Posted in Poems/Poetry

The Sun-god at Mount Horeb

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

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

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

© 2018, Martins Tomisin, All rights reserved

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

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

Sunday

Walking home from church.

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

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

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

Where has Sunday gone?

© 2018 John Anstie

gods of our making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrestling with God – two poems

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


Michael Dickel


Jacob Wrestling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, I wrestle with God.

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


Jacob wrestling with the angel

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

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

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

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

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

So I left.

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


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

If I Were God

If I were God—

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Sharon Frye

View guest contributor Sharon Frye’s bio HERE

The Closer God

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

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

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

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

– Liliana Negoi

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

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

The Gods of Our Making

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

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

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

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

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

– Jamie Dedes

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

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

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

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

THE SUN & THE MOON ARE FREE

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

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

THE SUN AND THE MOON ARE FREE

by

Jamie Dedes

Why do I write this in ink so black

it melts the pages of my journey?

·

It is a peaceful night here.

The stars are tossed across a

clear, dark velvet sky like the

garden fairies dancing at dusk.

·

The moonlight reaches down

to embrace me in its silver light,

its touch delicate as a whisper.

·

What of you, dear brother?

And what of you, dear sister?

Are they free by you …

the moon and the stars?

·

Is the night sky at peace?

My ink burns to bone and

melts the pages of my journey

for you …

– who were born of violence

– who were born into violence.

·

Your pain and your losses are

not mandated by any god.

The murders, the maiming, the

hunger, homelessness, loneliness …

the disenfranchisement: man made.

·

Why do I write this in ink so black

it melts the pages of my journey?

Because I fear, because I know

my fragile, cherished kin, I KNOW –

·

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

– for what we have done

– what we have not done

– we are culpable.

PEACE:

IT’S A DECISION

NOT A PRAYER

Photo credit~ Peter Griffin, Public Domain Pictures.net 

Goodbye Jamie Dedes

Peace, I leave you; My peace, I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. 

Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Photo Copyright G Jamie Dedes

I’ve been saddened by the news of fellow blogger/friend/American activist Jamie Dedes’ passing.  I knew she’d been ill for some time. I had hoped I’d hear information that she was recovering and gaining strength. I grew concerned when Hospice came in to care for her during the beginnings of COVID. I’d seen some news on Facebook about her death but hesitated and question its truth. 

Now, her son Richard, has posted this information on Facebook: 

Hi, everyone,

This is Richard (Jamie’s son).

I know the word has gone out about Jamie’s passing, but haven’t been able to contact everyone directly. Karen and I have been seeing your posts and tributes and genuinely appreciate your love and kind words. I will be continuing to monitor Mom’s Facebook page and maintain her websites. Please feel free to reach out but forgive me if it takes time to respond.  I’m still getting everything sorted out. Delighted to be connecting with you all! 

