Peace

 

Disputes of imperfection,

Forbidden paths of injustice,

An advanced keen search of leadings into the past,

A grant of amnesty with guided routes of the unveiled truth,

Relays of an open form with no opposing jurisdiction,

A sketchy dialect of continuous trials,

The nooks and cranny of faded laws,

Adding principles & measures as hues to a truce that turns the tide,

Genuine quotes of peace which resolve a flaming misunderstanding.

“Peace & Solidarity: revolution assets of life.”

© 2019, Benedicta Boamah

Five from Faruk Buzhala

Lazy afternoon

The faded afternoon
sitting in a corner
makes the calculations of the day.
With a taste of café in the mouth
smokes the next cigarette in laziness!

Is this the same

To walk alive
Among the dead
Where everyone watches you
And no one sees you
Or
To walk dead
Among the living
Where no one looks at you
And everyone sees you

Is this the same?!

Traces

Satan is gone
But among us has left
A lot of his bastards.

Prophets voice
Despaired of the views
That appear on my window.
I hear voices that echo from
The bottom of the souls
Shrieks of which
Keep me hanging over the ground!

I want to scream with all my voice
And tell them that
We live at the end of the apocalyptic world!

Grief

I want to cry
To blow the peel of grief
That enlaced my heart
I want to cry
To be a tear at all
In the darkness of grief
Flowers let’s get drunk
In the garden so that I’m not
completely dried out

© 2019, Faruk Buzhala

Pushing through Utopia

How we eagerly read so many new names 
       (like Rousseau, Robespierre, Marx)
         of social revolution
             in books at Berkeley, 
                  read of feasts of blood
                      and showers of murders through Western times

How it was quickly becoming something more to me than history 
      It was becoming an exploding passion
        as we sat on a mountain on the edge of America over the Bay
          dangling our feet to see how far we could go for pure freedom  
              pushing away the mind’s old dandelion utopias.

How John Muir pulsed in our veins, his steadfast embrace of rampant wildness 
          in his dangerous life, he challenged the just wear a dark suit men
               all my life sick on the edge before, made me more ready to jump
                    into more, all that I didn’t understand 

How to go further, trembling as I was, into Berkeley’s tempting rabbit holes
       hands and feet slither into a green New Age of ecology and equality 
           Into a light that saved trees and food that fed souls
                  how we broke all our molds, wrote over stingy rules 

How we stood together, norm creators envisioning in a blur of newness
       charting new ways with glittering eyes since we knew 
              we were climbing as one into the unchartered
                   without pretense or yesterday’s food

How we felt raw and naked in our bones beginning it all 
        Protected by beautiful Berkeley light
                Secure in our mysterious dreams pushing hard, way beyond
                      The rigid order of Victorian sight

©2019, Linda Chown

TimeInWar

We lived in the war pasting coupons
page after page in the war our parents
subdued for us, banned in a loud quiet,
banning feeling in themselves
keeping the lights bright. We lived in a war
bleeding alone, for there was no tv
to see. Night radio muffled. The war hit our hearts,
what else? We ate polite weeklong pot roasts.

And knew something was missing. It was fear
that the world would not be here, nor we,
that the rituals would crash like Alice
fell through, fell to nowhere-land.

Oh, where will we go when we pass
into you? Will our hearts even start?
Who will keep this ritual life going
with all the killing and darkness?

Anne Frank at least she said, and Joan of Arc withstood.
And we all targets geographical and physical
and we exposed and frightened, having
to put a good face on this evil which threatened all
those war days and witch-hunt days and
always in our ever oppositional living.

And now again as the long days pass casting evil
again I wander-wonder alone what I’ll do when
Life turns into a living bomb cast and I’ll have no
pot-roast or pretense. Writing my
globetrotting weapon and disguise.
In out and all about. In rife absurdity.
Calm the bombs and silence the mad.
Let’s feel clear water and soft words all
green, clad in long love and trust beyond bloodshed.
Not hope but a sudden heartening.

©️2019, Linda Chown

Don’t Be Stupid

Stars are out there, many, everywhere, all the time.
Try not to think about this all the time.

Those stars, they’re everywhere, even in us, all the time.
Don’t be stupid about this. Try not to think about this all the time.

If it’s important to you where Space ends, you may not
Be picking up the clothes you always drop on the floor,
For someone else to pick up. Learn to pick up, all the time.

Mountains change, rivers change, weather changes,
Volcanoes are still erupting, it’s colder some days.
Why is this so hard to understand? Don’t think about it.

We can’t remember everything that’s happened. That’s
Why we always mess things up. That’s not hard, is it?

Don’t be stupid. Another person is a person to appreciate.
You can’t appreciate only those who look and act like you.
This isn’t hard, but don’t be so afraid. Take a deep breath.

Stop doing that. Whatever it is you are doing, stop that.
Why are you this old and you are still acting like that.
This isn’t hard, it just takes practice. Don’t think about it.

Of course, we are water. It goes in every day. We wash up.
We wash what’s dirty. We are in awe of its beauty.
If you don’t know that, wade in, go under, hold your breath.

Stop asking for applause. Do what you need to do well.
What’s hard to understand about that? Are you still that needy?

The best line of that movie was Will it help? So stop worrying.
When has worrying ever helped you to get things straight?

We are all here, standing line. You can’t make us go away
Like that. Stop blathering so. You look silly doing that.

Are you a busy person? Nothing to admire there.
Everything else in the cosmos is not busy, but it’s there.
Staying busy will tire you out. Take a 2-minute time out.

Are you feeling any better? You know, there are no truths.
I know that’s hard, but get used to it. Don’t think about it
Ever again, just try doing everything you’ve done, better, that’s all.

© 2019, DeWitt Clinton

Rising Up, You Poets

 “I knew—had long known—how poetry can break open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire. And, in spite of conditions at large, it seemed to me that poetry in the United States had never been more various and rich in its promise and its realized offerings. But I had, more than I wanted to acknowledge, internalized the idea, so common in this country, so strange in most other places, that poetry is powerless, or that it can have nothing to do with the kinds of power that organize us as a society, as relationships within communities.  If asked, I would have said that I did not accept this idea. Yet it haunted me.” —Adrienne Rich in preface to her book What Is Found There, Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (W.W.Norton and Company, 1993)



You bare witness to the spirit of the times,
recording the minutes, building monuments
with your soft technology of healing, elevating
consciousness, What joy you feel in rising up!

Rising up, you Poets, from silence and solitude,
from ear to the ground, observation is your
spiritual practice, you’ve all been oppressors and
oppressed, now use words to change the world.

© 2019, Jamie Dedes

One Dark Stand

One dark stand against the world
Can light up & ignite the universe.
The voice of change for justice
Is fierce, unafraid it can’t be-coerced
It strikes fear in evil men’s stomachs.

One dark stand against the world
Can lead the enslaved to freedom
Break the chains that bind the unbeaten
And lead us all to a midnight vigil
And all it takes is “one individual.”

© 2019, Mark Heathcote

request…

i’m not certain
which
deity
is going
to
respond
and
i
honestly
don’t
care
i’d just
like
for once
to
have
a
response
so
here we go
dear
what’s your name
i
would like
to
request
an
end
to the senseless slaughter
of
children
if
grownups
want
to wipe each other
off
the face
of
the plane
then
let it be
but
raping the life breath
from
children
should be
banned
by
you
dear
fill-in-the-blank deity
a
gender
neutral
title
and
honorific
implied
you
needn’t
respond
directly to me
i’m
not
a priest
or
particularly wise man
just
a concerned
citizen

 

© 2019, Charles W. Martin

The Long Dark Night

stuff bottled inside
about to shatter
world going crazy
does it matter?
so much violence
so much strife
desensitizing human sensibility
help!!!
turn up the music
let harmonic sound abound
oldies but goodies
sooth harm and hurt
“ride Sally ride”
ride throughout the earth
“unchain my heart set me free”
free the words inside of me
free calming words
free soothing words
free encouraging words
let them ride with mustang sally
speeding in space
emitting messages of tranquility
that reverberate throughout the cosmos
let the balm of Gilead perfume the atmosphere
soothing all fear
ride sally ride
ride through the USA
declaring this a day of harmony and serenity
ride sally ride
ride through Africa and Asia
declaring this a day of a peace to release all animosity
ride sally ride
ride through Europe and Australia
declaring this a day of communication and restoration
ride sally ride
ride through South America, North America, and Antarctica
ride throughout the world
ride on the road of time
eradicating eons
filled with hatred
filled with wars
filled with a power-hungry lust
that never trusts the source of light
that invites mankind into a relationship of love
a love that shines from above encompassing all
who choose to be stars through this long dark night

© 2019, Tamam Tracy Moncur



 

Ju$t d1$$1m1l@r

 

Dedicated to Swami Vivekananda

Jump out of your well, little frog.
Jump out of it, to see the world.
Your well isn’t the only place of existence.
There are many wells—
bigger and prosperous wells.
Wells with diverse cultures.
Just different—not good or bad.
How can you judge your well to be the best?
When you haven’t seen any other well, dear frog.

Don’t mock others frogs from different well
or berate them for being dissimilar
to the frogs from your well.
Learn from others for each has a reason
and a habit for being them.

Don’t let the well—define you either
or become your only identity.
Remember, you are a frog first.
Just as unique as all other frogs.

There is a world out there
Waiting to be explored.
Waiting to enchant and delight you

Jump out of your well dear frog
Leap out of your well, now!

© 2019, Sunayna Pal

Don’t Hang the Poets

Raanana, January 23, 2018

By the time you read this
I’ll be long gone,
Not in a sad sense
But in a hit the road sense.
Did you think I’d stick around forever?
I’ve got universes to create
And people to make.
Besides, I’m infinite and you are finite.
Do the math.
You can’t count up to me
And I can’t subtract myself to get to you.
Everything you do or say is finite.
I do nothing, yet it is done.
I can’t know or care about every hair on your heads,
Nor every cell or atom in your bodies.
There are so many worlds and galaxies,
Yet they are finite.
Yes, my prototypes,
I knew them well enough.
No, I wasn’t angry when she bit the fruit of knowledge
And offered him a bite.
What parent would?
And I didn’t kick them out of Eden.
They just took up responsibilities
And fended for themselves.
Eden was their childhood
But then they were adults.
These books you so revere,
The Bible, Quran, and others like them,
You should know I had no part,
Men forged My name and that is all.
They quoted what they wrote for
Ungodly purposes I assure you.
Don’t let them lead you
For they know not more than what you know.
There have been wise men
But you seldom had the wisdom to follow.
I didn’t make you master over My creation,
You are just a part of a wondrous whole
Where every part is necessary
Or the whole is diminished.
One more thing before I close:
The poets, please don’t hang the poets
For I was one once, my words were worlds,
From them will come your soul’s salvation.

© 2019, Mike Stone

Social Justice

“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time.'”

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

© 2019, artwork, Anjum Wasim Dar

In solidarity, documentary photographs

~~~~~~~

“Let him who has not a single speck of migration to blot his family escutcheon cast the first stone…if you didn’t migrate then your father did, and if your father didn’t need to move from place to place, then it was only because your grandfather before him had no choice but to go, put his old life behind him in search of the bread that his own land denied him…”  José Saramago, The Notebook

© 2019, Christopher Woods

Using Social Interactions to Create Change

When we think of social justice and activism, most people would think of things like petitions, protests, lawsuits, calls to representatives, empowering speeches, conferences, research, legislation, publicity stunts—because these are the current conventional forms of activism. We owe much of our societal progress to the activists that have used these tools for decades to affect change. 

These tools also have something in common: They target financial and institutional positions of power to enable a large range of impact. A single piece of legislation can impact the lives of millions of people for years to come, so it’s logical to focus on influencing the people who have enough financial and institutional power to bring such legislation into fruition. One action from an elected official will have far more effect on the systems that make up our society than ten actions by an individual citizen will.  

But I have found that whenever I attempt these traditional forms of activism, all I can think about is how far away I am from the center of it all, how little control I have over what happens. There are plenty of activists that do get to the center, but in order to be “in the room where it happens” many of these activists risk their lives or safety, travel frequently so they can be wherever they are needed most, work 60-hour weeks, forego food/rest, and rely on other forms of physical stamina, all for their cause. Their endeavors are incredibly noble, and my chronically ill and disabled body was not built to fill that role. 

What, then, should you do if being too far away incites helplessness, and being too close is costly to your livelihood to an untenable degree?

My solution is to focus on the “social” half of “social justice.” Let’s run through SJW 101 real fast.

Putting the Social in Social Justice 

If you take five samples at the deli counter and the deli worker glares at you, to avoid that awful feeling of judgment, you’re likely to only take one sample next time. If you bring home a report card of all A’s and your parents are ecstatic, you’re more likely to continue prioritizing the acquisition of high grades so that you can feel that excitement about your achievement again. If wearing a shirt with a loud color scheme in public makes you nervous but you receive no discernible reaction from other people when you leave the house, you’re likely to feel assured that your color-choices for clothing are not worthy of any anxiety.

Do you have a weird habit that you picked up from your parents? Are you ashamed to cry in public because of how someone reacted to you doing that when you were little? Did you leave a toxic job situation but then found that anytime your new boss called your name, you were filled with dread? We already know that how you interact with other people, how you behave in public, even how you respond to your own needs and desires, is heavily influenced by how other people have reacted to these behaviors. This phenomenon is called socialization: the process of learning ideas about how a person like you should or shouldn’t behave, act, dress, think, feel, and aspire to be, through social interactions.  

Our strongest influencers are often the people in our lives who have more power than we do; teachers, parents, employers, role models etc, but power doesn’t just come from authority or fame, and that’s where social justice comes in. How much relative power we have is closely tied to our gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, financial status, physical and cognitive ability, and body type. It shouldn’t be, but it is. 

The traits I listed above are used as focal points for oppression if we happen to be anything other than what society considers “default”: male, white, christian, heterosexual, cisgender, financially stable, physically healthy, able, and thin. We can see the consequences of these societal expectations in high homelessness and suicide rates in LGBTQ teens, disproportionate incarceration rates and more severe sentencing for people of color, severe poverty among disabled populations, and heartbreakingly high frequency of sexual harassment, assault, and physical abuse of women. Our culture teaches us that these tragedies are a result of personal weakness or a lack of effort towards resolving their own struggles but they are actually signs of people who have had their power stolen from them.

If, however, you are among the default, your increased power not only means you’re likely to avoid the obstacles listed above entirely but it also comes with an increased number of choices available to you, less resistance to getting what you want, a greater ability to bounce back from consequences, more connections to other people with power, and a higher likelihood that your word will be trusted over a person with less power. This, in very brief terms, is a summary of what it means to have privilege

Change Starts With You

The exciting news about privilege, power, and socialization is that just as there have been thousands of people that have shaped you through social responses to your actions, you are also shaping and influencing the people in your life. 

The actions you choose to perform are an indicator of what kind of world you want to normalize. You can lead by example, speak up in the face of injustice, disconnect from toxic influences, encourage and celebrate progression, resist regression. You can validate, reject, inspire, undermine, or uplift. Humans are by and large social creatures. We are motivated to attain connection and acceptance from other people and as a result, just a simple smile or frown is enough to influence someone else’s actions down the road. 

It is this superpower that I use as my primary “weapon” against social injustice. The practice of being intentional about what behaviors I socially reward or reject according to the change that I want to see is a power that I have at my fingertips every day.

Each person has a complicated blend of privileges and sources of oppression. The complex manner in which those benefits and obstacles interact and compound on one another in your life is known as intersectionality. But no matter what your line up is, you can identify the aspects of your life that afford you more choice, more flexibility, more recourse, and use your increased power to give your influence over others, greater impact. 

Add social media to the mix and an action that previously could only be seen by a dozen people at most can now be broadcast to thousands of people, if not millions. Every time you comment, share, like, you aren’t just sharing your thoughts with your friends, you are shouting your message into a megaphone. The more power you have, the louder that megaphone will be, the more people will hear you. 

Identify and Utilize Existing Social Patterns 

Most of the time, our involvement in the socialization of other people is unconscious. Just as our level of power is determined by traits like gender and race that are outside of our control, how we are socialized is influenced by these traits too. Without the intention of doing so, we socialize women to be emotionally accessible and caring, while we encourage men to be assertive and stoic. Our culture teaches people of color to be obedient, LGBTQ people to hide their true selves, poor people to deny themselves basic pleasures, mentally ill people to suffer silently, and disabled people to ignore their own basic needs. If you’re not sure where to point your socialization powers, pushing back on the default roles we’re all squished into arbitrarily, and celebrating behaviors that defy those roles, is a great place to start.

But, keep in mind that a side effect of privilege is that you’re less likely to be aware of the depth and nuance of oppression- based problems if you’re even aware of them at all, which can put you at a disadvantage when trying to support marginalized groups you’re not part of. I’m white, cisgender, financially stable, and relatively thin, but the fact that I’m also a woman, bisexual, disabled, mentally ill, and used to be poor, means that I’m in an excellent position to both understand the needs of marginalized groupsand use the resources I have to effectively support them. I use my experience associated with my marginalization to help me understand other sources of marginalization I don’t face. 

What Change Will You Spark in Others?

The catch to using this magic tool is that the majority of the time, you won’t know exactly what kind of impact you had on people. While a hundred people will notice your actions, only one will tell you. I devoted months to my work as a blogger, feeling as if I were shouting into the void, but then people that I rarely interacted with began approaching me in person to thank me for my work and express the degree to which my writing had influenced them, and I was surprised every time. 

Do you remember a time when you were a child and an adult in your life changed something in you for the rest of your life? Maybe they were the only person who believed in your ability to achieve your dreams. Maybe they taught you kindness and compassion towards the people you found difficult to forgive. Maybe they saw you for who you were and reflected you as good and valuable when no one else had before. Even just a small word of encouragement can be important enough to us at that age that we remember it for decades. That person that helped you probably has no idea that they affected you so much, even if that impact lasted a lifetime. What if you could be that person for someone else? 

What if you could be that person for dozens of people? Or hundreds? Imagine the reverberations of your actions throughout the world as each of those people carry that change with them through life.  

Our boots-on-the-ground activists know that leaders and authorities have infinitely more power over institutional change than we do as citizens and so they seek to change the course for our country and our planet by finding the steering wheel. A leader’s decision can impact the lives of millions of people, but with your socialization powers, you can participate in the slow evolution of large scale change, enabling a society that collectively makes the kind of change you want to see, creating the activists and leaders and innovators that we need in order to achieve our goals for the planet. Your superpower is available to you whenever you choose to use it.

© 2019, Kella Hanna-Wayne

Sounding Bugles

Tonight’s moon will be heat-throttled;
my father’s slow-turning eye watches
the rising reformation of our country’s
people—the ones with more bread less than
equal to the ones that learn they can survive
hunger with a special kind of tobacco
pressed between the teeth and cheek,
the kind that acclimates with blood. Grief is
malleable in skilled hands; soon children
for whom school is a visit either to a future
or a means to learn, furthermore, the way
to escape the need for alternate food, mining
the grounds of their minds with comic strips,
become the intellectual whose arms are
muted under grinding a balance between
logical escape and patriotic leisure. But the heat
is rising; the bated night is luminous, bands
of clouds invisible, like homes of dreams
lacing fragile exteriors. Our voice is ground for
debt, that is like delayed prayer shot from
a freshly oiled barrel; tonight the moon will watch
fireworks going off on a rich man’s terrace
resembling broken dawns. Opinion is didactic
in skilled hands. My father shall recognise
the sounds through his impaired hearing,
drink enough water to fill to the brim of
his stomach, turn off the touting reforms
and wait in his sleep for the next prayer.

© 2019, Sheikha A.

Silent Courage

 

Santiago Atitlán

Three o’clock
The Catholic bells begin ringing
Women in their red huipiles
& ribbon-wrapped hair
wound ‘round their heads
enter the church

I quietly slip in & see
Father Stanley Rother’s heart
buried in the right wall
This Maya village wished it so
after his assassination in 1981
Variously colored crosses surround it,
each one with a name, a date

I reenter the sunlit afternoon
& aimlessly wander the market streets

Five o’clock
The village echoes with the
hand-clapping & tambourines
the singing & hallelujahs
from the seven or more evangelical temples

I am haunted by the horror of that memorial
I am haunted by the testimony of a volunteer
who investigated a massacre in this village
just over a year ago

As dusk falls
I once more climb those round steps
& enter the white-washed church

I sit in a pew near the priest’s heart
meditating upon those lives embracing him

Green paper crosses for the 209 killed here
22 yellow ones for the wounded
68 pink, the kidnapped

I walk back into the twilight
thinking of that December night massacre
not so very long ago
& how these villagers marched to the
military base & ordered them
to leave, to end the murderings
of their pueblo that had gone on
for too, too many years

The two nearest volcanoes are capped
by towering grey clouds
Thunder rumbles the empty streets

©2019, Lorraine Caputo

“Nights with Ghosts,” a poem from a child in Zimbabwe

 

“Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression.” Mission Statement for Poets Against War.



Back around 2008 when I started blogging, Poets Against War, founded in 2003 by American poet Sam Hamill (1943-2018) in response to the war with Iraq, was still going strong and some of my poems were accepted for online publication. This was my baptism into socially engaged poetry. The thousands of poems that were contributed to the database from poets around the world are archived at a university, the name of which I’ve long forgotten. There were some other great efforts including Poetry of Solidarity, which made use of the easy and economical outreach the Internet offers. These two sites have gone the way of all things. The links I saved for them now get a 404 error code. Today we have 100,000 Poets (and friends) for Change, founded in 2011 by Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion.

Fortunately, I did keep notes on some of the poetry and activities I encountered in those early blogging days. What follows is a translation of a poem written by a child in Zimbabwe after the government made war on its own people in June 2005—200,000 people became homeless.  This poem was included in an article by American poet Karen Margolis in the now defunct Poetry of Solidarity.

nights with ghosts
.
dear samueri, my friend
i will never see you again;
maybe i will.
but i shall not know
until father finds us a new address
,
addresses!
we have none anymore.
we are of no address.
.
now that i have written this letter,
where do i post it to?
shall i say, samueri,
care of the next rubble
harare?

—child’s poem

“I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’” American poet, Eve Merriam

— Jamie Dedes

Change

 

“If you want change, let me throw it at you
as hard as I can at your dirty face…”
—Homeless read mean tweets (YouTube, now private)

Let me throw justice at you, let it hit your face
and wake us up. Let me throw opportunity at you,
let it hit your face and give us a chance.

Let me throw change at you, change in the world,
change creating justice and freedom,
change creating opportunity, real change
for all. Let me throw democracy at you, let it
hit us in the face so hard that it cracks open
and spills out into the land, everywhere, change—
real democracy, real hope, real opportunity.

Let me throw change and the stinking, rotten
carcass of consumer capitalism and greed at
those so privileged and shallow as to think white
teeth are more important than your humanity.

And then, god help me, let me find love
and compassion to throw as hard as I can
into our faces, into our lives, into the hearts
of us all, of us all standing here watching
in voyeuristic pleasures of despair.

© 2019, Michael Dickel

After the 2016 Election

We share this common irritant: the smoke of distant fires.
It scalded the morning and evening sun
ember red, then hung a net of haze over the city.
After two days, friends are confined indoors, wheezing.
My throat is raw, sinuses ache.
Now dark clouds rise from the mountain.

The day after the election, police in Alton Park
stop black residents up and down the Boulevard,
as if it is Apartheid, or a new Jim Crow.

My son is driving, stopped in traffic, radio blaring.
A cop on a motorcycle passes, hangs a U, comes back,
tickets him for going 50 in a 35 mile zone.
“Yes sir,” is the drill we instilled
when we had the Talk all parents have
with their sons of color.

Five miles over the state line in Georgia,
a white boy walks the high school parking lot,
a Confederate flag tied at his neck like a cape.
Later, black students yank it from his backpack,
stomp on it, igniting threats of a race war.

My eyes are burning. Smoke threads through
the indoors air in the gym and large commons.
We choke on the fire of distant words.

Not again.

© 2019, Rachel Landrum Crumble

The Poor

In the sky, it’s raining backwards,
always backwards. From where we stand,
it is a nightmare—our tears are the sprinkler system
of heaven. The clouds grow lush and green.
They tantalize beyond our ability
to desire. We stand, poor,
with sand in our shoes,  and
dust in our mouths, holding buckets
upside down to catch the rain.

© 2019, Rachel Landrum Crumble

Substituting Life

Lost, yet nowhere to go,
I wade through this journey
by finding substitutes for life
and the living that follows
the desires of what is expected
by the standards of society
Which I thought was
democratically formed
by people like me
but even the grand normal
daily strives for
and gets buried under
the illusion of perfection.

© 2019, Sunayna Pal

Flow Gathering Springs

	     with thanks to Aaron

flow gathering springs
transitive   to flow up down
always through around and ever

Mid-river, the current
unforgiving, a construction crew
Is doing what it’s paid for.
One of them is a flinger of hoses.
First snake to spit out the mud,
second to calm it back level.
Clamber here, there,
somehow they’ve convinced the river
to flow slowly around them

rattle it down,
	dance like a clown,
who knows when the water will crest

Old Firehouse Park, grassy ground,
tree roots just touching the side currents,
smack dab hallelujah in the middle of downtown
Janesville, glory of the old firehouse painted
on a nearby wall. We huddle
in the shade, careful to keep the workers 	
in sight, wait for a few stragglers to join us.
Then we begin to sing,

“join us, join us
 may the river always join us
	don’t risk The Rock
 don’t risk The Rock”

As if we could hinder the mud’s
setting up, hardening,
soften this merciless bridge building, 
hold back the machines, if only for a day,
these semi’s born of Budweiser,
this crane head spiking the sky red.

flood stage, 15.5
may it ripple,
rage our feet home

Next an Ojibway holy man 
leads our wave line in chanting 
and dance. Current stronger now,
drum, drum, a commanding pressure. 
Four times we circle a small rise

small rise, small rise
open your eyes

Spring by spring, rain over,
rain under, legs find the feel 
of cresting. Then lose it, stumble,
find it again.

Too soon I begin to weaken, broken hip
three months before, bones newly
healed, flesh flabby.

Die chant, rage gone,
never quite song.

Flood stage 15.5 feet,
flow up, pray over,
river springs, put out the fire.

©2019, Lynn Shoemaker

War and Peace (Rime Royal)

How can we endure any more winters
Slip-sliding on icy terrains of war
Jagged politics scattered like splinters
Never ending, demanding an encore
Never a moment to form a rapport
O, could we behave like the best of friends
Understanding brings lavish dividends…

What are the six senses of calming peace
Scented cinnamon sweetens saline lips
Stroking soft fleece, hear music’s masterpiece
While light becomes night in solar eclipse
Sense the finish of outmoded warships
Just resting my eyes, just stifling my cries
As flowers of accord bloom in the skies

© 2019, Clarissa Simmens

Women in Woad

Women in woad*
Shaking undressed breasts
Leading the warriors
Down Irish roads
Banshee-ing through the air
To cause enemies fear
O, to be with you
When war was for defense
Against Romans marching
Through sacred forests

Women in revolt
Beside their men
Stuffing the cannons
Riding like Revere
Founding Mothers
Some disguised as men
As their great-great granddaughters
Four decades later did
In a civil war of economics
O, to be with you
When war was for
Something grander than balls
And women of all races
Did their part
Against Kings of foreign lands
And decades later
With amazing bravery
Against Kings of slavery

Women in partnership
In the War to End All Wars
But no, once again,
In the War to clean up
The economic and territorial mess
A second world war where
Women were winding through alleys
With secrets in their minds
Torn apart by the enemy
No chance of apology
The height of equality
In the torture culture
In hindsight, I would not have wanted
To be with you

On and on
And then I came of age
Married during the Vietnam war
Mom threw out everything
Even my genuine winter pea coat
And summery field jacket
From the Army & Navy store

Here’s an aside:
Why did we protest
That ambiguous conflict
Yet wear war gear?
Sympathetic magic?
Or, worst of all,
A mistaken glamour?
Clad in the garb
Bathing it in words
From Dylan and Ochs
Peace, man
What a joke

Decades later, sadly
Homo sapiens still wants to kill
And despite taking classes
For karate and gun safety
Defense for my sons and me
I’m still wondering
Where have all the flowers gone
Still damning the masters of war
And me, I ain’t marching anymore
Not lifting my voice in protest
It’s for the new young to do

But the desire
The belief
In love and peace
Is still in my aging heart
Still want global good
Still sign those petitions
Still write Congress letters
Now tweeting and emailing
Now posting and texting:
Stop it! Please stop it!

Why have we buried
The end-the-war manifesto?
Why are we all still
Killing the men
Raping the women
Destroying the children
Poisoning the pets
Polluting the water
Burning the books
Cremating the crops
All in the name
The name that does change
Of the jealous god
Let’s build a wall
Around hate and death and war
Because destruction
Is not glamorous at all…

© 2019, Clarissa Simmens


* Woad, also known as Jerusalem Asp, is a plant used in ancient times to make a blue die, which was used in some cases as a face paint when going into battle, particularly in East Anglia.


 

I Never Knew I Was So Numb

 

I never knew I was so numb

Deaf to loud blasts and bullets strafing
to screams and cries and houses burning

To hard footsteps roughly marching
occupation curfew sounds of silence

I never knew I was so numb

Unseen unknown muddy roads I traveled
people’s heads I saw moving, shaking

Why the heads went backward and forward,
smile less, sad long faces, tortured, awkward

I never knew I was so numb

Homeless helpless refugees made by the wall
forced, humiliated, beaten bound, innocent, all

I as a child was part of it, born in strife
though for some time was free in life

I never knew I was so numb

And now my homeland is under siege
with bayonets bullets blood that bleeds

Women fair, helpless, ravaged virgins
easy targets, free prey for ready vermins

I never knew I was so numb

And now my numbness is complete replete
with curfew starvation and defeat

For what crime I am enslaved in captivity
who will be the savior, if ever, of my liberty

I never knew I was so numb

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

Boots

The same sun scorched downtown Los Angeles that had seared the Iraqi desert. Army Private First Class Samantha Cummings stood at attention holding a stack of boxes, her unwashed black hair slicked back in a ponytail and knotted military style. She stared out from Roberts Shoe Store onto Broadway, transfixed by a homeless man with hair and scraggly beard the color of ripe tomatoes. She’d only seen that hair color once before, on Staff Sergeant Daniel O’Conner.

The man pushed his life in a shopping cart crammed with rags and stuffed trash bags. He glanced at Sam through the storefront window, his bloated face layered with dirt. His eyes had the meander of drink in them.

Sam hoped hers didn’t. Since her return from Baghdad a year ago, her craving for alcohol sneaked up on her like an insurgent. Bathing took effort. She ate to exist. Friends disappeared. Her life started to look like the crusted bottom of her shot glass. The morning hangover began its retreat to the back of her head.

The homeless man vanished down Broadway. She carried the boxes to the storeroom.

In 2012, Sam passed as an everywoman: white, black, brown, Asian. She was a coffee colored Frappuccino. Frap. That’s what the soldiers nicknamed her. Her mother conceived her while on ecstasy during the days of big hair and shoulder pads. On Sam’s eighteenth birthday, she enlisted in the Army. She wanted a job and an education. But most of all she wanted to be part of a family.

“Let me help you,” Hector said, coming up beside her.

“It’s okay. I got it.” Sam flipped the string of beads aside. Rows of shoe boxes lined both walls with ladders every ten feet. She crammed the boxes into their cubbyholes.

“Can I take you to lunch?” Hector asked, standing inside the curtain.

“I told you before. I’m not interested.”

“We could be friends.” He shrugged. “You could tell me about Iraq.”

Sam thrust the last box into its space. The beads jangled. Hector left.

She glanced at the clock. Fifteen minutes until her lunch break. The slow workday gave her too much time to think. She needed a drink. It would keep away the flashbacks.

“C’mon, Sam,” Hector said outside the curtain.

“No.”

Hector knew she was a vet. He didn’t need to know any more about her.

On her way to the front of the store, Sam passed the imported Spanish sandals. Mr. Goldberg carried high-quality shoes. He showcased them on polished wood displays. She loved the smell of new leather, and how Mr. Goldberg played soft rock music in the background, with track lighting, and thick-padded chairs for the customers.

The best part of being a salesperson was taking off the customer’s old shoes and putting on the new. The physical contact was honest. And she liked to watch people consider the new shoes—the trial walk, the mirror assessment—and if they made the purchase, everyone was happy.

Sam headed toward the door. Maria and Bob stood at the counter looking at the computer screen.

“Wait up,” Maria said. The heavy Mexican woman hurried over. “You’re leaving early again.”

“No one’s here,” Sam said, towering over her. “I’ll make it up, stay later. Or something.”

“You better.”

“Totally.”

“Or you’ll end up like that homeless man you were staring at.”

“You think you’re funny?”

“No, Sam. That’s the point.”

“He reminded me of someone.”

“In Iraq?”

Sam turned away.

“Try the VA.”

Sam looked back at Maria. “I have.”

“Try again. You need to talk to someone. My cousin—”

“The VA doesn’t do jack shit.”

“Rafael sees a counselor. It helps.”

“Lucky him.”

“So do the meds.”

“I don’t take pills.”

“Oh, Sam.”

“I’m okay.” She liked Maria and especially Mr. Goldberg, a Vietnam vet who not only hired her but rented her a room above the shoe store. “It’s just a few minutes early.”

Maria glared at her. “Mr. Goldberg has a soft spot for you, but this is a business. Doesn’t mean you won’t get fired.”

“I’ll make it up.” Sam shoved the door open into a blast of heat.

“Another thing,” Maria said. “Change your top. It has stains on it.”

Oh fuck, Sam thought. But it gave her a good reason to go upstairs.

She walked next door, up the narrow stairway and into her studio, the size of an iPhone. Curry reeked through the hundred-year-old walls from the Indian neighbors.

Sam took off her blouse and unstuck the dog tags between her breasts. The Army had no use for her. Take your meds, get counseling, then you can re-enlist. But she wasn’t going to end up like her drug-addicted mother.

The unmade Murphy bed screeched and dipped as she sat down in her bra and pants, the tousled sheets still damp from her night sweats.

The Bacardi bottle sat on the kitchenette counter. She glanced sideways at it and looked away.

The United States flag tacked over the peeling wallpaper dominated the room, but it was the image of herself and Marley on the wobbly dresser she carried with her.

Sam had taken the seventeen-year-old private under her wing. She’d been driving the Humvee in Tikrit with Marley beside her when an IED exploded, killing him while she escaped with a gash in her leg. Thoughts of mortar attacks, roadside bombs, and Marley looped over and over again. Her mind became a greater terrorist weapon than anything the enemy had.

Her combat boots sat next to the door, the tongues reversed, laces loose, prepared to slip into, ready for action. Sometimes she slept in them, would wear them to work if she could. Of all her souvenirs, the boots reminded her most of being a soldier. She never cleaned them, wanted to keep the Iraqi sand caked in the wedge between the midsoles and shanks.

The springs shrieked as Sam dug her fists into the mattress and stood. She walked to the counter, unscrewed the top of the Bacardi, poured herself a shot and knocked it back. Liquid guilt ran down her throat.

Sam picked up a blouse off the chair, smelled it and looked for stains. It would do. She dressed, grabbed a Snickers bar, took three strides and dashed out her room.

Heading south on Broadway, Sam longed to be part of the city. Paved sidewalks, gutters, frying tortillas, old movie palaces, jewelry stores, flower stands, square patches of green where trees grew—all of it wondrous—not like the fucking sandbox of Iraq.

The rum kicked in, made her thirsty as she continued down the historic center of town. The sun’s heat radiated from her soles to her scalp. A canopy of light siphoned the city of color.

She watched a tourist slowly fold her map and use it as a fan. Businessmen slouched along, looking clammy in shirtsleeves. Women, their dresses moist with sweat, form-fitted to their skin. Even the cars seemed to droop.

Waves of heat shimmered off the pavement. They ambushed Sam, planting her back in Tikrit.

She heard the rat-a-tat-tat of a Tabuk sniper rifle. Ducked. Dodged bullets.

Scrambled behind a trash bin. Searched around for casualties. She looked at the top of buildings wondering where in the hell the insurgents fired from.

“Hey, honey, whatsa matter?” An elderly black woman stooped over her.

“Get down, ma’am!”

“What for?”

Sam grabbed at the woman, but she moved away.

“Get down, ma’am! You’ll get killed!”

“Honey, it’s just street drillin’. Those men over there, they’re makin’ holes in the cement.”

Covered in sweat, Sam swerved to her left. A Buick and Chevrolet stopped at a red light. She saw the 4th Street sign below the one-way arrow. Her legs felt numb as she held onto the trash bin and lifted herself up.

“You a soldier?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sam said, looking into the face of the concerned woman.

“I can tell. You fella’s always say ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’, so polite-like. Take it easy child, you’re home now.” The woman limped away.

Sam reeled, felt for the flask in her back pocket but it wasn’t there. Construction workers whistled and made wolf calls at her.

“Douche bags,” she moaned.

Alcohol had always numbed the flashbacks. Her counselor in Baghdad told her they would fade. Why can’t I get better, she asked herself? Shaking, she blinked several times, forcing her eyes to focus as she continued south past McDonald’s.

At 6th, she saw the man with tomato-color hair on the other side of the street, jostling his shopping cart.

“It’s Los Angeles, not Los Angelees!” he shouted.

His voice rasped like the sick, but Sam heard something familiar in the tone. He pushed his cart around the corner. The light turned green. Sam sprinted in front of the waiting cars to the other side of the road. She had grown up across the 6th Street Bridge that linked Boyle Heights to downtown. From the bedroom window of the apartment she shared with her mother, unless her mother had a boyfriend, Sam would gaze at the Los Angeles skyline.

She followed the man into skid row.

The smell hit her like a body slam. The stink of piss and shit, odors that mashed together like something died, made her eyes water. A block away, it was another world.

She trailed the man with hair color people had an opinion about. The Towering Inferno. That’s what they called Staff Sergeant Daniel O’Conner, but not to his face. He knew, though, and took the jibe well. After all, he had a sense of humor, was confident, tall and powerfully built, the last man to end up broken, not the hunched and defeated man she was following. No, Sam thought. It couldn’t be him. It couldn’t be her hero.

He shoved his gear into the guts of the city with Sam behind him. The last time she’d been to skid row was as a teenager, driving through with friends who taunted the homeless. The smell was one thing, but what she saw rocked her. City blocks of homeless lived under layers of tarp held up by shopping carts. Young and old, most black, and male, gathered on corners, sat on sidewalks, slouched against buildings, drug exchanges going down. Women too stoned or sick to worry about their bodies slumped over, their breasts falling out of their tops. It was hard for Sam to look into their faces, to see their despair. The whole damn place reeked of hopelessness. Refugees in the Middle East and Africa at least had tents and medicine.

Sam put on her ass-kicking face, the one that said, “Leave me the fuck alone, or I’ll mess you up.” She walked as if she had on her combat boots, spine straight, eyes in the back of her head.

Skid row mushroomed down side streets. Men staggered north toward 5th and the Mission. She stayed close behind the red-headed man. He turned left at San Pedro. And so did Sam.

It was worse than 6th Street. Not even in Iraq had she seen deprivation like this: cardboard tents, overflowing trash bins used as crude borders, men sleeping on the ground. She watched a man pull up his pant leg and stick a needle in his ankle. Another man, his face distorted by alcohol, drank freely from a bottle. The men looked older than on 6th. Some had cardboard signs. One read, Veteran, please help me. Several wore fatigues. One, dressed in a field jacket, was missing his lower leg. Most, Sam thought, were Vietnam or Desert Storm vets. She felt her throat tighten, the familiar invasion of anger afraid to express itself. She’d been told by the Army never to show emotion in a war zone. But Sam brought the war home with her. So did the men slumped against the wall like human garbage.

The red-headed man passed a large metal dumpster heaped with trash bags. It stank of rotten fruit. He disappeared behind the metal container with his cart.

Sam looked at the angle of the sun. She had about ten minutes before thirteen hundred hours.

There was a doorway across the street. She went over and stood in it.

He sat against the brick wall emptying his bag of liquor bottles and beer cans. He shook one after another dry into his mouth. She understood his thirst, one that never reached an end until he passed out. He took a sack off the cart and emptied it: leftover Fritos bags, Oreo cookies, pretzels. He tore the bags apart and ran his tongue over the insides. He ate apple cores, chewed the strings off banana peels.

“What are you—” he growled. “You. Lookin’ at?” His eyes roamed Sam’s face.

Shards of sadness struck her heart. It was like seeing Marley’s strewn body all over again. Staff Sergeant O’Conner’s voice, even when drunk, was deep and rich. It identified him, like his hair. How could the man who saved her from being raped by two fellow soldiers and who refused to join in the witch-hunts of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a leader, who had a future of promotions and medals, end up on skid row?

“You remind me of someone,” she said.

How could a once strapping man who led with courage and integrity eat scraps like a dog next to a dumpster? What happened that the Army would leave behind one of their own? Like a militia, disillusionment and bitterness trampled over Sam’s love of country.

***

She woke up to another hot morning. Her head throbbed from the shots of Bacardi she tossed back until midnight as she surfed the internet, including the VA, for a Daniel O’Conner. She found nothing.

For breakfast, she ate a donut and washed it down with rum. She pulled on a soiled khaki T-shirt and a pair of old jeans and slipped into her combat boots, the dog tags tucked between her breasts. Sam knotted her ponytail, grabbed a canvas bag, stuffed it into her backpack and left. She had to be at work at twelve hundred hours. If O’Conner slept off the booze, he might be lucid and recognize her.

At the liquor store, she filled the canvas bag with candy bars, cookies, trail mix, wrapped sandwiches and soda pop then headed down Broadway. The morning sun streaked the sky orange and pink. Yellow rays sliced skyscrapers and turned windows into furnaces. Sam hurried south. When she crossed Broadway at 6th, the same sun exposed skid row as a stunning morning of neglect. Lines of men pissed against walls, women squatted. She heard weeping.

Sweat ran down her armpits, her head pounded. Sam felt shaky, chewed sand, and looked around. Where was Marley? She stumbled backwards into a gate.

“Baby, whatchu doin’? You one fine piece of ass.” The man reached over and yanked at her backpack.

“No!” Sam yelled. She didn’t want to collect Marley’s severed arms and legs to send home to his parents. “No,” she whimpered, grabbing the sides of her head with her hands. “I can’t do it,” she said sliding to the ground.

“Shit, you crazy. This is my spot, bitch. Outa here!” he said and kicked her.

Sam moaned and gripped her side. She saw a plastic water bottle lying on the sidewalk, crawled over and drank from it. A sign with arrows pointing to Little Tokyo and the Fashion District cut through the vapor of her flashback. Iraqi women wore abayas, not shorts and tank tops. Sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, Sam hit her fist against her forehead until it hurt.

She saw the American flag hoisted on a pulley from a cherry picker over the 6th Street Bridge, heard the click clack of a shopping cart, and the music of Lil Wayne. The sounds pulled her away from the memory, away from a place that had no walls to hang onto.
Sam held the bottle as she crawled to the edge of the sidewalk. She took deep breaths, focused and glanced around.

What the fuck was she doing sitting on a curb in skid row with a dirty water bottle? “Or you’ll end up like that homeless man you were staring at.”

“Oh Jesus.” Sam dropped the bottle in the gutter and trudged toward San Pedro Street.

She had thought that when she came home, she’d get better, but living with her mother almost destroyed her. It began slowly, little agitations about housework, arguments that escalated into slammed doors. Then, one day, her mother called George Bush and Dick Cheney monsters who should be in prison. She accused Sam of murder for killing people who did nothing to the United States. Sam lunged at her, when she stumbled over a chair and fell.

Her mother ran screaming into the bathroom and locked the door. “Get outa my house and don’t ever come back!”

“Don’t worry! You’re a piece of shit for a mother, anyway!”

She left and stayed with her friend Jenny until she told her to stop drinking and get her act together.

In her combat boots, Sam scuffled along, hoping to catch O’Conner awake and coherent. She turned left. The shopping cart poked out from the trash bin. Sam walked to the dumpster and peered around it. O’Conner wasn’t there, but his bags and blankets were. She stepped into his corner and was using the toe of her boot to kick away mouse droppings when someone grabbed her hair and yanked back her head, forcing her to her knees. Terrified, she caught a glimpse of orange.

“Private First Class Samantha Cummings, United States Army, Infantry Unit 23. Sergeant!”

She raised her arms. Sweat streamed down her face. His grip remained firm.

“Staff Sergeant O’Conner, I’ve brought provisions. They’re in my backpack. Sandwiches, candy bars, pretzels!”

He let go of her hair. The ponytail fell between her shoulders.

“I’m going to take off my backpack, stand, and face you, Sergeant.”

Her fingers trembled, searched for the Velcro strap and ripped it aside. The bag slid to the ground. She rose with her back to him and turned around. She saw the war in his eyes.

“It’s me. Frap.”

His skin, filthy and sun-burnt, couldn’t hide the yellow hue of infection. He smelled of feces and urine. His jaw was slack, his gaze unsteady.

“You want something to eat? I got all kinds of stuff,” Sam said.

Her emotions buried in sand, began to tunnel, pushing aside lies and deceit.
O’Conner tore open the backpack and emptied out the canvas bag.

“Booze.”

She knelt beside him and unwrapped a ham and cheese sandwich.

“No booze. Here, have this,” she said, handing him the food. “Go on.”

Her arm touched his as she encouraged him to eat.
O’Conner sat back on his heels, “It’s all . . .”
Sam leaned forward, “Go on.”
“It’s all . . . stuck!”
“What’s stuck?”
He shook his head.

“It’s all, stuck!” he cried.

He grabbed the sandwich and scarfed it down in three bites. Mayonnaise dripped on his scruffy beard. He kept his sights on Sam as he tore open the Fritos bag and took a mouthful. He ripped apart the sack of Oreo cookies and ate those too.

“Go away,” he said as black-and-white crumbs fell from his mouth.

Sam shook her head.

“Leave. Me. Alone!”

“I don’t want to.”

He drew his knees up to his chest, shut his eyes and leaned his head against the metal dumpster. Here was her comrade-in-arms, in an invisible war, where no one knew of his bravery, where ground zero happened to be wherever you stood.

“You saved me from Jackson and Canali when they tried to rape me in the bathroom. I should have been able to protect myself. And when they tried to discharge me. For doing nothing. You stood up for me. Remember?” O’Conner didn’t move. “I never, thanked you. Cause it showed weakness.”

O’Conner struggled to his knees.

“I don’t know you!” His breath smelled rancid.

“Yeah, you do.”

“I don’t know you!” he cried.

“You know me. You saved me twice, dude!”

O’Conner stumbled to his feet and gripped the rail of his shopping cart, his spirit as razed as the smoking remains of a Humvee. He shoved off on his morning trek. For how long, Sam wondered.

She gathered the bags of food and put them in the canvas bag. She kicked his rags to the side, took his blankets, flung them out, folded them and rearranged the cardboard floor. She put the blankets on top and hid the bag of food under his rags.

Emotions overcame her. Loyalty, compassion, anger, love—feelings so strong tears fell like a long-awaited rain.

Sam couldn’t save O’Conner, but she could save herself.

She ripped off her dog tags and threw them in the dumpster. Once home, she’d take down the flag, fold it twelve times and tuck the picture of Marley and herself inside it. She’d throw out her military clothes and combat boots. Pour the rum down the sink. She’d go to the VA, badger them until she got an appointment. Join AA. She’d arrive and leave work on time.

The morning began to cook. It was the same sun, but a new day. Sam walked in the opposite direction of O’Conner.

© 2019, DC Diamondopolous

The Dogs of Midnight


This is work of friction, where the tectonic plates of real life rub up against a life imagined as real; my name is Everyman, and I went down to the beach today.

It is winter now. Ours is a temperate climate and though it is cool, there are days that feel as warm as a summer’s day in Europe. It’s not unusual for people to be at the beach at this time of year. I prefer winter to summer. Summer is all sweat and flies. It gets cold, usually in the late afternoon as the sun sets and then the hour before sunrise is the coldest time of the day. I believe that is true for everywhere. But there is something else, it is as intangible as air and yet, one senses it. It is like the bitter aftertaste of chocolate.

We’ve had a lot of rain and today has been the first day of sunshine in over a week, so I thought I would make the most of it. Make hay while the sun shines my father used to say. I thought of him today. He never saw where I live, where I migrated to. Where we are settled, dug in. My mind though has never settled. It tends to follow my body around but remains a trans-continental traveller.

It’s a strange word, migration. It sounds like a combination of migraine and nation. Migraine-nation, national migration, national migraine, the pain of a nation, nationhood migrates to pain?

…So anyway, I was down at the beach; not to swim but just to walk, watch the seagulls and the fisher-people casting from the pier. It is incredibly tranquil. I close my eyes and find there a smile which I release into the breeze. I hear the benign rumble of a car’s engine behind me. There are two young girls wearing hijabs, eating ice-cream and laughing while taking their sandals off to walk on the beach. Then a loud, aggressive revving breaks the day. A car full of young boys pulls up into the carpark and they shout at the girls this is Straya, go back to where you came from. They are laughing, slapping one another, having fun. One of them throws an empty coke can in the direction of the girls and then they accelerate away. The young girls put their sandals back on, one of them picks up the can, throws it into the bin and they get into their car and drive away.

Sometimes there are cormorants bobbing on the surface of the water and I time how long they go under water for. It’s usually anywhere between 5 and 8 seconds, depending on how hungry they are, I guess. There is a slight breeze, with a bit of a bite to it. That for me is the best sensation, feeling the heat of the sun on your face but, also the sting of cool air. I feel nostalgic, but I don’t remember what for. Some memory within me that’s been layered with time. On a day, some time in my life, the sun shone warm and there was an iciness in the air and I was happy, and the association has become embedded in my psyche.

Memory is a strange thing.

They say (whoever they are? Them that says a lot!) that animals have genetic memory. Mice in America were trained to fear the smell of cherry blossoms and generations of their descendants had the same fear without the experience. Pity humans don’t have that. We forget very quickly.

It has been a good day, for some. But, days end and darkness must follow. The world is old, and this has been its rhythm for aeons. Perhaps all of the inhabitants of earth have this rhythm too. We are made of the stuff that holds us as we go around the sun. We grow out of the ground of this spinning mass. Our mothers ate the roots pulled out of the soil, cooked and ate the animals that had eaten the grass growing in the soil, the earth. We really are just animated earth. We are what we are on. As our bodies carry our souls, so the earth carries us. We are the soul of the earth.

The days are getting shorter. Electricity does not diminish our animal instincts to withdraw in winter. It is done with relative ease and requires little preparation. We don’t withdraw entirely. Nights are cosy. The dogs sleep too close to the gas heater, I smell burning hair and make them move, I eat too many biscuits. Nights used to be quiet until those dogs started. Maybe they have always been there?

If they were, we never noticed because they were quiet, but something has breathed the fire of Hades into them. Every night it is the same thing. How is it that they always seem to come to life at midnight? How do they know? They’re as regular as a healthy bowel; those hounds that break the night barking. Those beasts who gnash their teeth and growl at everything: shadows, leaves scraping in the gutters, plastic bottles and empty tin cans rolling loudly on the tarmac in the wind, fighting cats, night shift neighbours, loud, drunk kids getting off midnight buses and goons burning rubber. But, to shout at the dogs in the dark only agitates them. They grow louder, more determined to fight. The only way to stop them is to go to them. I know, one night I tried.

They gather, God knows how? All is serene and then they are they are suddenly there. I approached where they were gathered. I became very afraid but, I thought, I am a man and they are just dogs. I must not show fear. As I walked up the driveway towards the gate that held them back they became frantic. They were biting at the fence. As I got closer they went into a frenzy of barking, snarling and yelping. They bunched at the gate, they began snapping viciously at one another. Then there was a high pitched howl. One of them was in serious pain. The pack’s attention turned to a smaller dog being attacked by a much larger one. They tore into it.

The victim of the attack snarled and yelped uncontrollably and then suddenly went quiet. Beneath the confusing mass of yanking, brutal heads shook away pieces of the poor thing. Blood was spraying everywhere. I felt warm droplets on my face. In a shadow cast by the garage wall a black liquid ran across the paving into the flower bed.

I think they were Marigolds, maybe Chrysanthemums? But, that could not be? Those are summer flowers, and this is winter. Perhaps they were sown late? How do seeds know what season it is if they have spent months on a shelf in air tight packets? I must remember to google that. How would I search for that … winter flowers in Western Australia? I must remember to do that. I never did remember to look properly at the flower bed and it would seem strange to go snooping around a house in daylight.

By now I was at the gate trying to see around the side of the house. One of them saw me move closer and bolted to the gate, not barking but baring its teeth. While it fixed its gaze on my face I slowly moved my right hand down to its chest that was up against the gate. I tried, cautiously to stroke the animal to calm it down. My fingers only slightly touched it. It leapt back as if electrocuted and began barking savagely, biting the dog next to it which stirred the pack into a new frenzy.

I quickly backed away. Their attention turned to the torn carcass behind them. They were sniffing and frantically licking up splattered blood, gnawing bits of sinew and cartilage. Gradually they began to sit and chew, eyes closed with satisfaction. The sickening sounds of tongues slapping, and licking grew louder. Their blood lust sated, they settled down to scavenge the yard for bits of the small dog. Bones cracked and split, cartilage that had once cushioned bone squeaked, and that was the last sound that poor dog would ever make.

By now I was forgotten, or at least ignored by the dogs (can we still call them that? Dogs.) and never taking my eyes off the gate, I backed away down the drive. Clear of them I felt a sudden wave of nausea and vomited into a full bush of lavender. I know it was lavender because the sweet smell of it was overwhelming after the smell and taste of iron that blood leaves in your mouth. I wondered what effect the vomit might have on the growth of the plant.

Regular Saturday evening sounds now filtered through the brutal gauze of night. A few neighbours gathered to investigate the ruckus. They stood close enough to the driveway to indicate concern but kept enough distance to avoid involvement. Their conversation rumbled and masked the echoes down the drive of dog’s tongues smacking.

There were, a few doors down, loud jovial voices saying good night, some laughter, one high pitched, a female laughing (I recall that I was irrationally annoyed at her for possessing such an awful laugh and wondered how by now—for she was clearly middle-aged, there was a husky, chesty cackle to the laugh—she had not realised that her laughter was horrible and at least tried not to laugh so heartily, so inconsiderately, so rudely…but how can one expect a person to cease laughing? What an awful predicament for a person to be in, I remember thinking and almost immediately forgave her for possessing such a grotesque gesture to indicate happiness. She ought to have been born sad. Maybe she was? Laughter, is after all as reliable an indication of happiness as a frown is of a death wish).

There were the sounds of car doors slamming shut the evening’s visit, which clearly had involved some wine, and across the road the staccato screech of violins from an open family room window reflecting Vincent Price in monochrome (I realised with dismay that I had missed the film I wanted very much to watch, The Last Man on Earth). A police helicopter flew in low over Merriwa, a searchlight limped through the sky.

I always say the world is a good place when, after the weather and doll bludgers, people say the whole world’s gone mad. We don’t live in the whole world mate, we live in bleedin’ Quinns, I say, and last time I looked it’s same as it ever was, it’s a good place ‘cos we’re good people.

© 2019, poem and illustration, Mike Scallan

Time Never Waits

Tired, sleepy, depressed, Saabir heaved himself out of the borrowed juted sleeping cot which was supported by four small wooden legs. There was no sheet or covering on it, making it easy to lie on in the hot and humid weather. Saabir rubbed his eyes, yawned a bit, and tried to make sense of his surroundings. Yes, he was in the same small compound that he entered some hours ago, after sunset.

He was exhausted after the long day’s work on the old workbench he had safely hidden in the nearby hut. After giving finishing touches to the design he would cover up everything with rough canvas pieces hoping and praying that no one would dare to steal or destroy or take away.

His food was scarce, one roti with some left over curry, water from the round clay pitcher that lay in the corner of the cordoned compound.

When I finish the design my innovation will be a big surprise for the world and for all in the art and design industry. It will be a sensation, a magnificent change, a new beginning, and, for me, the long awaited breakthrough that I have been working for. My life’s aim, my dream, my hope for my people, my country. Oh my Master, please help and guide me, guide me guide me…

So saying he raised his head and looked up at the night sky, expecting to see some stars, some bright and some not so bright. Oh, but what is this? The sky seemed so different, it was not fully dark nor reflecting any moonlight. No, these were not the nights of the moon, but what was the light visible in the western side? He managed to stand up and look a bit more closely. Soon he saw a dark shape all along the horizon spread out at the base and on the top side, shaped like a vehicle or more like a train, but how could a train be there?

Was he dreaming? No. He was not dreaming. He was now wide awake.

Saabir’s thoughts all crowded his mind. Confused, worried, and scared, he watched for a while until then he recalled a story his friend and coworker told him. His friend, Ahmed, was the only one he trusted in all the neighbors living close by. He shared information about what was happening in their town.

“You know Saabir, things are bad, wood is being taken away by the officials. New rules and regulations are expected to crop up any time, work will be very difficult, but nothing is for sure, but one can never say, as things have not improved over the last three years since the new council has taken oath. In fact things have become tight, you must try to finish whatever you have in mind. It is a lifetime chance for you. I am with you all the way and you can trust me.”

Ahmed continued in a low voice, “I also wanted you to know that people around were overheard saying that the path leading to the lake will be blocked soon and maybe controlled by armed personnel, so movement by citizens will be restricted. The Council is planning something big for this area and the time seems near.”

Ahmed grew pale as he finished. Quite apparently fearful, anxious and exhausted .

Saabir’s thoughts moved around the word “rumors.”  I hope they are just rumors.  The world is so uncertain these days. Takeovers. Enforcements. Mass shootings. Blatant killings. Suicide bombs. How many can one name? These are happening all around the world , even in educated countries.

Saabir had secretly kept a small transistor radio and would listen to the news and updates of events. Flashes of his own migration would visit him often and tonight he had a premonition. Something strange is going to happen.

The news came on soon. There have been a number of arrests and many armed personnel have been seen entering the city.  Clearly, something dangerous is about to take place. Saabir just sat speechless and numb.

He rubbed his skillful hands and looked at them and wondered, Will I be able to complete my work and my innovation, which will make this world a better place, an easier place, a peaceful place? Is time on my side or is it too late?

Oh! Never let go the rope of the Almighty, All Powerful.

My workbench? What about it and what about the creativity lying on top of it?

Great are the joys of creation but greater are the joys of the results, but would these unreasonable circumstances ever allow the new creation to emerge?

Torn between hope and despair, Saabir, sat back on the cot. He felt his heart beat fast and then sink a bit.

What could be done?

Sleep eluded him. He had to work three more days to complete and test the new design. It would be the best ever wood machine invented for making woodwork fine and easy. It would be like the zigzag brick design now accepted by many countries.

Yes!

The brick kiln industry had manifested the change of production, best suited with environment and with white smoke let out from the kilns, no black pollution of the atmosphere. What a success! And now this mechanism would bring amazing results if , if…

Saabir’s eyes began to close and soon he had fallen in a sleepy stupor. No one knows how long he was in that state, not even Saabir himself.

His family, wife and two kids had long left him and travelled back to their ancestral village more than a hundred miles away. They could not cope with his workbench patterns, his timings, and his odd conversation.

He would say, “great minds have different thoughts and great inventors should never marry. Even great leaders with high aims in life should be away from homes, away from social life, so that they can pursue their noble activity on their precious workbench.”

His wife would quietly cry and feel helpless, though he was not strict with her. He just lacked the time to care. One day she decided to leave and took their children with her.

He saw flashes of his kids faces and their smiles. He missed their warm loving hugs and innocent laughter, giggles and funny antics. But then, as always, his mind shifted back to the great work he wanted to finish. Now he was nearing his great aim. And, by the Grace of the All Powerful, he would finish.

God had been kind to him and he wanted to return something worthwhile to God’s people. He wanted to make his life meaningful and to leave peace behind in his town and city and his native land. He wanted people to have full freedom to work and pray and for that he had sacrificed all he had and all that he held close. He never bothered about his health.

But let me go see if my hut is safe.

Saabir suddenly got up, a new energy entering his frail body. Things were too quiet. He felt for his slippers and finding them slowly made his way in semi-darkness towards the street where he had concealed his hut.

He had hardly gone a few yards when he saw the silhouette of an armed man. This time the figure had the complete dress of an army soldier. The helmet and the bayonet rifle could be seen clearly in the dark. Saabir stopped dead in his footsteps. He back up slowly and crept into the cordoned yard. His mind was tired but still he was thinking fast.

Could it be the enemy? Could it be the force that was being predicted and warned about? Oh dear! My workbench and my invention. 

Saabir calm down. Wait. Relax. It might be just another guard. It may be a normal patrolling party. 

Saabir tried to console himself, but deep down he knew that secret enemies had grown profoundly in the past months and some were on special duty to observe and keep an eye on him. Saabir had ignored the warnings. He had kept on with his work. He would never get another chance with his precious workbench that he had managed to build and work productively upon.

Oh Lord, give me the chance to finish my purpose for the good of humanity. You know what is in my heart and soul. I believe in you. I trust you.

Saabir lay quiet and soon he felt that dawn had started to break. Would it be the dawn of a lucky day or would it be a disaster? Why are people like him forced into difficult times?

Once he had attended a sermon quite by chance. There he’d heard, “the Lord tests all by giving and sometimes by taking away and those who are patient will be the better ones. The Lord will support them. They will neither be sad nor grieve nor feel depressed.”

Am I among them? Is the test coming on me?

Saabir again lifted himself, softly made his way to the curtained entry, and slowly looked out. Now he saw two armed soldiers right in the street where he had his workbench hut.

Now what? What is happening? What has happened during the night?

He must find out. If he wanted to reach the hut he would have to face the soldiers. There was no other way.

Oh no! An enemy occupation! Oh my workplace. My workbench and what all I had sacrificed to achieve my aim! Is it going to be an exercise in futility? Why people are so cruel? And greedy for land? And for money? And so heartless about human life! And for peace and progress. No one cares for humans or for human blood and then I must be an ignorant fool. Oh, let not these thoughts of desperation disturb and destroy me.

Saabir was still struggling trying to understand the situation when he heard hard footsteps approaching, within seconds the armed men were in front of him.

“It is all over, you have to come with us.”

“But wait! Wait! Where are you taking me? Who are you? Where are you from? How can you just…”

Saabir was pulled and pushed out and forced to walk towards the street.

“We have all the information and proof and we know what ammunition you have. We know what you are making. Just be quiet and keep walking till we tell you to stop.”

Saabir stopped as he heard the word, “HALT!”

And then he heard a loud blast. The street, his hut, his workbench, all exploded before his eyes. He felt the shock and collapsed on the road.

Workbench or life? Tragedies come without warning, and time never waits.

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

Control

She has fear in her eyes. Her son was diagnosed and recommended
medication by someone who is not a therapist or doctor. She asks for

advice. I apologize—say that the teacher (a colleague) who diagnosed
her son is wrong, outside of her league. I spew that white students who

“act out” are labeled normal (they are kids being kids). But that black and
brown students are offered medication to control them. She knows this.

It is the source of her fear. We talk about programs outside of school to help
her son advance. Her bright son. I mention the Saturday program at the

Schomburg Center in Harlem, Prep for Prep, and the Oliver Scholars program.
She knows about these and is looking into them. I promise to stay in touch.

Say that I am willing to help. She smiles. The fear gone, for now.

© 2019, Elvis Alves

The Long History of Genocides

Touching land with toes is like
returning to a home you never left.

It is like returning to a home you never
left because the leave taking was one of

necessity. You were priced out of your
neighborhood. The newcomers feel that

it belongs to them. That it was always
theirs for the taking, was just waiting

for their arrival. Columbus and
his crew took land from the natives as if

it was always theirs for the taking, was just
waiting for their arrival. They plant flags,

cast spells with a new language, and decimate
with diseases. The land was always theirs for

the taking, they believed. And they did take.
Gold to Europe. Tobacco. Cotton. Sugar. Bodies.

The land has a way of remembering. Humans easily
forget. They call Columbus a hero, build statues

of him, when in reality he was taken back to
Spain after his third voyage bound in chains—

appropriate uniform for a criminal. Murderer.
But who is listening? Who is reading history?

© 2019, Elvis Alves

dissecting the Geneva Convention

the summer is what it is here
the humidity clinging to my tired skin
like a crazy 50’s t.v. wife mockery
on Wall there’s the law and then there’s us
each side with glaring mutual understanding
that nothing is being done
no longer angels no longer devils
Gods gone fishing and they won’t be coming back
the species of Adam failed to keep their end of the
Covenant with Noah and Jesus holy shit what have we done
in life there is reason and there’s law
inside the soul there is right and there is wrong
inside the ego all is mine and nothing yours
on Koehler there is a man who doesn’t know he suffers
the fear he knows not himself prisoner of
the bio-hazardous ecosystem freedom gone awry
the filth the human shit the rage the insanity disease
the pain addiction poverty starvation piss trash
tears the waste of modern time
no longer get through the stains of a life
poorly lived or sorely wasted no logic
no feelings no rhyming no Kingdom will come
betwixt the cardboard and the shelter
the damage has been done
wage on me wage your wars
indifference is your nuclear weapon

© 2019, mm brazfield

Scary People and Madmen

 

The Death of a Robot, 6/21/2019

It appears
our robot
has met an unfortunate end
while flying over
the Strait of Hormuz.

The office staff is still playing
Hide-and-Seek
with the Nuclear Button
and it seems the president’s
received
another call
from Putin.
For that, I’m truly
grateful.

There really is–
nothing else
to say
when dealing
with scary people
and madmen.

© 2019, Bill Gainer

 

Humanity is often a place of forgetfulness

Humanity is often a place of forgetfulness
It’s often-a-place of solitude
A place of dreadfulness, fretfulness
It’s often-a-dwelling place a mirror eschewed
A place, without benevolence
A place, the neediest feel subdued
A place people wander around, incredulous
Humanity is a place you find the destitute
The place-you-come-across negligence
The place-you-come-across the most-ineptitude
The place-you-come-across the most-resentfulness
The place-you-find the most crewed
The place where cruelty finds its prevalence
The place charity can lead to decrepitude
Humanity is a place of opposites of redolence
It’s-sadly a place of corruption as a way not to preclude
It’s-sadly a place of hucksters directionless
Often-it’s the place of a cold absolute
Take my hand, and I’ll promise all you Denizens
A better life, I’ll promise not to pillage or loot
I’ll promise you, humanity, forget all other parables.

© 2019, Mark Heathcote

Chicken Little to Testify Before Congress

Downwind of Washington, Orphic weather
purples the watercolor washed
space holder for Sky.

No collusion?
Is this Distortion’s corruption,
or Corruption’s distortion?

Machiavellianism
revokes Truth’s Visa.
It’s a braggart’s holiday.

The sky has fallen on terrorized families
separated in internment camps at the border,
on the rising tide of Global Warming.

Deputized border guards order Lady Liberty
to relinquish her torch —Hands up!—
and flip off the world.

Public discourse is exchanged
for niche marketing,
a Tower of Babel.

Reason sleeps at the bottom of a cold well
with autumn’s last leaves.
The sky has fallen.

© 2019, Rachel Landrum Crumble

Logging-Out of Bullying School

We all disapprove of bullying in schools
that seems to be clear to everyone
at least on a theoretical level.
Yet we never fully log out.
And you ask me why?
Why do we consent shouting
at a school sports competition?
What about a neighbors meeting
where we yell at each other?
Introduction to Fast and Furious,
driving carelessly, unaware of the shouts,
our children sitting at the back of our cars.
What about whatsapp messages
sending all kinds of insults because
we didn’t like another person’s opinion?
Why are we reproducing and creating
all kinds of male chauvinist jokes,
racist jokes, homophobic jokes?
What about the pranks still played
on first course university students?
No, computer games are not made
by our children but they trivialize violence
like those violent movies and series
our children watch. Therefore,
it is unacceptable that who governs
and dictates justice allows all this
to happen without impunity.
We may have wonderful anti-bullying programs
in our schools but meanwhile
society tells our children:
“Be aggressive and you will succeed in life!”
So, please, here I tell you:
“Log out of bullying school,
for coherence because
we need to live together
respecting each other and
we need to fight harassment.”

© 2015-2019, Marta Pombo Sallés

(inspired by a newspaper article written by educational advisor Juanjo Fernández)

False Economy

 

To the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, after the fire in Grenfell Tower, London, June 2017

Held back, a safe distance from the whoomphing
tumble of blazing cladding, and powerless
to respond to frantic phone calls,
we could only watch as the flames raced up,
their brightness overwhelming
the desperate flickering from mobiles’ screens.

The block is now a blackened stump:
yet again we are coming to understand
how a small outbreak of fire
can become an inferno
with horrific speed.

For years there’ve been flaws
in the construction of tower blocks –
single stairwells; cabling in plastic ducts;
an absence of sprinklers;
insulation and cladding that can burn.
Of course, fires in tower blocks
have been ‘properly investigated’
and improvements recommended,
but a countdown –
18 years ago: Irvine;
8: Camberwell;
7: Southampton, Shanghai and Busan;
6: Shenyang;
5: Dubai, Madrid, Roubaix and Sharjah (twice);
4: Guangzhou and Long Beach, California;
3: Melbourne;
2: Dubai (again);
1: Shepherd’s Bush;
and now Grenfell Tower (oh, and Dubai yet again) –
makes us wonder why
the science of flammability
has been persistently ignored.

Aluminium melts at a mere six-sixty C –
not ideal for a panel supposed to be resisting fire
(steel, we note, melts at fifteen hundred).
PIR insulation,
the filling in a sandwich of aluminium foil,
burns fiercely,
especially when the flames are drawn
up a chimney-like gap
between cladding and concrete wall,
and as it burns it releases gases:
people die rapidly
through breathing in CO and HCN,
or more slowly
from other toxic fumes.

Your planners should have known all this
when you chose a cladding banned in Germany
to save, in a budget of millions,
a handful of grand.
For the want of a few pounds a square metre –
perhaps less than two coffees cost in Starbucks –
seventy-two would be alive.
And whilst you were refurbishing,
you could so easily have fitted the sprinklers
inquests have demanded across the years
and doors that match their fire-resistance spec.
You could have spent a bit of your reserve
(some three hundred millions)
to better serve the less well-off,
the constituents you have so grievously betrayed.

The borough embraces embassies,
expensive residences, Harrods, Harvey Nicks
and investment blocks whose apartments
look vacantly down on survivors yet to find a home.
Its motto QUAM BONUM IN UNUM HABITARE
(based on Psalm 133: roughly
translated as How good to dwell as one)
clangs particularly hollow
in the aftermath of the fire.

© 2019, Mantz Yorke


PIR: polyisocyanurate, a rigid plastic foam.
CO: carbon monoxide.
HCN: hydrogen cyanide.
Harvey Nicks: a colloquialism for Harvey Nichols, an upmarket chain of department stores in the UK and a few other countries.


 

Dictators, Desperados, and Democracy Revisited

Nearly eight years ago, I wrote a rather lengthy diatribe on my blog, ‘Forty-Two’, which gloried in the title “Dictators and Desperados … Delegation and Democracy“. I came across it almost accidentally last week and was rather chilled to perceive that it was prophetic.

If you should have some spare time, this article is on my blog ‘Forty-Two.’

The crux of that essay, given what was happening in Greece at the time, their economic slide into crisis, the effect on the Euro and with some help from a Greek friend, was something that I always felt could happen here, or in any of the major economies of Europe and, it seems anywhere in the world, particularly in vulnerable economies (which Greece had at the time). We live on the edge of chaos and the threats to democracy are as great as ever. I feel no shame in declaring that these threats are being engineered by external agencies, sponsored by other national interests with all the corruption and chaos that proceeds from this. I could write a thesis on how the world of yesteryear, when nations invaded other nations, is still happening, only less by military force and more by less visible economic force. Read, if you will, the “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins.

Call it conspiracy theory or what you like, let’s not beat around the bush, the Corporatocracy is having a severe and damaging effect not only on Western democracy but also on the planet itself!

The rising presence and exposure of the resistance campaigns, like the youthful Greta Thunberg’s climate change awareness and the ‘school climate strike’ movement, means the opposition and climate change deniers are ramping up their own dirty tricks. But the fact that youth and school children have begun to get involved has crystallised the thoughts of more senior members of society, politicians, particularly of the green variety, and thus public awareness. Slowly but surely, we are making some ground, but we cannot underestimate the evil but nonetheless powerful and influential individuals, some of whom are faceless and very unpublicised figures, (I apologise for the strength of my language here), who continue to rape this Mother Earth of ours.

It is late and this is a late submission, so my language is somewhat less subtle than my poet spirit and muse would prefer, but I leave you with this thought: can you conceive of the sustainability of this movement, this youthful refreshing movement of the future generation, such that they will achieve change, maybe subtle and slow, but nonetheless change? A change in our model and the processes of democracy, which has become marred by the forces of greed.

I still live in hope.

© 2019, John Anstie

Radicals Are In Charge

During the sixties and seventies I was called a “radical” because I opposed the Viet Nam war. It didn’t matter that I had served in the Navy while those accusing me had not. The radicals were in charge and they were going to have their war whether any of us liked it or not.

Fast forward to 2019. I am once again being called a “radical.” Why this time? Well, I believe in health care for all Americans, getting rid of student loan debt, getting sensible gun control legislation passed, and doing something about climate change before we all perish… to name a few. Are those “radical” ideas? I don’t think so. The truth is the “radicals” are in charge.

How much more “radical” can you get than destroying our air, our water, and the lives of your own grandchildren just to make a buck? Now, that’s radical! How radical is it to care more about your right to own a gun than the right of your children to go to school without fear of being shot? How radical can it be to defend the very insurance and pharmaceutical companies that are driving you to file for bankruptcy, or sell your house, at the end of your life just to pay for your health care? That’s radical! Make no mistake… the radicals are in charge!

The truth is, I have never been a radical. I believe in sensible, logical solutions to some very serious problems, which, if we don’t solve, could not only signal the end of America, but the end of us all. Yes, a few people may survive, but it will be a world that you don’t want to live in.

You won’t survive if the temperature is a constant 130 degrees Fahrenheit or more, or your drinking water is all filled with lead! It is not radical to want to change these things. It is only common sense!

But to get rid of the current radical agenda is going to take swift and courageous action by committed people. We are running out of time. The planet will survive, but will we? If we continue on the current radical path, we will not.

I leave you with these facts: Global Warming is not a hoax. Racism is not patriotism. Sexism is not manly. Lying is not leadership. Fascism is not Freedom. Insults and vile comments are not “Making America Great Again.” Xenophobia is not religious freedom. Bragging is not exceptionalism. Pacifism is not cowardice.

And caring for your fellow man is not radical.

© 2019, Rob Moitoza

Embrace

Within the village church
	white-vestmented priests
		say a novena mass
In the doorway stand a trinity
	of jungle-camouflaged soldiers
		arms ready in arms

Forgive us our sins
	as we forgive those
		who have sinned against us
echoes through the nave

To the right of the door
	in the damp twilight
		under a wool blanket
An indigenous couple huddles
	a baby wrapped
		to mother’s side
The ribbon-decorated sleeves
of her yellow bodice bright
		as she pours a cloudy drink

May the peace of the Lord
	be with you
And also with you

The soldiers still, silent
	staring towards
		that altar

You may give each other
	the embrace of brotherhood *

One soldier
	head shorn bare
		looks away
Away from the embraces
	away from the couple
		towards a mural

In this evening complete
	can he see that family, that rainbow
		those words?

With social justice, peace is possible
	peace is possible because
		love is possible

©2019, Lorraine Caputo

*Normally it is said: the embrace of peace

Epistle

 

Monseñor Oscar Romero—
Today I visited the church
	of La Divina Providencia
	where the escuadrón de muerte
	murdered you.
A simple, plain 
	modern church,
across from a hospital.
On the wall
	near the front doors,
	a picture of you
	marching with the people.
Near the altar,
	a plaque from the Carmelite sisters
	for the 7th anniversary of your death.

That’s all there was of you there…


I knelt at a pew
	to talk with you—
I, a Spirit captured in this body, on this earth

	I do not know 
if you could hear 
my thoughts, my words

I wanted you to know
	how your death inspired,
 	provoked so many of us.
How there is a Central America Week
at the time of your death-anniversary
so that we learn about
the people, history, culture
of here, El Salvador
& of other countries,
so that we can learn about
the actions here of our government,
of our country.
I wanted you to know
	that such external investigation
	also provoked us to look internally
at the poverty & repression
in our own country.

I told you
	I wish I had the faith you had
	& the love
	Many times I find it lacking in my self
My self-doubts of all that work
all those years
But my inner knowledge says
As long as 
the heart, the mind, the soul
of one United Statian
was touched, provoked,
As long as 
one Salvadoran, Nicaraguan
Guatemalan, Diné
received a meal, medicine,
clothes against the mountain night cold,
then the work, 
then your death
had value…


After I left,
eyes rimmed with
the moistness of risen tears,
soul quieted with
my confessions to you, Monseñor
I thought about this poem…


As you said mass that day
the sacrificial wine became,
your blood became
the blood of Christ.

Your wound—your wound
the gun shot …
How many were there?
How many times were you shot?
Where were you shot?
You a servant of God,
a messenger of the word of Christ,
a teacher, an example of love for humanity,
became Christ on that 24 March
Were the wounds
the crown of thorns?
Were your wounds
the lance pierced
through Christ’s side?

The blood—the blood
your blood
that fell upon the altar.
Your blood became sanctified
in your martyrdom,
another martyr for the truth
of Christ’s teachings.

Monseñor Romero—
What were your dying words?
Or did the Spirit dove
fly swiftly from your Earth-bound body
to the heavens?


Your body—your bloody body
your dying body…
behind the altar,
before the bloodied
crucified Christ…

©2019, Lorraine Caputo

Our Evolving

img_2466

“It gets to seem as if way back in the Garden of Eden after the Fall, Adam and Eve had begged the Lord to forgive them and He, in his boundless exasperation had said, ‘All right, then. Stay. Stay in the Garden. Get civilized. Procreate. Muck it up.’ And they did.”  —Diane Arbus 



surfacing from mother-sea, we came ~
we came shape-shifting and sighing,
living before the prescient moon and
under the life-giving sun, we climbed
mountains and marched into valleys

short-lived, we camped by the riverside,
we slept in caves, we cleared the forest,
built cities that domesticated us

we became sophisticated, forgot our
rootedness in the archives of heaven,
our shared destiny with the Earth, we
forsook our history and the stars,
invented math, maps and compasses,
governments, borders and ownership

we built great ships to sail the oceans,
to drum across the sky and away to outer
realms and other planets, we mislaid our
true stories and, in ignorance suckled on
prefabricated values, these streamed
from cold fires that stoked insecurities ~
we confused wants and needs, hungered
for the sake of our own stupidity
and someone else’s greed

© 2017, Jamie Dedes

Silent Life

Except for the scratching of my pen
I lead a quiet, almost silent life
on D Street, the second floor –
In a small, one-bedroom apartment with
Tibetan prayer flags flying on the door.
I overlook a courtyard with trees and grass and
children playing, heads stuffed with dreams.

It’s a quiet almost silent life I lead in a
second floor walk-up with a tiny kitchen.
Trees rise outside the door, birch, palm
and the raucous crows are taking over.
Still, there are sweet gentle gray doves
and a chickadee or two, maybe three.
Our resident squirrel visits, watching
through my window from his birch.

Such a quiet, tranquil life I lead here
where no bombs drop on aching roofs,
no soldiers march in heavy boots,
no occupying army enters uninvited. We
fear not for the safety of children at play
or adults walking by on daily rounds.

I lead a quiet almost silent life, but for news
squeezed between ads for haute couture,
pre-fabricated foods, and Saturday’s sales.
Reports are of tortured deaths in foreign lands
presented in measured tones, spanning a heartbeat
followed by the vapid gossip that passes for news,
delivered with breathless detailed analyses

I lead a mostly quiet almost silent life
but for the scratching of my poet’s pen.
Scratching, scratching and trying –
Trying to make sense of it all, and
Like the gentle dove, softly –
trying to make a difference.

© 2010, Jamie Dedes

How I Park My Car

No room
for big cars
cigarette smoking women
or bourbon sipping
old men–
the page has turned on us.

Some days
I talk to old men
who don’t breathe
gray-skinned women
who only
exhale…
and anxiety ridden children
who never learned
how to spit properly.
They’re all hated
by somebody.
Me too
I guess.

I park my car
anywhere I want
two spaces sometimes.
Go inside, order up a double
straight, on the rocks
sit at the window, sip
think about a different time
a different kind of noise
wonder how the world
got so goddamn quiet.

first appeared: Medusa’s Kitchen, 2.22.2019

© 2019, Bill Gainer

Awake at Night

 

After Wendell Barry

Lying awake images of Yemeni children
Syrian babies, Ebola ridden souls, the hopelessness
the helplessness, ravaged by man-made tsunami of wars
innocent lives pitted against grace and goodness
of humanity. I lay awake, look into the dark hoping
for the earth and mankind to heal.

Dreaming, waking, tossing, turning,
awake, cogitating, restless mind spooling
as the earth spins on its axis, the Universe
is at peace, its ritual goes on apace, no change.

© 2019, Leela Soma

Places I Have Never Been

 

I’ve never been in the hull of a slave ship
chained and starving, drinking my urine
lying in my excrement.

I’ve never been forced to leave
my homeland, my family, my tribe,
enslaved by those who saw me as subhuman.

I’ve never picked cotton fifteen hours a day
under the whip of overseers who
raped me when the sun went down

and when I was emancipated, hung me from a
lynching tree, torched my home and family
denied my right to vote.

I’ve never moved north for higher ground
to neighborhoods depleted of dollars and hope,
goods and services, red-lined out of moving up.

I’ve never been called nigger, refused a table, watched
my children in their Sunday best internalize the word
while I struck them to teach obedience so they could live.
.
I’ve never attended sub-par segregated schools
or at college worked harder, scored higher
for less recognition, offered fewer jobs at lower pay.

I’ve never been profiled by police
because they saw a violent criminal
easy to spot, hair-trigger ready.

I’ve never endured my success to the highest office
being questioned, called illegitimate, in a country
that my people love in spite of it’s hatred of my kind.

I’ve never been anywhere
without the cloak
of my white skin.

Unraveling privilege is
unrelenting
without merit
transformative.

© 2019, Ellen Woods

In Infinitum Terrae

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.

Image borrowed from http://westwoodgrove.org
Image borrowed from http://westwoodgrove.org

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.

weareallone

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
The Mountains…?aerial-shot-backlit-beautiful-2132180

The Forests…?bridge-cascade-environment-358457

The Beaches…?4k-wallpaper-afterglow-beach-2120624

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?):

Top 13 Sustainable Inventions Shaping the 21st Century

10 Sustainable Inventions Changing the World

The Best Sustainable Inventions

10 Cool Inventions and Innovations Helping to Save the Planet

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 you can be more sustainable, too. 🙂 If we all do a little, we really can do a lot!

In Infinitum Terrae

© 2019, Corina Ravenscraft

Bird Brains

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.

 

All words and images ©2019 Naomi Baltuck

 

Three Pillars of Just and Stable Societies

“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.”

© Wangari Maathai, Unbowed: A Memoir

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

Two Reminders

courtesy of blahedo under CC BY-SA 2.5 license

Recycling Cans

Recycling cans on Earth Day

And throughout the year

Helps our environment

And sustains life

Now and in the future.

*****

Staying In The Know

The green grass can be sustained

With thought and consideration.

The earth as a whole,

Will be a better place,

If we stay “in the know.”

© 2019, Mary Bone

Fiqoo the Farmer and the March of the Water Drops

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

Saving water must be encouraged

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

China and India Lead the Way in Greening

China and India Lead the Way in Greening

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.

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.

The Great Green Wall of Africa

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

  1. Corbley, McKinley (2019-03-31). “Dozens of Countries Have Been Working to Plant ‘Great Green Wall’ – and It’s Holding Back Poverty”. Good News Network.
  2. Puiu, Tibi (2019-04-03). “More than 20 African countries are planting a 8,000-km-long ‘Great Green Wall. ZME Science. Retrieved 2019-04-16.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace, A True Story from Africa

Story by Jeanette Winter

Planet: Safe, Clean, Healthy

Logo for the United Nations Environmental Programme / fair use

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

 

Sustainable development is a way for people to use resources without the resources running out. This is the term used in a document entitled “Our Common Future”, otherwise known as the Brundtland Report.  Sustainable development –

 

“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
2.Electric mobility
3.Global Clean Ports
4.Global Fuel Economy Initiative
5. Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles.
*****

Village Cycling in Sri Lanka courtesy of Anton Croos under CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

 

Compiled by Anjum Wasim Dar

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme to designate new Biosphere Reserves

SeaWiFS Global Biosphere September 1997 – August 1998; This composite image gives an indication of the magnitude and distribution of global primary production, of both oceanic (mg/m3chlorophyll a) and terrestrial (normalized difference land vegetation index), see Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NVDI) / Public Domain

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.

During the session, the ICC will also announce the laureates of the MAB Young Scientists Awards and of the Michel Batisse Award for Biosphere Reserve Management.

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.

Box

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’.

© 2016, Anne Stewart

from ‘Only Here till Friday’, Bibliotecha Universalis (Bucharest), Eng/Sp, 2016.

Cutie

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.

Ascultăm Înregistrarea
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’.

© 2016, Anne Stewart

from ‘Only Here till Friday’, Bibliotecha Universalis (Bucharest), Eng/Sp, 2016.

Thinking green would just be there …

Those sweet Pacific blues
made me take fertile
for granted,

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
somehow;

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.

© 2019, Linda Chown

The Smell of Wood, The Scorch of Fire

stumpsthis 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 ~

pristine.

rugged.

pulsing.

haunted by the geometry of limbs, the calculus of green,
the algebraic eloquence of a world within a world  ~

present.

essential.

primal.

it sings to itself in the marrow of our bones

© 2014, Jamie Dedes

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.

Brother Francis and Sister Moon

He’s wandering the lanes of Assisi
while other men sleep
or find pleasure
in their sweethearts’ arms.

Holy man Francesco.
Il poverello.
All skin and bone
beneath his patched-up robe.

He’s chosen
Lady Poverty’s embrace,
begs for his bread
and shares it with outcasts.

The merchant’s son
who shed his fine clothes
at his father’s feet
and took the narrow way.

He tamed a killer wolf,
some say; calls the earth
his Mother, talks to flowers
and herbs, birds and fish.

Holy fool, roaming barefoot
until a full moon
at the sky’s plumb centre
illuminates his path,

pulls fields and trees
into its orbit
of overflowing light
and he runs to the church,

climbs the tower,
rings the bell,
and summons townsfolk
from their beds.

They wait in the courtyard
for news of fire or pestilence.
Look, he cries, look up
and see the moon!

© 2019, Shiela Jacob

Head Over Heals

So soon, familiar sounds again,
the birds are on the wing.
A starling, dizzy, calling his mate
head over heals we sing.

The grass is growing faster
underneath our feet
and here we are, like Arab Spring,
where two extremists meet.

It’s difficult to fathom how
those two imposters hail
from just one body, so opposite,
yet apposite, they fail

to sustain this perfect, vibrant beauty,
when offspring promise fades,
but need such boundless hope and joy
recede into the shade?

And yet the awesome speed of light,
with unimagined pace,
still takes too long to speak to us
from farthest outer space.

Fewer shorter days remain
to save the obvious child,
with a simple kind of husbandry
to wrest it from the wild.

Why deny a time that bursts
with forms of life that bring
their seeds to Earth for us to reap,
head over heals in Spring.

© 2017 John Anstie
All rights reserved

my ears are deaf, my eyes hear a song

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

© 2012, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photo credit ~ Axel Kuhlmann, Public Domain Pictures.net

The Crab

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.

Sea Anemone in Tide Pool
Photograph
©2017 Michael Dickel

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.

Crab in Tide Pool
Photograph
©2017 Michael Dickel

Who wants this crab?

Immunochemotherapy poisons his body like pollution in these choppy waves kill the sea. Only, his body supposedly will come back to health and strength. Watching the plastic-bottles bobbing off the shelf, out of reach behind the breaking waves, he doubts the oceans will return to health. He wonders if he will.

Does it matter whether he returns—

If the seas die? If the forests fall? If carbon dioxide blankets the globe? If our house is on fire and our children will burn?


He looks at the crab in his hand as it raises its pincers defensively.

Holding the Crab
Digital art from photograph
©2019 Michael Dickel

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—

no reflection, neither sky nor him.

Michael Dickel ©2019


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


 

A Climate of Change

Down the hill Winter bleeds unabated,
leaving behind the wounds we couldn’t see.
With all the trees gone I guess we’re fated
to find a pond where a pond shouldn’t be.

The ground’s still frozen ‘neath its epidermis,
so there’s nowhere but down the hill to go.
Up on top is where the earth’s the firmest,
but down here we’ve an inch of melted snow.

It’s nothing new, just how it goes come Spring
or whatever passes for that these days.
Lately you never know what March will bring,
another blizzard or mid-Summer haze.

It could end up the latter or former,
even both, since we’ve made Earth so much warmer.

If you want to argue or troll, find another poet. I’m too old, too sick, too tired and too sad to get in a pissing match about this. 

© 2019, poem and photo, Joseph Hesch

From the Butcher’s Blade

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.

© 2019, Jamie Dedes; photograph courtesy of morgueFile

* ‘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.

A Ballad for Stabat Mater

Stabat Mater: Pietro Perugino’s depiction of Mary at the Cross, 1482. (National Gallery, Washington) / public domain


A dedication to mothers

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.

© 2012,  John Anstie

First published on 18th March 2012

 

His Mother Bellows

“Jack, no.” as he bursts out their open

kitchen door past his garden toys

 

boy let’s a tiny plastic bag he clutches go

so it balloons with summer air

 

where it floats amongst lion’s teeth wends

bends a way above cut grass

 

fast up and over his red and yellow plastic slide,

glides Into his neighbours garden,

 

kitchen calls his feet back to fetch another

mother bellows again “Jack, no!”

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Magnum Opus

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…

…to here.

It’s the most daunting…

…most joyful…

..most challenging position I’ve ever held.

The job description is clear. When they are tiny, love them.

Nurture 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.

All words and images ©2015NaomiBaltuck

Disjunction (in English and Albanian)

“With one hand touch the sky
With other rate impulses of heart”

Mother…
don’t leave me alone
Mother…

I’m afraid of this wild world
Mother…
don’t leave me, mother!!!

Your tear fills the ground around me
Mother…?!

Shkëputje

“Me njërën dorë prek qiellin
me tjetrën matë impulsat e zemrës”

Nënë…
mos më lër vetëm!
Nënë…
kam frikë nga kjo botë e egër!
Nënë…
mos më braktis, nënë!!!

Loti yt rëndon dheun mbi mua
Nënë…?!

© 2019, Faruk Buzhala

Your Magic, Loving

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.

© Linda Chown, Mother’s Day 2019

Out of the Womb of Time

Madonna of the Plains


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
though unseen
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

Originally published in Brooklyn Memories

© 2012, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes

A Separate Peace

“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



 sometimes …
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

sometimes …
we record our fears with writing utensils,
call them weapons, coloring the margins
of our books with the dry dust of martyrdom

sometimes …
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

sometimes …
those children fell trees, transforming them
to paper and well-sharpened pencils, their lives
written in the manner of their own separate peace

“Everything has to evolve or else it perishes.” John Knowles, A Separate Peace

Originally published in Brooklyn Memories

© 2013, Jamie Dedes

Your Mother Is Always With You

Your Mother is always with You
    She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street.
    She’s the smell of certain foods you remember.
     She’s the flowers that you pick, of the perfume that she wore. 
She’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day.
    She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep,
She’s in your laughter, crystalized in every tear,
She’s the place you came from, your first home.
    She’s the map you follow with every step you take.
    She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy,
    nothing on earth can separate you.
    Not time … Not space … Not even death!
2019©Isadora DeLaVega

Tribute

Where are the prayers of the mothers?

Only Heaven could know,

Tell me oh Lord

Where they are stored

In a spring, that in Eden flows?

 

Where are the prayers of the mothers?

Prayers that daily ascend,

During ring around rosie

Or making babe cozy,

Urgent prayers plead end to end.

 

Where are the hopes of the mothers?

Hopes that somewhere soar?

Hopes there in the heart

To quickly impart

To a child forevermore.

 

Where are the prayers of the mothers?

Prayers so silently pled?

They’re shining at midnight,

Glowing in moonlight,

Lighting our way ahead.

© 2019, Sharon Frye

Those Before Me

Those who have gone before me-

My mother and her mother too,

Have left their mark upon me

In all I think and do.

 

Times that I remember

From earliest youthful dreams,

Were molded by each moment

I spent with both my queens.

 

If I could leave an impact

Or a treasured legacy,

I pray it is no less-

Than this one left to me.

 

A legacy, so sterling,

And a testament of care,

Leads me and guides me

Just like a whispered prayer.

© 2019, Sharon Frye

Letter to My Mother: The Only Inhabitant of Heaven

Mother,
let me build your heaven!

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!

© 2019, Iulia Gherghei

My Mother’s

“Art creates the dream of life“

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.

To gift to you – a last flower.

© 2019, bogpan (Bozhidar Pangelov) 

“Broken Homes,” Single Moms, A Remarkable Son

Gill Scott-Heron (1949-2011), American jazz poet, spoken-word poet, muscian and author
Gill Scott-Heron (1949-2011), American jazz poet, spoken-word poet, musician and author

“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.

Conflict

Mother walked into a coffin

full of snow and ice,
I should have told her

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
on clotheslines,
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.

© 2019, Silva Zanoyan Merjanian

The Apple and the Tree


I like to think humanity is a bunch of apples

We have flavor

Happiness, sorrow, glee, anger, silliness, love

We have sour greens, juicy yellows, and sweet reds

 

Now as siblings of humanity where do apples come from

Trees

Tall, strong, expansive trees with their branches flailing about

Now trees in fact can hold many different kinds of apples

Ones with love, ones with music, ones with sports, ones with sadness, ones filled with life

Trees nurture these fruits with all of the heart, soul, and mind

Filling each apple with peace, love, and joy

 

Humanity is a relationship

An experience of nurturing from trees to their apples

You are my tree

You are my brother’s tree

You have nurtured us

What do you have now

Well a bunch of fruits living in your house of course

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Crazy Fruit Tree

© 2019, Kennedy Stewart; illustration courtesy of Jean Beaufort, Public Domain Pictures.net

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.

 

Mothers’ Day: Different Thoughts

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
she thought…

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

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

Keeping Quiet

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.

from Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)

– Pablo Neruda

Peace Rocks and Peace Roles

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.

Image Wikipedia.org

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.

Image Wikipedia.org

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!

Image Wikipedia.org

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:

Image borrowed from mymodernnet.com

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.

Artic Drilling kayaktivists vs Shell Polar Pioneer – Photo by Daniella Beccaria on Flickr.com

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? 🙂

Insecurity

Hoar Frosted Trees (photo: John N Anstie)

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.

Side-lit Trees on Whitwell Moor (photo: John N Anstie)

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.

© 2019 John Anstie

Pity the Nation, Voices of the Poet Prophets, Gibran & Ferlinghetti

Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) public domain illustration


Pity The Nation
Khalil Gibran, 1933, “The Garden of the Prophet”

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.


American poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b. 1919), photo credit voxtheory under CC BY-SA 2.0 license


“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

There’s a Chance

“There’s a chance peace will come.” Melanie Safka

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.

© 2019, poem,  Johannes Beilharz

The Love in the Heart

I built a huge heart

Shelter for all the people of world

In it, sins vanish,

colors blend,

languages melt down.

You can read in all directions:

Long live Love,

Long live Peace.

Where flowers don’t need to be watered,

Where bodies want kisses and hugs,

Where every cumulus above heads scintilates,

Where souls are not held by chains.

© 2019, Faruk Buzhala 

The Way of Blessing



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
and enthrall

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

© 2019, poem and photograph, Wendy Bourke

Righteous Path



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.

© 2019, Wendy Bourke, words and photo: Boots on the Sands of Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC

Ethnic Cleanser

Removes unsightly
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.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

A Wealth

 of mankind

in a pile of naked emaciated bodies

flopped over one another,

People as things

rugs, blankets on a market stall

elaborate designs or plain

to put beside a fireplace.

 

Riches beyond avarice

in faces pinched into skulls.

Concave stomachs, prominent ribs

I had only ever seen in Christian Aid

adverts, famine victims.

 

Beneath quiet fields and woodland

their bones move years after

the weight of soil thrown over them.

the dead and disappeared move

towards their discovery

in shallower ground. Time

walks over their graves

building motorways and railways.

Grief takes time in small steps,

one softly after another.

We walk on unremembered bones.

A forgotten treasure.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

On Innocence

Below the infant school and nursery
we work on chemical weapons.

Every child is a bomb.
Parents hold the trigger button.

Our hospital is a munitions factory,
Our churches are suicide training centres.

All our official military installations are fake.
Beneath family holiday centres we are nuclear.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

I’m Just About

I’m just about

managing between the barricades

My kids play between sniper targets.

I fetch the shop through broken
buildings perforated by gunshot,

past cars jammed across streets.

I’m just about managing between regimes.

Previously published in I Am Not A Silent Poet.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Warlord

loves to be entertained.
After a battle where skulls are blown apart
he loves to sit and laugh at Anthem For Doomed Youth.

After a skirmish in which men are screaming
with half a leg or arm bone shattered
by shrapnel, he guffaws at Dulce Decorum Est.

The more graphic, the more comic to him.
He says if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.
Laughter is healthy. Laughter is human.

Laughter affirms life, essential before
a fight amidst bullets, stabs and snipers.

“Oh What A Lovely War”, is his favourite film.
“All Quiet On The Western Front” a comic classic.

He knows we laugh at what we fear most.
War is like great stand up when you can barely

breathe for laughter, your sides hurt
as if they need stiches. War is medicinal.

From Paul’s collection, Port Of Souls, Alien Buddha Press, 2017

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Two Tied

Two Tied

Fishtails. Mam and me,
Swim away from his slaughter

Of friends and neighbours,
Fall of Ash and mortar,

Taste of burning skin.
Not sure who me father is,

As me mam goes with owt
In trousers. Her first names

Promiscuous but folk, ‘specially men
call her Promise. She calls me Lust.

Me Dad could be Chaos or War.
Me mam’s been with both.

We’ve scarpered from Destruction
who clamours atta end on us all.

Mam and me lept into watta,
as fish tied together wi ship rope

So as we can’t drift apart,
tho ad be glad if we could

as ad like a life a me own
not chained to her,

and how can I tell her
am getting younger by the day.

Soon al be a bairn with a bow and arra
and tiny wings shooting me

arras off not bothered who they hit,
an consequences of giving folk

bits of mesen, so their bodies hanker
like me mam after owt with a pulse.

From forthcoming collection “Fish Strawberries”, Alien Buddha Press, 2019

© 2019, Paul Brookes

She Says

whilst her fingers make an unbroken
run over the walls of our home:

You live in a strange world.
No bullet holes for my fingers
to play with. No blasted
holes to climb through
when playing hide and seek.

I say You get used to it.
My Grandad played on bombsites
In the fifties. The demolished
a lot.

She says, I love ruins.
Everything should be ruins.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Ancient Messenger

Who but the smallest
can fly through
the terrible winds
that choke off flight?

Who but the smallest
dares to find a way
past the desert

and the thorns.
The Tower of Minds
so fixed
in their labyrinths?
It has always been so:
the task of one, lone bird
who finds land,
who brings peace.

© 2019, Judy Capurso

At the End of the War

“after the End and the beginning” Wislawa Syzmborska

We need to do something about all the lost limbs.
Would somebody please volunteer to search
for all those lost legs, arms, faces?

We’re all thirsty, yes, but does anybody know
where we can find a brook, a creek that
doesn’t have our floating cousins?

Yes, yes, we need a morgue, but first
we must find a few dogs to tell us
who is beneath the stones.

We know Gertrude and Maurice and maybe
Alfonse, maybe more, all have to be found.
Bandages, surely someone has some bandages.

We want to rebuild. Does anyone have a ladder?
Let’s leave God out of this for awhile.
Let’s start in the square, and slowly remove

what was thrown down from the sky.
Who knows how to get a weather report?
Will there be good weather for tomorrow?

Yes, that’s a good idea, but we can always
talk, there’s always a lot of time for talk.
We’ve got such a mess.

Brooms. Everybody, find all the brooms.
Can anyone send a letter, we need to let
someone know this has happened.

Tomorrow we can start burning our families.
Surely someone will see the smoke.
Surely someone will come.

excerpt from At the End of War (Kelsay Books, 2018)

© 2018, DeWitt Clinton

Under Siege

Demonstration against road block, Kafr Qaddum, March 2012


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
Be tree
Sated with fertility, be tree
If you are not tree, my love
Be stone
Saturated with humidity, be stone
If you are not stone, my love
Be moon
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.

© Mahmoud Darwish/ Translation, Marjolijn De Jager; photo courtesy of ורם שורק under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Flautist Wears a Shaman’s Headdress

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“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.

© 2013, poem and illustration, Jamie Dedes

The Plotting of a Story

“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

© 2018, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes