The Black Book

These were my mother’s words, written by her hand, words describing her loneliness, her longing for her new husband. What I was reading felt so private, so sacred, but it was also about me, my story, mine. I closed it quickly, feeling shame, and put it back in the box of photos my mother had handed me – the photos of my great-grandparents and grandparents and parents as children that she was going to throw away if I didn’t want them. She had incurable cancer and was cleaning out closets, or maybe her life. When I left a few days later, the box of photos was in the back of the car sans the small black journal.

fs_717690-e1407185075778Cecilia and Radney grew up in the same southeast corner of town, if we consider 17 and 18 grown up. She lived a block from the railroad where her father worked as a boiler maker’s helper in the roundhouse. This was the Polish neighborhood where she attended St. Stanislaus Catholic church with masses in Latin and Polish, and went to the Catholic school. He lived on the outskirts of town, on the few acres his father farmed, along with being an inspection supervisor at Motor Shaft. Radney played football at the public high school he attended. His family didn’t go to church, until this incident led his mother to religion at the Baptist church.

They met at the soda fountain at Johnson’s Drug Store. Cecilia worked there after she graduated from 8th grade, as high as Catholic education went for girls of her station in their town in 1940. She scooped ice cream behind the counter and Radney would stop there to have a soda on his long walk home from high school. It seems she (being a normal 17 year old girl) wanted love, and he (being a normal 16 year old boy) wanted sex. She fell in love and he got lucky. Sometime in adulthood I realized that they got married in February and I was born in August. He dropped out of high school so he could support his new family but was drafted into the army soon after I was born. We moved into to her parent’s home, then his parent’s home.

fs_717682-e1407185429741I don’t know anything about their wedding. When I would ask about her growing up years, my mother would get a strange look on her face, as if to ask why I would expect her to think about things that happened so long ago. Maybe her mind wouldn’t let her reach back into those years, maybe she thought it irrelevant. I knitted together a piece of detail from here and a piece of detail from there; not from stories they could have told, but public facts, printed on things like birth certificates and marriage licenses. Maybe that is why I longed to read what was written in that black book, to examine the personal side and analyze how it happened to me.

The family never talked about that year but it must have been a tough one. In 1943 a 17 year old Catholic girl didn’t date a 16 year old non-Catholic boy. Everyone knew Catholics were to marry Catholics. And to get pregnant and have to get married was unthinkable. Neighbors whispered and counted on their fingers. Oh, the shame that was heaped upon them. My chest tightens when I think about the conversations that took place when my grandparents were told, and when siblings found out. Did the Polish speaking parents and the English speaking parents meet to discuss options? Who planned the wedding and what was it like? Did they really love each other; did either feel trapped?

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At some point I learned shame. They didn’t sit me down and teach it to me; I learned it through osmosis. Shame was so much a part of my being that I couldn’t name it until some thirty years later. People said I was a shy child, but shame can look like shyness when worn by a child. Those who know shame understand the hung head and the hiding behind trees instead of joining in the play. They didn’t know they were teaching me shame. My grandmas and aunts and cousins taught me their love as I lived among them, and my parents taught me their shame. For the first half of my life, the shame was stronger than the love.

They were good enough parents, they worked hard to provide for us and we had fun times as I was growing up. But early on when I was four and my father returned from the army and my mother became pregnant again, it tore open some wound in him. He took it out on us. If she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant, if I wouldn’t have been born, he wouldn’t have been trapped. I heard the screaming and hateful words; I felt the bruised and bloody body. He did unspeakable things and it was my fault. I learned to hang my head and hide, so no one would see my shame.

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Have you noticed when we carry something, like shame, for a long time, it becomes how we think about ourselves? We are what it is. I remember when I realized my name didn’t have to be Shame. It wasn’t a light bulb going off, but a gradual reprogramming in how my neurons fire. I began to realize that I wasn’t responsible for my own conception. Everyone else knew it and I knew other people weren’t able to conceive themselves, but I had to realize it about myself. It wasn’t my fault I was conceived. It wasn’t my shame so I could come out of hiding.

My place in the world became brighter and lighter, but my relationship with my parents is still murky. I gave up the anger at being hurt and not being protected, and I had a relationship with both until they died. But something is still missing. We couldn’t talk about it so I never heard their remorse or told them I forgave them. When I was leaving after my last two visits with my dying mother, when we both knew it could be the last visit, my mother stared deep within my eyes for several minutes. I waited for her to ask what she needed to know; I wanted to tell her I forgave her for what happened. I was stuck between wanting resolution, but also fearful that the memories of the incidents were so deeply buried in her that I would be opening a Pandora’s box when she was dying and I was leaving. I hugged her and told her she had been a good mother. She said she hoped so.

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fs_1111456How complex our minds are, that balance adult concerns on top of childhood memories and decisions. When I thought like a child, I believed my parents loved me because they told me so. But I also learned to fear love. I remember being at Grandma’s Baptist Sunday School when I was maybe 5. We were lined up in two rows and were led in singing “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. I am weak and he is strong…” I couldn’t sing it; I was mute. If my parent could love me and hurt me, I didn’t want any part of accepting the love of the even stronger Jesus.

After my mother’s death, I asked her husband if he knew where the black diary would be. He looked hard and wasn’t able to find it. She must have burned her words. I was heartbroken because I was hoping to know her better and maybe learn that she really did want me and love me. I was hoping her words would help me in my mental exercises of sorting out childhood decisions using my adult reasoning.

I was on my own to figure it out, but that is okay. I don’t feel bitterness toward my parents because I believe they loved me as best they could. But I have also decided I don’t need to let them define if I am loveable. I know who I am and know I belong at the table.

© 2014, text and all photographs, Patricia Bailey, All rights reserved

Sun Road 287PATRICIA BAILEY (A New Day: Living Life Almost Gracefully) ~ I retired from doing things I loved; teaching university students, directing a university major that was growing and meeting the learning needs of both traditional age and returning students, and helping people heal as a mental health therapist. In retirement I have found new and renewed activities that I love; photography, blogging, traveling, and quilting. It is important for me to have a purpose for my living, and my photography and blogging fulfill my need to touch and enrich the lives of others in a way that is healing and to help people grow and develop. Along the way I am drawing on the knowledge gained from getting a Masters in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. I am also continuing to learn about myself as I am writing and about the world as I view it through my lens. You can visit my blog at http://imissmetoo.me/

The making of a 1949 Hollywood film in the little town of Much Wenlock (Shropshire, England)

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It’s hard to imagine, but in 1949 Hollywood descended on my little home town of Much Wenlock. Both its locations and inhabitants featured in David O. Selznick’s screen version of Mary Webb’s 1917 novel, Gone to Earth. The film’s star, Oscar-winner Jennifer Jones, certainly looks the part, and in this respect she well conjures the book’s central character, the untamed but doomed spirit that is Shropshire lass, Hazel Woodus.

As an American, Jones of course had to receive specialist drilling in the Shropshire dialect, a form of speech which these days is scarcely heard, but would have been the norm during Webb’s childhood. She writes it very clearly in the book’s dialogue, and Jones makes a good stab at it, but it perhaps sounds overdone to modern ears. People in England do not speak like this any more.
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Mary Webb herself spent her adolescence in Much Wenlock, and for the rest of her too-short life lived in various parts of rural Shropshire. She knew country ways intimately. Her writing is rooted always in the landscapes of her own growing up – the upland wilds and rugged long-gone lead-mining and peasant farming communities, the small market towns. But although she observes the hardship and poverty with a keen eye, she has tended to be dismissed as a writer of the romantic and rustic, her work parodied in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm.

In her day, though, she had some very well known literary admirers including Rebecca West and John Buchan (Thirty-Nine Steps). I think her novels deserve a rediscovery. Her themes are still relevant today: male attitudes to women being one of them; human cruelty and wilful destructiveness for another.

In Gone to Earth, the central character, Hazel Woodus, is eighteen, motherless, and living in an isolated cottage with her coffin-making, bee-keeping father, Abel. Her only companion is a tame fox, Foxy, and her only guidance in life is dubiously received from her dead mother’s book of gypsy spells.

Two men want her: the Baptist Minister who marries her and tries to protect what he sees as her innocent spirit, and the fox-hunting landowner who wants only bodily possession. Hazel herself is torn between respectable conformity and her growing sexual awareness. And if I tell you that the term ‘gone to earth’ is the huntsman’s cry when a fox goes underground to escape the hounds, you will know that the story does not end well.

In other senses the book’s plot may be purely allegorical. Above all, it is about the pointless destruction of natural beauty and freedom. Webb was writing it at a time when three of her younger brothers were fighting in the World War 1 trenches.

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Much Wenlock 1949 in outside and inside the medieval Guildhall: scenes from Gone to Earth, director Michael Powell

100_6020_thumbThe making of the film did not run altogether smoothly, and there are perhaps some parallels between Hazel as an object of male possession and control , and the position of the film’s star, Jennifer Jones. She had had an affair with the executive producer, David O. Selznik, and by 1949 they were married. He wanted Gone to Earth to be solely a showcase for her, and he did not think the film’s makers, the fabulous storytelling team of director Michael Powell, and screenwriter, Emeric Pressburger, (The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) had done her justice. He even took them to court for not producing what was in the script. He lost the case, but he still had the right to make an alternative version.

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The upshot was that for the 1952 American release, renamed The Wild Heart , he chopped all the scenes that did not make the most of Jones, had new scenes shot, and to make sense of the makeover added a commentary by Joseph Cotton. The film was not well received, and so did not serve his purpose. Only recently has the original Powell and Pressburger version been fully restored.