Love and respect, Richard 

~~~~~~~~~

 I met Jamie through a series of challenges at mutual blog sites. Soon, she started to create challenges of her own. She created ‘The Bardo Group’ ‘The BeZine’  ‘The Poet by Day’.

The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights. ©jamiededes’

I joined in and found her encouraging critiques of my writing extremely helpful. When I had doubts she inspired me with words to forge on. She said I had a unique writing style and that I shouldn’t change it. My poetry writing insecurities began to fade with every optimistic praise she gave me. Although I enjoy writing stories more than poetry, I continued to write poems because of her.

We found a commonality in our backgrounds. She was born and raised in Brooklyn in a neighborhood not too far from my own. She posted photos of familiar places we both knew.  

On one of my posts, I added a photo of myself. I remember her response was, “You’re my sister from another mother.”  

She never thought of fellow writers as competitors. They were her motivation to help create great writers. 

I will miss her inspiring words. Her blog will be up for a while. If you haven’t read her ‘Words of Art’ pop over to her blog. You won’t be disappointed. I’m always left breathless by her words. 

To all who knew her and whose lives she’s touched including her family:

May your troubled hearts find peace and comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. 

May God’s presence ease your trembling spirit and give you rest.

He is there to cast sunlight into all of your darkened shadows, to send encouragement through the love of friends and family, and to replace your weariness with new hope.

Blessings … Rest in Peace, Jamie

©2020 Isadora DeLaVega
All rights reserved

The Truth Is and 4 Other Poems

The Bar

 The sky had deepened imperceptibly
 And three stars quietly announced
 The passage into evening.
  
 The bar opened its shutters and doors.
  
 Truth, Beauty, Love, Morals, and Faith
 Ambled in, adjusting their eyes
 To the dim lights inside the bar,
 And sat down at the first booth
 They encountered. A man behind the bar
 Dried glasses, oblivious to the guests.
  
 Truth was the first to speak. He said,
 “I have an idea for a game.”
 The rest looked up at him, vaguely piqued.
 “The one with the shortest lifespan
 Buys drinks for everyone,” he continued.
  
 Not to be outdone at the outset,
 Love agreed in principle but countered,
 “Rather than the shortest lifespan,
 I suggest the one whom everyone
 Can do without buys drinks for all.”
  
 Faith tapped his water glass and said,
 “How about the one whose assertions
 Need the most proofs to be believed
 Should buy a round for one and all?”
  
 Morals cleared his throat and bellowed,
 “How about the one who needs the most
 Axioms to forestall the need to prove
 Should pay comradery’s price?”
  
 Finally, Beauty opened a compact mirror,
 Powdered an exquisite nose, arranged
 A pretty eyelash, and said to no one
 In particular, “If someone doesn’t order
 Drinks instead of all this tiresome gabbing,
 I shall leave you all to your sordid games.”
  
  
 Courage, who had been sitting at the bar,
 Ordered two drinks from the barman
 And soon was joined by Beauty.
  
                                                                October 25, 2020 

A Universal Purpose

 This morning the sun rose gloriously
 Over the distant hills as it does most mornings
 And now it douses its flaming crown
 In the western sea. Tomorrow
 I expect it’ll do the same
 Although it might not.
 Birds sing shrilly in the evening trees,
 You’d think the trees were singing.
 I wonder whether these have a meaning
 Or some universal purpose.
 Exquisite beauty certainly, though it happens
 More often than not. Isn’t it enough,
 If it’s beautiful and I love it?
 Isn’t that enough?
 We look for meaning in our lives
 As though it were some precondition,
 As though we must prove our usefulness
 To Someone or Something.
 Words have meaning, but we don’t.
 We are their sayers, their creators.
 They serve us or they don’t.
  
                                                      October 18, 2020 

On Reading
Fabrice Poussin

A Special Dictionary

 Once there was a man
 Far away in time from us.
 It doesn’t matter what his name
 Will have been since nobody
 Will have paid attention to him.
 Anyway, he liked the meanings
 Of words but not the words themselves
 Because the words never stuck around
 But left the meanings to fend for themselves
 Which they couldn’t very well do
 Since their roots sank deep down
 Entangled in the loam of people
 Long dead. The words would flit off
 Like butterflies to the next flower
 That would open its petals to it.
 The man decided he’d send the words
 Packing and he’d stand guard over
 All the meanings. He’d make
 A special dictionary once and for all
 Of all the meanings he could think of
 With nary a word to slip or slide away.
  
                                                                   October 13, 2020 

The Truth Is

 The truth is
 I don’t know why I’m here.
 I guess if I weren’t here,
 I’d be there
 Or somewhere else.
  
 Maybe the one who is here
 Wouldn’t be me.
 Perhaps he or she would be
 Someone else
 Or no one at all.
  
 The truth is
 Being is not so clear cut.
 It’s not that I have doubts,
 It’s just I’m not so sure.
  
                                          October 10, 2020 

On Love

 What can you tell us about love?
 I’m not talking about moral love,
 The love-your-neighbor love
 Or even the love of children or animals.
 I’m talking about that other love,
 That love of the other
 That consumes you in its fires
 While leaving you whole,
 That like a whirlwind lifts you up
 So high you can’t breathe anymore
 Or a whirlpool that pulls you under,
 That moves in mystery
 And cannot be described or understood
 Because love is,
 Love is like Enoch who walked with God
 And was not.
  
                                                           September 9, 2020 

©2020 Mike Stone
All rights reserved

Posted in Music, Musicians, Poems/Poetry

Progression of Buts, &c. | Robert Priest

Progression of Buts

I shouldn't be saying this but —
Typically the majority stand for it but —
They assumed we'd go on being quiet but —
They said that moral courage was at a minimum but —
They thought we'd go on stunned in the grey TV glow but — 
They thought we were flies on the screen forever but —
Even we believed we had no wings, no grandeur but —
They thought our outrage was dead but —
There’s supposed to be limits on how long you can push it
                                                        push it push it but but but —
We thought we'd lost each other but —
They believed that silence was assent forever but —
It looked like it was going to be World War III but —
They said that faith was not a well, not a flow, not a channel but —
I was telling everybody don't count on me
                                                        I can't be relied upon but —
They're going to tell us we're not brave but —
They’re going to push the negative but —
They said there was no buttress but —
No resistance but —
No insistence but —
No victory but —

Give Us a Floor

Give us a floor we can drag a chair over
And leave a mark
A hardwood floor that can take a lot of dancing
We want a floor that you leave your shoes on and tap when you like

A floor you can jump on
Give us a floor where a kid can bang a hammer for an hour
And no one cares
We want a good flat floor strong enough for a piano or two

A floor that can bear the weight of ten bass amps
Fifty stomping bikers on choppers
And still be fine for yoga in the morning
It is important to have a floor you can fall on

A floor good for trying risky positions
Tipsy calisthenics
Maybe one day we’ll want to invite
Multi-faith obesity groups intent on leaping and praying

A floor equipped to bear them all
And still take a child’s lightest footfall
With never the creak of any small floor complaint

A floor to hold up the elephants
And hippopotami

A floor, please, to take the great weight of human hearts
Held in thrall by mere matter
By love by stampede

