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

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

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.

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 

A Gift of Courage

Today is the 25th of July 2013, the birth date of my gracious respectful and loving Mother. This day millions of memories are flooding my heart soul and mind, and I say ‘Changes tell us the Time.’ So much has changed, so much has been lost, so much which I called ‘mine’, was never meant for me; gone are the days of talking by fences and standing ‘in line’…and yet there are others for whom we keep and show our love and respect for what we got. Now we need to return. They need it now, some lines that touch and strike, jingle and create ripples in the barrel of thoughts, lying cool and precious, are there, only to be opened on special occasions.

This was one special occasion….

Father’s first posting was as the Staff Surgeon in the Combined Military Hospital of a hill station called Murree. At 9,000 feet above sea level Murree was cool in summers but extremely chilly in snowy Winters, ‘The uniform takes days to dry and the coal iron is smoky and heavy’. The year was 1953. Pakistan the newly created state was struggling at many fronts but the hearts and spirits were joyful and happy, Mother heaved a deep sigh and kept on pressing the heavy iron. She must be missing her own home which she had to leave forever when the family had to migrate to Pakistan.

Mother had to work in hard conditions, such areas are called hard areas and sometimes an army officer has to live without his family as some stations are marked non-family stations. Communication is hardly possible, the letters could travel though, but it took the postman many days to deliver.

Dear Readers ‘A gift of courage, support, trust and affection, a gift of words for the comfort of all.’ I recall how mother coped with life after migration, reaching safer grounds after a journey of three days and fearful nights in an army truck, in a convoy often threatened by ambush and shooting. I remember too the days were long and hot and humid in July, which is usual in this part of the world (the Indo Pak subcontinent), making it depressive at times

Life too is strange, horrifying, tragic, yet with flashes of joy, happiness and fun. At times one may laugh at its twists and turns, its alleys and avenues, through which one has to walk, rush and tread heavily, worriedly or happily. Isn’t there a fresh canvas every twenty four hours?
To be prepared for a vision, comforting our minds in meditation, developing a dream illustrating the images of our colorful worlds from the inside.

Why should we cease to enjoy the heavenly glory the manifestation of truth in nature. To look at the tall trees,the solid brown trunks cracked cut and chipped, but clasping the depths of the nutritious mother Earth with faith, rooted with purpose, waiting for the advent of Spring and the music of myriad of creations crawling, curling, creeping or flying amid reawakening of the changing season. Some branches are sprouting some are still bare reflecting a strange loneliness. This reminds me of the lines ‘sadness and sorrow fill my heart, when I see the leaves silently leave the tree….’

Mama left quietly silently for Heaven without a sigh, without a tear, a gigantic monument of patience courage and acceptance. Winning a battle I would say, not losing it against the continuously silent corrosive cancer.  Not a morsel could she touch for months.

Seasons surrendered. Time crept by, I wept secretly and slept cautiously. From the ITC (intensive care) to the special room, from the Oncology Department to the scan center, from the agonizing spells of chemotherapy to the uncertain hours of unconsciousness. I prayed for inner strength. ’O Almighty Allah please forgive me. You are most merciful, most gracious. Please keep my mama in peace and out of pain’. Some people pass away without any so why do others have to suffer so much?

A frosty November Sunday evening, my last moments by the bedside, the tender sensation of the last touch of her hand on my cheek, the wordless, voiceless, hushed and helpless goodbye.

It seemed as if it were yesterday, when there was hope, when I held tightly to the wheelchair’ “Ammiji, would you like to go inside the room now?” The room was not the comfortable room of home, where in winters the first job after morning prayers was to fill kerosene oil in the room heater and then go the kitchen to prepare breakfast. The gas cylinder kept the stove burning.

Breakfast of tea and toast was to be prepared for a child unable to do anything for himself. Since birth it was like that. It all started thirty years ago when the mental condition was confirmed. He would never ever be back with a sane and healthy mind.  He would walk but would not be able to talk, nor find his way back if ever he got lost or moved far away from home.”  Mother once said, ‘I have accepted him as he is. It’s no use trying to find a good doctor.’  And then, why should I ignore my other blessings, my daughters, they need me. They are my treasure.’

This was the courage that Mother inculcated in her soul and spirit. She made sure that life should be as normal as possible with cooking, school, needle work, and loving care. I used to accompany her for shopping. I looked forward to the ride in the bright red Omni bus though the basket would be slightly heavy on the way back, Still, it was fun.

This room was the fateful No 8 of the VIP Ward, same old verandah same wooden pillars, the netted fly proof doors, the 18th Century ambiance as though suddenly a masked rider would emerge from nowhere shrouded in mystery, speeding to save someone’s life. Many years ago father was 2nd in Command, on duty in this very hospital. It was clean, smelling of antiseptic lotion.

‘Take me around for a little while more’ Mother asked. I gathered my reserves of energy and turned the trembling wheelchair. The rubber lining of the left wheel was hanging loose. The seat cover was torn. Thank God at least the chair is there. I started to push. That Saturday morning it was my day off from college, as I pushed the chair all I saw was a tall three-storied dull and depressive structure the Old VIP Ward. The words stood out against the creamy shabbiness of the wall. What happened to the spread of lush green lawn, bubbling with joy. I had romped and jumped around on the soft grass. Allah had sent us a baby brother, how beautiful he looked as he slept in the cot. His dark long curled eyelashes were so striking. Right then the sudden sound of the siren interrupted my thoughts, an ambulance rushed in. ‘Oh another suffering one’ My grip on the handle of the wheel chair tightened.

Ammi ji, would you like to go inside now?’ Softly I asked my suffering Mama what thoughts touched her mind? No one would know. Thirty-five years ago my father was a commanding officer of this hospital. It used to be so clean smelling of antiseptic, the floors shinning, and lively with smartly dressed nurses and other officers.  Above all the atmosphere was comforting atmosphere, but this year a water shortage had troubled the citizens and summers were unusually hot. I remembered the 60s were much cooler. The ice cream evenings were special occasions as the bucket handle was turned by all who could. Mama would pour salt over the crushed ice filling the sides of it. The fresh fruit flavoring lingered for long.

The trial of life was living with an abnormal child and keeping the other side hale and hearty and happy and the hardships of the army life, of sacrifice as father served the nation in the hospital.

But courage, prayer and inner strength prevailed. Only Mother knew what her soul and spirit felt like. She gave everyone her love and care but finally . . . maybe she could not take it anymore.

May she rest in peace in heaven. Amen.

© 2018, memoir and photograph, Anjum Wasim Dar

Stone Love

She believes in stones,
their tales of megalithic glory
told by the silence of the ancients.
At Avebury, spiritual omphalos,
she rushed to greet them,
hugged them like long lost friends.
Warmed by the sun
they breathed, they were alive,
they hugged her back;
Princess of Albion.

Seated in the Devil’s Chair
I watched her, pink hair,
zips and leathers a warrior queen.
Many silver bangles sung
as she danced, wove a spell
through the avenue of stones,
standing waiting for her
for thousands of years.
At last! she has come home;
Princess of Albion.

From the temple’s sanctuary
hand in hand along the ceremonial
avenue across Malborough Downs
to Silbury Hill, and why they were called
the Downs when they lifted her heart so
she couldn’t understand.
Having stepped on Neolithic footprints,
we kissed in a Druid circle of flowers,
this was when her laughter became sunshine
daughter of Mother Goddess;
Princess of Albion.

© 2018, P.A. Levy

Log Cabin Quilt

St. Ambrose University, Davenport, IA

Similar to the crazy quilt, the log cabin is also an old pattern. . . . the difference is the structure of the patches; the pieces are cut into straight patches or “logs” and organized around a center square. Some speculate the pattern developed as the woman’s counterpart to the man’s building of log cabin homes years ago.

Or the shape of a Quaker meetinghouse,
benches ranged around a hollow square.

Or the hollow square deeper within,
where I learned to watch what stirred,

and called it God, or breathe with it
now and call it something else —

only what is. I remember my own
past, or the past long ago, easier

to imagine gracious, as if its suffering
were a progress though a stately lane of oaks.

Breathing through the summer morning
while the world falls apart, and a friend

says she can barely hang on with it,
destruction invisible but so close,

obscene. The wish then not only to
resist but build, hands aching in the lap,

to make something fit to last, to live
by. Sunlight moves on the eyelids,

as on the floor of a meetinghouse,
sifted through oaks past a window I imagine;

logs of light then, angling on the ground,
each one a line, a line, a line.

© 2018, Anne Myles

Lit Up With Your Warmth

I can feel the rhythm of your heart

beating in tune with mine,

and the sound of the song

erupting beneath my chest

creates a symphony of perfect peace

that I can smile to

throughout every hour of the day.

I can taste the heat of the sun

on the tip of my tongue,

and I know that every ray of light

pouring down from the sky

was birthed by your precious eyes.

I can see for miles into the distance,

and these bright visions of the future

involve you cradled in my arms,

your lips locked with mine,

your fragrance filing every room,

your love washing over my soul,

and your voice leading me toward bliss.

I want to swim with you, sweet swan,

through the vast ocean of life,

synchronized in every step

as the dance we both have dreamed of

is made manifest upon the earth.

I want to worship you forever, divine goddess,

with respect and adoration,

with the warmth of my admiration,

with a promise to comfort you always,

and with a vow that will never be broken.

© 2018, Scott Thomas Outlar

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.

POETRY

SHORT STORIES

CREATIVE NONFICTION

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

 

Wild Women in Art, Poetry and Community featuring Gretchen Del Rio’s Art and Victoria Bennett’s “The Howl or How Wild Women Press Came to Be”

Spirit of the Wolf

‘The spirit of the wolf resides in my heart
Mostly peacefully, but ever wild
Running in time to the blowing wind,
Dancing in the clouds that drift in the heavens
The spirit of the wolf resides in my soul.”
– Gretchen Del Rio



The Howl or How Wild Women Press Came to Be

by Victoria Bennett

Snow Owl by Gretchen Del Rio

At twenty-six, I met an owl. It turned out to be one of the axis moments on which my life pivoted. It was a cold January day where frost lingered in the shade but the sun was shining, the kind of day where things seems possible because you have survived the darkness of winter. The trees stood bare of leaves, branch-fingers stretched out expectantly, waiting for Spring. I was waiting too, holding a sense of change quietly behind my eyes. I watched the crows fly, black wings against blue sky, looking for carrion, listened only to the sound of water and wind and some crow caw above. This was what I was trying to remember – the feel of my touch, the scent of the sky, the hopeful warmth of sun just after the midwinter. My life had become so much darkness, so much noise and pollution and not seeing. This was the counterbalance and so far, it was working. Slow, slow days, allowing the words to surface and sound and where words could not come, allowing the brush to paint or the body to move. All was changing. I was changing. The woman I was underneath was beginning to take shape, and to my surprise, I liked her.

But first, the owl. I was stood beside the ash, eyes closed, when I heard a scratch from above. I opened my eyes and saw the owl, white feathers thick for winter, watching me. Awake. Not daring to move, I simply looked and allowed it to look at me, until after a few moments, it flew away. The owl came, and I was listening because I was ready to hear, and I was ready, it seemed, to shift shape again.

One week after the owl and I met, I had a dream. In this dream, I was with a woman walking along the river. She told me I was to call the Wild Women together. This did not seem strange or unusually prophetic. I had found a deep resonance with the stories I had found in the Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women Who Run with the Wolves and so the archetype of the Wild Woman was something I was familiar with, but the sense of purpose was surprising, and so, the next morning I got up and started to write the posters for what was to be the very first of the Wild Women workshops.

“The reason that people awaken is because they finally stop agreeing to things that insult their soul.” Gretchen Del Rio

Six weeks later, I stood in my living room, the fire in the stove burning and the tea hot in the pot. Before me sat twelve women, very different in ages and styles, but all sharing something special: they had all responded to the call. And so it came to be, the Wild Women group was born and I was to be their mother-wolf for this journey. As I stood there, faced with women whose individual and collective ages outstripped my own, I felt petrified. Who was I to stand here and say “this is the way of being woman”? Yet, that is exactly what I was to do. I did not know where it would take us, take me. I was just willing to begin, brave enough to speak out and hopeful enough to believe.

‘”Welcome…”

… and in that one word, I started something that would sustain me through my twenties, thirties and into my forties. I had met my clan. Together, we found the courage to stand up and say, “This is who I am…”.

That was nearly twenty years ago. Since then, working with the Wild Women, I have gone on to set up Wild Women Press, published several books of poetry from the group, worked with over 2000 women (and some brave men) on a number of amazing projects, hosted the (in)famous Wild Women Salons, made creative connections around the globe, and performed live at events around the UK and USA. It is a space of celebration and activism. There is no business plan or professional career path. It can lie dormant, hibernating as we nuzzle down and grow our ideas in the dark, or it can awake with passion and create for change on a global scale. We have used our creativity to create positive change, to be part of the world we want to live in andleave for those who follow. Sometimes we act on a very local level, sometimes on a global one.

Recently, I have been collaborating with the creators of the #MeToo poetry anthology. This is a very important movement for me personally, and for us as a group. As soon as I heard Deborah Alma was wanting to put together an anthology of poems from this movement, I offered my support, and the platform of Wild Women Press. It was obvious from the very beginning that there would be many more poems than there were pages in the book, and so #UsTogether was created, to give a platform for some of these other voices. Alongside the launch of the book, Wild Women Press are hosting a selection of these poems, in honour and celebration of the courage and sisterhood of all those who have spoken out as part of the #MeToo movement.

One of the core aspects of the group is the respect and celebration of each individual woman. Although in the beginning it was me who stood at the front of the room, every woman in the group was to go on to inspire and lead, using their own experiences, passions, talents, and knowledge to guide them in how they would to do that. In a similar vein, we will be launching an online Wild Women Press blog later in 2018, sharing our ideas and perspectives. Over the next year, we will be gathering Wild Women from around the globe to contribute, extending our circle of clan further. We would love to hear from other women, who would like to be part of a clan of contributors. If you are passionate about something, and would like to be part of a global group of Wild Women writing, creating, and being part of a positive change, please do get in touch.

In 2019, it will be our 20th Anniversary, and 20 years since we published our first book, Howl at the Moon: Writings By Wild Women. To celebrate this, we will be publishing a new book of poems by Wild Women – and this time, we are extending the howl out to others. We will be putting out the call for submissions soon, on our website, Twitter, and Facebook page.

For now, we continue to meet as a group every couple of months, and once a year, we spend four days at our Wild Women Gathering, celebrating, creating, and sharing our stories (and eating way too much food). We have witnessed births, marriages, divorces, unemployment, career changes, graduations, new beginnings, and painful goodbyes. What began as a workshop group, has become a place we now call home, and a wild family. You can sometimes find us on the fells or beside fires. We howl often, laugh lots, and when prompted, bare our teeth. Our coats are all a little more silver, and our eyes a little more wise, but we are still discovering. We are the Wild Women, and we welcome you.

Victoria Bennett
Founder, Wild Women Press

http://www.wildwomenpress.com
@wildwomenpress
https://www.facebook.com/wildwomenpress/

© 2018, “The Howl or How Wild Women Press Came to Be” and the wild-women word-heart illustration, Victoria Bennett, All rights reserved; 2011 and 2018, water color paintings, Gretchen Del Rio, All rights reserved

Poet, publisher, activist and wild woman, Victoria Bennet

VICTORIA BENNET (Wild Woman Press) is an award-winning poet, creative activist and full-time home-educating Wild Mama to her son, Django. Originating from the borderlands below Scotland, she is the Founder of Wild Women Press and has spent the last quarter of a century instigating creative experiences in her community. Her poetry has appeared in print, online and even in the popular video game, Minecraft. She has published four collections and performed live across the UK, from Glastonbury Festival to a Franciscan Convent.

Poetry publications include:
Anchoring the Light
Fragile Bodies
Fragments
Byron Makes His Bed
My Mother’s House – a Poetry & Minecraft Collaboration with Adam Clarke, that explores grief and letting go

What We Now Know – digital VR music collaboration with Adam Clarke and The Bookshop Band, inspired by the #MeToo anthology



angel300-c12182011© Gretchen Del Rio


HER POWER LEAPS

she’s present

returned to bite through the umbilical of tradition,
to flick her tongue
and cut loose the animus-god of our parents,
like a panther she roams the earth, she is eve wild in the night,
freeing minds from hard shells
and hearts from the confines of their cages,
she’s entwined in the woodlands of our psyches
and offers her silken locks to the sacred forests of our souls ~
naked but for her righteousness,
she stands in primal light,
in the untrammeled river of dreams
the yin to balance yang
the cup of peace to uncross the swords of war ~
through the eons she’s been waiting for her time
her quiet numinosity hiding in the phenomenal world,
in the cyclical renewal of mother earth,
whispering to us in the silver intuition of grandmother moon
watching us as the loving vigilance of a warming sun ~
she, omen of peace birthed out of the dark,
even as tradition tries to block her return,
her power leaps from the cleavage of time

© Jamie Dedes


Gretchen Del Rio

Illustration ~ the lovely watercolor painting by Gretchen Del Rio with its girl-tree, panther and other spirit animals was the inspiration for my poem, Her Power Leaps, on the return of the divine feminine. The back-story on the painting is interesting. Gretchen says, “I painted this for a fourteen year old Navaho girl. It is for her protection and her power. She sees auras and is very disturbed by this. She is just amazing. Beauty beyond any words. You can see into the soul of the universe when you look at her eyes. She has no idea. I loved her the moment I saw her. My blessings for her well being are woven into the art.” Such a delightful piece. I purposely posted it full-size so that everyone can enjoy the detail. Bravo, Gretchen, and thank you. / Jamie Dedes

©2011, water color painting; Gretchen Del Rio, All rights reserved; 2016, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved.

– originally published on The Poet by Day

Closed Doors to Hotel Rooms

Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now
by Amanda Palmer and Jasmine Power

 

released on BandCamp 23 May

Mr Weinstein Will See You Now - Artwork / photo: coco karol / design: andrew nelson
photo: coco karol
design: andrew nelson

A bit of lyric

amanda:
you came with bows and bells…

jasmine:
i’m not here to have

amanda:
you came here armed for action…
you knew the drill.

jasmine:
move over before i shelve myself
i’m not here to help you.

amanda:
every man behind the curtain

jasmine:
jerking knobs and smoking guns

amanda & jasmine:
shut your eyes pay no attention
just keep calm and carry on

black or blue, you choose
you’re free to be in between
play or lose
you say

Conversation fragments (via email)

Amanda Palmer: The song [Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now] began as a “let’s write something, anything together” jam session between me and Jasmine Power, a 24-year-old Welsh songwriter who happened to be over to a dinner party at my house. She’d been randomly invited over by a mutual Welsh playwright pal of ours, Hywel John. We’d never heard each other’s music, and after bonding over a late-night music-sharing wine-party, we found ourselves in a studio three days later, excited to create something from scratch.

The news about Stormy Daniels was just hitting fever pitch, and I found myself thinking about closed doors to hotel rooms across the world and over time and how they’ve been the backdrops of so many of these painful encounters. That was the starting point, and we wrote with the idea of a split self: two voices inside one woman’s head.

I’m goddam proud of it.

Me: First listen—haunting, almost like ghost voices signing from the memories.

[I meant singing, but, signing—why not?]

Sorry—possibly a vague impression. It takes me a few listens/reads to absorb poetry. This is poetry.

Amanda Palmer: That’s the idea. The lyrics aren’t supposed to be completely audible.

Me: Like the memories and stories—suppressed and emerging.

Amanda Palmer: Exactly.

A bit of lyric

amanda & jasmine:
black or blue
you choose
you’re free to be in between
play or lose
you say
it’s still not what you meant to mean
black or blue
you mean
what?
you can’t be serious
don’t you dare forget

jasmine:
that i’m the one writing this
i’m the one writing this

amanda:
and this never happened.

jasmine:
i’m the one writing this.

amanda:
this never happened.

jasmine:
i’m the one writing this.

Memory fragment

For me, sexual abuse re-sounds as shattering glass.

Decades ago, I worked as an overnight counselor in a shelter for runaway teens. One night, shattering glass took me into a room. A teen girl held her hand, blood running down it. Broken glass from the window had cut her open as she slammed her reflection in the glass.

She had been praying. She saw herself in the window. She was angry at god and struck herself, her reflected self in the black glass of night.

When I went over to her, starting to tend to her wounds, she kept shouting, “he fucked me he fucked me he fucked me,” looking at her bloody hand. Then she looked up at me. “My father fucked me,” quietly.

Am I surprised by #MeToo? No. I saw too many teen girls sexually abused by family members, by fathers—if men did this to their own daughters, why wouldn’t they abuse any woman?

Encounters with teens’ stories—shattered psyches wanting to rebuild a sense of self, running away from what they could no longer live with—these stories forged what I would later call my “street feminism.”

The power of a whisper shocked me into an awakening awareness. It was, perhaps, the most powerful whisper I have ever heard.

Mr. Weinstein Will See you Now

The strength of Amanda Palmer’s and Jasmine Power’s performance lies in the haunting, quiet emergence of story fragments weaving into a single story—the building emotion, the details that in Hollywood’s male gaze would be erotic details:

your shirt is on the table…

your skirt is on the floor…

countered by crossing voices from women’s emotional reality:

you crouch down in the bathroom…
our time is at a loss
the mirror makes you sick…
won’t have you in me

The music uses piano to paint the emotion, the growing power of the singers. As they share their stories, their voices slowly build toward crescendo. Matt Nicholson, a British composer and film-music arranger, brings “strings and orchestration to make the track more cinematic; almost overdoing it at points to kick Hollywood in the face,” Amanda Palmer writes.

At times, the orchestration pulls back to let the voices and piano convey raw emotion:

amanda & jasmine:
just turn me over

jasmine:
fast and
let’s get this over with
let’s get this over with

amanda:
let’s get this over with

jasmine:
let’s get this over with

Amanda Palmer: I’d been fiddling in my own head for months with ideas for songs and tunes to address the #MeToo movement, and it’s such a hard thing to write about it. It’s so personal to these women, these stories, and it felt too wrong to write something funny and cabaret; the topic is too harrowing.…
It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever made before; it’s almost a mini piece of theater.

Me: Disturbing, powerful theater that almost hurts—the beauty of the singers’ voices, the music, combined with the pain and hurt of the reality of sexual violence—“black or blue/ you choose / you’re free to be in between”—but in between is neither here nor there—dissociative—hard to find a self, to cohere.

Shattering glass.

Until the voices gather the shards, arm themselves, and reclaim their lives:

amanda:
every version has two endings

jasmine:
every time the penny drops

amanda & jasmine:
open casket, open casting
this is where the story stops

jasmine:
i storm out through the hallway
i leave the scars inside
you won’t portray my picture
this film is mine

And at the end of the song, in response to “this never happened,” the song arrives at: “i’m the one writing this.”

Amanda Palmer and Jasmine Power
are “the one[s] writing this”

Amanda Palmer: It’s not surprising that, just like the movement itself, it took two women getting into a room together, comparing notes and joining forces to create something almost like an anthem for taking back our narrative.

Every time I play the track for one of my female friends, we have an important moment together.

I don’t know if most people will even understand this song; and I don’t care.

The women we wrote it for will understand.

—Michael Dickel
Essay @2018 Michael Dickel
Song Lyrics @2018 All Rights Reserved (Used by Permission)


Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now

photo:
coco karol
design:
andrew nelson

Song written by Amanda Palmer, Jasmine Power and Sketch & Dodds
Vocals: Amanda Palmer and Jasmine Power
Piano: Sketch & Dodds

Production: Sketch & Dodds
Strings: 7 Suns Quartet
Cello: Earl Maneein
Violin: Jennifer DeVore

Recorded at Applehead Studios, Woodstock by Chris Bittner, and at The Bunker Studios, NYC, by Todd Carder
Jasmine’s vocals recorded by Owain Jenkins at StudiOwz in Wales-Pembrokeshire in December 2017.
Mixed and Mastered in London by Taz Mattar


This originally appeared on Meta/ Phor(e) /Play as Behind Closed Doors to Hotel Rooms.

Related from Michael Dickel, on The BeZine:

Warm Blanket of Silence

An essay Michael Dickel has been writing since 1988, and of which he read a revised version for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at Verses Against Violence 3, organized by Rachel Stomel in Jerusalem, on 24 November 2016.

Crossing the Great Divide

Arctic Desert at the Trig
Photo: John Anstie

In reading that word – sustainability – cradling the head of our current Guide Dog puppy in my hands, her deeply pleading eyes looking up at me, I am reminded that this word not only describes what we at The BeZine – and indeed many, many more people around the world – more commonly come to understand of its meaning.

I have hitherto thought of sustainability as the fundamental process, nay philosophy, that needs to be adopted in order for the Earth to continue providing for all the life that inhabits it. But it also reflects human behaviour; it expects a certain attitude; it assumes that an essential ingredient to the achievement of a sustainable World is that the human beings, who inhabit the Earth become determined to adopt a way of life that is … well, sustainable!

It is an unfortunate character of the human condition that it is not until we lose someone that we become much more conscious of their value to our own life. It seems, whilst they are still around, that we prefer to focus more on their faults and shortcomings than on their virtues and strengths. We are even more prepared to abuse or betray their trust, than to respect them. So too, our Mother Earth.

As I regularly drive the roads around us, particularly the lanes of the beautiful countryside that surrounds us here in Yorkshire, I am reminded also of one of those human faults, anxiety, and of all the consequences of that condition: stress, impatience, fear, anger, aggression, depression. All too often, when I glance in my rear view mirror, I see another car race up behind me and sit so close to my rear bumper that I can’t see their number plate; at speeds and in situations in which it would be lunacy to contemplate overtaking. It is as if they are tempting me to yield, give in, pull over into a ditch and let them pass … and claim me as another victim! It isn’t necessarily that, I know, but it feels like that and, even in my advancing years, with the wisdom and insight of the road that I’ve gained in fifty years of driving, along with lowered testosterone levels, I sometimes feel like retaliating … and we all know how that could turn out.

The Dalai Lama it was, who attributed anxiety or agitation as the root of all conflict in the World. There is no doubt that he is right. Yes, I hear the academics, anthropologists, psychologists and any number of other -ologists, state the obvious, that Darwinian principles of evolution and survival in the animal kingdoms, of which human is one, dictate this behaviour. Our base instincts are therefore not to respect any forms of life outside our own sphere, outside our immediate survival zone; to consider them a threat to our survival.

… Really?

We are beyond this, surely, aren’t we? Can’t we exert more control over our behaviours, or are we simply hopeless victims of our own psyche; our individual intractable personality. For many in the Western World, the need to survive, to subsist on what our local environment can provide us, has long since turned into higher and higher material expectations. Each generation starts with more, but wants still more than the previous generation. Our survival instincts have turned into greed; at the expence of those on the margins, particularly in the overexploited so-called Third World. Are these expectations a consequence of some out of control unconscious driving forces within us, or could we re-educate ourselves. I believe the answer for some, sadly, is ‘no’. For others it would be ‘yes’.

I contend that the World could continue to support all life, even with its currently burgeoning (human) population. If only we were able to overcome our unreasonable expectations, there is one overriding benefit that could accrue from vanquishing our own greed … we could begin to feel what it is like to live with less poverty in the world, and less debt; less personal debt; less corporate debt; less national debt. Currently the only way Western governments can see to pay off the latter, is growth, economic growth, which has become the unquestioned Demi-God of economic and political policy objectives; growth is, I believe, a largely misunderstood, overused and abused tool of political rhetoric. This is, unfortunately, a vicious circle. I’ve heard growth described as a means of servicing our national debt. Long term, this does not make economic sense and surely cannot be sustainable!

So, what are we to do? Save more? Conserve our resources, however modest they may be? Adjust our expectations and those of our children? Their generation and the ones that follow, will otherwise only continue this roller coaster of a suicidal ride into debt and debt slavery; a World in which the super wealthy few have more and more control over the increasingly debt-ridden many. Freedom from debt, however you achieve it, whatever the cost to your expectations, your dreams, has to provide the way to a more sustainable World, and …

It. Is. Liberating.

Otherwise, our greatest and only means of survival, our patient and beautiful Mother Earth, will expel us, rich and poor, forever, and no-one will inherit anything! Space exploration to find a new life sustaining planet somewhere out there in the vastness, is pure fantasy … and vanity!

What can be done to reduce your anxiety? A starting point for me is to have a hug with your best friend, be they human … or puppy dog.

IMG_0098
Photo: Barbara Anstie. Creative edit: Dave Anstie

The Great Divide

Crossing the great divide
between the dark age
and a brave new world,
sailing from the safety
of knowing your place
into uncharted waters.
In a deep and sickly swell,
an ocean of uncertainty,
struggling to recall
the purpose of the mission
for control of life, of lives,
and death by ownership.

From a certain time when
the have-nots had not
to one in which they have
a chance to trade their life
for aspiration, for riches,
for stuff and things,
for dukes and knights,
for castles and kings,
in suits that shine
with lights and bling,
but didn’t see the price
they’d have to pay.

Rivers flow with mighty force,
and carry away the memory
in a flood of whys, for what
and where will this all end?
Where are we now,
where will we be …

may be Utopia, the place of dreams
that while away our wild ambitious schemes?

We fail, as long as we can feel the pain
of having less than someone else’s gain.

Or we, by virtue of the coin’s toss,
have more by far than someone else’s loss.

~~~~

© 2018 John Anstie

All rights reserved

Yon Dream Cross Had

Al tell thee best dream av ad
in any midneet while folk were fast on
a sees a reet cross tree,
a ghoast in plated gold
ringed by shiny moon fascinator,
jewels like worth summat glow worms
rahnd base, five more ont cross beam.
Throngs o’ God’s angels tacked on it. This were no scam artists cross but every heaven spirit and earth folk had peepers on it: a see universe agog

And me, aware of wrong doing,
that native wood-beetle, eyed it too
felt a shiver of glory
from that cross barkskin beaten gold
wi jewels suited a cross a Jesus
and tha knows through all that gold barkskin
rattled folks bloodless yammering
how bleeding as stained crosses rightside.
Harrard an horrored
a that sullied wi leaked blood.

a lay there yonks
in agog sorrow fort Saviourcross
till me lug oyles heard glimmering cross pipe up:
“Ages since, I fetch back I were hacked
dahn at holt-edge, lugged off, hauled
shoulder heaved, squared top on a hill
adsed to a cross to carry wrong doers.
Then I see Christ, his balls ready fort hoisting. For us there’s no flitting, no shirking on God’s mind to: I might a fell on these folks. Then
God himsen, med himsen naked, to naked balls,
laid on us afore throngs of eyes
when saving on folks flitted in his bonce.
A shuddered at his touch, afeard splintering,
A had hold, I were raised as a cross,
hold heaven king high, afeard cracking. They tapped dark iron in us: scars tha still can see,
A cannot bear ’em stroked. They jeered at both on us. A felt his blood seep from his side
as he sighed himsen upards.

Av seen pain on this hill
saw Christ as on vicious rack
then roilin’ storm clouds, death to sunblaze,
covered o’er that blaze on God: a glowering gloom creation’s sorta: Christ on cross tree.
A see folk come forard, a felt splintered
as if added, but gev ne sen.
I were in their dannies, gore-wet, nail gashed.
They laid him art, a dead-weight atter ordeal,
final knackeredness. Then afore
murderers peepers, those folk mrd
a stone oyle and set Christ inside it.
Then late int day flitted knackered : left
Christ by himsen.

Long atter soldier’s lottery natter and cold rigor on Christ’s limbs,
us kept our places, drahned wi blood.
Then they sets to
felling us,
bury us in delved grahned, but disciples, friends fahned us…
put on us barkskin o’ gold an silver.

so nar tha knows, how sorra warped
me flesh, how malice worked with spintering iron. Now it’s time for earth foak and whole marvel on creation to cow eye this sign.
God-son were racked on us, so now ma glimmerin’ haunts heavens, can heal
all who afeard for us. Am honoured
by Christ above all forest trees as God favoured Mary above all women folk.’

Then by mesen, thrilled, me spirit high, let mesen rave that I can seek what a av seen,
saviour-cross: a peace with mesen that yearns a help on earth. Few mates still livin’ nar : most are int manor on heaven, av fetched upards. Now, daily, I listen art
fort cross-tree in my earthly nappin’,
to lead us from this flitting life
into great manor of heaven
where God has set a right feast.

May God-Son and Ghost be mates,
who were nailed to death for folk ages since :
a saviour as gin us life,
that we may put wood int oyle in heaven.

Reluctant Immigrant

Reluctant Immigrant

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus

Plaintive song sung in childhood, beloved melody that touched my heart,
Often tired, sometimes wretched, always poor, though not homeless

Before I understood the words, I knew the yearning
to belong, to fit in, to be accepted—we were outsiders

Immigrated to the west, escaped, searching for a better life
I left family behind, severed ties for years, survived

He was forced to flee the genocide, board the boat,
Fighting his friends to go to his wife and child, already dead, they said

Landed in New York, no English, cooked for men like him in the hostel
Once a proud Armenian, now a conquered, bereft, shamed man

Reluctant immigrant to a strange land, mourning his home, far away
Arranged second marriage, nine children born on a farm, a life lived, survived

Trauma lived and re-lived, DNA passed down the generations, his story lost
No golden doors for him, just a desire to blend in…and forget

Grandfather to father, father to daughter, I stop the cycle of abuse
Exiles that no God, no Lady Liberty could return home, sheltered here

Safe now, loved, loving others, a good life carved out of pain and shame
He survived that 1915 holocaust, I am, we are, his legacy, immigrants yet.

© 2018, Lisa Ashley

Sex and the Second Amendment

skeptic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gun control  legislation is all about sex.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

© 2018, James R. Cowles

Image credits

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

The BeZine, December 2017, Vol. 4, Issue 3, A Life of the Spirit

“The spiritual life . . . is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity.” Sister Joan D. Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today

The theme this month is “Spiritual Paradigms, Awakenings, Miracles.”  I expected to get submissions that spanned the distance from atheism and agnosticism to firmly entrenched faith, which I did. I did not expect to get several notes from writers and poets who admitted that though they wanted to contribute, they found themselves seriously blocked. Despair. Depression. Those two do confound our creativity and both are rife in a world where 1.6 million people lack access to adequate housing (Habitat.org), where forced displacement is “an unpresidented 65.6 million people” (UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency) and where, while hunger in general is on the decline, 3.1 million children still die of malnutrition each year (Independent).

For people in kinder circumstances it’s often near impossible to reconcile with the realities of physical illness, disability and mortality, poverty and food “insecurity”, decreased opportunity/upward mobility, and difficulty finding employment and/or getting an education. These circumstances create anger and make it understadable that some doubt a compassionate God or simply find it impossible to believe in a God at all. My own thought is that perhaps God, like Creation, is evolving. That thought is not new with me.

Having said all that, what for me came through in reading submissions is that atheist or agnostic, religionist or independent spiritual being, all have a Life of the Spirit. The spark of Light is clear from the writing desk to the neighborhood bar. Sometimes the Light goes by other names: Hope, Compassion, Wisdom, Generosity. To paraphrase Rabbi Meachem Mendel Morgenszter of Kotak, Poland, God (however you might define that Being) is found wherever you let the Light in.

This month we are proud to introduce a wealth of new-to-us writers: Julie Henderson (U.S.), Eithne Lannon (Ireland), Imelda Santore (Philippines), Mike Stone (Israel), Anthony Vano (U.S.), and Ali Znaidi (Tunisia). We welcome back: bogpan (Bozhidar Pangelov, Bulgaria), Paul Brookes (England), Kakali DasGhosh (India), Mark Heathcote (England), Juli [Juxtaposed] (England), Michele Riedel (U.S.), and Sonja Benskin Mesher (England).

My warm thanks to all twelve members of our core team, some of whom have contributed poems or feature material to this issue: John Anstie (England), Naomi Baltuck (U.S.), James R. Cowles (U.S.), Michael Dickel (Israel), Joe Hesch (U.S.), Charlie Martin (U.S.), and Corina Ravenscraft (U.S.).

On behalf of our entire core team, The Bardo Group Beguines, I wish everyone wonderful year-end celebrations and a peaceful 2018.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community,
Jamie Dedes,
Founding and Managing Editor,
The BeZine

A LIFE OF THE SPIRIT

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.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Editorial

A Frozen Spring, Juli [Juxtaposed]

BeAttitudes

The Light of Laughter, Corina Ravenscraft
Looking for the Light, Naomi Baltuck
The Spiritual Life Is One of Constant Choices, Henri Neuwen

Essays

Toward Becoming “UnLapsed”, James R. Cowles
Old Church, Old Hat …, John Anstie

Creative Nonfiction

Stelle Nacht, Joseph Hesch
Wild Turkey Neat, Anthony Vano

Poetry

First Christmas, John Anstie

Christmas, bogan

Ash and Prayer, Paul Brookes

#I just washed#, Kakali DasGhosh

Selections from Nothing Remembers, Michael Dickel

Braid Your Hair with His, Mark Heathcote
There Is Music in Silence, Mark Heathcote

Workshop, Julie Henderson

December Sky, Joseph Hesch
Our Better Angles, Joseph Hosch

‘especially in times of dark’, Juli [Juxtaposed]

Earth Music, Eithne Lannon

full circle, Charles W. Martin

.saint anthony., Sonja Benskin Mesher

Waiting for My Nails to Dry, Michele Riedel

The Scent of a Soul, Imelda Santore

Contradictions, Mike Stone
A Word’s Worth, Mike Stone
A True Believer, Mike Stone
By the River Jordan, Mike Stone

Sufi Ghazal, Ali Znaidi
Doubt, Ali Znaidi
Mysticism on the Move, Ali Znaidi

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


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