Posted in Poems/Poetry

The Sun-god at Mount Horeb

Sun-god
sitting still on Mount Horeb
amidst the stark clouds,
sweeping towards the swept
open space between trees
and pawing at white and dark fleshy flesh.

Sun-god
your pale, smirky lemon face
like the grapefruit in Ago-Iwoye Market
scribbles dirt patches on my face
and made my throat to swill water
enough to fill up a tank-container.

Oh sun-god!
I plead,
do not douse us all
from this buzzy day
only ‘dap’ softly softly
into the balmy, cosy night.

© 2018, Martins Tomisin, All rights reserved

Note: Martins is one of several young writers featured in the next issue of The BeZine to be published on March 15th.

My name is Martins Tomisin Olusola. I’m currently studying at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State where I have earned awards and recognition. Some of my poems have been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. I love painting colourful rainbows-of-thoughts on paper. I vehemently believe that, “life without poetry is like a soup without condiments; without it, life will be flavourless, distasteful and unrhythmic.”

Sunday | John Anstie

Sunday

Walking home from church.

Like seeing the sun rise
over the week ahead,
mind full of penitence
a righteous child, wrapped
in reverential warmth and
a sense of duty fulfilled.

That place of comfort,
as short lived as chocolate
such pleasure lies in this
some selfless, priceless
kind of self-indulgence
in your own kind of God.

Who can resist that path
to an easier peace where,
one day a week, the ad-man
cannot get to you; where
you miss nothing; where
those urges play no part.

Where has Sunday gone?

About Flowers
Digital Art
Miroslava Panayotova ©2022

©2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

This poem was previously published in The BeZine in March 2018. The author thought it timely to present again because of its poignancy in the light of how children might be dealing with the change to their lives in Ukraine … far more violent than we have had to cope with in the West in the past two generations, by simply growing up. He is currently an Associate Editor of The BeZine.


John Anstie …

… Qualified as a Metallurgical Engineer, for the first quarter of his working life he worked as a scientist and engineer, for the second quarter, as a Marketing and Export Sales Manager, both in the Steel Industry; in the third quarter he held a variety of roles in IT and Project Management and was Master of his own company. The last quarter could well be his most fulfilling, if of least financial advantage, as a writer and singer in a small local chamber choir and with one of the UK’s finest barbershop choruses. Married with three children and six grandchildren. He is currently an Associate Editor of the BeZine.



Letter to God — Mbizo Chirasha

Somewhere beside Zvagona hills, near Zvamapere ‘kopje of hyenas’, adjacent to the foothills of Dayataya mountain lies bones and spirits of my great grandfathers and their descendants. I loved this land. Every rain season, Zvagona hills were village brides fitted in green dresses and floral doek’s over their heads. Their lush skin shimmered blue from a distance in the hazy of December sun. Usually, autumn arrived with god’s gifts of multi- colored costumes of blooming flowers, their petals nodding erotically to the hesitant sun, the sun winked back secretly to the smiling flowers. Bees and cicadas haunting them like delinquent boys to village damsel’s. This time, the earth becomes a beautiful princess scented with natural perfume and clad in floral gowns of pink, yellow, white, peach and ox blood red.

June is a vicious dog, it brought howling winds and winter’s canines grazed deep into our lives. The earth is undressed into utter nudity. Elephant grass saluted to the passing wind like grandfathers surrendering life. Our hills spotted jailbird’s bald shave as they nodded to the winter’s sirens: whirlwind and dust ripples. Forests stood shell shocked in their torn overalls. Flowers are tightlipped, their cousins rot into extinction waiting for rain when the earth is born again. The cold bruised sun is a patch on the undergarments of grey horizons. This time, the moon is a hesitant bride. It is winter and nights are ink black and unfriendly. Hyenas wail in pain of winter’s bite, regular face- booking of monkeys is on hold. Cicadas are silent like birds. Sometimes hills wept to each other under the veil of mist and the shivering moon lulled our somber souls into sleep until the next morning. When morning comes, the baldheaded hills are ready for a fight, standing proud in anticipation of sunshine or rain, alas the biting winds persisted and the hills are resilient too and similar to the undying spirits of peasants eking out life from tracks of hard red earth on the fringes of Zvagona hills. At night hills were draped in robes of white mist and towards dawn, they fit onto skirts of grey and top gear of blue. We were told ancestors walked alongside the mist at nights and in mornings they would go into deep sleep. The mystery of Zvagona hills, hills of home. During that season, we stacked loads of firewood for warmth, cooking meals and brewing traditional beer. We lived off the forests.

When Gods are angry, the earth is clad in rags like an imbecile. It wears a black torn monkey hat over itself like a pick pocketter. The air is taunt with foul smell of decaying lives. Baboon’s sermons are placed in God’s wardrobe. Our creased faces told sorry tales of poverty and hunger gnawing the pits of our bellies.

When the red glow of heat persisted like in hell. Silence and barrenness are weaved together onto red earth. While rivers become white washed skeletons of dry sand. Elders spoke in tongues to the wind, we lost their words in the pleats of their elderly language. After some days they traverse to the end of the earth to supplicate Zame, the spirit of rain. Njelele, Zame’s disciple would direct them to Nyami Nyami, the goddess of water. They are told to wash their feet and dance to Gods. They were punished for replacing forests with concrete jungles. Birds and spirits of the land were now vagabonds. They are told the earth is simmering in abomination and Gods are angry and choked with carbon laced fumes. They are warned of the coming of devil’s triplets: hunger, heat waves and cyclones. They paid their ornaments, applauded the gods and returned to their hovels underneath the fringes of Zvagona hills.

Later, when heavens get overexcited. Gods washed our sins with tears of their joy, rains washed and blessed our land. The earth is born again and is dressed to kill in its usual green gowns and floral doek’s. We danced to the clap of thunder and camera flashes of lightening winked at us. Our poverty marinated, yellow maize teeth grinned to sudden glows of lightening. Sometimes lightening jolts sank our tender hearts into our rib -boxes. Zvagona hills also gyrated under the grip of thunder. We danced still for the blessing of rain and rebirth. Our planting fields were patches of alluvial earth between the hems of the hills and the banks of Mamvuramachena “river of white waters”. Sooner pumpkins bred like rabbits, veldts wore a silver cap of water and new dark green military combat of sprouting elephant grass. Smells of fresh dung and the scent of fresh udder milk were our morning brew. The new grass fattened our cows, their oily skins shimmered under God’s obedient sun.

Our mothers traversed from hill to hill harvesting mushroom, nhedzi, zvihombiro, nzeveyambuya nezhouchuru ‘names of different kind of mushrooms’. Wild mushroom is an African delicacy, a delicacy that raised us from mucus drooling kindergartens into goat bearded grown-ups. Wild fruits of maroro, nhengeni and nhunguru were showered to us by the excited Gods. Bushes became our second homes. We dried fruits and mushroom for the future with the aid of our loving grandmothers. We salivated to the rich fart of roasting meat and baking bread emitted from kitchen huts. Grass beautifies the earth as food beautifies lives. We enjoyed to see our goats getting fat. Bush honey was abundant. We fought successful battles with ferocious red bees for the mouthwatering delicacy, dendende sweet red honey. We accompanied the red honey hunt with a song

Sunga musoro wedendende
Sunga wakanaka dendedende
Sunga musoro wededende,  
Sunga wakanaka dendende
Sunga wakanaka dendende
Sunga wakanaka dendende

 The rhythm had returned.

 When cockerels announced the new days, eastern hills were beautifully capped with the glow of orange hats from the sparkling sunrays. Baboons cuddled each other in the wake of dawn romance. Rock rabbits jived to the acoustics of cicada tunes and to the discord of village sounds. Mother monkeys rebuked their babies from over eating. Down the stream, fish and toads bathed in smoking falls of fresh water. They are home again. Shezu ‘honey bird’ spoiled the festival by singing a warning hymn, maybe for another drought to come or death of a reputable person. Nights are stitched with thread of hyena’s laughter’s and the syntactic hymns of owls.

Our elders sang in contented choruses, nhaka inhara meaning ‘the year is blessed with rains’.

We sang to the silver white moon that was fresh from God’s mouth as it sat on its throne, over the fontanels of Zvagona hills, Mwedzi wagara ndira uyo tigo tigo ndira –and later with time the moon was ripe to go we bade her farewell mwedzi waora ndira tigo tigo ndira.

Now many years had passed since I left for the city, two decades away from years of dance and abundance. The land is now a wretched vagabond. I am sitting underneath the ragged skirts of mystery hills, pondering if my great ancestor’s bones and spirits are still lying here. I see the luxury of rotating seasons is long lost in the abrupt silence of this land. The tenor of birdsongs and baritones of baboons on the mountain zenith is no more. Birds and baboons are long gone, maybe to blessed climes. The joyous scream of hyenas and jackals at dawns was cut short. The joy of reeds dancing to the soprano of mighty streams was remote silenced. A deadly silence.

The sun’s heat is menacing as if tongs of red hot charcoal are floating in the air. The heavens are rude and clear blue. Waves of heat turned the earth into a baking oven. Fields are chunks of dried and burnt bread. Trees are strips of roasted biltong. Cyclones passed through and carried away my ancestor’s bones to faraway seas. Skeletal dunes of sand replaced our mighty Mamvuramachena ‘river of white waters’

Hills are bald headed and wearing a herpes zoster belt around their bellies. They are sweating under the grip of heat caused eczema. I suppose we are cursed. Nyami nyami once warned of hunger, cyclones and heat waves, the menacing triplets.

 Behold my earth is naked.

Dear beloved God are we cursed?


Watching
JJ Stick
©2021 All Rights Reserved

©2021 Mbizo Chirasha
All rights reserved


Return to ToC

Sunday

Walking home from church.

Like seeing the sun rise
over the week ahead,
mind full of penitence,
a righteous child, wrapped
in reverential warmth and
a sense of duty fulfilled.

That place of comfort,
as short lived as chocolate,
such pleasure lies in this;
some selfless, priceless
kind of self-indulgence
in your own kind of God.

Who can resist that path
to an easier peace where,
one day a week, the ad-man
cannot get to you; where
you miss nothing; where
those urges play no part.

Where has Sunday gone?

© 2018 John Anstie

gods of our making

Ares_Canope_Villa_Adriana_b
“And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
With Atë by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1

we have need of gods
an ancient irony
like blood that needs heat
to sweat out the mysteries
to rage in revenge
to reconcile sacrifice
to repel condemnation
to simmer our gratitude
for the many wonders
as misunderstood
as all the horrors

relieve us we pray
in our righteous moments
from the sins of others
their guns, their bombs
their swords of hate
lives and livelihoods cut short
in genocides renamed –
semantics play large
in wars of loathing and
vile justifications

relieve us we pray
from children killing children
from executions in the street
from brothers killing brothers
from sisters unleashed
like the dogs of war
like a belly full of cancer
like an aorta bursting

our gods cry ‘Havoc!’
in traps set by rulers
by teachers at schools
and in places of worship
by parents at dinner table

our legs immobilized
like wolves ensnared, we chew off our feet
attempts at freedom cripple and break us

and everywhere
mouthing lies
groaning in denial
bowing to gutter rats
scraping to vultures
the false gods of our making

© 2012, poem, Jamie Dedes; Photo credit ~ Ares, the Greek God of War and Bloodlust (couldn’t find Atë) via Wikipedia by Ares Canope Villa Adriana under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.  

Wrestling with God – two poems

Wrestling, names, and shipwrecks). Jacob / Yaakov wrestled all night with a messenger (of God, or angel) while crossing the Jabbok / Yabok river. In Hebrew and English, the two names are variations of each other, transposing consonants. The messenger gives him a new name, Israel / Yisrael as the sun rises (Genesis 32:22-31). I’m not sure that I can fully explain what that means. That’s why I have poetry. Here are two poems I have written about Jacob at the crossing of the Jabbok ford.


Michael Dickel


Jacob Wrestling

They’ve all gone ahead, those I loved,
those I cared for but did not love—
arrayed and ranked, walking toward doom

or reunion. This bank, this river I have crossed before—
this creek, this life, this wreck on this shore—
all too familiar, all too fresh, all too unknown, all too new.

Now a shadow over the moon, or
perhaps my own doubt
forms as I ford the stream.

Now I wrestle with myself,
with this messenger,
this something of nothingness.

Now the moon fades—
darkness less dark—
what is my name?

Now I limp away
from this tangled life
of deception and counter-deception—

to losses, deaths, uncertainty,
a favorite son sold to the gypsies—
Who will redeem us?

Soon my brother and I will embrace
but keep our defended distance.
Soon nothing will be the same.

Now, I wrestle with God.

Originally published in Voices Israel 2009: Poetry from Israel and Abroad.


Jacob wrestling with the angel

I didn’t notice you come up. It’s so dark.
Look at the river, though, a darker strain beneath
this evening’s melody, flowing against the harmony.
Perhaps you won’t believe me, but God has spoken to me.
He sent me here, on the journey, to this river. I must cross.
But I don’t want to. On the other side, reckoning. Maybe death.

Odd, how we will tell strangers things we wouldn’t tell
our closest friends. Not that I have had that many friends.
As you stare at me, I feel that you understand, though.
See over there, across the river? That direction is the direction
I must travel. I’ve already sent the others ahead. Made offerings,
sent gifts. A man grows lonely in a foreign land. That direction,
that direction I must travel, that direction is home.

How far are you from home? Your silence doesn’t surprise me.
I’ve kept to myself, too, not told the whole story.
I had to keep silent when I wore goat skin to fool the old man.
He took me for another, gave my brother’s blessing.
I don’t suppose you know what that feels like, to betray a brother?

Why do you remain silent? Well, you also remain here, listening.
I will continue. My brother liked to play rough when we were young.
As we grew up, he would hunt, ride, spend his time out of doors.
I studied, read. I was pale, he ruddy. I wasn’t really a sissy,
well, now you can see, I have grown strong, worked hard,

made something of myself. Back then, I guess you wouldn’t know
that I would do so well. That must be why I went along with my mother,
when she suggested the plan to cheat my brother. Well, I can’t blame
her, can I? I mean, she might have told me what to do,
but I did it. Besides, I was the one who made the stew, red with spices.
Anyway, after our father gave me the inheritance
instead of my brother, well then I figured there would be hell to pay.

So I left.

What’s that you say? Yes, it is growing light. You must go?
Work to do, you say? Oh. Well, now that you’ve heard my story,
even if you are a stranger, won’t you give me your blessing?
Are you sure you won’t tell me your name? What’s that? Oh,
I’m Jacob, the Usurper. What’s that you say?
You have another name for me?


All work ©Michael Dickel
Fragmentarily/ Meta-Phor(e) /Play (Michael’s blog).

If I Were God

If I were God—

I’d rewind that Wednesday
morning when Tim McVeigh
and John Doe loaded
a yellow Ryder truck
and blew 168 innocent
human beings to Kingdom Come.

Confetti of flies and flesh
floating mid sunken
concrete slabs
and jagged rebar
would swirl and swoosh
back to where it came—

Files marked A–Z
would fly back
to cabinets—melting
flesh would fuse back
to muscle and marrow
and last breaths would suck
back into living lungs

And the long-faced firefighter
would hand baby Baylee
wearing tiny yellow booties
back to the policeman
and he’d tuck her back
in the mess of rubble

And all the sticks and stones
would merge back
to American Kid’s Daycare
like they did before
Baylee and Colton and Chase
blew bye-bye kisses
to their mommies

If I were God
I’d rewind that day
all the way back to Tuesday
when Baylee blew out
one pink candle on a cake
and licked frosting from her finger

© Sharon Frye

View guest contributor Sharon Frye’s bio HERE

The Closer God

IMG_6245But it so happened today that, when I took my children to school today, my elder one’s teacher mentioned something about the kids’ religion class on Friday (yes, religion is one of the objects learnt in school in this country – optional, but still there. No comment – at least not in this text of mine) and on my way home I couldn’t help thinking about that topic – religion – of which I wrote in a past post, and the next step was God (as I said once, I am not an atheist, it’s just that my belief in and my relationship with God are of a different nature than the standard ones) and the fact that more and more people, despite talking about God and saying that they believe in Him, have the habit of putting a huge distance between themselves and the higher being we’re talking about. And I was wondering WHY they do that, when it hit me: I had just thought about it. The problem here is the “higher” thing.

You see, it’s common use to say that God is in “the sky”. Up above. In heaven. Even better, in the seventh heaven. Or ninth. Or whatever number you want. But I can’t recall the last time when someone said that to him God was right here, on Earth. And it’s because of this growing distance that we don’t feel the touch of His grace. It’s because of this image of “an old guy, with white beard and long white hair, with a staff in His hand, floating intangibly on a distant cloud”. So stupid…not God, but we. We are the stupid ones. For we send God in farther and farther heavens and then we don’t see Him anymore around us and complain that we don’t feel His touch. To many of us He is just a name. A noun. A vocable. An icon or a statue in a church, and nothing more. But we forget that He is the essence of all life, of all energy, and that means that He is EVERYWHERE around us, in us. And since nothing happens without a reason, I then remembered a fragment from the scroll of Nag Hammadi, better known to people as the Gospel of Thomas, which I had the curiosity to read just several days ago. In the 77th saying, Jesus affirms that “I am the light that shines over all things. I am everything. From me all came forth, and to me all return. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there”, stating thus the unity between God and us all, stating thus the profound connection which we fail to see or feel anymore, or which we even reject by thinking of God to be so far away, above us, while we see ourselves in this telluric dimension of life. THIS is where the breach happens. In our minds. In our hearts. In our misunderstanding of the fact that this “higher” being is actually so close to us that we are a part of it.

I will end this with a lovely parable that I happened to read once, but that remained in my mind. Once, in a monastery, there lived only five more monks. People didn’t go there anymore, and the abbot was sad, because he felt that he had failed his mission. At some point he has the occasion to talk to a rabbi and he asks this one for a word of wisdom, an advice of how to revive his order. And the rabbi says that “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you” and then he left. The abbot, hearing that, wondered who of the five monks could have been the Messiah, and he was suddenly afraid that maybe he mistreated the Holy One. So he told the other monks what he had been told by the rabbi, and they all began to think about that. Each of them wondered who could be the Messiah, and so they started to treat each other with more and more respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the One. It was only a matter of days before the atmosphere in the monastery changed, turning into a wonderful environment. When other people happened to come to the monastery, they saw the love and respect that radiated from the relationship between the five monks, and then they were touched by that too, and wanted to be a part of the order. Thus the order was revived, simply because people there tried to see the Messiah/God in each of those around them.

There’s so much more to say about this topic, but I’ll only tell you that we should do that too. We should see God in each of us, and even more, in each of the beings and things surrounding us. And then the far-away heaven would be much closer than we could imagine :).

– Liliana Negoi

2015, essay, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved; photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

The Gods of Our Making

Ares_Ludovisi_Altemps_Inv8602_n2“And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
With Atë by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1

we have need of gods
an ancient irony
like blood that needs heat
to sweat out the mysteries
to rage in revenge
to reconcile sacrifice
to repel condemnation
to simmer our gratitude
for the many wonders
as misunderstood
as all the horrors

relieve us we pray
in our righteous moments
from the sins of others
their guns, their bombs
their swords of hate
lives and livelihoods cut short
in genocides renamed –
semantics play large
in wars of loathing
and vile justifications

relieve us we pray
from children killing children
from executions in the street
from brothers killing brothers
from sisters unleashed
like the dogs of war
like a belly full of cancer
like an aorta swelling

our gods cry ‘havoc’
in traps set by rulers
by teachers at schools
and in places of worship
by parents at dinner table
our legs immobilized
like wolves ensnared
we chew at our feet
attempts at freedom
cripple and break us
and everywhere
mouthing lies
groaning in denial
bowing to gutter rats
scraping to vultures
the false gods of our making

– Jamie Dedes

© 2012, poem and portrait (below), Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ the “Ludovisi Ares”,  Ares- the Greek God of War and Bloodlust via Wikipedia by Marie-Lan Nguyen and generously released into the public domain.

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

THE SUN & THE MOON ARE FREE

We cannot rest on the notion of the “innocent civilian.” Morally, when it comes to a free and powerful nation like ours, I believe there are no innocent civilians. If I pay taxes, I am a combatant.” Rick Steves, historian, author, TV Personality in Travel As a Political Act

On Memorial Day: in the hope that the human race will work to find solutions other than war, which is not a solution at all.

THE SUN AND THE MOON ARE FREE

by

Jamie Dedes

Why do I write this in ink so black

it melts the pages of my journey?

·

It is a peaceful night here.

The stars are tossed across a

clear, dark velvet sky like the

garden fairies dancing at dusk.

·

The moonlight reaches down

to embrace me in its silver light,

its touch delicate as a whisper.

·

What of you, dear brother?

And what of you, dear sister?

Are they free by you …

the moon and the stars?

·

Is the night sky at peace?

My ink burns to bone and

melts the pages of my journey

for you …

– who were born of violence

– who were born into violence.

·

Your pain and your losses are

not mandated by any god.

The murders, the maiming, the

hunger, homelessness, loneliness …

the disenfranchisement: man made.

·

Why do I write this in ink so black

it melts the pages of my journey?

Because I fear, because I know

my fragile, cherished kin, I KNOW –

·

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

– for what we have done

– what we have not done

– we are culpable.

PEACE:

IT’S A DECISION

NOT A PRAYER

Photo credit~ Peter Griffin, Public Domain Pictures.net 

letters, gunshots, another dream, and more | Lonnie Monka

I’ve been sending letters to various
areas controlled by the islamic
          state

explaining how peaceful & loving ways of life are possible
that to kill in the name of God is mistaken
& that a little dialogue could do wonders

I sent poems describing a future world without war
& inspiring quotes from political & religious leaders

then
          one day
                    I received a reply:
“to the dreamer who mistakes a nightmare for paradise”
          it began
“it is beyond us to know if by God you mean Allah
          yet let us assure you
a thirsty man lost in the desert may find a pool of pure water
          revive himself
& then run off to share his hydrating discovery
          until the pool is depleted
such is your state
          you call out to God
to control the rain
          & to replenish the empty form
which memories & stories claim was filled
          with purity
we
          by the power of Allah
will move from pool to pool

decimating fraudulent temples erected not to worship
          but to control the rain
until the whole world submits to Allah
          & our expansion ceases
leaving only a pure motion

dams will not be erected
          as people flow across the land
no different than water
          across the earth

you speak of love & peace
          but
you only want us to pay taxes
          to erect more static artifices

& please
          from now on
use extra postage
as we grow
          our operations carry more overhead”

Photograph
Michael Dickel ©2022

gunshots in the distance

          in distinct intervals
marked by a sloppy unison
          of soldiers at the firing range
the odd out-of-sync shots
          blossom into a single roaring echo
as I lay in a bush-filled field
          surrounded by weeds of varying heights

perched in a weed’s canopy

          of white flowers
a white spider
          waits

black flies & red beetles
          scrummage through the bed of sweets
climbing beside & even over
          the still white spider

its body mounted
          by little legs
while two longer white legs
          extend half bent in the air

till certain sized flies pass
          its face
triggering those long thin legs
          to swoop down
striking prey dragged
          into a hungry face

sometimes when released
          those bodies fall motionless
& sometimes they begin
          mid-air to fly

Falling spider, invisible thread
Digital Art from Photograph
Michael Dickel ©2022

another dream

          of two soldiers in a watchtower
                    talking through the night
will history judge us poorly?
          one asked
                    & his friend said
yes & no
          since history forgives the perpetrators
                    with a flare
for watching those who suffer most
          as those
                    who inherit evil

so they say

an M-16 in someone's hand asserts: kill or be killed
it only argues with adults—whereas children
they deafen all arguments into chatter

a stray dog doesn't know that it roams about as if it's not a target
a tree couldn't care less that it can sustain many bullet wounds
a wall must separate sides—no matter its thickness

it's fine if we're mistakenly standing on some graveyard
it's ok if you can't stop all people from fighting
it's nice to take care of a cat that you dislike

let all the varied kinds of privileged people tell you what's right
let thoughts of distant violence grow more distant
let yourself breathe—simple & stupid—grinning like a gorilla

it's alright if the news improves its powers of seduction
it's alright if one day the sun just burns out
it's alright if you desire—deviously—to litter a little

even if ambiguous firework-explosions startle you
if you move & speak according to what you believe is right
it's good if life & death dissolve into some unspeakable truth

veteran field

—for Mr. Visher
both before our lives and before our eyes
           upon every death before us we live
thoughtlessly leaping from this height to that
           we continue & learn also to love
to continue living as if stable
           upon whatever ground beneath our feet:
our subtle world produces fertile soil
           like this lush field where children play—knowing not
how they grow upon the dead body parts
           of some passing war & of all thought as war:

with ever-shifting translucent pillars
death supports all mortal experience

waning & waiting

bullets whiz
           past people’s ears
every day
           on city streets
I have shot
           the same gun
others have used
           for suicide

the stop signs have
           no gun holes here
the sun is blocked
           from flirting strands
of light—flickering
           with the rising
& the setting
           of lust-filled days:
maybe tomorrow
           I’ll find her
perhaps I will pull
           hard on her hair

every day
           I wake up
a blinded bird
           that craves to fly:
who can resist
           the savage pleasure
of pushing hard
against the air?

©2022 Lonnie Monka
All rights reserved


Lonnie Monka…

…founded Jerusalism, a non-profit organization to promote Israeli literature in English. He is a PhD student at Hebrew University, researching the intersection of modernist art and orality through a study of David Antin’s talk-poems, and he is currently an OWL Lab Fellow.



Raging at an uncommon pace… | Fabrice Poussin

Peace #13
Digital Art
Dean Pasch ©2022

Chasing the Muse

Raging at an uncommon pace
eons accelerating through the stars
little bright spot in the immensity traces
the sign of what it may become
a line disappearing in a soft vibration.

Fleeing to escape modern history
it may never be seen but as a memory
shiny speckle into the depth of an abyss
made of eternity and absent souls.

The poet squints to fix the moment
and imagine the words it may have spoken
echoing for all to hear the dying symphony.

Perhaps it will return with the new dawn
looking for a mate to grow in harmony.

For yet it seeks a rebirth in a hostile sphere. 

In the Soul

Some join in the deep of secret hours
behind curtains thick with lies
truth does not know the way in
when they share ultimate fancies.

When dawn comes they will part ways
rushing onto a path into other tragedies
after a night to decades of illusions
they pretended to believe in eternity.

Shells will survive into their world
upon streets of stench and dark asphalt
where they will smile again with faith
that no one will scent their death.

Strange liquid like putrescent molasses
ooze from those living corpses
enveloped by a cloud of love
as they like to make it known on the rooftops.

I would rather walk by her side
Safe, surrounded by her aura
with a touch of her soul upon my breath
inhaling her being through every pore. 

Rolls Royce and Little Yachts

Dressed in a bright gown
feet in golden stilettos
she stirs the Lamborghini to a halt
near the Cartier store where she will splurge.

Not far behind her the smoke of a city
fallen to the greed of the would-be gods
a low cloud hovers thick as muck
heavy with the weight of infinite miseries

The tuxedo waiting for her, too dreams
of helicopters and private jets	
lounging on the acres of his vast greens
one step closer to vast fortunes.

Descendant of royalty long forgotten
little, wrinkled by endless suns
alone in the dingy room she cleans
mansions and castles large as her city.

In thousand-dollar Hawaiian suits
others bask on the beach of their own islands
fake hair and skin made of silicon they also go
to the tomb… in million dollar outfits.

©2022 Fabrice Poussin
All rights reserved


Fabrice Poussin…

…is the advisor for The Chimes, the Shorter University award winning poetry and arts publication. His writing and photography have been published in print, including Kestrel, Symposium, La Pensee Universelle, Paris, and other art and literature magazines in the United States and abroad. Most recently, his collection In Absentia, was published in August 2021 with Silver Bow Publishing. 

Website / Blog Linked



Three Poems About Ukraine | Alison Stone

Self-Portrait March 2022

Warring nations mingle in my blood—
Russia, Germany, Ukraine, all the great-
great somebodies who boarded ships
pulled toward America’s promise-paved streets.
Their passports all stamped Jew.

My heart’s a non-fungible token,
encrypted. Needing heat.
My eyes hold boat rides on rivers
through glittering cities.
My finger’s locked as though stuck on a gun.

Daily, my legs take me the same loop—
kitchen, bathroom, office, street.
The mountain dwarfs me as expected.
My hands reach for passing dogs.

Clients tell me their dreams—
wolves, staircases, snow, an open window,
terror jumbled with desire. Symbols giving form
to need. Outside, premature crocuses
open dumbly, unaware of the forecasted storm.

The news offers its collection of horrors.
How easily beauty is bombed into meme.
What are you doing about it?
the first spring birds chirp, and no matter
what I stammer, a fat brassy crow
caws not enough.

Chill

Outside our thick locked door, the air grows cold.
Fall plays songs of loss. For an encore, cold.
 
Cascade of tangerine and neon pink–
The dying sun departs in splendor. Cold
 
nights for the too-long married. The furnace
breaks. More than metaphor—the air grows cold.
 
Poe writes his dead love back to him, despite
the tiresome raven’s Nevermore, cold
 
and final. Waves swallow the sand. Sun sets.
How long will stubborn swimmers ignore cold?
 
The power of love versus the might of
power. Who’s stronger, Venus or Thor? Cold,
 
hot, cold, hot—Our wounded planet revolts.
Flood. Drought. Plastic-filled whales wash ashore. Cold.
 
Grandma’s crooked fingers, Cossack-blue eyes.
Gold chai she always wore. The air grows cold
 
near gravestones. Too late to learn her secret
Anatevka dreams. East wind brings more cold.
 
Ukrainian bride strips off her wedding
gown, puts on the uniform of war. Cold
 
metal in her hand. Poets sip the Green
Fairy, enter delicious stupor, cold.
 
The old unfold chairs and umbrellas. Teens
sprawl tanning on the sand, all languor, cold
 
beauty.  Truckers wave swastika flags. Books
are burned in churches. The hungry implore cold
 
gods. In Stone’s empress daydream, two laws: Have
mercy. Plant seeds before the air grows cold. 

Untitled
Painting
David A. Amdur ©2022

Russian Soldiers Plant Landmines in Ukrainian Cemeteries

Despite landmines, mourners visit the dead.
Strategy is a cold, barren thing.
Which commands must be obeyed, which ignored?
An army is made up of people.

Strategy is a cold, barren thing,
measuring success in numbers of stopped hearts.
An army is made up of people,
some generous, some mean. All want to live.

Measure success in numbers of stopped hearts.
Count the empty places at tables –
Some generous, some mean, all people want to live.
Children starving in basements eat their hope.

Count the empty places at tables,
the houses bombed to blood-streaked rubble.
Children starving in basements eat their hope.
How inconvenient is the call to help?

So many houses bombed to blood-streaked rubble.
Despite landmines, mourners visit the dead.
How inconvenient is the call to help?
Which commands do we obey and which ignore?

©2022 Alison Stone
All rights reserved


Alison Stone…

…has published seven full-length collections, Zombies at the Disco (Jacar Press, 2020), Caught in the Myth (NYQ Books, 2019), Dazzle (Jacar Press, 2017), Masterplan, collaborative poems with Eric Greinke (Presa Press, 2018), Ordinary Magic, (NYQ Books, 2016), Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award; as well as three chapbooks. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin Award.

Website / Stone Tarot



Raining Rubies | Dessy Tsvetkova

Dove on top of the Western Wall supporting the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem
Photograph Michael Dickel ©2006

With a sword raised

With a sword raised
towards the sun,
they used to rule the land
for centuries.

The sword
which
looks so much
like an elongated cross ...

But nowadays
the cross
is embodied
by a dove 
with outstretched wings.

Cross,
  that flies
towards the sun
and to God.
05/06/22

Today

Today
from the sky
it's raining
rubies...

Red drops
of
grief...

They pour
hard,
cry
for the innocent 
as a belief...

They sprout
young
stalks...

One at a time
flower,
for each
soul...

The memory of peace

Loving fireflies
sharing all the joy...
Summer nights,
splendid tenderness of Eden...
Careless sunsets
of caressing sky glory,
soul enlightened by the heaven...
Chanted warming blessings.
Crickets symphonies of peace.
Travel back in time, enhancing...
Feeling of a childhood breeze...

©2022 Dessy Tsvetkova
All rights reserved


Dessy Tsvetkova…

…is Bulgarian who writes poems in Bulgarian and in English. She lived in Luxembourg and currently she lives and works in Belgium. Dessy has publications in many Bulgarian magazines and newspapers, also in Romania, Belgium, USA, India, Peru, Philippines. She has 4 books in Bulgarian, 1 in English, and she has also compiled a book as translator from Bulgarian into English, an anthology of Bulgarian top authors. She writes about nature, love and God, and her accent is the positive message at the final. Member of Flemish Party for Poetry. Editor in Homagi international Web literature magazine.



Purim Shpiel | Michael Dickel

The Jewish Festival, Purim, occurs March 16–17 this year, 2022 (17–18 in Jerusalem). This BeAttitude, from The BeZine, March 2017, is a part midrash and part Purim shpiel, with a bit of exegesis after the poem. If you don’t know what midrash is, see Deborah Wilfond’s Midrash following in this issue for a description and example of modern midrash. A Purim shpiel is a drama-carnival done for the holiday, usually humorous, often satirical, related to The Book of Esther.

Purim Fibonacci

Purim—
that carnivalesque

masquerade Persian New Year
of the Jewish Calendar rests
Carved wood mask
Nacius Joseph (b. 1939)
Haitian Sculptor
in the arms of Mardi Gras, an
upside down play of masked and
unmasked images dancing
at the party while Purim shpiel
stages a drama: unfolding
parody, satire, commentary—
the whole Megillah. And
who puts on an Esther mask
on the way to the
Beverly Hills Purim Ball, but Hadassah
herself, on her annual pilgrimage
to the festivities of inversions.
Nu, who do you think inspired
the Rabbis to write in the Gemara
that Jews should get so wasted
that they cannot distinguish

…

between "Blessed" Haman and

"Cursed" Mordechai, if not Vashti?

Vashti, who released herself
from the lustful gaze

of her husband's court,
now wears the death mask of that
same Ahashuerus who banished

his Queen to her freedom.
The Tel Aviv Opera Purim Ball
rejoices in the refractions
of self and story—politics
of the beauty contest


Wood mask
Artist unknown
for the virgin, check or mate.
Revelers cheer an Uncle arrogantly
dressed in mourner's cloth
who entered her in competition,
then stripped her of her mask
to save their people,
while letting his people massacre
others—another masquerade.

…

And in Tel Aviv and Beverly Hills,

the masked dancers
drink up the casts
and no longer recall

the difference
between good and good,
mask and masque—

so many layers
of truths, peeled
one after another,
as the frenzied forgetting
tears off masks over masks,
Angel of Time, oil painting
©Licka Kerenskaya
layered like ancient rubble
under old cities and their tels,
like history and politics,
like geology and religion,
until what lies beneath
and beneath again
barely glimmers
in the eyes

…

of the masquerade.

And Hadassah laughs,

dancing freely with Vashti,
two lovers at last

hidden and unhidden
at Tel Aviv and Beverly Hills
Balls—globes of pleasure

circling the world
in three complete lines
forming seventy-two
masks, each one
a part of the whole.
Michael Dickel

Exegesis
Anonymous commentator
Digital art from photographs
©2017 Michael Dickel

The poet dons the mask of commentator, but the poem always wears at least one mask in the presence of the poet, so beware. And, if the poem reveals (a) different mask(s) to you, dear reader, please explore. The poet does not trust that any poem reveals all of its masks at any one time, especially to the poet.

The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the tale told in The Book of Esther, a story that, remarkably, does not once mention G-d. Set in Persia, which rules over the Jews at the time, The Scroll of Esther (or Megillah) layers many levels of deceit and masquerade, and the tale turns on itself in many ways.

Book of Esther

The King of Persia, Ahashuerus, banishes his Queen, Vashti, when she refuses to dance in front of his guests. Mordechai urges his niece to enter the beauty contest held to replace the queen, but to hide that she is Jewish (and probably not eligible to be queen of Persia). So she uses her non-Jewish name, Esther, instead of her Jewish name, Hadassah, wins, and becomes Queen Esther.

Meanwhile, Haman, the viceroy to the King, hates Jews and especially Mordechai, who refused to bow before Haman, and who is in the story honored for revealing (through now Queen Esther) a plot against the king. Haman has to lead him through the streets on a horse, Mordechai dressed as a king, Haman’s own idea of how to be honored—which he is asked to tell the king at a party, perhaps a masque (Haman thinks it’s for himself that the King wants to know how to honor a person).

Haman, whose orders are like the King’s own (another mask), plots the hanging of Mordechai and the genocide of the Jews. While the rest of the city celebrates an occasion of state (the defeat of Jerusalem), Mordechai dresses in mourning because of Haman’s plot against his people. However, this is an act of treason during the celebration. He thus shames Esther into unmasking herself to Ahashuerus, who reverses Haman’s murderous order when he learns his wife is a Jew.

Purim mask

Jews celebrate Purim as a day of deliverance from death (and genocide). However, the rescinding of the order came too late to the walled cities, which had to fight to defend themselves (under dispensation of the king). So, the celebration of Purim as a holiday is one day later for the cities that were walled cities at the time of the story (including Jerusalem and Tiberias—this is called Shoshan Purim).The scroll ends with the recounting of Haman’s hanging and the killing of his kin, the death tolls from the battles at the walled cities, an unmasking, perhaps, of another form of genocide—in the name of defense.

The Poem

The date of the holiday itself loosely coincides with Carnival (Mardi Gras) and the Persian New Year. Jews celebrate with Purimshpiel (Yiddish for Purim stories, usually in the form of plays—traditionally, parodies and satires on current events using the story of Esther) and by donning costumes and masks, holding parties (balls), and getting drunk. Yes, the Gemara says that Jews should get drunk enough that they no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai, respectively, the male villain and hero of the story of Esther. Perhaps it is to make up for Eden and the whole Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil thing. This poem could be read as a sort of Purimshpiel variation.

Donning masks
Digital art from photographs
©2017 Michael Dickel

The donning of masks allows us to hide who we are, but masks also reveal who we are, or an aspect of who we are that is usually hidden. Carnivalesque masquerade allows us to try on aspects of ourselves or display those energies that we normally repress or hide (perhaps in a closet somewhere, with the costume). Drunkenness allows forgetting, but also disinhibition and release. Perhaps we learn of the capacity of good and evil within ourselves, as well as about those other parts of ourselves that would otherwise be “masked” by everyday existence.

So, the poem has Hadassah, the Jewish girl, wearing the mask of her alter ego from the story, Queen Esther. Yet perhaps this is an aspect of her all along? Perhaps we all have hidden “royal” qualities? Esther replaced Vashti, who was banished by King Ahashuerus for refusing to dance (naked) before him and the court. And Queen Vashti, in the poem, wears the mask of the king. He banished her from the court, but to where? Did she stand up for her own self-respect by refusing to succumb to what, centuries later, a feminist film critic would identify as scopophilia, or the male gaze? Was her banishment a freedom? How does gender play through this story, that seems to focus on men, but relies on a woman at its center, perhaps two women, if we look more closely at Vashti?

The poem suggests in its own center that masks unveil as we peel them, but also there is the hint that they reveal at each layer (like the layers of rubble beneath old cities that mound into tels, which hint at the history of the eras of the city; and like the layers of both geology and religion, which are ancient with something hot and molten at the core, like our own psychological being). This move to the psychological enters the mystical, with the masked women, who appear to be King Ahashuerus and Queen Esther now that they wear their masks, dancing together (yet at separate balls, one in Beverly Hills, its own masquerade and center of Hollywood glitz and glamor, and the other in Tel Aviv, the “new city” of Eretz Israel). This is like the Malkhut and Shekhina, or Shabbat (King, or male aspect of G-d) and Bride ( Queen, or feminine aspect of G-d).

Arithmetic or is it geometry?

And then comes the poem’s mysterious end, which references Exodus 14:19-21 the three lines of Torah that, with 72 Hebrew letters each, Kabbalists believe can be permuted into the 72 Names of G-d. The poem suggests that these Names are both masked and masks (that hide or reveal?)—their hiddenness echoes the hiddenness of G-d in the text of Esther, and the ineffability of divinity in all of its guises.

Purim mask

The stanzas follow a sequence of line numbers each, counting the first line of three dots (which wears the mask of the title). The pattern goes (before the title, think of 0): 0 lines (an extra line break marked with … before the sections that follow after the first one), 1 line, 1 line, 2 lines, 3 lines, 5 lines, 8 lines. This pattern repeats three times (for a total of 60 lines), then goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, for a total of 72 lines, like that number of Hidden Names.

The sequence of numbers used (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8) is the first part of an infinite series, known as the Fibonacci sequence, that has many interesting relationships in math and nature, including the pattern of sunflower seeds in their flower, unfurling fern heads, and, significant to Jewish mystical allusions, the branching of trees.

The Hebrew word for life, chai, has the numerical value of 18. Twice chai, or double life, is 36. Double that, and…72. That the number of lines in the poem equals 72 probably doesn’t mean much more than that our lives are not singular, but layered with intersections of meanings.


Explore more
The author in costume, Purim 2017
Photo ©2017 Aviva Dekel

Wrestling with Esther: Purim Spiels, Gender, and Political Dissidence by Emily Nepon— a modern Midrash that informs this poem.

Purim and the Masks We Wear by Ari Kahn— a commentary that, while coming from a very different perspective, has some interesting background from traditional Midrash.

The Astounding Achievement, Maybe, of the Man Who Definitely Wasn’t Fibonacci by Dan Friedman— an interesting article about Fibonacci from LA Review of Books, reviewing Keith Devlin’s book that covers his experience researching and writing a book on Fibonacci.


This originally appeared in The BeZine March 2017, and is a lightly edited version of :

Dickel, M. (2013). Drash Meets Mosh: Purim: A Fibonacci Sequence? (Column). Drash Pit . February. Online. Original url: drashpit.com/Main/Drash_Meet_Mosh.htm (no longer active). Archived.


©2013 original, 2017 edited version Michael Dickel
All rights reserved


Midrash | Deborah Wilfond


Author’s Note: One of the oldest anthologies of world literature, the Hebrew Bible reflects the human search for meaning in an uncertain world. Themes such as the struggle to understand our mortality, our social responsibilities towards each other, and how we cope with trauma, infuse these mythic narratives.

Many readers are familiar with the character of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Few are acquainted with the story of his wife, Elisheva, who is only mentioned once in the Hebrew Bible. The story below is a modern example of a literary genre known as midrash, an imaginative elaboration of the original scriptural text. This midrash deals with an episode in the life of Aaron’s family when he assumes a new position of leadership on behalf of the people as the High Priest. The story takes place in the desert, after the people have fled from Egypt, received the Torah, and constructed the portable sanctuary. It is written from Elisheva’s point of view.


Tzav (Command)

Stepping inside the courtyard of the holy place, the curtain flap open in the wind affording a brief glimpse of bronze and golden objects twinkling inside the tent, little lights flickering in the gloom. The brush scrapes the ground as I sweep up the accumulated ashes into a heap and stoke the dying embers, their carnelian glow once more flaring into life.

This coming back, this returning to the refuge of my skin, my hair, my lungs, my heart, my limbs, and my joints. Sensations arise in the space within the sanctuary’s bounds, my breath comes and goes, my body settles in as a part of the sanctuary’s covers, beams, poles and sockets—all part of this sacred, intricate design. During our spinning and sewing and forging and hammering, I had got up to tiptoe around, gazing in wonder at the fine linens of the tapestries and special garments, the smooth contours of the tent structure with its furniture inside and the radiant golds, blues, purples, reds of these creations which seemed to be springing from some other place.

My husband has been chosen to stand at the entrance where life meets death. After all our upheavals: the plagues and portents, the running in terror with just the clothes on our backs, across the sea, desert, mountain, the crossing, surviving, climbing. I suddenly aged, deep lines dug ditches around my mouth and eyes, my hair thin wisps of silver down my back. Heat blazing, heartbeat sprinting, joints creaking and then a blanket of fatigue overtook my bones. I ran out of patience. All these years I have channeled my energy into looking after our children, providing nourishment. And I helped with the birthing of hundreds of babies, looking after the other women of the camp, and reaching for them in turn for support.

Despite everything, Egypt beckons to me in my dreams. The ravaging furnace burning down on us, the shuffling dust of the alleyways and the wooden table where we ate and sang together in secret. They still travel with me. I hear the echoing voices of my parents, the jovial chuckle of my father at some tiny delight, a child showing a magic trick.

In this new desert land of our becoming, our grandchildren are starting to forget the language of our oppressors. Soon the camp and our own ancient language will be all they remember.

Yet in the freedom of the camp, I have become heavy with sadness. Two of our four grown sons have grown distant. Recently Nadav and Avihu began to remove themselves from the camp, offering sacrifices many times a day.  They spend hours discussing minutiae of legal precepts with each other. They no longer sit with me, and they don’t want lovers or families of their own. They would rather be shut away discussing the vessels of the sanctuary. I feel a creeping dread as something stirs within my entrails. I wake often in the early hours.

Where is Aaron, my husband?

There was a terrible incident. He fashioned a golden calf when Moses was gone too long on the mountain. Afterwards our people carried out a mass slaughter. The loss of life, the blood, the agony was unbearable.

We rarely speak of it but when we do, Aaron looks away.

“Why did you do it?”

“I was scared.”

“Of what?”

“The people’s distress and fear.”

“Why were they distressed and afraid?”

“The terrifying silence, the emptiness, the feeling of abandonment. Moses was gone so long, and they needed reminding of the essence of things, the candle within. They needed comforting.”

“So, you tried to comfort them?”

“Yes. I thought the golden calf would lift their spirits, create some holiness. I hoped it would remind the men to be like your nephew, Betzalel, our great architect, who channels divine inspiration into his art. The men would also remember they are made in the image of the divine and would return to the work of our holy community, dedicating themselves to the Great Mystery. So, I tried to fill them up with confidence and good feelings, the food and song of celebration. But it turned out wrong. The filling up was a mistake. I tried to do the work of creation for them. This gift, something separate and apart, was a solid object of cold, dead metal which had no room for holiness inside it. Now thousands of people are dead and it’s all my fault.”

Outrage. We couldn’t hear anything in the cacophony of crying. Deafness descended and panic set in once again, reminding us of Egypt.

Burning House, oil
Ester Karen Aida ©2022

Aaron told me he will always love me but now the air where once there was a singing robin is void of our voices. We have created a masterpiece of muteness, Aaron and I, a duet of noise and silence.

Aaron has to atone and then perhaps we can start anew. He and all our sons have to repent, to stay in the confines of the sanctuary for seven days in quiet solitude. Seven days of returning.  Returning to the space within. They are encouraged to dwell inside and tend to the sanctuary with intention renewed, planting seeds for our future.

And after they left for the sanctuary, the rest of the camp has been full of busy activity, people rushing about getting things ready for the consecration of the priests. A jumble of jars of flour and oil and the bellowing of bulls, shrieks of lambs, jostling in pens outside the precinct.

Aaron left and I was alone. Silence entered our tent. I regretted not going to stay with one of our daughters-in-law and the grandchildren. I watched the migrating birds flying away, the pepper specks disappearing until the vault was empty.

They’ve been gone seven days already.  Last night the sun chose its room and prepared to retreat into bed for the night. Dusk settled and I was open to all of evening, sleep overcoming my eyes, indigo.

Then suddenly in fright, it came to the fore.  Tranquility no longer, no more. The darkness descending, the plummeting chain. I awoke there on the floor mat of my tent, heart pounding.

I had dreamed of grabbing and grasping, many people around me desperate, needing to be filled, imbibing until drunk and vomiting. And the earth, enraged, had swallowed us up and spat us out. And all the while the messengers, the angels danced at the gates of the garden, hot and sweating, with their swiveling swords.

We had fled, down valleys and across streams, where beasts live beyond park and pale, amongst the craggy rocks, lurking treacherously behind desert brush. There in a cave were souls curled up on the ground, slumbering, awaiting their turn like scorched seeds waiting for the rains to come.

And as the dream continued, only half alive, my veins constricting and my breath rattling in half a lung, I heard something. A small voice in the night crying for my attention, a new mother in labour. So I fled faraway to the other side, beyond where the horizon meets the edges of the earth to the outskirts of where women’s memory resides.

While my sisters and daughters talked of rupture and absence, our bodies were joined to our mothers’ bodies and those of our grandmothers. And the stories we told, our tears somehow became forgotten in the pain of childbirth. They rise up sometimes in other dreams, struggling to be heard and seen above the comings and goings, the babies’ cries and the pots and pans. They drop back down underneath the embroidered covers, burrowing.

Now so suddenly and brutally awake, shaking off the sticky cobwebs of dreams, I get up and go outside to a wide-open night sky and a bony moon. The walk is lonely, past thorny bushes black at this time of night, then the sandy earth beneath bare feet. Coming down an undulating slope, there is the glow from the sanctuary.

Someone is looking out, returning my gaze, a movement and a glimmer. Between the flaps of the awnings a presence lingers, peering from her bedroom out into the night. Her eyes open wider, and I see the two onyx stones. And a wind blows through the courtyard of the sanctuary, the curtains momentarily sway, and I see a swell within her, she is with child. New life within her shifts its tiny limbs. There is another ripple of wind, and the linen fabric of the enclosure settles once more under the restful dreaming moon.

The sky is going grey. Aaron and our sons bide their time in the sanctuary precinct, reminding me of my monthly time in the women’s tent. Outside the camp for seven days, bleeding out the beasts of sacrifice, they too are humbled. Seven days finished, echoing the seven of fullness, like the promise of a pregnant belly.

Marigold Picking, pastel
Ester Karen Aida ©2022

So as not to wake anyone, I tiptoe around the courtyard, peeking behind the drapes. There they are, all tucked up in their blankets, my husband, my grown boys. Calm, harmonious rhythms of breathing in, breathing out. Such love for that smooth, bald head, those lines around his crinkled eyes, all those whispering sighs. Here is the abundance of roots deepening down and branches reaching up, sap rising from my tending and protecting.

Turning and looking around, here again is the wondrous architecture of the sanctuary and I wonder about the placement of furniture in this impermanent home.

So too I wonder about the hidden secret place, and I start to wander, to look for it. Ever so quietly, smelling the sweet frankincense and myrrh, I run my hands over the smooth gold of the candelabra. 

Then I see it. The inner curtain. I peek round it and see gazing winged angels, their eyes beholding each other with tenderness and passion.

Suddenly I am transported back to Egypt. I am in my mother’s clay brick house, but she is not there. I touch her robes hanging up to dry, and, parting them, I find something behind that I have never seen before.  A golden door is set in the wall. I open it and an underground tunnel leads me all the way along its twists and turns to a cave with a warm, round, bubbling brook at its centre.

I blink, and once again find myself in the sanctuary, touching the inner curtain. The first threads of sunlight appear on the rosy strips of tapestry and light up the acacia and bronze. I hurry out, quietly, quietly, back to the courtyard and look up at the full array of colors filling the firmament.

I need to get home to the camp, to prepare celebratory cakes and return later for the festive occasion. Soon we will be a family of priests, chosen to serve in the sanctuary and there will be rejoicing and feasting.

Slipping towards the camp now, long nightdress damp and dirtied underfoot, needing a wash. Plans formulate, the mind steadies for lists and busy-ness once more. The daughters-in-law will arrive soon with the children. Cleaning, clearing, chopping, baking, feeding, holding, caring.

The Gate You Only Go Through Once To The Path That Leads Nowhere
Gerald Shepherd ©2022

Before I reach the top of the hill, he calls my name: “Elisheva!”

My name, yes, my name! Elisheva. It means my God’s oath, or my God is seven.

I look back towards the sanctuary.

Aaron is by the entrance, smiling: “Seven days are complete, my love, my bride. I’m about to take my oath of service and we will be reunited again.”

Here he is at the entrance to the sanctuary, waiting for the Divine Indwelling to call to us, to meet us.

And a still, small Voice can now be heard, barely audible above the desert wind.

“How will I see you?”

“We’ve been searching foreign lands our whole lives for signs and wonders.”

And the Voice asks: “How will I hear you?”

“We couldn’t hear each other. We couldn’t hear above the cries of our people enslaved next to the mighty river. We had been deaf, under water.”

And the Voice asks: “How will I touch you?”

“Our skin was like the scales of a fish, floating dead in the Nile.”

And then the Voice tells us: “I’m waiting for you to be more intimate with Me. Return and listen, feel my pulse, sing prayers in my holy space, pour out your heart, wait for me.”

As the blue brightens and the air is turning, lifting me into the morning, I see the bull. Once a calf, now transformed and grown, destined for sanctification on the altar, a transformation into smoke and suet. They will pour out its blood. What a sacrifice, this perfect life to be taken, this valuable possession, so that we may live.

And I turn away from the pungent smell of burning animal brought on the wind. Aaron’s shame disappearing in smoke. The bull diminishing, my heart heavy for the breaking of life but now remembering our wedding; how I had looked at the smashed glass and became conscious of our flaws, the messes we make. Each created thing has its place and time.

Now the bull’s life-force is being released, the germinating seed is cracking open, roots traveling inwards and burying down, down, down and sprouts stretching upwards. My grandchildren come and they cling to me and together we see Aaron re-emerging.

The preparations are finished, the washing, the anointing and here he is, here he is, here is Aaron coming out in his glorious vestments. The excited whispers of the crowd grow as we look on.

A butterfly emerges from its chrysalis.

And I am a part of it, too, I am there, a part of two, the other ear, thumb and toe anointed in oil.

And I am a part of my sons, too. They emerged from my womb.

My heart listens for the footsteps, the life of the fire dances within and without, awaiting; the back of my neck, the insides of my wrists, my thighs, my palms, my nose, my lips anticipate your taste.

We sing together inside our sanctuary.

Inside you will see and hear and touch, in here, we’ll find part and parcel of Us, you and me, and me and you and this vanishing view.

The scarlets, blues, purples of this garden, these embroidered robes, the golden sunlight engraved on the head-dress, the gemstones, the flowers glittering and glorious and dazzling. The bells and the pomegranates and the vegetation quiver and breathe their aliveness.

You emerge and, my love, I emerge, and the butterfly, my love and I can feel it in our bodies and we can fly.

And the garden sanctuary beckons, its warm earth, delicate rains, vast expanse of air, sun, almond blossoms, and the nothingness and the everything within.


Text ©2022 Deborah Wilfond
All rights reserved


Deborah Wilfond

…grew up in London and earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Edinburgh University in Scotland.  After completing legal training at the University of Law, she worked in family law in London for a few years. During this time, Deborah went to Jerusalem on a ten-day trip where she met and fell in love with her husband, who happens to be a Rabbi.  They got married and Deborah moved to Jerusalem. There she worked as a yoga and mindfulness teacher while mothering their three rambunctious children. Since 2020, Deborah has been living in New York. She is currently teaching mindfulness and pursuing graduate Jewish Studies with Spertus Institute.

Courage Within | Jambiya Kai

Colours of Courage

The beast rises in power                                                                                                                                                                and my tears fall for the fatherless.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               For the girlchild whose belly swells from incest and abuse,                                                                                                                         my anger blazing at conspirators who choose silence over courage;                                                                                                                                                                                  children locked down in crowded cones on drums,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 their dreams aborted by bellicose rhetoric,                                                                                                            and pores leaking with the stench of paucity and dearth

The world calls me broken and battered                                                                                                                             it says that I am a victim of plundered identity                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           But listen carefully……                                                                                                                                                      Songs and dance shade my brow from the sweltering sun,                                                                                             the balm for searing tears.

The world may call me wrecked and ruined,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             a bloodbath of gangsterism and war,                                                                                                                              but what it does not say                                                                                                                                                        is that I am shedding the impurities of imperialism                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and systems designed to shut me down                                                                                                                                       I am the guardian of greatness born in huts                                                                                                                                                of mothers who sorrow over empty pots,

I am the gold that emerges from oppression                                                                                                             the river horse basking in the sun.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I am giraffe nibbling at the stars,                                                                                                                                            and narratives of hope drinking from the copious flow of rivers                                                                                                                    that overwhelm disease and destruction;                                                                                                                                The Imbongi’s tales on current affairs soothe grief and gross injustice,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        eager tongues and clicks carried on waves of resilience.

I am the roar of the lion and the honk of the hippo

I am the sound of triumph

I am, 

Africa
Miroslava Panayotava
Faces of the Rose
©2021

The Light Within

My doctor’s secretary stared at me from across the room,
I’d come for reassurance.
My chest felt tight.
The atmosphere filled with viral tension.
"Do you believe in aura"?
I searched her face—shy in the scrutiny of her vision.
"I believe we are clothed in our inner selves
that place where God resides
 it's that presence that permeates spaces and transforms beautiful to breath-taking
 like drops of honey on dew
oceans floating into shores
nature's four seasons".

My 20 Seconds of shy was swept up in thunderous applause.
She nodded, closed her eyes to lock in the sight only she could see, 
gleaming like a sampler of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee; 
the scent of contentment and nostalgia. 
Understanding arose like a fragrant aroma. 
Blue Mountain—a cooling relief from red-hot sun.

"When you walked through the door I felt as if I was floating through a field of sunflowers". 
Her delight sailed through the lace of my own reverie.
For a moment she reminded me of a little girl holding her puppy for the first time.
"I’m caught up in a sanctuary of sun-speckled fern—I can't explain it. I can't stop smiling".
God and I smiled too—we giggled.
I came for medicine but she met Life in a forest of gold
I imagined Blue Mountain, 
sunset sprinkled across a silent lake
A city on a hill that bears the insignia of hope.
In that moment I breathed, free of fear.
A city on a hill
Hope.
Gerry Shepherd
Distant Hills
©2021

©2021 Jambiya kai
All rights reserved

Healing Spirits | Jennifer Baker-Porazinski

The Spirit and Healing (and Healing the Spirit)

As news stories flashed around the world of sickness and death from coronavirus, a growing unease settled in.  It was stealthy at first, like an unwanted visitor. But as death tolls rose, so did my dread.  The intruder at my door became agitated, ready to break down my defenses and barrel into my home, threatening harm to me and my family.  As it turned out, my fears weren’t unwarranted. 

What began in my mind as worry, morphed into physical discomfort.  In the beginning, I convinced myself I was fine – stress was expected during a pandemic, especially among healthcare workers. But as my symptoms escalated, they became harder to ignore.  My head ached from crying (or trying not to), my jaw muscles were sore from clenching my teeth, and my chest felt like a weight had settled permanently on it.  Most of the time, I hid it pretty well. But occasionally, my sudden, uncontrollable outbursts of tears exposed me.  Early in the pandemic, I overheard my insightful husband Paul tell a friend on the phone that I was “doing okay, but mourning what was coming.” As usual, Paul knew my truth long before I did. 

I drove my middle son back to college in March 2020 to bring his stuff home. He’d left most of his belongings in his dorm room, clinging to the hope that he’d be allowed to return to campus for his last semester.  Back then, we were all still optimistic. We couldn’t fathom that his four years of hard work would culminate in us clustered around our TV, watching a virtual graduation ceremony on spotty internet.  

The mood in the car was somber as a radio reporter declared that the world was “at war with a virus.” Highway signs flashed inhospitable messages: STAY HOME.  The ferry to Long Island, normally filled with carefree vacationers crowding the small bar and sunning on the deck, was eerily empty.  The few fellow travelers on the ferry with us chose to remain in their vehicles.   In my mind, this small thing symbolized the grave situation we faced.  In a society of increasing polarization, from white supremacy to police brutality, what people truly needed was to come together. The virus had succeeded in forcing a country, already fiercely divided emotionally for political, economic and social reasons, to separate physically.  When we arrived at my son’s desolate campus on that beautiful sunny day, where students should’ve been throwing frisbees and laughing together on the lawn, we felt like characters from a dystopian novel about the end of time.

How do we breach this divide, made worse by the pandemic, when isolation is now encouraged if not enforced? Before the viral threat demanded physical separation, many were already socially isolated – cocooned in “safe” communities away from different colors, religions, or beliefs cultivates – intent on maintaining otherness.  Black men especially have been othered – unjustly vilified as violent and dangerous thugs (most egregiously evident when they stand against racism). With horror, I came to realize that while I was warning my sons not to accept rides from strangers, black parents were teaching their sons to be careful about the ever-present danger of white people (including the ones sworn to protect).  To not instill this caution would be negligent, even deadly, given the alarming mortality statistics of black youths (not to mention their disproportionate representation in prisons). 

Racism influences every facet of life from housing to healthcare, a fact made shamefully apparent during the pandemic where non-whites contracted and died from coronavirus at significantly higher rates than whites. Health outcomes are even worse for the uninsured, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic. Add to this a lack of access to nutritious foods and crowded, polluted living areas without open spaces and it is easy to understand this increased mortality. The enormous economic and social disadvantages of nonwhites in America has resulted in a sick and vulnerable population. 

Lives depend on us coming together, not separating apart.  Racism won’t go away if left unchallenged, if we remain hidden in safe, all white communities. Silence is acceptance, as clearly stated in Holocaust surviver Elie Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Peace Prize speech. “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We must always take sides. Children aren’t born with prejudice. And as they grow up, exposure to different cultures can protect them against developing it. It’s hard to hate black people if you have family members who are black. It’s hard to dislike Muslims if your best friend is one. 

Hate is taught. But love can be taught, too.

I believe change will happen when we see others as we see ourselves. I readily acknowledge this isn’t easy. In my experience with difficult patients (even those I strongly disagree with) when I truly listen to their stories I can always find some common ground. Even among the racists. Even among the misogynists. Even among pandemic-deniers spreading misinformation that has undoubtedly prolonged the pain and suffering of the pandemic. Sometimes I have to try harder to get past the rough exterior they’ve built up to hide their own anger and shame. But when I do, I always find some goodness. I’m forced to confront my own judgmental mind, and shift them out of the other category. I know I’m not unique. We all have capacity for empathy and inclusion. After all, we have so much more in common with each other than we have differences. 

In early 2020 America squandered the opportunity to make the preparations many other countries had after the pandemic was declared. Instead of a uniform plan, individual states made up their own rules, many ignoring pleas from scientists urging them to act swiftly to contain the virus.  As a result, where people lived became a crucial factor in their risk of dying – just as the color of their skin did. Mixed messages from social media and the government bred distrust and fear, further polarizing an already deeply divided country. The virus thrived in this media.

Americans wanted to believe we had a magic shield protecting us. We quickly tired of social isolation, seemingly less tolerant to the loneliness, boredom, and inconvenience of hunkering down than other countries. As the panic of the first days of the pandemic receded, we became numb to the shocking numbers – thousands of deaths every day from coronavirus. We desperately wanted to get life back to normal.  We missed friends and family. For some, this need superseded caution.  They gathered together anyway, assisting the virus in its biologically-driven impetus to flourish. 

As the weeks turned to months, grim headlines declared hospitals over capacity with escalating daily death tolls.  Freezer trucks, parked outside, served as temporary morgues.  The media reported that doctors would likely need to ration resources.  I worried about the emotional cost to health care workers forced to make impossible decisions.  As I waited with the rest of the world in morbid anticipation, I felt guilty that I wasn’t collapsing into bed at the end of each day, as my exhausted urban colleagues were. I listened in horror to stories of traumatized medical students and residents racing between patients, performing futile CPR.  Self-doubt re-surfaced:  Am I strong enough for this level of intensity?  Could I rise to the challenge if I needed to?  Did I have what it would take?  I didn’t know the answer to these questions and was awed by young people still choosing a path in medicine.  

Our fragmented healthcare system impeded the robust response the pandemic required, with deadly consequences.  Americans with medical conditions unrelated to the virus refused to seek care not only because they feared the virus, but also because they feared exorbitant medical bills at a time of financial uncertainty.  Healthcare avoidance is most apparent in black Americans who, despite being more likely to succumb to coronavirus, are twice as likely to forgo care.  The same is true for low-wage workers, who are both at high risk for viral exposure on the job and also more than twice as likely to be uninsured.  In America, uninsured people die. It is unconscionable that, in a country that excels in caring for medical emergencies,  Americans are dying at home with treatable illnesses.  Lack of access and affordability of medical care impacts everyone’s health:  When people can’t afford testing or treatment during a pandemic, the virus spreads quicker.

Paul got sick with Covid just after Christmas, held hostage for weeks as he languished in bed, groaning in pain whenever he changed positions.  Before he got sick, I’d spent nine months worried about the intruder I was certain lurked at my door.  I tried unsuccessfully to banish from my mind the horrors depicted on the news – communities ravaged, people dying alone in overcrowded hospitals.  At the time, I was sure that many of my patients wouldn’t be able to care for moderately sick relatives at home, especially if they were also sick. Caring for Paul made it painfully evident to me how a family with minimal resources might easily succumb to this virus. It became frighteningly clear how rapid it could spread among families in apartments and crowded homes, where isolation simply wasn’t possible.  I’m heartbroken thinking about people who suffered and died alone for fear of exposing other family members. 

I know I’m lucky.  I never worried I’d be fired from my job or that my family would lose health insurance. I never felt alone, thanks to the support of friends and family who waved and blew kisses through the door as they dropped off food and necessities.  I’m forever grateful to the oxygen delivery driver who braved our rural dirt road late one bitter Friday night, likely preventing Paul from hospitalization. I’m grateful for his doctor’s availability, checking in frequently by text.  But, I’m also outraged by the systemic injustice revealed by the high rates of illness and death among racial minorities and the poor.  Paul was just one sick person and, although his illness was grueling, it didn’t end in tragedy. Paul had the advantage of privilege, of skin color.  Millions of others were not so fortunate, leaving behind countless grieving loved ones.  The loss is unimaginable.

A God Creating the World
Gary Shepherd, ©2021 All Rights Reserved

Healing from the physical and emotional scars of the pandemic won’t be easy.  As a traumatized society, we must find ways to mourn our great losses together.  When raw grief loosens its painful grip over time, we remember how precious life is.   We show our gratitude to those who helped us past our heartbreak.  As medical providers care for their communities, friends and neighbors, it is impossible (if not inhumane) to force emotional separation.  Instead, the pandemic offers a rare opportunity for ordinary people to come together and act for the good of others – not only their loved ones and neighbors but for the whole country. We are all struggling.  We need each other.

Always the optimist, I look for (and find) small miracles arising in the midst of suffering.  In my role as physician, I counsel people every day on stress management and wellness – the very foundation of good health.  With no guidance from me, much of what I’d advise is actually being lived throughout America right now:  people have slowed down, simplified, and connected with their loved ones, even if only virtually.  To escape the confines of home, Americans are venturing outdoors into nature, something our distant ancestors knew intuitively was restorative and essential for good health. They are searching for (and finding) a sense of meaning.  They are fortifying the spirit, which will go a long way in maintaining health.

Almost instantaneously, the world is also more mindful. Vigilance over the virus has made everyone pay closer attention – to what they touch, to their immediate environment and to the people around them.  Neuroscience shows that mindfulness improves our health by re-wiring our brains to be less reactive and more accepting.  I expect this mindfulness will seep out into other areas of life, too.  Mindfulness fosters an appreciation of the miraculous world we live in – a planet that holds both suffering and beauty, just like each one of us.  When we look for the good and then share it with others, it provides hope – a necessary component of healing.

Advances in medicine will undoubtedly help end the suffering.  But, in addition to developing new medications to treat critically ill patients, widespread testing availability, and a broad scale vaccination program, we must have a health care system that supports prevention and provides universal care.  Our country’s early failures don’t have to define our ultimate response to the pandemic.  As we witness friends and family filing for unemployment and losing their health insurance, we can no longer deny that our tattered safety net is in urgent need of repair.  As we see the racial disparities in infection rates among our black brothers and sisters, we must be outraged that skin color is a greater risk factor for death than poor health.   We can no longer ignore the inequality rampant in our society and, even more shamefully, in our healthcare system.

When I move beyond my fear and worry, it’s hard not to be inspired. Years from now, I hope to remember this as the moment when America woke up – that in our grief we pulled together and demanded change.  I hope we commit to remodeling our failing healthcare system – that the tragedy of the pandemic serves as the final impetus to provide universal healthcare for all Americans.  To accomplish this, we will need to raise our collective voices and be heard.  We cannot remain silent.

I also hope that America finally embraces her identity as a melting pot through equality, tolerance and compassion. It isn’t too late to revive the American dream of liberty and justice for all.  In my vision of the future, the change begins locally with people reaching out to help their neighbors, as is happening all over the world right now – as happened to my own family when my husband got sick.  These acts of kindness spread with greater tenacity and speed than the virus.  As we recognize our common humanity in our neighbors (even those that look and act differently), we will no longer be able to turn away.  

In my dream of the future, I tell my grandchildren that, despite the pain and suffering of the pandemic, this was when their world truly blossomed beyond our greatest expectations to become the kinder, more beautiful place they now live in. 

Like  most Americans, I desperately wait for the end of this tragic chapter in our history.  Inspired by selfless acts of bravery and compassion, filled with anticipation and hope, I long for a chance at a new beginning – for both our sick society and for illness from coronavirus.  Our nation’s health depends on it.

Our own lives depend on it.


©2021 Jennifer Baker-Porazinski
All rights reserved