together we are the fire | Youssef Alaoui

Silvery Pond in Starry Earth

Rose petals mound of their own
before you die, as you are dying
comets spin their tails in heaven
a single powerful thought appears
loudest colors form a cloud
this image is meant to connect you
wondrous being, magnificent creature
back to your original form

A silvery pond in starry earth
is your personal portal
beyond it, a thousand skies, ripe for taking
you can retreat before your time
if you ask and you never ask, you always tell
maybe you can figure what that thought is
harmful truth or memories unsifted
you might spend the rest of your life trying

More you bellow, more they bury
if you manage to discover this thought
mountains of dust, rivers of charnel
you can always go within it
golden mirror reflects only the night
or use the thought for deepest meditation
garlands of lotus and twirling feathers
humans can command

Youssef Alaoui-Fdili
Salerno, Italy
100TPC World Conference
©2015 Michael Dickel
Golden mountain, blaze of trees
once you discover the sacred image
script hidden deep in emerald
you will be immediately brought
do not be afraid, stand brave eyes open
into the frankness of death
your absolute truth is never evil

Do not go there yet
bleary wanderer
you will know your time

Together We Are the Fire

For ND, PCR, VB
Our story begins out here
where everything begins
and ends

We are of the stars and
that’s why we marvel at them
so when we look to the sky
and consider the divine
we are intuitively looking back
at our origins

Cosmos is the deepest mirror
a bottomless lake dotted with fire
larger than tools can measure
reflecting our faces back to us
humming the consciousness of all things
~
As far away as you can get
is where you find your soul

Far from city lights we have come
to witness the brilliance of the sky
one of us can control the stars
with a twist of his hand
we watch shapes he makes for hours
shivering on the desert floor

And what is a star but a heaving
alchemical cauldron of pure light
pure creativity
rich in life-giving elements
these are a million fires he says
same as our sun
our star, this is us

Watch these embryonic souls
dance and leap from the surface
of the sun, lightning winds of fire
to scatter across the cosmos
like dandelion blooms

Look, this one will be the soul of a comet
this one will be a moon worm or a martian
astronaut, this one will drape and fold
at the heart of the Aurora Borealis
and who are we but alchemical vats
of power and creativity
~
Our souls are inextricably linked in cosmic
rhythm, twisted together like
branches, to build you or strangle you
depending on how you treat your people
yes the people are yours and you are theirs

Then he speaks to us at length
regarding the exogenous rhythm
of the unicorn and challenges us
to consider just how far
one could possibly go with a person:

Is it your friend, your enemy
your rival, your lover?
all of the above, treat one another
with dignity
we are children of the stars
siblings forever

We sing the Marseillaise together
in hushed tones then, with surprising venom
he says you know who they are coming for
don’t you, they’re coming for you
~
We do not know whether to cry
in fear or leap for joy, have we
finally lost our minds?
We rush to the cities to find out
droves filling streets in protest
we find the Marseillaise crumpled
in the gutter with all the old songs

People sing new songs
they bring new fire to share
with others and that prompts
newer fire and parades of such light
it was true, they had come for us
to forge new ways to navigate the stars

I turn to you and we see
flames dance in one another’s eyes
tiny salamanders turning on their tails
smoke and colors fill the air
we know the future is inevitable
and we say

every child of the sun
together we are the fire

©2022 Youssef Alaoui-Fdili
All rights reserved


Youssef Alaoui-Fdili

…is an Arab-Latino, born in California. His mother is Colombiana. His father was Moroccan. The Alaoui-Fdilis are originally from Fez. His brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins are today mostly in Casablanca and Rabat. His family and heritage are an endless source of inspiration for his varied, dark, spiritual and carnal writings. He has an MFA in Poetics from New College of California. There, he studied Classical Arabic, Spanish Baroque and Contemporary Moroccan poetry. He is also well versed in the most dour and macabre literature of the 19th Century. His poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, 580 Split, Cherry Bleeds, Virgogray Press, Red Fez, Big Bridge, Dusie Press, Paris Lit Up, The Opiate, and nominated for a Pushcart at Full of Crow. Youssef is an original creator of the East Bay literary arts festival “Beast Crawl.” In 2012 he created Paper Press Books & Associates Publishing Company. This press offers several important books of poetry and one poetry and art compendium.

Website



Posted in BeZine ToC, The BeZine Table of Contents

The BeZine | 9:4 Winter 2022 | Life of the Spirit and Activism

Volume 9       Life of the Spirit and Activism     Issue 4
fuel for change

Introduction

Life of the spirit
fuel for change

Remaining Awake

So much seems off course—climate crisis, Ukraine war, rising fascism, depleted energy for resisting—where do we find fuel to keep up the struggle for change? In the pages of this issue glimmer hopes, stars in dark nights, dreams—alongside outrage, compassion, and the fire that makes us all (as Youssef Alaoui says early in this issue). That star-sun-moon fire—the Holy Spirit to some, the light of Creation to others, stardust to many, Enlightenment shining forth for still others—this spirit moves us all to love, to care for our siblings and cousins, to awaken and rise up from ashes of despair and sing our songs.

The political right attacks “woke” and wields the word as a weapon against “…any left-leaning policy that it [wants] to condemn,” Professor Esau McCaulley writes when discussing the last Sunday sermon given by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Prof. McCaulley tells us that “…although King doesn’t say the word ‘woke,’ he uses the concept as it was understood by many Black folks then…” (NYTimes “The Kind of Revolution That Martin Luther King Jr. Envisioned” 13 Jan 2023).

Citing the story of Rip Van Winkle, Dr. King points out that a little noticed sign in the story is of great importance. When he goes up to the mountains to sleep, it shows King George III; when he comes down it shows George Washington. The change leaves him feeling lost and confused, not knowing the world. Rip Van Winkle slept through a revolution that changed that world. King warns that too many people are sleeping through three revolutions—technological change, weapons of mass destruction, and the social revolution of human rights.

Sound familiar?

Headshot of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., microphone in foreground, out of focus people standing behind him at a distance.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

While Dr. King talks about how in 1968 the geological world had shrunk and time quickened through modern jet travel, how our word balanced on the brink of nuclear destruction, but also how a great outcry for freedom was being heard around the globe. He reminds us that our neighbors had become global, not just down the street. That we had to care for our neighbors everywhere there was oppression and injustice.

Sound familiar?

Continue reading

Contents V9N4

The  BeZine

Volume 9       Winter 2022       Issue 4

Life of the Spirit
&
Activism

fuel for change


Cover art: Photo of Michael Rotenberg (1951–2022) Performing Poetry | Photo from Facebook Profile


Introduction

Life of the spirit
fuel for change

Remaining Awake

So much seems off course—climate crisis, Ukraine war, rising fascism, depleted energy for resisting—where do we find fuel to keep up the struggle for change? In the pages of this issue glimmer hopes, stars in dark nights, dreams—alongside outrage, compassion, and the fire that makes us all (as Youssef Alaoui says early in this issue). That star-sun-moon fire—the Holy Spirit to some, the light of Creation to others, stardust to many, Enlightenment shining forth for still others—this spirit moves us all to love, to care for our siblings and cousins, to awaken and rise up from ashes of despair and sing our songs.

The political right attacks “woke” and wields the word as a weapon against “…any left-leaning policy that it [wants] to condemn,” Professor Esau McCaulley writes when discussing the last Sunday sermon given by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Prof. McCaulley tells us that “…although King doesn’t say the word ‘woke,’ he uses the concept as it was understood by many Black folks then…” (NYTimes “The Kind of Revolution That Martin Luther King Jr. Envisioned” 13 Jan 2023).

Citing the story of Rip Van Winkle, Dr. King points out that a little noticed sign in the story is of great importance. When he goes up to the mountains to sleep, it shows King George III; when he comes down it shows George Washington. The change leaves him feeling lost and confused, not knowing the world. Rip Van Winkle slept through a revolution that changed that world. King warns that too many people are sleeping through three revolutions—technological change, weapons of mass destruction, and the social revolution of human rights.

Sound familiar?

Headshot of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., microphone in foreground, out of focus people standing behind him at a distance.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

While Dr. King talks about how in 1968 the geological world had shrunk and time quickened through modern jet travel, how our word balanced on the brink of nuclear destruction, but also how a great outcry for freedom was being heard around the globe. He reminds us that our neighbors had become global, not just down the street. That we had to care for our neighbors everywhere there was oppression and injustice.

Sound familiar?

Today the world has shrunk even smaller, with instantaneous communication and live video connections worldwide. New war technologies are deadlier, from more powerful nuclear bombs to precision missiles to drones—and nuclear sabre-rattling again clanks in our collective ears. Yet, the rising fascism, nationalism, and autocracy we see, while looming dark and dangerous, is also a strong reaction to the “great revolution” Dr. King spoke of. The revolution continues to grow and spread. And reactionary forces, out of fear or hate, push back, seeking to repress, to protect inequalities of wealth and power that benefit them (or to create new ones that will benefit them), and to go back to the past. There are even those who have recently extolled slavery in the US political right (see for examples: These Politicians Praise Slavery, US Senator Tom Cotton defends slavery remarks, and The rightwing US textbooks that teach slavery as ‘black immigration’).

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But if a [person] doesn’t have a job or an income, [that person] has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. [That person] merely exists. We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”
[edited for gender neutrality]

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave that sermon at Washington National Cathedral on March 31, 1968. A few days later, he was murdered in Memphis, TN, April 4, 1968. Many of the issues he addressed, such as economic reparations (in the US and globally) remain hotly contested and difficult to address. It will be 55 years this April since Dr. King died. We must remain awake. As tired as I feel, and right now I feel weary to the bone, we must awaken. We must stay awake. We must embrace “woke,” not as a label, but as action of mind, body, and soul. We must not let the darkness numb us into decades of sleep. In that wakening, we will find energy—from the light of creation within the world and within us.

A YouTube video of the sermon is embedded in this issue of The BeZine.


Remembering Michael Rothenberg
Michael Rothenberg
Amalfi, Italy, ©2015 Michael Dickel

Michael Rothenberg and his partner, Terri Carrion, founded 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC). From early in the (almost decade) of The BeZine’s existence, we have participated in the annual celebration of activism in poetry. Our three recurring focusing themes: Peace, Sustainability, and Social Justice come directly from the 2015 100TPC World Conference in 2015. I attended that conference and reported about it here and elsewhere on my return. These three themes already were throughout The BeZine, along with an ecumencal and inclusive theme of life of the spirit. We chose to focus on the three 100TPC themes in solidarity with 100TPC, and added our own, Life of the Spirit and Activism.

Michael left this world 21 November 2022. He was tireless as an activist, a writer, a friend, a performer, and an organizer. He remained awake to the very end, creating when he could, working collaboratively with others, and caring for others even as his life slipped away. We open this issue with 7 poems and an essay by some of his (and my) friends who were in Salerno in 2015, dedicated to Michael’s memory and delivered here with love for him and for Terri. I introduce that section separately, with my own personal thoughts written a few days after he moved on from this world. At the end of the In Memory of Michael Rothenberg section, there is a YouTube from a Zoom reading that many of us from the Salerno World Conference participated in to remember and honor Michael together.


Yes, this issue was late—and we could use some help

What can I say? From election deniers and mid-term results in the U.S., to the most right-wing government newly elected in Israel (where I live), to Michael’s loss, to war, to climate crisis…sometimes it all overwhelms. But I was also busy with a major project which had a deadline that conflicted with our production schedule, and this was good. This is the winter issue, and it is indeed still winter. But it is more than a month later than usual. My personal apologies.

Tan wool hat with a pin saying: "Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed"
My new wool hat (Kangol) and the new pin I added to it: “Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”

We have a new editor joining to help us, beginning with the next issue. And we would like to invite contributors and readers to become more involved. We get occasional offers to review books, and would like to do this (particularly, but not only, for contributors). We could use help proofreading online. We could use help with the blog (contributing and editing). This is all volunteer work; none of us gets paid. If you have interest in joining our team, look over the submissions guidelines and mission statement to get a better idea of what we try to do here. Use the submission email to contact me—provide a paragraph or two of introduction about your experience, why you would like to help, and what you would like to help with. A resume is optional. Put “I’d like to join The BeZine Team” in the subject line, so I know you are applying. And I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

—Michael Dickel
Editor, The BeZine


  

Table of Contents


In Memory
Michael Rothenberg


BeAttitudes


Poetry


Prose



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