We want a floor to bear seven generations
Each unfolded out of the other
All at once in a great hootenanny and holler

A floor to bear the greatest table ever made
For a feast where no one’s missing
We don’t want some poor flat excuse
We don’t want some bottom-line trapdoor
We want a floor to hold the world up when it’s exhausted

A floor to keep the sky on when it’s drained and dry
And ready to fall
It’s time we had the floor

Give us the floor

poem from Previously Feared Darkness


Spread the Word

Spread the word outward
From the centre
To the edges
 
Spread the word like the word
Was your wings
And you could fly
 
Spread the word
Like wind in all directions
Let the word be spread
Like a lover's legs
Like petals strewn upon a bed
Like the breath of life
On the land of the dead
 
Spread the word
Let nothing go unsaid
That must be said
 
Spread the word like breath
To the drowning
Like food to the unfed
 
Spread the word like medicine
To a child on a deathbed
Spread it like a wild fire
Of thought in some genius head
 
 
Spread the word to all and one
Alike
Refusing it to none
Like wealth like water
Like thirst
All over the earth
Let it never go unheard
 
Spread the word

Islam Means Surrender

There is a lot of Islam
In everything
 Those who surrender to Jesus
Are Islamic - 'Islam' means surrender
 
If you yearn to give up your essence
Into nirvana - isn't that a huge surrender?
 
Islam!
 
And Jews who seek to do the will of God
They surrender themselves to the teachings of the Torah
 
Very Islamic
 
Even lovers who bow to one another's pure forms
Or those who give in the needs of the moment — surrender
 
Islam
 
Is beautiful

—Robert Priest


Robert Priest Poet
Robert Priest

A literary poet in the tradition of Neruda and Mayakovsky, a composer of lush love poems, a singer-songwriter, a widely quoted aphorist, a children’s poet and novelist, Robert Priest is a mainstay of the literary/spoken word/music circuit both in Canada and abroad. His words have been quoted in the Farmer’s Almanac, debated in the Ontario Legislature, sung on Sesame Street, posted in Toronto’s transit system, broadcast on MuchMusic, released on numerous CDs, quoted by politicians, and widely published in textbooks and anthologies.


Robert Priest is the author of fourteen books of poetry. His book, Reading the Bible Backwards, rose to number two on the Toronto Globe and Mail’s poetry charts. He is a previous winner of the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry award. He co-wrote the hit, Song Instead of a Kiss, for Alannah Myles, which is still played all around the world and went to number one for two weeks in Canada and six weeks in Québec. His aphorisms show up frequently in Colombo’s Canadian Quotations and The Farmer’s Almanac.

His latest book of poetry for children, The Wolf is Back received a Gold Moonbeam award in the US and his previous volume for children, Rosa Rose, was a book of honour in the Lion and the Unicorn award for poetry in the North American category at John Hopkins University. His fantasy series, Spell Crossed, was described by Open Book as a ‘Modern Classic’. He is also a singer-songwriter and children’s singer-songwriter of note with songs on Sesame Street. For two years he was the resident topical songwriter on the CBC radio program Is Anybody Home and has contributed topical songs to CBC’s Sunday Night News. 


Robert Priest—Audio Video
Listen to BAAM! and Feeling the Pinch on Spotify.
Poem Video: What Ugly Is
Poem: In the next War
Song: The bomb in Reverse
Song/poetry album: BAAM!
Live version of Alannah Myles performing Robert Priest co-written,
Song Instead of a Kiss (four weeks at number one in Canada).
Some Links

Poetry books for purchase online
Previously Feared Darkness
Reading the Bible Backwards
Blue Pyramids: New and Selected Poems
How to Swallow a Pig

Selection of poems for reading
Robert Priest, Hand Poems

Robert Priest Retrospective in Big Bridge

Robert Priest’s Children’s Site

Children’s Books
The Paper Sword from Dundurn Books (on Amazon)
Spell Crossed—three book bundle from Dundurn Books
Rose Rose
The Secret Invasion of Bananas


All Contents ©2020 Robert Priest,
except where otherwise noted for recordings on YouTube.
All rights reserved

Posted in Poems/Poetry, poetry, Poets/Writers

(R)Evolution — 4 poems

Crows Are Being Born Again

     It is an undeniable fact now: 
They have arisen from the bare ground
 
Like the phoenix flapping its wings out of its 
Legendary ashes, where are they going?
Nowhere but high up into a virtual space, a world 
That, like history book, is full of black headlines
 
Big names, & bold details. All transmitted
Into digital forms. Even the most unidentifiable
Has become a star above its dark caws. 
    Each 
Taken for an angel winged with the rainbows 
Of tomorrow, while all cranes and swans are lost 
In their dances to the tune of death             

(R)evolution towards Dataism 

More advanced in evolution than their human masters are chickens as they outnumber the stars in the whole universe, and occupy every corner of the entire planet, but as in-dividuals, no chicken can fly higher than a low fence, make love within its confinement or live together with its children. The only thing they do besides laying eggs and growing meat is standing there, day and night, as if meditating about the meaning of evolution:

It took hundreds…of thousands…of years for…homo erectus to evolve…into sapiens and longer…for chimpanzees to…erectus, but…engineering ourselves…by way of biochemistry…cyborg and…AI, we are upgrading…ourselves into…godlings—all it takes…will be just half a century…where science beats gods…and devils, saints and ghosts alike…at only…a fraction of second, when a whim…pops up for a human…to go back…to a wild animal, again…

Now given each organism as a biochemical algorithm, your life is a programmed process proving your consciousness is actually far less valuable than a fucking Frankenstein’s AI

As giant ants march ahead in nightly arrays
Demonstrating against the ruling humans
Along the main street of every major city
Hordes of hordes of vampires flood in, screaming
Aloud, riding on hyenas and
Octopuses, waving skeletons
In their hairy hands, whipping at old werewolves
Or all-eyed aliens standing by
With their blood-dripping tails
 
Gathering behind the masses are ghosts and spirits
Of all the dead, victims of fatal diseases
Murders, rapes, tortures, wars, starvation, plagues
Led by deformed devils and demons
As if in an uprising, to seek revenge
On every living victor in the human shape
Some smashing walls and fences, others
Barbecuing human hearts like inflated frogs
Still others biting at each other’s soul around black fires
All in a universal storm of ashes and blood
 
Up above in the sky is a red dragon flying by
With a heart infected by the human virus

Second Departure: for Yeats

 Going, going away in an ever retreating bay
The ebb starts below a quickened sun setting
People swarm here, watching, picking, fighting
Over the fishes, shrimps, crabs, shells, weeds
All left stranded, struggling for waters on the beach
They do not care if darkness stalks right behind
Their shadows, rolling like a tide upon their souls
They care only about the benefits they can gather
The sea produce they can trade with one another
 
Surely some ignorance is still in proper place
Surely the second departing is taking place
The Second Departing! The very idea stirs in the minds
A huge flock of crows beating their darkening wings
Flapping into the narrow sky of the prolonged history
It’s these crows, these very unidentifiable black birds
That are driving the light beyond the horizon, inner or outer
(Where they have found God as a redundant re-creation
Where they believe they are the right gods for themselves)

Epilogue: A Parallel Poem

Just as both God and Devil are man’s incarnation,
so are Heaven and Hell both man’s construction. 

I
From the front yard of a melodious morning
From the busy road of a sweet Saturday 
From the moist corner of a heavy march 
From the back lane of pale winter
We have come, here and now, all gathering
In big crowds gathering in big crowds
Gathering in ever-bigger crowds gathering
For the boat to cross the wide wild waters
Before the fairy ferry is fated to fall
Under our feet too heavy with earthy mud 
 
II 
You may well hate Charon
But you cannot help feeling envious:
That business of carrying the diseased
Across the River Styx is ever so prosperous
The only monopoly in the entire universe
That has a market share
Larger than the market itself
Daydreaming, on this side
Of the river, how you might wish
To be an entrepreneur like him
A success American dreamer
 
III 
Flying between sea and sky 
Between day and night 
Amid heavenly or oceanic blue
I lost all my references 
To any timed space
Or a localized time
Except the non-stop snorting 
Of a stranger neighbor
 
Then, beyond the snorts rising here
And more looming there
I see tigers, lions, leopards 
And other kinds of hunger-throated predators
Darting out of every passenger’s heart
Running amuck around us 
As if released from a huge cage

As if in a dreamland

—Changming Yuan


Changming Yuan

©2020 Changming Yuan
All rights reserved

Posted in COVID-19/Pandemic, Essay

Dilema

Coronavirus has invaded our airspace at an incredible rate of infection using natural selection attacking the most vulnerable in our population first. Virtual prayers being sent to the heavens are asking for this demon to cease and that we be released from the clutches of this damnation plaguing our nation and the world.

Even before this pandemic as one of the coordinators of the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry I’ve often wondered how long we would be able to keep going. Sustainability is a formidable issue. I think this because we the leaders are now senior citizens, some with underlying health issues. We’ve been truly blessed because our volunteers from the community with both the soup kitchen and the pantry are able bodied men and women. We have three primary leaders left that are all seniors that make up the planning committee and now we have the monster COVID 19 that has complicated matters further. One of our senior leaders succumbed to this deadly virus. She had underlying health issues and was living in an assisted living facility when the Coronavirus reared its ugly head and pounced. We are praying virtually three times a day now to keep ourselves in God’s perfect peace that surpasses all understanding and that we will be able to stand in the face of adversity.

Part of sustainability is having resources. The foodbank gives the pantry food for the community. Our main expense with the pantry is renting a U-Haul truck once a month, and taking care of the Orkin bill (pest control). The soup kitchen is not aligned with the foodbank because of certain modifications to the building that had to be made before we could join in with them as a partner consequently the soup kitchen does not get food from them. The food sources for the soup kitchen come from Seton Hall University which is part of the network of college recovery programs that are across the country. These programs have student volunteers recover leftover food from their cafeterias and then disperse it to various feeding programs in the community. This food otherwise would be thrown away. We also get donations from the Hilton Hotel in Short Hills New Jersey. As soon as COVID 19 exponentially multiplied in our area and New York City became the epi-center, and New Jersey as well was being infected at an alarming rate all the schools closed down, as well as some hotels; Newark imposed a curfew which was quickly followed by orders to shelter-in. The soup kitchen had to be temporarily closed but the pantry is still in operation.

Even though the soup kitchen had to temporarily close God has been good to us. In a way it’s good that the soup kitchen is not aligned with the food bank because we are a faith based organization. We have Bible study before our dinners but it is not mandatory for people to attend, and we also have prayer before we eat in which participation is not required. What I have found in my years at the soup kitchen is that most of our clients want to participate because many of them believe in God and are looking for consolation and comfort. Because of Federal regulations we cannot pray at the pantry, nor pass out tracts, nor engage in any kind of activity that might be perceived as infringing on our clients civil rights.

We enjoy having religious freedom at our soup kitchen though. Souls come seeking solace from a world that relentlessly beats them down. I can hear the voice of the community scribe reading from the Bible, I Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves…Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” Issues…issues…issues…I’m homeless…got no health insurance…need to go in a program…boyfriend abusing me…don’t have enough food for my children…tired of living in the shelter…and this was before COVID 19 that is now our reality.

In the midst of this pandemic from the depths of hell our country is being shaken to the very foundation of the sustainability upon which it was built capitalism being our economic system, and democracy our political system. The organization Feeding America has always been here as have foodbanks all across the country but now they have been thrown into the forefront because so many people have lost their jobs and now have no income. Millions and millions have filed for unemployment but for many the process is endless and they have not received compensation. On our last pantry day we serviced about 161 heads of households and the food bank on the same day had a drive through pantry where 5000 boxes of food were given away. This highlights the magnitude of the current problem of food insecurity in our country.

According to a New York Times article found at nytimes.com entitled Poor Americans Hit Hardest by job losses and amid lock downs…”thirty-six million people in the last two months have applied for unemployment; 39% of those who have lost their jobs make $40,000 a year or less as compared to 13% who make $100,000 a year or more.” According to the organization Feeding America prior to the pandemic about 37 million people were suffering from food insecurity, or having a hard time buying food with all the other bills to pay. One foodbank network reported that typically they service about 32,000 households weekly but since the unemployment crisis these numbers have increased by 26,000 people needing food assistance.

Many of the iniquities in our system are being exposed. Why have minorities and immigrants been hit the hardest? There is a direct correlation between health care or should I say the lack of adequate health care or no health care at all and our black and brown communities being ravaged by COVID 19. In the Washington Post an article entitled Democracy Dies in Darkness found at nypost.com states “As the novel Coronavirus sweeps across the United States it appears to be killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate…” In a survey done by John Hopkins University and participating state health departments it was found that “counties that are majority black have three times the rate of infection and almost six times the rate of death as counties where white residents are in the majority.” The information was taken from a sampling of counties most of the states being in the east. It is a known health fact diabetes, blood pressure, and heart disease plague the black community. Once again these trends point directly to the inequities in our health system.

Perennials blooming yet in May we still have 32 degree days. Nature is gathering all her forces to take a leap of faith knowing that God is in control of all that is natural and beautiful on earth and in our universe. The brilliant colors splashed across the sky at the beginning of a new day announcing new beginnings…the strength found in the solid rock mountains of his creation weathering the storms of life…the tides of the ocean controlled by the moon, the sun, and gravity as human beings go about their lives daily. Yet now we have been stopped in our tracks, constantly having to wear masks, and sheltering-in has become an intricate part in saving our lives…at the same time as states announce plans to open up mustering up our forces and our courage as we are adapting to a new reality.

In February my concern was how much longer the leadership of the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry would be able to sustain our program. But in walked COVID 19 and sustainability took on new dimensions and we became infused with God’s limitless energy as we witnessed the crushing financial blow overwhelming our community reminding us that we are the people of God… the senior citizen leadership…In my mind I can hear our community scribe reading Galatians 6:9 “And let us not to be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” As long as food insecurity exists in our community God will provide and make a way that even in these devastating times his light will continue to shine at the House of Love Soup Kitchn/Pantry located in Newark, NJ.

© 2020, Tamam Tracy Moncur

TAMAM TRACY MONCUR is currently is the Outreach Coordinator for the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry located in Newark NJ. This is a community faith-based organization whose mission is to help individuals who are experiencing hardship due to life circumstances.  They partner with the NJ Foodbank, the Seton Hall Food Recovery Program, and the Short Hills Hilton Hotel to provide food to the community.

 

Posted in Poems/Poetry

Presidential Griot by Mbizo Chirasha

Courtesy of Kevin Nice, Unsplash

“Human rights don’t trickle down.” Heather Marsh, Binding Chaos: Mass collaboration on a global scale



Sometimes memories smell like a dictator’s fart
We once jived to our own shadows under the silver moon
and our shadows danced along with us, we rhymed to the
nightmares of hyenas and hallucinations of black owls.
Our desires sailed along with gowns of fog back and forth
at village dawns. Wood smoke smelt like fresh baked
bread.Time bewitched us, we ate William Shakespeare and
John Donne. We drank lemon jugs of Langston Hughes and
Maya Angelou. Soyinka’s lyrical whisky wrecked our
tender nerves. We bedded politics with boyish demeanor
and dreamt of the black cockerels and black Hitler’s

Sometimes time is stubborn like a sitting tyrant
Last night, commissars chanted a slogan and you
baked a dictator’s poetry sanguage. Zealots sang
Castro and Stalin and you brewed a socialist crank,
the president is a stinking capitalist. I never said
he is Satanist.Back to village nights, hyenas are
laughing still, black owls gossiping, silver moon
dancing still over rain beaten paths of our country dawns.

Sometimes time stinks like a dictator’s fart
Your lyrical satire sneaked imbeciles through
back doors. Your praise sonnets recycled suicidal
devils and polished revolutionary rejects, Back then,
smells of fresh dung and scent of fresh udder milk
were our morning brew and under the twilight the
moon once disappeared into the earthly womb, Judas,
the sun then took over and every dictator is an
Iscariot. I never said we are now vagabonds
Sometimes time smells like a dying autocrat

Mwedzi wagara ndira uyo tigo tigo ndira – the moon
was once sour milk silver white and fresh from the Gods’
mouth and sat on its presidential throne on the
zenith of bald headed hills and later with time
the moon was ripe to go mwedzi waora ndira tigo tigo ndira
Sometimes wind gusts whistled their tenor through elephant
grass pastures, we sang along the obedient flora . . .

Chamupupuri icho…oo
chamupupuri chaenda chamupupuri chadzoka
Chamupupuri icho…oo!

Our poverty marinated, yellow maize teeth grinned to
sudden glows of lightening, the earth gyrated under
the grip of thunder, then Gods wept and we drank
teardrops with a song mvura ngainaye tidye makavu,
mvura ngainaye tidye makavu ..

Pumpkins bred like rabbits, veldts strutted in
Christmas gowns. Wild bees and green bombers
sang protest and praise. I never said we are
children of drought relief.

Sometimes time grows old like a sitting tyrant,
Tonight the echo of your praise poetry irk the
anopheles stranded in tired city gutters to swig
the bitter blood of ghetto dwellers, gutter
citizens eking hard survival from hard earth
of a hard country , their rough hands marked
with scars of the August Armageddon, their sandy
hearts are rigged ballot boxes stuffed with corruption,
they waited and sang for so long . . .

Chamupupuri icho…oo chamupupuri chaenda
chamupupuri icho…oo chamupupuri chadzoka
Chamupupuri icho..oo

Originally published on Jamie Dedes’ The Poet by Day Webzine

© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha

MBIZO CHIRASHA (Mbizo, The Black Poet) is one of the newest members of the Zine team and  a recipient of PEN Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant (2017). He is a Literary Arts Projects Curator, Writer in Residence, Blogs Publisher, Arts for Human Rights/Peace Activism Catalyst, Social Media Publicist and Internationally Anthologized Writer, 2017 African Partner of the International Human Rights Arts Festival Exiled in Africa Program in New York, 2017 Grantee of the EU- Horn of Africa Defend Human Rights Defenders Protection Fund, Resident Curator of 100 Thousand Poets for Peace-Zimbabwe, Originator of Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Movement. He has published a collection of poetry, Good Morning President, and co-created another one Whispering Woes of Gangesand Zembezi with Indian poet Sweta Vikram.
Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, General Interest, Poems/Poetry

Environmental Justice ~ Poseidon’s Plea

 

Courtesy of Joseph Barrientos, Unsplash

Oceans are one of the many miracles of the Creator as the Earth itself is. The water holds itself yet moves, full of life, rebirth and deaths and fathoms of fluid space, stable for all ships and boats, salty roadways, for travelers transport and sport. / Anjum Wasim Dar



O’ Poseidon bestowed with the power unique
tell us the secret of the two seas that do not meet
yet flow with different colors, wave by wave, move
by move, side by side, a perfect acceptance of diversity,

Poseidon speaks, ‘Man is nothing without the Gods’
oceans or skies the sole power is with the Creator
who loves clear open hearts, He blocks nothing nor
builds walls, see my home has no doors nor windows’

All are free to enter, float, sail, swim dive or dig
I am full of food, fish, color, charms and treasures
but many living beings are careless, inconsiderate
they throw harmful waste trash plastic on and in me.

Water will not become less but will be a source of
trouble for human beings themselves, the dead will
float the dying will cry and curse, the thought makes
me shudder, storms surge, waves rise to great heights,

Water is hurt, it is red now with blood and scales
breathing is difficult, inhale a struggle, exhale an
ordeal, oil blocks unmarked uncharted paths
Ocean ides, no longer accept offerings from fans.

Home state worries Oceanus, growing more old
countless pennies coins of gold, are useless down
on the sea bed, worthless is such a treasure which
sinks and loses its values, shine and becomes cold.

A revenge rises a tsunami results, as the grand
bowl shakes jolts jumps and throws up-
beware O People …I envision a huge surge…
sing not any songs nor lie naked on the beach

Pray pray pray peace, repentance, forgiveness, seek

© 2020, Anjum Wasim Dar

ANJUM WASIM DAR (Poetic Oceans) is one of the newest members of “The BeZine” core team.
Anjum was born in Srinagar (Indian occupied Kashmir) in 1949. Her family opted for and migrated to Pakistan after the Partition of India and she was educated in St Anne’s Presentation Convent Rawalpindi where she passed the Matriculation Examination in 1964. Anjum ji was a Graduate with Distinction in English in 1968 from the Punjab University, which ended the four years of College with many academic prizes and the All Round Best Student Cup, but she found she had to make extra efforts for the Masters Degree in English Literature/American Studies from the Punjab University of Pakistan since she was at the time also a back-to-college mom with three school-age children.
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Her work required further studies, hence a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) from Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad and a CPE, a proficiency certificate, from Cambridge University UK (LSE – Local Syndicate Examination – British Council) were added to  her professional qualifications.
 .
Anjum ji says she has always enjoyed writing poems, articles, and anecdotes and her written work found space in local magazines and newspapers. A real breakthrough came with the Internet when a poem submitted online was selected for the Bronze Medal Award and I was nominated as Poet of Merit 2000 USA. She accepted the Challenge of NANOWRIMO 2014 and Freedom is Not a Gift, A Dialogue of Memoirs, a novel form was the result. She was a winner, completing her 50,000 word draft in one month.
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Although a Teacher and a Teacher Trainer by Profession, she is a colored-pencil artist and also enjoys knitting and is currently trying to learn Tunisian Crochet.
Posted in General Interest

Three Poems by Barbara A. Meier

The Rattlesnake and the Hen

There is a garden ring of stumps
guarded by Sugar pine and Douglas fir,
majestic in the shedding of needles,
forming a carpet of spongy pine duff.
The scent of rich decay coalesces with the perfume
of pine bark baked in sun at 5000 feet.

The cluck and cackle of one Gallus Gallus Domesticus
punctuates the susurrus of the creek pooling around rocks.
She grubs for earthworms and crickets, under the duff mounds
and rotting stumps, unaware of the shaft of sunlight
through the feathery branches illuminating the coil
of the Crotalus Oregonas. His brownish blotches melding green,

rattling the needles with his castanets, startling the hen
to hysterical squawks and shrieking cackles.
Her Salvation comes in a shovel
held like a fiery sword in the hand
of Archangel Michael, thrusting down,
severing the head from a gyrating body in space.

In the silence of the hen, the gasp of the wind
high in the trees, comes the thud of dirt clods
hitting metal, the fall of the head into the hole, buried.
The body hung to dry on the cabin side.
and pine needles raked to cover the blood.
By the creek, the Gallus Gallus Domesticus,

scratches the dirt, wallowing a hollow,
tossing dust on her feathers bathing her body in dirt,
chuckling with happy noises, standing, shaking,
and flinging the earth, from her feathers, cleansed of parasites,
in the garden of stumps, surrounded by pine,
with the murmur of creek and heat of the sun.

Idols (Isaiah 46)

Depression is the idol in my mind:
a bird of prey, perched on my tablets
of destiny, tearing the cuneiform symbols
off the damp clay. The idols are asses
loaded with gypsum bas-reliefs
depicting every dragon memory
in the event panels of my life.

I am that beast of burden, an onager
laboring westward, bearing the gold
and silver of shame, anxiety, and bitterness
to a new land where I have been summoned.
Your words shatter my stories and melt my fears.

They comfort me when I don’t understand
your purpose and what is to come.
The former things of ancient times
are recorded in my DNA because
You are my God and there is no other.

Bahia del Espiritu Santo (Bay of the Holy Spirit)
dedicated to the LWML

Ascribe to the Bay
the Brown Pelican, the Watchman
on the piling, the prophet, gate-
keeping the muddy waters of Mobile Bay.

Ascribe to the Bay
the Laughing Gull, Black-headed, smirking
like the laugh of Sara behind
orange lifeboats strung along the Fantasy.

Ascribe to the Bay
bullrushes, shaggy carpet, shielding
Moses, the bass and the blue hyacinth
in the lush estuary of the Tensaw Delta.

Ascribe to the Bay
the osprey, the fishing-hawk, sheltering
in its nest in the crucified tangle
of cables of an abandoned crane.

Ascribe to the Bay
the Jubilee, the swarm of crabs, shrimp, and eels,
shimmy up the shore, filling washtubs
with God’s Firstfruits.

Ascribe to the Bay
the Resurrection Fern, dead-looking,
supported by the Live Oak branch,
waiting for the baptismal grace of water.

Ascribe to the Bay
the women who came, dressed
in purple, carrying banners in praise
to the Lord, missionaries with small boxes.

Ascribe to God
the glory of His creation and His plans for our mites
and our availability. We are the rivers flowing, flushing
the Bay on the third day to be reborn again.

© 2010, Barbara A. Meier

BARBARA A. MEIER has spent the last four years living on the Southern Oregon Coast.  She retired from teaching this summer and hopes to find time to travel and write. Her first Micro Chapbook, “Wildfire LAL 6” came out this summer from Ghost City Press. She has been published in The Poeming Pigeon, TD; LR Catching Fire Anthology and The Fourth River.  https://basicallybarbmeier.wordpress.com/

The Dogs of Midnight


This is work of friction, where the tectonic plates of real life rub up against a life imagined as real; my name is Everyman, and I went down to the beach today.

It is winter now. Ours is a temperate climate and though it is cool, there are days that feel as warm as a summer’s day in Europe. It’s not unusual for people to be at the beach at this time of year. I prefer winter to summer. Summer is all sweat and flies. It gets cold, usually in the late afternoon as the sun sets and then the hour before sunrise is the coldest time of the day. I believe that is true for everywhere. But there is something else, it is as intangible as air and yet, one senses it. It is like the bitter aftertaste of chocolate.

We’ve had a lot of rain and today has been the first day of sunshine in over a week, so I thought I would make the most of it. Make hay while the sun shines my father used to say. I thought of him today. He never saw where I live, where I migrated to. Where we are settled, dug in. My mind though has never settled. It tends to follow my body around but remains a trans-continental traveller.

It’s a strange word, migration. It sounds like a combination of migraine and nation. Migraine-nation, national migration, national migraine, the pain of a nation, nationhood migrates to pain?

…So anyway, I was down at the beach; not to swim but just to walk, watch the seagulls and the fisher-people casting from the pier. It is incredibly tranquil. I close my eyes and find there a smile which I release into the breeze. I hear the benign rumble of a car’s engine behind me. There are two young girls wearing hijabs, eating ice-cream and laughing while taking their sandals off to walk on the beach. Then a loud, aggressive revving breaks the day. A car full of young boys pulls up into the carpark and they shout at the girls this is Straya, go back to where you came from. They are laughing, slapping one another, having fun. One of them throws an empty coke can in the direction of the girls and then they accelerate away. The young girls put their sandals back on, one of them picks up the can, throws it into the bin and they get into their car and drive away.

Sometimes there are cormorants bobbing on the surface of the water and I time how long they go under water for. It’s usually anywhere between 5 and 8 seconds, depending on how hungry they are, I guess. There is a slight breeze, with a bit of a bite to it. That for me is the best sensation, feeling the heat of the sun on your face but, also the sting of cool air. I feel nostalgic, but I don’t remember what for. Some memory within me that’s been layered with time. On a day, some time in my life, the sun shone warm and there was an iciness in the air and I was happy, and the association has become embedded in my psyche.

Memory is a strange thing.

They say (whoever they are? Them that says a lot!) that animals have genetic memory. Mice in America were trained to fear the smell of cherry blossoms and generations of their descendants had the same fear without the experience. Pity humans don’t have that. We forget very quickly.

It has been a good day, for some. But, days end and darkness must follow. The world is old, and this has been its rhythm for aeons. Perhaps all of the inhabitants of earth have this rhythm too. We are made of the stuff that holds us as we go around the sun. We grow out of the ground of this spinning mass. Our mothers ate the roots pulled out of the soil, cooked and ate the animals that had eaten the grass growing in the soil, the earth. We really are just animated earth. We are what we are on. As our bodies carry our souls, so the earth carries us. We are the soul of the earth.

The days are getting shorter. Electricity does not diminish our animal instincts to withdraw in winter. It is done with relative ease and requires little preparation. We don’t withdraw entirely. Nights are cosy. The dogs sleep too close to the gas heater, I smell burning hair and make them move, I eat too many biscuits. Nights used to be quiet until those dogs started. Maybe they have always been there?

If they were, we never noticed because they were quiet, but something has breathed the fire of Hades into them. Every night it is the same thing. How is it that they always seem to come to life at midnight? How do they know? They’re as regular as a healthy bowel; those hounds that break the night barking. Those beasts who gnash their teeth and growl at everything: shadows, leaves scraping in the gutters, plastic bottles and empty tin cans rolling loudly on the tarmac in the wind, fighting cats, night shift neighbours, loud, drunk kids getting off midnight buses and goons burning rubber. But, to shout at the dogs in the dark only agitates them. They grow louder, more determined to fight. The only way to stop them is to go to them. I know, one night I tried.

They gather, God knows how? All is serene and then they are they are suddenly there. I approached where they were gathered. I became very afraid but, I thought, I am a man and they are just dogs. I must not show fear. As I walked up the driveway towards the gate that held them back they became frantic. They were biting at the fence. As I got closer they went into a frenzy of barking, snarling and yelping. They bunched at the gate, they began snapping viciously at one another. Then there was a high pitched howl. One of them was in serious pain. The pack’s attention turned to a smaller dog being attacked by a much larger one. They tore into it.

The victim of the attack snarled and yelped uncontrollably and then suddenly went quiet. Beneath the confusing mass of yanking, brutal heads shook away pieces of the poor thing. Blood was spraying everywhere. I felt warm droplets on my face. In a shadow cast by the garage wall a black liquid ran across the paving into the flower bed.

I think they were Marigolds, maybe Chrysanthemums? But, that could not be? Those are summer flowers, and this is winter. Perhaps they were sown late? How do seeds know what season it is if they have spent months on a shelf in air tight packets? I must remember to google that. How would I search for that … winter flowers in Western Australia? I must remember to do that. I never did remember to look properly at the flower bed and it would seem strange to go snooping around a house in daylight.

By now I was at the gate trying to see around the side of the house. One of them saw me move closer and bolted to the gate, not barking but baring its teeth. While it fixed its gaze on my face I slowly moved my right hand down to its chest that was up against the gate. I tried, cautiously to stroke the animal to calm it down. My fingers only slightly touched it. It leapt back as if electrocuted and began barking savagely, biting the dog next to it which stirred the pack into a new frenzy.

I quickly backed away. Their attention turned to the torn carcass behind them. They were sniffing and frantically licking up splattered blood, gnawing bits of sinew and cartilage. Gradually they began to sit and chew, eyes closed with satisfaction. The sickening sounds of tongues slapping, and licking grew louder. Their blood lust sated, they settled down to scavenge the yard for bits of the small dog. Bones cracked and split, cartilage that had once cushioned bone squeaked, and that was the last sound that poor dog would ever make.

By now I was forgotten, or at least ignored by the dogs (can we still call them that? Dogs.) and never taking my eyes off the gate, I backed away down the drive. Clear of them I felt a sudden wave of nausea and vomited into a full bush of lavender. I know it was lavender because the sweet smell of it was overwhelming after the smell and taste of iron that blood leaves in your mouth. I wondered what effect the vomit might have on the growth of the plant.

Regular Saturday evening sounds now filtered through the brutal gauze of night. A few neighbours gathered to investigate the ruckus. They stood close enough to the driveway to indicate concern but kept enough distance to avoid involvement. Their conversation rumbled and masked the echoes down the drive of dog’s tongues smacking.

There were, a few doors down, loud jovial voices saying good night, some laughter, one high pitched, a female laughing (I recall that I was irrationally annoyed at her for possessing such an awful laugh and wondered how by now—for she was clearly middle-aged, there was a husky, chesty cackle to the laugh—she had not realised that her laughter was horrible and at least tried not to laugh so heartily, so inconsiderately, so rudely…but how can one expect a person to cease laughing? What an awful predicament for a person to be in, I remember thinking and almost immediately forgave her for possessing such a grotesque gesture to indicate happiness. She ought to have been born sad. Maybe she was? Laughter, is after all as reliable an indication of happiness as a frown is of a death wish).

There were the sounds of car doors slamming shut the evening’s visit, which clearly had involved some wine, and across the road the staccato screech of violins from an open family room window reflecting Vincent Price in monochrome (I realised with dismay that I had missed the film I wanted very much to watch, The Last Man on Earth). A police helicopter flew in low over Merriwa, a searchlight limped through the sky.

I always say the world is a good place when, after the weather and doll bludgers, people say the whole world’s gone mad. We don’t live in the whole world mate, we live in bleedin’ Quinns, I say, and last time I looked it’s same as it ever was, it’s a good place ‘cos we’re good people.

© 2019, poem and illustration, Mike Scallan

Time Never Waits

Tired, sleepy, depressed, Saabir heaved himself out of the borrowed juted sleeping cot which was supported by four small wooden legs. There was no sheet or covering on it, making it easy to lie on in the hot and humid weather. Saabir rubbed his eyes, yawned a bit, and tried to make sense of his surroundings. Yes, he was in the same small compound that he entered some hours ago, after sunset.

He was exhausted after the long day’s work on the old workbench he had safely hidden in the nearby hut. After giving finishing touches to the design he would cover up everything with rough canvas pieces hoping and praying that no one would dare to steal or destroy or take away.

His food was scarce, one roti with some left over curry, water from the round clay pitcher that lay in the corner of the cordoned compound.

When I finish the design my innovation will be a big surprise for the world and for all in the art and design industry. It will be a sensation, a magnificent change, a new beginning, and, for me, the long awaited breakthrough that I have been working for. My life’s aim, my dream, my hope for my people, my country. Oh my Master, please help and guide me, guide me guide me…

So saying he raised his head and looked up at the night sky, expecting to see some stars, some bright and some not so bright. Oh, but what is this? The sky seemed so different, it was not fully dark nor reflecting any moonlight. No, these were not the nights of the moon, but what was the light visible in the western side? He managed to stand up and look a bit more closely. Soon he saw a dark shape all along the horizon spread out at the base and on the top side, shaped like a vehicle or more like a train, but how could a train be there?

Was he dreaming? No. He was not dreaming. He was now wide awake.

Saabir’s thoughts all crowded his mind. Confused, worried, and scared, he watched for a while until then he recalled a story his friend and coworker told him. His friend, Ahmed, was the only one he trusted in all the neighbors living close by. He shared information about what was happening in their town.

“You know Saabir, things are bad, wood is being taken away by the officials. New rules and regulations are expected to crop up any time, work will be very difficult, but nothing is for sure, but one can never say, as things have not improved over the last three years since the new council has taken oath. In fact things have become tight, you must try to finish whatever you have in mind. It is a lifetime chance for you. I am with you all the way and you can trust me.”

Ahmed continued in a low voice, “I also wanted you to know that people around were overheard saying that the path leading to the lake will be blocked soon and maybe controlled by armed personnel, so movement by citizens will be restricted. The Council is planning something big for this area and the time seems near.”

Ahmed grew pale as he finished. Quite apparently fearful, anxious and exhausted .

Saabir’s thoughts moved around the word “rumors.”  I hope they are just rumors.  The world is so uncertain these days. Takeovers. Enforcements. Mass shootings. Blatant killings. Suicide bombs. How many can one name? These are happening all around the world , even in educated countries.

Saabir had secretly kept a small transistor radio and would listen to the news and updates of events. Flashes of his own migration would visit him often and tonight he had a premonition. Something strange is going to happen.

The news came on soon. There have been a number of arrests and many armed personnel have been seen entering the city.  Clearly, something dangerous is about to take place. Saabir just sat speechless and numb.

He rubbed his skillful hands and looked at them and wondered, Will I be able to complete my work and my innovation, which will make this world a better place, an easier place, a peaceful place? Is time on my side or is it too late?

Oh! Never let go the rope of the Almighty, All Powerful.

My workbench? What about it and what about the creativity lying on top of it?

Great are the joys of creation but greater are the joys of the results, but would these unreasonable circumstances ever allow the new creation to emerge?

Torn between hope and despair, Saabir, sat back on the cot. He felt his heart beat fast and then sink a bit.

What could be done?

Sleep eluded him. He had to work three more days to complete and test the new design. It would be the best ever wood machine invented for making woodwork fine and easy. It would be like the zigzag brick design now accepted by many countries.

Yes!

The brick kiln industry had manifested the change of production, best suited with environment and with white smoke let out from the kilns, no black pollution of the atmosphere. What a success! And now this mechanism would bring amazing results if , if…

Saabir’s eyes began to close and soon he had fallen in a sleepy stupor. No one knows how long he was in that state, not even Saabir himself.

His family, wife and two kids had long left him and travelled back to their ancestral village more than a hundred miles away. They could not cope with his workbench patterns, his timings, and his odd conversation.

He would say, “great minds have different thoughts and great inventors should never marry. Even great leaders with high aims in life should be away from homes, away from social life, so that they can pursue their noble activity on their precious workbench.”

His wife would quietly cry and feel helpless, though he was not strict with her. He just lacked the time to care. One day she decided to leave and took their children with her.

He saw flashes of his kids faces and their smiles. He missed their warm loving hugs and innocent laughter, giggles and funny antics. But then, as always, his mind shifted back to the great work he wanted to finish. Now he was nearing his great aim. And, by the Grace of the All Powerful, he would finish.

God had been kind to him and he wanted to return something worthwhile to God’s people. He wanted to make his life meaningful and to leave peace behind in his town and city and his native land. He wanted people to have full freedom to work and pray and for that he had sacrificed all he had and all that he held close. He never bothered about his health.

But let me go see if my hut is safe.

Saabir suddenly got up, a new energy entering his frail body. Things were too quiet. He felt for his slippers and finding them slowly made his way in semi-darkness towards the street where he had concealed his hut.

He had hardly gone a few yards when he saw the silhouette of an armed man. This time the figure had the complete dress of an army soldier. The helmet and the bayonet rifle could be seen clearly in the dark. Saabir stopped dead in his footsteps. He back up slowly and crept into the cordoned yard. His mind was tired but still he was thinking fast.

Could it be the enemy? Could it be the force that was being predicted and warned about? Oh dear! My workbench and my invention. 

Saabir calm down. Wait. Relax. It might be just another guard. It may be a normal patrolling party. 

Saabir tried to console himself, but deep down he knew that secret enemies had grown profoundly in the past months and some were on special duty to observe and keep an eye on him. Saabir had ignored the warnings. He had kept on with his work. He would never get another chance with his precious workbench that he had managed to build and work productively upon.

Oh Lord, give me the chance to finish my purpose for the good of humanity. You know what is in my heart and soul. I believe in you. I trust you.

Saabir lay quiet and soon he felt that dawn had started to break. Would it be the dawn of a lucky day or would it be a disaster? Why are people like him forced into difficult times?

Once he had attended a sermon quite by chance. There he’d heard, “the Lord tests all by giving and sometimes by taking away and those who are patient will be the better ones. The Lord will support them. They will neither be sad nor grieve nor feel depressed.”

Am I among them? Is the test coming on me?

Saabir again lifted himself, softly made his way to the curtained entry, and slowly looked out. Now he saw two armed soldiers right in the street where he had his workbench hut.

Now what? What is happening? What has happened during the night?

He must find out. If he wanted to reach the hut he would have to face the soldiers. There was no other way.

Oh no! An enemy occupation! Oh my workplace. My workbench and what all I had sacrificed to achieve my aim! Is it going to be an exercise in futility? Why people are so cruel? And greedy for land? And for money? And so heartless about human life! And for peace and progress. No one cares for humans or for human blood and then I must be an ignorant fool. Oh, let not these thoughts of desperation disturb and destroy me.

Saabir was still struggling trying to understand the situation when he heard hard footsteps approaching, within seconds the armed men were in front of him.

“It is all over, you have to come with us.”

“But wait! Wait! Where are you taking me? Who are you? Where are you from? How can you just…”

Saabir was pulled and pushed out and forced to walk towards the street.

“We have all the information and proof and we know what ammunition you have. We know what you are making. Just be quiet and keep walking till we tell you to stop.”

Saabir stopped as he heard the word, “HALT!”

And then he heard a loud blast. The street, his hut, his workbench, all exploded before his eyes. He felt the shock and collapsed on the road.

Workbench or life? Tragedies come without warning, and time never waits.

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar