Posted in Poems/Poetry

The Sun-god at Mount Horeb

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.

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


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?

JJ Stick
©2021 All Rights Reserved

©2021 Mbizo Chirasha
All rights reserved

Return to ToC


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

“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


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.



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.




Photo credit~ Peter Griffin, Public Domain 

Earth Feather Prayer | Michelle Kogan

Simultaneous Time and Earth Consciousness

Time travels on–and we humans are but a blink in it.
Yet, we are all part of this time continuum,
nature, humans and all on earth.

Fascinate on American Milkweed.
Linnaeus recorded it in 1752, and called it
Asclepius, honoring “the Greek God of healing.”

300 years later 
American Milkweed is still here,
and hopefully will be here 300 years from now.

Monarch butterflies plight depends on
Asclepias’ continuum. It nourishes their larvae,
and without it these amazing butterflies would disappear...
Asclepias’ leaves also nourish additional butterflies.

Bees, moths, and wasps depend on Asclepias’
flower producing nectar, and we humans depend on
pollinating insects for our food and our survival.

Humans and animals wherever we dwell 
     are all interconnected,
and our interconnectedness will assure our continuum. 
     As you pass 
that small gem Asclepias crawling out of 
     a sidewalk crack or between
crops, dwell upon it for a moment or two so we 
     may all continue on...

Variants—Digital Work
©2021 Miroslava Panayotova

Repurpose Feather Turn-Around

African ostrich feathers offer a new birth for ostriches,
It creates ostrich fabric and turns it into textiles, blankets,
     curtains, and clothing.
Help local folks create a sustainable and environmental 
     ostrich industry.

Today the majority of ostriches are farmed for food.
Ostriches farmed for food only live one year, however,
Repurposed African ostrich feathers offer a new birth 
     for ostriches.

Separate African ostrich feathers to create thread.
The thread turns into fabric that’s breathable, washable, 
     soft, and warm; and
It creates ostrich fabric and turns it into textiles, blankets,
     curtains, and clothing.

Rejuvenate a 150-year local Ostrich farming business.
Allow Ostriches to live their entire lives without harm, and
Help local folks create a sustainable and environmental 
     ostrich industry.

Sunflower Prayer

Intertwine petals of passion
and overlap invasion-filled strife
between your petal’s
shoulder-to-shoulder embrace.

Pool from deep inside your centers
Fibonacci pattern floret seeds,
and tenderly touch each other
with multiplying strength and resilience.

Reach all the way out to your
withering outer ring of disc florets.
Guide me, guide us sunflower,
in battle-daily barrage.

Sunflower seed
sprout hope-sprouts as you emerge,
and fill Ukraine fields.

©Michelle Kogan
All rights reserved

Michelle Kogan…

…ponders petals, beauty, nature and humanity as a poet, writer, artist, and instructor. Her poems are published in many child and adult anthologies. She was a semi finalist for the Poet’s Billow 2021 Bermuda Triangle Prize. Her writing and art often respond to social injustice and inequalities for humans and our endangered small planet. Presently she’s working on a poetry and art bird book. /

Clemency with a Little Dirt | Hassan Melehy

Mexico City
©2019 Edgar Henriquez, LC via Unsplash


I’ve declined help,
leaving it to the lingering green
of the nearby landscape,
removed as I am from
any reliance on others
that might prompt them
to throw sand across
my decisions and desires.

Years at a time have gone by
before any mothers
get a real chance to dole out
the nourishment that filters down,
as eager as they are
to preserve choice goods
for their own children, but
almost as concerned for
their neighbors’ comfort.

Learning passes from soul to soul,
generation to generation,
and it’s inevitable
that all the hard facts
jumble together
with all the vital myths.

What’s left to me is
a handful or two of dry dirt
and barely enough moisture
to form clods out of it,
and seeds I could count
on one hand if they weren’t
scattered just beyond
my flagging grasp.


To the subdued melody of morning
my footsteps cross ashy tiles
under sunrays dampened by a filter
of industrial ugliness—this brightness
still seems, even when nuclear physics
explains it as fusion on a cosmic scale,
like something divine, the furnace
of the world’s first creatures.
In the nooks of my brain the light
powers up memories of zealous forebears,
creating the chiaroscuro effect
of strict judgment on the tiles’ surface,
once rough but over the years
smoother and smoother as feet keep passing.

Along the walkway tendrils and vines 
twist their way between
evenly laid stones, poking into the corral
where cattle and pigs nibble on them,
the butcher’s axe looming above.
It’s a food chain that my
political appetites have hammered
into a tight chain of command.
I can walk these grounds as
countless forebears have, I can tend
to the plants and animals, make sure
every part is in order and in place,
but none of it offers guarantees against
the brisk spawning of a virus.

The Need for a Break

In the field where livestock grazes
I’m digging rocks from the ground, the
right sizes and shapes for
a wall along the garden path
to mark off which part of the land
is mine for leisure and which
I’ll share for work, and then
which part to reserve
for future underlings. If this patch ever
takes off I’ll hire a team
of chroniclers who decades after
I’m gone might concoct the story of
my she-wolf stepmother and
the power her milk drove into my limbs,
which citizens’ll repeat until
they’ve worn it thin and no one
believes it anymore and they realize
how much profit I made from the flesh of
their ancestors and
they tear down every statue of me.
The ragged fate of a founder is
to be turned into a god, and since
it’s my nature to flounder that’s
the last thing I want.