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Hazel goes to the Devil’s Chair

For more on Mary Webb:
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“This year’s discovery has been Mary Webb, author of Gone to Earth. She is a genius, and I shouldn’t mind wagering that she is going to be the most distinguished writer of our generation.” — Rebecca West, review of Gone to Earth in the Times Literary Supplement, August 30, 1917

Mary Webb: neglected genius for the synopsis of Gone to Earth and also for details of her other works.

– Tish Farrell

© 2014, Tish Farrell, All rights reserved; photographs either as indicated above or in public domain

unnamed-6Unknown-951ts8NDtDUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_TISH FARRELL (Writer on the Edge) ~  is an award-winning English writer of fiction and non-fiction for young adults. In the 1990s, after a career in Museum Education, she went to live in Kenya, East Africa. It was here that she began writing for the African Children’s Literature market. An anthropologist by training, she was dismayed at the lack of contemporary fiction that reflected young Africans’ lives in their increasingly urbanised world.

Her first short novel, Jessicah the Mountain Slayer, about a Nairobi street girl, and a picture book Flame Tree Market were published by Zimbabwe Publishing House, Zimbabwe and Phoenix Publishing, Kenya. Both books won awards at the 1996 Zimbabwe International Book Fair and have remained in print in both countries ever since.  In the United States her short fiction has appeared in the multi-award winning Cricket and Cicada Magazines. Now living back in England, she writes novelised short stories for reluctant teen readers for Ransom Publishing. The most recent title, Mau Mau Brother, tells the story of the 1950s Kenya uprising from the viewpoint of a Kikuyu boy. She has also just published a Kindle novella e-book, Losing Kui. This new edition was originally published by Cicada Magazine and is suitable for adults and young adults alike. Go here for more about her Books

Tish blogs about Africa, the ancient Shropshire town of Much Wenlock where she lives, writing, and much else besides at: http://tishfarrell.wordpress.com/   

Do Not Judge Me, As My Sin Deserves

imagephoto-1.phpThis poem was written by Noris Roberts, a Venezuelan poet educated in Commercial Law at the Universidad Santa Maria in Caracas. Her collection The Mirror of the Soul was published in limited edition with proceeds going to a healthcare foundation for at-risk children. You will find her complete bio HERE.

The work is read by Victor David Santiago, poet, writer, musician and founder/editor of Subprimal Poetry Art.

© 2014 portrait, poem and video, Noris Roberts, All rights reserved

The Wild

640px-Adult_Florida_scrub_jayWhite foam rides the churning
river and a Red-Shouldered Hawk
cries out as he drifts overhead;
a meadow vole takes cover.

In an ancient, towering pine,
lies an enormous aerie, home
to a Bald Eagle couple and their
two fledglings who take turns
flapping wildly, strengthening
their wings before take-off.

A feeding herd of White-Tailed
deer wander calm through the
open forest, several fawns
leap and kick in play and sometimes
bleat for their mothers when they
wander too far.

The armor-plated armadillo can be seen
snuffling through low brush and dirt
searching for grubs, worms and beetles.
Berries, nuts and seeds are the choice
of food for the Florida Scrub Jay seen
flitting through the low, spindly oaks,
and hiding in the scrub when feeling shy.
Their lives lived in extended-family colonies
helps assure them survival even while
their habitat is being threatened.

A dirt colored and plain patterned
garter snakes through the underbrush
before coming to rest in a sunny patch
on the forest’s floor…taking time to
absorb some warmth before moving on;
a gopher turtle stirs from his day’s nap.

All the animals hear when the humans
approach and they watch with
curiosity and then fear as monstrous
machines can be heard revving their
engines preparing once again for
their encroaching.

– Gayle Walters Rose

© 2014, poem, Gayle Walters Rose, All rights reserved; photo credit ~ Florida Scrub Jay by VvAndromedavV under CC BY-SA 3.0

unnamed-2GAYLE WALTERS ROSE (Bodhirose’s Blog) ~ has contributed to The Bardo Group blog several times since its founding in 2011. Gayle has actively blogged since 2010, writing about family life, things of the spirit, and her ashram-life experiences. In this relatively short time, her sincerity and authenticity has earned her quite a large and loyal following. Gayle is a regular participant in d’Verse Poets Pub. This poem was written in response to Victoria’s Wilderness Week writing prompt posted on Wednesday.

Making for Home

Originally published in ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 12, May 2014 and posted here with the permission of the poet, Anne Stewart, and the publisher, Second Light, network of women poets

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Will you be taking the dark path?
The one that doesn’t feel right?

Where mostly you meet no-one
but, once, a man with bounding dogs
who race at you, only to collapse
in snuffles and wags when you drop
to greet them, knowing a friendly hand
is the best way to test or bridge a gap.

And do you still see the huddled man,
who breaks from shadows ahead?

He stops short, fumbling with his clothes.
A man you’ll set light to if he races at you,
but he doesn’t. He’s just caught short and cowed
to find a woman knows. He nods, moves on.
You welcome the swathe of safety he cuts.

Why do you take the dark path, knowing
its silences and hiding places?

Its voices of men in the underpass
where running wouldn’t serve you,
forward or back?

But on the long way of the rat-run roads
are men in cars who screech past; men in cars
who stop and park ahead then don’t get out
and drunken men in packs, looking for more,
long after chucking out.

And who would race outdoors on hearing
nothing more than a muffled shout?

But the path is only a path. And the dark
is only time and time of year. So you take
the dark path, listening and ready,
not ready to cut your life to fit
the ‘what if?’ embrace of fear.

– Anne Stewart
© 2014, poem, Anne Stewart, all rights reserved; ©2014, photograph, Jamie Dedes, all rights reserved

unnamed-1the-janus-hourANNE STEWART (poetry p f page) ~ Anne’s poetry is much published in anthologies/magazines. Her awards include the Bridport Prize and Poetry on the Lake’s Silver Wyvern (Italy, 2014). Her first collection is The Janus Hour (Oversteps Books, 2010). “ … varied, dominated by its music and a sense of quest for survival, for the light behind the clouds. Mercurial, like a Fellini film.” Katherine Gallagher. A review of the book is HERE.

Anne is the founder of poetry p f and she’s the Poetry Society’s ‘Kent North West’ Stanza Rep, a Past President (2011 – 2013) of Shortlands Poetry Circle and Administrator for Second Light Network, whose website, Second Light Live, she designed and runs. She co-edited (with Dilys Wood) the pre-launch issue, Issues 1 to 4, 8 and 11 of ARTEMISpoetry, a biannual journal devoted to women’s poetry, and contributes reviews/articles on a regular basis. She was the visiting poet at a London care-centre for two and a half years.

We cultivate love . . .

vulnerability-quote-webVulnerability is

1. The bearing of ones’ soul.
2. The exposing of our frailties
3. The peeling of our layers
4. The kiss and tell of our heart
5. The revealing of our inner being

Vulnerability feels like

1. Pain from an open wound
2. A throbbing in our head
3. A punch in our stomach
4. A thump in our brain
5. A thief stealing our soul

Love Feels Like
1. A quenched thirst
2. A harmonious gratifying touch
3. A warm breeze on our skin
4. Lips soft and sweet
5. An enchanted heart dancing

What does vulnerability mean to you?
What does vulnerability feel like to you?
What does love feel like to you?

Take the vulnerability test Brené Brown has offered us …..

“We cultivate LOVE when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and heard. ” Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW (b. 1965), American scholar, author, and public speaker, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

Write these three sentences down and list your five answers.

Vulnerability is ….

Vulnerability feels like ….

Love Feels like ….

 

© 2014, essay, illustration and portrait (below), Isadora De La Vega, All rights reserved

unnamedISADORA DE LA VEGA (Inside the Mind of Isadora) ~ is a guest blogger here for the first time today. She was a copper-and-silversmith award-winning jeweler for twenty-eight years, exhibiting in more than 200 galleries across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. Now semi-retired, Isadora maintains a web-site, Isadora Art Jewelry, for liquidating her remaining art jewelry. She is also the president and co-designer of Copper Whimsea’s by Al.

Isadora is a wife, mother of three, grandmother of eight, and a novice writer and a photographer. You can find her written work at Inside the Mind of Isadora and her photography at Isadora Art and Photography. She started her blog to hone her writing skills and never thought she would touch people in so many ways with her words and images. She is delighted to be able to do that and says, “I’m even happier that I am accomplishing the goal I had set for myself: touching peoples’ hearts.

Music, Language of the Soul: the second in a series from Imen Benyoub on music in the context of war and occupation

The first post in this series is HERE.
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Music, the language of the soul
The cultural Intifada*…From stones to musical instruments.
The story of Ramzi Abu Radwan.

They impressed the world
And all they had in their hands were stones
They lit like lanterns, and came like messengers
From “children of the stones” Nizar Quabbani (1923-1998), Syrian poet and publisher

The first Intifada is the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation that started on December 1987 in Jabalia** refugee camp and spread throughout the rest of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It lasted six years until the signing of Oslo Accords in 1993.

It was an unarmed, spontaneous yet exploding uprising, men with their faces covered with keffiyehs***, women and children with nothing but stones, slingshots and Molotov cocktails faced tanks and live ammunition of well-trained, heavily equipped Israeli soldiers.

10423556_519811321480767_1963506964_aOne of those children, a kid wearing blue jeans and a red jacket whose picture reached the world newspapers became a legendary symbol of the Intifada, a skinny kid throwing stones at an army jeep, his eyes welled with tears, on his face a mixture of anger, fear and defiance. This kid, whose picture was reproduced in posters all over the world as an icon of the uprising, never knew that his destiny will change forever and he will become a visionary artist.

This was Ramzi Aburadwan, born in Bethlehem in 1979, he spent his childhood and first teenage days in a refugee camp in Ramallah where his family was forced to live after the Nakbah****, his best friend died on their way home from school during a military operation, he was eight when a journalist took a picture of him hurling stones and was later called “the iconic child of the Intifada”.

Ramzi was introduced to music at the age of 17, when a woman invited him to attend a course, he immediately loved it and this was the beginning of his journey with music.

After a year of study in the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music at Birzeit University, he received a scholarship to study in a Conservatoire in France; on 2005 he went back to Palestine after graduation with dreams and promises of a brighter life for children.

640px-StainerThe multi-talented Aburadwan founded Al Kammanjati*****, a nonprofit organization that offers children especially from refugee camps music lessons, its aim is to keep them in touch with their cultural heritage, develop and nurture their skills and create an intimately entertaining atmosphere away from the violence and frustrations of their daily life under occupation. It gave them a precious chance to travel, play with different orchestras and meet young musicians from all over the world. Classical music is also introduced as a valuable weapon in the so called “the cultural Intifada” a peaceful way of resistance to save Palestinian culture and identity through letters, art and musical notes, something Palestinians began to understand with time because of Israeli policy of extensive judaisation of the land and fierce attempts to bury and distort Palestinian history and heritage.

He takes part in the West Eastern Divan Orchestra directed by Israeli-Argentine born conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim who said about him:

“Aburadwan has transformed not only his life, his destiny but that of many, many, many other people, this is an extraordinary collection of children all over Palestine that have all been inspired and opened to the beauty of life”

Al Kammanjati was honoured by “prince Klaus award” from the Netherlands in 2006.

* Intifada: Arabic word for “uprising”-Bethlehem, Ramallah: Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
**Jabalia: a refugee camp in the North of Gaza.
***Keffiyeh: a traditional black and white Middle Eastern cotton scarf, later considered a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and solidarity
***Bethlehem, Ramallah: Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
****Nakbah: Arabic word for “catastrophe” refers to the mass expulsion of more than 750.000 Palestinians from their lands in 1948 and creating a state of Israel on the occupied land.
****
*Al Kammanjati: Arabic word for “the violinist”

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A concerto for stone and violin:

The story of this generous musician and fighter inspired me to write this poem

A Poem for Ramzi Abu Radwan

The meditation of stone
In my hand
Is my song of freedom
That even your bullets
Can never pierce

Look at me
I am the child of the Intifada
These Palestinian hands
That were uprooted from my village
Like olive trees
And grew up in a camp
Small and scratched
will braid another song
From strings of a violin

Years pass
And the weeping violin
In my exiled soul
Will always remain
My song of freedom
That even your oppression
Can never silence

– Imen Benyoub

 

A portrait of the man:

The man’s music:

© 2014, essay and poem, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; Photograph (1) Ramzi Abu Radwan, adult and child, courtesy of Mr. Abu Radwan and ramallah cafe; photo of violin courtesy of Frink54 via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0; musical notations courtesy of Sprouls via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0.

pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist from Guelma, Algeria. Imen currently lives in East Jerusalem. She is a frequent guest here on The Bardo Group blog and with On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page as well.

I Still Have Legs

I wish I was more thankful for things before I lost my vision.

Driving, reading, colors, remembering faces, seeing the stars, being independent, my job, looking at photographs, watching my nephews grow up, seeing what I will look like older, nature, television, writing something down on a piece of paper, an art gallery, seeing the wonders of the world.

Perhaps I am more thankful now. Perhaps my lack of vision gave me more to be thankful for.

Yes my feet burn on the hot pavement. I still have legs.

The annoying sounds during the meditation. I still have hearing.

I have a migraine today. I am still alive!

Using my white cane down the busy street, I am present and aware.

A Mini-Gallery of Photographs from Wendy Rose Alger, Fine Art Photographer

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© 2014, words and photographs, Wendy Rose Alger, All Rights Reserved

wra201110071514-1bw-mWENDY ROSE ALGER ~ is a fine art photographer born in 1972 in Chicago, Illinois. Wendy now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. She studied photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where she learned manual SLR and how to use a darkroom. These days Wendy uses a digital camera. With a digital camera she can forego a dark room and check her photographs in the camera. Thanks to her digital camera, adaptive technologies, and a variety of computer applications for photography, she is able to pursue her passion despite the vision limitations that result from retinitis pigmentosa. Her website is Wendy Rose Alger, where you can view a more complete gallery of her photographs.

Music, Language of the Soul

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“Music is…a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”
Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Sarajevo under siege…a city in ruins that wakes up on the sound of shelling and bombing and sleeps on that of mourners. This beautiful city, so rich in history, architecture and art suffered the horrors of a four years siege considered the longest in modern history, and became Europe’s capital of hell since the war broke in 1992, to coincide with another atrocious civil war that broke in my own country and lasted almost ten years, what we Algerians know as “the dark decade”.

At 4 pm on May 27, people were queuing in front of a bakery in Sarajevo for bread; a mortar shell dropped in the middle and killed 22 people instantly. A man witnessed the massacre and was so appalled by the sight of blood and torn bodies so he decided to do something.

This man was Vedran Smailović, a widely recognized and talented cellist who went everyday for 22 days to the bombed site the exact time of the massacre and played cello, in honour of those who died in front of him and all of the victims, all those hiding from snipers’ bullets, the refugees, the hungry, the wounded, the destroyed homes and for his smouldering, exhausted city that struggled to survive.

This man sent a prayer of peace through his music, that the city of his heart might witness a brighter future, and he became the symbol of peace all over Bosnia, playing in graveyards and bombed sites, despite the shelling and fired bullets, Smailović was engulfed by light, the light of hope he was spreading all over the battered city. No crowd applauding to his performance, just Angels protecting him.

It’s been years since the dreadful siege and the civil war in my country ended, but did Sarajevo recover from its dark past? Did my people ever forget? the victims, the mass graves, and the fear they lived in all those years…

We are never entirely healed of our memory.

Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus Syria, another Sarajevo, another siege, people dying from a severe lack of food, water and medical supplies, massive destruction of homes and buildings, for weeks the Government forces besieged the camp and starved its people on purpose, the majority of them Palestinians who were exiled from their country in 1948, they found themselves caught against their will in a merciless war that made Damascus, a beautiful and rich city…Middle East’s capital of hell.

History repeats itself, it always strikes me how it does, and not always in the gentlest way, I believed it with all my being when I saw young men with a battered piano in the middle of rubble playing music and singing for peace and freedom, I said: if Vedran Smailović could see those proud and defiant guys whose souls are connected to his, one of them a pianist who started playing since he was six, he used to repair musical instruments with his father and studied music in the university of Homs*, the others, just ordinary people praying for the end of the war, and dreaming of a safe united country again in their own way.

They sang: “Oh displaced people, return; the journey has gone for too long. Yarmouk we are a part of you and that will never change.”

Smailović would have loved what those Palestinians did, because he, of all people will understand the meaning of creating beauty amid destruction, and defying death with the language of the soul…Music

(I would secretly thank that man who set up his piano in front of armed police, a day after protesters in Kiev brought down the statue of Lenin, and played Chopin…he inspired me to write this post)

*Homs: a Syrian city

Editorial note:  A partial translation of the song and apologies for any inaccuracy.
“from among the ruins and under the ashes, the [Palestinian] phoenix sings for life and will rise again for the cause of freedom …”

– Imen Benyoub

© 2014, essay, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; photo credit ~ Rashid Essa (Almadon News), youth in Al Yarmouk Refugee Camp, ” © electronic cities” under CC A-SA, no modification to photograph is allowed

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pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and to On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page.

Burnt Mustard

In micro pots I scattered chilly seeds a week ago
sunflower a couple of days back
yesterday mustard

trying to push away a gift of space
suffusing the air with its acrid smell of loss

A vacuum sucks thoughts till I have none left
to appraise
I am
water draining through loam
spring cleaning myself
though that feels like being robbed

Arrivals are better at sustaining life
I hug and hold myself from draining out
through the tiny holes in the pots

There is a creamy curry in a blackened dish
spoilt by attention wandering through
spicy sunflower fields

There too a smell of burnt seeds preceded me
Strange
The mustard hasn’t sprouted
yet it has claimed the breeze

– Reena Prasad

(c) Reena Prasad, poem and portrait below

reeREENA PRASAD (Butterflies of Time, a canvas of poetry) ~ is a poet from India, now based in Sharjah. She has several poems published in English anthology collections (Change, Indus Valley, Love in Verses, Musings–a Mosaic, eight anthologies by Barry Mowles and Friends and ten of Brian Wrixon’s anthologies, also in online jounals: Carty’s Poetry Journal, Indian Ruminations, Indian Review and in online magazines such as Youth Ki Awaaz and Thanal Online. Her poems have found place among the winning entries in contests by Writer’s Cafe, Ekphrasis India and Poets Corner. She is a contributor to many international journals like

The Copperfield Review, First Literary Review-East, Angle Journal, Poetry Quarterly etc.

The Burden of a Shared Name

571px-Blaga_Dimitrova_YounI used to hate her, foolish, a teenager’s hate that can only be explained in a parallel universe where logic doesn’t exist. I was a sixteen-year-old girl in a class with additional studies of mathematics. I was supposed to have the sharp brain, the emotion-free behavior required for someone who was a shining star in solving mathematical problems. Then suddenly there it was: the literature lesson about her and one of her poems I don’t even remember. The teacher decided that I was the one who should talk about her that day because of the first name we shared. 41GHNKWJ10L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It was a disaster! I hadn’t read a word from what was written in the school books about her and her poetry. When I was asked the question ‘What do you think Blaga Dimitrova’s poem symbolizes?’ all I could think about to answer was, “The only person who really knows what the words in a poem meant is the author herself. We, as readers, can interpret as we feel right and only hope we’ve reached close enough the thoughts of the writer.’ Wrong answer! A bunch of literature critics that wrote the school book of literature, had already decided what her poetry signified, just like they had decided what every other writer we had studied represents with their work.

I got a bad mark that day and I had come to a conclusion that no one should want to be a poet in a country where we are told what to think. The bad mark wasn’t the worst. After the lesson everyone started calling me Dimitrova. I didn’t like it, I could feel it was meant to be a joke with my personality; to label me with the weakness of feelings only poetry could carry because this is what I used to think about poetry and poets – weak people spilling their weaknesses… Ridiculous, isn’t it? And who knew that I would become one of those weak people. Who knew that one day I would learn  to squander my emotions elegantly on a piece of paper and love doing it too?

At the same time Blaga Dimitrova was vice president of my country, Bulgaria. That was another reason to dislike her. I didn’t dislike her because she was in politics. Who was I to judge someone I have seen only on tv? I disliked Dimitrova because I couldn’t understand why a sane person would stand to support the President we had at that time, and I just couldn’t understand why he was elected. I didn’t know him either. I was way too naïve and young to have the maturity to understand the political situation, but on his face was written all over “I’m capable of nothing.”

When a year later Blaga Dimitrova resigned from her post as a Vice-President due to a disagreement with the President she gained my respect and with that come the urge to re-evaluate her poetry. It was a shock to find that I actually loved her style, her words. The first poem I read and understood from her was:

Tag

I keep forgetting my clock
to escape the time.
But it catches up with me and I whirl
with the whopping, falling leaves.

I enter the sea with the clock on my wrist
to drown the time.
But it slaps me in the face
with the bells of the foam.

I’m not counting the beats of the pendulum;
I want to put the time away.
But it lands right on my nose
with the first snow.

At night I don’t set the alarm
with the hope the time will stop.
But it’s waiting for me in the cold bed
with love already gone.

– Blaga Dimitrova

Then I read her novel Journey Toward Myself.  It’s a book about a girl who tries to escape her past, which is not an easy task in the years of communism, especially if you were born in the wrong family. The message is rather strong and easy to apply to anyone of us. No matter how much we travel and how much we search for the person we are supposed to be, sometimes what we are meant to be is right there where we started our journey.

My favorite quote from Blaga Dimitrova’s book is: “I blessed him with a smile. It dissolved him completely. There was no need for words. I should have tried with a smile at first. I tend to forget that this is my most faithful weapon. I have never thought what impact a smile can have. Only here in the land of rocks and coarse people I found the strength of my smile. It’s worth to travel so far for such a discovery of your own possibilities.”

It’s somewhat hard to explain Blaga Dimitrova’s work and to try to extract a short conclusion that could fit into one review. There is always that special feeling left in the heart after you read her. Maybe that’s why I grew very fond of her poems and stories over the years and maybe that’s why it’s really difficult to fit everything I want to say about her in one blog post.

I can tell you that she comes from a family with professional parents. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a lawyer. She attended a roster of prestigious schools and gained an education that supported her talent. She was honored with many literature awards.

One of her books, Avalanche, was made into an acclaimed movie,  one of the best Bulgarian movies ever in my opinion. Some of Blaga Dimitrova’s work was forbidden in the 80s, because of the strong anti- communism touch. I could tell you that some people liked her and some not. Be it for her political views, be it for her writing, it doesn’t matter to me. On the 2nd of May in 2003 after a long battle with cancer, Blaga Dimitrova died. She was eight-one years old.

I believe on that day Bulgaria lost a great talent. Many years have passed. I am no longer the sixteen-year-old girl who didn’t know how to appreciate the good things in life. I have left Bulgaria for my own reasons and maybe I am still traveling towards myself to find who I really am. It hurts sometimes when I go back home to see that nothing from great people like Blaga Dimitrova was passed on to the new generation. Sometimes I still feel the burden of the shared name with the poetess, not because I am embarrassed to be connected to the weakness of poetry, but because I am afraid I will not be able to stand up worthy of the name Blaga like Ms. Dimitrova did with her talent. I love so many of Blaga Dimitrova’s poems, it’s hard to choose the best, but this one I had written on my wall in the room where I was living during my years at University. It is the one I cherish most.

Lyrical

In the sunset of every love
occurs pain and sadness.
After sunset every night
comes darkness and silence.

When somebody leaves you,
you don’t have the strength to stop him.
When you see that love dies
you can’t die along with it.

You understand that the dreams have never been real
that you have loved, but there wasn’t love,
that the memories are a pain that has fled already,
that you were happy, but you didn’t notice it.

– Blaga Dimitrova

For everything I have translated in this post, there probably could be a better translation. I’ve said it many times, some poems are best to be read in the language they have been written, but I did the best I could. My thanks to The Bardo Group for the opportunity to share the story and poems of a great Bulgarian poetess with readers here in honor of interNational Poetry Month.

© 2014, essay, Blaga Todorova, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Merolina under CCA-SA 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons

unnamed-6BLAGA TODOROVA (Between the Shadows and the Soul) ~ was born in Bulgaria, lives in Greece and doesn’t stop dreaming about finding new country for herself. She doesn’t consider herself a writer, but just someone who sometimes is lucky enough to be at the right place, with the right person, with the background of the right music that will bring the right words. Blaga has been blogging for many years now and has won the friendship and following of other poets and writers for her insights, humor and sense of romance and of justice. English is not her first language, but she uses it well and it is her favorite language for her favorite artistic pursuit, writing. She has a novel in progress. She is also a rather accomplished photographer.

RAY BRADBURY: PART II, Flying Up Among the Stars

While there were many salutes to Ray Bradbury upon his death on June 5, 2012, we encountered none with as much warmth, insight and appreciation as this piece by Colin Blundell (colinblundell)Though it is far longer than our current 1,000 word limit ( one lesson experience has taught us is that the Blogosphere is largely a sound-bite world), we thought it was time to bring it out, dust if off and share it again. On reading this essay, you will understand why . . . 

Forty years ago, I began teaching ‘English’ to 11-16 year-olds in a comprehensive school in a suburb of Luton, Bedfordshire UK—Stopsley High School. A class of 4th year boys was well on the way to defeating me till I discovered that reading Ray Bradbury short stories to them was a really good way of keeping them quiet for a whole lesson and even inspiring them to think and write. Ray Bradbury was the key that opened doors for these boys who had mostly been rejected by the system they found themselves enslaved by. Admittedly, by report, some of them later did a stretch in prison but not a few of them went on to get degrees, to become teachers and hold responsible jobs in local industry. I have sadly lost touch with all of them.

The short story that seemed to have the most immediate effect, and the one I always associate with that period of my life, was The Murderer from The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953). It was the story that perhaps meant most to me, one I could put my heart and soul into the reading thereof.

Music moved with him in the white halls. He passed an office door: ‘The Merry Widow Waltz’. Another door: ‘Afternoon of a Faun’. A third: ‘Kiss Me Again’. He turned into a cross corridor: ‘The Sword Dance’ buried him in cymbals, drums, pots, pans, knives, forks, thunder, and tin lightning. All washed away as he hurried through an anteroom where a secretary sat nicely stunned by Beethovens Fifth. He moved himself before her eyes like a hand; she didnt see him. His wrist radio buzzed.
“Yes?”
“This is Lee, Dad. Don’t forget about my allowance.”
“Yes, son, yes. Im busy.”
“Just didnt want you to forget, Dad,” said the wrist radio. Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ swarmed about the voice and flushed into the long halls.

Where are we? What’s going on? Forty years back there was no such thing as a mobile phone; the wrist radio is part of Ray Bradbury’s accurately terrifying vision of the future, which is now: the mobile phone is a symbol for the way life for many people seems to be threaded on messages from an imagined other place, messages, usually of no real consequence, that materialise to interrupt life while it is being lived, to divert attention from the concentrated flow of existence.

Once upon a time, you were able to move from experience to experience without the feeling that at any moment your flow was going to be interrupted by messages from an outer space which is not yours; life has changed and with it consciousness—it’s no longer a direct relationship between you and mountain, river, birdsong, zebra, touch of skin, and sensation of wind but something mediated by a mechanical drive to make contact with somebody to express the connection in some dull-witted way, or have it interrupted by somebody else’s account of their own experience of zebras and so on…

I do not remember that piped music was everywhere when I was growing up (I don’t think it was) but it’s more or less impossible to avoid the intrusiveness of the assault on the ears nowadays. The person with the switch assumes that it’s OK to bombard us with Muzak; most people don’t notice that it is washing over them—it’s the mechanical norm.

One might just consider oneself lucky to have Beethoven’s Fifth or L’après-midi d’un faune swarming about the long halls of the supermarket rather than the latest pop-crap but on the whole, instead of having others impose their banal choices on me, I prefer to organise my own listening schedule just when I want it to happen and not otherwise.

Ray Bradbury is simplistically referred to as a Science Fiction writer but it’s more the case that he is of that fraternity that seems to be plugged into the way things are going in fact rather than as fiction—those who are sufficiently tuned into human trends and weaknesses to understand where things are heading. H.G. Wells was another member of the clan.

“Prisoner delivered to Interview Chamber Nine.”
He unlocked the chamber door, stepped in, heard the door lock behind him.
“Go away,” said the prisoner, smiling. The psychiatrist was shocked by that smile. A very sunny, pleasant warm thing, a thing that shed bright light upon the room. Dawn among the dark hills. High noon at midnight, that smile. The blue eyes sparkled serenely above that display of self-assured dentistry.
“I’m here to help you,” said the psychiatrist, frowning. Something was wrong with the room. He had hesitated the moment he entered. He glanced around. The prisoner laughed. “If you’re wondering why it’s so quiet in here, I just kicked the radio to death.”

At length we find that our hero is Mr Albert Brock, who calls himself ‘The Murderer’. The psychiatrist, who intends to put him right, deems him violent, but Brock says that his violence is only towards ‘machines that yak-yak-yak…’

He quickly demonstrates his murderous intentions.

“Before we start…” He moved quietly and quickly to detach the wrist radio from the doctor’s arm. He tucked it in his teeth like a walnut, gritted, heard it crack, handed it back to the appalled psychiatrist as if he had done them both a favour. “That’s better.”

I often feel like doing this to mobile phones and other beeping implements on trains when my quiet reading is interrupted by them.

Deviant Behaviour

The psychiatrist asks Brock to talk about his deviant behaviour.

“Fine. The first victim, or one of the first, was my telephone. Murder most foul. I shoved it in the kitchen Insinkerator! Stopped the disposal unit in mid-swallow. Poor thing strangled to death. After that I shot the television set! … Fired six shots right through the cathode. Made a beautiful tinkling crash, like a dropped chandelier…”
“Suppose you tell me when you first began to hate the telephone.”

Because the telephone used to upset me as a child and because I would still rather not talk over the telephone I used to read the following explanation to my classes with extreme relish and rhetorical gusto, loudly and at increasing speed.

“It frightened me as a child. Uncle of mine called it the Ghost Machine. Voices without bodies. Scared the living hell out of me. Later in life I was never comfortable. Seemed to me a phone was an impersonal instrument. If it felt like it, it let your personality go through its wires. If it didn’t want to, it just drained your personality away until what slipped through at the other end was some cold fish of a voice, all steel, copper, plastic, no warmth, no reality.
It’s easy to say the wrong things on telephones; the telephone changes your meaning on you. First thing you know, you’ve made an enemy. Then, of course, the telephone’s such a convenient thing; it just sits there and demands you call someone who doesn’t want to be called. Friends were always calling, calling, calling me. Hell, I hadn’t any time of my own. When it wasn’t the telephone it was the television, the radio, the phonograph. When it wasn’t the television or radio or the phonograph it was motion pictures at the corner theatre, motion pictures projected, with commercials on low-lying cumulus clouds. It doesn’t rain rain any more, it rains soapsuds. When it wasn’t High-Fly Cloud advertisements, it was music by Mozzek in every restaurant; music and commercials on the buses I rode to work. When it wasn’t music, it was inter-office communications, and my horror chamber of a radio wrist watch on which my friends and my wife phoned every five minutes. What is there about such ‘conveniences’ that makes them so temptingly convenient? The average man thinks, Here I am, time on my hands, and there on my wrist is a wrist telephone, so why not just buzz old Joe up, eh? …I love my friends, my wife, humanity, very much, but when one minute my wife calls to say, “Where are you now, dear?” and a friend calls and says, “Got the best off-colour joke to tell you. Seems there was a guy…”

The climax came when Brock ‘…poured a paper cup of water into the intercommunications system’ at his office which shorted the electrics and had everybody running around not knowing what to do with themselves. Then Brock ‘got the idea at noon of stomping my wrist radio on the sidewalk. A shrill voice was just yelling out of it at me, This is People’s Poll Number Nine. What did you eat for lunch? I kicked the Jesus out of the wrist radio!’

A Solitary Revolution

Brock decided to ‘start a solitary revolution, deliver man from certain ‘conveniences’… Convenient for anybody who, out of boredom or aimlessness wanted a diversion.. “Having a shot of whisky now. Thought you’d want to know…” Convenient for my office, so when I’m in the field with my radio car there’s no moment when I’m not in touch…’

Why on earth should we ever wish to be ‘in touch’ with people, with contacts, with a million or so connections on the Internet, with ‘friends’ on Facebook? Why do we feel a need to communicate our insignificant ideas to anybody who will, we imagine, click in on a regular basis? Why am I writing this?

We are living the Twentieth Century illusion of total connectedness; we imagine an audience; we think we are making something happen. We are not. All that’s happened is that our concept of the world has changed; we like to think that we are all in it together—it could well be that this has affected the shape of ‘consciousness’ itself.

Why is it that the bosses imagine now that they can extend the working day 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by  constantly having workers ‘in touch’? We let them get away with it.

In touch! There’s a slimy phrase. Touch, hell. Gripped! Pawed, rather. Mauled and massaged and pounded by FM voices. You can’t leave your car without checking in: “Have stopped to visit gas-station men’s room.” “Okay, Brock, step on it!” “Brock, what took you so long?” “Sorry, sir.” “Watch it next time, Brock.” “Yes, sir!”

Brock progressed his one-man revolution by spooning a quart of French chocolate ice cream—chosen because it was his favourite flavour— into the car radio transmitter.

The psychiatrist asked what happened next.

Silence

“Silence happened next. God, it was beautiful. That car radio cackling all day, Brock go here, Brock go there, Brock check in, Brock check out, okay Brock, hour lunch, lunch over, Brock, Brock, Brock… I just rode around feeling of the silence. It’s a big bolt of the nicest, softest flannel ever made. Silence. A whole hour of it. I just sat in my car, smiling, feeling of that flannel with my ears. I felt drunk with Freedom!”

Then Brock rented himself a ‘portable diathermy machine’. Now, if ever there was a sensible invention this is one. Often, especially on trains, I’ve thought to myself, “If only I had a  ‘portable diathermy machine’, I could turn it on and silence all the inane chat, all the music blasting out of half-wit headphones, all the tapping and beeping that so disturbs me…”

I’ve even thought of trying to invent something that would do the trick. I once met a man who said he could help though there might be issues of legality. Brock, c’est Moi, I thought.

In the story, the effect of Brock’s murderous impulses was striking.

“There sat all the tired commuters with their wrist radios, talking to their wives, saying, ‘Now I’m at Forty-third, now I’m at Forty-fourth, here I am at Forty-ninth, now turning at Sixty-first.”

“I’m on the train…”

“One husband cursing, ‘Well, get out of that bar, damn it, and get home and get dinner started, I’m at Seventieth!’ And the transit-system radio playing Tales from the Vienna Woods, a canary singing words about a first-rate wheat cereal. Then—I switched on my diathermy! Static! Interference! All wives cut off from husbands grousing about a hard day at the office. All husbands cut off from wives who had just seen their children break a window! The Vienna Woods chopped down, the canary mangled! Silence! A terrible, unexpected silence. The bus inhabitants faced with having to converse with each other. Panic! Sheer, animal panic!”
“The police seized you?”
“The bus had to stop. After all, the music was being scrambled, husbands and wives were out of touch with reality. Pandemonium, riot, and chaos. Squirrels chattering in cages! A trouble unit arrived, triangulated on me instantly, had me reprimanded, fined, and home, minus my diathermy machine, in jig time.”

The psychiatrist, namby-pamby liberal democrat, suggests that Brock could have joined a club for gadget-haters, got up a petition, asked for a change in the law… Brock says he did all these things and more but he still found himself in an undemonstrative minority. The psychiatrist says that the majority rules.

“But they went too far. If a little music and ‘keeping in touch’ was charming, they figured a lot would be ten times as charming. I went wild! I got home to find my wife hysterical. Why ? Because she had been completely out of touch with me for half a day. Remember, I did a dance on my wrist radio? Well, that night I laid plans to murder my house… It’s one of those talking, singing, humming, weather-reporting, poetry-reading, novel-reciting, jingle-jangling, rockaby-crooning-when-you-go-to bed houses. A house that screams opera to you in the shower and teaches you Spanish in your sleep. One of those blathering caves where all kinds of electronic Oracles make you feel a trifle larger than a thimble, with stoves that say, ‘I’m apricot pie, and I’m done,’ or ‘I’m prime roast beef, so baste me!’ and other nursery gibberish like that. With beds that rock you to sleep and shake you awake. A house that barely tolerates humans, I tell you. A front door that barks: ‘You’ve mud on your feet, sir!’ And an electronic vacuum hound that snuffles around after you from room to room, inhaling every fingernail or ash you drop. Jesus God… ”

The psychiatrist suggests he minds his language.

“Next morning early I bought a pistol. I purposely muddied my feet. I stood at our front door. The front door shrilled, ‘Dirty feet, muddy feet! Wipe your feet! Please be neat!’ I shot the damn thing in its keyhole! I ran to the kitchen, where the stove was just whining, ‘Turn me over!’ In the middle of a mechanical omelet I did the stove to death. Oh, how it sizzled and screamed, ‘I’m shorted!’…  Then I went in and shot the television, that insidious beast, that Medusa, which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little…”

Having been arrested for destroying other people’s property, Brock was sent to the Office of Mental Health to be straightened out by a psychiatrist. Brock is unrepentant and says he’d do it all over again. The psychiatrist checks that he’s ready to take the consequences

“This is only the beginning,” said Mr. Brock. “I’m the vanguard of the small public which is tired of noise and being taken advantage of and pushed around and yelled at, every moment music, every moment in touch with some voice somewhere, do this, do that, quick, quick, now here, now there. You’ll see. The revolt begins. My name will go down in history!”

He’s prepared to admit that all gadgets were initially dedicated to making life less of a drudgery.

They were almost toys, to be played with, but people got too involved, went too far, and got wrapped up in a pattern of social behaviour and couldn’t get out, couldn’t admit they were in, even.

The gadgets have now become an unquestioned part of life. The next generation grows up with all the e-things and cannot understand old fogies like me wanting to, as they might see it, put the clock back.

Brock points out the irony that he ‘…got world-wide coverage on TV, radio, films… That was five days ago. A billion people know about me now. Check your financial columns. Any day now. Maybe to-day. Watch for a sudden spurt, a rise in sales for French chocolate ice cream!

Brock looks forward to spending six months in jail, free from noise of any kind.

The psychiatrist’s diagnosis announced over the tannoy system is that Brock seemed convivial but ‘…completely disorientated’ refusing ‘… to accept the simplest realities of his environment and work with them…’

A Story to Shape the Soul

Re-reading Ray Bradbury’s brilliant short story on the day I heard of his death at 91, I realise, not for the first time, how much it has shaped my being; my disgust with the way the world is now, my refusal to compromise, my sense of horror at the way people are sucked into A Influences and diverted by gadgetry from the things that really matter: the life of the soul, responses to Nature and all that comes under the heading of Understanding properly nurtured by Knowledge and Being… Indiscriminate working with the realities of one’s environment means giving in to crass stupidity, mass resignation to the way things are fostered by Big Business brain-washing and the endless traps of Capitalism.

Accept nothing unless it nurtures the soul. Verify everything for yourself, says Gurdjieff…

Brock walks cheerfully to prison looking forward to a nice ‘bolt’ of silence. Meanwhile for the psychiatrist normal life resumes…

Three phones rang. A duplicate wrist radio in his desk drawer buzzed like a wounded grasshopper. The intercom flashed a pink light and click-clicked. Three phones rang. The drawer buzzed. Music blew in through the open door. The psychiatrist, humming quietly, fitted the new wrist radio to his wrist, flipped the intercom, talked a moment, picked up one telephone, talked, picked up another telephone, talked, picked up the third telephone, talked, touched the wrist-radio button, talked calmly and quietly, his face cool and serene, in the middle of the music and the lights flashing, the two phones ringing again, and his hands moving, and his wrist radio buzzing, and the intercoms talking, and voices speaking from the ceiling. And he went on quietly this way through the remainder of a cool, air-conditioned, and long afternoon; telephone, wrist radio, intercom, telephone, wrist radio, intercom, telephone, wrist radio, intercom, telephone, wrist radio, intercom, telephone, wrist radio, intercom, telephone, wrist radio…

End of a Story…

What I would dearly love to know is whether The Murderer penetrated the soul’s of the lads I taught all those years ago as much as it has penetrated mine. Amongst others, Paul, Martin Chris, Richard, Stephen, John and also Chris & Pete who went off to swim unwillingly amongst the stars in the 1970’s.

If any of you should chance to read this, please get in touch, as they say…

– Colin Blundell

© 2012, essay and portrait (below), Colin Blundell, All rights reserved

COLIN BLUNDELL (colinblundell) ~ is a generous and informed writer whoand covers the range: poetry, fiction, and philosophical tomes. When he isn’t writing, he is busy making music and hand-made paperback books, painting watercolours, and going on long-distance motorbike treks. He’s left off being a wage-slave in 1991. He is now an independently teaching Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Accelerated Learning, Steven Covey’s Seven Habits, Change Management, Problem-solving and Time Management, and the art and practice of the Enneagram.

Some Thoughts on Adoption

Editorial Note: In April 2013, John Nooney wrote a series on his adoption. We think his message is an important one and he agreed to cut the 12,000 word feature down to 1,000 words to accommodate the needs of this site, a frankly heroic effort and something for which we are most appreciative. After reading this post, you may wish to read the longer piece on John’s blog HERE and we encourage you to do so. The details are interesting and thought-provoking.

hands-together-871294932977UgO“Have you found your birth-mother?” is, more often than not, the first thing people ask me when I mention I am an adopted child.

Think about that.

When you share information about yourself, it is the first response that matters most; the first reply has the biggest emotional impact.

So, if the first response to news of adoption is wanting to know if you’ve found your birth-mother (often stated as Real Mother), one begins to feel they need to seek her out.

People ask this particular question, breathless with excited anticipation of an affirmative answer — they’re wanting a feel good story, with a big, bold headline: “Adopted Child Reunited With Real Mother!”

The question ends up making me feel as if the asker somehow views my adoptive parents (the people I think of as my only parents) as being inferior to Real Parents. It’s like they imagine I was kidnapped from my Real Mother, raised by people pretending to be my parents, and that I need to be rescued and returned to The Real Parents.

It’s insane.

And, it’s hurtful.

I’ve not spent much time thinking about my birth-parents. Sure, I’m curious what they look like, what their story is, and, more importantly, what their medical history is, so I know what to watch for. Other than that, I have little interest in them. Not for bad reasons — I don’t hate them for giving me up for adoption. I think my birth-mother made the best choice she knew how to make at the time. When people want to know if I’ve sought her out, I begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Am I supposed to find her? Is there supposed to be a yearning for my Real Mother’s loving arms?

They say mothers have an unbreakable bond with the child they carried in their womb, that they’d do anything to protect that child. Am I, as the child in the womb, supposed to have that same unbreakable bond?

I don’t feel that bond.

I thought of searching, but when I began to think about the consequences of finding my birth-mother, I lost interest. What if she was married to a billionaire? Would I then hate my middle-class roots? What if she turned out to be a meth-addicted prostitute? How would I feel then? Knowledge can be dangerous. I was scared of what I might find — and what I might or might not feel.

I’ve spent many helpful hours in therapy over the years, though I’ve left several therapists because they’ve tried to convince me that my issues started by being abandoned by my birth-mother; that even though I was newborn, I was able to sense her abandoning of me, and its impact is at the root of many of my issues.

One thing I have absolutely no doubt about: I do not feel that my birth mother abandoned me.

We don’t know what communication passes between mother and fetus —  though we often surmise. Perhaps because giving up a child is such a gut-wrenching decision for a mother, the trauma she feels imprints itself on her unborn child, and, perhaps, leaves some children with a sense of an emotional abandonment

Maybe there is a reverse that is also true: maybe a mother can tell her unborn child that it is being given up for the best reasons, that the decision she is making is one made out of an unimaginable love — a love that wants her child to have a home better than the one she can provide. And, maybe, communicating that love can leave an adopted child feeling that it hasn’t been abandoned, but that it is a child, being given as a gift — a great gift.

Sentimental claptrap? Maybe.

Our society runs on the belief of individuality. We take pride that we’re all different, that everyone’s story is not the same. Yet, we’ll try to claim that every adopted child should feel abandoned? It makes no sense. We are either all different, with different stories, or we’re not.

Growing up, my mother told me a story:
“There was a man and a woman who loved each other very much. They wanted to have a family, but, unfortunately they couldn’t have kids. One day, they got a phone call — there was a young woman who was having a baby, but, she was young, and was struggling to make ends meet. She wanted her baby to have a better home than she was able to give him. She knew that the man and woman would give her baby a loving home. So, the man and woman got on a plane, and, when they came home, they had the young girl’s baby with them. They were very happy to have him, and they loved him very much. There are many kids in this world who live in homes where they aren’t loved or wanted,” my mom would say, “and adopted children are special: they’re wanted very much.”

Mom would ask if I knew who the man and woman were, and I’d say “you and dad”.  It was a story I liked to told, and would often ask to hear it.  I especially liked the ending: they were happy to have him; they loved him.
Adoption gives birth to thoughts and feelings across the emotional spectrum: from feelings of profound love, to feelings of despair and abandonment. Mixed in with those feelings, at least for me, is a sense of loyalty to the people who adopted me, who opened their hearts and home to me. Along with that sense of loyalty goes a sense of obligation: to believe that adoption is ok, that it’s a wonderful, loving thing. I grew up in an environment that felt loving, so it was something I never questioned.

I’m adopted, but it doesn’t change the fact that my family is as much a family as anyone else’s family.  We’ve managed to look past the wounds and the scars that all families accumulate over the years. I like to think that in spite of all the pain and hurt, that when we look at each other, we see the love, see the strength of a love that’s been tested and that still holds us together.

This is my telling of one person’s adoption: mine. I am in no way trying to say that my words apply to all adopted children. My opinions on adoption may be different than yours — and, that’s ok. Adoption, just like any other family issue, is unique to each individual and each family. Please do not interpret my words as a generalization of the experiences of all adopted children. This is my tale, my story, my thoughts.  

– John Nooney

(c) 2013, feature article, John Nooney, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Vera Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net

unnamed-3JOHN NOONEY (Johnbalaya) ~ lives in Aurora, Colorado with his partner of thirteen years, his ninety-year-old mother and their three dogs.

Children’s Hospital Waiting Room

file0001166466273From this side of this window-

through this glass looking

down seventeen stories –

the world is a odd place.

.

The smell of rain

has become a distant memory.

Taxi cabs – thick bugs.

People- so much seed

scattered on a hard path.

.

Who would have thought

a tiny swish rising

through a stethoscope

could so change everything.

.

Here we are a congregation

Of the suspended –

Inhabitants of a sanitized purgatory –

A communion of those who wait.

.

Here the priests and prophets

wear blue scrubs

and white paper masks.

.

Why, I ask, is it that your tiny heart,

no larger than your tiny hand,

should refuse to grow?

What providence has brought us here?

What karma? There is no answer

.

so we wait.

We wait for our names to be called.

We wait.

– Bill Cook

© 2011, poem, Bill Cook, All rights reserved
Photo courtesy of morgueFile

Re-blogged with the permission of Bill Cook, Poetry Matters. Bill is an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, serving a wonderfully diverse congregation.

  • His church: St. Paul UMC, Willingboro NJ.
  • BA. English Lit., Rutger’s, the State University, New Brunswick NJ.
  • M Div. New Brunswick Theological Seminary New Brunswick NJ.
  • D Min. Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC.

Matastasize, an awkward word

370px-Pink_ribbon.svgMetastasize;
an awkward word,
vowels lurking with malice
between those rock hard t’s
and stumbling past that sinister s,
into that endless z…
Even educated women know;
the seeds of broken dreams will gather
nearest to the heart
and grow
until the Gardener’s sharpened shears
snip away the wretched, rotted root.
That puckered rose, that brutal scar,
my brave and beautiful friend;
wear it as a medal:
triumphant, survivor, heroine!

– Cindy Taylor

© 2008 – 2011, poem and portrait (below), Cindy Taylor, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ MesserWoland via Wikipedia under CC BY A-SA 3.0 Unported License

TAKEN TOO YOUNG

Minnie Julia Riperton (1947-1979), American singer-songwriter: In January 1976 Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy. Though she was given just six months to live, she continued recording and touring, and in 1977 she became spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Riperton was one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer diagnosis, but did not disclose that she was terminally ill. In 1978, Riperton also received the prestigious Society’s Courage Award presented to her at the White House by then-President Jimmy Carter. She died at age 31 on July 12, 1979.

A VOICE SILENCED TOO SOON

Listen:

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

53a8a287311bb62b7207dc89e322f34c

CINDY TAYLOR ~ originally contributed this piece to us in 2011 for our Perspectives on Cancer series. She is multitalented: a freelance writer, a poet, editor and proofreader. She also has an abiding passion for food  and an endearing zeal for life, which she shares with us on her award-winning blog, The Only Cin. Cindy lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Escape from the Nursing Home

“Your mother has escaped from the facility,” said the nurse on the phone.

file9591250747852I was still in Sacramento. I had just thrown my suitcase into the trunk of my car, and I had wanted to call the nursing home to check on my mom and her progress in physical therapy, one last time before I left for San Diego.

“Escaped? What do you mean, escaped?”

“Nobody knows where she is, sir.”

“How is that possible?”

“It looks like she just got out of her wheelchair and walked straight out the front door, past the front desk, when the receptionist was away. We’ve called the police,” the nurse assured me.

“What did you tell them? To look for an eighty-year-old woman in a hospital gown, pushing an I.V. pole?”

“They’ll find her, Mr. Young.”

“She was supposed to go home tomorrow.”

“I guess she couldn’t wait that long.” The nurse laughed. When my silence conveyed that this wasn’t funny, she said, “Don’t worry, sir. Residents escape from here all the time. We almost always get them back.”

“She has aphasia. Do you know what that is? She can’t speak clearly, because of her stroke. She can’t tell anybody who she is or where she lives. What if she gets hit by a car?”

“We’re not liable, Mr. Young.”

“What?”

“Your father signed our waiver form, which releases us from liability for bed sores, falls, and unauthorized self-release from our facility. It’s a condition of admittance.”

“This is unbelievable. I was just about to drive down to San Diego to help my dad bring her home and start caring for her.”

“You’re aware that she’s going to need twenty-four-hour supervision in your home, aren’t you? Otherwise she might start walking around, fall down, or even try to escape from your house in the middle of the night.”

“If your entire nursing staff can’t supervise her, how in the world are my father and me supposed to do it?”

She lowered her voice. “I took care of my own mother at home for ten years, sir. I thought I was going to go completely out of my mind.”

I drove toward San Diego with my heart dropping through my chest and stomach. I had never known this much stress in all my life, not knowing where my mother was or what was happening to her. Or what would happen once we found her and brought her home. A perpetual state of emergency was becoming the most powerful reality of my life. I didn’t yet understand that accepting a continuing sense of uncertainty would become my greatest source of strength.

When I called the nursing home from two hundred miles down the road, they had found my mom. She had never made it out of the parking lot. She was walking between the cars and the SUVs, too short to be seen, until a driver just avoided striking her.

When I reached San Diego it was dark, but I went directly to the nursing home. As I hurried into my mother’s room, she glanced up at me from bed and, with the lucidity that aphasiacs exhibit when they’re surprised, she said, “Oh, it’s my son. Let’s go home now.”

I bent over to kiss her on the temple. “Mom, how are you feeling?”
“Window face,” she said, “hotel hotel hotel—and oil.” For the rest of the visit, as I tried talking to her, she replied with her enthusiastic, broken aphasia.

Sharing the room was an elderly man with a group of Mexican women sitting around his bed. My mother is Mexican, but I don’t look Mexican, so they felt free to talk about my mom in Spanish:

“That poor old woman is crazy.”

“She said she has a boat waiting for her outside. She has Alzheimer’s.”

“She ran away today. They ought to lock her up in a closet. She’ll try to walk across the freeway.”

“It’s a shame. I’m glad we don’t have that in our family.”

“It’s hereditary. Her whole family will turn out that way someday, including all of her children and grandchildren.”

Rage blackened my mind so quickly that, for a moment, I was dizzy. Although I’d never heard the word aphasia before my mom’s stroke, I was now outraged for the rights of all the aphasic people of the world, for their right to express their needs, for their right to be understood, for their right not to be falsely labeled.

Yes, my mother’s ability to process and produce language had been compromised, but she knew exactly what she was trying to say, and she could understand most of what other people were saying. She was not a crazy person, nor did she have Alzheimer’s, nor was she “demented.”

I waited until the women had left and then I kissed my mother again and told her not to worry about anything people said. She nodded with relief. “In oil, in oil. It is their face, it is their windows.”

Her spirit—the same spirit that had led her to escape from a nursing home that she did not like—was intact.
The next morning, my father and I came to take her home. Together, we cared for her for four months, until my dad had a stroke and was paralyzed on the right side. Now I had two infirm seniors on my hands.

I cared for my mom for 45 months, until she passed away in May, 2012. I continue to care for my dad every day. I’ve been a caregiver in my parents’ home for 61 months now. I’m proud that my parents have been able to live in dignity and freedom in their own home, without being institutionalized. This is the most important, rewarding, and illuminating work that I have ever done.

Any person with a compassionate heart can learn to be a caregiver. This means that you can do it too.

– Robert Clark Young

© 2013, article and portrait (below), Robert Clark Young, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ courtesy of morgueFile

RCYoungROBERT CLARK YOUNG ~ is a guest writer on Into the Bardo. He has worked as a caregiver in his parents’ home since 2008. “Escape from the Nursing Home” is excerpted from his book, THE SURVIVOR: How to Deal With Your Aging Parents, While Enriching Your Own Life. The book seeks a publisher.  Robert’s other books are One of the Guys and Thank You for Keeping Me Sober. Visit his eldercare website  HERE. His Amazon page is HERE.

Editorial Note (Jamie Dedes): In addition to being a caretaker, Robert is an accomplished novelist, writer, and editor. I first “met” Robert several years ago when he was the creative nonfiction editor for an online literary magazine. In submitting his bio to us, he was understated about his mission, which is an important one.  He notes on Amazon:

“According to AARP, 61% of family care providers are women, with the typical caregiver being a 46-year-old female who is caring for one or both parents. Of the 39% of caregivers who are men, a majority are husbands of senior women, rather than sons. This gender imbalance in eldercare is one of the things we need to work to change.

“I’m unusual in being a male caregiver. One of the goals of this book is to help people understand that men can–and should–become nurturers.

“But my greatest wish is that this book will become a vital lifeline to everyone who, overnight, must face what first appears to be the devastating challenge of eldercare–a challenge that opens the way to unexpected growth and fulfillment for the caregiver. There is nothing to fear in eldercare. There is only joy, growth, and love.”

A Heart Without Borders

A Heart Without Borders was originally published in On the Plum Tree and is shared here with the permission of author, Imen Benyoub, and publisher, Niamh Clune.

“Algerian, Imen Benyoub is a poet I have long admired. She writes with such feeling and movement. There is something veiled about her poems that entices you to want to dive into an underlying mystery.” Niamh Clune, Ph.D.  (On the Plum Tree), creator of Plum Tree Books

Editorial Note: We are pleased to welcome Niamh Clune and Imen Benyoub to the Bardo community of readers and contributors.  Niamh has joined us as one of the Core Team members and Imen as a guest writer. As a member of the Core Team, Niamh’s prophetic and mystical writing and art will regularly grace our pages and our hope is that Imen will share more of her work with us as well.  Here Imen tells us of her love of poetry and her admiration for one of the poets of the more recent Palestinian diaspora, Nathalie Handal.

***

Nathalie Handal, Palestinian-American poet
Nathalie Handal, Palestinian-American poet and playwright

When I write, I surrender.

Surrender my senses to a delicious chaos – my soul to reach a deeper abyss and my heart to travel outside its borders.

It is the freedom that comes with writing that made me live through my pen and left me endlessly caught between worlds and words.

It is the freedom that sent Nathalie Handal on a journey from New York to Andalucia – full of colours, textures, and fragrant with history, to recreate the journey of her favourite poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, in reverse, and reconnect with her Mediterranean Eastern roots.

I was confused about what to call a woman whose soul stretches across four continents, a woman with many identites and many homes. But after reading “Poet in Andalucia,” I realized she is a woman who does not recognize borders. Like a gypsy, she moves, collects memories, scents, music, visions of landscapes and secret longings and fuses them into poems.

Nathalie Handal, a poet, playwright, translator and editor was born to Palestinian parents from Bethelehem. She travelled extensively through the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Like Mahmoud Darwish and many exiled Palestinian poets, she tries to give a new meaning and shape to the word “home,” and Andalucia with the richness and the complexity of its cultural and religious heritage reminds her of her own country, where Muslims, Christians and Jews live together in harmony and peace. Drowning in nostalgia for a beautiful yet sad past, Handal tries to revive traditions of Andalusian poets, along with the spirit of Lorca who inspires her work.

Her poems drip with sensuality and longing, woven in English, Arabic, French and Spanish, languages she grew up speaking as a result of her displacement, a special feature that gave her work a multi-layered depth and musicality.

Along with “Poet in Andalucia,” Handal published “The Lives Of Rain,” “The Neverfield” and “Love And Strange Horses.” She won numerous awards and she lectures worldwide.

Nathalie Handal is a universal poet; her poetry is a mirror to her lifestyle as a beautiful nomad in search for an identity. Her voice is honest and passionate, where the East embraces the West in a beautiful harmony.

– Imen Benyoub

© 2013, essay, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved

IMEN BENYOUB – As indicated by Namh Clune in the introductory statement, Imen is a talented poet in her own right, hence this video that provides a sample. The poem is Imen’s. It is read by Eabha Rose (theartre  of words). The music is by Trian Kayhatu (band camp).

Wishing You a Garbage-Free Week Ahead

418px-NYC_taxis

the work of Shakti Ghosal

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded and missed the other car by just inches!

The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us.

My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy.I mean, he was really friendly.

So I asked, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy could almost ruin your car and sent us to the hospital!’

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, ‘Law of the Garbage Truck’  He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointments.

As and when their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.

Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.

Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, So … Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t.

Life is 10 % what you make it.

AND

90 % how you take it!

Do resolve to have a great, garbage – free week ahead……..

in learning ……………….Shakti Ghosal

© 2013, essay, Shakti Ghosal, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Joseph Plotz via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

Shakti Ghosal
Shakti Ghosal

SHAKTI GHOSAL ~ has been blogging (ESGEE musgings)since September 30, 2011. He was born at New Delhi, India. Shakti is an Engineer and  Management Post Graduate from IIM, Bangalore. Apart from Management theory, Shakti remains fascinated with diverse areas ranging from World History, Economic trends to Human Psychology & Development.

A senior management professional, Shakti has been professionally involved over twenty-five years at both international and India centric levels spanning diverse business areas and verticals. With a strong bias towards action and results, Shakti remains passionate about team empowerment and process improvement.

Shakti currently resides in the beautiful city of Muscat in Oman with wife Sanchita, a doctorate and an educationist. They are blessed with two lovely daughters, Riya and Piya.

MY TRUMPET TEACHER IS A POET: Is that cool?

Trumpet_in_c_germanthe work of Kim Moore (Kim Moore, poetry), originally published in Artemis poetry and posted here with Ms. Moore’s permission and that of the publisher

When I was first asked to write an article exploring the links between being a poet and a trumpet teacher, my first reaction was panic. How could I possibly link my poetry life and my teaching/music life together? In my head they occupy two very separate spaces. Whilst pondering this, I grumpily thought of how often they seem to leech time and energy from each other, and it was this thought that made me realise they must be linked in some way and gave me the confidence to start writing.

I’ve only just started telling pupils that I write poetry – they often just look at me strangely. Then they ask what I write about – I usually change the subject and make them play a scale or something – because what poet likes to be asked what they write about? Especially when you are asked by a ten year old who is not going to be impressed by an airy flourish of my hand and a vague reference to gender politics.
.
At the beginning of 2012 I told one of my teenage pupils I’d got a job working as a poet in a men’s prison for ten weeks. He looked at me in disbelief, then did that clicking knuckles thing that’s all the rage with young people, before exclaiming with delight ‘You’re gonna get stabbed!’ followed by another click of his knuckles. When I appeared the next week with no puncture wounds, triumphant, he’d forgotten about the conversation already.
.
I’ve been working as a full time brass teacher for seven years – but in September 2012 I decided to reduce my contract down to four days a week to give myself more time to write. I teach in about 16 primary schools a week delivering a programme called ‘Wider Opportunities’ where every child in the class gets a brass instrument as well as the teacher and teaching assistants. I also run two brass bands and teach small groups of children as well.
.
I think the most important part of my job is to show both adults and children that music is for them. I can relate to thinking that it is not you see – being the only child in the school not allowed in the choir age eleven. The same thing happens in poetry – people think it is not for them – but it is surprising how many people in conversation will admit they have written a poem or ‘always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument’.
.
As I’m writing this article, I can see more and more connections. The role of peripatetic teacher is always that of an outsider – I’m not attached to any school and this loneliness is reminiscent of the work of being a poet, or a writer. My two worlds creep closer when I think of the way I had to learn as a new teacher, that my hope of guiding young players who spent every spare minute practising (as I did) off to music college was unlikely. I had to learn to let go of what I wanted, to understand that if my enjoyment of my job, my success, was measured by how much my pupils practised and whether they went off to music college, I would be a Very Miserable Teacher. I had to learn to listen to what my pupils wanted – and this transaction is often non-verbal because sometimes they don’t know either. Doesn’t this sound like poetry? The act of letting go, of relinquishing control is precisely what writing is to me. I learnt as a poet as well, that if I measured success by publication or prizes I would be a Very Miserable Poet.
.
Another part of my job is conducting a junior band. This is going to sound harsh, but conducting is all about imposing your will on the group. There is no room for anyone else to be creative. In fact, rehearsing is more like editing a poem – practising the same section over and over again, breaking the band down into parts so you can hear the weakest links – is exactly like reading your own poem over and over again, to find a line that will give way under scrutiny.
.
Teaching music and writing poetry are ultimately an act of balance – they both have that feeling of walking a tightrope, of words being vastly important. I often find myself using the same catchphrases when I’m teaching – they almost become your own personal clichés. I made a list of mine and turned it into a poem – it made it into my first pamphlet at the last minute and on the advice of my editor, Ann Sansom rather than any passion for it on my part – maybe it reminded me too much of work – but it is often the poem that people comment on – the most surprising people will confess they used to play a brass instrument or will say ‘I remember my trumpet teacher saying that to me when I was small’. And of course, the lines in my poem are not mine at all, really. They were given to me by my trumpet teacher and I remembered them, and repeated them to my pupils, like a poem, learnt by heart.
.
Teaching the Trumpet

I say: imagine you are drinking a glass of air.
Let the coldness hit the back of your throat.

Raise your shoulders to your ears, now let
them be. Get your cheeks to grip your teeth.

Imagine you are spitting tea leaves
from your tongue to start each note

so each one becomes the beginning of a word.
Sing the note inside your head then match it.

At home lie on the floor and pile books
on your stomach to check your breathing.

Or try and pin paper to the wall just by blowing.
I say: remember the man who played so loud

he burst a blood vessel in his eye? This was
because he was drunk, although I don’t tell

them that, I say it was because he was young,
and full of himself, and far away from home.

– Kim Moore

© 2013, essay and poem and portrait (below), Kim Moore, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ trumpet by Benutzer:Achias under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license

Society of Authors Awards June 2011 Kim Moore  Eric Gregory AwardsKIM MOORE (Kim Moore, poetry) ~ works as a peripatetic brass teacher in Cumbria. In 2011kim-moore-if-we-could-speak-like-wolves_1 she won an Eric Gregory Award and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, and in 2012 her first pamphlet  If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet competition, judged by Carol Ann Duffy. It was selected as one of the Independent’s ‘Books of the Year’. Kim has been published in various magazines including The Rialto, Poetry Review, The TLS, Magma, and ARTEMISpoetry. She is currently working on her first collection. You can sample more of her poetry on her blog HERE.

,

artemis-1ARTEMIS poetry ~  the bi-annual journal (November and May) of the Second Light Network , a professional association of women poets. The journal is published under their Second Light Publications imprint. Members receive a copy as part of their membership benefits. Issues are available to non-members by subscription at £9 p.a. or as a one-off purchase at £5 a copy (plusp&p).

For the Love of a Good Cuppa

A couple years ago, my husband and I had the chance to celebrate the Fourth of July with some good friends. There were six of us total (three couples), and we met at our friend’s house for a special treat.

One of our crew had just recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia. She and her husband are in process of adopting an adorable baby boy and she had to make a visit to work through the paperwork with the local courts.

While in country visiting her baby son and patiently working though the long process, she was treated on several occasions to the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

On our Fourth of July holiday, she wanted to share this ceremony with us, her friends.

About the coffee ceremony, here’s a quote from Ethiopian ambassador Haile-Giros Gessesse:

“Coffee has social value in our society. It is deep rooted in our culture. The coffee ceremony in local areas is used mainly for social gatherings. In the mornings and evenings parents, especially mothers gather together for a coffee ceremony and also use it as a platform for exchanging information in their surroundings. It is a means of communication. When people sit down they usually spend three hours finalizing the ceremony, starting with the preparation, and then roasting to brewing it.”

Our friend had hauled home a big bag of green coffee beans, water hulled (the good stuff) not fire hulled, and we sat outside in the beautiful sun while she told us about the ceremony.

First, she roasted the beans on the grill. We watched as she shook and swirled the pan, much like a slow Jiffy pop motion.

When we all agreed that it looked like the beans were at a good medium roast each of us took in a whiff of the fantastic aroma from the pan.

Then we took turns using a mortar and pestle to smash the beans down to a nice grind. Every person took their turn and everyone contributed.

It was satisfying work to smash, smash, smash those crispy beans and release the beautiful scent and oils.

Once ready, the grinds were placed into a French press and once brewed, a round of coffee was poured into six cups.

This fresh roasted coffee was delicious! It had a floral aroma and tasted so light and mild. This coffee was perfect with just a touch of sugar and nothing else.

In keeping with tradition, we had three rounds of coffee while we discussed our lives, the news of the day, baseball, and got caught up with each other. This is an essential part of the ceremony, sharing community, support, and friendship.

Now, I love a great cup of coffee, but I rarely drink caffeinated coffee. After three cups I was ready to clean my house top to bottom, jog a thousand miles, and throw a 98mph fastball.

But it was a happy caffeinated high shared with dear friends.

I was honored to be a part of the ceremony and I can hardly wait until our friends bring home their baby boy. I hope to we can continue to give him a sense of community and family, maybe even over a cuppa or two…or three.

– Karen Fayeth

© 2013, essay, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved
Photo and quote from a CRIEnglish.com article by Wei Tong.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular writers. She is our tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet. Her latest short story “Quick, Quick Slow” was published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, her photo titled “Bromance” (featuring Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) was featured on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.