And Crown Thy Good

At the end of the bar, I saw old Mason Snyder sitting in his semi-usual ruminating funk, so I decided to slide my beer down there to here him out and see if we could repair the world a bit together.

After asking why the long face, Mase said, “Last week, I saw a study that broke down the average life expectancy in all the States and the spot with the longest living residents–at 85 years–was in some Colorado ski resort area, while the shortest are in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, where on average, people there can expect to live to age 67,” Mase said.

“Beyond the obvious disparity, is that what’s pissing you off so much?” I asked.

Mase had a long pull on his Bud, took a deep breath and said, “I saw some news bunny ask if the lives of Oglala Lakota County residents there were so short there because they died of boredom out there in the high plains.”

“Uh oh,” I said, knowing the righteous wrath coming in three, two,….

“Yeah, honey, the type of boredom that sets in where you have no prospects to change your life from the grinding poverty of being members of families who’ve essentially been prisoners of war for a century and a half. The type of boredom that drives people to drink and drug themselves into oblivion because they lost the home version of the Manifest Destiny game show. The type of boredom that causes kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation to kill themselves at a ridiculously high rate,” Mase said in his indignant and borderline angry tone when he talked about the treatment of America’s native people.

“That’s pretty tragic,” I said, feeling both sad and guilty watching Mase, who was of mixed Navaho and German heritage, take another gulp of his beer and the breath to go on.

“Oh, and by the way, Miss Talking Hairdo, that average life expectancy was for the whole of Oglala Lakota County, where the numbers just a few years ago for Pine Ridge Reservation residents only were 52 years for women and fuckin’ 48 for men– 48 years of age and done,” Mase said, spun on his stool and stalked out the bar entrance.

“What the hell was Big Chief Bottom-of-the-Bottle going on about?” Charlie the bartender asked me in the wake of Mase’s diatribe on the mistreatment of red folks by the sorry-ass  Great White (absentee) Father over the years.

“C’mon we’re as guilty as any White Americans in not doing enough–or anything–to help these fellow Americans live better, safer, healthier lives,” I said in my own Mase-stoked righteously indignant tone.

“Yeah, well you tell him for me if he–and you, for that matter–expects to get his firewater in my joint anymore, he’d better keep it down or, better yet, take his whiny shit to some liberal fern bar, ’cause us real Americans don’t want to hear it,” Charlie said, flipping the channel from the fifth inning in Cleveland of another one-sided Mets matinee loss over to Fox News Channel.

© 2017, Joseph Hesch

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


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.


The Exponential Demise of Our Wellbeing, Juli [Juxtaposed]


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


Meeting Poverty, Renee Espriu


And Crown Thy Good, Joseph Hesch


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



The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be (the subscription feature is below and to your left.)

Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines


Read Info/Missions StatementSubmission Guidelines, and at least one issue before you submit. Updates on Calls for Submissions and other activities are posted every Sunday in Sunday Announcements on The Poet by Day.

Posted in Awards/Nominations

The BeZine “Best of the Net” Nominations

It was tough. TOUGH!  If I could I would nominate everyone who has contributed, but there were constraints on the types of submissions, dates of publication, and number of nominations editors can submit. So, here we are … The BeZine Best of Net nominations for June 2017 – July 2018.




I hope you’ll wish all these wonderful poets and writers well and take the time to read their work.

Thank you!

– Jamie Dedes, Managing Editor


Have Strength | Honey Novick

Yellow and Blue then Green

blue on one end of the scale
yellow at the opposite end
a kind of magnetic needle in between

blue, a feeling of down or calm
yellow feels up, vibrant, bright
somewhere in the middle, green
in the middle, they meld and transform
yellow and blue become green
three for the price of two

this gauge is invisible, yet lives within
it is carried eternally
it is the human tachometer
a reminder that nothing stays the same
everything can change
it can go from blue to yellow to green
unaware of its change
remarkable in being seen

@2022 Joao Reguengos

When the World is on Fire

When the world is on fire 
do you close your eyes?  Ignore it?
Do you?

Fuelled by racial discrimination
this conflagration
is a spirit abomination
this IS my nation
home of my education
playground of my indoctrination
to a world of justification
looking for integration
knowing that communication
is the way forward

I say I want a revolution, a human revolution
it’s gonna have to start with me
the only solution for this revolution
Has to start with me

We’re all in the same war
but not all in the same trenches 
these flames are deep, embedded
we need more than hammers and wrenches

reformation, inner reformation
takes transformation
no longer subjugation
seeing ourselves as real
human transformation
my own revolution
lighting my way and seeing you

Yasher Koiech Nefesh Yehudi

These words, “yasher koiech, mein nefesh Yehuda” 
“Have strength, my Jewish soul” is like the mantra
used to encloak myself when leaving the comfort of home.

Even with broad-minded people, there is always the risk
of awakening the sleeping dragon of the Jew-baiting anti-semite
ready to pounce.  Will this feeling, ever so deeply engrained
leave the awareness I call myself?

I choose one Jewish metaphor to describe myself, 
“charoseth”, the sweet, dark, spicy, nutty, tart mixture
made for the Passover Seder, one of the six Seder plates,
an homage to the slave labour in Egypt’s Pharoah time,
the reason for the Exodus.

Charoseth resembles mortar.  
Mortar builds things—houses, outdoor ovens.
Because Jews number few in population,
we are noticed and well-known for high achievements.
I try to build friendships 
while remembering the charoseth of 
apples and dates and wine and nuts.
I think of people this way, 
full of goodness, sweetness and with the 
intoxicating alluring risks hidden in the dangers of nuts.
I want to be accepted—not tolerated, 
therefore I must accept others
just as different to me as I am to them.
Not easy, but definitely doable.

I think of our foremother Esther whose intelligence
saved her people.
My own orphaned, biological mother Yocheved
was responsible, at age 7, for a younger brother and sister.
These women and Ruth, whose compassion became
synonymous with empathy used the mortar of their own wisdom 
to build better societies.
They are the woof and weft of the weaving of these cultures.

When Vashti refused to parade naked 
in front of her husband’s cadre of supporters
she was replaced by Esther and through 
cunning and fortuitousness exposed calumniaty 
for what it is.

At  7 years of age, at cheder (religious school), 
there was an Esther contest.  
I had no hope of winning.
My family was unable to purchase my costume.
Being self-conscious, yet enjoying the participation,
I took a brown paper bag, drew a crown of crayon coloured jewels,
borrowed my mother’s flowery cotton skirt and elastic-necked blouse,
marched down the aisle with a devil-may-care smile,
fully expecting nothing but a good time, and 
for my ingenuity, I won and won more than flowers
I won a confidence that is sewn irrevocably 
in the decision-making process of my every day

Never give up, give in, go forth, be creative, 
with the directive Yasher Koiech, Nefesh Yehudi
the mortar is in you, build with sweetness, goodness,
tartness, nuttiness, chutzpah and always with the
knowledge that with a Nefesh Yehudi
we are together, we are strong,
I am with you, I am strong,
I and you are strong and we are all together
Yasher Koiech!

©2022 Honey Novick
All rights reserved

Honey Novick…

…was privileged to record with bill bissett for the Secret Handshake Reading Series in December 2021. The Secret Handshake also published her chapbook, Bob Dylan, My Rabbi. Two copies were purchased by the Robards Library, University of Toronto. “Kaleidoscopic Wonderful” was published in January 2022 by the Taj Mahal Review. She was commissioned by the Friendly Spike Theatre Band to write the history of mad people’s theatre in Toronto with “I’m Mad, I Matter, Making a Difference,” and also edited the anthology, POEMDEMIC.

Twenty Pesos

PHP_2010_New_Generation_Currency_BanknotesI think of her often. I only met her that once, but she brought with her a voice from God that has never left me. Her heart was the first bloom of that warm spring.

I was teaching at the diocesan seminary. It was spring, time of renewal, but mostly it brought unbearable heat in the provinces of Mindanao. So I decided to escape the oven-like classroom and had everyone bring a chair under the ancient tree that seemed to preside over the whole front yard. Just as a really lively discussion on prayer began, I noticed her walking on the road beyond the fence. She was small, with a filthy flowered dress frayed at the edges and stained just about everywhere. Her hair hadn’t met a brush in months, yet she walk with a regal calm and serenity. As she got to the open gate, she turned.

I groaned inwardly. It seemed like every day people came to beg, to ask for money, food, medicine. Sometimes with that “help keep their dignity” idea, we’d ask them to help rake leaves, but that often backfired and they got annoyed demanding what they wanted, often waving a reproaching finger in our faces, telling us that we are supposed to be like Jesus and give. And now, just as I had a wonderful discussion on prayer going, we would be once again interrupted by a beggar asking for a handout.

