman he has something to say, or maybe it’s westward
John Muir, my ears are deaf, my eyes hear a song
emerging from brown bear, a surfeit of salmon
burning sage, clearing America, the wild beasts
are defanged and declawed and i am hawk-eyed
He picks his way along the rough volcanic shelf as waves wash over his water shoes, bubbling and stirring through tide pools of red sea-anemones feeding. Sharp rock cuts into the rubber soles, trying to cut flesh. Fish dart about in their stone bowls. Crabs back into black holes, hiding from his shade.
Crabs scuttle everywhere, in the shadow of rocks, through his mind.
He stoops down and grabs one with a fast hand, taking care that claws can’t catch flesh. Eyes on stalks watch him. Into what sort of soul do such onyx spheres window?
He considers crushing the crab as a metaphoric act of defiance.
The crabs invaded quickly, furious fascists aggressively pouring over boundaries, intolerantly attacking cells and greedily taking all their victims had. Neoplasia. Neoplasm. They established bases in lymph nodes, hip bone, vertebrae, a single rib. He shelters from the belligerent strain, not wanting to face snipping claws tearing him apart.
He looks at the crab in his hand as it raises its pincers defensively.
Wind touches him, winnows emotional clouds from his skin. He releases the creature near a crevice, walks to the edge of the rock ledge. He looks out to where green meets blue at an indefinable distance, then down into unfathomable water where he sees green darkening to black—
Author’s note: If you check the links, many go to sources with more information about climate change (like the ones in the first paragraph, for example). Some define terms related to The Crab (cancer). The photographs of crabs and a sea anemone are from Habonim Nature Park, on the Mediterranean, south of Haifa, Israel. More info: Union of Concerned Scientists FAQ
Arriving at our stop, it would spit us out … so much cattle, the regimented and the ragtagged, tired and numb. Once dumped, the rail-car doors would close behind us and we were whirled in the wake of the train rushing to the next station. Then, a sudden silence, and we were free to plod our way home, a final few blocks in Gravesend, a new ‘s-Gravenzande*, if you will, but an old irony. I’d stop at the bakery first and go on to Paul the butcher and his merchant’s rictus. His beef, he told me, “is like butter,” perfect for my carnivore husband. Paul’s face seemed bloodless to me, as if in some moment of devotion he chose to infuse the dead. Still more child than woman, I would study the varied cuts waiting to be bought, waiting to be devoured. I’d fancy their missing eyes, bones, and very souls crying out. These offerings of body and blood from Paul’s steel blade to my tattered tin chalice fed me for two years on the futility of hope.
* ‘s-Gravenzande – the place in Holland that some believe gave its name to Gravesend, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York that was “settled” by the Dutch.
The effect of animal consumption on the environment has been debated, but certainly current “standards” are physically and psychologically damaging to the humans who butcher them and detrimental to the air, land and water. No matter how things are modified for cleaner environment, they will always be impossibly cruel to nonhuman animals.
Do you remember radiance
of one who’s always there
the taste of swollen mamilla,
the scent of her sweet hair.
Whose kiss and gentle healing touch
was cooling with a balm
that soothed your painful childish graze
and injured pride becalmed.
Who taught you that a healing touch
and kiss could lead to more;
whilst she embraced competing love,
you found what love is for.
She stood as you went off to war,
to fight life’s bitter battles.
She taught you all you need to know
to rise above mere chattels.
As wisdoms, many, come to you,
from battles won or lost,
a mother’s love transcends it all
and never counts the cost.
In your old age you may well see
your children bear their own,
revealing then the seeds of love
that Stabat Mater’s sewn.
When dotage dims your consciousness,
confusion blurs your view,
expect a revelation that
her love has seen you through.
The poem “A Ballad for Stabat Mater” struck me on several levels. I had already written a poem for my son’s thirtieth birthday (“The Fourth Age of Man“), basing it on William Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” (a monologue, which he wrote to open his play, “As You Like It”). Incidentally, I found it particularly poignant to note that my son had reached the same age as Jesus Christ was alleged to be, when his own mortal life ended. So, the latter never had the chance to taste the next three ages or, perhaps, he lived all seven in that short life span?
Anyway, I found my Mother’s Day poem, written in the form of a ballad, again influenced not only by Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” but also the Stabat Mater, the unforgettable and extraordinarily moving image of this religious icon, Mary, the mother of of all mothers, as she stood and watched her own son die, painfully. “Stabat mater dolorosa”, meaning the sorrowful mother stood, is a masterful understatement. How many mothers could submit themselves to such unbelievable pain! And yet all mothers do, albeit mostly to a lesser extreme, for as long as they live.
I salute all mothers, however good or bad a mother you may think you are, you have still had to suffer for your children.
To me, there nothing so sacred an office as parenthood.
But with every superpower, comes the great weight of responsibility.
Helping someone get from here…
It’s the most daunting…
..most challenging position I’ve ever held.
The job description is clear. When they are tiny, love them.
Love them some more.
We have a few short years to raise and guide them, and allow them to find their own way to shine.
To help them acquire the skills they need to paddle their own canoe.
To allow them to test their wings.
To give them every opportunity to make decisions and exercise their own power.
Even so, one of the greatest challenges we have as parents is to let them grow up.
A few years ago, with the kids’ encouragement, we stepped out of our comfort zone into the Amazon jungle.
To ride a zip-line over the jungle canopy we had to reach a platform 125 feet above the jungle floor. Instead of letting our guide use pulleys and ropes to haul them up, they insisted on pulling themselves up, step by step.
As they dangled from a single rope a hundred feet up, I thought of the book Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte considered her egg sac, from which her babies hatched, her ‘magnum opus.’ One by one, the baby spiders spun a fine web into a tiny balloon and rode the breeze, floating off into the world to land somewhere and build a web of its own.
I couldn’t have been prouder–or more relieved–when they climbed to the top under their own power.
We have all traveled well together…
…but children must be free to choose their own direction, just as we did when we were young.
I quell my panic when one of my chicks…
..leaves the safety of the home harbor.
I trust them to stay calm, exercise good judgement, weather the storms…
…and any other unforeseen dangers.
We cut them loose from the mother ship, then hope and pray they find a soft landing place…
…and a bright future.
And that, every now and then, they remember to phone home.
our mother with her eyes looking, seeing feeling writ large,
touching what we couldn’t say, because we were scared,
lonely in the chaos of the 50s,
beautiful and scarred already,
your quiet eyes were as fingers, keeping us
as one in the light,
keeping us inside ourselves,
in that Bay Area bright.
out of the womb of Time they slide
peasants and kings, artisans and queens
murders, warriors, healers, peacemakers
the grandfathers and grandmothers
on whose shoulders we stand
they are with us, their spirits sensed
their hearts are in our mouths
as they guard and guide
feet rooted in the mud of Earth
we drink the wine, eat the roots
and sing the songs we inherited
their sayings are our sayings
their voices are our voices
carried on breezes
like the music of cathedral bells
like the call of the muezzin
they chime and summon
they sum what came before
from their gnosis
whispered in the ear of silence
we learn: we are nameless but not lost
we too shall echo
shall be the shoulders
shall be the mothers and grandmothers
shall be the Hope and the Light
along the path . . .
. . . . beckoning
“I think this to myself even though I love my daughter. She and I have shared the same body. There is a part of her mind that is a part of mine. But when she was born she sprang from me like a slippery fish, and has been swimming away ever since. All her life, I have watched her as though from another shore.” Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
near impossible to see past the manic crowds
or to lift our eyes to look at the wholesome
trees inscribing their calm upon the sky
we record our fears with writing utensils,
call them weapons, coloring the margins
of our books with the dry dust of martyrdom
the children use their pages to blot away their
mothers’ tears, turning backs on the old refrains,
hearing their own souls speak, deaf to their fathers
those children fell trees, transforming them
to paper and well-sharpened pencils, their lives
written in the manner of their own separate peace
You would be a butterfly
caressed by the sun
and the snake frozen by your sight
would lose his poison
The entire view would borrow its color
from the rainbow of your wings
The rest you should find it into my palm
there you would tuck in with my soul
I will be the guardian of your sleep
For nourishment I would serve you my eyes
my tears you’ll drink to calm the thirst …
Yes, mother, with your permission,
I will build you the heaven!
Is that the season?
The leaves are hitting the silent windows
and some roots of trees are creaking,
but I am a dream.
I do not recognize the colors,
when the sun of that town
without time shelters me like Mum.
Which flowers shall I gift to you?
I am not a saint – I cannot revive you.
I cannot even grief.
“All I really want to say Is that the problems come and go But the sunshine seems to stay . . . “
Editor’s Note: It’s interesting to see what Heron does with his personal experience an observation as a man who was raised by women. I like that there’s nothing of the victim mentality in this piece. I like the way he talks of dealing with life as it is. I appreciate that he points out that single-parent homes are not always the result of abandonment but are often made so due to parents who were lost in war or in jobs as police officers, firefighters or pilots. / J.D.
“Women folk raised me and I was full grown before I knew I was raised in a broken home.”
Header photograph/Heron at the WOMARD festival in Bristol England, 1988 by Robman94 under CC BY SA 2.0 license.
January’s not good for dying.
On nights like this air clots in hindsight,
I start a fire in her grave
watch winter burn in a blaze.
She warms her feet under my spleen,
rearranges my ribs not knowing
where to land,
as if walking through mine fields
stepping in footprints of others.
Can the woman fit in my skin as I age ?
She had church
thousands of them tearing
through stone groin of hills,
does it matter that prayer is stale
on my lips?
She had trust,
same desert swallowed our past,
she shook off the sand,
it fell like flakes of doubt and regret on my hands.
She knew love,
it filled her bones till they cracked,
I love with my heart behind barbed wire.
My voice paces in our language
between memories hanging like bats
clashing with a bright yellow dress
I remember from somewhere,
and the moonlight softening the lines
blurred in my chest.
A tender moment I chew and spit in a song,
lyrics scrape the only thing left alive
against my cheek,
this longing rising inside a sigh
where she owns all of this silence
crumbling on my tongue.
Kennedy Stewart is a young adult who takes great pride in his long, ginger hair. He is a graduate of Woodinville High School and is currently working towards his passion of gaming and music. His favorite musical is Hamilton and one of his favorite bands is Queen, but he loves all music. He hopes to be able to tell the stories of games through composing music. He loves animals and is currently plotting to adopt this little one with his brother.
What Greater Expectations than Great Expectations, Miss Havishams’ so many, embedded secluded, on dusty wooden gilded thrones, behind cobwebbed curtains, Majestic Marvels, First Created, Sacred, now rest transfixed in false reprehension, languishing in darkened streets As scattered clouds scan terrestrial to celestial dimensions blinking intermittent flashes only to find twisted torments blood filled swamps, whirring swarms of discontents, amidst seas of colorfully placed flowers ; Supreme Sopranos burnt to ashes.
Turning Around She Thought
O Woman’ What Mothers’ Day Means to You
created sacred beguiled abused
ordered bound accused excused
what woman’s day means to her
what nights will make her scream
day is work, no escape
night ‘love? no! rape..
fears and fears of rape
drugged missing real or fake?
should she think of women famous?
those who are seen on history pages?
should she think of those unseen
pushed kicked thrown in cages?
mothers and daughters in frustration
yet manage homes and serve nations
should she honor the saintly ones
who were obedient ordained
should she mention those half
widows, widows of genocide
chained enslaved in perpetual pain?
or those maids forced to labor
or those who hold kids while
parents dine and perhaps wine’
whom should she call ‘mine’
standing serving morn til nine-
and there are families royal
to the people crown so loyal
loved honored seen by all
that is not all…..
so many names graceful glorified
history remembers all sacrificed
she thought…cannot pick one or two
one in white, covered one in blue-
East or West old or new…Oh
Athena’ Wise One ! Help’ if only I knew
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
No, that’s not a typo in the title. Keep reading and you’ll see why. This quarter’s The BeZine issue is dedicated to Waging Peace, and more specifically “Radical” Peace. It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? Normally, the words “Waging” and “Radical” are associated with the complete opposites of Peace: War and Violence. They don’t have to be, though. We can choose to be active, radical pacifists. Aside from the wonderful assonance of that description, there are real (and radical) ways that we can wage peace. All it takes is some creativity and the will to carry it out.
You’ll notice that I said “active”, radical pacifists. Pacifism doesn’t necessarily mean being ‘passive’ or non-action. We can most certainly be active in our resistance to war and violence.
Look at leaders like the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. All are/were pacifists, and yet their powerful actions have helped to change the world!
So the key to radical peace lies in the actions we take. What kinds of actions can we take to wage peace?
When I was writing this, I became inspired by a movement of which you may or may not have heard: “The Kindness Rocks Project“. The creator of the project, Megan Murphy, explained how the national movement got started, and it’s based on the idea that “One message at just the right moment, can change your entire day…outlook…life!” Kindness and peace go hand in hand, so why couldn’t we incorporate this as a way of waging peace? Check it out, because Peace Rocks, too! 😉
In thinking about actions we can take to wage radical peace, it’s important to look at the roles that we play and the role that peace plays in our everyday lives. How can each of us, as individuals, take a more active role in spreading peace? How about turning weapons of war into art, like the Tree of Life and Throne of Weapons? These amazing sculptures were made by artists who built them from the surrender of more than 600,000 weapons! This article has some excellent photos of both. There’s also the angel sculpture built from over 100,000 knives which were confiscated from police in the UK:
All of them actively removed weapons that had been used for war and violence and transformed, repurposed them into art meant to challenge people’s views on those things.
How about the “kayak-tivists” from Greenpeace who waged radical peace for the planet, by bravely daring to block an oil rig belonging to Shell Oil and bound for the arctic, keeping it from leaving Puget Sound? The rig did leave the Sound eventually, but Shell ended up cancelling the lease of the oil rig, because (bold emphasis mine): “However due to failed attempts to make a commercially viable discovery, mounting pressure from environmental groups and escalating costs, Shell made the decision to stop all further exploration of the US Arctic waters...By the time the decision was made in September 2015, the exploration campaign had set Shell back an eye watering US$7 billion.” ~ Offshorepost.com So those kayakers did make a difference! It’s a great example of individuals coming together to wage radical peace for the environment.
It can be peace for your family, your neighborhood, your city, the country, the world, the environment and planet…it doesn’t matter how big or how small your action is. What matters is that we take action to counter the war and violence with peaceful protests, creating a culture where peace is preferable, making provocative or inspirational art, joining with others who want the same things. What role will you take? What role will peace play in your world? Won’t you join us? 🙂
As clouds gather and human progress seems to be freezing, it’s been worth spending some time pondering this word, its meaning, its consequences. I’ve come to the conclusion that it says everything about the human condition; it explains everything you may observe about the human race; and, in our efforts at The BeZine this month to wage the peace, it occurred to me that, if we are to achieve anything in this quest, we may have to do some ‘reverse engineering’, taking us back from war, division, angry and defensive retaliation, anxiety, fear, disagreement and disengagement to a place where we could begin to engineer the means of peaceful co-existence, true acceptance of difference, diversity and gender equality with renewed focus on how we can divert all the energy we wasted in destructive conflict to seeking some kind of new order.
We have the intellectual ability to achieve this, but do we have the strength of will to control our defensive-aggressive tendencies, our propensity when times are tough to withdraw behind the lines into our tribes where we are inclined to reinforce our insecurities, rattle sabres, beat chests and make our battle cries?
What is it that drives us to do anything? Is it just to preserve our livelihood, to ensure we are warm and dry at night, to feed and protect ourselves, our families, our children. I think in the twenty-first century Western World it has become so much more than that.
Almost everything we do is driven by our insecurity, but it doesn’t need to be. Safeguarding our livelihoods may be a positive effect, but there are far too many negatives. Insecurity can lead to discomfort, fear and anxiety. In turn, anger will follow, aggression, irrational and compulsive behaviours that lead us on to desperate measures to ward off perceived threats to our local or national territories, our place in the World and to our very being, our race. So much so that we are prepared to go to war with those whom we perceive to be posing threats, or with whom we are led to believe pose threats to our national security … enter stage right (or left) the spectre of political propaganda.
At its most basic, our insecurity is merely an expression of our frailty, the fragility of our existence on Earth. From the most insignificant to the most catastrophic consequences, it will lead us on to do stuff we really don’t need to do; to do and say things to other people that neither need to be done nor said. It even drives us to dream of leaving Earth and going into space to discover ‘life’ on other planets. At best this is vanity; delusion. At worst it is a distraction from the reality of having to solve our worldly problems here on Earth and a denial that we have the ability to do so.
In the Western World, the shopaholic, fashionista, obsessive pursuer of status all fear being inadequate, being seen to be inadequate, being seen to be less than well healed, being ineffectual, unable to afford the deemed desirable symbols of status … job title, house, exotic holiday, digital gadget, posh car. The car behind me, that fills my rear view mirror: is the driver really in a hurry, or filled with such insecurity, anxious thoughts that makes them feel they have to overtake me, even if the consequences of doing so will be dire. Is it an expression of their own status, that their car is better than mine and they should therefore be in front and not behind me? Are they thinking clearly, or are they just so agitated that they have lost their ability to be rational about what is truly important in their life?
In the Third World, insecurities are real even though, amongst some, there increasingly exists the enticing lure of a rich materialistic life, there are far to many impoverished people, who cannot fend for themselves for whom the water well is just too far to walk, for whom there is little hope of any kind of life, let alone a materialistic one.
The root of it all is insecurity. Why? Why do we have this emotional, testosterone driven response in a world full of resources; a world that, in spite of the fear mongers, is patently capable of supporting all its peoples, but for greed. Greed by a minority of individuals to have more than their fair share of those resources, tends to lead us on to want the same. So we all in turn aspire to become ‘wealthy’, which for most of us means ‘appearing’ to be well off, to a greater or lesser extent. And we are encouraged to do so by those who will benefit most from our consequent indebtedness. Giving up even a little of what we have is hard to do, maybe because we have had to give so much blood, sweat and tears to acquire it or maybe because we have inherited it and feel we have a right to possess it; that we are entitled? Each of us has our own reason for feeling insecure.
In ‘Waging Peace’ this month, I think The BeZine is asking us the question: how can we change the way we are? How can we stop ourselves from being greedy? How can we stop the rot, this dangerous cycle of grab as grab can, the fundamental fear that if we do give up a bit of what we have, if we give something of ourselves away, if we sublimate our ego, our personal desires, it will weaken us, make us vulnerable to being ‘taken over’ by those who would not give credence to any kind of altruism or philanthropy; moreover there’s an underlying resentment that by giving something away, some unworthy person may exploit you and benefit from it. Above all we may lose control of our lives.
And there we go again, into that vicious cycle! I feel myself getting angry at the thought of being ripped off by some greedy sociopathic personality, incapable of contrition, incapable, maybe by virtue of their genetic coding, their upbringing, the environment in which they grew up, that caused them grief, unhappiness, a feeling of disenfranchisement, a sense of desperation to do more than survive, be just ‘ok’. They want more, and more, and more until, maybe, there will be no more to have.
I have thought, I have talked and written these words, but I still don’t truly have a solution, other than to try and learn the lessons taught to us by those rare human spirits and saintly beings, who have from time to time inhabited this Earth; who have been so humane, so selfless, so utterly giving of all they ever had to others. Somewhere deep in the spirit of all of us, there is this potential, this possibility that must be worth fighting for; that must be worth making conflict ‘so last year’, to see some light shining through the forest and make a new resolution to wage the peace.
Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.
“PITY THE NATION”
– Lawrence Ferlinghetti (After Khalil Gibran) 2007
Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!
Link HERE for more of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry
I. works at a factory in Kazan that makes parts for shells. This is how she supports her family. She lives in peace.
M. works for a state-owned company in Isfahan that makes electronics for guided missiles. This is how he supports his family. He lives in peace.
S. lives in different places in Idlib. She’s originally from Damascus, where she worked in a pharmacy before her husband was killed in a bombing. Her son made it to Germany, her daughter is with her. They stay with friends and try to survive. She would love to live in peace.
If these three met somewhere, they might be friends and would definitely live in peace with each other.
Es wäre möglich
I. arbeitet in einer Fabrik in Kasan, die Teile für Granaten herstellt. Damit ernährt sie ihre Familie. Sie lebt in Frieden.
M. arbeitet für ein staatliches Unternehmen in Isfahan, das Elektronik für Lenkflugkörper herstellt. Damit ernährt er seine Familie. Er lebt in Frieden.
S. lebt an verschiedenen Orten in Idlib. Sie stammt ursprünglich aus Damaskus, wo sie in einer Apotheke arbeitete, bevor ihr Mann bei einem Bombenanschlag getötet wurde. Ihr Sohn hat es nach Deutschland geschafft, ihre Tochter ist bei ihr. Sie leben bei Freunden und versuchen zu überleben. Sie würde gerne in Frieden leben.
Wenn sich diese drei irgendwo treffen würden, könnten sie Freunde sein und würden definitiv in Frieden miteinander leben.
still … at last …
I find myself
in this moment
a thousand madnesses away
from the person
I’d thought I’d have-a-go
at turning myself into …
once upon a time
the air is fresh
with frost so soft
it hues the skyscape
to every gentleness of blue
that man or miracle
has ever rendered
in and under heaven
the nuggets of self-knowledge
laboriously gathered along
my mazed and muddled journey
fascinate in retrospection …
for the course
was seldom sure
and the diverting path
more apt to interest
to have come to this
without much yield to show
from grand design or driven effort …
is strange fortune
for as it turns …
I feel myself good and comfortable
at the sight of my own breath …
greatly pleased to be alive
in gladness … having gleaned
that peace and splendor … such as this …
surely, must be blessings
I happened upon an old rerun of the 60’s TV series ‘Star Trek’ a couple of nights ago. How depressing it was to take that cinemagraphic stroll, down memory lane. Ostensibly an adventure series, Gene Roddenbury, the show’s creator, intended the program to showcase morality tales; allegories of modern day realities. The protagonists would proceed in their dealings, peacefully – with altruism and acceptance – thus demonstrating the very best of what humankind is capable of. The Starship Enterprise’s voyages played out in stories that championed the principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality.
Antecedent to the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing, the show seemed to herald an era when human understanding and technological advances would come together on a path imbued with more righteousness, than any path that had ever been trod before. When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon and uttered the words: ” … one small step for man”, how fervently we ‘earthlings’ wanted to believe … we were – at least – making small steps, in that good direction.
The 20th century marked more technological changes than all the other centuries in the history of this planet, combined. Having been born in 1951 – midway through the 20th century – I took my early footsteps in what is, arguably, one of the most fascinating, progressive, dynamic – and yes: turbulent, monstrous and challenging periods, in our earth’s history. Those words ” … “, have resonated with me, throughout the days of my life … often beating – like a metaphor – to forward progress … and often beating – like a metaphor – to backward regression. I remind myself that my lifetime is but, a grain of sand, in the sands of time. I live – and will die – in the hope that many … many … many … small steps will, eventually, find their way … to that righteous path.
on the beach
the shifting sands
erase my footprints
as I walk
to water’s edge
note: scientists believe that the earth has existed for approximately 4.5 billion years.
grease and dirt of people
who spoil your landscape.
Cleans as it polishes, replaces
their awful smell with fresh fragrances.
Their profane beliefs with fresh air.
Their noisy children with heavenly quiet.
Our history with revised pages.
Preserves our pure culture.
They are an infection that will be eradicated.
Their unmarked graves forgotten.
Ethnic cleanser for a cleaner society.
Buy into this great product.
Popularly known as genocide.
Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.
A country preparing for dawn. We grow less intelligent
For we closely watch the hour of victory:
No night in our night lit up by the shelling
Our enemies are watchful and light the light for us
In the darkness of cellars.
Here there is no “I”.
Here Adam remembers the dust of his clay.
On the verge of death, he says:
I have no trace left to lose:
Free I am so close to my liberty. My future lies in my own hand.
Soon I shall penetrate my life,
I shall be born free and parentless,
And as my name I shall choose azure letters…
You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are men like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
Men like you!
When the planes disappear, the white, white doves
Fly off and wash the cheeks of heaven
With unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possession
Of the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white doves
Fly off. Ah, if only the sky
Were real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].
Cypresses behind the soldiers, minarets protecting
The sky from collapse. Behind the hedge of steel
Soldiers piss—under the watchful eye of a tank—
And the autumnal day ends its golden wandering in
A street as wide as a church after Sunday mass…
[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.
The siege is a waiting period
Waiting on the tilted ladder in the middle of the storm.
Alone, we are alone as far down as the sediment
Were it not for the visits of the rainbows.
We have brothers behind this expanse.
Excellent brothers. They love us. They watch us and weep.
Then, in secret, they tell each other:
“Ah! if this siege had been declared…” They do not finish their sentence:
“Don’t abandon us, don’t leave us.”
Our losses: between two and eight martyrs each day.
And ten wounded.
And twenty homes.
And fifty olive trees…
Added to this the structural flaw that
Will arrive at the poem, the play, and the unfinished canvas.
A woman told the cloud: cover my beloved
For my clothing is drenched with his blood.
If you are not rain, my love
Sated with fertility, be tree
If you are not tree, my love
Saturated with humidity, be stone
If you are not stone, my love
In the dream of the beloved woman, be moon
[So spoke a woman
to her son at his funeral]
Oh watchmen! Are you not weary
Of lying in wait for the light in our salt
And of the incandescence of the rose in our wound
Are you not weary, oh watchmen?
A little of this absolute and blue infinity
Would be enough
To lighten the burden of these times
And to cleanse the mire of this place.
It is up to the soul to come down from its mount
And on its silken feet walk
By my side, hand in hand, like two longtime
Friends who share the ancient bread
And the antique glass of wine
May we walk this road together
And then our days will take different directions:
I, beyond nature, which in turn
Will choose to squat on a high-up rock.
On my rubble the shadow grows green,
And the wolf is dozing on the skin of my goat
He dreams as I do, as the angel does
That life is here…not over there.
In the state of siege, time becomes space
Transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege, space becomes time
That has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow.
The martyr encircles me every time I live a new day
And questions me: Where were you? Take every word
You have given me back to the dictionaries
And relieve the sleepers from the echo’s buzz.
The martyr enlightens me: beyond the expanse
I did not look
For the virgins of immortality for I love life
On earth, amid fig trees and pines,
But I cannot reach it, and then, too, I took aim at it
With my last possession: the blood in the body of azure.
The martyr warned me: Do not believe their ululations
Believe my father when, weeping, he looks at my photograph
How did we trade roles, my son, how did you precede me.
I first, I the first one!
The martyr encircles me: my place and my crude furniture are all that I have changed.
I put a gazelle on my bed,
And a crescent of moon on my finger
To appease my sorrow.
The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!
Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health,
The health of the testicles and of your tenacious disease:
The disease of hope.
And in what remains of the dawn, I walk toward my exterior
And in what remains of the night, I hear the sound of footsteps inside me.
Greetings to the one who shares with me an attention to
The drunkenness of light, the light of the butterfly, in the
Blackness of this tunnel!
Greetings to the one who shares my glass with me
In the denseness of a night outflanking the two spaces:
Greetings to my apparition.
My friends are always preparing a farewell feast for me,
A soothing grave in the shade of oak trees
A marble epitaph of time
And always I anticipate them at the funeral:
Who then has died…who?
Writing is a puppy biting nothingness
Writing wounds without a trace of blood.
Our cups of coffee. Birds green trees
In the blue shade, the sun gambols from one wall
To another like a gazelle
The water in the clouds has the unlimited shape of what is left to us
Of the sky. And other things of suspended memories
Reveal that this morning is powerful and splendid,
And that we are the guests of eternity.
“As Democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folk of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.” H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 16, 1920
gone mad, gone mad
but for the flautist in shaman’s headdress and
the first violinist wearing a necklace of skulls,
praise the intuitive, the holy, the gentle chanting
of the faithful …
defy the bassoonist blowing brazen notes over Syria
and the cellists hidden in caves; succour the sad sweet
violins of Aleppo, Palestine, Kashmire crying salt tears
for their lost lands, pulses weakening, and there’s
that drummer who down-beats from North Korea
China harps on the fumes of its discontents,
the Ukraine is loud with crashing cymbals
and the snap pizzicato of Russian preying,
while the angel of Germany hosts a symphony,
or tries to, & here in America parties are discordant
[the price of order is dictatorship the price of democracy is chaos]
politicians out of tune, sections out-of-sync,
oligarchs charge themselves with theatre management
poor acoustics preclude hearing the chorus … . . . and all the world’s a stage,
the men and women are not mere players
The configurations of cruelty have changed since I wrote this poem in 2013 but the cruelty is still with us and often seems worse than ever. And, it certainly turns out that Mencken (quoted above) was prescient.
“Here I am alive, and it’s not my fault, so I have to try and get by as best I can without hurting anybody until death takes over.” Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
There are open spaces in the plotting of a story
I print out for edit during the work hours
In the silence of creativity, a sweet lavender
lends its fragrance, color and calm
Outside squirrels skip, toddlers play
Grandmothers stand-watch in doorways,
chili stewing and stacks of tortillas, warm and
soft, rest and wait under clean kitchen towels
Spring is moving into summer and neighbors
tend their herb and vegetable gardens
They imagine the yield dressed in salads
They’re willing to share the harvest with friends
A world away soldiers download ordnance
synchronized to the hum and click of my printer
Bodies fall, hearts stop, eyes water and
the manuscript is blue-pencilled* by rifle fire
“You see the suffering of children all the time nowadays. Wars and famines are played out before us in our living rooms, and almost every week there are pictures of children who have been through unimaginable loss and horror. Mostly they look very calm. You see them looking into the camera, directly at the lens, and knowing what they have been through you expect to see terror or grief in their eyes, yet so often there’s no visible emotion at all. They look so blank it would be easy to imagine that they weren’t feeling much.” Mary Lawson, Crow Lake
Eye-candy, a feast of crocus, bursting
Through the snow-laden ground
Drunk on the promise of spring
The devil behind, that shadow side
Clouds shape shifting, take on
The broad outlines of a memoir
Angels dance on the razor’s edge
Forget that pin stupidity, reductio ad absurdum, politicians and scholars
Debating, while greed and warring go on
Starving the children, curse the insanity
Dialectic, acquisition, murdering hoards
Clouds, shape shifting, take on
The contours of shame, crocus buries
Itself and the promise of spring
The broad outlines of memoir dissolve
The slashed moon drools ichor
How long can the innocent bear life
On the razor’s edge, coiling the fire
Of their despair around our hearts
Drawn to the verge on the reflux of
Rudimentary souls, vertigo, nausea
Nostalgia for what will never be known
A young wife, enamored by sounds of creation, calling birds,
wind whistling through trees, left the house to tend the garden.
Still fresh from the purifying mitvah bath, prayers said in Hebrew
praising God for life, she knew it was the moment to conceive.
In her youthful innocence and hunger she could not resist her new husband
cutting grass outside; shirtless, sunshine on sweat sparked his muscled flesh.
He was fit, recently back from the war, but he was not gentle. She melted at
his smile at catching her watching.
Still resentful of his fits of anger, fearful jealousy and critical outbursts,
she was ready to get back what he had taken.
No longer a trusting girl who could not protect her pregnancy from her husband’s
surprise punch to her stomach, she had become a warrior.
She lifted the soft cotton dress to view her ripe body, touched the skin
under her navel, blessed her waiting womb, then kissed her fingers as if
she were kissing the Mezuzah on the doorway. She raised her arms toward the sky,
summoned Shekhinah, the spirit of creation, begged Her for a conception,
and amidst birds’ songs, fragrant blossoms, freshly cut grass, the image of a baby
flashed in her mind. She thought she heard fluttering wings announcing the
arrival of the holy feminine force.
No words said, she took her husband’s hands, pulled him into their home,
and they fell fiercely together onto the bed. Soon she was alone again;
the girl knew immediately that a life was growing inside her, then she
became afraid of what she had done.
That night in a dream the Goddess Shekhinah spoke: ‘You hungered for a child;
a child was given. Be strong. Leave the cruel man and raise her in love and faith.
When you discover, she is like the father – forgive her!
Remember, it was you who called.’
Bodies and souls from
distraught lands shell out
thirty pieces of silver
to ride the waves to freedom.
Finding too late
that they have
paid the price of their
overfilled, leaky craft
capsize, spilling warm blooded
cargo into cold blue seas
Souls float above
Broken bodies float below.
Some, still alive grab onto bits
and pieces of their dream
long enough for
those few who care to
to reach them, pull them out, —
But it is not well.
No, it is not well for their souls
nor for ours.
When I was four my
Brought me a cloak and purse
Soft black velvet,
with swirls of gold braid
in patterns as intricate
as the tree of life,
as rich and bright as stars.
The cloak draped over
and fell to my knees.
In my cloak of stars
I paraded about proudly
Twirling the matching
Kingdom of dandelions
In my front yard
Last week I found the cloak
In a drawer,
In tissue paper
I sent a photo to my friend
Who lives in the velvet
darkness of Damascus nights.
Now streaked with silver missles
Instead of stars,
I put on the cloak for both of us.
Covered with my grandma’s love.
In our hearts
we walk together freely,
The golden braid
matching golden lights
In days and nights of peace
We hope will come.
when i was young i found these stones they were everywhere and a friend had said that if they were polished they’d be worth a great deal but no one that he knew had been able to smooth the surface even at an early age i was somewhat defiant and persistent when told you can’t or it can’t followed by some phrase like be done in any case i took it upon myself to prove him wrong that’s when i bought my first rock tumbler an inexpensive model since my funds and knowledge of such things were quite limited the results of my first efforts were rather pathetic like a love-sick youth seeing the true meaning of life and love but as i gained more knowledge of the stones and the processes others had tried i refined my process i learned that the best action could be achieved by wetting the rocks just enough for the carbide grit to cling to the agates as they tumbled i envisioned it as a war between the stones the grit of course were my soldiers oh and there were times when i was certain by the sounds made by the tumbler that i had indeed achieved my goal but on close inspection the stones had not changed so then i decided to seek the assistance and advice of others one expert inquired if i knew the nickname of the agates that i was trying to polish when i said no he said they’re called human greed i can’t tell you how many tumblers and soldier’s lives that have been sacrificed but i do know now that my quest has yielded little change and that those stones may indeed outlast even me when i finally find peace
My five-five-fingers of my hands
Zestfully lived In serenity.
The three thrill fingers of my right hand:
Thumb, index finger and middle finger
Stoutly lived civilly and gleefully amongst her BROTHERS:
They rested gleefully upon the placid,
Perched in the midst of the three thrill fingers
And laid rest upon the hungry,
Virgin DUSKY-SHEET, which sprawled
bear flat on the glossy desk.
The glossy desk accompanying the earth
The earth accompanying its depth.
The other two fingers of my right hand:
Ring finger and little finger
Calmly leisure, plopped on the hungry, virgin dusky-sheet
And lent ears to the sharp-sable-pointed-dart,
Muttering vignettes of yesterday
Muttering vignettes of today
Muttering vegnettes of tomorrow.
Upon the glossy desk
My five fingers of my left hand too
Laid rest, and eyeballed the sharp-sable-pointed-dart,
Muttering deep thoughts.
All you who waded through lines:
All you who unearth the heart
Of this earth, hunting for treasures
Pore over my ten fingers.
My ten fingers,
As pure as a full virgin moon.
I have dunked deep my five fingers
Of my right hand with my progenitors
In a bowl of sweet dishes
And nibbled singed YAM amidst
The thriving vegetables.
But my forefinger of my left hand
Never been raised above
To curse the heavens
Never been raised up to pinpoint
My progenitors’ homeland
Never had it tasted any depravity
And never will it be licked
Or bit by the savage butchers
Who loved to fatten themselves on murder
And gratified their heart with
Juicy cup of blood and gore.
We travelled far-flung
and sea beyond
to see an old time friends;
on getting to his street-brink
we sifted from aloof distance:
the street has already been cluttered
with flower of embers.
From each riven aluminium-sheet —
of every domicile
sequence of dense half-dark smoke
scudded into the engulfing mouthful sky
and a rusty brass bell
from a church-front welcomed us in —
welcomed in our dusty camel-feet.
We strutted in softly, softly slowly
upon the face of the earth,
and rubbed off beaded sweats
on the parched tired phiz
with the back of our palms.
The street has become lull
(like an empty squirrel hole
which the hunter searched through in vain)
except for the rusty brass bell that clangs.
“…bloody political critters
has already touched this street, too
with their grubby-filthy fingers”
My partner said, with ball of indignation
ricocheting in his metal lung.
Appalled by the devastation, the slaying and liquidation
wise men devised a plan for peace.
Nations formed alliances, worked together to supply
traded, worked, improved the lives of all that joined
in years of building peace:
whatever tint a skin, whatever tongue all prospered
and were welcomed in most lands.
Just as in the borderless time of the Dogger Bridge or the Pangea planet
we prospered, travelled, worked and played
for we were young, fearless;
ready to build a word of peaceful, prosperous peoples
respecting laws, discovering
each other’s ways, each other’s tongues, and each other’s lands.
Now fools have come and sowed the seeds of strife
with promises unattainable
stoking fear of strangers, hopes of empires long defunct
wealth, health for the working man
believing and following these empty tenants they raised their flags
gave them power to break bonds.
Now children die by gun and knife, the poor die untended
food banks litter once wealthy lands
as humble workers labour night and day for pittances
and the planes of war,
fear of strangers tear the treaties our fathers signed
in bonds of friendship
as the wealthy thrive behind their walls of privilege.
From the fools spawning wealth on empty air –
Take back power, take back belief in peace, collaboration
those gory empires advocated
the Dogger Man runs in the blood of all us,
Pangea pleads for rescue.
Only collaboration builds peace and plenty, rise – raise our children
safe in sustainability.
Come in. My door is open
The windows uncovered
Be you friend or stranger
The enemy of ignorance
My table, round
A circle of friends and strangers
Enemies breaking bread
I´ll pour you Italian espresso
You bring the baclava from Beirut
We will discuss the differences
Big and small
Green and black
Let us chew on the options
You be the Muslim
I´ll be the Jew
I´ll poem, you sing
We shall dance before an open window
For all the world to know
That we can
I shall follow you
To your city
To your house
I carry flowers
A curious manner
A wish to know
Your tastes, the aromas of your kitchen
The chatter of children
The photos you hang
Faces of they whom you carry
In your heart
An old man dies
A child is born
You tell me stories
I tell mine
Both of us discharging the shit
Of our lives in a world gone mad with itself
Spilling our laughter and pain
When evening descends
We find ourselves
Alone in the still ambiance
Of a solitude shared
When I take my leave of you
I will carry your voice
Your soft eyes
Landing in mine
My breath in halt
In that moment of
We share the grace
Night birds call
To waxing stars
All the world around
The grace of peace
I will carry your city
On the map of my memory
Carry your voice
In conversations on the bus
I will carry your smile
As a work of art
We shall both
For the rest of time
From my grave to yours
We shall rise in the heat of battle
To run on the waters
Fly on the winds
To the heat of battles
Angels of deliverance
Summoning our descendants
To lay down the fear
Pick up the torch
That lights the way
The way we had trod
To the crossroad of
Complete and calling
All the children home
In the Middle East
If you want to prepare for peace
You must first prepare for war
Because peace must be waged
With the same seriousness of intent as war
And there are as many obstacles and pitfalls
On the path to peace as there are along the path to war.
A weak man cannot forge peace because
His weakness tempts his enemies to attack
And weak are the saber rattlers
Hoping to frighten their enemies
With simulations of disproportionate force.
Their fears and uncertainties blind them
To the path of peace.
Only a strong man is confident and sees clearly.
He walks calmly along the path
Narrow as the razor’s edge.
The path to peace meanders through Gaza
Where we’ve been eyeless and
Our plowshares will be made out of swords,
Nor gentle breezes.
“A poet’s work . . . to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.” Salman Rushdie
So let us say
for poetry has value, it pays
I did say it does not, but I now say
It doe, in one or another way
so let’s be poets for a while-
So let us say
poetry has value, it pays
perhaps not money but sweet
verbal soothing honey
let truth and trust prevail
let’s be poets for a while-
So let us say
poetry has value, it pays
can a link joined in heaven, break ?
Can the earth without His Will, shake?
Let thoughts reveal let ideas guide
let’s be poets for a while-
Let Romantics Rise, Dreamers unite
Wordsworth, Iqbal Pope William excite
there need not be a cell number as
talking takes place even in slumber;
so let us with poetry, abide-
let’s be poets for a while-
I did say that distances beguile
But no more, just step across the stile
one does feel a presence, the eye
does drop a tear, know it is just fair-
When the heart sings the birds sing
Such joy and peace they bring,
they can see the smile
And carry it over on their wings
Nature’s love makes serene,
from sadness and sorrow , free-
So let’s be poets for a while
let truth and trust prevail
let the words in peace, sail
let the song fly, the clouds may
carry across the sky, overtake the
red horse, peace in rain, no hail… – Anjum Wasim Dar
Copyright CER Regd. 2019
Together we are thunder
an awesome drone
of wing and speed
At once we are a cloud
that darkens the dim
and alters the light
Converging from every
corner of the Earth
where we’ve been to feed
But there we cannot linger
in field or wood,
on eave or ridge.
Forgo the food. Forego …
… for long is our flight
into the crowded night.
As one we are a force
of nature’s greater power.
As one we are invincible
a spectacle of the hour
before the dusk that yields
the squeal and chatter
of the roost, to exchange
the day’s adventures
for the quieter darkening.
This spirit of togetherness
a synergistic strength that binds.
Divisible yet unconquerable.
[ I was moved to write this piece by the amazing reality of observing a murmuration of starlings, with my own eyes for the first time last month. It occurs regularly between September and March each year in various parts of the UK, but this one was at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Nature Reserve at Ham Wall in Somerset, England. I found it very moving, because it gave me a feeling of hope that the human spirit could one day, once again in its evolution, learn from nature and prevail over the predatory forces of greed and exploitation, simply by virtue of cooperating with each other like these clever birds in protecting themselves from predators at night. The predators we face are the masters of power, wealth and greed. Can we show intelligence enough and compassion in our responses to these threats to our environment, to our livelihoods, to our planet, and resist with all our strength and ingenuity, and keep our spirit strong.
The starlings kept on coming for a good hour. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of them coming together to roost for the night in the expansive reed beds of these well preserved wetlands.
Here’s what the RSPB has to say about the starling murmuration:
“It’s basically a mass aerial stunt – thousands of birds all swooping and diving in unison. It’s completely breathtaking to witness. We think that starlings do it for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands. They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas.
They gather over their roosting site, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands, and perform their wheeling stunts before they roost for the night. More HERE.
HERE is my edit of what we witnessed that day. Not as dramatic as some films I’ve seen, but the starlings just kept on coming, on and on, in huge numbers, in their tens if not hundreds of thousands. Power to the birds! Power to the human spirit … Murmuration of Starlings at RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve in Somerset, England
Behind your eyes you lived and in your legs.
It was as if your spirit had emulsified
It was as if your body had let you down
Lover dying fighting for freedom in Spain.
That bridge in Zaragoza, guns and fires.
Wires cutting and cutting, searing bone.
Your body’s blood crying in a bad transfusion.
You had to spin your language to sharp, your mind to pun
And spawn your odd oracular silence
which kept us all quiet, so your mind could play its ways
You lived in a utopia all of your own
You had activated heroes and heroines.
The rights of man singing with Paul Robson, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger
Malvina Reynolds, Miriam Makeba, Joan Baez.
For the average man and woman. Your eager brilliance
You kept under wraps, under your eyes.
A woman of many secrets, you longed for
That outrageous freedom, where women can let loose
To be without any precedent or precedence to slow her,
You broke through roles to model a glowing chance for freedom
And you always told me in your shaded eyes to go deeper:
deeper and further that anyone says, you can stay.
Julia Vinograd died at age 75 on December 4, 2018. (Coincidentally, my mother entered the world 101 years ago on the same date.) Vinograd was recognized in 1985, when she won a Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award for The Book of Jerusalem, which is how she first came to my attention (I have a copy of the book on my poetry shelf). She was called “the bubble lady” in Berkeley, as as she was known for blowing soap bubbles on the street—something she learned diffused tension and calmed people during the turbulent period of the late 1960s.
I found it interesting in Tom Dalzell‘s obituary of her to note that other poets she cited as influences on her work also influence my own. Her poetry influenced my own, and she slipped into a couple of my own pieces—epigraphs to a poem and an anachronistic cameo in a work of flash fiction. The event in the flash occurred in San Francisco in 1967, but according to her obituary, she first started using the bubbles in 1969—but she was in Berkeley in 1967, so why not take some poetic license?
I wish I had had the chance to meet her in person, but I am grateful to have her poetry. I offer both my poem and flash fiction here, to honor her memory with her presence in them.
Go forward, dear poet and Bubble Lady. New adventures await. May your bubbles bring peace wherever your soul now travels.
(A selection of Julia Vinograd’s current books is available from Zeitgeist Press.)
In the beginning…
Jerusalem is weeping,
all temples shake in that sudden storm…
As our minds turned to words the bowl
you spun and placed
on the mantle
light spilled everywhere
chaos turned on order
(but I forget how it went, now)—
loud! voices shouted
across empty rooms
we still strain to fill with remnant shards—
(something like that)
Shadow gave shape and definition
to every thing it touched
naming the light in harsh accents
as it played along the edge of white-gold rings
We sought a new urn where we could place our ashes—
and desired sparks
to ignite old passions
Grey-grit drudge of
two sparkling flames
of memory that slips
like drips of water from a leaky faucet
down the drain
through the grease- and hair-
clogged trap on their way
to the sewer.
Now we piece a pot together
as though it could be
and wear baggy clothes in place of revery.
This dazzling street corner, then, is where it all begins;
you and I walk down different sidewalks, along right-angles
toward sunrise and sunset, north pole and south.
Some fly buzzes around my ear, you slap a mosquito
because we no longer believe in purple candles with
proud intensity, and have stopped discussing
with any sincerity the form of oak trees, or
tomorrow. We just pay the bills today,
and to our credit keep interest
in something or other. In this case, we grind grain
and wear millstones and pretend we have some deep
injury or insult
which overshadows simple flight
our lives in earnest transition
from spark to ash— (I swear)
this death with you.
but we all know that these words lie
to the starving child
in war-torn Jerusalem
each child’s tear holds a bit of the shattered pot
and remembers the light we have extinguished
in our haste to turn away
Jerusalem is weeping,
listen with your blood.
Time slows as light escapes and shadowed night falls over her face. Waves glitter moonlit sonatas in soporific rhythms of heart beat, lost sleep, then run deep in memory. Wet sand shines. The malt whiskey-mellow mood soaks into wind whispering patterns of hush, hush, hush. The bearded woman wishes for her nomadic life, no one’s wife wishes as fervently.
Neutralized like lost neutrinos whose loose cable sped them beyond light, she floats in her beach bar chair, feet digging dry, warm sand. Dinner din rises, falls, rises, falls from inside and outside, all around her the social groupings of ritual meeting, eating, drinking, mating. This world whirls faster through space than she can comprehend. Physics unravels the surrounding universes.
Night fall, an illusion. It rises up in the shadow of the earth around them. Out beyond shadow or illusion, light remains. Moon reflects evidence, an occasional passing satellite agrees, the spots of planets, if she could recall which and where, concur. Time measures itself in movement through space while flying particles imagine themselves still. Like her smooth-faced lover who so engaged dance that he seemed still, the world flowing around him impossibly in motion.
He did move. Into her life. Into her house. And, now, out of it. Gone. Like the hitchhiker long ago, and the man with the long ponytail before him.
Like 1967, the Summer of Love finished and gone. She stood on a street in the Haight one day, watching people. Then she went to Golden Gate Park for the funeral. Men, or probably boys from her current perspective, waved top hats, wore odd clothes from other eras, bright clothes tie-dyed last week. Women, or likely girls like her, showed scads of skin, tie-dye coverings, with vintage wear mixed and matched, furs even. Everyone strung out with beads. Dress-up days. Long flowing hair. Afros. The coffin hand-painted, a sign on the side: Summer of Love. Behind it, the corpse of Hippie. The Diggers dug it down to the grounded burial plot, tried to bury it next to money.
Hippie had died, they said. Killed by the media. Overexposed and misrepresented. Time covered the funeral, photo-spread opportunity. Maybe the counter culture period began here, or perhaps freaks freighted feverish transition into then.
Escapades of escaped expression extended from happenings into mediated madness; Hollywood and Madison Avenue caught the wave and surfed into the scene with conspicuous desire for consumption. She watched the mock funeral laugh at itself and joined in; Julia Vinograd blew bubbles in the procession. Someone said Ginsberg had come, but not that she saw.
A boy on stilts walked in the funeral, from the funeral into her life. She circled him on the street, he bent down, handed her a joint. Smoke and mirrors present, multimedia wonderment, diamond dream reflection, ghost stories and revelations. Rainbows refracted from his prism glasses. Nothing near but naked skin and slippery sweat.
They swam at Muir Beach. They meandered or stumbled through fairytale-fogged redwoods. One day, he drifted into the riptide and floated down to LA. She climbed a tree and joined a commune. Rumors reached out to her, reveling in revelations that he followed the Dead around the world, stilt walking the crowds and selling on the side.
Beach bar community buzzes, bees making honey. She follows the flower trail out of the whiskey haze and picks her path home. The gully crossed, she winds her way under the wind, tight into the pattern now, checkerboard laid bare, check and mate.
Matter never quite coalesced from the rambling energy randomly dominating her. She makes her way into the place, a sort of shelter sorting her out near the beach but away from everything, equidistant from the sun.
Shaking dinner from the kitchen, she eats what she wants and no more. Perhaps that is the pattern, she reflects. Then she swims into sleep on the sofa.
Whenever feathers lying in the grass I spy
they remind me of my dwindling days.
For all too soon I too could fall and die
and how would you know I passed though this maze?
Each quill is the scar of a leaving behind,
the remnant of some bird’s flying away.
And when I find one I hope Life may be so kind
that you might find mine when I fly one day.
So I leave these feathers of a heart taken wing
and a soul that never found a nest.
They’re dipped in black and songs they sing,
so you might know my soul’s at rest.
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding” (Isaiah 40:28 kjv).
Hope springs eternal in our souls for we know that God is with us. He blesses us, He protects us, He directs our path and leads us in what is our destiny.
Tuesday evening is upon us once again. The House of Love Soup Kitchen (a faith-based organization) is attempting to address the needs of families and people in the community suffering from food scarcity by serving a delicious nutritious meal on a weekly basis. It’s unbelievable that the budget adopted by the current administration proposes to cut eligibility for food stamps for at least 4 million people and reduce benefits for many others.
Have you ever received food stamps? Have you ever been hungry? Have you ever been in a position where the cupboards were bare, there was no food in the refrigerator, and you had children to feed? Well the writer of this essay has…I can answer yes to all the above questions. I know for a fact that food stamps do not stretch over the 30 or 31 days that they are supposed to last. If it had not been for the Lord being on our side working through the pantries and the government feeding programs to help supplement the stamps we received, my family and I would have had some very lean days…days where there was no food at all. He giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. (Isaiah 40:29)
I was a middle-class brat raised in the Bay Area of California…Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco…lived in all three of these cities. I had no understanding of what poverty really was because we as family were blessed to have plenty. My great grandfather was a teacher during the Reconstruction Era and eventually became a professor at Prairie View College in Texas. His children received their college degrees, his children’s children, and then eventually my generation as well. As a child I played the piano, wrote poetry, and loved music. While attending Berkeley High School I marched on picket lines in support of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. I went on to become a civil rights activist in San Francisco prior to relocating to the east coast (Harlem). Once in New York I became part of the Avant Garde artist movement…music and spoken word. There I met my husband Grachan Moncur III (jazz trombonist/composer). After living in Harlem for several years we were burned out and relocated to Newark, NJ.
His grandmother got us an apartment in the infamous high-rise projects. Many of these projects no longer exist but the mark they left on me was permanently imbedded in my psyche. So off to Newark we moved with our baby son onto Mercer Street perpendicular to Howard Street which was made famous by Newark writer Nathan Heard. We eventually had five more children. I made my acquaintance with poverty in my late twenties. It was through raising children in “the belly of the beast” that I became intimate with the blues…the welfare food stamp blues. The melancholy sound of the blue 7th colored my aura, the flat five sent my soul reeling into the depths of the music, the blues poured out of my heart, yet the music spoke to me personally assuring me that God would be with us through this new journey.
Unemployment from our NYC jobs ran out. We had a baby to feed, rent to pay along with the other expenses of life. Flying lying fiends snatched at my sanity attempting to squeeze the hope out of me. Beat down not knowing which way to turn God sent a messenger of mercy, a friend to guide and direct my path. My neighbor from down the hall told me that welfare had a program for families which included the husband where we could receive benefits. This program was for “the working poor”. Many people think there’s shame in being on welfare. It’s not the being on welfare but it’s what you do with the benefits. If you use the benefits as a stepping stone to independence, then where is the shame? Even though the food stamps only lasted about three weeks out of the month, I also had health benefits for the children. The program enabled me to return to college and eventually become a certified teacher in New Jersey. I used every resource available to me and my family in order to survive and avoid endless hunger and hardship. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
The holiday season was always a struggle…standing in line hours waiting for a turkey and a food box. Sitting a huge gymnasium, freezing, waiting on Santa who, inevitably showed up late and never quite had enough toys for all the boys and girls gathered desperately waiting for the holiday spirit of happiness. Thank God for the concern shown during that time of year but hunger is a year around adversity. If only empathy could become a permanent part of the American landscape touching a multitude of hearts and minds all twelve months out of the year.
Here are a few hunger facts that are a part of today’s reality taken from: https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-hunger-us
1 out of 6 Americans face hunger
49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table
1 out of 5 children are hungry
1 out 3 African American and Latino children suffer from food scarcity
In the US, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty.40 % of the food in America is thrown out every year…$165 billion dollars’ worth. All this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
One of my sons, who is now deceased, co-founded the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry because of his experiences as a child. He remembered what it was like having to live off food stamps. He remembered the pantries where we had to stand in line for hours to receive boxes of food. He remembered the government feeding programs, the 10-pound blocks of cheese we would get along with other food staples. He remembered the summer breakfast and lunch programs that warded off starvation in the richest nation of the world…starvation always looming just beyond the horizon. He wanted to make a difference in the community by having a place, a sanctuary where a person could come and momentarily forget the everyday struggles of life, eat a good wholesome meal, and enjoy the camaraderie of shared experiences. Dinner is ready.
Our hands join together to thank the Creator for His favor, and His Power, and His strength which lifts our spirits above the uncertainty of an economy governed by the wealthy. God embraces us with His Love enabling us to rise above circumstance, and to continue to live in His glory and His hope always rejoicing in Him.
I was recently given a precious, priceless gift: my maternal grandmother’s hand-written journals. My Gran spent the last 20+ years before she passed chronicling stories about my aunts, uncles and cousins, but also writing about her own life and the changes she witnessed as a child of the early 1900’s. Each year is a thick, red leather bound treasure trove of daily wisdom, life experiences and stories full of human emotions. There are bookmarks, stickers and drawings, doodles and various quotes that make the pages even richer. She was also a talented writer with beautiful script handwriting and a knack for story-telling that made a person feel as if they were there in the moment.
Gran was the matriarch of our family, the “glue” that held us all together. She was often described as a “saint” or an “angel” both in and outside of the family, because of her selfless, giving nature and her willingness to help anyone at any time. She grew up on a large farm and during the Great Depression, they always had enough to eat, so the bounty was shared with neighbors and strangers who had little or nothing. As an adult, she worked full time up until the last couple of years before she passed, helping to find housing for low income, mentally challenged and homeless people in need. She was a pillar in the church, and later, when walking became difficult, would be found quietly reading scripture and writing countless letters to cheer those who desperately needed some positivity in their lives.
In reading through her journals, I’ve realized that this was a woman who truly lived a spiritual life; her actions reinforced the love she had for God, His son and the Bible, and she let herself be a vessel for that love. It’s not that I didn’t already know she was spiritual, but because she and I were so close, I wasn’t able to view her spiritual devotion objectively before. To me, she was always just kind, compassionate, soft-spoken “Gran” – that’s who she was to all of us kids in the family.
The most important lesson that I am learning as I explore the gift of her journals is that “Spirit” is more than an abstract concept: it is a living thing. It needs to be fed and nourished, exercised and celebrated. It’s more than conscience, personality, a soul, a way of being, and at the same time it’s an amalgamation of all of these and many other things. What we feed it matters. How we nurture it matters. Our actions in the world are how Spirit manifests itself, exercises and grows in scope. We can be living examples of what we want to see exist in this world by letting Spirit guide us.
One of the best things about Spirit, is that you don’t necessarily have to be religious in order to help it grow. It can be the Holy Ghost, the Divine Spark of the Universe, Moral Conscience, Core Essence, whatever label you want to give it. That voice inside that urges you to help others, that’s Spirit. Sometimes it whispers, sometimes it shouts. The desire to perform random acts of kindness anonymously, that’s Spirit. It moves us, encourages us to become better human beings. The key to acting in Spirit, is not doing things as virtue-signaling or because you’ll get anything for doing it… if those are your motivations then that’s Ego talking. Ego and Spirit have very different goals and ends by nature. Spirit doesn’t mind being anonymous, because the goal is the goodness of the act itself and what it accomplishes, not recognition.
My grandmother used to say, “Make where you are better because you are there.” I plan to improve my attempts to recognize when Spirit is trying to get my attention and do better about maximizing its potential out in the world through my actions. What about you? How will your Spirit make a difference out there? 😊
Today is the 25th of July 2013, the birth date of my gracious respectful and loving Mother. This day millions of memories are flooding my heart soul and mind, and I say ‘Changes tell us the Time.’ So much has changed, so much has been lost, so much which I called ‘mine’, was never meant for me; gone are the days of talking by fences and standing ‘in line’…and yet there are others for whom we keep and show our love and respect for what we got. Now we need to return. They need it now, some lines that touch and strike, jingle and create ripples in the barrel of thoughts, lying cool and precious, are there, only to be opened on special occasions.
This was one special occasion….
Father’s first posting was as the Staff Surgeon in the Combined Military Hospital of a hill station called Murree. At 9,000 feet above sea level Murree was cool in summers but extremely chilly in snowy Winters, ‘The uniform takes days to dry and the coal iron is smoky and heavy’. The year was 1953. Pakistan the newly created state was struggling at many fronts but the hearts and spirits were joyful and happy, Mother heaved a deep sigh and kept on pressing the heavy iron. She must be missing her own home which she had to leave forever when the family had to migrate to Pakistan.
Mother had to work in hard conditions, such areas are called hard areas and sometimes an army officer has to live without his family as some stations are marked non-family stations. Communication is hardly possible, the letters could travel though, but it took the postman many days to deliver.
Dear Readers ‘A gift of courage, support, trust and affection, a gift of words for the comfort of all.’ I recall how mother coped with life after migration, reaching safer grounds after a journey of three days and fearful nights in an army truck, in a convoy often threatened by ambush and shooting. I remember too the days were long and hot and humid in July, which is usual in this part of the world (the Indo Pak subcontinent), making it depressive at times
Life too is strange, horrifying, tragic, yet with flashes of joy, happiness and fun. At times one may laugh at its twists and turns, its alleys and avenues, through which one has to walk, rush and tread heavily, worriedly or happily. Isn’t there a fresh canvas every twenty four hours?
To be prepared for a vision, comforting our minds in meditation, developing a dream illustrating the images of our colorful worlds from the inside.
Why should we cease to enjoy the heavenly glory the manifestation of truth in nature. To look at the tall trees,the solid brown trunks cracked cut and chipped, but clasping the depths of the nutritious mother Earth with faith, rooted with purpose, waiting for the advent of Spring and the music of myriad of creations crawling, curling, creeping or flying amid reawakening of the changing season. Some branches are sprouting some are still bare reflecting a strange loneliness. This reminds me of the lines ‘sadness and sorrow fill my heart, when I see the leaves silently leave the tree….’
Mama left quietly silently for Heaven without a sigh, without a tear, a gigantic monument of patience courage and acceptance. Winning a battle I would say, not losing it against the continuously silent corrosive cancer. Not a morsel could she touch for months.
Seasons surrendered. Time crept by, I wept secretly and slept cautiously. From the ITC (intensive care) to the special room, from the Oncology Department to the scan center, from the agonizing spells of chemotherapy to the uncertain hours of unconsciousness. I prayed for inner strength. ’O Almighty Allah please forgive me. You are most merciful, most gracious. Please keep my mama in peace and out of pain’. Some people pass away without any so why do others have to suffer so much?
A frosty November Sunday evening, my last moments by the bedside, the tender sensation of the last touch of her hand on my cheek, the wordless, voiceless, hushed and helpless goodbye.
It seemed as if it were yesterday, when there was hope, when I held tightly to the wheelchair’ “Ammiji, would you like to go inside the room now?” The room was not the comfortable room of home, where in winters the first job after morning prayers was to fill kerosene oil in the room heater and then go the kitchen to prepare breakfast. The gas cylinder kept the stove burning.
Breakfast of tea and toast was to be prepared for a child unable to do anything for himself. Since birth it was like that. It all started thirty years ago when the mental condition was confirmed. He would never ever be back with a sane and healthy mind. He would walk but would not be able to talk, nor find his way back if ever he got lost or moved far away from home.” Mother once said, ‘I have accepted him as he is. It’s no use trying to find a good doctor.’ And then, why should I ignore my other blessings, my daughters, they need me. They are my treasure.’
This was the courage that Mother inculcated in her soul and spirit. She made sure that life should be as normal as possible with cooking, school, needle work, and loving care. I used to accompany her for shopping. I looked forward to the ride in the bright red Omni bus though the basket would be slightly heavy on the way back, Still, it was fun.
This room was the fateful No 8 of the VIP Ward, same old verandah same wooden pillars, the netted fly proof doors, the 18th Century ambiance as though suddenly a masked rider would emerge from nowhere shrouded in mystery, speeding to save someone’s life. Many years ago father was 2nd in Command, on duty in this very hospital. It was clean, smelling of antiseptic lotion.
‘Take me around for a little while more’ Mother asked. I gathered my reserves of energy and turned the trembling wheelchair. The rubber lining of the left wheel was hanging loose. The seat cover was torn. Thank God at least the chair is there. I started to push. That Saturday morning it was my day off from college, as I pushed the chair all I saw was a tall three-storied dull and depressive structure the Old VIP Ward. The words stood out against the creamy shabbiness of the wall. What happened to the spread of lush green lawn, bubbling with joy. I had romped and jumped around on the soft grass. Allah had sent us a baby brother, how beautiful he looked as he slept in the cot. His dark long curled eyelashes were so striking. Right then the sudden sound of the siren interrupted my thoughts, an ambulance rushed in. ‘Oh another suffering one’ My grip on the handle of the wheel chair tightened.
Ammi ji, would you like to go inside now?’ Softly I asked my suffering Mama what thoughts touched her mind? No one would know. Thirty-five years ago my father was a commanding officer of this hospital. It used to be so clean smelling of antiseptic, the floors shinning, and lively with smartly dressed nurses and other officers. Above all the atmosphere was comforting atmosphere, but this year a water shortage had troubled the citizens and summers were unusually hot. I remembered the 60s were much cooler. The ice cream evenings were special occasions as the bucket handle was turned by all who could. Mama would pour salt over the crushed ice filling the sides of it. The fresh fruit flavoring lingered for long.
The trial of life was living with an abnormal child and keeping the other side hale and hearty and happy and the hardships of the army life, of sacrifice as father served the nation in the hospital.
But courage, prayer and inner strength prevailed. Only Mother knew what her soul and spirit felt like. She gave everyone her love and care but finally . . . maybe she could not take it anymore.
Haunts of people intense in spring light,
Straw fields and thatched roofs,
Wood fences standing at a slant.
The strangeness of people surge.
Your pale hat whiter than the hills and the sand.
The white of uniqueness. An unsullied tone,
Like you were, holding on to my red shirt
Your body planted firm in my mind—
Woody Herman swinging with Django Reinhardt.
Soulful on syncopated. In that strange balance
We made, standing out in the straight.
She believes in stones,
their tales of megalithic glory
told by the silence of the ancients.
At Avebury, spiritual omphalos,
she rushed to greet them,
hugged them like long lost friends.
Warmed by the sun
they breathed, they were alive,
they hugged her back;
Princess of Albion.
Seated in the Devil’s Chair
I watched her, pink hair,
zips and leathers a warrior queen.
Many silver bangles sung
as she danced, wove a spell
through the avenue of stones,
standing waiting for her
for thousands of years.
At last! she has come home;
Princess of Albion.
From the temple’s sanctuary
hand in hand along the ceremonial
avenue across Malborough Downs
to Silbury Hill, and why they were called
the Downs when they lifted her heart so
she couldn’t understand.
Having stepped on Neolithic footprints,
we kissed in a Druid circle of flowers,
this was when her laughter became sunshine
daughter of Mother Goddess;
Princess of Albion.
The cave beyond the edge
lies in the land beyond attachment.
I didn’t know that the cave beyond the edge
lay in the land beyond attachment.
I didn’t know that the cave beyond the edge
lies in God’s Heart.
How little I knew.
I didn’t know that the swimming
would be so rigorous,
the need for fitness so great.
I swam there.
I climbed there.
I didn’t know that the cave beyond the edge
would require so much vigor.
I stayed there.
I prayed there.
I waited there
in all the silence.
Now, how glad I am
to have swam and climbed there,
to have stayed and prayed there,
to have waited there,
in all the silence,
for amidst it all,
I am glad,
to be in the cave beyond the edge,
in the land beyond attachment.
O Gracious God, how glad I am
to be here, where You are,
in my heart, here.
For I hear,O Gracious God, I hear
Your Voice rising from the silence.
“Thank You,” I respond, “Thank You
for the freedom, the choice,
of entering here, with You,
into this deepest chamber,
this deepest living space
of my heart, Your Heart,
where together we live in peace,
in the joy and jubilation of knowing one another
and all others, heartfelt, in harmony,
together, in LOVE.
Similar to the crazy quilt, the log cabin is also an old pattern. . . . the difference is the structure of the patches; the pieces are cut into straight patches or “logs” and organized around a center square. Some speculate the pattern developed as the woman’s counterpart to the man’s building of log cabin homes years ago.
Or the shape of a Quaker meetinghouse,
benches ranged around a hollow square.
Or the hollow square deeper within,
where I learned to watch what stirred,
and called it God, or breathe with it
now and call it something else —
only what is. I remember my own
past, or the past long ago, easier
to imagine gracious, as if its suffering
were a progress though a stately lane of oaks.
Breathing through the summer morning
while the world falls apart, and a friend
says she can barely hang on with it,
destruction invisible but so close,
obscene. The wish then not only to
resist but build, hands aching in the lap,
to make something fit to last, to live
by. Sunlight moves on the eyelids,
as on the floor of a meetinghouse,
sifted through oaks past a window I imagine;
logs of light then, angling on the ground,
each one a line, a line, a line.
There was an interval
When we ascended
Stairs in a dream
Referring the rose pink light of dawn
To cleave apart that golden drapery
Silently waiting for
the pictureque azure
in the sky
Whereupon we sight
the silver lining
Whilst the gate of empyrean bewray
To reminisce our first sacrament
Survival of the fittest
Political temperatures dictate
Fight, flight, freeze
Been frozen for a few years
Chronologically too old for fight
Adrenal glands choose flight
Travel with jars of natural
Peanut butter and jelly
Crackers withstanding staleness
Jugs of water
Rolls of toilet paper for trips
Baby wipes hygiene
Oh, why did I
Get rid of the travel trailer
Can I live on 4 wheels with 3 dogs
And a driver?
Icy dawn heading north
Wind whipping long hair
Through minute window cracks
Canine scent-sense tells me
When we pass salty or loamy aromas
The truck a speeding bullet
Until yawning stars give way
To a cloudy dawn
Where have I gone?
Flying away to safety
Merely a strain
Logic says no safety in denial
Draw, write, sing SAFETY
Until it is real
for those who don’t know the chocolate
the children of poverty
and the sleepers in the corners of the ancient streets
for those who survived from the famine but still hungry
for those boys who never dream
cause they never sleep
for those who don’t know the chocolate
and heard more news about its sweet
the people with half soul
and lack food and the imaginary house
for those who crawled on the sharp platforms in the mid-night of every day
seeking for the warmth living
for those babies who never taste the milk
with wide eyes looking for any help
for the hands of charity
and the sensitive hearts which cry and bleed
for those who gathered in the torn tents around the world
waiting from a long time
for those who don’t know the chocolate
and haven’t the ability to imagine it
the innocent faces washed under the rain
the seekers for the smell of humanity in each alley, place, and content
for those who kiss the sun through their contemplate glances
for those who write with heavy heart and smashed dreams
the climbers of the existence shoulder
looking for the justice face
for the dancers with bare feet on the top of Everest
who do their best to bring the joy and the peace
for the sun of tolerance which touching our bones
for the bloom of the flowers
and the skies gloom
for those who never taste the chocolate
but they still hearing about its magic
the crawlers on the earth with a great desire
to make the difference between the past and the future
for those who draw on the sand
with belief in the friendship with the waves of the sea
for the killed persons in every battle
for the injured soldiers in every war
for those women who haven’t the right to vote
for the fishermen in their ships
for the highest star in our sky
and for the rainbow
for those people with disabilities
and for those players with the wool ball
for the little boys who sell the water
for the little girls who feed the roosters
for the nations which suffer from dry
for the victims of racism
for the dead from the terrorism
i write these poems for those
who don’t know the chocolate
the poetry is the deep philosophy of the cry and laugh
it is the unseen language which touches our soul bitterly and joyful
the poetry is the skin of the sensibility and the incredible race among the clouds
it is the pouring of the sky blue in our opening hearts
the poetry is the art of the mess
that far world which told you what behind the galaxy
it is our previous feelings and the forthcoming ones
when we believe in spirit and science and madness
the poetry is finding the details in eyes of someone
it is means this amazing ability to read the maps of souls
it is the smell of honey and the necessary of wings
and the tragedy of nights
it is the long walking in the land of the imagination republic
the poetry is more than contemplating the moon through a poetic night
it is more than rhythm and free verse
more than the extraordinary words and the visual scenes
the poetry is more than the silence of beauty
and the gossiping of people
it is what beyond breath
it is what beyond the sea
it is what beyond the legends
the poetry is discovering the hidden smile of the orphans!
I remember when we woke together in the ancient streets of Spain
I remember I felt a strong shiver which could heal any pain
when the fantastic windows whispered in my ears ” hello ”
I couldn’t dare to reply
I thought that voice came from my fellow
so I began to spy
here, I discovered the magnificent magic
her shape take more than my like
when I jumped like a child in the street
because I fall in love with the windows of Madrid
this a romantic story escaped from the old age
and rapidly came to me and wrote its secret on my page
the beauty windows of Madrid
inspired me to write in Casa Maria plaza mayor
it makes my soul singing for the coming light and also for
the ancient art of Spain
which could heal you entire of suffering and pain
“When Bat came to the animals’ party, Zebra said, ‘You’re not an animal. You have wings. Go to the birds’ party!’ Bat went, but there it was the same. Eagle told Bat, ‘You’re not a bird. You’ve got fur and ears and teeth.’ Bat slunk away. Perched on a branch, as he cried, he lost the strength to hold himself upright. He flipped over to hang upside down, his tears dripping down to the ground.”
When the story was over, everyone in the circle applauded Allison.“It’s sad,” said the first listener. “If it were a kid’s book, the bats would get together and have their own party. But Bat doesn’t get a happy ending.”
“That’s reality. He didn’t choose to be this way and he’s rejected for it anyway.”“
For me, this question of categorizing Bat is really important. It reminds me of going to the bathroom and choosing ‘Men’ or ‘Women.’ Or being bi and having everyone want to label you as either gay or straight. So begin our meetings at Under the Rainbow…
As the parent of gay children, Naomi Baltuck knew that few programs or public gathering places existed for LGBTQ in Edmonds, just north of Seattle. In a climate of increasing intolerance, she wanted to use storytelling to heal, inspire, and strengthen the community. But that connection had to be built on trust, and that trust had to be earned. Under the auspices of the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition, she partnered with a local queer-friendly game pub to launch a monthly Family Gayme Time, which drew a good crowd. Once that was established, she asked the Edmonds Library to host a monthly storytelling series called Under the Rainbow, for LGBTQ and Allies. When they agreed, she contacted the high school’s Rainbow Warrior advisor, and the Edmonds Diversity Commission.
Allison Cox, social worker and author/editor of The Healing Heart books on storytelling for healthy families and communities, lent her expertise. We needed it. Under the Rainbow was built from scratch. Should there be rules? Age limits? Time limits? Language restrictions? Could we find LGBTQ storytellers willing to work gratis, since we had no budget? We put the word out, and along came Chris Spengler, a storyteller known for her humorous and uplifting personal tales. Chris jumped on board, and we had our team. Our vision wasn’t of polished performances, but to create a place for LGBTQ and Allies to share their own stories, to support each other and be supported. Rules proved unnecessary in a place where everyone is respected. Age limits too; we’ve had babies, elderly, and everything in between; everyone’s welcome. Our team comes prepared to tell, to get things started. Most of our lives aren’t centered around being a lesbian or bisexual or a supporter of those who are, so we also tell stories dealing with sexism or rejection for not fitting family expectations or having to suddenly pick up and start your life over…the human condition.
The first Under the Rainbow drew only four, we three storytellers and a straight friend. We reminded ourselves that storytelling can be healing, but to a person who has been disowned for coming out, it’s emotionally risky. Eventually Gayme Timers made the leap from playtime to storytime. We got school referrals, utilized social media, and the Seattle Storytellers Guild championed the program, lending non-profit status for grant-writing.We meet at the library every Second Monday, 6:30-8PM. Refreshments are always served, because exchanges over cupcakes can be as momentous as those happening within the Story Circle. After each tale, participants are invited to share their reactions. Listeners opened up gradually. The first time someone volunteered to tell a personal story, we were hopeful. The next month, when a young person prepared a story ahead of time, we were elated. Now nearly everyone shares. The gay son of a Mormon bishop, a straight elderly woman who dated a gay man in Lebanon fifty years ago. We heard about being gay in Mongolia. Being homeless. At last month’s meeting, one coming out story led to another and another.
Tackety Boots (The Healing Heart ~ Families, edited by Allison Cox and David Albert) is a traditional Scottish tale about Sandy, who is kicked out of a party for having no story to tell, then takes an unexpected canoe trip across the river, changing gender in the process. He lives as a woman with another man and they have a child. Sandy finds the canoe one day and is shocked when it carries him back across the river and he becomes male again. Distraught, he bursts into the party and wins a bag of gold for telling the best story of the night. But Sandy could only whisper sadly, “Oh my child! Oh my man!”Allison even told the children’s classic, “Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen, an acknowledgement of all the times in life you “can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it…got to go through it!” Everyone clapped in time, grinning like a kid.
Naomi chose Tatterhood, the Norwegian story of a girl born different. No matter how hard the queen tries to mold her into a princess, she defies taming and remains true to herself, but saves the day in her own way. While traditional stories evoke conversation, Chris’s personal stories turn listeners into tellers.
The success of this program can’t be measured in numbers, but by the impact it makes on people’s lives. One participant rarely left the house, and never did so without their service dog. Now they work an outside job, and can leave their dog at home when necessary. Even more good things lie ahead. We’ve just received a grant from the Pride Foundation to bring in more LGBTQ storytellers for programs and special concerts. Writing Rainbow is a natural offshoot of Under the Rainbow. We meet monthly at a queer-friendly Edmonds café to write, brainstorm, and meet other LGBTQ+A writers. A Gayme Time spinoff is LGBTQ+A Dungeons and Dragons, where gaymers roleplay a crew of gay pirates, creating their own continuing adventure story.
Here, under the rainbow, we celebrate who we are. It looks like the bats are having a party of their own after all!
When I first started college, I was ambitious. I was going to major in Computer Science, double major in Biology, and do it in three years. I never actually got to take that first Bio class but I was still going to double major, this time in Accounting. It turns out that accounting is really boring. Okay. So I’ll stick with Computer Science and do it in three years. Which means I needed to take 20-21 credits a semester – which is a lot, and I was going crazy with all the work. I suddenly understood why people looked for easy A’s.
Then I heard about Phys Ed courses. Only one credit, but they were easy. In the Fall I could take skiing. During Christmas break we would go to Canada for a week and ski, and I’d earn a credit. It was fun! For another credit, I could take more skiing in January during Intersession, the period between Fall and Spring. In the summer I took Tennis. In the Spring I took Fencing. Even one credit at a time adds up.
Then a three-credit course caught my eye – Wilderness Survival! Now, I’ve always been interested in my own survival. I had never been in the wilderness, but I thought I should take this class, you know, to increase my odds. Unlike the other courses, it met as a class, but was still fun. Over Thanksgiving break, we had to go to my teacher’s acreage in upstate New York to demonstrate what we’d learned. We were allowed to bring a sleeping bag and some clothes. No tent, no foam pad, nothing else.
I borrowed a sleeping bag and went. That first night we’re paired up, me with a guy who is quiet, but nice, and then we’re given boundaries within which we can make camp. We gather firewood and make this big fire. We get in our sleeping bags and it’s toasty. No problem – we got this!
…Until the fire goes out. Then I wake up and I’m cold. I am shivering. My teeth are chattering and I know I should rekindle the fire. But that means exposing the top half of my body to even more cold, and no way I’m willing to do that.
Lucky for me, my buddy has awakened and is also freezing, and is willing or desperate enough to try to start the fire. But he is shaking so much that he can’t light the match. It isn’t happening. He finally gives up and we put on every piece of clothing we have. Even with a sleeping bag between us and the earth…the earth is very big… it feels like there is nothing between it and our bodies. It feels like the earth is trying to suck every ounce of warmth out of us, and it’s succeeding. We want to get together to hold our body heat in. But now it’s windy and we need to shelter behind the tree. This means settling into the troughs between the big roots, but they’re too narrow, so we have to separate. We do and, amazingly, we sleep.
I wake up. I don’t open my eyes, but I can tell there’s light. There’s something on my face. I try to brush it away, but it’s still there. I open my eyes and it’s snowing. There’s this blanket of snow over everything. I’m just a lump in the landscape. In that moment, there is incredible joy–because I’m still alive. I’ve survived the night and this is awesome.
It gave me perspective. Hey, as long as I have shelter, clean water and food, everything else is gravy. I am swimming in gravy and didn’t even realize it! Who cares whether I finish college in three years or four?
But what I loved most about that night, why I still go out into the wilderness…although it was harsh, it was also incredibly fair. It didn’t care if I was male or female, poor, rich, black, white, gay, straight – it treated us all the same. And in this world, that is a rarity.