My goals remain modest:
while daylight holds out I’ll
stack the rocks in a straight line
like straight-backed soldiers giving
an impression of force to passersby.
The cattle and pigs watch me
with no thoughts yet of the butcher’s axe,
animals are so lucky they can pack
a moment with the fullness of
a lifetime and I’ll do the same
once I sit under those
huge white magnolia flowers.

©2023 Hassan Melehy
All rights reserved

Hassan Melehy…

…is a writer and teacher living in North Carolina, USA. In addition to books and essays in literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism, he has written scenarios for several short films. His verse has appeared in Prelude, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Hat, and BlazeVOX Journal, among other venues.


Mandate | Carolyn Martin

Meditation—June Borders
©2023 Gerry Shepherd

Breaking News: God’s Rewilding Plan Leaked

According to a source high up and anonymous,
God will announce this week He’s rewilding the earth.
He confesses He should have rested on day six
while He was on a cosmic roll, and laments 
He missed the signs: bipeds, blinkered 
by supremacy, would try to tame everything.  

He admits to verte- and invertebrates
His human trial flopped. Therefore, next Sunday
pandas, peacocks, and silverbacks will play
in Times Square and caravans of antelope race
across Pennsylvania Avenue. Every boundary line,
dam, trellis, and mended wall will rumble down. 
Steel, asphalt, and concrete will be banished heretofore.
So will summerizing gardens everywhere.  

Believe what you like about our superiority,	
God made a mistake. He should have advised
Adam and Eve not to procreate and lounged them
beneath the apple tree where they’d spend
their ten-score years in blissful innocence
rather than sweat through parental anxiety.

Between you and me, I’d support a God 
as transparent as this. If His plan succeeds,
find me hanging out—waggishly naked 
and wild—on the edge of some post-paradise
with monkeys, giraffes, dolphins,
elephants, koalas, and birds of every size.
First published in Unearthed, 2019.

Nudging Jesus to Get Help

Come now! It’s obvious. You’re depressed. 
Back in the day, your guys said you wept
when disappointments overwhelmed. 
This week you’re at it again.

Believe me, I understand. Who wouldn’t cry
when polar bears are starving on ice floes 
and children line cages in border towns?
It’s hard to accept you’re not responsible. 
God knows you tried to save us from ourselves,
but humans with their flawed free wills do 
what humans do. It’s time to save yourself.

Maybe a Buddhist or Muslim therapist or,
a last resort, an atheist?
You need someone free from fossilized beliefs 
about who you are and what you tried to teach. 
Let’s Google mental health practitioners. 
The town is filled with them…But wait…  

How about I round some children up?
We have several in the neighborhood: 
Vietnamese, Ethiopian, a few mixed families. 
We’ll invite them to sit at your feet 
and you can entertain with lilies of the field,
sparrows, and mustard seeds.
Throw in a few miracles––like how 
you walked on water to calm your antsy crew 
or busted Lazarus out of his tomb.  
Play up the angle of the walking dead
and how he smelled when his clothes fell off.
Kids like that kind of gross and will take it literally.

Be sure to add how heaven is here––
although I’d chuck any kingdom metaphors.
Focus their unclouded eyes on the glory 
of a slug, a gingko tree, a flock of geese. 
Teach them how they’re connected
each to each and earth’s their fragile playing field. 

If you resurrect your innate charm,
I bet these innocents will check the validity
of your beard and heal your cracking heart.


To those of you who will not die today:
walk through your home and bless the open doors,
the table set, the breadth of sun lounging 
on the Persian rug. Catalog the small
contentments you have earned: eager words vying 
for a poem, work you’ll never have to do
again, backyard squirrels that entertain.
Praise every squill, crocus, and bleeding heart
that dares subvert winter’s calendar.
Invite young mysteries in and seat them
between answers you have no questions for
and ponderables still unclassified. 
It goes with saying: listen attentively.
Then tomorrow, if it arrives, repeat.
First published in Yellow Arrow Journal, 2020 (print).

©2023 Carolyn Martin
All rights reserved

Carolyn Martin…

…is blissfully retired in Clackamas, Oregon, a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red penciled “extremely maudlin,” she is amazed she has continued to write. Her poems have appeared in more than 175 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation.


Burn…Burn…Burn | Tamam Tracy Moncur

Planet Earth rotates on its axis         oblivious to the  doom
            soon to grip the inhabitants
The temperature  rises             bubbling snow atop glaciers
          evaporates into the atmosphere
Polar bears go in search of their homes.
The ocean swells up in despair          the rainforest weeps in
Fires flicker            dry grass ignites              orange red
flames dance            across the parched land
     screaming sirens signal            the need to evacuate
             before it’s too late
Crisp air chokes on pollution         Climate shrugs in disbelief
Fossil fuels burn            toxic gases escaping
            into the troposphere          send ribbons of smoke
     spiraling upward           into the stratosphere
            penetrating the ozone layer.
Ultraviolet radiation bent on destruction.
     Smirks at life on earth
The sun rises and sets with precision         mocking man on his
     collision course with destiny

NASA’s Aqua Satellite Captures Devastating Wildfires in Oregon, September 2010
Credit: NASA Worldview

Poem ©2023 Tamam Tracy Moncur
All rights reserved

Tamam Tracy Moncur…

…writes for the sheer pleasure of writing and has been doing so from the time she was a teenager. She has been a Civil Rights activist, taught elementary school for twenty-five years, worked with her husband, Grachan Moncur III, arranging musical compositions and performing with him on different occasions. She also self-published a book entitled Diary of an Inner-City Teacher. She wanted the reader to see the classroom experience from a different perspective. Now she is a retired teacher and a seasoned senior who still loves to write. Currently she is the director of the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry. Her short story, Phantasm, recently appeared online in Rigorous.

Mercer Street Blues (blog) / House of Love Soup Kitchen (blog)

Cheshire Secrets | Carolyn O’Connell

Digital art—2-16-23
©2023 Miroslava Panayotova

Seizing the Future

Going, Going , Gone!!

The Auctioneer stands on his rostrum gavel in hand
the sale’s about to begin.
Bidders are ready in the room, phone, and internet
ready to bid for the jewels in this sale.
Lot 1
The green farmlands—jade 
Ready  to develop and import all our food
Bidding is fierce 
Australia, Canada, Yankee Developers 
bid high 
as the Gavel goes down.
Lot 2
The National Parks & Forests—emerald lots
Millionaires move
a unique lot not found easily
opportunity for development
houses, theme parks, holiday experiences will give great return.
The gavel goes down.
Lot 3
N.H.S. & Social Care
Designed for free health and care, a choice diamond
Tycoons not in the game
hands rise, phones screech, the Net’s Screen Spins
The Gavel Crashes at 10,000 billion.
Lot 4
Rivers & Reactors—Plus Shorelines
Water and Energy so full of possibilities
this is the Gold Chain
undreamed-of this find, buried for many a decade
the bidding last for hours
The gavel goes down!

Davenham Delights
(Cheshire Secrets)

I walk through this village, where once I stayed,
among the old flower-strewn houses and shops:
an ancient Cheshire place. It retains a playhouse
where the residents show talents, plays old and new,
 a restaurant to gather and celebrate with an Italian.

Here's shops to buy cards, dresses, fill up plastic
containers with as much as desired: dried fruits
nuts, flours, pastas, preserves and vinegars: 
you’ll find eco household cleaners 
and beautiful goods .
There’s a café 
where we sit eating freshly baked tea cake 
and chatting for an hour before leaving 
to Riverside Organics.

Once just a farm but diversification
has made it a place to fill my cupboards
with breads, meat, store cupboard basics
and local delights to put in the freezer.
Outside in the yard we sit to look over the river
enjoying ice cream from their cow’s milk -
fields filled with lambs in spring’s sunshine
Barnton’s Church spire topping the view.

Another lane leads
to a farm where canal boats gather:
a mooring for winter where waterlilies sprout
between boats as Glampers & Wild Campers
scatter the fields that once grazed cattle
we stop at its café. A pop-up Pizza hut 
delights evening campfires food.

River Power

Above the river water a steel screw 
rises its rings silver-haired in sun
its goddess gaze
falling on the water flowing past
the lock, once the route of barges
carrying salt or coal;

an ancient technology 
is being resurrected for today
this screw turned by the river
lights the town, creates heat.

No need for power stations
nuclear or coal 
the screw converts the river’s powers
to clean electricity as Archimedes 
knew long ago.

©2023 Carolyn O’Connell
All rights reserved

Carolyn O’Connell…

…was born and lived in London but moved to Cheshire in 2017. Her collection, Timelines came out in 2014 from Indigo Dreams. Here work has been included in Anthologies, including Quality of Mersey, Under the Blue Bridge, The Stones Speak Their Language, among others. She is a member of Vale Royal Writers, Ormond Poetry, and Poetry PF.


Another Midnight | Mbizo Chirasha

Another Country

Hybrid Poetry
Beauty and Love, ©2021 David Gretch
Last night the propaganda minister dribbled a fake peace dance

Mother and other mothers ululated to that adulterated signature jive.

We all sang to the psalms of the land, pain is carved unto our bones like a plague of the stolen throne

We drank our tears, our hearts drowning in rock-armpits of streams gushing with bloody conspiracy,
And that faked peace-dance is the fall of another political soul, the death of another protester

Another dissident and another revolutionary combatant

We chanted the iron-knuckle slogan, shame wetting the beautiful rags of torn presidential regalia

Hung unto our hatred-soaked flesh-frames

We ate morsels of drought relief, guts aching from pangs of hypocrisy, we lost our daughters in charcoals of forced sexual gigs, we sipped from jugs of sorrow as sons are defiant stray dogs roasted for elections dinner

Decades ago, we rattled colonial dynasties with the gusto of new land/new freedom/new hope/new dawn

And we ate political sausages every morning and we supplicate to long dead combatants for another freedom, we rocked the revolutionary jive   at the dawn of new black cockerel shrill, freedom songs combed the land once roughened by bullet and washed by blood

And again, today we lick the wounds of corruption and munch the omelet of poverty

We are another country born out of revolutionary struggle, as we walk on carpets of bones and breathe the wind that remain the spirits of medium kindreds long gone, Nandi/Nehanda/Nerfetiti/Nzinga/Murenga/Mutapa/Changamire/

We are not another country, 
we are not the bottoms of another country 

We cousins of soshangane, 
and Dingiswayo
 grandchildren of Azania 
and sons/daughters of Tanzania

Tonight we are dancing another jive, a riyal dribble, a majestic dance, 

Misizulu KaZwelithini, the heir apparent of the Zwelithini ka Bhekizulu becomes another King, descendants of Chaka Zulu, great great great grandchildren of Senzangakhona kaJamaa 

Another country, another nation, 
royal nation in Azania land, 
the rainbow nation
and the rainbow is written on every rock

Back in Jozi, the City of gold 

Tito is writing a blockbuster of a political recipe, Juju walks unto the morning dew of truth

Doves, owls and honeybirds are singing in proverbs, the paradox of the rainbow-land

Throwing the economic rags unto the faces of saboteurs and spitting verbal phlegm unto the rigid apparitions of apartheid,

Mkonto Wesizwe is the spear of nation, Steve Biko rising, Jo-Slovo resurrecting 

Cyril dances to Mbaqanga and praying in Kalanga tongues, 

Msholozi walks free and sings Zulu poetry to the Amaqawe

Marikana bones are burning in the sun, long dead and long forgotten, Xenophobia scars are still the ghetto signature of another country, 

This is another country, every beverage is laced with xenophobia lingo

Beyond the mighty river, the crocodiles are still chewing big fish and gnashing bones of small breams

Their bellies are fattened by election beef and propaganda chicken curry,
last night their sweet beverage was the voters roll 
and their after-dinner light meal is the radical nationalist-communist manifesto,
they sing hymns of Castro, Stalin, Mao and Lenin

Rains are falling, sun is also burning, the land is boiling and stewing under the grind of hunger

We are another country of another country

Midnight City

The night is a discord of feverish yearnings from loud vendors, incessant gun claps, and disorderly tenor of car horns. The air is taunted with baritones of groaning old engines coughing their way out of the wincing city. The streets are writhing under the heavy grip of teargas and alcohol laced urine of vagabonds. Tonight, the city is a naked harlot. Its dance is the thud of state police’s steely boots in mad run and chase arrests of drug peddlers, sex vendors and forex dealing rascals. Drunk scumbags are wetting street pavements with filthy and snort. Somewhere closer to an old and dingy police post, a trail of blood led my eyes   into the moonlit dingy street.  Stray dogs are tearing apart   fresh meat from a dumped baby. Maybe the new mother is     night crawling   in    those disease sodden corridor brothels or a trainee recruit of crank brewing in gutter taverns. While the unknown father might be some   notorious criminal on police wanted list.  Maybe a potbellied fat cat talkative about gender equity and child rights bills in parliamentary sessions.  Paradox!   The growls of fighting dogs resonate with rushed groans of masturbating suspects in sordid police cells. I am watching the night from the roof of an old city brothel.

Downtown under the old bridge, between the bottoms of the frail city. Delinquent boys, serial drunks, life rejects and diehard ex-convicts are sharing a joint under the hesitant wink of the shivering moon. A battalion. They are easing their bones after a day’s hunt of food in rubbish jungles. Today their dinner is a dozen of expired tins of beef and a crate of burnt bread crumbs. A lucrative dinner.   They laugh their poverty away between puffs of marijuana and gulps of alleyway brewed crank.  Next to their anopheles infested hovel is a narrow stream shitting dysentery and vomiting typhoid. The stream is choked to stagnancy by used condoms, old wigs, decaying bodies and   human faeces. Behind them is an old railway station and a dilapidated cemetery, usually a haven of wayward cheap sex predators and their raunchy prey.  Every night, the bridge slide into a din of food battles, masturbation groans, mosquito whistles, catfights and lung wrenching influenza. Sexual groans by morons and drunk harlots add flavour to the daily festival.

The red tin   roofed railway   station is   Satan’s pigsty, where the devil reward wayward young lives with the deadly virus, he then releases them into the city to spray infections like pesticide. Unknowingly and knowingly   many dice like sprayed green fleas in trances of midnight excitement.  Mortuaries are harvesting virus-caused deaths every day of God.  Sometimes the old bridge battalion   spent nights digging up the dead to take away the coffins for resale.

When the battalion is asleep you can hear footsteps of tired snores and drunken dreams floating along with rot of corrupted wind. Delinquent boys hallucinate under the grip of evil spirits. Ex-convicts are haunted by souls of people they killed. You hear them pleading for forgiveness in the depth their nightmares. Cheap harlots supplicate to god to release them from devil’s grip. The terminally ill and oldest ones die many times under the attack paediatric and asthma seizures. They are resilient, they rose with the sun like everybody else. The battalion is mix of small crime and big crime ex-convicts, drug addicts and just wanderers. They are now a tired lot, exhausted by their past and present. The old bridge is their only home. A permanent home in summer, winter or rains season. Young sinners prowl the bridge in feverish hunt of food delicacies and good sex, despite the pariah conditions. The bridge is an export and import station of tuberculosis, dysentery and syphilis. Everyone’s penis is rotting from decade long syphilis wounds.

Adjacent to the bridge, just across the railway station life goes on under the veil of frail city lights. Goat bearded maestros, street intellectuals and sloganeering imbeciles’ prowl city bars and pimp shebeens. They drown their filthy anger in brown and green bottles. Raunchy dances, raucous laughter’s, political gossip and beer are daily lubricants to their heavily depressed mental boxes. Big fish, well-polished town fellas and important persons come here to spend nights cuddling the bottoms of sex vendors as well as hips of beer mugs. They enjoy their daily toil away from the maddening wives. Every Friday is a happy day, beer is cheap and sex is free. The City night club becomes a hive of pole dancing, break dancing, pimping and gambling. The club entry point is characterized by broken sheaths of used condoms, chopped fingers, blood trails, stubbed cigars, torn wigs and many other laughable paraphernalia. Marriages are made and broken in this den of sins. Here is where, political players deposit the country’s future in pink bras. Mugs of cheap whisky castrate city leaders into useless imbeciles and the deadly virus is planted in many lives like maize seed.

At midnight, the city wears its black gown. A lone gutter owl introduces wizards and their cousin sisters into the playground.  Illegal vendors invade the streets like ruthless migrant grasshoppers. Madhubula. They pawn everything from stereos to wedding rings to sugar and   crank.

From where I am seated right now, I see the city prostituting our lives and taking bribes. Corrupt shadows crawling from one street to the other, hustling for dirty dollars. Alley way sex escapades, blind couples making kids under the quilt of pavement shadows. Heartless doctors peddling hospital drugs. Minister’s wives fornicating with bodyguards and garden tenders. Stray dogs feasting from used and   broken condoms. Village mothers bussed in to sing for an absent president.

The balcony smells of unprotected sex. A Viagra peddler is grinding a pole dancer without a condom and she is vomiting because of his ruthless pounding. Her snort perfumes the brothel canteen with a rude smell of cheap whisky and beef bones. Her vomit also smells like an expired locally made   pesticide, galatrox. A potbellied   anopheles is enjoying Christmas from the pair’s alcohol greased blood.  The dancer feverishly winks to the moon and the frail moon winks back. The drama continues.

Towards dawn the city wears a grey robe in the glow of the first twilight. The battalion sit around flames of cardboard boxes made fire. Their limbs are as black as burnt wood in the first rays of dawn. Their eyes are red like hungry hyenas. And they are ready to pounce at anything that can end the war inside their bellies. As the city yawns out the night’s hangover, somewhere over the bridge, white robbed prophets are bluffing in tongues and their pilgrims are singing in praise.  A motorcade siren wails loudly and suddenly fades into thin air. Bus engines puffs their stale fart onto the bridge, the battalion coughs in a synchronized chorus. Touts are already in the streets as usual; the city becomes a virgin again. A cuffed evangelist is pleading to a defiant young police woman.  A swarm of drunken wanderers are pursuing behind them, chanting vulgar creamed songs. The echo of their nonsense is drowned by another siren of the new president’s motorcade. It’s the 23rd of November 2019.  The city throws away the black and grey gowns. It wears a dark green combat and is remote-paused into a presidential minute of silence.

©2022 Mbizo Chirasha
All rights reserved


…is  the founder of the Writing Ukraine Prize (2022-23), UNESCO-RILA Affiliate Artist (University of Glasgow, School of Education, Scotland).2020 Poet of Residence at the Fictional Café (International literary culture Writers Space).2019 IHRAF Pan Writivism/African Fellow .2020 free-Speech Fellow at PEN -Germany Writers in Exile Program. Resident Coordinator at All Africa Live Poetry Symposium (100TPC, Africa, Israel, global).Festival Poet at Poesia de Medellin (Columbia), Guest Writer  at University of Glasgow Creative Writing Programme (Sept 2020). Guest Speaker at SpokenWordOonline (Paris).2019 live literature hub Producer at Sotambe Film Arts Festival (Kitwe, Zambia). 2015 Jury President at Shungunamutitima Film Festival (Livingstone, Zambia).2009 Poet in Residence at ICACD (Accra, Ghana). 2009 Fellow at UNESCO-Photo Novel Intensive Training (Tanzania).2 011 United States Embassy, Harare Guest Poet at World Poetry Day (Harare, Zimbabwe).2007 Producer/Coordinator of This is Artist Artist in Residence Project (Goethe-Zentrum, Harare) 2006 United Nations Tribute to Kofi Annan Poet. 2003 ZIBF ,100 Best Books Young literary/writing delegate to Goteborg Book Fair (Sweden). Chirasha is the Publisher of the Time of the Poet Republic. Curator of WOMAWORDS Literary Press. Editor in Chief at Brave Voices Poetry Journal.  Chief Blogger at Porcupine-Quill blog(wixsite). Founder/Curator at African Writers Caravan. Author of Mbizo Chirasha (African William Blake) blog journal. Mbizo Chirasha was the Creative Director of Girlchild Creativity Project and Urban Colleges Writers Prize. Author of A Letter to the President (Mwanaka Media, Zimbabwe), Pilgrims of Zame( FootPrint, Malawi). Co-Authored Whispering Woes of Ganges and Zambezi (Cyberpress), Curated/Co-Edited Corpses of Unity, Second Name of the Earth is Peace(Anti-war collection,USA) , Co-edited Bilingual Digital Anthololgy Street Voices (Germany), Edited Voices of Africa: A Call for Freedom Anthology( USA) and Disgrace-land (Kindle collection)/

Nature was Here First | Eleni Stephanides

And so I go into the woods. As I go in under the trees,
dependably, almost at once, and by nothing I do, things fall
into place. I am less important than I thought, the human race
is less important than I thought. I rejoice in that.
—Wendell Berry, A Native Hill
Beauty of Nature
©2023 Miroslava Panayotova

The redwoods stretch high towards the cloud-speckled sky. They provide shade at the intersections of their branches and leaves, through which thin beams of light filter through.

From my spot beneath them at Redwood Regional Park, I listen to a hawk caw from its perched positioned above, its body occluded by (and submerged in) the leaves. Its caw is ribbity, as if there were a frog caught inside its throat.

Other birds make noises too, sounding like tiny droplets of water hitting against granite or porcelain. Not a full song, just distinct and crisp little cheeps—each a single solid note emitted sequentially from a separate beak. Some sound like specks of uncooked macaroni landing on a surface made from wind chime.

I wonder what these birds high up in their trees are saying to each other with their “chips,” if anything.

Twenty feet away, a bilingual woman with a large group of young explorers is teaching her kids to respect nature—specifically trees’ bodily autonomy.

When she catches one student ripping bark off a redwood: “How would you like it if a little monster came up to you and pulled the skin off your face?” she asks, after explaining to him how bark serves trees the same protective function that skin offers humans.

Her student, who then tries to reattach the bark to its rightful owner, asks the teacher if she has tape.

“Just don’t do it again,” she gently counsels him in response, while playfully ruffling his hair.

I come here on my own because nature restores me. Some might write this off as woo-woo, but that doesn’t stop me from believing it: that partial answers to some of our problems (at times) might even await us here.

Maybe they’ll surface in the quiet. Or if they don’t, at least in nature we find some strength to navigate them. Maybe we accept that they’re unanswerable—and in our ‘reconnected to self” state, can temporarily make peace with that uncertainty.

Coming here aids in that. Here where the pure and unadorned trees are just being themselves—no pressure to be anything more as they stretch tall and serene towards the cloud-speckled sky. Out here I’m not comparing myself to others, nor am I wracked with FOMO—because I can’t think ofa more nourishing place to be.

Nature’s authenticity coaxes my own out from beneath blankets and layers of performativity.  I come to the redwood forest to rid my mind of filters. I come here to return to my purest form.

We can tell with certainty that trees can hear, smell, communicate—and they can definitely remember. They can sense water, light, danger. They can send signals to other plants and help each other. They’re much more alive than most people realize,” wrote Elif Shafak.

 Nature has a way of quietly assuring you that you’re whole and complete without asking or taking anything from you.

I can’t say the same about humans.

Enjoy nature and accept what she has to offer, on her terms—rather than colonize and try to change Her. The boy in The Giving Tree understood this lesson when he was young. The older he got though, the more that modern life seemed to siphon it out from within him. Perhaps it became lost to capitalism—a system that profits from our indifference to nature.

“They pluck our leaves and gorge themselves on our fruit, and yet still they do not see us,” wrote a fig tree in Shafak’s novel The Island of Missing Trees.

 I think about where our planet would be if a greater number of us treated our connection with nature more similarly to how we treat our other close relationships. If we, as Muriel Barbary phrased it in her book The Elegance of the Hedgehog, chose to “honor this beauty that owes us nothing.” 

Maybe if more of us did, we wouldn’t be here.

Here, where, according to Tara Duggan, the Western monarch butterfly is rapidly disappearing. “The number of graceful, black and orange winged insects overwintering in coastal California this year dropped to under 2,000, compared with more than 29,000 the year before,” she wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle. “And that was already a fraction of its previous population.”

Here, where Jaime Lowe wrote in Breathing Fire, “Sequoias, hundreds of feet tall, usually die from old age, collapsing under their own weight, but now some were dying from dehydration, rotted inside and out.”

Here, where in Kurtis Alexander’s words, “At least one tenth of the planet’s giant sequoia trees are believed to have been wiped out by a single wildfire last year,” (6/4/21 SF Chronicle).

“Nature is innately brutal,” some say in defense of humans. Some scoff at the idea of a complicated and unruly entity simplified to “innocent victim.”

Some plants and animals are akin to humans in their ruthless competition with one another, they argue. Certain species of tall trees can block light from reaching neighboring organisms, for instance. It’s only once they fall over and die that light finds its way in, giving other trees and flowers the chance to grow. If it hadn’t been us humans, some other species would have stepped in to establish dominion.

Maybe no creature is exempt from nature’s barbarities. And yet, the amount of destruction—as well as the rate at which humans have destroyed—is unprecedented and unnatural. We’ve tipped whatever precarious balance existed before, taking far more than our share. It’s about degree and proportion, and the human contribution to planetary degradation is astronomically disproportionate.

I think of all the signs the past few years pointing to disruption in the earthly tapestry. California’s infamous September orange day was one. That day, social media statuses and memes depicting our final days abounded. One Facebook friend asked whether there was a such thing as “taking an Apocalypse day” off from work (“asking for the entire Bay Area currently trying to find good Zoom lighting with the orange tint out the window.”)

What stood out most was the eerie day-long silence. Usually I’d hear squirrels scuffling through the leaves out back, or raccoons tapping at the roof. Birds would sing.

That day though, the only audible noise was BART whooshing by in the distance every twenty or so minutes.  At 12:48 pm one bird on its own cheeped for for about thirty seconds before disappearing back into the darkness of wherever he’d been before.

Back in March 2020, I wondered if we would see any improvements on this front. Maybe the break in human activity would benefit the natural world. Animals did seem to be re-establishing partial dominion—goats had taken over a town in Ireland. Water in the Venice canal looked clean and vibrant in the pictures. One family found a moose swimming in their  backyard pool.

Benefits like reduced air pollution from fewer cars on the road proved to be short-lived though.

In trying to play God, humans have tampered with the natural order of things. Our actions are of a greater scale than the competition and occasional intra (or even inter) species ruthlessness that we might witness occurring naturally within the animal kingdom.

I’m also not sure that it’s nature itself that’s insatiable and destructive. I wonder if more accurately, the parts of it that are noble and pure and kind are inevitably more vulnerable. They’re more vulnerable to evisceration by their more sinister and opportunistic shadow halves.

A few weeks later, I’m outside a brewery in Susanville, California. At the picnic table next to me sit a young couple and their dog. The sun is behaving in a fickle manner.

Click: It departs / switches off.  Click: it comes back.

 “The sun just like, can’t make up its mind,” the boyfriend observes.

“It’s annoying,” the girlfriend comments.

Their young pit-bull’s chin remains against the pebbled ground, opinionless—or just too fatigued to offer one.

The shifting temperatures are uncomfortable. Yet out here the air is fresh and limitless nature surrounds us. And so I remind myself:

Before any humans walked the earth, the sun shone. She came and She went, She glimmered and dimmed, She did her own thing, with no one around to grumble in response.

Back to the redwoods.

Nearby, pine needles and twigs of varying thickness—some bare, others blanketed by pistachio-green moss—scatter the dusty ground.

I watch as a squirrel hugs an acorn to his chest, only to quickly drop it. Moments later he skitters to the other side of the path, in typical stop-motion jerky squirrel fashion.

 Bikes zip up and down the trails, gears buzzing like insects. Helmeted, masked up, and with sunglasses on, the riders look like insects too.

I wish I could wrap up these musings with a tidy conclusion. Previous drafts of it (from a couple years ago) said:I think of a world with starkly less nature. One where you have to drive hours or days to find an environment even remotely similar to the piney one I’m breathing in right now.

That world feels so sad and empty. I hope that’s not where we’re headed. The people written off as alarmists—I’d like them to be wrong, and I’m sure they’d like more than anything to be missing the mark as well.

I want the smell of piney bark to continue gently pulling people out of sleep in the morning. I want our feet, after cutting through bushes and stepping over pinecones, to squish into muddy marshland. I want us to stare down in awe as we pass over wet grass that looks like the lustrous green hair of a mermaid. 

Hundreds of years down the road, squirrels will still scurry in stop-motion fashion and birds will continue to sing, and we’ll continue to hear the calming drip-drip-drip sound our beaked friends put forth, as I did today. Days like the orange one, where animals scuttle and flutter confused and disoriented, will become but a memory, never to repeat.

I don’t feel like I can end this way though, without feeling disingenuous—or like I’ve fallen prey to magical thinking. What feels more truthful now is that global warming is a reality. This planet as we know it won’t remain this way forever.

At the redwood forest that day I breathe in this heartening reminder, together with the smell of pines and campfire charcoal. I take in my surroundings and settle back into the almost quiet (‘almost’ because mosquitoes still buzz and kids’ shouts remain audible).

I take a still-shot in my mind of it all. Then folding up my chair, I listen  to a little girl who seems to be on the same page:

“I wanna stay here all day! Then go to bed next to her (*the redwood tree). And wake up tomorrow and say Good morning, Tree.” And as I walk the wooded path back towards my car, I make a promise to return to places like these for as long as we all still can.

©2023 Eleni Stephanides
All rights reserved

Eleni Stephanides…

…is an LGBTQ bilingual writer and Spanish medical interpreter who Eleni was born, raised, and currently resides in the California Bay Area. Her work has been published in Them, Tiny Buddha, The Mighty, Breath and Shadow, Elephant Journal, The Gay and Lesbian Review, and Introvert Dear among others. She currently writes the monthly column “Queer Girl Q&A” for Out Front Magazine. You can follow her on IG eleni_steph_writer and read stories from her time as a rideshare driver.

:d ocean resonates secret poems | Mitko Gogov and Michael Rothenberg

This is a project that I like to call meditation through poetry and it happened on Christmas Eve when Michael sat by d ocean and sent his poetry through d waves in my house where I received d salty smell of d eternal life that we live. —Mitko Gogov, 31 Dec. 2011

Ed. note: The poems below are from Mitko's blog, in _d @Potru's wor(L)d.

Poem for Mitko

Michael Rothenberg (photo from Facebook)
Today, when Ziggy
(the dog) and I
go down to the ocean
we’ll send you a poem

Some wild ribbon
Invisible soul
birds in flight
across chrome waters

We will wait
for your silent reply
Look for a word
and world of peace

Riding back
over bright breakers
from your land-
locked European country


A Sea-Monkey
I was born and raised
in Florida

Learned my liquid life
Now, I am pulled
by the moon

Birth and inevitability
Yes, the ocean
gives us power

Tells us the rolling universe
does not belong to us
No matter how hard

we try to destroy it


Godless power
Chrome waves

Sun’s flames
soak my brow

Ziggy stops to dig in the sand
Barks at the blue-black raven

calling from the stranded
boulder on Shell Beach


I’d go crazy living on an island
surrounded by a fevered sea of woe

and sapphire horizons

I plan for a busier tomorrow
But I can’t get the ocean out of my head

You could crave another island

But whatever’s there I can’t describe
Lupine, thistle, and wild oats

on the bluff
Something I think I see, but can’t

inscribed in the mercurial sky

I wait for an explosion


This is not a good year for Tyrants!
Copper skies above Tahrir Square

Here comes that crashing thought
That currency I sent away over the expanse

to be read by you, Mitko
Tear gas clouds in Tahrir Square

Coming back tied and frayed around a rugged headland
We have had enough of this enslavement!

Men and women, boys and girls with stones
Give them what they want

Don’t wait for permission from the headquarters
Authorization from the Opera

Live long and without endorsements


The dog still barks, but can’t say exactly what he believes
Is that a dragon or civilization burning on the beach?

Coming in or going out
I can’t tell which way the poetry is running

A wave followed by another wave followed by another
Tide of the underworld rushing overall, blowing silver

over shipwrecked shores and tortured skies
A sleeper wave slashing

Pillars of…


I asked the California badger
on the road back home
Do you find this dream amusing?

There was something vicious in his response
Is the human condition just entertainment?

I ask the badger
about Political gamesmanship
and coppery metaphors

Slung across the heavens
like Handel’s Messiah?

No reply!

This is not a domestic animal!


O, Brother from another great continent
Beyond shimmering cataclysmic fever

Foam and light rushing up over my feet
Mammoth rubbings on mammoth stones…

Oh Macedonian Brother

I went down to the ocean today and the sky and sun and water
were blinding and gorgeous chrome, so I kind of got caught

in light and isolation and could think of nothing else

“Poem for Mitko” ©2011 Michael Rothenberg
All rights reserved

.OCEANia and :Christmas

.lips are touching salty waves,
oceans playin’ with d messages lost in them.
We think that inside float
maternal fluid which nourishes us while we sleep
as teddy bears, as kangaroos
in d


We fly with our messages
like freed birds from their cage…
Love is transferred through cosmic channels! uncle somewhere far across the pond
sit on the shore,
caressing the existence of his thoughts
sending them far away to me
to be returned as hidden universes.
The day ends…

…and, somewhere there Jesus is born.


dogs bark in joy,
about one I know for sure.
In these bottles we keep all
d messages, those which are yet to be sent
condemning the mystery of not knowing.

!Telepathy is a pact with mice. .. you hear me?


We signalize d existence,
as fireflies in summer. .. even d Indians would envy us
for d art of connecting.
Do we hear each other or d waves are too strong?!
I hear how d water cleans our souls. these salty rocks
one day will fall apart!
We run lost as we should
win this marathon, but not
all waves end at the same place?


Embraced each other with d thoughts that returns
—boomerang technique is more active nowadays.
The end of reason is near,
in d rain we hide d cry of our fear.
At the end of the day

:all stars are falling down
—but they not fade;

they glow us from closer!

night lights,
they make d passion for more myth!


We reserve space in d universe
as if d hotel of our life has remained with(out)
no rooms. Guests are our memories…
fill d beds and under them they hide Us
from ourselves..*

Here the lake is calm
…dreaming of its elder brothers and sisters
will there be a river born to bring me
at d sea,
will there be a sea born
to bring me to you?


The Absolute dives with special equipment
we the trackers are dolphins
we close our snouts while we breathe,
yet, our ears fill with water.

Can we hear d water composition
for the rain, for d snow that melts in us
or icicles are born?

In my house a wave is coming,
from d ocean is, We say…
on my walls dark blue worlds
aquarium filled with indigo sky

.my fishes are dreaming d Big Water
Lemurians dears ~


Introductory note and “.OCEANia and :Christmas” ©2011 Mitko Gogov
All rights reserved

Mitko Gogov…

…lives in Macedonia, where he writes poetry, short stories, essays and journalism. He writes haiku, senryu, renga, which he publishes occasionally in the micro blogosphere twitter, but once published in London by Yoko Ono as well. His work so far has been present and translated in several anthologies, collections and journals for literature and art in India, Pakistan, Philippines, USA, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria… His collection “Ice Water” was published in 2011 in Serbia, and in 2014 issued in Macedonia, in the edition “Fires” for the publishing house “Antolog,” supported by the Ministry of culture. Photo from 100TPC World Conference in Salerno, Italy, ©2015 Michael Dickel