Then I immediately felt guilty. So as if to redeem myself from my unspoken lack of goodness, I interrupted the class discussion and told the seminarians that an older woman was coming, probably to ask for food or help, but that in spite of her being so dirty and messy, they should stand when she arrives, do “mano po”, the typical Filipino greeting of respect where you take the hand of the elder and touch it to your forehead, and call her “Tita” (Auntie). Ah, it looked like I was back to being the wise holy man I was supposed to be…but it was just me still treading water.

The woman came right up to where I stood, totally disrupting the class like I knew she would. She was even dirtier up close, mud on her face and her sandaled feet black. The ever obedient seminarians (or make that “usually obedient”) stood politely, blessed her and mumbled pleasantries calling her “tita”.

She began in Cebuano, “Father, I was walking by and saw you teaching the boys under this big shade tree. And I had this idea, so I came in.”

To myself I figured I knew the “idea”, a good place to ask for help. But she seemed so sweet, I suddenly thought of volunteering to get her something from the kitchen myself…being that holy and wise person I thought I was. Yes, yes, I would make up for all those negative thoughts about her by being of personal service!! Gee, what a guy!!

Then she dug deep into her pocket, as it was an endless cavern, and finally pulled out a kind of moldy rag and then opened it slowly, as if the British Crown Jewels were inside. There appeared an old 20 peso bill, only a little cleaner than she. She continued her story, “When I saw you there, teaching these boys about God, how to love God and be faithful…well, I thought, you know what…I want to buy them a snack. So here.” And she shyly handed me the 20 pesos, somehow not fully able to look me in the eyes.

I took the filthy bill and suddenly didn’t know what to do. This woman came to give, to share, to help, to encourage…She turned to leave, and I asked her to stay and have snacks with us. She smiled serenely, with the kind of peace that comes from knowing you live in God’s heart, and turned and left. All the boys just looked at me blankly. 20 pesos wasn’t, of course, enough to have snacks for the class. It’s about 50 cents in the US. But I decided to go to my office and get money and have the guys buy something from the little store across the way. If Auntie wanted us to have snacks, that’s exactly what we’d do. I told the guys I’d be right back…but in fact I was a little longer than expected. I had to wash my face so they wouldn’t see how hard I had been crying once I was out of sight.

I never saw her again, but she remains one of the finest teachers I’ve ever had, and a voice of God that has never been silenced. It was spring, and a part of me was reborn.

Daniel S. Sormani, C. S. Sp.

© 2015, feature article, Daniel Sormani, All rights reserved; photograph 2010 currency courtesy of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and released into the public domain

Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Perfection

perfection memeRecently, I read dragonkatet’s piece on “Perfection and Creation.” This got me to ruminating on the nature of perfection. In the United Methodist Church, clergy wannabe’s are required to answer the question, “Are you going on to perfection in this lifetime?” And the expected answer is “yes!”

I had heard a rumor in seminary by Dr. Jack Olive that perhaps our understanding of perfection is different than the understanding that early theologians and philosophers had. And that John Wesley turned to Eastern Orthodox wisdom in an effort to better understand perfection. That appealed to me because perfection seems so unattainable. What if there is a different way?

Corina got me thinking about all of this again! Is perfection unattainable? Is perfection only attributable to the Divine? What is up with this kind of pressure we put on ourselves? And as with everything, the truth is that our understanding has drastically changed over time. Which leaves us free to define perfection in a way that leads to greater life.

The Greek concept is where it all begins for western cultures. That word was “teleos.” In many cases, this word is understood to be completeness rather than the common understanding of perfection—“without flaw.”

perfectionchocolateAristotle defines three meanings of perfection:

  1. That which is complete.
  2. That which is so good that nothing can be found better.
  3. That which has attained its purpose.

aquinasquoteThomas Aquinas goes on to give perfection a dual-fold meaning: That which is perfect in itself (its substance) and when it perfectly suits its purpose.

Other philosophers and theologians have defined perfection to be:

  • Endless
  • The greatest
  • Existence

Plato and Parmenides thought that the world was perfect. That it had perfect shape and motion (spherical/circular). The world is perfect, God is not. Attributing perfection, an intellectual concept of humanity, to the Divine, was a heresy.

However, later came the pantheist Stoics who attributed perfection to the Divine. Why? Because the Divine was equivalent with the world. Here, we are just one short step away from the modern idea that only the Divine is perfect and that we all suffer from an inability to be complete in our own bodies and to find and fulfill our purpose. Eventually, Aristotle’s First Cause and Christianity’s Creator became comingled in theology. Although perfection was still not attributed to the Divine as perfection was believed to be finite.

In the 9th century, philosopher Paschasius Radbertus said that “Everything is the more perfect, the more it resembles God.” But still, God was not perfect because of the finiteness ascribed to the concept of perfection. It is Rene Descartes who introduces perfection as applied to the Divine as he introduces the “perfections of God.” However, Descartes also states that “existence itself is perfection.” They may just have been going through a confusion of perfections!

The concept of perfection has undergone great changes throughout human history. “Nothing in the world is perfect”, to “Everything is perfect”; and from “Perfection is not an attribute of God”, to “Perfection is an attribute of God.” (Tatarkiewicz, “Ontological and Theological Perfection,” Dialetics and Humanism, vol. VIII, no. 1 (winter 1981), p. 192.)

perfectionPerhaps it is time to render a definition of perfection that lifts us up and allows us to achieve completeness and fulfill our purpose. In Christianity, we often go back to “The Greatest Commandment.” That is “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We then focus on the loving God part and then sometimes the loving your neighbor part but totally neglect the implied love yourself part. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we love ourselves, we can achieve completeness, find and fulfill a purpose! Artists gotta art. Preachers gotta preach. Poets gotta poem. Architects gotta design. Caretakers gotta care. And so on. Of course, within all of this is the tension between what we want and what we have. There are limits and sometimes part of loving is setting aside the dream and doing the chore. But that is still part of purpose. And it is still part of perfection.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, totally subscribes to the “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” approach to perfection. He writes,

O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone!
O may thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown !
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love!

I never heard that any one objected to this. And indeed who can object? Is not this the language, not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly awakened? But what have I wrote, to this day, which is either stronger or plainer?
John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

easypeasy2Perfection is living life in such a way that “every act, word, thought, be love!” Easy peasy.

Perhaps living a life where everything is derived from love is not so easy. But it is something that I can ascribe to, and with practice, grow into. So perhaps perfection is the process that leads to a complete life fulfilled in acts of love–love that leads to justice, mercy, and humility.

So mote it be!



Simultaneously published at




Posted in Uncategorized

Through the Looking Glass

The months have been busy with storytelling– dusting off old stories, rehearsing new ones, attending to related business correspondence.   Last week I was pressed for time, polishing a story for its public debut, when I heard a little thump.  I peeked through the French doors onto the deck.  A tiny olive gray creature, scarcely bigger than a hummingbird, lay stunned and shivering where it fell after flying into the glass.

It was a male Golden-crowned Kinglet, with a bright orange and gold crown.  They favor coniferous forest; this one was likely nesting in the grove of cedar, hemlock, and Douglas Fir in our backyard.  Kinglets are monogamous, and raise two broods each season.  As soon as the first nestlings can fly, Mama Bird lays another batch.  While she protects the new eggs, Papa feeds up to ten fledglings until they can take care of themselves.  Good Daddy!

Perhaps the little bird was an adolescent, driving too fast on his first solo flight, or maybe he was an exhausted frantic father trying to feed his hungry brood.  Birds are delicate, and often die of stress.  Not wanting to frighten it, I didn’t open the door, but I kept watch through the glass for neighborhood cats and hungry crows. What would happen, I wondered, to the fledglings if their Papa died?  How might his mate manage as a single parent when the next brood hatched?

As The Bard said, all the world is a stage.  Everywhere tiny dramas–life and death performances–are played out.  Most will never be witnessed or even imagined, completely lost in the big picture.  Or worse, they will be observed by cold and uncaring eyes.

On my deck, in city streets, in our wealthy country, and all over the world, baby birds are not the only creatures who slip between the cracks, with no voice, and no champion to speak out for them or watch over them.

I turned for an instant to check the clock.  When I looked again, the little bird was gone.  My eyes stung with tears of relief.  Someone looking through the glass onto my deck would see only a few bird droppings, but to me it’s a reminder that life can get messy.  Not everyone has a safety net.  Not every story has a happy ending.  Sometimes we can only  look helplessly through the glass at the world’s suffering.  But sometimes it falls within our power to change the world, one tiny story at a time.

Something to think about.

All words and images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi