self-migration | Trace Lara Hentz

 

I self.migrate here, from there
I drive unfettered multiple times to multiple states to multiple addresses
I cross unchecked boundaries, through invisible state lines, past fenced farms and gated communities
I am free so I self.relocate here, since I am free to relocate anywhere in America
I bring boxes filled with memories, with enough to rent a storage unit
I arrive unscathed, unhurt, but not exactly state-approved
Does Massachusetts care that I am here?
I self.migrate with papers, with proof, without arrest
I raid my fiancé’s space, his territory, his living room
I marry him, and I marry his identity and my identity and take his name
I register my car, get my driver’s license, and register to vote
Would this happen if I was from Iran, Nigeria or Guatemala and not from Wisconsin?
Does Massachusetts care that I am here?
Does it matter that I am a Connecticut-transplant, a journalist, formerly employed by a tribe?
Cameras pointed at cars would be able to find me eventually
How long will it take for me to become a local? How long?
How many years?
Does Massachusetts care that I am here?
I find descendants here of many generations, of bloodlines not my own
How long before I am questioned?

Trace Lara Hentz, Greenfield ©2017
(written in the BigY parking lot)

Lara/Trace Writes About Residential Schools

St._Joseph's_Orphanage<VTGrowing up, I was taught that healers must be engaged in the lives of the people. I often think of my beloved teacher, Ipu, who repeatedly risked his life to aid his people in the Amazon. He was a gentle, loving man, with a fierce commitment to social justice, and an acute understanding that social issues lie at the heart of much suffering. When I am asked why I devote so much of my blog to social change, I find myself feeling bewildered; after all, the fates of the Earth, individuals, and whole peoples, are tightly interwoven. There cannot be true healing without justice.

A focus of many Indigenous people these days is the history of the residential schools which were common in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, during the last century. These were institutions designed to “save the person by removing the Indian”. Untold thousands of children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in residential schools, often many hundreds of miles distant. Once there, the children were subject to harsh treatment, horrific abuse, and, much too often, death.

Here, in Vermont, many children found themselves in St. Josephs Orphanage, in Burlington. Many of the practices documented for residential schools were utilized at the orphanage, with horrific long-term effects. I have heard scores of stories from close to a hundred survivors, narratives so painful I would have nightmares for weeks following our meetings. Now the city appears to be actively seeking to erase and forget this dishonorable chapter of local history.

In recent years both Canada and Australia created commissions to look into the histories and practices of these institutions. The ensuing reports make mind-numbing reading, yet they also open the door for healing. Still, neither government has followed through on the recommendations of their commissions, and many Indigenous people in those countries consider the results of the commission process to be profoundly flawed, if not disingenuous.

Hakea wrote the following note to me when we were discussing the situation in Australia: ” I do not want anyone thinking that Australia is a shining example in Aboriginal matters. Cultural and racial genocide is occurring right now, it’s just got a different terminology attached to it – ‘lifestyle choices’ and ‘economic growth’. All of the commissions and enquiries and apologies were for nought. Injustices are still being wrought upon our Aboriginal people. Institutionalisation is rife. Young Aboriginal people consider that going to gaol is a rite of passage. Australia cannot be held in high regard on Aboriginal matters. So much shame. (See the Documentary – Our Generation (2010)).

In the U.S., Federal and State governments have refused to address these histories and the lingering suffering they created. It is difficult to imagine the multigenerational trauma will be addressed until governments and religious organizations take full responsibility for their actions.  Laura Trace Hentz has been following the commission responsible for investigating residential schools in Canada. Below is her latest dispatch. I hope you will share Lara’s article with others.

Lara writes:

I do not know if readers of this blog have followed what is happening in Canada and their years-long investigation called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).  In 2014 I heard Justice Murray Sinclair speak about TRC at Yale. READ HERE. He spoke about their findings and what the Canadian government promised to rectify the abuses in the residential boarding schools. Many churches and provinces were mandated and forced to release their records to the commission.

The definitions of genocide fit the TRC findings. They call it cultural genocide. Children lost their family. Some children lost their lives. Children. This happened to children.

What happened in Canada also happened here in the US.  We don’t have an investigation by our government. WHY? I don’t know and I don’t know if it will ever happen.

After the residential schools in Canada, the 60s Scoop took even more children and placed them with non-Indian parents. And it’s not over. It’s ongoing there and here.

Read Mo

2015, essay and photo, Michael Watson, All rights reserved; Lara’s bio is HERE.

Hope Spoke

Find me, hope said
where headwaters unfurl
and roll across eons of rocks
polished by the playful tumble
of a rumbling stream. I stir belief
in the faintest trace I leave
under layers of a forest bed
the faint murmur of a mountain spring
where the ascent of a desert trail
is more than water
and the curl of a wool blanket
around the thumb of a sleeping child
is more than warmth.

Find me
where daydreams break
and flood the order of days
bridged by that narrow crossing
between duty and yearning. I destroy walls
from the rigid constructs I emerge
from labyrinths of complex reasons
the unwanted changes and the changing wants
where the hunger on the abundant earth
is a promise made
and the bend of the searching sun
under the months of winter snow
is a promise kept.

Find me
where smoke rises
and lifts the ghosts of mourning
entrapped by a constant churn
of candle stubs. I unite breath
under melting symbols I bow
to the church of the desperate fate
the humble faith in the big mistake
where a vow of strange forgiveness
is more than peace
and the prayer for a shamash flame
or the chant to an endless knot
is more than peace.

© 2019, Oz Forestor

OZ FORESTOR is a former journalist. He began writing short fiction, poetry, and essays when he realized the topics that don’t make news are more interesting than news: class struggle, un-planet Pluto, geriatric romance, power psychology, migratory birds, Nazi-era art suppression, trees.  Forestor’s nature-themed poetry chapbook sold out–all three copies- when he was nine. He enjoys hiking, travel, is prone to getting lost, and does not believe in GPS technology.

winter rain in my muse-like homeland

the eyesome fay at the crack of dawn in winter

is weeping

the winter rain in the form of magnificent teardrops is dropping down

it is to be mesmerized in glaciated dreams of muses

the shepherd boy hears the falling of the more tender rain like meek tears

*

the docile Nixie by Christmas morning

is crying

the winter drops in terms of mignonne teardrops are falling down

it is becharmed in a snowy soul of muses

the child of a falconer tastes these Apollonianly meek drops

*

the meekly miraculous Siren at sunset glow

bawling

the winter snow – wonderfully tearling-shaped – falling down

it can be ensorcelled in frosted muse-like hearts

the druidical companion looks at flurries full weird of the tearlets

*

the magnanimous Sibyl at midnight in December

crying

the winter snow-rain – marvelously tearlet-shaped – falling to the ground

it’s worth being enchanted in the hazy fantasy of the muses

the guardian of Winter Queen’s touches some Herculean traces of the rain

© 2019, Pawel Markiewicz

PAWEL MARKIEWICZ was born in 1983 in Poland (Siemiatycze). He has has English haikus as well as short poems published in the good literary magazines, including Ginyu (Tokyo), Atlas Poetica (U.S.), and The Cherita (U.K.). He has published some poems in Taj Mahal Review (India) and Better Than Starbucks (U.S.). He has also published poems at Blog Nostics as well as a short prose piece entitled “The Druid.” Paweł has published more than fifty German-language poems in Germany and Austria and three Polish-language chapbooks in Poland.

Three poems on A Life of the Spirit

Poems from
Nothing Remembers
on A Life of the Spirit


Called to faith

A man stands over the culvert on the gravel road onto the farm.
The stone he hefts in his hand—igneous remnants from before time,
bits of crystal cooled across history mingled with impurities beyond memory.
He lofts this shard of the past in a slow arc that ends in the dark pool of standing water.

Sometimes he wishes he could follow, down through the water as surface tension
erases faint traces; he wishes sometimes that he could fall through the cold numbness
to sink into the soft, welcoming mud—to sleep among layers of last year’s rotting leaves
and the year’s before and the year’s before and years’ before—layers of organic memory that,

still,

do not reach the stone’s most recent memory. The stone takes no notice.
And the man does not sink with the stone into murkiness. The morning calls
him to his desire, so he chooses to return to the work at hand. There is a garden
to plow and disk. There is corn to plant and tend. There are nettles to uproot and remove.

Despite the threat of frost or hail or rabbit or deer, he trusts
that in August there will be sweet corn and tomatoes and beans.
He will gather some in and eat. He will gather some in to store. And
he will gather and save the best for next year’s seeds. These make up his act of love.


Napping in a chair

Yesterday seagulls laughed
under the storm clouds caught
in mountains behind the sea.

As I ambled through a plaza,
I heard someone playing piano
stop and start the music over.

People ate lunch, drank coffee.
The rain did not fall on them or
anyone. The ships slid slowly by.

I noticed these things. I did not
notice other things. I thought of
you, I am not sure why. I walked.

I heard sea gulls, a piano, the sea.
I listened for echoes of your voice.
I remembered something you said.

As I neared the wharf, fish swam near me.
Only faint shadows revealed them.
Two lovers sat under trees conversing.

I thought of someone. I don’t recall who.


Somewhere, a whirring fan

“With this beginning, the unknown concealed one created the palace. This palace is called אלוהים (Elohim), God. The secret is: בראשית ברא אלוהים (Bereshit bara Elohim), With beginning, _______ created God (Genesis 1:1).”     — Zohar (I:15a)

“…She knows that her beloved is searching for her; so what does she do? She opens the portal to her hidden room [in the palace] slightly and reveals her face for a moment, and then hides it again.”     — Zohar (II.99a)

Somewhere, a whirring fan
in an open window spins
possibilities into threads.
I heard a rumor that the
Oleander flowers shed
their pink and white grace
for poisonous reason.
A car slinks down traces
of a melted tar road.

You like to stand by the window,
and want him to see you there,
behind a curtain. He doesn’t
know you or you him. He walks
the span of street, infrequently
catching a glimpse of blue
eyes, a reflection in cracks
of the cotton-hued skies.

The crow calls from a tree.
Another day, green parrots
screech louder than the
traffic flees. The heat lays
like a corpse upon our city.
Bougainvillea bracts spot
gardens with false hope,
colorful arrays of forgotten
pain turned to sweet honey.

He forgets you, though you
never meet. And you, also,
forget—window, curtains,
the desire for a stranger’s
glad glance. Someone wants
this to be autobiography, a
short recollection of moments
actually lived. That person never
dreamed, does not exist anymore.

And I never existed because I
don’t stop dreaming. Poetry, like
a god, provides code for an image,
keying it to suggest a revelation-lode
from your past. You want it to be
my past. Parrots screech.
A crow calls. A beautiful Other
by the window waits. This all
happens to you while I write

these scenes tangled in dreams,
whirring fans—the poem unable
to light any form, your reading,
this page; unable to discover more
than bare wisps of meaning in the
vibrations of words—your song longing
for someone in the infinite void. Wanting
a mortal to read you into this, to see you
alive, you seek a new beginning—genesis.

Note: Zohar refers to The Book of Splendor, one of the main texts of Kabbalah. Translations from the Hebrew are from the work of Daniel Matt.


©2019 Michael Dickel

These three poems come from Nothing Remembers, by Michael Dickel, released September 2019 from Finishing Line Press.


Michael Dickel—Digital Self-Portrait from Photograph
Michael Dickel
Digital Self-Portrait from Photograph
©2019

Michael Dickel is a contributing editor for The BeZine. He writes, creates art, and teaches in Jerusalem, Israel, where he lives with his wife and two young children. The World Behind It, Chaos… (WV? eBookPress, 2009), one of his first books, includes photographs and digital artwork from photos in a free PDF eBook format. His resistance chapbook of poetry, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism (locofo chaps, 2017) can also be downloaded for free as a PDF (or purchased in paper). His latest collection of poetry, Nothing Remembers, came out from Finishing Line Press in September, 2019. Other books include The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden, a collection of Flash Fiction (art by Ayelet Cohen), and War Surrounds Us, a collection of poetry, both from Is a Rose Press.

 

 


 

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

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 Great Education Escape

Riding the Chariot

A fiend roared within him, fueled by germs rioting throughout his system. They wanted more whipped cream, blue sex, smoke-filled rooms; they wanted more income, better homes, self-determination; they wanted democracy to rule his body. If he had a hammer, justice would rule with silver scales. The fool would lead them.

But bang-bang, the gavel falls, overruling his objections. The fiend takes over, and his cells and the germs war, killing each other and putting the community that one might think of as his body into perpetual motion.

The teacher makes a scene for them to memorize, part of the first act of their lives. This is his job, to create neat scenes for his un-dilated pupils to use to construct a belief system and life to come. He has long since listened to the critics and realized the play will be a flop.

It all falls in on him when the fiend takes over his body.

“Class dismissed. Go home, read Rabelais, Larsen, Stein, Baldwin, Kerouac, Morrison, Atwood, Harjo, and DeLillo. Write an experimental novel. Go off the grid. Build a life from your own materials.”

The pupils stare at him intently, comprehensively unable to stand under this downpour, an outpouring of blinding insight.

“Seriously, once you have done that, come back to me and ask for an A. Until then, you have only failed, like me.”

He walked out of the class. The ‘flu had won. He went to the office, pulled a blank piece of paper from a copier, and wrote a note to the principal. Two words: I quit. Then he signed and dated it.

The school never heard from him again. Someone thought they saw his name on an
essay about Rabelais, Freire, and the need for revolution in the classroom. The principal read a review of an experimental novel that he might have written. A former student searched for him on Google, but his name disappeared from the screen.


20130710-220704.jpgWalking the ravine ahead of angels, those messengers of shadowed new light, he forgot his mother. The trees painted, making art that lasted a mere second as a breeze brushed their shadows. With affection, he thought of an Aztec descendant he met in Machu Pichu.

The land around him had a great thirst, not for rain, but for memory. A camera, hidden in a satellite, re-collected this moment of light bouncing from the rock party, a ball spinning on a pivot.

It made little difference to his views of the cosmopolitan metropolis instantiated in Berlin when the rodeo stopped in at the saloon. That poor raccoon, the gun, the Bible, the gin—you know the song. These thoughts swirled through the germinating revolution, the German revolution, the germ revolution, each a rival to his dreams.

They tried stealing his sanity, but they found the vault empty, as he had discarded all previous construction materials, leaving a lattice of emptiness while seekers discussed the seven paths of mysticism in a courtyard around seventy-seven corners of relationship to the hole filled with rain.

The wandering, colorful man no longer knew how to belong to the swimmers, so he stopped treading water, only to find that the water spit him out.

20130710-220850.jpg

He felt silly, and thought of fixing it all, perhaps by pulling the plug and disconnecting the hole from the screen. Still, a tired wink of his mind and his wonder returned, more quickly than the drink in the saloon arrived for the rodeo’s raccoon. His doctor thought he was depressed. His ex-girlfriend thought he was manic.

It could be bad, or better, if he only found what he needed to remember to forget. His skin would then refrain from thirsting for the rain, afraid that the world would fall from his shoulders, crash onto the pathless road; the wheels of the chariot would crush him with it. The soil would drink his memory. And the trees would brush over it all a surrealistic image, covering the sketch without any pentimento.


His dilated pupils did not like the new teacher. Their vessels expanded until they burst, exploding many myths at once. The principal was not their pal. They left school, but only after many years. They read theory. They taught in universities. They thought they were experimenting.

—Michael Dickel @2017

20130710-220330.jpg


An earlier version of this appeared here on Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, Michael Dickel’s blogZine. A closer version to this one appears in his collection of flash fiction, The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden. This version has some small edits and one name listed to the authors the pupils should study. What does this have to do with social justice? A critique of education, conformity, and exclusion might be found in its surrealistic-hybrid traces.


 

Lazy Bums Vanish from Lazy Town

“Once upon a time there was a town where all the people were exceedingly lazy.”

—The Lazy Townspeople

It’s true of course as we all know those
Lazy folks just down the road will do
Just about anything to not do just about
Anything, hoping some nincompoop

Will show up just in time to rake up
All the trash, bag it, maybe recycle it,
And send all that is not wanted on its
Merry way. When even that didn’t

Work out, the old folks were just beside
Themselves to get themselves going
So the place might look a bit more
Spiffy when the man in the white house

Who now owns everything and everyone
Will drive by for a view, and toss a few
Coins to those whose waving hands
Are the highest ever for free handouts.

That was at least the plan. The old town
Though just got older, stinkier, trashier,
And big bugs soon arrived by the millions
So no one could get a night’s rest without

Bites everywhere and anywhere but as
You know, no one knew quite what to do.
We could all make rakes, a ratty man said.
I’ve got a bunch of mowers, said the long

Beard. The smelly old one even kept empty
Bottles of Clorox and Windex just in case.
Everybody said let’s get started, but no
One really started, as no one had ever

Known how to bring spring to the old town.
A well-kept girl crawled under the hedge
That kept those in and those looking out
And she knew right away what might spiff

The place up, shiny and brassy as before.
Follow me, she said, and everybody did
Just that, and soon the town was not ever
There, no one could even remember it,

And then, what nature does best, a big
Wind came through and the wind coughed
It all around the world as it was most
Disgusting with all the dust, and mites,

And those terrible bugs that get into
Everything, and soon the man in the
Big white house drove down to see
His priceless town, and it was so shiny,

Smooth, and not a trace could be found
Of the terrible people who once called
What once was trash, what once was home,
A fine place to wave his tiny, clean hands.

—DeWitt Clinton © 2018

Song of Kashmir

The Mughal Emperor Akbar is depicted training an elephant; public domain

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela


Everyone feels the need to belong to someone or somewhere. Everyone has a history and needs a teacher to receive knowledge as ‘fear can be overcome by knowing.’  Hence the saying ‘knowledge is power’, but power for the cause of good and peace.

All Families have a history, some are historical themselves like the Kings, Rulers, Emperors and Leaders. There have been families in the History of Religion where we find the exemplary lives of the Messengers, their strength of character and the lessons they taught to their people. Histories have been written in royal courts and in this part of Asia, a good example is in the time of the Mughal Kings.

In the court of Emperor Akbar there were three scribes sitting with their quills, inkpots and papers writing all that happened in the court each day, what orders were issued what cases were heard and decisions taken. They recorded events, wars, births and deaths and weird happenings …worth remembering. So what is worth remembering in a kingdom a country and a family…a family history would include the same a family story. Stranger are the personal stories that happen all over the world. Many remain untold and unheard. By a stranger chance I was ordained to write one…

I too loved to have a family home town. A place I could say was my ‘village’, an old wooden house, a rough garden, a small yard and a cooking space smelling of freshly kneaded wheat and the sweet aroma of tea, cool evenings and summers under the shade of the trees or by a small stream. I was always asking questions about my birth place, our real home, what was the place like, where was it, who lived with us, how come we were there, from where did we get the fresh veges and how. So many questions kept troubling my mind but I got very few answers and so limited information. There was no record in any book or diary form. I wanted to know more about my ancestors but more so about what happened to bring us to another place?

I had strong reasons to take up my pen and trace words on paper, which were consolidated by the following guiding inspiring and most encouraging message I received:

If you really believe that what you’re writing is important, that what you’re writing right now could change someone ‘s life, then do it.

My need to belong made me ask questions of my father and mother but I never got a real chance to sit with my Grandfather Maulvi Mohammed Hasan, a prominent educationist, who I remember smoked the traditional Indian hookah’…had good command over the English language, knew a large body of Shakespeare’s plays by heart and loved to solve the crossword puzzles in one of the best English daily, The Statesman. The newspapers reflected English dominance.

“You were born in a dominion,” said my aunt one day. “We are Kashmiris. We left everything there.” Everything? “Yes. We had to save our lives as war had broken out and we had been blessed with a new country, Pakistan. We were extremely excited but events were not so grand nor safe, people were being killed.”  My family had dreamed, hoped, desired and prayed for the new green land to become our homeland but he would endlessly talk about Kashmir: the food, the rice, the tea, the cherries, the fresh weather … but all in memories some things remembered, some forgotten.

It really doesn’t matter whether the narrative is factually accurate or not. After all, memory distorts events from the past. Rather, the narrative becomes part of the family theme that takes on almost mythical dimensions. The oral tradition is the way stories, tales, myths and adventures have been handed from generation to generation from the beginning of time. Do you know your family narrative? If not, why not find out if family members can relate them to you now? It’s never too late. The fact is, remembered or not, we add to the narrative in the present to hand down to our children and grandchildren. And so a story of family life reflecting manners cultural traditions habits social customs and a mixture of Punjabi Kashmiri living routines…

Keeping my own high interest and spirit of inquiry, one day I sat down. My father was resting holding a paper and pen ready. I said quietly “Father please tell us about your journey to this newly created country?”

“Why do you want to know. It is not easy to talk about it now’

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” Mary Tyler Moore

Grandfather Maulvi Mohammed Hasan was born in 1892 in Jammu Kashmir. Migrated from Kashmir due to famine.

FAMINE?

Here I have brought in information about the Great Famine that caused many Kashmiris to leave their land. Many shifted to Amritsar Gujranwala in Punjab and to Sialkot near the border. Dr. Ernest Neve’ writes in his book Beyond the Pir Panjal Famine 1877-1879.

In some parts of the valley including Srinagar it is said that population reduced by more than half. Heavy rain fell in Autumn before the crops were gathered in. The rice and maize which are the staple foods, rotted.During the Winter the rains continued.The cattle died from want of food.”

Spring harvest failed due to bad weather. The authorities made a fatal mistake and ordered a house to house search for seed grain. People hid the seed grains for their own eating, this aggravated the situation. Famine continued until October 1879.

There is a Kashmiri saying

‘Haki’mas ta hakimas nishh- tachhtan khodayo’ O God save me from physicians and rulers’. 

The rulers heavily taxed the local people taking from their produce, earnings and wheat, etc., which left hardly anything for the peasant worker or the agriculturist. In the famine, people ate oil-cake, rice, chaff, bark of elm and yew and even grasses and roots. They became absolutely demoralized like ravenous beasts.  Those who died could be seen as corpses lying in the streets and open spaces, or pulled and dragged into holes where dogs kept wandering sniffing and eating.

Pestilence and cholera broke out and whatever edible stuff was available was extremely expensive, prices were sky high.”

1888-1892 Srinagar was a City of Dreadful Death it was previously known as the Venice of the East but now small pox spread all over killing many childre, thus child population became the most affected.

Father continued the historical story and I kept writing for long, till I realized that he was tired. “Yes, the Famine affected large areas of India.”

Pakistan it was afterwards, peaceful, till war broke out again…and so the story of migration kept moving through pain suffering with gaps of joy and peace and the solace of being together again, though in difficult times.

War broke out and all life changed again…there is so much more to share but for the moment here is my …

Song of Kashmir
Born in Freedom Chained
In Pure Dust, on Pure Earth she stands,
She never saw her Land;
The land where she was born
Heaven on Earth she was told
Pardise Lost! She realized
Cries of Freedom, freedom
She heard; coffins covered in black
She saw; no smiles on faces forlorn,
Clothes all tattered and torn
Hills and mountains, of greenery shorn;
Gone was the beauty of dewdrops
shining in the morn,
She brought the blood and the birth
She brought the life and the soul
And Hope, and the Unseen Dream
She never saw her Land
Why she was here, where she was
She could never own the name KASHMIR

© 2018, Anjum Wasim Dar

Sex and the Second Amendment

skeptic

This “Skeptic’s Collection” column was first published in October of 2014. But in light of the recent mass shootings in, e.g., Las Vegas, NV, Sutherland Springs, TX, and Parkland, FL, it seems appropriate to reprint it now, especially given that the bravery, eloquence, and conscience of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the latter city seem to have eventuated — at least so we may hope — a kind of moral conversion of the public debate on gun control. This column may well also be published as an essay in the Be-Zine, the other e-periodical for which I write. That is quite all right. To quote Mao Zedong:  “Let a hundred flowers bloom”. I want to add my modest impetus to the newly “woke” consciousness regarding the Second Amendment.

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. – Second Amendment

I was always taught that, in order to maintain amicable relations in social settings, there were two topics to be avoided like Ebola:   religion and politics. (OK … OK … technically, there’s also a third: John Boehner’s sun-tan lotion, but that’s off-topic.) I think we are now in a position to form an Unholy Trinity by adding a third item to the to-be-avoided list: gun / Second Amendment issues. But, really, we seem to be at the point that the three are really the same thing – hence my “Trinity” metaphor — because it is becoming increasingly difficult, at least among many people, to separate religion from politics from Second Amendment issues. This circumstance is abnormal, both constitutionally and historically. It is constitutionally abnormal because, for each of the rights enshrined in the American Constitution, there is a corresponding and correlative limitation or qualification. E.g., free speech, yes, but no yelling of “Fire!” in a crowded theater (or “Movie!” in a crowded firehouse, courtesy of Woody Allen). Except perhaps for the “free exercise” right of clergy-penitent confidentiality, no right, even the most sacrosanct, is “absolutely absolute”.

Historically, reasonable limitations on gun possession and usage were likewise the rule rather than the exception. Many gun owners and aficionados still have no problem with reasonable and prudent gun regulation, and we should not paint all gun owners in a common color with a common brush. But among the communicants of the Orthodox Church of the National Rifle Association, it is a matter of irreformable dogma that any limitation of any kind, however modest and reasonable, on the ownership of any kind of weapon threatens the very foundations of the American Republic. If Federal courts had adopted the same attitude toward the First Amendment that the NRA adopts toward the Second, falsely yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater or publishing fraudulent claims about commercial products would count as protected speech. All constitutional rights, without exception and including gun rights, are — or should be — subject to reasonable, prudent, and common-sense restrictions. The alternative is anarchy, the “state of nature”. 

I have neither the time nor the space for an exhaustive survey of the landscape of the restrictions on the Second Amendment that are embodied in the case law. If you would like an excellent, though even then far from exhaustive, such history, you can do no better than to read Michael Waldman’s moderate, reasoned, and intelligent The Second Amendment: A Biography , which is available in both book and Kindle form. Suffice to say that, prior to the decade of the 1980s and the rise of the National Rifle Association as an organization promoting, not only gun education and safety, but also and latterly a hyper-fundamentalist perspective on the Second Amendment, the subject of gun control and regulation was nowhere near as volatile, fraught, and dominated by extremist elements as it is today. Waldman notes that “[a]n iconic photo of Dodge City – that iconic frontier town – shows a sign planted in the middle of the main street [reading] ‘The Carrying of Fire Arms Strictly Prohibited’,” and cites Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon nominee with whom no one would ever confuse Barney Frank or Bill Maher, asserting that “the idea of individual gun rights in the Constitution is a preposterous [Chief Justice Burger’s word — JRC] ‘fraud’.”

Gun rights were further curtailed by Miller v. Texas, and the NRA even backed President Roosevelt’s National Firearms Act of 1934, which levied heavy taxes on the types of weapons used in the Depression-era bank-robbery epidemics, and outright prohibited the transportation of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns across state lines – measures that today would cause Wayne LaPierre, Ted Nugent, and Charlton Heston to simultaneously throw embolisms … even though Heston is dead. (Mr. LaPierre is on record as asserting that there is a God-given natural right to own firearms, based on the natural right of self-defense. So … crash course in natural rights theory for Mr. LaPierre:  natural rights pertain exclusively to ends, not to means. Yes, you do have a natural right to pursue the end of self-defense, but there is no natural right to own, as means to that end, e.g., Glock-9s, AR-15s, and MAC-10s, because Glock-9s, AR-15s, and MAC-10s are not natural objects.) The Firearms Act was challenged in court, but the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in United States v. Miller in 1934. Writing for a unanimous Court — !!!! –Justice James McReynolds denied that a sawed-off shotgun “at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, [and therefore] we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense”. Miller set a precedent that would allow a Congress so inclined to classify certain weapons types as beyond the ambit of the types of weapons that could be possessed for personal defense. Of course, in today’s political climate, any member of either House who actually voted for such a measure would probably sign her or his political death warrant.

But two game-changing decisions by the Supreme Court – United States v. Heller in 2008, followed by McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 – complicated the gun-control issue to a degree that participants in those previous controversies could scarcely imagine. In the Heller decision, the Court, by a 5-4 vote, asserted, not only that there is an individual right to gun ownership untethered to military service, but that that individual right is fundamental. In constitutional law, the term “fundamental right” is not merely a term of art: it has a very specific and narrowly technical meaning. Once a right has been christened as “fundamental,” that right becomes one of the supporting and load-bearing pillars in the edifice of “ordered liberty” comprising America’s constitutional culture, and as such is a defining parameter of the Nation’s legal character. Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right, so is freedom of speech, etc.

Different as they are in other respects, fundamental rights share two salient features: (1) the Government may abridge fundamental rights only to achieve some “compelling governmental interest”, but even then (2) in order to be fully constitutional, the abridgement must be achieved by the “least restrictive means”. (In practice, this often further entails that any proposed abridgement of a “fundamental right” must be subject to a strict-scrutiny level of judicial review. I say “often … subject to strict scrutiny” instead of “always … subject to strict scrutiny” because, for any given case before the Court, the level of judicial review, being a matter of separation of powers doctrine, is always a prerogative of the Judicary.) If those two quoted phrases sound familiar, they should: they were the two criteria used, via the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, to assess the constitutionality of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, a classic case of a decision that concerned a fundamental right – in that case, “free exercise”. The Court decided that, while the Government did have a “compelling … interest” in the availability of means of contraception, that the mandate, being violative of the Greens’ religious beliefs, was not the “least restrictive means” of achieving that goal. The reason that Heller exponentially complicates the gun-control issue is because finding an individual Second Amendment right and christening that right as “fundamental” means that any restriction or abridgement of any individual’s or group’s gun rights is subject to the same two stringent criteria as the contraceptive mandate:   “compelling … interest” and “least restrictive means”. Basically, individual gun rights are placed on an equal constitutional footing with freedom of religion. On that basis, it is not at all clear that FDR’s Firearms Act of 1934 could have been upheld.

The other game-changing decision was McDonald v. Chicago two years after Heller, in 2010. By way of cutting to the chase, we may say that the McDonald decision took the momentous step of “incorporating” the Second Amendment against the States. This has the effect of imposing the operative “infringement” clause of the Second against State governments as well as the Federal government: anything the Federal government is prohibited from doing by the Second, State governments are likewise prohibited from doing. McDonald had the same effect vis a vis the Second Amendment that the Gitlow decision of 1925 had vis a vis the First: McDonald overruled and superseded, e.g., Cruikshank. (Granted, Cruikshank was an invidious attempt to use Louisiana state gun law to essentially disarm African-American people in the wake of the infamous “Colfax massacre” of 1873, but the motivation behind Cruikshank is irrelevant for our purposes.) Incorporating the Second Amendment against the States via McDonald means that people who work for rational, reasonable, constitutionally consistent gun control – i.e., the kind of gun control that was the rule rather than the exception prior to about 1980 – can no longer adopt a State-by-State strategy, because the Supreme Court has declared the Second Amendment to embody a fundamental right to individual gun ownership, which makes it necessary for State efforts toward gun control to meet the same exacting two-criteria challenge – “compelling … interest” and “least restrictive means” – that prevail at the Federal level.

But all the foregoing begs the question of why, prior to roughly 1980, it was possible to pass reasonable, prudent, rational, moderate, and constitutionally consistent gun restrictions — the kinds of restrictions that qualify, restrict, and hedge about all other constitutional rights … even rights deemed fundamental — but that for the past at-least-30 years have been virtually impossible to pass, despite horrific provocations like the Newtown, Aurora, and Gabby Gifford shootings and, at least for exhaustive background checks, around 90-percent support in the American population as a whole.  You want my take on it?  Funny you should ask. The gun-control debate in the United States has, at this point, virtually nothing to do with the Constitution.

Gun control  legislation is all about sex.

And to answer your next question … yes, I am quite serious.  The gun control issue, at this point, is essentially cultural, not jurisprudential.  Culture is in the saddle riding the law … rather like slavery in the antebellum Nation.  I had believed this for a few years, but a couple of days ago was gratified to discover that constitutional scholar Michael Waldman agrees with me.  In The Second Amendment:  A Biography he notes that

[i]ncreasingly, it is clear that the gun issue is not one of evidence-based public safety policy, but of culture.  The rediscovery and glorification of the Second Amendment reflects that divide … The desire to buy a gun for protection has raw emotional elements, and it certainly may reflect aspects of racial panic (especially … after the country elects an African-American president). … In parts of America … having a gun was a deeply rooted cultural tradition, part of what it meant to be a man.

Waldman’s reference to incipient “racial panic” engendered among some by the presence of a Black man in the White House is certainly well taken.  It hearkens back to antebellum and Reconstruction fears in the South, by now part of many people’s collective unconscious and by no means just in the South, of armed slaves. In that sense and to that extent, many are to this day haunted by John Brown and Harper’s Ferry.  But I would argue that, if anything, Waldman’s allusion to the historical role of guns as being part of the male rite of passage in American culture is perhaps even more relevant, especially given the additional role that guns have played in the protection of oneself and one’s community and family — all traditionally male roles. In American culture, proficiency with a gun has historically been a hallmark, even a “metric”, of a man’s “manliness,” his masculinity. Given the obvious Freudian and phallic overtones of guns vis a vis male identity, many — not all by any means, but many — men’s anxiety to and hostility toward any form of gun control legislation is merely a sublimated form of what Freud probably would have called “castration anxiety”.  (Not for nothing is the colloquial expression “shooting blanks” often used to describe a man’s reproductive potential after a vasectomy!) Gun control is a form of emasculation.  So any form of gun control legislation — any form whatsoever, however modest and reasonable — is seen — again, almost always on an unconscious level — as posing the following question to (some) men:  Excuse me, sir, what part of your genitalia could you reasonably and moderately and in a constitutionally consistent manner do without?  The obvious answer:  Absolutely none, and don’t even think about trying! 

The subliminal association of gun control and emasculation is also even more problematical when one considers how the cultural  image of men — husbands, fathers, lovers, etc. — has been devalued in American culture, really ever since the early 1960s. Yes, there have been positive images of men as husbands and fathers. TV series like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver hardly count, because they date mostly from the 1950s. (Granted, the fathers and husbands in those series were unabashedly and unapologetically patriarchal. No one would ever confuse, e.g., Ward Cleaver with Alan Alda. But the point is this:  they were invincibly competent … Yoda without the inverted-syntax speech patterns and floppy ears.)  But series like The Waltons in the 1970s did depict men as — certainly far from perfect — but often and even as a rule wise, gentle, temperate, and possessed of integrity.  Think “Ralph Waite” and the late “Will Geer” at this point. 

But, by and large, men as husbands and fathers have been far more often depicted as lovable and well-intentioned, but bumbling and, at best, only marginally competent:  harmless but hopelessly inept.  Remember, it was Dick Van Dyke, as Rob Petrie, and not Mary Tyler Moore, as Laura Petrie, who tripped over the ottoman at the beginning of every episode of the old Dick Van Dyke Show in the ’60s. (Ironically, this is also the cultural period when women were simply assumed to be subordinate to men in both political and domestic life. Also in the life of most religious communities.)  So the period when men were seen as mostly harmless but bumbling incompetents coincides with the time when the political climate was most amenable to gun-control legislation — the time, generally speaking, when Chief Justice Burger asserted that the idea of individual gun rights was a “fraud”. Men were expected to live down to these expectations, and part of that package was suppressing the obvious sexual and phallic dimensions of gun ownership and usage:  if men are indeed merely overgrown adolescents, the last thing one wants to do is put an AR-15 in their hands. (So how did literal adolescents at Columbine, in Virginia, at Newtown, and in Parkland get their hands on such weapons if that was “the last thing” we wanted? Fair question. Keep reading … ) Moreover, this period also runs in parallel with a time when other affirmations of masculinity were in decline:  getting a job (since remaining at the same company or even in the same profession for a working lifetime was becoming more difficult); marriage and family (since marriage rates were declining, along with birth rates); various religiously derived parameters (with the decline of organized religion); etc., etc. For many men, guns became one of the few remaining instruments for defining and affirming masculinity. That suppression set the stage for what we see today as backlash expressed as gross overcompensation in the form of radical hostility toward any and all proposed gun legislation:  (one more time: some, though not all) men are going to strenuous lengths to recover (what they regard as) their lost sexuality and masculinity. If Freud were still around, he probably would fulminate darkly about “the return of the repressed”.

 

The real problem, therefore, is not constitutional but cultural:  there is a scarcity, verging on complete absence, of rituals and “markers” and “metrics” whereby men are initiated into manhood, into masculinity. In fact, it would only be the mildest exaggeration to say that there are no such instruments at all that could serve as rites of passage.  (This is not to imply in any way whatsoever that the situation is any better, or even any different, for girls / women. Western culture — especially but not exclusively American culture — is historically abnormal in that respect for both sexes.)  At least for men, the Supreme Court only compounded the problem by codifying this state of affairs into law by ruling as it did in Heller and then proceeding, via McDonald, to levy that interpretation of the Second Amendment on the States as a guiding principle of gun-related jurisprudence.  Now we have the worst of both worlds. The Second Amendment serves as a kind of cultural and psychological lightning rod, attracting, and facilitating overcompensation for, men’s insecurity and anxiety about the loss of their identity as men.  Guns are to many (not all) men what the blue security blanket is to Linus in Peanuts — with the critical difference that Linus never used his security blanket to kill a couple dozen schoolkids or to slaughter movie-goers or to try to assassinate a congresswoman. Unless and until the culture evolves much more benign rituals, institutions, and rites for marking the attainment of masculinity, we will be stuck with violence, often against women, in the form of guns, domestic violence, and semi-automatic weapons being carried into Starbucks … and churches. 

Both metaphorically and literally, we will keep hearing things go Bang! in the night.

© 2018, James R. Cowles

Image credits

“Second Amendment” … Nick Youngerson / Alpha Stock Images … CC by SA 3.0
Declaration of Independence and pistol … Kaz Vorpal … CC by SA 2.0
“Stop Gun Violence” billboards … InSapphoWeTrust … CC by SA 2.0
Lady Justice committing suicide … Mike Licht CC by SA 2.0
Minuteman … Aldaron … CC by SA 2.0
“Penis-Pistol” … Dunks58 … CC by SA 3.0
Petrie family … CBS network … Public domain

Posted in The BeZine Table of Contents, TheBeZine

THE BeZINE, Vol. 4, Issue 2: Hunger, Poverty and The Working Class as Slave Labor

November 15, 2017


In the four-year history of The BeZine, this is the most significant edition. All of our concerns – peace, environmental sustainability, human rights, freedom of expression – depend on a more equal distribution of wealth, on making sure no one goes hungry and on breaking-down barriers to employment, healthcare, education and racial and gender equity.

This pyramid (courtesy of Wikipedia) reveals that:

  • half of the world’s wealth belongs to the top 1%,
  • top 10% of adults hold 85%, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth,
  • top 30% of adults hold 97% of the total wealth.

We’re all cognizant of that profile, but if you feel you’re sitting pretty and you’re not at risk, you’re employed, educated and middle class after all, you’d be well-advised to reconsider. The middle class is now – and has been for some time – dramatically challenged to find work, to acquire jobs that are fairly paid, offer stability and reasonable hours, and in the U.S., enable them to send their children to college.

The implications of a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, the oligarchs and mega-corporations, are horrendous. Not the least is the undermining of democracy. Those who vote for and support the oligarchs because they think that’s where their security lies are victims of propaganda and bound for disappointment. The shadow of catastrophe (not too strong a word) that hangs over us is not due to the poor or the “other” who doesn’t look like us, worship the same God, or speak the same language, but to the 1%.  Huxley was disconcertingly prescient.


This month our core team and guest contributors create a picture that beckons and behoves us to abandon stereotypes and propaganda about the poor, to recognize slave labor in its most absolute terms (human trafficking and prison labor) and more subtly in the conditions faced by workers at almost all levels of the corporate pyramid. We are called to ethically source the products we buy, to study our history, to bravely speak out against injustice and stupidity and, by implication, to shine a light on best-practices, those programs, services and unofficial efforts in your city/town, region or country that are helping and that can easily be implemented anywhere in the world. (You can share these with everyone via our Facebook discussion group.)

Beginning with Juli’s impassioned editorial, The Exponential Demise of Our Well-being, and moving to our BeAttitudes: John Anstie’s powerful Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy; Corina Ravenscraft’s and Trace Lara Hentz’ thoughtful invitations to awareness; Phillip T. Stephens on prison injustice; Sue Dreamwalker’s encouragement to see the homeless as fully human (and she connects us with homeless poets and artists in England); and Joe Hesch’s honest exploration of self, we are called to responsibly participate in history.

We present a memoir from Renee Espriu and a short story from Joe Hesch this month. These are followed by yet another stellar poetry collection from poets around the world, including work by core-team members: Charles W. Martin and John Anstie.

New to our pages, a warm welcome to: Juli [Juxtaposed], Sue Dreamwalker, Michael Odiah, Evelyn Augusto, Michele Riedele, Irene Emmanuel and bogpan. We welcome work from among our previous and regular contributors: Paul Brookes, Trace Lara Hentz, Renee Espriu, Sonja Benskin Mescher, Denise Fletcher, Phillip T. Stephens, R.S. Chappell, Rob Cullen and Mark Heathcote.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,
Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor, The BeZine


HUNGER, POVERTY and THE WORKING CLASS AS SLAVE LABOR

How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:

Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


EDITORIAL

The Exponential Demise of Our Wellbeing, Juli [Juxtaposed]

BeATTITUDES

Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy, John Anstie
Change Your View and Your View Changes, Corina Ravenscraft
‘Til the Jails Are Empty, Phillip T. Stephens
Blessed Be, Lara Trace Hentz
Homeless, Sue Dreamwalker
Ramble Tramble, Joseph Hesch

MEMOIR

Meeting Poverty, Renee Espriu

SHORT SHORT STORY

And Crown Thy Good, Joseph Hesch

POETRY

As if …, John Anstie

Carolina Oriole, Evelyn Augusto

Ecomium, bogpan

Crow Share, Paul Brookes
Means Tester, Paul Brookes
A Hunger, Paul Brookes
The Good Employer’s Manifesto, Paul Brookes

Bitter limp fruit, Rob Cullen
Life in complicated times, Rob Cullen

Empty Pocket, R.S. Chappell
War Over Hunger, R.S. Chappell

proud at unjustified margins, Jamie Dedes
an accounting, Jamie Dedes

A Thread of Hope, Denise Fletcher

Dustbowl, Mark Heathcote
Humanitarian help worker, Mark Heathcote

Togetherness, Irene Immanuel

a slave’s mentality, Charles W. Martin

#ice&mud, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Nautilus, Michele Riedel

Life, Michael Odiah

EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED,
ALL WORKS IN “THE BeZINE” ©2017 BY THE AUTHOR / CREATOR


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Blessed Be


“Every five seconds a child under ten dies from hunger, 57 000 people every day, a billion are severely malnourished, and this is happening on a planet that is overflowing with wealth and that could actually feed twelve billion people.” We Let the Third World Starve – The Disaster Can Be Stopped : Jean Ziegler


Tis the season of thanks, counting our blessings and, with a new year approaching, it’s time for us to take stock of what works and what doesn’t.

There seems to be more wrong than right.

You know what deeply bothers me?

Indecency.

There are damaged humans in this world that hurt other people and the environment without a conscience. Whether they do it with malice or with ignorance, it still hurts humanity and our planet home.
There are some among us who will destroy lives and lands for profit, and that’s indecent to me.
Greed is hugely indecent, and immoral.  We draft laws in America to protect us from privateers who are so greedy they can’t stop themselves.

Like the oil and gas extraction companies.
Like the Big Banks, too big to fail.
Like the mining giants headed to the Arctic.
Like those ready to exterminate today’s Indigenous people in the Amazon to extinction.
Like those who run for-profit industries like medical services, insurance companies, hospitals and pharmaceuticals – their callous attitude is indecent.
When profit is more important than their patients, then we all should react and revolt and resist.

Today, every day, a new disaster.
“… apply Naomi Klein’s concepts of the “shock doctrine” and “disaster capitalism” to it.  When such disasters occur, there are always those who seek to turn a profit.” William Astore wrote in 2013 for Common Dreams.

“Forever war is forever profitable.” Astor surmised, “War, in other words, is settled by killing, a bloody transaction that echoes the exploitative exchanges of capitalism.”

All wars are banker’s wars, I’ve blogged.  Someone somewhere is making money. They might use scarcity, starvation, food insecurity, slavery, human trafficking and poverty as their weaponry.  Every war is about gathering minerals or oil or water or land… whoever dies is a casualty of war, of empire.  Yemen and Pine Ridge are two examples.

There is no doubt that greed poisons the mind and robs the poor. If we do not pay attention, we’re utterly doomed to a repeating cycle of suffering and slavery.

In 2012 I posted this interview with brilliant Czech economist Tomas Sedlacek: Greed is the Beginning of Everything (and will kill us): https://wp.me/p1h2Kc-PH

It’s time for a revolution evolution.


Jesus started a revolution with the evolution of the heart. I always come back to his words:
Sermon on the Mount each begins with:
Blessed are..
…the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:3)
…those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
…the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be satisfied. (5:6)
…the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
…the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
…the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
…those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)
And my 2014 prose:
The Arctic
They are going to SHELL it
They are going to EXXON it and BP it
They bought the politicians
They bought the votes
They brought the catastrophe
They brought the end…

© 2017, Trace Lara Hentz

Feathery Song

1. The story I’m about to tell,
is much like that of Beast and Belle,
except in mine she was the bête
who made all those who saw her sweat.
So take your drinks and gather round,
and hush – make not another sound
but listen to the tale of old
remained, until tonight, untold.
***
2. Lang syne, in some forgotten land,
under a mighty king’s command,
up on a mountain, close to skies,
there lived a hermit, old and wise.
He spoke to animals and trees,
to stars and to the evening breeze,
he fed on berries, mushrooms, nuts,
and slept in leafage-woven huts.

3. One morning, in a glade, he found
a stranded hamper, small and round.
Within it, to his own surprise,
he heard a newborn baby’s cries,
so shyly he approached the creel
to hush the little baby’s squeal,
but when he looked inside, he winced
dismayed by what he saw, convinced

4. that only hell itself could birth
such horror on the face of earth:
a shapeless face, with just one eye…
an askew mouth…and limbs so wry
that one could hardly deem them arms…
or legs…not one of infants’ charms…
The hermit wished to run away
but felt within that he should stay –

5. the cries had stopped. The little freak
just stared at him, so small and weak,
and suddenly the hermit’s heart
was thawed, his fears were torn apart.
He leaned over the baby’s nest,
he looked at her, her face caressed
and took her in his arms – next thing
a bird above began to sing.

6. The hermit took the child along
and nursed her, taught her right and wrong,
he fed her, dressed her, raised her well
forgetting of her ugly shell.
The girl grew up, became mature,
her heart so wonderfully pure,
her singing voice unearthly fair,
but looking worse than devil’s heir.

7. One day, aware his end was near,
the hermit called his daughter dear
and told her all: how she’d been found
within that basket on the ground,
how wrongfully afraid he’d been
‘cause of the ugliness he’d seen,
and how his whole life had been graced
by her existence, soft and chaste.

8. He also told her he would die,
and that the scythe of death was nigh,
that she should leave the mountain side
and find a convent where to hide –
you see, the hermit knew too well
that only nuns would not expel
a being such as her, and hence
he wished to shield her from offence.

9. But lassie here was also wise,
and past the hermit’s swift demise
she sewed herself a feathered mask,
determined, should the people ask,
to tell them she would not expose
her face but to the one who chose
to see her soul and not her face,
her heart, and not her earthly case.

10. So down the mountain then she went
and many days indeed she spent
well hidden by the mask she’d made,
but found that people were afraid
to look behind it. Not just once
they acted like some worthless dunce
and sneered at her in vicious ways,
harassing her for nights and days.

11. She kept on trying for a while
despite them being crude and vile,
she hoped they’d change and understand,
but saw she wasted precious sand
on bootless actions. By and by,
too disappointed by her try,
she chose to shut herself within
an old abandoned wooden inn.

12. She locked the gates behind her, cried
and swore to never go outside
again, as long as she would live –
to not forget, and not forgive.
Her heartache slowly grew, and grew,
her faith grew weak, her hope did too,
and only sometimes, in the night,
she sang again, to soothe her blight.

13. Through years, the people from around
bore rumors of the charming sound
that flew, sometimes, towards the skies,
but no one knew who sang, surmis-
ing that there really must have been
some angel from above, unseen,
and oft, the people all night long
stood up, to listen to the song.
***
14. Along the river shores, back then,
there used to walk a blind young man
aside a dog. The folk he passed
by pitied him, sometimes they cast
an eye over the clothes he wore,
for he seemed noble to the core
when talking, but was dressed in tat –
so what could someone make of that?!

15. He heard, like any other chuff,
that song, and one time was enough
for him to wish to find the one
whose voice was like a midnight sun.
So every night the voice would sing
he drew up closer to its spring,
helped by his dog – and whereupon
before the inn he stood one dawn.

16. He knocked, and called, and begged, and prayed,
and at those gates he waited, stayed,
he listened, doubted, hoped and feared,
until one day the girl appeared,
the mask upon her face again.
She looked at him all silent, then
she asked him what he wished to speak.
He said: “It’s you the one I seek.

17. I know it’s you who sings at night,
though, as you see, I have no sight.
I have no knowledge of your name
it wouldn’t matter all the same
if I knew that. I also won’t
attempt to lie to you – I don’t
have money, riches, treasures, gold.
I had them once, but then I sold

18. entirely my wealth, and spent
up to the last dime when I went
all blind. So, as you see, I’m poor.
The only blessing and, for sure,
the only friend I have as yet,
is this old dog. So please, don’t fret!
The only thing I want would be
for you to let me stay with thee!

19. I only need a nook to sleep
and that the dog you let me keep.
You need not worry ‘bout my bread
or anything at all. Instead,
I want to listen to your voice
whenever singing is your choice –
because, you see, it’s in your sound
that I my bliss in life have found!”

20. She let him say his say, all still,
while he appealed for her goodwill,
and when he finished she replied:
“Do you, at least, know why I hide?!
I’ve been rejected by the folk.
In front of me they simply choke
because I’m ugly. I’m a freak!
They fear so much they cannot speak

21. a word to me. So after tries
and tries while being in disguise,
I realized I couldn’t live
‘mongst ones who’ve nothing else to give
than hate and scorn and wickedness.
They value much the face and dress
and I have none of those. So why
should I believe that you don’t lie?!”

22. “Some can be sly – but don’t you see
How beautiful you are to me?!
Cannot you tell, from all you’ve seen,
That I’m as true as they are mean?
I have no eyes to view your face.
To me your song’s the only grace
I need to deem you queen of mine,
as bright as all the stars that shine.

23. I do not care what people say.
You’re ugly?! How much fairer they?!
You’re poor?! How rich their empty souls?
How maggoty their social roles?
You’re free to cast me out, I know.
I have no other way to show
that what I say to you’s sincere.
I can but hope you’ll keep me near.”

24. Persuaded by his strong resolve
she thought that things may not evolve
as badly as she held first glance,
and brought herself to take her chance.
A while it all unfolded well,
at least from what they both could tell –
they ate together, talked and laughed
she sang, he knit the words with craft,

25. they seemed to dovetail, all in all.
But one day, something did befall:
at dawn, when getting up from bed
upon his eyes a warm light spread,
and suddenly he came aware
that he could see again quite fair,
and ran to her without delay.
Alas though! to his own dismay,

26. she wore no mask when he came in.
He felt the earth around him spin
and though he feigned detachment, she
could feel his nausea flowing free.
She smiled a bitter smile to him,
aware his love was growing dim,
then turned and left him in that room
and walked away. Despite the gloom,

27. she somehow felt she’d been released,
freed from the bane to be a beast.
A sudden calm laid hold of her
and all the prior acrid stir
dissolved within a moment’s flight.
She sensed that things were setting right,
and then a little voice inside
spoke soft that no more she should hide.

28. She donned her mask and hat and coat
and on a piece of paper wrote
a line or two, to let him know
the vicinage where she might go.
Then out the door she went, aware
that people all around would stare
with awkward eyes – for how could they
ignore her presence in their way?

29. They could, to say the very least,
refer to “beauty and the beast”
when whispering of “him” and “her” –
how could they not?…A subtle blur
wrapped up her gaze…She felt the sting
of doubt…but more than anything,
she knew she had to face her fears
and take that step. Too many years

30. had passed since she had hid behind
those walls, so that no one could find
the path towards her wounded core…
But she won’t hide there anymore.
So, hoping he would understand,
she firmly took herself in hand
and slowly walked outside the door –
so says the tale from times of yore.

31. She paced with measured steps the trail
that led to people in that vale,
ignoring bushes, shrubs and trees,
the birds, the sun and morning’s breeze.
Her heartbeats knotted in her throat,
she wrapped up better in her coat,
pretending that the thrills she sensed
were just her flesh’s thrust against

32. the early hour’s frost. Quite soon
the path with painful flashbacks strewn
enwidened at the hamlet’s gate.
Another step…the seconds’ weight
felt like a rock upon her chest.
The memories she had repressed
were coming back to life again –
the people’s horror and disdain

33. though passed, kept harrowing her soul.
She stepped again…her body whole
refused to move ahead. She sighed,
she blinked to push the haze aside
and stepped inside the village. Then,
in front of her, a few old men
put down their work and raised their eyes
to look at her with raw surprise.

34. Around her, space began to form.
Just like the calm before a storm
the people fixed her, silent, cold,
since there was nothing to be told
to hide how they could not but feel.
Each glance of theirs – a new ordeal…
She slowly walked amidst the crowd,
their glares as sombre as a shroud,

35. and then she wanted to discard
the mask. Her figure, sorely marred,
appeared then in the morning’s light,
but thrilled with horror at her sight,
the peasants cringed away from her
and in the middle of the stir
they tried to knock her down. Appalled,
she ebbed away, then fell and crawled

36. unable to resist their thrust.
But when her blood caressed the dust
she turned her gaze towards the sky
and mutely prayed that she would die
thus being spared the slashing pain.
And lo! Her plea was not in vain,
for in the very eyes of men
she changed into a bird, and then

37. she flew into the forest’s shade.
The people, suddenly afraid
of what they did, fled from the place
and ran towards their homes apace.
An awkward silence grew instead,
and on the ground, now stained with red,
as if to mark the very spot,
remained the mask as bloody blot.
***
38. Back at the inn, and later on,
our lad, when seeing she’d been gone,
felt guilty and ashamed again
when grasping the amount of pain
he’d brought on her. Abashed and bleak
he quickly went outside to seek
her out, he searched the place around,
but she was nowhere to be found.

39. Aggrieved about her having left,
among the trees he rushed bereft
and shortly reached inside the vill.
Along his spine an icy thrill
crept snakishly and made him twirl
and all his thoughts began to swirl
when finding fallen on the ground
the feathered mask she’d worn around.

40. That moment knowledge came to him
that something violently grim
must have occurred.. He looked about
and saw that people didn’t flout
the way they usually did.
Behind each wooden window grid
he noticed eyes that mirrored fear,
and what had passed was all too clear.

41. He threw a silent awful glare
and turned his back on them, aware
that if he were to find her trace
into the woods he’d have to pace.
So wasting not another blink
he parted and began to sink
into the thicket. Off and on
he peered at heavens, pale and wan,

42. foreboding that by even fall
she would be lost for good and all.
Eventually in a glade
he ceased his wandering and stayed,
he looked around again, he sighed
and on his face the mask he tied
to feel her closer. Then, with woe,
he voiced his overwhelming throe:

43. “I know I failed you! I was wrong
to put my fears above your song!
I erred – but now I want to mend!
From now my faith no more will bend!
So please, forgive me and return!
I know your trust I’ll have to earn,
so one more chance I ask of you
to prove myself as being true!”

44. But nothing happened…not a sound
among the trees or on the ground.
A heavy silence shrouded him
and sorrow filled him to the brim,
for time was passing, hope was frail,
his efforts seemed of no avail,
and night was almost there. Resigned,
he wished he could again go blind

45. for although now his eyes could see
his heart was left without its glee
and life seemed hollow, mean and bare,
so to the sky he raised his prayer
to be with her, whatever cost
he’d have to pay, for he felt lost
without her being to the fore –
his heart was bleak, his soul was sore.

46. All of a sudden, in an oak
a small bird perched whereas he spoke.
While he beheld it there aloft
a tender feeling, warm and soft,
took hold of him, and he inferred
that what he saw as tiny bird
could only be his lady fair
who called his presence in the air.

47. He started humming low, arose
and felt a tingling in his toes,
but wouldn’t let her out of sight
for fear she’d vanish in the night.
While moving closer to the tree
the tingling spread within one knee
and then the other one, and soon
amazement made his murmur swoon:

48. a pair of wings, quite small but strong,
replaced his arms. As for his song,
it turned into a splendid lay
that spoke of love fallen astray.
The forest hadn’t heard before
a trill so moving to the core,
and nature hushed to lend its ears
to yonder sound of woe and tears.

49. As night grew deeper, through the gloom
the only thing that bode in bloom
remained that ever richer song,
which filled the forest all night long.
At dawn the sun caressed the trees.
The morning wind – a playful tease –
found not one trace of man or bird
and no more song could there be heard.

50. Since then, the people from that site
could only hear the song at night.
The tale was wiped out from their mind –
the ugly girl and young man blind
remained just “dreams within a dream”
both real and fake, as it may seem.
As for the bird within our tale,
we call it simply “nightingale”.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

From Rags Through Race to Ragtime: A revealing portrait of a little-know 19th Century Charlestonian

What did I do to be so black and blue?
– Fats Waller song.

Racism remains endemic to twenty-first-century America. Its origins can be traced back to the days of slavery. Its repercussions reverberate throughout today’s society with African-American people today earning less than white people on average, and the increasing militancy of the police towards black citizens.

Both American and international public were appalled by the black church shooting in June 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were shot and killed in a hate crime. Once a bustling seventeenth-century slave port with its ruling plantation aristocracy, it seems that little in the way of race relations in Charleston has changed except that slavery is now illegal. Though none of the 73 lynchings that took place in the state of South Carolina between 1882 and 1900 happened in Charleston, this is not to say that the city was not and is not segregated and unequal.

Yet during the 1890s Charleston was the home of a band of young African-American musicians, led by a black Minister, whose lives were not limited by racism in the repressive and violent Jim Crow South. Many of these musicians are big names in the Jazz world today – Cat Anderson, Freddie Green, Jabbo Smith, and Julian Dash, to name just a few. Race relations and music are inextricably interlinked in the US South and many powerful links between the two are to be found if you look beneath the surface of racism.

Reverend Daniel Jenkins was the Pastor of the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptists church, and owned a timber business in Charleston. One evening in December 1891, Jenkins was stacking wood when he discovered four black orphans huddled underneath, hiding from the cold bitter weather. Jenkins took them into his home, despite having four children of his own and his wife to feed. As more black orphans, boys and girls, arrived at his home, he wished to establish something more permanent.

Jenkins rented 600 King Street for a short time as a makeshift orphanage, and the state granted him a charter to start the Orphan Aid society in July 1892. The city of Charleston had donated to the white Charleston Orphan House, the first municipal orphanage in the US opened in 1790, for over a century, and Jenkins hoped they would assist him. Yet the council only donated a meagre one-off $50 donation.

Unsurprisingly, the orphanage remained underfunded by the city, while the two white orphanages were supported generously. In 1900 the state spent five times more on white education than it did on blacks, and by 1915 this spending difference had increased to 12:1 in favour of white education. Reverend Jenkins had to find the money to look after his ‘black lambs’, as he referred to them, in a more creative way.

His response was to appeal to the people of Charleston to send unwanted instruments to the orphanage, with the aim of hiring musicians to teach the children how to play so they could earn money by busking. The children’s ill-fitting uniforms were castoffs from the South Carolina Military College taken out of a rubbish bin. Jenkins himself described how ‘little fellows are swallowed up in large coats, and large boys squeezed into small ones.’
Jenkins hired ‘Hatsie’ Logan and Francis Eugene Mikell to teach music. Over time Jenkins and these teachers came to use the musical training of the children to self-fund the Orphanage, lessening their reliance on charitable donations and white sympathies.

Jenkins was greatly influenced by the racial uplift views of Booker T. Washington and his Tuskegee Institute, and wanted his orphans to have similar practical skills that would give them a chance of earning a career. One Jenkins graduate, Tommy Bedford, recalled how the orphans learnt shoe-making and tailoring in the fashion of Washington, but were taught how to read music before anything else. Orphanage resident Elizabeth Carter revealed:

We really used to enjoy being around each other at Jenkins Orphanage, especially playing music. When the teachers were around, we would play the music as it was written on the board, just like they had taught us. But at night, we would have a jam session like you wouldn’t believe!

Orphanage life was not easy. William ‘Cat’ Anderson, who went on to play trumpet with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra in the 1940s, recalls how one teacher brought a brick into class and said he would throw it at the first boy who made a mistake.

This image of Rev Daniel Jenkins’ band is from http://www.jeffreygreen.co.uk

 

Yet the orphans that Jenkins raised were saved from a life on the streets that might well have included crime and violence, and they took on a new identity that was both African and American. Throughout his lifetime, Reverend Daniel Jenkins moved his society and his orphans towards progress and self-help. The Jenkins Orphanage Band encouraged white people’s interest in black music, and formed intimacies between the races even during an age of segregation. As a black man playing to the white supremacist system, in the face of racism Jenkins successfully used the social uplift philosophies of Washington and new black leaders to create an institute which gave young black children a future to live for. He used the fear of black crime to encourage white donations, utilised the musical training of the children to largely self-fund the orphanage, and helped create an innovative musical style through the African traits of syncopation and improvisation inherent in the children’s genes. No other southern black American orphanage of its time produced as many outstanding musicians. This has been sadly overlooked in the wake of New Orleans’ Jazz recording industry. The band’s popularity ensured black music was heard and not dismissed in a white world.

Charleston hangs onto its past, its antebellum days as the most important southern seaport. It has a terrible history of slavery, of great pain and racial repression, yet the musical and social legacy of the Jenkins Orphanage and its director gives them something to be very proud of. Found hiding in Charleston’s dusty archives and amongst the memories of its charming backstreets is its great history of music and hope. Burton Peretti is correct in asserting ‘the story of Jazz’s rise in African-American culture [is] a triumph within an unexpected tragedy.’ Daniel Jenkins’ triumph for the good of black society against the tragic backdrop of the Jim Crow South should not be forgotten in the wake of today’s tragedies.

And to round things off, please enjoy this delightful piece from the band in 1928 …

© 2016, Emily Grace Needle

Emily graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in July 2016 from Newcastle University. Her main interest lies in American social and cultural 22522295_10214715697871256_1167720171_ohistory, in particular how themes of music and race intersected in the Southern States of nineteenth-century USA. During the summer of 2015, Emily travelled down the East coast of America, researching the Jenkins Orphanage Band, the core of which formed her undergraduate dissertation. Also a member of and volunteer with the human rights organisation Journey to Justice, Emily sings in the chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices, and in a mixed voice barbershop quartet, Needle & Fred. She has a love of music and theatre.

 

Wentworth Cantata

I was very excited and proud to be involved in a concert twelve months ago, with local volunteers, in celebration of a very beautiful landscape and its design.

Inside the Conservatory, after the performance Photo: Brian Parkhurst

I was commissioned by Peter Clegg, the Learning & Community Engagement Officer of Wentworth Castle Gardens Heritage Trust, to produce this piece, Wentworth Cantata. The commission was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the CB300 festival. It had its premiere in the newly restored Victorian Conservatory at Wentworth Castle Gardens on the 16th October 2017, as part of the Voices of the Landscape project in collaboration with the Barnsley Writers and Penistone Poets.

The concert itself featured a storyboard of wonderful poetry and narrations, punctuated by extracts of my score for bass guitar and bass voice.

Mapping the score and the six-string bass guitar Photo: John Anstie

My ideas for Wentworth Cantata began as visual sketches rather than musical notation. An interest in the Capability Brown inspired modelling of the landscape and the architecture of the building itself led me to an alternative way of displaying material for the performers.

The score consists of lines and shapes traced directly from large scale maps of the area surrounding Wentworth Castle. The performer is free to create their own journey through the hypothetical landscape using the 14 ‘micro’ pieces which can be manipulated in various ways and played in any order.

Just as the architecture of the building is made up of multiple wings which were built at different times over recent centuries, several of the sections are taken from musical works of the past which correspond to the dates of the buildings. The voice part consists of both spoken and sung material in ballad form which gives a narrative consistency to the work. I commissioned the text from John Anstie, who was also the vocalist for this project. The ballad, originally titled “Underneath The Stairs”, which runs through the whole performance is HERE.

You can see the individual fragments from the various compositions labelled adjacent to each module on the score, as well as an example of how the landscape is abstractly translated onto the page.

Wentworth Cantata Composn
Photo: Joseph Shaw

Future extensions of Voices of the Landscape will hopefully include more performances at Wentworth Castle itself (perhaps in the gardens… weather permitting!) a published book containing poems from the project along with my score and finally, a project involving the software ‘Google Maps’ to pin audio to areas of landscape for the public to explore digitally.

This project was hugely rewarding and being able to stand beside my work, included in the exhibition after the concert, rounded off the achievement.

Here is Joe Shaw’s edit, a brief extract, from the full recording of the Wentworth Cantata: –

Joe Shaw Bio Pic
Photo: Emily Needle

(This article was originally published in Joe’s own blog on December 14, 2016

© 2016, Joseph Alen Shaw
(All rights reserved)

Joseph Shaw – composer, bass guitarist and arranger:

Joseph Shaw is a composer, performer and arranger based in Sheffield. He has had music performed and/or recorded in the UK and across Europe by ensembles including the Aber:ri Duo, Absolution Saxophone Quartet, Angeli Che Cantano, BBC Singers, Deventer Wind Quintet, Fox Valley Voices, Inyerface Arts, Jabeliah Saxophone Quartet, Manchester Camerata, Psappha, Meraki Duo, RNCM Brand New Orchestra, RNCM Contemporary Music Society, the RNCM New Music Ensemble, Sheffield Music Academy Chamber Orchestra.

As a bass guitarist, he has been active on the music scene in Sheffield for over a decade and continues to perform with several bands as well as freelancing regularly for school productions and recording sessions.

Joseph holds a Bachelor with Honours degree from the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied under the tutelage of Dr Larry Goves.

Peace in the Desert

English: Leaving traces on soft sand dunes in ...

Peace reigns in this treeless desert of quiet.
Here I don’t worry about the philosophical
or metaphysical question of a falling oak,
redwood, or even a palm if I don’t wish to.
Many will never understand my affinity
for the neatness of the seemingly
dust-cursed and barren wastes of alone.
I don’t mind. The desert protects its own.
Always shifting, always the winds of time
giving me new geography to chronicle
and erasing the needless old steps,
always the sound of my own voice
when I wish to listen to it.

And there are plenty of others here.
Just very, very far apart.

My wanderings have crossed paths
with some of these nomads
and I have fallen in with another.
Sometimes we go off, each of us alone,
to listen to the desert,
take comfort in its cleanliness
of thought and deed and spirit.
We always seem to come back
to share our discoveries
and keep one another warm on cold nights
of what once was just one voice,
one heartbeat wandering
in that wind and the blessed quiet.

© 2017, Joseph Hesch; photo credit – Luca Galuzzi under CC BY-SA 2.5 license

Another Note in an Endless Melody

On March 18, 2013, a decade after the Iraq invasion, The Columbus Herald Ledger printed soldiers’ recollections of their first Iraq tours. These accounts are loosely based on those recollections. All three voluntarily returned for a second tour.


Digital art by Phillip T. Stephens Background texture by Billy Alexander
Digital art by Phillip T. Stephens
Background texture by Billy Alexander

Afghanistan’s Just Another Note
in an Endless Melody

(An American haibun [1] )

Security

Palmer and I drive 24 hours straight. On dusty roads. Grit crusts our crotches, cracks, armpits, teeth. The minute we report, they dispatch us to highway patrol. No time for coffee, cigarette or a piss. Grab gear and go. We’re on patrol maybe fifteen minutes, a toothless haji staggers down the center of the highway. No shirt, holes in his pants, one sandal hanging by a strap, hands empty. Raised like white flags. Palmer steps onto the shoulder; I can’t pull him back. Haji drops. An RPG follows his path, flips Palmer. A six-foot arc. Toothless rolls to the far shoulder, leaps up and scrams. Bullets swarm the squad like hornets from a burning nest. I duck behind an abandoned car. A second grenade punches into the gas tank. I dive into the sand beating the fireball by a second. Wake in the hospital, bathed in sunlight, my leg in a cast from ankle to hip. An officer shows up. Doesn’t even look in my file for my name. “You’re flying home, soldier. Recovery leave.” I asked about Palmer. “He’s flying too.” No eye contact. I knew then that they’d be sending Palmer cargo.

In a village graveyard, in the steaming

summer rain, a priest consoled

a widow weeping at her

husband’s stone. A tear because

he perished, a flower for her love.

Her face in pain. He touched her arm

to share a word of tenderness.

 

First Wave

Our M113 crossed the Iraqi border at midnight. HQ deployed us as the invasion’s first pawns. The Republican Guard scattered like spider monkeys during the firefights. One night, while our tracers chased the cowards across the sand, I pumped my fist, poked Baker in the ribs. “At this rate, we’ll be in Iraq by Sunday,” I shouted over the noise of the explosions. Baker didn’t answer. Couldn’t answer. He couldn’t answer because he had no head to answer with. He stood perfectly straight, a mess of gristle and spine sticking above his shoulders. After a couple of months, in the Red Zone, Johny Jihad learned how to lure convoys down narrow streets and pick them off. So, it was August, like six months after they said the war would end in shock and awe and we’d be back home polishing off six-packs in our porch swings, and our convoy’s front track lifted its nose, like a horse rearing on hind legs. Six maybe seven bodies spilled into the fleeing crowd. The Bradley at the tail went next, a rocket through the engine block tipping it onto the sidewalk. Cash, our driver, plowed through the wreckage, the rest of us crouching close to the floor and firing over the side. Norton fired the top gun at anything moving. Back at the base, I couldn’t light my Camel, my hand shook the lighter so hard. That was when I started thinking of my college engineering classes as weekends at Disneyland.

“He died in a noble cause.

He gave his life for you and me.”

She seized his words,

spit in mud, cursed such

generosity.

“Your petty wars are not

the will of God. He gave no

sanction. Nor is there need.

And if you want to tell me

otherwise, please offer

your excuses to the dead.”

 

Sand gets in your eyes

One hundred twenty degrees with the breeze. On that first day in April, I had no way of knowing we’d suffer in the heat so long. I spent three-months suffering with heat and bug bites before I’d feel air conditioning. They gave me a cushy post. I coordinated battlefield positions. That cushy job didn’t keep me out of combat. One time a sandstorm trapped our convoy. We were three miles outside a sinkhole called As Samawa, sixteen vehicles on a highway that had so many pockmarks it could have been a teenager’s face. The advance slowed until we creeped along at an inch and hour. We couldn’t even see to the shoulder. LT dispatched Parker and Dial to scout. They wrestled with the wind, and disappeared into the brown sky. When they didn’t report back I looked for them. I fought the wind for an hour. Even with a muffler the storm sandblasted the skin on my face. I finally sat on a sandbag for a smoke and a snack. A chocolate bar. The storm faded as quickly as it started. I glanced down, discovered my sandbag was Parker’s body.

You priests of a jealous God,

you prophets of Democracy,

do you ever take a moment

to explain that corpses do not

drink Christ’s blood, corpses

do not vote. They turn to mud

beneath the earth and rain.

 

©2017 Phillip T. Stephens

 


 

[1] The Japanese haibun combines a paragraph with a poem (in its strictest form, haiku). Each haibun requires a title and the paragraph must be composed in first person. The poetry and paragraphs can be combined in any variation.

Michael Rothenberg and Mitko Gogov

 


Morning News


Michael Rothenberg

Hold me back!

Lord,

wherever
you are,

Michael Rothenberg photo
Michael Rothenberg
@2015 Michael Dickel

if you are,
give me

the will
to keep

my mouth
shut.

 


The Forgotten Retort between Two Gazes


Mitkko Gogov
Translation from Macedonian by Aleksandar Mitovski

And so we role-play clockmaker and time
Both with hammers aimed at mutiny’s head
And a clock is a bigger bastard than both man and everlasting sun
As we forget burnt words and human dust

Ugly tongues and nasty minds
They drag the lent of the soul

The inner voice doesn’t (ever) go out,
Like angels’ dander or hell’s gasoline it just booms
Skip the small lightning bolts
Twist the lowest mountains
The force of forever would, like a mother to her son,
Bind
And barely ever
Alienate
In the rood of our heads
Like snails
We hide our true home
Not realizing that the slime of our soul
Leaves traces of disquiet in our sleep

We keep the stars in our hands,
Why is it when we throw them
They strike like heavenly boulders?

Stones have learned to resound
Yet our dulled hearing needs to wake up!

Both fire and abyss alike
Are eternal
Just like our pensive, darling souls
Just like a shard in marbles, when our bell breaks
We are of piercing glass, yet
Troubled as the soul remembers
But knows not to reciprocate

We’re birds that have decided to build their own cage,
We sing of the freedom we’ve created
But the space in which we act is
Barely as large as our wingspan is

Be the river that desires to break through the cold
And the ice of the mountain whose home is winter

We all want to see the whole
We all want to be a part of someone’s whole
We want to add to the whole, bid for it,
Increase it, make it rich

Or
Cripple it without realizing

As we don’t grasp we’re nothing but cutouts
A square on a Rubik’s cubepersevering, searching for its match
On the other side of the cube
We’re seemingly moving in a circle
Rolling all over the globe like a stolen bobbin of yarn
From grandma’s old chest.

We leave our people like
Forgotten church bells in our soul
Though we’d like their thoughts to echo
But you’d only hear the blood of your words
And angels pacing on the cobblestone road
Leaving without making a sound,
With a touch ingrained in us like a scar from child’s play
Like a mother’s hand holding a teaspoon of soup
Like a father’s lesson of how to chop kindling
Without losing a finger

We cut and we carve, but the truth can’t be carved,
Because, if we do, it will carve us back
And bury us six feet under
Even though we never brewed enough coffee
Even though we never leaped over enough bonfires
Even though we lied when we said that spirits came but we summoned witches
And the fairies choose our shadows as their mates
No, our shadows, like us, would rather hide in verses
And battle quietly for their hidden lives.

We’d rather be snow: white, clean, untarnished,
But you can’t keep snow in a jar, it won’t sit still,
Neither will love
Trapped, lonely, not shown, framed.

Love floats alone in a frame, like a cross-stitch
Of a woman spinning yarn as her wool is coming to an end.

Let’s make our minds ascent in a global fire
And resurrect the enchanted souls.

A forgotten retort between two gases
(therefore)

Please leave me
Leave my
Predicaments be

It’s not the time in which
The soil on its own and
By its own volition
Did turn over
And roll over

We all move,
Twist, roll over,
As we live we do not remember
Or notice,
While we’re dead
‘we do not eavesdrop
As others gossip about us’
And
Probably all spine issues are gone.

Leave the world be, darling,

It is not a part of you
Can’t you see in your naiveté, how,
Through your breath of lunacy they pass you by
They skip right over you
They won’t even cough anymore?
Leave the trams, darling,
In them fewer wishes are travelling these days

Mitko Gogov photo
Mitko Gogov
©2015 Michael Dickel

Towards you,
Inside you,
Next to you,
No more hands reaching out
No more raised voices

—we drown in our own outcry

We hope that hope as our last refuge
Will pay our debts
Will turn off the light
And in the end

Just like us all
Will leave
And go

To hell.

 


Michael Rothenberg has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 37 years but recently moved to Tallahassee. He is a poet, painter, songwriter, and editor of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry and everything else. In 2011 he and Terri Carrion co-founded the global poetry movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

His songs have appeared in Hollywood Pictures’ Shadowhunter and Black Day, Blue Night, and most recently, TriStar Pictures’ Outside Ozona. Other songs have been recorded on CDs including: Bob Malone‘s The Darkest Part of The Night (Caught Up in Christmas) and Bob Malone (Raydaddy’s Blues), Difficult Woman by Renee Geyer, Global Blues Deficit by Cody Palance, The Woodys by The Woodys, and Schell Game by Johnny Lee Schell.

His poetry books and broadsides are archived at the University of Francisco, and are held in the Special Collection libraries of Brown University, Claremont Colleges, University of Kansas, the New York Public Library, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and UC-Santa Cruz.


Mitko Gogov lives in Macedonia, where he writes poetry, short stories, essays and journalism. He writes haiku, senriu, renga which he publishes occasionally in the micro blogosphere twitter, but once published in London by Yoko Ono as well. His work so far has been present and translated in several anthologies, collections and journals for literature and art in India, Pakistan, Philippines, USA, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Check Republic, Germany, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria … He’s current with his first collection “Ice Water” published in 2011. in Serbia, and in 2014 issued in Macedonia, in the edition “Fires” for the publishing house “Antolog”, supported by the Ministry of culture.

As conceptual artist with several exhibitions, installations, performances, scenery, short movies and multimedia projects he participated in a few international group exhibitions and projects in Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, France, Norway and Italy.

He is President of the Association for Cultural Development and Protection of Cultural Heritage “Kontext – Strumica” and organizer of the international movement and festival “100 Thousand poets for change” in Macedonia, Strumica. He is also the CEO & founder of the internet portal strumicaonline.net and one of the editors at the ezine for culture and literature in Macedonia, reper.net.mk. He organizes many other cultural and art events, collaborating with youth, art, film and theater festivals.

As youth trainer he provides different creativity workshops, such as: forum theater, multimedia, design, stick art, street art, graffiti, use of organic and recycled materials in contemporary art, handmade and social aspects as PEER & informal education, EVS, youth participation etc.


This post originally appeared on
Fragmentarily/ Metaphor(e) /Play.


The Silence in the Garden

for Dilys*

No rule forbids speech but no one’s talking. Quiet
grows from dark densities between boughs,
from heart-shaped leaves covering the ground,
their tight creamwhite umbrellas, flows

from spheres, spirals, hollows, undulations.
We come upon a hooded figure, trace spaces
that so poignantly speak her body. With hands
in a scoop that’s river, wordlessly we unlace

the emerald hair of splayed weeds, silts
where fleshy roots bed, black threads
squirming from eggs. We don’t need to name
the moment when twined swirls of bronze read

as petals unfolding outwards – corollas
frail as small birds’ wings and as strong –
or the moment when a surge beneath the lid
makes the box of possibility spring

open. As if placing shoes outside a temple
we left our voices in the street by the gate,
entered another language. And now, sitting
by the untroubled waters, we dip feet.

Written after visiting Sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s garden, St. Ives

© Myra Schneider

This poem is from Circling The Core, Enitharmon 2008 and featured here with the permission of the poet and publisher.

* Dilys is Dilys Wood, an accomplished poet and anthologist. She is the founder of Second Light Network of Women Poets.