Winter 2021

Volume 8                  Life of the Spirit                  Issue 4

Introduction & Table of Contents

Contents V8N4

The  BeZine

Volume 8                  December 15, 2021                  Issue 4

Digital painting of two hands holding a bluebird, tan background with some shadows.

Life of the Spirit
and
Healing

Cover art: May the Bluebird of Happiness be with you Always
Digital Art
©2021 Kat Patton


Introduction

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Elie Wiesel, “One Must Not Forget”
U.S. News and World Report, 27 Oct. 1986

Elie Wiesel

Life of the Spirit, Activism, and Healing
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize-winning author, at a news conference in Budapest, Hungary, in 2009.
Bela Szandelszky/AP Source

You may know the story from the book, Night. Born in what was then Romania in 1928, as a teenager Elie Wiesel experienced degradation, slavery, and starvation at the hands of the Nazis, a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald. The Nazis murdered his mother and younger sister on arrival at Auschwitz. He barely survived the Death March from Auschwitz to Buchenwald. His father died in Buchenwald, shortly after the Death March. Only after liberation did he and his two older sisters discover that the others had survived.

You may or may not know that after he left the camps, Wiesel lived in an orphanage for displaced survivors of the Holocaust in France. He went on to study in the Sorbonne, where Existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus influenced him and where he attended lectures by the philosopher Martin Buber. He read extensively, earning money for his studies by leading a choir and then becoming a journalist. He rebuilt his understanding of the world, which had always had a base in religion, using the humanities to help him understand the world and the wound to humanity that was the Holocaust and that echoes, in our time, with continuing hatred and genocide.

Wiesel bore witness to the Holocaust through writing about his own life and experience in the concentration camps and by acting on what he saw as the moral imperative of having survived the Holocaust. He reached out to others, to teach and to learn, and spoke out against forgetting the Holocaust and for the need to prevent genocide, becoming one of the most prominent Jews to do so, then possibly the most prominent person worldwide to do so. He moved into a spotlight on the world stage after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.


Even though his legacy has become synonymous with the Holocaust, Wiesel also wrote and lectured on religion, ethics, and moral philosophy. Joseph Berger wrote, shortly after Wiesel’s death:

Wiesel was defined not so much by the work he did as by the gaping void he filled. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, no voice had emerged to drive home the enormity of what had happened and how it had changed mankind’s conception of itself and of God. For almost two decades [before Night was published in English], the traumatized survivors—and American Jews, guilt-ridden that they had not done more to rescue their brethren—seemed frozen in silence.

He certainly anchored his own activism against oppression and genocide in his experience of the Holocaust. Bernard-Henri Lévy tells us that Wiesel:

ensured, through his work and henceforth in the minds of those inspired by that work, that the dark memory of that exception that was the Holocaust will not exclude—indeed, that the Holocaust requires—ardent solidarity with all of the victims of all other genocides.

Elie Wiesel continued breaking “frozen silence” by speaking out against human rights abuses.


Wiesel also lived a life of the spirit. He explored the Holocaust and religion, offering entry into a new way of speaking of God and of humanity. Steven Katz wrote:

In effect, in the decades after Auschwitz, Wiesel could not live with God, and he could not live without Him. What religious faith now remained available had to be rebuilt from the fragments of the tradition that had been shattered by the Death Camps.

Katz quotes Wiesel:

Perhaps someday someone will explain how, on the level of man, Auschwitz was possible; but on the level of God it will remain forever the most disturbing of mysteries.

John K. Roth explains that Wiesel holds God responsible, but also:

…never uses God’s responsibility to excuse human-kind. On the contrary, his insistence on human responsibility and its tortuous implications requires him to move from the general to the specific. Nazi perpetrators, bystanders (whose neutrality, indifference, and passivity aided the killers far more than the victims), even some of the victims themselves—all have a share of responsibility to bear.

Steven Katz adds that:

By the 1980s, however, his attitude [toward God], while never uncritical and never without a note of protest—and always involving the unresolved question of where was God at Auschwitz—became less confrontational, less hostile.

Then he quotes a 1997 New York Times essay Wiesel wrote, addressed to God:

In my testimony, I had written harsh words, burning words, about your role in our tragedy…Let us make up, Master of the Universe. In spite of everything that happened? Yes, in spite. Let us make up for the child in me. It is unbearable to be divorced from you so long.

Elie Wiesel’s life iconically embodies life of the spirit, activism, and healing.

—Michael Dickel, Editor

This is part of a larger work in progress
©2021 Michael Dickel and Fisher Features

Camus said, ‘Where there is no hope, one must invent hope.’ It is only pessimistic if you stop with the first half of the sentence and just say, There is no hope. Like Camus, even when it seems hopeless, I invent reasons to hope.”  

Elie Wiesel, TIME, “10 Questions for Elie Wiesel,” January 22, 2006 

  

Table of Contents


Poetry


Fiction


Music & Video


Creative NonFiction



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Art: Landscape with Something Happening, Gerry Shepherd ©2021

Poetry

One More Covid | Ed Ahern

One More Time

Before too long the covid masking will intrude into my life,
with muffled words and itchy face of public need,
and yet another shot to warranty against the looming rife
of viruses that seem to change with fiendish speed.

The obstinate among us stand their ground and often die
but not before they also often help it breed,
a nurture of a fatal part of nature better to defy
than to abet and proudly ask it in to feed.

Covid Largesse

Aesop got it wrong.
Or at least incomplete.
This life-long ant realizes
some of my money will outlive me.
And here comes a Covid check.
More for the kids? Not likely.
But how to best squander it?
I’m too old for expensive vices,
and already giving things away.
Spas and salons are wasted
on a wrinkled, bald man.
What’s left is geriatric dissipation.
Grasshopper trips and meals,
shows and concerts,
gorged on at sedate pace,
with lessened senses and focus
and an age restricted diet.

Gerry Shepherd
Poet in a Public Place
©2021

Poetry ©2021 Ed Ahern
All rights reserved

2020 | Yewande Akinsi

and we woke up here
somewhere inbetween apocalypse and the deep
somewhere neither here nor there, existing in time
we awoke as in a dream of the night
to behold the reflection of fate on a broken mirror
tainted visions, blood bath, body count
and a pandemic on powerful prowl
we awoke to slumber
awoke to slain numbers
awoke to hounding fear
in the streets and corners

and we woke up here
somewhere in between a dream and nightmare

©2021 Yewande Akinsi
All rights reserved

Rebirth Stage | Elisha Alladina

Rebirth of my Soul

Rebirth of my soul
Through stories untold
My past life experiences
And current life adventure

A part of me died
Many months I’ve cried
But I was born again
Through feeling the pain

I sipped the darkness
Disobeyed His highness
Grew wings from this flight
And decided to fight

A battle with insecurities
My depression will cease
Will use my sword to heal
And change how I deal

Stage Makeup

Stage makeup
To hide my true getup
It masks the cry
One big smile

Stage makeup
When I go out
Adorned with layers
To hide my tears

Stage makeup
Like a sad clown
I dress up in colours
When feeling down

Stage makeup
I can’t cheer up
The circus is over
Time for a makeover

©2021 Elisha Alladina
All rights reserved

A Day in the Real Lives of Angels | John Anstie

Not so very long ago, when I was fit 
as a butcher’s dog, what seems like
a time warp passing across the Milky Way 
when the seeds of our downfall were sown 
in a way that’s beyond comprehension, 
there grew a progenitor, an apocalyptic 
but as yet unknown force, more powerful 
than anything we knew, to which we 
could never yield, because we had 
no choice, like war, but without plans.

The victims are dazed, half conscious, 
half alive, inflamed and drowning in 
black water, systems fractured, powered off 
including ordnance, a military defensive 
without armour, damage limitation for 
lost causes, no time to bury their dead 
the wives and mothers, sons and daughters 
husbands, fathers, family and friends 
left out in the cold. No touching of hands 
bereavement on hold, for some other time
another world, some other parallel existence. 

As if in that other unreachable, longed for 
place of sanctuary and rest, Elysian Fields 
where angels dare with mercy’s offered
by saints with greatest care, unprotected 
in spite of fallible humanity, disregarding 
concern for their own… 

This is what they came to do. Isn’t it true 
they save lives, these compassionate heroes
these very normal, extraordinarily ordinary 
supernaturally humane people, who walk 
among us, the ordinary, extraordinarily lucky 
human beings. Do we truly deserve them? 
From time to time, we show appreciation 
for their dedication as they run between 
the cracks and the faults in our lives. 

But we rarely see behind their professional 
masks, the anxieties, the personal struggles, 
the humanity that exudes from every pore 
even when you look them straight in their eyes 
in the line of fire, they prepare a family for 
the inevitable, another ending too close 
to the last. Overwhelmed by new beginnings 
and more bad NEWS…

The truth that is too sanitised for consumption 
in our comfy armchair homes, we only want 
to hear not this; not what we truly need to know. 
But how else will we comprehend an urgent need 
To cry. To lobby. To action. To shout from the hilltop 
To understand. To march and never give up 
lighting the fire and fighting the liar in the dock 
fighting for the right to life, the right to social justice 
not the right to exploit for greed, for enrichment 
for personal gain, or rebel against natural wisdom 
and science, or assert a semblance of civil rights. 

Civil Rights for whom? 

Whose pain and suffering will this alleviate?  
How much will those angels and saints endure? 
Facing an onslaught of mind-numbing ignorance, 
whilst facing their own demise? How long for those 
who mourn, to rise and grieve for the final tingling 
touch of a hand? For their spring, barely sprung 
their lives just begun, not yet able to understand 
what they are losing ... and the angels chose to care. 

A haunting echo of children singing, somewhere 
across the playground, somewhere across the universe, 
somehow you feel an unexpected swelling in the depths
of your throat that caught you by surprise, unaware.

How dare their sweetest innocence awaken this grief 
inside, a fear of Armageddon, after a daylong toll of death 
you were at your most vulnerable, you were least prepared 
least able to hold it all inside. Your defences were down.

There is no denying this feeling, when all is said and done.
From out of the mouths of children, who opened your eyes 
to coming home, to reconciliation, to finding your love
came your most important gift of all … your own truth. 

This piece of writing is based on a sort of interview style conversation with a friend, a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, who has been at the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic since it started. I am very grateful to her that she participated willingly, at times almost as if she was glad of an opportunity to talk about what she has been  through with someone outside of the medical establishment, outside of the claustrophobic bubble that has constricted her life for so long, but to which she has dedicated herself with unquestioning professionalism. One very remarkable and courageous woman.


©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Little Amal | John Anstie

A larger than life puppet, as huge as the journey. A Walk 
into the multiverse, multinational, multiracial, multiplying
to seek out new friends, searching for family, connecting
us all, so that half the World knows, the other half may 
…in time, one day.

She will discover, everywhere that she goes 
on an empty beech full of sea-washed shoes 
a fest or fair, a village or a city full of strangers 
it'll matter no more if her journey ends well 
but so much depends on who writes the story…
the victors or vanquished
the divisive or divided 
the greedy or needy.

She doesn’t need history to know how it feels
to want or to need, to love and to feed and
feel the touch of her mother, her siblings’ play
the deeply felt loss of being too far away
the dearth of her years, the tracks of her tears
write their own story on a weather worn cheek
betray all her fears, bring her home somewhere 
… somewhere as alien as another planet. 

Another strange world where the weather is cold 
with seasons that brace your bodily defences
then shock your feelings till they come to their senses
till they touch you on your almost unreachable hand
sing songs, recite poems, tell tales of life in strange 
tongues, but sometimes, to surprise you, in your own. 
If only you were older, and bolder with a sense 
of the history of an imperialist, colonial past. 
Now irony is casting its net and repeating the cycle.  

This jumped up imperialism and privilege dictates
who should stay, who should go. Or perhaps 
there’s a war or a famine, or both, that ignites
a desperate diaspora, an up-rooting of life 
more horrid than the terrors each night in the jungle 
out of sight, out of mind, the children, our children 
just maybe we don’t understand. Surviving the journey 
missing meals, kicking heals, waiting for someone 
to offer you charity, to offer the hand of welcome
and compassion … yes, compassion, like food in so 
many places and ways, is in short supply these days.

Then who can provide and who will decide
who can stay, who will go, who drowns, who will stray
but those who decide, haven’t a clue what to do 
but the children survive for time being, live in the hope 
that one day, the all seeing will cool us all down 
and save an overheating world from it’s most 
unpopular creature, whose numbers still feature 
most often in bringing its battles and wars to a head
‘till the bodies and the money pile up, ‘till, by some
unfathomable cruel twist of fate, the decision’s too late.

Then the World will be able to breathe once again
and Little Amal and all who will follow, may have seen
that the miles of their lives would ultimately mean
that those lives whom she touched as she cut through 
their compromised cultural divisions, melded together 
a simple revision of all that they formerly believed. 

For a moment she replaced all our concepts of greed 
with compelling images of the desperate need
for compassion and love, for stories that tell us 
how fragile and frail, dependent and faulty we are
how we’re all joined together 'till we’re forced to be fed
by hands that lie outside our realms and control.

But those who would lead persist in their partisan quest
to retain the status quo of their cultural wars, political zest
to eliminate open-minded discussion, Socratic debate …
will the horse have bolted long after we’ve bolted the gate?

So, Little Amal and the hoards who will follow, as their world 
falls apart, hotter still, runs dry, ‘till all that is left is barren 
with dust and the ashes of a civilised age, and a people 
who forgot to look after the only source of their life. 

Are we listening? Critical thinking? Can she heal the World?
Can we save her and ourselves and hold onto the Earth 
… by reconnecting its fracturing parts, and rejoining hands?

About Little Amal

Little Amal’s story began in Good Chance Theatre‘s award-winning play, “The Jungle”. The critically-acclaimed production was based on the stories encountered by Good Chance Theatre’s founders, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, when they created their first Theatre of Hope in the 2015 infamous Calais refugee camp. Little Amal appeared as a character in The Jungle who represented the hundreds of unaccompanied minors in the Calais camp who were separated from their families. Following the success of The Jungle, which contributed to a global conversation about refugees and shared humanity, Good Chance felt Little Amal’s story still had so much more to say…so the creators of the famous Warhorse, Handspring Puppet Company created the larger than life young girl.

Little Amal made what was titled “The Walk”. This was an incredible 8,000 km (5,000 miles) from Turkey’s border with Syria. So many refugees have started their trek from this far away. Little Amal’s walk took her across Europe to complete her journey in Manchester in the UK.

At the last moment, the organisers decided to add one further destination to The Walk, which meant that Little Amal headed for the crowded streets of Glasgow at the height of COP26. This would draw attention to the refugee problem, which is not only caused by war and famine, but also by the diaspora which will increasingly be due to global warming as the average temperatures of the large continental masses across our planet will continue to rise. These parts of our world are threatened with the outcome of being turned into barren dust bowls, possibly even within the lifetime of some of those, who are alive today.

Introductions to Little Amal and The Walk…

The Walk has been an extraordinary demonstration of how art can respond to a crisis of global proportions. It was more moving and touching than I could ever have imagined. You might find it interesting to watch a couple of the many YouTube videos of Little Amal’s journey and the story of those, who brought her to life. I may lift your spirits.

And more video about Little Amal…


Also by John Anstie in this issue:
Little Amal Goes to Wentworth Castle — Creative Nonfiction


©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Motifs | Gary Beck

Hard Times

On many street corners
of my fair city
the homeless sit
resources exhausted,
the tattered cardboard signs
requesting aid
the last connection
between abandonment
and termination,
alternate options
totally expended.
Miroslava Panayotava
photo 1
©2021

Lunacy

Another school shooting.
Some of us grieve
for the lost children.
The President visits,
gives us thumbs up,
grins for the cameras,
another photo op
to tell us he cares,
but he just makes things worse.
Crazies cite the second amendment
as their right to buy automatic rifles.
Our leaders don’t understand
authority in the constitution
isn’t for nazi supremacists,
but was originally conceived
for the men and boys
who rushed to arms in 1775
at Lexington and Concord,
a well-regulated militia,
not like the nuts 
who allow AR-15s
to get into the hands
of demented shooters.


And the Children Shall Lead Them

Let’s put the kids in charge.
They can’t do much worse
then the current leadership.
They’re not venal and corrupt.
Maybe they’re inexperienced,
but it’s hard to be more ignorant
than the men and women
who can’t keep our government running.
Someday, the children of our young people
would like to breathe clean air,
not be helpless victims
of economic exploitation,
live in a safe land
where automatic weapons
weren’t the catch of the day.
It is painfully obvious
the system isn’t working,
except for the privileged.
Perhaps it’s time for an experiment,
select high school seniors on merit,
test them, find out what they know,
what they’re willing to learn.
We should design special courses
in government operations,
economics, the list goes on.
Let them run things for a while.
If it’s a disaster
we’ll go back to the old ways.
Let anyone with money,
influence, or connections,
purchase high office
however unqualified,
and not serve the people.

Poetry ©2021 Gary Beck
All rights reserved

Flag Confidential Lies | Faruk Buzhala

The Flag

It's a great pleasure
to write one young poet
poem for you.
To express, words to you
to unfold, one's feelings for you
to reveal, thinks to you.
....................................
I'm fascinated,
a little bit frustrated,
in a poem
which, like a present. comes
in one night without moon
where I was watching
from a window
the mountain top…
thinking about you!
Gerry Shepherd
Variant Two
©2021

Confidential Game 2

Furkani has style
But his style is stolen!

Furkani changes style
But they still steal it!

Furkani is left with no style,
Now he needs to create a new style!

And creates a superstyle;
Surprisingly they steal it again!
Gerry Shepherd
The Mask
©2021

Lies

I made my lie for the road
And I told it,
Fly like a wind!
It left in the morning,
And when it returned in the evening,
What to see?
It was growing, it was swollen
And perverted
So I did not recognize it!
Miroslava Panayotava
Autumn, acrylic and oil
©2021

Poetry ©2021 Faruk Buzzhala
All rights reserved

Mother Peace Meditation | Lorraine Caputo

Show Me Our Future, Sisters

I. Our Past Pours from Nine Cups

From our pasts
     we gather our pooled 
          waters of
Sweat       & tears
Into our communal fountain
     we have poured
          our labors       for work       & children
               our joys & our sorrows
We dance      & sing
     jump & dive
          into this gathering
               of Life

II. Daughters of Discs Holds Out Our Hopes & Fears

& here we stand
          solitary
     in a circle of protection
Giving thanks
     for another day of life
Gathering energy
     within our vessel
Clasping a sacred pipe
Naked
     unashamed of who we are
Always knowing
     our village awaits
          to welcome us home

III. The Strength of Eight Discs

Miroslava Panayotava
memories, digital
©2021
Our strength
     is the many blankets we weave
Blankets to warm & protect
Blankets of the many 
     designs of our 
          individual beings
We shall share these
     huddled together
          laughing & storytelling
               during the cold winters
                    to come
     huddled together
          singing & praying
               spread out upon
                    verdant meadows

IV. A Two-Cupped Challenge

The challenge       the challenge
     of a siren singing to
          our male part
     a siren calming       taming
          our patriarchal world
The challenge
     to sing       & swim free
          as our peaceful
               dolphin sisters
The challenge       of remembering
     we all nourish one another
          water to earth to sky
          male to female
Under a crescent grandmother moon
     we shall
          meet our challenge
               drinking from one another’s cup

V. Our Future Is Justice

& there       & here
     our future
We have gathered the forces
     water       & earth
     female       & male
     human       & animal       & plant
Beneath the mighty
     Tree of Life
          Yggdrasil       the Ceiba
Roots deep into our Mother
     into our past
Growing upward
     spreading our limbs

Previously published in Woman Scream (Dominican Republic: Editorial Rosado Fucsia, 2020). 


Poetry ©2020 Lorraine Caputo
All rights reserved

weeps economic cancer in the land | Chinedu Jonathan Ichu

why weeps the brogan?

i exist as a fact
you were enslaved as my muse
now we don't see eye to eye
i stole the truth from natures liquid haystack
wrestled it deep inside the crust of my chest
sorry can't give it back today,
its root hair bounds me, has refused to give up on me
it professed to my zealous heart's throb
and also to an undying fighting spirit
it continuously tickle my fancy
not to worry there will be plenty to go round
once it begins to sprout.

economic cancer of the bone

When the heart beats turmoil 
men become dead instincts 
animals dressed in polyester skin
regardless of their mother tongue
they pounce on warm blooded reeds
ready to devour their fleshly twilight 
you were meant to nurture these sweetened daffodils 
old enough to have strolled out your loin

not chain their virtue to the vent in your ugly cold room.

there is hunger in the land

wayward politicians are pointing accusing fingers
there are mouths agape
ready to devour justice
they no longer care
if it still remains the common mans last resort
my inside growls in anger
warning me in advance of an imminent outburst
rage fills up its spiked moist tentacles
that has ripped up my entire visceral to shreds
i scream...locked up in a feudal position
i demand a compilation of all our looted funds
my vertebral column strikes my flesh from within
"let me out, am sick and tired of this colorless cistern

it's has being cursed from within the embers of a caustic tongue."

©2021 Chinedu Jonathan Ichu
All rights reserved

Eight Poems | Linda Chown

Ageing

Sometimes I feel like I'm ageing, 
backwards, i don't know 
how we can go forth
when we're sinking so fast
under malevolent ignorance
And spring is shining so
bewitchingly.
When I think of Spain,
which I do in my sleep,  in my dreams,  in my everywhere,
I see women in black all clean
with ardent faces and a smile
below all that plain pain 
I hear Spain, their tongue-driven voices
rambunctiously them.
Please dear humanity
Do not let them be splayed and
Agonized like death clouds again.

Heart

As of now that rising sound 
Below my neck reminds me of Baku,
And Boris my remote cousin. It is that
I’m not breathing like I should be.
It is like it happens apart from me.
I stare and listen hard to that whine.
It’s as though I’m carrying Geronimo 
up high on CaveFighters Hill.
Only the lonely would complain 
and only the lonely will remain 
here in a vast vat of love
of understanding and profundity,
a way to live for you and me.
Stay away from green eggs 
and purple devastation.
Don’t, like a cavalier, give your 
heart away to the hawks.
As Katherine says in The English Patient 
the “heart is an organ of fire.”
Be sure to keep that organ
with another: to cast your lightning 
into each other’s excited airs.

Some Times

Inspired by The Rolling Stones

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

It’s like I don’t write a poem to explode out 
It’s like I don’t write a poem to complain in
It’s like when I start to hear the call to write
I start to float it’s like to float inconspicuous 
It’s like pieces of time and what’s mine join 
In a moment of homeostasis overtime 
It’s like poetry is a sublime 
coming together.  Feast and famine 
Holding place in this oneness 
A permanent addition like a mission 
Which we can make when pieces of time 
And what’s mine align in homeostasis sublime
To be ours for hours making such oneness rhyme.

How Sarah Saw to Herself

Miroslava Panayotava
Roses
digital art
©2021
at night in a quiet room
she sank deep into the lights of dreaming, 
to hold on to what she was 
finding out about seeing colors,
nuances shaping up in the night. 
Her always wide eyes. Wheezes
knocking at the doors of her chest 
like shutters flapping in a Texas wind.
The decisive whack of wood.

Even when nobody heard her 
hear to say the fabric of what 
she was coming to know to think,
When she was all locked up little 
in those taffeta clothes, tiny buttons and plackets,
tight around her. When she was bending 
her toes around, wriggling them, just to tell 
how she saw to herself. To remember the smooth spots 
that she knew she knew by heart
but only when she was alone 
those times fitting into herself 
while she was in the corner 
coming to settle into herself.

Just knowing how she was
in that light of hers darkly,
paddling the peeling moments like a sailor
and starching the intricate fibers of memory 
with near collarbone precision.
Her voice a feather of tulips in the morning.

There Came This Big Rush

So when and if then,
there came this big rush, 
a rash of factors 
which took you back to
a giant shadow of memory
on the waterfront, 
California light falling 
and breathing in, then,
it was when history was, 
seemingly sublime, 
in the kind of closeness
we would die for, then, 
but it was happening, here,  
now longshoremen big armed 
talking like veteran labor leaders. 
Tillie Olson said a Mrs. Dalloway idea,
pondering soft. It was all bodies 
and more, beyond the blue line, blessed.
It was people living, bulging themselves.
In mass, together, out loud voluptuous:
It was real life warm out of the factory
lasting like Sunday hotcakes.

The Breath of my Blood

These two years  
Have thickened me, left me bewildered, 
High and dry as the debris in an elephant’s eye, 
Ringing unanswered bells in white hell halls.  
How I wanted to run again  
And to seem determined.  
How the breath of my blood  
Stiffened and I came to 
Look nice without my old exotic,  
That fire in a thin emphatic face,   
Those lingering lips and know it all eyes, 
How my feet grow restlessly stiff  
How I sleep with oxygen  
How I have gotten permanently 
Sick dramatically and unrecoverably smitten 

It Was He Who Knew

It would be Blake who knew 
It was the body which made us fair,  
More than stray stone bullets. 
His world was so physical 
His inner light transfused matter 
Into a moan of joy rushing in  
To the plenty of us all so physical 
That each petal of our being 
Sang itself way before Whitman 
Blake grew the Cartesian split into harmony. 
He made us big again, 
Big in our girth and our worth. 

He would take the full nine yards of us:  
“You never know what is enough  
unless you know what is more than enough,” he dared.  
And he feasted and saturated and wept sublime  
to encounter what he saw with a naked burly view. 

His path was not to split body and soul. 
Nay, he wept the veins and nerves whole.

The Reunion of the Soul and Body
William Blake, 1813

The cloudy shores of today

If life is now more of an adverb,
Participles all stuck in the sun,
Wrapped sticky in virus,
All we say now is how we see it
Not what, since facts died with Trump
So verily how we find each other is the final 
Dusty piece to play for dessert each to each 
It’s Kafka au lait in the cloudy shores of today.

©2021 Linda Chown
All rights reserved

Somehow, Soon | DeWitt Clinton

Oh, Nothing Much, You?

Well, yes, we do have a few puny pale yellow day lilies
Bursting forth in our little universe, the size of the lot
I’d have to look up if you’re that curious, and I’ve set
Down some tiny grass seeds near the sidewalk to 
Replace whacked grass the mowing crew always likes
To take down to the nub.  Other than that, we’re looking
Forward to more movies which we’ve already seen,
And we’re always tempted to see “Burn After Reading”
Again, and maybe again, as it’s fun to say the lines along
With the hilarious discombobulated, but we know none 
Of it’s true, but we always think it is, and it is, of course,
Somewhere, but not here, yet, though the way things
Are developing around here, anything might pop in
Into our tiny little universe. Of course, we’re gloved
And masked, as we have no way to know where those
Tiny floating bugs are that want to slip down our nose
Into our old lungs, and since both of them, hers and 
Mine, are not exactly in great shape, we’re doing all
We know how to do, but we do get very frightened
Anytime, anytime, all the time we turn on the telly
And learn that we’re back to April with even higher
Infections so that makes both of us want to stop
Breathing at all, but then, after a few seconds we
Gasp for air, having no real assurances from anyone
We’re not already lined up to be stacked in the morgue
Like so many of our dear friends have ended up, but
If you think about it, and haven’t you had time to 
Think about it as well, well, we’re mostly into survival
Mode, eating more asparagus and Brussels sprouts 
That we would never have dreamed of but we’re
Hopeful the sandstorm from the Sahara will not only
Blot out all the light around here, but also give a 
Good whack to those floating, nasty critters who
Don’t like at all a sandblasting into their micro- 
Impossible-to-believe-they’re-still-here-with-us.
Yes, pour some more of that, and how’s by you?

Anytime, Possibly

Someday, one of us isn’t going to be around
The other, and that hasn’t happened before,
Except for the occasional trip to you know where,
Or other times which are now so hard to put
Back into our old brains now, but then, 
Each one of us wants the other to step up
To what each of us can’t imagine, and lately
I’ve seen a lot of old friends do the very same
Thing, step up, cope, figure It out, go out 
For a walk, maybe all day, though then there’d
Be less food on our little bed trays, and of
Course, less trash, overall, but one of those
Days, we’d start to wonder how we’re going
(and it’s not exactly we’re going) to cope with
All those dresses and suits and shoes downstairs
Which one of us said, let someone else take
Care of that, and I think I know who that’s
Going to be, so I’ll step up, or down, and see
What’s there that’s going to different stores
That might want to feature all the fashions
One of us is no longer wearing and just the
Thought of that makes me think I’ll wear black
Or white all day, maybe all night, yet for what
Reason I have no idea, though I sense a lot
Of single spouses might wonder the same thing,
Getting used to not saying, “I’m home,” when
Of course, you’re home, not you, but me, of
Course there’s the cat, so the “I’m home” 
Could be just as good as before, but not before
Pets to the head, or tail, hearing a little squeak
Which for the present, will have to do. That
Seems about right doesn’t it, the sort of that
Will have to do, at least for a while, until 
Something else unexpected might go wrong,
And then someone else will have to finish
What I couldn’t get around to with all that time. 

Somehow, Soon, We’ll Ascend into the Clouds

Thanks for even wondering if we’re still here as
We don’t step out that much anymore, and our 
Last dining out ended up carrying it all back home,
But it was tasty, especially the grilled tuna with
All those delicious peppers and onions nestled
Nicely together in warm cubed feta and olives 
Which makes all of us wish we were back again
On the Mediterranean island where we took
A lift straight up the mountain side to behold
Island top shops and restaurants just for the 
Curious who were living off shore in spacious
Apartments, some with balconies, so we could
All gaze out over the blue waters to watch dolphins
Sail so happily just above the waves, but that
Was long ago, wasn’t it, and now we’re in lock-
Down hoping to save our old lungs from what
None of us ever expected to travel around the
Globe with such frightening speed, as if WWI
Wasn’t enough, a plague-like flu wiped away
So many who had just entered into the new
And frightening world which some of us 
can still remember, not the first part, as that
Would make us older than anything living
On the planet, and so much is no longer
Living, but we are hopeful, as just yesterday
Astronomers applauded the possibility of life
On Venus, though getting there, from here,
Seems a long shot, and possibly not in our
Lifetime, but that’s really beside the point,
Isn’t it, as all we really have is the idea that
Clouds out there, somewhere, might drift
Toward earth in several million years, long
After Aunt Lucy or cousin Geraldine have 
Turned to dust as by then almost everything
Will be dust, and that’s what we really wonder
About after all this effort, to find something,
Something interesting, only to know by then
The planet will probably re-create itself and
To our delight, a few will crawl out of the 
Cesspool oceans, and make a life on a beach,
Something like the one we enjoyed so much
As we ascended with other travelers way up
Onto the most loveliest of old-world islands.

©2021 DeWitt Clinton
All rights reserved

Moon Days Details | Holly Day

Gerry Shepherd
Variant One
©2021

Full Moon

We put through the request for more teeth, sharper teeth
retractable claws and thicker skin. The directive is fright
but it takes a couple tries before Development gets it right.

The changes need to be quickly reversible, otherwise
the game will be over before it begins. We punch the new changes
into the computer cards with careful precision, feed them through the input slot, 
wait. 

The changes correspond with the full moon, plenty of light
to make sure the schematics were followed properly. 
already, we note where improvements could be made, plan careful phrasing 
so as not to offend the tech department.

3 Days

I have the sudden desire

To eat paint chips, drink turpentine, root around in the garden
For toadstools and mushrooms
Fight a bear. The phone sits in its cradle, refusing to liberate me

From all of the good choices in life that brought me to this point
The conscious good-food choices and intermittent exercise
The firm shake of my head when offered dangerous substances

To ingest, to smoke, to shove up my ass.
There are things I did that could have led me to this point
But it doesn’t seem like there were enough.

Details and Damning

She tried to only focus on the cool, crisp raspy scratch
of starched hospital sheets, focus on how her sweat refused to be absorbed 
into the rubber mattress just beneath the sheets
clung to her backside in a warm pool. She wondered if
she rolled over, it would look as though she’d wet the bed
if she could roll over, if her friends would just look away
embarrassed for her, but she couldn’t roll over, she knew she couldn’t.

Her friends gathered around her bed and tried to distract her
from the chance, the fact, no, the chance, let’s not lose hope
that she would never be able to roll over again, to walk again
might never leave this room again, maybe frighten her 
away from the edge of death,  because yes, there could be death 
looming somewhere in the room, perhaps even capital D Death, 
a specter only she could see.
She would get better soon, they assured her.
They’d come by every day until she could come home.

There were more inane words of encouragement
from her parents, her lover, a stranger who had seen the accident
from the rails of a highway overpass, a stranger who kept describing
the accident in excited detail, as though someone in the room
might be writing a book about her accident
and he wanted them to get it right. All she remembered was seeing
rabbits scurrying out of the way as she spun out of control
a deer staring, curious, from the safety of a nearby stand of birch and fir
brittle, yellow cornstalks rising in waves to catch the car as it finally fell.

©2021 Holly Day
All rights reserved

Trees About Ghost | Judy DeCroce

The Posture of Trees

unexpectedly, 
a year has spilled its worn days along the path

breaching a stand where years lay—
where colors shuffle

autumn tags beneath and above 

like the posture of trees
I stand as straight as I can 
feeling taller
going on

Previously published by Wellington Street Review / June 2019

Peter Wilkin
October
©2021

Coming About

over waste and blessings
I summon one—one step—one foot
then the next,

maybe one long stride into an evening gray boat

to where hope will tack a reflection,
stir a swell
crossing a sudden breach

through this journey
I reach for a welcoming harbor
that still lies too long away
Miroslava Panayotava
By the River
water color
©2021

Even My Personal Ghost

crouches eyeless, harmless, perhaps

pretending ordinary,
with no will of her own.

So much remains to be done.

If lost, remember the rituals
pass into possibilities through
my silhouette and beyond.

Catch up!

Catch up when light falls
and my senses cross into night…
                                  please, promise to follow.
Miroslava Panayotava
Girl, 3
drawing
©2021

©2021 Judy DeCroce
All rights reserved

Fast-talking slow-walking | Michael Dickel

I need to write to outrun hungry demons, 
to build a new me to replace the old. 
I need to tear down stone walls of resistance, escape
anchor blocks dragging in sand of man-entropy,
gravity molding me in the murky bottom. 

Subliminal fractures reshape my structures
into a me I schemed to avoid—ruptures
of who I came to be ripping through calloused skin.
The demons chase this fast-talking slow-walking
man, eat the cheesiness of his nightstand.
My minds slip out of sight like aces sliding from a sleeve.

I need to piece together a paradox, a slipperiness,
masked confusion—one person out of many impossibilities.
One person with so many masks. One mask for so many personae.
I need to write me, to replace as soon as I can demons
outrunning my old-man’s soul. Building, building, building,
until I understand that humanity lies in the earth below
the bull’s bellow—so only my own tongue speaks, no other.
Fast-talkling slow-walking man…
Digital landscape from photographs
©2021 Michael Dickel

©2021 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved

Participation Nineteen Shoveling | Christine Du Bois

Participation

I do this as often as I can, 
because it’s really important, there’s an urgent need
for your type, they tell me.
It’s about giving, and although it’s not always comfortable,
and I have to wade through a shock of documents
so we’re all sure this is right,
it’s worth it.  It makes me feel useful, valuable,
a red-blooded citizen
contributing to the common good,
helping others who might not survive 
without community connections.
We all have unexpected moments of distress
when it matters—a lot—
whether some stranger already came and gave,
their arm stretched out and their 
life-giving gift, flowing,
flowing through the system to our need.
It’s really not so hard.  You have to register,
and there are personal questions to make certain
you aren’t disqualified.  
And certainly, you have to show up.
People explain the process to you.
You get your own special, private space.
There are buttons and beeps,  
and then you’ve given what you have to give,
and you leave, proudly sporting your sticker:
“I Voted Today.”
Edward Lee
We Will Face It Together (‘Other Seasons)
©2021

Nineteen

You are nineteen. You have nine lives,
but you don’t know that yet.
I am fifty-nine. I know about your other lives,
but not all of them, because some are still ahead of me.
You are nineteen, and your heart has shattered 
into utter, suffocating silence.
Rooms full of people who care about you,
but whom you strongly suspect would hand you
simplistic formulas for healing— 
maxims and recipes that would only make the searing
sear more—
these people are company, a comfort, and an overlying bandage, 
but not truly to be trusted.  
You are lashed and lonely, so lonely, 
a willow in an empty canyon, 
wondering where the water went, 
pushing back the screaming why, 
because there really isn’t any answer—
but mostly not daring to ask.
Is there any point for the willow to complain
or fuss or question
why the farmer redirected the cool, clear brook
somewhere else?
Is there any point in protesting
the subtle but unmistakable shaming
that comes from not fitting someone else’s narrative, 
from having dared to spread your timid branches
in a manner organic for you
but disruptive for them?
What could a willow do anyway?
So, your roots bend now, 
searching the emptiness, and yearning,
and you pretend. You go on.
You will have nine lives at least.
You do not know that yet.
But I know, and I see you and your hidden, arid roots
and I reach back across decades,
and I water you with nine thousand loving tears.
Miroslava Panayotava
In the Country
Digital art
©2021

Shoveling

Shoveling sorrow
is like shoveling snow:
you have to be strategic.
Don’t waste strength
trying to make it all look tidy.
Life’s mutts and muddy boots
will surely ruin that work.
Instead, shift your
sorrow snow just enough
so it won’t trap you.

You have to think about
how to bend to pick it up
and where you’ll put it, for
it’s wet and heavy 
and exhausting.
And after the crusty glitter--
the glamour of feeling--
has fled, 
you needn’t pretend
that it’s pretty.

You have to be careful
towards yourself, 
not to slip on ice so slick 
with melting
that you’re mashed
against your own story.
Mind all melting.
And wear mittens,
because even powder softness
can block
your blood supply.

You have to be careful
towards yourself.
Every year
people die of heart attacks
while shoveling snow
or sorrow.
Miroslava Panayotava
Winter
oil
©2021

Poetry ©2021 Christine Du Bois
All rights reserved

Lonely roads | Nadeem Fraz

The Lonely roads call our names,
While enemy roams in the streets,
Foe unseen; that gets who meets,
And victims fight the carnal flames,
Toddlers hide and play no games,
Locked in homes with cautious greets,
The lonely roads.

Life still smiles from window frames,
Our castle falls if someone cheats,
And life will offer no repeats,
Fear thy Lord; make no claims,
The lonely roads.
Miroslava Panayotova
Snow
photo
©2021

©2021 Nadeem Fraz
All rights reserved

Life in the Time of Covid | F.I. Goldhaber

Normal Life

You have a nice home to shelter in,
food to eat, shows to stream, games to play.

You don't live with an abuser or
parents who misgender you; insist 
your orientation is sinful.

Yet you complain you're deprived of your
social life, restaurants, bars, park visits.

You don't need to risk your life and your 
loved ones for minimum wage
without protection, sick leave, health care.

You've enough to pay your bills; credit
cards to order online; connected
devices allowing well-paid work.

But you miss the ball games, parties
band performances, church services.

You don't shiver in the cold, snow, and 
rain under a tent if you're lucky, 
or just a cardboard box, or blanket.

If your throat is sore, your head feels hot, 
you can telephone your physician.

You don't have to stand in line for a 
clinic that sends you home when they run 
out of test kits. Or just keep working.

You know what the virus looks like, how 
to prevent exposure and illness.

You don't toil next to those who could be 
infected with no information 
how or supplies to protect yourself. 

You fret about event and concert
cancellations, missed graduations.

You don't worry about untreated
broken bones; forced sex without access 
to birth control; deadly pregnancy.

The only people desperate for 
life to return to normal are those
privileged to enjoy "normal" life.

First Published in CHAOS: A Poetry Vortex


Essential Services

In normal times (remember those?)
we buy most of our groceries
at the local Farmer's Market.

Pandemic panic makes shopping
dangerous, negotiating
grocery store aisles fraught with peril.

Local Farmer's Markets devised
plans to save growers, produce, those
who still want healthy, tasty food.

Many can't risk encounters with 
selfish, shoppers oblivious
to social distancing orders.

As food purveyors, the market
qualifies as an essential 
service, now safer than most.

Dedicated managers have
designed pre-ordering systems,
plotted lowest contact options.

No wandering to see what might 
be available. No metal 
carts requiring disinfectants.


Farmers survive. Food doesn't rot
in the field. Consumers thrive. Yet,
some demand markets terminate.

They claim violation of the
governor's stay-at-home orders
for all but essential outings.

Demonstrating how in normal 
times Farmers Markets serve many 
purposes beyond food exchange.

Folks gather to catch up with their 
neighbors, listen to music, eat 
and drink with friends and family.

But for us and others, markets
are just a source of fresh produce,
meat, milk, bread, occasional treats.

Altered Farmers Markets permit
healthier quarantine eating
and ensure small farmers survive.

Those who come to hear music, dine 
al fresco, gossip with friends can 
return when quarrantine's lifted.

First Published in CHAOS: A Poetry Vortex


Times that Try

These times try our souls in the court of adversity
as a global pandemic reveals our true natures.

Some reached out, helped where they could: providing free lunch
to students who only eat at school; running errands 
for home-bound, frightened seniors; donating needed funds, 
supplies, masks; offering amusements, delivery.

Buying gift cards and meals to donate and deliver
to health care workers, helping struggling restaurants 
while thanking those risking their lives serving every day.

But, scammers, hackers, bankers, politicians only
saw an opportunity for profit. Dumping stock;
gouging prices; forcing employees to risk their health;
sacrificing a thousand lives for a market bump.

Taking advice from Wall Street instead of doctors and 
scientists; refusing to lock down and prevent the 
viral spread; delaying tests in search of more profits;
denying sick leave, health care; bailing out megacorps.

Partying on the beach rather than forgo spring break 
festivities; gathering at clubs and restaurants;
choosing to endanger the old and vulnerable,
unwilling to make sacrifices for common good.

Demanding at-risk employees return to work in 
hospitals; abandoning the innocent in care 
facilities; ignoring risks to immigrants in 
concentration camps, POC in profit prisons.

Maliciously pushing harmful snake oil, defective 
supplies; stealing tips from those who deliver; coughing 
on bus drivers; licking groceries, parcels, door knobs.

Ammosexuals gathering on state capitol 
steps -- armed with automatic weapons, racism, white 
supremacy -- threatening those trying to protect
the lives of everyone except the imprisoned.

The trial of souls in the court of adversity and
so many failed to exhibit basic compassion.

First published in As the World Burns, Writers and Artists Reflect on a World Gone Mad


©2021 F. I. Goldhaber
All rights reserved

Help Monday Planting | James Hannon

How Will You Help

Miroslava Panayotava
Apple
digital art
©2021
I woke in the middle of the night
to a vision I didn’t know I had desired.

A young, dark-skinned woman
In a light blue hijab and long white robe
took my left hand and slowly drew me
through my bedroom window.
She wanted to show me something. 
I knew I would follow her anywhere.

We floated slowly it seemed but 
the ground passed quickly beneath us.
Looking down through the night sky
I had many questions but I soon understood
her silent language of movement and gesture.
Trust me completely.  Be patient.

Her free hand would sometimes extend
toward the ground and we would descend
towards the earth to see illuminated families,
children at play, other children crying.

Then we stopped to hover over a broad forest.
Slowly my vision focused.
I saw men and women running 
through the night, carrying their crying
and screaming children.
As they ran fire fell from the sky 
and the forest ignited behind them.
I couldn’t tell if they would outrun the flames.

My chest tightened as did my grip on her hand.
She floated closer to me and kissed my forehead.
I felt my chest break open like a shell.
I was overcome with love and pain.

She released my hand and pointed to the ground
What, I wondered?
She held my gaze with loving eyes.
I felt her response.  How will you help?

Sarajevo Monday

Gerry Shepherd
Red Landscape
©2021
Waken at dawn
to a muezzin’s call 
from a nearby minaret.
“Hayya alas Salah; Hayya alal Falah.”
Hasten to prayer; hasten to success.
Prayer is better than sleep.

Follow footprints in the sand
of Sarajevo sidewalks
where mortar can still fall
from the walls above you,
to the market where mortars 
lobbed from hillsides mingled
animal, vegetable, mineral.
Among your twenty questions—
Is it a species that kills for pleasure?

Those are roses painted 
on sidewalks where victims fell.
That cemetery sprouts rows 
of identical white stiles. 

Now to the old town 
where young Muslim women 
have colored their hair
fuchsia, magenta, crimson.
Walk past ruins of a caravanserai
to the ancient bazaar cornered by 
a cathedral, a mosque, a synagogue.

A collective effort feeds
the wild dogs at the market.
They seem wary of strangers 
but they know their friends.

Walk down Ferhadija Street
to where you’re welcomed into
the courtyard of the old mosque.
Please observe the symbols:
no smoking, no short skirts, no guns.

In a cafe on Dulagina Cikma
hear the death metal rap of Necro
“I’ll hit that pussy up with a nasty attack”
followed by Marley’s “One Love.”

Up in the hills after-school children 
play around a broken fountain.  
Behind them eighty names
are carved in a marble wall-- 
wide-ranging birth years
and a three year range for deaths.
Abdullah, Rabia, Mohammad.

A chubby boy is teased by the others.
Two adults, maybe teachers, 
encourage him to re-engage, 
and stay to watch.
The children play again.



from Courtship of Winds, Winter 2016

Spring Planting

Ground must be plowed for the seed to be sown
but the turf cries out with a painful moan
against this inversion of all it has known.

Why here, why us? The grasses cry.
What have we done that we must die?

Ah, my friends, you’ll see, I can swear by God,
It’s your soil that counts even more than your sod.
New life more splendid than familiar grass,
sweet fruit and bright flowers will bloom at last.
Not without effort and not without pain,
but the harvest will bring inconceivable gain.
Miroslava Panayotova
Flowers 2
digital art
©2021

Poetry ©2021 James Hannon
All rights reserved

Angel | Doryn Herbst

CW: Institutional abuse

Would you know if you had met an angel?

You think you know what an angel looks like,
how an angel behaves, what
an angel does.

You think you know what beauty
is when you ask me why
my front teeth are missing,
my face is dirty, my eyes are crossed.
Because I do not have the words
to say what the others can say,
you act as if I do not think, do not feel.
You see that I cannot do what the others
can do and so you do not grant me
the right to have what the others can have.

You think you can be the judge because
you do not know just how little
you do know.

But let me tell you something,
I can stand on the furthest star.

And you know what,
it’s pure magic.

©2021 Doryn Herbst
All rights reserved

Dumb Luck and the Blame Game | Joe Hesch

I wonder why so many of us choose 
to shoulder blame when kismet drew the card.
And even when pointed out, we refuse
to accept our life’s hard just ‘cause it’s hard.

I used to say I must’ve been the one
when something inevitably went wrong.
Everyone else looked like they had won --
or at least at the sky -- whistling a song.

But after too many times taking blame,
from parents, teachers, friends for all this stuff,
I realized they couldn’t deal with the shame
to admit their fault. So I said “Enough!” 

I’m not responsible for your screwups,
and perhaps they’re not all your fault, as well.
Sometimes stuff happens, like dice rolled from cups
and taking on unearned blame’s a living hell.

Life’s a gamble, randomly dealt, lost and won
and sometimes things happen ‘cause they do.
If you can’t accept this then Life won’t be fun.
And while I hate blame, that one’ll be on you.


©2021 Joe Hesch
All rights reserved

Like My Words Touch Your Heart | Joe Hesch

When I’m done here, perhaps I'll have touched you,
and, in turn, you might reach out to touch me.
I haven’t given nor received it much, too,
not in a warm to warm sense and such, see.

Is it only with words that we connect?
No, we sense our feelings from a distance.
Words’ warmth a thermometer can’t detect,
not like skin might with skin in this instance.

But the human touch is something we’ve lost,
for so long, both giving and receiving.
Perhaps, to you my embrace feels like frost,
but we can’t see, since feeling’s believing.

Or I guess we could go on just as we are,
comfortably sharing our affection,
with my hands on these keys and this space bar,
yours touching glass and your own reflection.

So this poem’s done, hope you felt it, too, 
and thus in its own way it did its part.
It’s not enough, but the best I can do,
until we touch like my words touch your heart.


©2021 Joe Hesch
All rights reserved

Spirit Balance | Layeba Humanity

Height Of Spirit

Ok, the dire faces of time have scared a lot you.
The taunts of people many times have caught you.
Ok, those who walk with you have brought you down.
Some defeated faith, some ruined hope's town.
Ok, you must might be bound with the regret's chain.
You must have asked your rights again and again.
Ok, patience is broken, that you have built,
you must have crossed a limit beyond the brain.
But remember, remember,
There is no end of life, these are lessons of the time.
These are bitter past, not your tomorrow's prime.
You kill yourself, you blame yourself,
not the solution of any muddle.
Touching your wounds without your wish,
no one has the guts to do this crime.
Now get rid of thought's density.
Now call back your losing identity.
Stop being audience, start your show with your track.
Don't run after time, let the time follow you back.
Don't wait for the shine to light the lamp,
with inner fire light the lamp yourself.
If you fall, don't ask for hands,
with your self-power lift up yourself.
Make a syrup of  passion, make every sip your hope.
Erase anxious moments, grab the steady rope.
Pictures of abusive past, please burry and burn.
Steal the rainbow's colours, take an upbeat turn.
Won't open until your eyes,
the rising sun can't be seen.
The roads will be blurred for you,
unless you won't make it clean.
You have to loud your voice, to knock the deaf ears.
Accept the challenges, prefer your dream,
one day this world will salute you and cheers.

Balance — Get Up/Bow Down

Learn to get up,
when worry gives a stumbling block.
Learn to bow down,
when you see successful stock.
Learn to get up,
if defeat's mountain shakes your flight.
Learn to bow down,
if arrogance blinds your eyes.
Learn to get up,
if you get caught in the devilish dreams.
Learn to bow down,
if you get bound by egoistic creams.
Learn to get up with your voice,
if someone's pure side is accused. 
Learn to bow down,
if humanity enters into an amicable fused.
Of course learn to get up,
if someone challenges your self-respect.
But learn to bow down,
when it comes to someone's respect.
Learn to get up,
if you ever fall in someone's eyes.
Learn to bow down,
if you do confession, if you realize.
Learn to get up,
if you want to see the height of the sky.
But learn to bow down towards soil,
where you will be buried after you die.
Learn to get up with confident,
if someone makes fun of your personality.
Learn to bow down,
Sometimes to examine the origin of entity.
Learn to get up,
to destroy the narrow ideology.
Learn to bow to the heart,
don't always follow the brainology.
Learn to get above this thought
that I can never win.
But learn to bow down to this thought

©2021 Creator’s Name — make blocks regular instead of reusable, remove instructions and put the name here
All rights reserved

Finding Our Awakening | Linda Imbler

I pray our solitude
will teach us to listen.
But, the world is so loud,
even now pressed against its own inaction.

We wait to find a hushed rendezvous
in flaming Spring,
hoping there will be no true fail.
And, 
we are learning how easy it would be 
to end the world.

We are tiring of the long present.
Yet, just when all looks lost,
freedom will open
and be revealed here and there. 
We will become glad our bodies could find light
beyond this disease.

And, once we regain all our liberties,
we can drift above the clouds
in this moment of freedom
made by love from heroes.
To sing more, 
and talk less,
bringing us all closer to God.

And if we have enjoyed those days of seclusion
in the right way,
we will share memories
20 years from now and beyond,
and do so shamelessly.

©2021 Linda Imbler
All rights reserved

No More Sorrow & 2 more | Jacqueline Jules

The Voter Across the Aisle

I have set my bow in the cloud,
and it shall be a sign of the covenant
between me and the earth.
—Genesis 9:13
My right to feel safe from a stray bullet
versus your right to feel safe carrying a gun. 

My right to make personal choices versus 
the choices you think I should make.

When we vote we see someone 
who worships at a different altar. Not 
the person who buys food for a neighbor
or takes an elderly aunt to the doctor.

The voter across the aisle is a foe to unfriend 
on Facebook, delete from our cell phones.

We stay on our side, glaring. Pray 
for a flood to wash the wicked away.

We forget that the sign offered in the clouds 
after Noah’s ark was a weapon of war, 
turned upside down.

Could it be time to consider
arrows not aimed at each other?

Pause to admire so many different colors
sparkling side by side.

The Neighbors’ Dalmatian

Back in Nashville,
long before leash laws
when dogs were allowed
to roam across yards,
the next door neighbors
had a Dalmatian who peeved
our yapping toy poodle.

We were small dog people.
The neighbors liked them big.

And their Tommy’s tendency
to jump unnerved us.

“Tommy likes to greet people,”
the neighbors grinned, 
as we stepped back.

Sometimes I couldn’t fall asleep
imagining that spotted monster
pouncing on my precious Pickles,
her fluffy curls flattened 
beneath the bigger dog’s teeth.

But the neighbors’ Dalmatian 
never bit my poodle in the five years 
we lived side by side. Something
to recall when judging others
who don’t vote for the same breed 
of canine that I do.

No More Sorrow

She didn’t say 
he was in a better place,
or ask me to trust 
Heaven’s inscrutable plan. 

She touched my shoulder
and wished me no more sorrow.

No more days adrift,
mourning like that mother whale
who carried her dead calf 
for a thousand miles. 

She hoped I’d see color again. 
Perhaps the pink shoes in my closet
or the orange daylilies overgrown
in my yard. That I would once again 
greet sunlight curling under the curtains.
Taste honey on a corn muffin.

She wished me no more sorrow 
and gently lifted my grief.

©2021 Jacqueline Jules
All rights reserved

Courage Within | Jambiya Kai

Colours of Courage

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

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

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

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

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

I am the sound of triumph

I am, 

Africa
Miroslava Panayotava
Faces of the Rose
©2021

The Light Within

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

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

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

©2021 Jambiya kai
All rights reserved

Moments Before Dawn | Joan Leotta

Doing Their Part

In those moments before dawn
when there is just enough light 
to walk without tripping over driftwood,
I hunt for shells and watch lines of
gulls, sandpipers, terns, 
twitter and skitter, playing
in the waves and trying to distinguish
edibles from bits of sand and stone.

Suddenly, as light increases slightly,
they scramble into lines by species,
all facing the same spot on the horizon
where, if my weather app is 
to be believed, the sun will rise.
A reverent silence dominates.
They are still, so still. 
Not even gentle tickling of
rolling waves, 
elicits sound or movement.
I check my watch.
In a minute, sun is due to appear. 

Indeed, sun rises up on time.
Celebrating sun’s successful leap 
over the horizon line, a gull screeches.
Strutting about, satisfied  
they’ve done their part, all the birds
skitter, twitter, forage now with 
confidence, secure in the knowledge, 
that indeed it was their reverent silence 
that facilitated sunrise.

I tip my beach hat to the nearest bird, 
in thanks and continue, now in light,
my search for shells.

Shadow’s Twin Nature

From behind, 
my shadow reaches out
to darken, weigh down,  or sharpen

Shadows are but a gradation of gray,
a place between dark and light
layered with the wisdom of experience.

In the golden light of afternoon 
shadows stretch far ahead of us
with ideas larger than ourselves, 

inspiration for futures greater than our present.
Going ahead, they beckon us to follow, 
stepping lively like the escaped shadow of peter pan.

On cloudy days, I miss my shadow 
but I know she is attached
for I myself have sewn her to my heels.

Having taken her twin essence into myself,
I just have to remember to feed the lively one,
laugh off the one trying to drag me behind—

Forward!

How Should We Pray for the Orphans?

As winds of war rip
leaves of contentment
from the Ethiopian tree of life,
mothers huddle with their children
whispering words of comfort.
singing soft songs of hope 
while fathers bar the doors,
feed the children 
though not themselves. 

But in the orphanage, Matron can
hold only two or three on her lap.
She asks the older ones to keep 
their arms around the 
shoulders of the youngest.
She rarely can scavenge enough
to fill all the tiny bellies.
These efforts do not quell the tears
the shaking, the fears of all these.
There is no one to bar the door.
What will happen
when soldiers’ boots tramp
through the streets? 
When gunshots replace birdsong?
When the smoke of guns
disguises the sun itself?
When the children now 
in mothers’ arms find 
themselves alone and pour 
like a rain of tears into 
that tiny orphanage?
Can more fit on matron’s lap?
I hope my prayer can leap
across time and space
and place a hedge 
around them all.
Comfort, feed, protect.
Is this how we should pray?

©2021 Joan Leotta
All rights reserved

When I Lift My Eyes to the Sky | Taman Tracy Moncur

When I lift my eyes to the sky the magnificence of colors in creation soothe my troubled soul. Swimming in turmoil through turbulent waters navigating the human condition wiping away the residue…the residue of days lost in the rapid passing of time. The residue of hours devoured pursuing a flat line of self-serving activities. The residue of combative aggressive types intensifies the hype, vicious in pursuit of power. Greed the cataclysmic seed to success reigns. Yet, the fortissimo sounds of unified voices harmonize in hope. 

When I lift my eyes to the sky the magnificence of colors in creation soothe my troubled soul. News of the day rocks reason in a season taunted by hostility. Demonic voices destroy tenuous threads of sanity. COVID-19 bells ring while trials for murder sing of camouflaged racism and brutalities. The ratta tat tat of assault rifles signify the right to bear arms in a gun crazed culture. Babies crying with fear want to be near to mother love, papa love, family love. Nurturing now wails, and weeps in misery’ Yet melodic musical tones sing “Joy cometh in the morning!” 

When I lift my eyes to the sky the magnificence of colors in creation soothe my troubled soul. War ravages the human spirit! Cultures clash. Civil war erupts. Ideologies abruptly declare the right to eradicate with hate ideals of difference. Poison toxins contaminate breath, bombs explode, bullets mock life laughing at resistance mowed down in the name of dogma. Yet, a peace encompasses the universe, tolling a bell of love that cuts through strife, heralds the fragility of life, and pricks the heart to empart kindness, forgiveness, and happiness.

When I lift my eyes to the sky the magnificence of colors in creation soothe my troubled soul. 


©2021 Taman Tracy Moncur
All rights reserved

Breaking the hermit door | P. C. Moorehead

Birth

Each day is so long,
a little eternity in itself,
but an eternity of disbelief and nearing despair,
of forlorn hope and lack of loveliness,
a long night when my face is shut,
and my mind is involved,
and no one knows,
nor can I say,
what this is,
borne within me,
a new self,
uncreated,
belonging to You,
a stranger here.

No Explaining

Here, where there is no explanation,
I exist.

Here, in silence,
I am.

Here, before you,
I stand.

Here, I bow.
I am.

Opening

Breaking the hermit door was fun,
pulling down the wood,
wearing away the hearth,
hurling myself against its strength.

The door held for a long time.
Then, a crack appeared.
It became a chasm,
letting in light, and openness, and hope.

I waited patiently.
The door shuddered.
It died.
I lived.

©2021 P. C. Moorehead
All rights reserved

Pinwheel Invitation Flickers | Betty Naegle

Pinwheel Down

my thoughts pinwheel
in a tinted blur
whirring, churning,
some spin out
lost 
at least short-term
most continue to blend, chop,
stop!
take a deep breath, omm . . .

the discontent
sneaks in
creating  
dust devils of worry – 
breathe, one one-hundred, two one-hundred . . .

the pinwheeling bits
jig and jumble
what are thoughts anyway?
electro-chemical reactions – 
focus, be in the moment 

the hurricane building  
in my head
downgrades 
to a tropical storm – 
inhale, close your eyes
 
I strain to imagine 
calm
the vice grip of tension
easing . . . 
clenched teeth slacken,
fists uncurl –
breathe, sigh, surrender     

thoughts retreat
I lie on my back 
motionless
“corpse pose”

exhale
Miroslava Panayotava
Fire
Digital on painting
©2021

Invitations

extraordinary moments
stream into our day
like light beams
through a cloud

opportunities swallowed 
into the flurry
of daily routine – 

the smile of a stranger
on a morning walk, ignored,
thoughts cluttered with tasks of the day

the warbling of a purple finch
upon the feeder, drowned out 
by the din of television news

the fragrance of roses and freesia
perfuming the garden, missed
by endless emails and texts . . . 

a tiny maple leaf stuck 
to the window
by a sun shower – 
if noticed,
it looked like a baby’s footprint,
signing into the world

with each day
flickers of light whisper 
invitations to engage
to see, to smell, to hear
the music of the world around us
to capture the light,
savor the moment
Ann Privateer
Unnamed 5
©2021

Flickers

A low angled sun sends 
light flickers through my window, 
as cedar branches dance in the wind.

Shifting patterns
of light and dark
skip upon the floor.

I avoid the shadows – 
focus only on the light
as I tiptoe through my reminiscences.

I do not want to wake the hurt, 
the anger, the grief. . .
only joyful memories will sustain me
as the holidays near.
Miroslava Panayotava
abstract composition
©2021

©2021 Betty Naegle
All rights reserved

Night Butterfly Thoughts | Antoni Ooto

On the Sharp Edge of Night

a trove of unsettling dreams descends;

    the buckling scaffold swaying
    the parked car missing
    running lost in an unwelcoming city

but lately,
while treading a new landscape,
my dreams have changed

fired with color and healing,
a comfort now,
stresses unhook 

and I walk slowly forward
following a spirit
into “a warm honey light.”*
                                                             *Jane Kenyon
Gerry Shepherd
Mysterious Landscape — Investigation Two
©2021

A Butterfly

Her heart skipped 
slowly     or  too slowly
fast      or too fast
a butterfly rhythm without discipline

concern was only for others
and too, her generous smile proving she was alright

when she died
all fears of loss left with her

so too, a favorite chair
the coral afghan    music    friends
and letters in a box marked “save”
Miroslava Paanayotava
Girl and Rose
©2021

Dropping Off Thoughts

Breathe

in 1 out 2…

Choosing a path toward nothing
offers no edges

People unbidden, visit openings,
and places postcard through

I’m never alone in my head
even crowded at times—playing host

in 3 out 4…

Tree-dropped pears of summer
the attar of pine
Aunt Wanda’s smile

and those childhood hiding places
erased for now—

try again
Breathe

in 1 out 2…
Gerry Shepherd
Meditation in a Wood
©2021

©2021 Antoni Ooto
All rights reserved

Yes Spring | Bozhidar Pangelov

In memory of Jamie Dedes
I sit and slowly interpret
because my gaze is wasted
so early and so late for
emerald fires Yes spring

one’s pupils shine even now
now the world is a mouse
now it’s Robinson Crusoe
it is a consolation to see some by the hand

Yes spring

slow skies pass by
new buds swell
and farewells.
Edward Lee
Brighter Days (‘Other Seasons’)
©2021

©2021 Bozhidar Pangelov
All rights reserved

The Grudge | Seema Prusty

Dreams, spoilt 
Expectations, marred
Aspirations, killed.

Then she came, as if to complement me-
Traversing my soul and heart,
Invading my every thought,
Leaving an indelible stain of the how it all happened.

Resentful, as I become,
Languished in dreamlessness,
Alienated from the quest of life,
As they live rent-free in my mind.
So heavy a price I pay!

Encumbered, as I bear with my grudge
Waiting for trespassers seeking my forgiveness
I only find more paths crossing
My pains fading into oblivion.

Left with nothing but gratitude
Slowly, the pangs of the grudge 
Fade away
I thank the Universe for bestowing on me
The honor of forgiving, I touch the void
As everything falls in its place.
Miroslava Panayotova
Rose and Sea
digital art
©2021

©2021 Seema Prusty
All rights reserved

Pandemic Feelings | Samantha Terrell

Pandemics, and Bigger Problems

Ann Privateer
Unnamed 4
©2021
Nations—
United around toilet paper—
But divided by, “I can’t breathe,”
And necks pressed down by authoritarian knees— 
Are misplaced.

Politicians—
United by crooked systems—
Who built fortress walls around
The people’s house  
In order to shut citizens out,

Endanger them
More than
Bodies—united, risking
Social distancing,
To protest corruption.  

Minds united
By democracy and peace
And social justice remedies,
Will bring restoration
To a nation.

Fictionalized Feelings

Miroslava Panayotava
abstract composition, 2 digital
©2021
Complex
Puzzles
With scattered pieces

Try to put themselves together,
Positioning jagged parts that do not fit.
The other bits

Scramble to find their places.
The alignment isn’t right.
Some pieces are too tight,

While others simply sit
Cast aside,
Unused.

But a cult-like desire to
Be part of the whole, stay –  
However worthlessly – in place,

Keeps the stubborn ones
Jamming things up, as part of a collective
Belief system, prohibitive

To healing progress.

Waterboarding (Will Never Work)

Edward Lee
Reach Up
(‘Between Sleep And Dreams’)
©2021
The ending
Of torture
Is not equivalent
To healing,
And

The absence
Of dread
Does not
Equate to hope –
But

It’s a start,
Nurtured by
Recognizing peace
Is not a science,
But an art.

Poetry ©2021 Samantha Terrell
All rights reserved

Apocalyptic Wind | Andrew Williams

She puzzles us. 
She births, vivifies, and heals.
She kills, purges, and wounds. 
Her stratified stirring blossoms 
Siberian squill amid demise. 
From the future, she renews the present, 
transforms the past.
She is earth-shattering renewal— 
apocalyptic wind—
Spirit—paradox. 
A Breath to Save the World
©2021 Edward Lee

Poetry ©2021 Andrew Williams
All rights reserved

Breath | Ellen Woods

five haiku

i.

up in the attic
I hammer my wild way out
sinking breath by breath

ii.

down the bannister
elephant smiles before me
blossoms in their trunks

iii.

releasing my debts
those heavy rocks I carry
freedom’s face appears

iv.

go down far enough
a foreign land emerges
original mind

v.

my thirst a mirage
at the well I need not drink
plum tree overhead

©2021 Ellen Woods
All rights reserved

Spirit’s Presence | Ellen Woods

six haiku

i.

all seeing spirit
witnesses our grief our fear
petals hold the rain

ii.

destroyer of hate
by any means required
dandelions burst

iii.

Miroslava Panayotova
Flowers
digital
©2021
lover without cause
constant everlasting grace
sun rises in east

iv.

binder of all threads
marbled fabric provides truth
fields of wildflowers

v.

provider of strength
hands feet mind heart know the way
black calla unfolds

vi.

wholeness restorer
gathering each broken shard
rivers flow to sea

©2021 Ellen Woods
All rights reserved

Photo: The Treehouse, Kat Patton ©2021

Fiction

Life Insurance | Hildie S Block

Howard, who speaks slowly and with a “cured” stutterer’s affectation, asks me when I will die.

That’s not exactly what he says, it’s what he wishes to ask, but can’t.

“And your parents?  Did either of them die of a heart attack, stroke or cancer…before the age of 65?”

Before?  

Of those diseases? 

  “No.”  

They are dead though. They never turned 70. I don’t say this.

He asks the wrong questions.

He wants to hear good things. It means money for him. I know this. A commission. Continued employment. A life. A monthly check from us, against what we hope won’t happen.

It means “life insurance” for me. I know this. As much as it can be known.

The trick is only to answer what is asked.

I keep trying.

”Your height and weight?”

Ugh.

“Has a doctor diagnosed you with any of the following in the last 10 years?”

Wrong question again. Answer is no. Not in the last 10 years.

Keep trying, Howard.

“How much life insurance do you want?”

Long pause. Bile rises in throat. Burns. Want. Want. Not sure I want this at all.

“How much…ma’am?”

“Yes?”

“Life insurance. How big a policy?”

“How do people usually—“

“Well, you take your income.”

“My income. That’s my value. My income. Are you sure?”

“You know—if you don’t have a job, you do things that would need to be done, you know?  So you figure out how much it would cost for someone else to do that and you multiply by—“

“I multiply?”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes?”

“Yes, you take those things—you know, child care and cleaning and things that other people could do, and you multiply it—“

“I multiply it.”

My head is reeling. My heart shatters into a million trillion gazillion little pieces. My value. Multiplied by years I’m not there. My life expectancy, by my weight. My age. When my parents died.

The wrong questions.

“Ma’am—your husband has filled a lot of this out for you.”

“He has?”

“Yes.”  My wifely duties, multiplied by sitters so he can go date and replace me?

“Do you want me to go over it?”

“No. I don’t think so. “

“Okay, then, ma’am, let’s just keep going then, we are almost done.”

“We are?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Okay.”

“So I need to set up an appointment for someone to come out and take your blood.”

“Of course.”

“And you’ll need to sign.”  

“Of course.”  Sign, in blood, the contract.

“And that will be it.”

“Right.”

“As soon as we figure out how big a policy.”

“Right.”  Pregnant pause. “That’s the trick, isn’t it?”

“Ma’am?”

“That’s the trick.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I don’t understand.”

“How to value someone. I mean, Howard — How much for your mom?”

“Ma’am?”

“How much?”

“What do you mean?  How much would you pay for when she isn’t there?”

“Ma’am, I’m not sure you get –“

“Really?  Isn’t that what you are asking me?  To prepay for? In case I’m not there?  Someone else?”

“Ma’am, this is just life insurance.”

“Howard, you are very young, aren’t you?”

“Ma’am?”

“Not even 25 yet, right?  Your grandparents still alive?”

“Ma’am? Do you want to talk to my supervisor?”

“No, Howard. I don’t need your supervisor.”

I take out a paper and pencil and my calendar – start putting dollar signs next to the cramped and crowded, boxes – adding it up.

My life, my parents, dead in their 60s, the things my doctors had diagnosed me with more than 10 years ago.

My hot pink calculator works the numbers, straight to “E.”

My over sharpened pencil tip breaks (NOTE: mess with the electric pencil sharpener). I take the pencil and cleave it, break it in half, cleanly in the middle. Now I have 2 pencils. That’s power.

The evening continues. Dinner, homework, kids ready for bed.

Then the husband speaks as I settle in the couch to watch the flickering images of the TV.

“Did you talk to the guy?”

“The guy?”

“From the insurance?”

“Howard? “

“I don’t know his name.”

“Yeah, I talked to him.”

“And?”

“He’s sending stuff.”

“Oh, good. Check that off.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“What?”

“The policy.”

“What?”

“I don’t want to know the size.”

“Oh, I just got –“

“I don’t want to know.”

“Okay.”

“Can you get the kids off tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Why?  What’s up?”

In my head, I hear myself say my supervisor has called a meeting. But I don’t say that out loud. It isn’t true.

“I have a thing.”

“A thing?”

“Yeah.”

“Early.”

“Okay.”

“You alright?”

“I have no idea.”

“Doctor?”

“No. Well, yeah, sort of. Has to be first thing. They said.”

“Okay.”

It was that easy. The thought in my head. The supervisor  I had to get out of the house—away from this to figure it out. I could do it. I just had to leave really really early.

And I didn’t need a pencil, or a calculator. Of this I was sure.

I didn’t even need to set an alarm. I sat straight up in bed at 3am, awake. Grabbed some favorite, ancient clothes, an old geeta burner shirt, clam diggers made of the softest cotton. I didn’t need a magic bag full of emergency kid’s supplies, band aids, tissues, restaurant toys. I needed very little.

The math.

When my parents were 20, 25 years older than I was at this very minute, they were dead.

15 years ago, doctors had told me all sorts of things were wrong with me, but 

for the last 10? I’d been fine—busy, caring for small children who insisted on growing every day.

I jumped into my car, and drove. Somehow I knew if I could change things, this day, it would matter.

New math, number of miles times speed limit over a full tank.

I drive, and I drive east. To the ocean. To Rehoboth. If I could get to the beach. If I could get to the sand and the endless, rhythmic crashing of the enormous powerful ocean onto the sand, I know it would all make sense.

I had this. At this time of day there would be no traffic. I have a meeting. I smile.

As I drive, the fear falls off. I leave it by the roadside. 

The numbers that chase each other through my head, slow.

Over the enormous suspension bay bridge, I turn on music. Beach music. Seems right. The calypso steel drums.

It is still very dark, but I can sense my heart reassembling, I can feel it.

The flat land of farms speeds by me, the music draws me east like a tractor beam.

I blink, and I can barely remember why I was going to the beach, but I blink again and pull into one of the new metered spaces on Rehoboth Avenue. Time ticks down.

I get out and walk straight for the surf. Past the bandstand. Past the Dolle’s sign. Past the beach grass. The pink light is beginning to come up over the blue grey ocean.

Toss my shoes back toward the sand and away from the sea – two gulls caw in search of Boardwalk fries.

Stand before the ocean in silence, in the space between — the meditative space.

Stare out into the sea for an answer. I face the sun as it begins to peek over the horizon.

In the next minute, the sun explodes over the ocean like a kaleidoscope of fractured color that exactly matches my newly reorganized heart – as if they were both identical mosaics of Indian mirrored sequins.

Just as suddenly as my heart shines and the sky sparkles, as if in a spasm, my arms meet overhead, my left left leg lifts.

I smile.

A pod of dolphins leaps by, joyfully billowing spray. A celebration.

The ocean pounds, so much bigger and more powerful than me. 

The pounding is my heart.

I know the answer.

I am alive.

The world is still  Beautiful. The salt air felt right and restorative. It is a place I could be in forever. A moment. Held in my heart and shooting out my fingertips.

It has been over 15 years ago—but the thing that had evened out the illnesses, time, space. Breathing. Maybe even some yoga.

Yes.

A rainbow kite flies over head. Bikes thump on the boardwalk. A lab chases a Frisbee into the surf.

My supervisor. Called a meeting. The message? Greet the day. Salute the sun.

Okay then.

Arms up, overhead, left leg slides up the right leg. I can hear the instructions clearly in my head. Audibly. Forward fold.

Plank. Grasshopper, cobra. Dog, child.

Come up.

Repeat.

Breathe.

This is

my

Life insurance.


©2021 Hildie S Block
All rights reserved

Art: Flight, Miroslava Panayotova ©2021

Music and Video

Soldiers in the Army of Mercy & Peace | Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

We ran through the back door in the middle of the night
Didn't know what we ran for through the snow and the ice
Headed straight for the border, just to keep warm
Trying to find our mother, in the middle of the storm

We entered the city just before dawn
Singing ‘isn't it a pity,' something was wrong
Said a prayer in the corner of a room filled with mirrors
a young girl gave a warning, she said “don't interfere”
No time for hesitation, to say the least
We are soldiers in the army of mercy and peace

We fell into a circle of imaginary friends
In line for a morsel, forgiveness of sins
Looked up from the tower as the clock struck twelve
on the evening of power, St. Mary’s bells

We are gathered at the table, we stand before the throne
We kneel at the altar on the battlefield alone
We will sing this song in harmony
And our numbers will increase
We are soldiers in the army of mercy and peace

We cry when we are happy, we smile when we’re in pain
We will all march together in the pouring poison rain
We are one in a million and a million to one
Are the odds in our favor to make sure this work is done

No more weapons of destruction
No more guns designed to kill
No more rules of mass instruction that annihilate free will
We will raise our hands in freedom and our love will never cease
We are soldiers in the army of mercy and peace

We survive in a holocaust of treachery and deceit
We will fight no matter what the cost, we will not accept defeat
We are held in a higher hand, held to a higher truth
Called to be a chosen man, no matter what we do

There's a light behind this curtain, there's a voice that calls our name
There's a future that is certain, breaking free from rusted chains
Now we drink from a common well, and our prayers have been received
We are soldiers in the army of mercy and peace
We are soldiers in the army of mercy and peace

Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke sing Soldiers in the Army of Mercy & Peace


©2015 Joe Kidd
All rights reserved

The Children They Will Rise | Nandi & Roman

Nandi Bushell & Roman Morello, two children, wrote and performed this. With a little help from proud others.

More information about how this came to be made.

Art: Whitehaven Harbour Entrance, Tom Higgins ©2021

Creative NonFiction

Little Amal Goes to Wentworth Castle | John Anstie

My wife and I have been volunteering at Wentworth Castle Gardens in South Yorkshire for the past ten years. On Saturday 30th October, something very special happened here. We were stewards charged with a certain amount of ‘crowd control’, in the castle folly at the top of the fifty acre gardens. It was here that Little Amal would complete her visit to the site, after her walk through the gardens. This was no ordinary day here. Wentworth Castle Gardens had been taken under the wing of the National Trust only two years before. We were very fortunate to have been selected as the penultimate destination in the UK as part of Little Amal’s long walk of 8,000 km (5,000 miles). ‘The Walk’, which became the title of the project, started at Turkey’s border with Syria and went all the way across Europe to Calais, across the English Channel to Dover, to London, Birmingham and Manchester, including several destinations in between, before completing her journey on the streets of Glasgow in Scotland during COP26, which was a last minute and very appropriate addition to Little Amal’s extraordinarily long journey.

Photo: ©2021 John Anstie

The inclusion of Wentworth Castle Gardens to the list of destinations was brought about courtesy of the lead taken by Barnsley Museums in collaboration with the Northern College and the National trust.  I was already very impressed and I dare say moved by what I had already learned of this creative and artistically brilliant but challenging project. Whilst it had become known by the rather understated title of ‘The Walk’, it was actually a logistically very challenging project involving the crossing of many international borders on route, not to mention the planning and coordinating of events at over sixty-five cities and towns along the way. The result is no less than a triumph of the human spirit over adversity. To be present and witness to Little Amal’s arrival at the castle, and to feel my own as well as to see other people’s emotional responses to this huge demonstration of art was beyond all expectations. 

This project was an enormous feat of logistical organisation as well as being an extraordinary work of theatre and art, including some astounding puppetry, the quality of which we have come to expect of the South African based Handspring Puppet Company, makers of the famous puppet in the stage production of ‘Warhorse’. The often improvised art and theatre along Little Amal’s route over a period of four months from July to November 2021, added impact. But when she arrived at the castle, the meaning of the word ‘moved’ was transformed into something of a magnitude I could not have expected. By her shear size, the way she moved, the extraordinary look and design of her face, the movement of her eyes, mouth, body, arms and hands, all controlled by the stilt walker inside and the flanking puppeteers. The effect of the whole transcended her inanimate construction. The puppet’s design and puppeteers’ abilities enabled the puppet to become truly human, a little girl, who wants to be friends with everyone she meets, whilst at the same time she longs for a reunion with her family. A little girl, who was larger than life on many levels … and three and a half metres tall.!

Photo: ©2021 John Anstie

It moved me even more to experience the reaction of the crowds of people around her, who accompanied her with quiet and very courteous respect. No real ‘crowd control’ was required. There was music and singing and moments when poetry or thanks were read to her by a child, a woman then a man, in Arabic. Even though I didn’t understand a word of what was spoken, it was still somehow very moving, hugely moving. It brings that same feeling back, here and now, as I relate this story. Towards the end of her lengthy wander about the castle, Little Amal came as close to us as she was going to get. Her head raised and the gaze from her huge brown eyes seemed to look straight at us. It felt for a moment as if she was trying to connect with us. It left us feeling neither threatened nor exposed, but just as if she was asking for help, without actually asking.  

One further gesture that proved to be perhaps the most poignant moment of all, occurred when, in the centre of the castle, she walked around the circle of the crowd around her, then stopped and stood in front of and bowed, perhaps more in hope than expectation, to offer both hands to a woman dressed in a hijab. She paused there for a moment and then I knew what this meant. One of those many moments during her long journey, always searching for her mother, her family, when she thought she’d found her … and I choked. 

Official video of the day ©2021 Barnsley Museums
The conclusion of Little Amal’s visit to Wentworth Castle Gardens. Video ©2021 John Anstie

Footnote: ’Amal’ is the Arabic word that means ‘hope’ or even ‘longing’.


©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Healing Spirits | Jennifer Baker-Porazinski

The Spirit and Healing (and Healing the Spirit)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our own lives depend on it.


©2021 Jennifer Baker-Porazinski
All rights reserved

By the Grace | Gayle Bell

I was covered in potato chip crumbs, stuffing baggies while Ms. C the volunteer monitor/shelter resident at the soup kitchen barked orders to the guys milling around smoking cigarettes, washing down containers and the truck for the soup delivery. I was sitting next to a chatty com/serve girl who didn’t take one breath filling us in on her life. My newfound sista friend and I rolled our eyes and looked to the girl with compassion and mild amusement.

Every now and again the sista would take her key out her pocket and say she was afraid to lose her key. Seeing as she was in a bit of distress about it, I offered to give her one of my numerous huge keyrings on my own massive keychain full of trinkets and a handy light. She thanked me profusely and told me this was the first key that she owned in 12 years. She wasn’t gonna lose this key and a few chips missed their target while my eyes misted over at the implication. While I took a minute to take a sip of coffee and composure she took a bag of chips, water, cookies, and a Dr. Pepper, made with real sugar, girl, to take back to her home.

They are making me do 90 in 90, I’ll get my 90-day chip then.

It’s all good, said Chatty Cathy, not realizing what she missed. Me and Sis were talking about the spirit at that point, the ice being broken and the more than one makes an AA/NA meeting, experience, strength, and hope, and all that. I gave her a micro-drunk/high along and told her I have been clean and sober for 16 years. Well, asserted Cathy, I don’t believe in any of that stuff. Just what’s in front of me is what I believe.

By the time the Soupman© and volunteer sergeant agreed to take Cathy for a ride in the Soup Mobile® to make the deliveries, me and Sis breathe a quiet sigh of relief and silence. Now be careful Ms. Lady, make sure you close those bags real tight before you put them in the bucket. Don’t want the birds getting too many, they’re fat enough. Anyway, the spirit is the important thing, you don’t have to be religious to be spiritual. I wholeheartedly agreed and gave my tired old speech about the gang affiliation that I find most religions to be. The spirit is why we were both sitting on picnic benches on a beautiful spring day stuffing buckets with donated chips, gummy bears, and cereal bars along with the soup that keeps most of the homeless folks from dying that day.

I was told by one of the guys leaning on the fence that the gummy bears and bags of cookies are traded for cigarettes for the folks on the streets with kids. Sis told me that a couple of occasions she wanted to commit suicide while she was out there. I told her my attempt with a bottle of my ex-husband’s nitroglycerin pills washed down with a pint of Southern Comfort; seeing my Guardian Angel step through the wall in a bathrobe and hair curlers pissed at me because I disturbed her on her day off. By the end of my monologue, several of the guys holding up the back fence were quiet, coughing and placing nervous glances my way.

Miroslava Panayotova
Girl
drawing
©2021

My angel is 8 ft tall with a large sword, armor all over his body, when I was gang raped, he kept me from getting killed, her smile closed, a window with the shades drawn, glimpses of shadows. The men buzzed around us trying to be useful, finding cigarette butts to pick up, and offer sodas and smokes to me and her. There were water buckets to clean up, sounds of chips being crammed into baggies, soup buckets to wash.


©2021 Gayle Bell
All rights reserved

Wanted For Reckless Sandwich Buying | Gayle Bell

Walking toward my bus I see a woman dressed in 3 layers of clothing She is mumbling to 3 people who, of course pass her as if she is a brick in the wall. I look her in the eye. Spare, some change? she asks the ground in front of her. Sure, I say merrily. This is so embarrassing, looking me in the eye. I chat to her and apologize for taking too long to find my coin purse and give her my unasked-for story about being homeless once. I take her hand, put it in mine, and tip the contents of my change purse. I apologize about the pennies; pick up the ones that spill on the ground. As I’m about to wish her the best day possible, I hear at my right shoulder; Mam, do you know what you and she is doing is illegalI turn around to see this bicycle cop.

The lady shrinks inward even more. I beg your pardon, I say with as much ice calm as I can put in my voice. You see where she is standing? He says pointing to the liquor store. I haven’t had a drink in 2 days.

Mam, you don’t have to say anything to him, I say. Ms. Lady, you can have the money back, I don’t want you to get in trouble, say she. What kind of crazy magumbo world have I landed in? Ms. Lady, my only regret is I don’t have more to give you, go on ahead, he’s not going to bother you, I try to shoo her out of harm’s way, but she won’t move out of fear for me. I wheel back to him, Sir, I don’t give a damn if she wants to buy talent, drink, rock, sandwich, or some shrimp fried rice. My Lord said to give, He did not give me conditions on giving. I used to drink and drug, what has that got to do with anything?

Mam, panhandling is illegal. I could give you a ticket or have you arrested. I put both my wrists forward as if they already have cuffs on them. Here you go, do you need my id? It’s in my bra. (I’ve seen enough police beat downs to give officers fair warnings of where the id is and not just go for where it is located). Well, I’ll just give you a warning for now, just don’t do it again. As often as I can sir, as I watch the lady walk off, safe for now. When I look across the street, I see some young heads, who have apparently watched this ridiculous soap opera. I see one of the guys say to the other one while pointing at me She’s gangsta.

No, I want to tell the brotha, just trying to buy a lady a sandwich.

Kat Patton
Grandma’s Hands
drawing
©2021

©2021 Gayle Bell
All rights reserved

The Way of Life | Corinne Natalia

A life began May 14, a little before seven am—the monochrome drab of COVID lockdown scribbled over my daily routine. Cycling through unread emails, my mind slouching in the humdrum. But life wormed through my screen with prospective roommate’s message as a facade. A digital picture, bloated and blurry, with only the partial edge visible, popped onto my screen. The email reminds me now of a burrito eagerly stuffed and overflowing with beef juice and sour cream. Sloppy, but few reject a good burrito. Several scrolls down led me to her elated message:

“Okay, I’ve been trying to wait, but I’m so excited! My nephew was born this morning! Guess where I’ll be a lot of weekends!”

Automatically I congratulated her. A stingy response for the climax of a couple’s patient nine-month labors in hope. They sailed through waves of anxiety, uncertainty, and anticipation only moored in hope. They sent up prayers for their firstborn, foraged for cribs, commiserated in Lamaze classes and festered in their impatience during grandparent visits. A little boy clumping through the ceiling of an ant mound is nothing compared to the rapid scramble of first-time parents eyeing the due date. Yet, still, there is no certainty. Hospitals only gave higher success rates—not guarantees. Preparation kicks such fears aside. They welcomed someone so brand-new in a cycle so old.

But he’s just my roommate’s nephew. How could I understand the significance of such a miracle?

Thus, came Birth.


Continuing into May 15, beginning around eight forty-five morning. I shifted covers over myself and onto to my mother as we waited for the funeral to begin. The laptop blared out fuzzy light and shuddered from the sunlight tiptoeing in over our neighbor’s house through our window. The sun wanted to know who left its embrace.

Her name was Thizbe, and only a handful could attend her funeral. The rest made do with a screen.

Her father read tributes to her. Her mother choked up in remembrance. Her brother compared her to a rose.

Others remembered her love of dance, some of her care for animals, and a few her pure enjoyment of food. All held a kaleidoscope of memories. Energy laced with mindfulness cascaded down her spring-coiled hair and spiraled into her toes.

Thizbe. A name like breathing in strawberry sunbeams as thistles nuzzle your cheek.

Thizbe. Storytellers evidently dress this earth to their liking because someone draped a sullen robe of foreshadowing over such a radiant name. The Greeks stained the name in grief, but the tragedy piercingly resounded in Shakespeare.

Thizbe died at twenty-two. Gratefully, none of Ovid’s forlorn and improvident lovers reached their caressing limbs over this tale. A hidden heart condition overcame her while she jogged beside her younger brother.

No one ever diagnosed her; neither she nor her family knew. She exhausted all her strength and never recovered. Even though they flew back in time on the soonest flight they could, her parents missed her passing.

If she resided in fiction rather than flesh, an AP English student interrogating the story for symbolic meaning would rip it into the surrounding details. They would slobber over the minute connections between her sunny disposition and her heart—a twist on a Story of an Hour. Metaphysical literary analysis remains too crude a lens for inspection.

No one plastered her from their mind to a page. No strings braided in a wordsmith’s imagination and no phrases knotted into eloquent thoughts strung her up in paragraphs. No daydreamer caught her from the clouds of his petty musings and condemned her in his campfire yarns.

She lived full of contradictions and anomalies and idiosyncrasies and mediocrities through the breath of God.

Authors write for millennia but never could a character come close to the richness of any person, least of all her. If any face conviction for watering her down, turning a memory into a lowly shadow, I am guilty. But in my defense or confession, pre-mortem, I only heard her once.

She sang with her family at our church for Christ’s birth. Our interaction ended in that snug, humble sanctuary with a song. I cobbled everything else together from the testimonies of her loved ones and the impression left on me. What an impression.

She was taken too soon…too soon. For what?

For the trembling voices of her parents and the shaking hands of her brother. The question probably sears like an iron. I couldn’t help wondering, though—my logic meddling with my emotions. Leaning against mom, I, safe and breathing, snuggled on our couch as her memorial service continued.

If the Creator did not deceive, then she must have lived fully in the numbered days God lent her. However, such thoughts do not tenderly embrace an aching mother’s heart or sit quietly with a father’s anguish. Instinctively, such thoughts appear like a briar of thorns growing among rocks. Heavy and sharp. Yet, in her twenty-two years with such a vital, bursting life that she generously shared, what did she lose? Everyone dies.

In the end, poetry won. They buried her in a meadow, silently watching a lake. On her tombstone, they inscribed:  

She moved through the world like she danced- freely sharing joy, laughter, light, encouragement, faith, and love. She is radiant.

So came Death.


Ending at around three am in the morning, on May 16. Mom and I again plotted back to the living room couch and snapped our computer open. Merrier moods abounded despite sleep deprivation. My best friend’s brother met a girl. Quirks and passions matched and began to intertwine like braids of a rope. A gem and a one-question interview sealed the contract of souls, and they chose to have their hybrid wedding in the spring.

Synthesizers transcribed the sounds digitally and repeated them back to mom and me. Pairs, dusting the sanctuary of emptiness, waltzed down the aisle two-by-two into pews—not nearly so divinely inspired nor impressively crafted as an ark, but suitable for their purpose. At attention on either side, bride’s maids swathed in purple, and groomsmen resembling an uptown boy band fizzled out from consciousness as the bride wriggled side to side in ecstasy between her father and brother.

“Who gives this woman to be married?”

“We dooooooo.”

The drone came out low like cow bellows and laughter from the standing congregation resounded through the hall. Humor already echoed deep into this marriage. Music pulled everyone to their feet, and they turned their eyes to heaven—up to the screen with words scrolling down about God’s faithfulness. The monitors showed the lyrics, but the couple looked at God.

The pastor prayed, and the couple inclined their faces to one another, foreheads gently kissing. Tenderness brimmed then overflowed and leaked out our computer screen like two fountains too full, yet unable to keep from cutting off or spilling out onto everything. The couple only celebrated vague expectations of hardships or joys.

Anger, frustration, heartache, laughter, mundanity, encouragement, taxes, vacations, ministry, embraces, crashes, heights, promises, all wafted around them waiting to land a few months later. A good beginning, yet everything in between would make the difference. But of course, what are vows for?

“I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife (husband). To have and to hold from this day forward… to cherish to lead our home in Christ. To rub your feet (make you coffee), to empower (encourage) and provide (support) for you, to treasure you above all others, till death do us part according to God’s Holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge myself to you.”

Work, true work, began every moment after those words.

So came Love.


One day, will I be the same? Maybe I’ll marry; I know I will die. My faith assures me I will celebrate a wedding once I am dead. I feel guilty because I only wrote on youth. Wisdom’s quiet though. I never immersed myself in the engulfing wellspring of maturity you find from drowning in the years God’s given. But I want the same time-touched waters floating gratefully in my grandmother’s eyes and whispering in her smile. I want to know. I want to understand.

I’m not privy to that experience yet, and sometimes that’s how life goes. Mine spent three youthful days in spring—a birth before a death, a death before a marriage.

So continues life.


©2021 Corinne Natalia
All rights reserved

Omicron Action | Reed Perkins

The new COVID variant Omicron is on the way, and at this point this whole situation is as predictable as it was avoidable. As long as there are vulnerable hosts for the virus, it is going to continue to mutate. Globally, we still have two massive host populations.

The first is anti-vaxxers. This includes, as much as they sometimes object to being labeled as such, people who are refusing the vaccines on the principle of You Can’t Make Me. It’s both well within their rights and morally fucking reprehensible; I just don’t have any more time for them right now.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated. Wear your mask. Wear it correctly.

The second group is composed of populations that have been ignored for vaccine distribution. These are largely colonized nations which much of the planet continues to treat as if they don’t exist. If we don’t start a strong push to get the vaccine to these populations, in the same way we successfully pushed polio and smallpox vaccine initiatives, we will never be rid of this thing because there are always going to be isolated rural populations that a new variant can spring from.

Gerry Shepherd
©2021

It is simple to place all of the blame for Omicron on Group 1, but the virus makes no distinction between the two. There is a whole group of historically sidelined people who would actually welcome the help, and we both could and should center their needs. This forces some difficult introspection though, because we can easily place the blame on members of Group 1 and their personal refusal, but the responsibility for the vaccination rate of Group 2 lies largely with our own inaction.

According to Gordon Brown, WHO Ambassador for Global Health Financing, “This inequality is simply explained: 89 percent of all vaccines have been bought by the G20, the world’s richest countries, and today they retain control of 71 percent of future deliveries. Promises from the Global North to gift vaccines to the Global South have fallen short: only 22 percent of the donations promised by America have been sent. Europe, the UK and Canada have performed considerably worse and have dispatched only 15, 10 and 5 percent respectively.”

[Ed. Note: An article in the December 19 New York Times provides another dimension of this inequity—”…only the Pfizer and Moderna shots, when reinforced by a booster, appear to have initial success at stopping infections, and these vaccines are unavailable in most of the world.” —Stephanie Nolen, “Most of the World’s Vaccines Likely Won’t Prevent Infection From Omicron]

COVID-19 needs to teach us collective responsibility and global perspective. This plague is still going on because of all of us.

You matter.

As Omicron takes over the news, you’re going to see conversations that center on Group 1. Try to find a way to bring up Group 2 as well. They’re left out of important discussions due to ignorance more frequently than out of malice, and we can correct that. You could also try to write to your Senator or Representative asking them to spend more resources on global vaccine initiatives, or if you have the resources, consider donating to groups like Doctors Without Borders or the GlobalGiving Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated. Wear your mask. Wear it correctly.

You matter.


Essay ©2021 Reed Perkins
All rights reserved

Nature, The Healer | Corina Ravenscraft

The world has needed healing for a long time, but especially now, in the midst of and in the aftermath of a global pandemic. This quarter’s issue of The BeZine deals with A Life of the Spirit and Healing. How do we heal ourselves from all of the changes Covid has wrought? How do we heal the rifts, the division, the stress that the pandemic has brought to us all? If nothing else is apparent, Nature has proven to us that She has the means and ability to end us. But She can also heal us.


Japanese people have long practiced shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing”. There is even a Japanese Society for Forest Medicine. The chairman of that group, physician Qing Li, has written a book called “Forest Bathing” and he points out: “The country’s two major religions, Buddhism and Shintoism, consider forests mystical. “For Zen Buddhists, scripture is written in the landscape,” writes Li. “In Shinto, the spirits are not separate from nature, they are in it. They are in the trees, in the rocks, in the breeze, the stream, the waterfall.”

waterfalls-g4fd8da6b1_640
Image by
Wendy CORNIQUET
from Pixabay


Japanese people have long practiced shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing”. There is even a Japanese Society for Forest Medicine. The chairman of that group, physician Qing Li, has written a book called “Forest Bathing” and he points out: “The country’s two major religions, Buddhism and Shintoism, consider forests mystical. “For Zen Buddhists, scripture is written in the landscape,” writes Li. “In Shinto, the spirits are not separate from nature, they are in it. They are in the trees, in the rocks, in the breeze, the stream, the waterfall.”

forest-g0d4344c07_640
Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay


If that isn’t enough to at least pique your interest, there are dozens of articles and research papers published about the very real benefits to humans of being in and around nature. An article in Psychology Today about how the healing works in nature says, “Nature also frequently provides positive images for meditation. Just as winter turns to spring, one’s self-healing capacity can move from sickness into health. The restorative quality of nature and your own body is an important image to hold onto throughout your health and wellness journey.”

sunset-ge5e5331df_640
Image by kordula vahle from Pixabay


Consumer Reports even recommends getting outside in nature to get well! Time Magazine did a post about the healing power of nature. The University of Minnesota discussed studies about how nature impacts our well-being. Yale University focused on studies about How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health and asked/answered the question, “How long does it take to get a dose of nature high enough to make people say they feel healthy and have a strong sense of well-being?” The answer is: Precisely 120 minutes.

If you’re still at all skeptical, I challenge you to get outside and wander the woods, the parks, the beach…anywhere that you can “get back to the Earth” and sit quietly, just enjoying this beautiful planet on which we live. You never know…it might help you heal in more ways than you expect.


harmony-gefe0b62dd_1280

©2021 C.L.R.
All Rights Reserved

Fall 2021

Volume 8                  Social Justice                  Issue 3

Introduction & Table of Contents

Contents V8N3

The  BeZine

Volume 8                  September 15, 2021                  Issue 3

Social Justice
and
Hunger

Cover art: Exchange 1900–2021
Digital Landscape from Photos (Winona, MN, USA, and Jerusalem, Israel)
©2021 Michael Dickel


Introduction

The theme for the fall issue of 2021 is Social Justice and Hunger. The divide between those who have too much and those who don’t have enough widens daily, linked to social justice, climate change, and war, hunger remains one of the largest causes of death globally. It has been with us for untold centuries—Biblical commandments include feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for orphans. Many times, the causes my derive from beyond our activities.

However, most of the time, human activity causes hunger. And when hunger comes from other causes, human activity can help alleviate hunger. At the root of all economies, people need to be able to access food and protection from the elements. All of our systems leave too many people on the streets with inadequate clothing and shelter, and not enough to eat.

In these pages, we address this issue from a variety of perspectives, while calling for social justice for all.


May peace prevail on earth.

—Michael Dickel, Editor


  

Table of Contents


Poetry


Fiction


Music & Video


Essays



This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-3-33.png

The BeZine

Be Inspired…Be Creative…Be Peace…Be 

Spiritual Practice

Facebook

Twitter

Submissions

Cover art: Exchange 1900–2021
Digital Landscape from Photos (Winona, MN, USA, and Jerusalem, Israel)
©2021 Michael Dickel

Art: Peace, Kat Patton ©2021

Poetry

Thousand and Millions | John Anstie

One hundred thousand
Poets for change,
so many voices and
carefully chosen words, seem
to be decaying into the void
of the anechoic chamber.

Earthly Fathers praying
for the Establishment,
that sets the stage
and casts its values
in concrete, steel,
plastic … and carbon.

Leaders of the World,
whose balance sheets and
rational, numerate intellect
measure only a notion
of success. What is that?
What is success?

For aren’t we just that,
a wealth of rich and
creative intelligence
that is the only hope
for our universe
to understand itself?

Heavenly Mothers ask us:
why digitise and monetise
and worship at the alter
of the great god, Thworg,
when we are imbued with
richness beyond measure?

Escape to the stars, if you must,
but answers will be found not
in the vanity of space-time travel,
but here, with unaided vision
they lie in the green and blue,
right before your disbelieving eyes.

Permit your heart to rule
even if only one day a week, when
the visceral, and the common sense
can overrule logic and intellect, and
that subliminal noise in our head
will slowly awaken the conscience.

Maybe, one day we’ll be more than
Seven Thousand Million Poets for Change!
No more sleepwalking through life
The time will come. Greatness beckons.
It’s in the wind, this beating heart,
a movement beyond the gaze of mortals …


©2017 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Homeless Ain’t Home | Gayle Bell

In our journeys, we have met people with amazing talents. Many have computer or skilled trades; but are unable to get employment.  Businesses are leery to hire them.  Because of cultural differences, or individuals who identify as GLBTQY are not always welcome or safe inside of intuitions.  Some have beloved pets they do not want to put away.  Some have difficulty finding work because of previous jail time.  One woman; former military has a degree in psychology; giving up the bottle has been challenging. 

Our church tries to help with obtaining ids, shelters, recovery houses, but because of the challenges of the individual, the cycle continues.  Our church feeds over 440 people a month.  We provide bagged food for them as well.  Our weekly brunch continues to have new faces at our door.  We implore our church members to make casseroles, beans, soup and other hot items for them. 

We distribute clothes from our thrift store. We rarely have hygiene items for them.  Even if we did, we cannot provide a place for them to clean up.  Our local grocery store will not allow them to use the restroom.  We are not able to open ours to them because of previous drug use, or sexual abuse in our church bathroom.

Betty was homeless on the streets of Portland and Dallas for 5 years. She was following her former partner whose alcohol abuse kept them out of shelters.  Portland had coffee houses and other places for the homeless to obtain a meal, provide recreations and showers so they did not have to be on the streets.  People who had food stamps could barter for other goods and services.  She advised there was a place every block that would serve 3 meals a day to the individuals.  Betty created a cookbook there; the proceeds went directly to the food pantry.  That is what we are trying to do with ours

My family and I moved to San Francisco to escape an abusive marriage.  Me and my 2 kids were lucky, there was Raphael House; they had a door you could close and call your own.  I was fighting crack and alcohol abuse.  With my kids love, I got clean and sober when we came back to Dallas. 
From Cookbook, Pending Publication benefiting St Matthews Food Pantry

©2021 Gayle Bell
All rights reserved

Ms. V | Gayle Bell

Hope can surprise you, it can survive the odds against it…
The soul is nothing more than love, limitless, endless…. —Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses
I offer her cho chos but she never accepts
even when I beg
She has a teacher’s enunciation
when she does talk

The street residents call her mom 
The church outreach workers tell me
 she’s been out here a long time

I slipped a bogo burger in her bag
when she went to the fast-food restroom to freshen up
She hugged me and wished me blessings
This, I said is my church tithe
I felt it was better placed

She favors my mamma
Transitioned these 4 years
before Mother’s Day

She is a coloring mix of Aztec and afro
always has a pixie smile 
Some inner joke perhaps about
those who think they have better
Some punch line 
who will inherit the earth

©2021 Gayle Bell
All rights reserved

R & J & the Loaves & Fishes | Gayle Bell

R yells to God and the angels
that revolve in his head
He’s on that rock
That hard place
J likes the bottle
they watch each other’s back

B talks to the unseen 
eloquent when he touches Earth
Clothes torn dusty funk smelling
doesn’t want your help
no thank you
No medicine, no white coats

Ms. V mother to the streets
Soft spoken and clean
Wont stay in a shelter
wont stay in any where
Compassionate hearts have tried
She’ll sometimes click and cuss you out
hug you tight the next day

BR is a hustler to his soul
born from too little and way to late
Once knew soft arms and a home
that’s the way that is

My partner was tough enough
on the streets of Portland 
Following dreams and a piece of tail

M & R got that boulder on their back
he makes her walk the streets
S was running from spirits
pissed herself sometimes laying under a tree

Sometimes we roam the park
Give out cans of franks and beans crackers
anything we have in our pantry

Her and I
Go to church and feed them
casseroles beans whatever people bring
100 plus hungry mouths
come through my line
I smile say God Bless You Be Safe

I am supposed to say something
wise or meaningful
How the streets keep some
let some go
But I don’t have it to give

©2021 Gayle Bell
All rights reserved

All my life inside politics— | Linda Chown

Other girls remember baking cookies—
I remember Joseph Stalin dying
and the holocaust with McCarthy.
My Raggedy Ann doll had charcoal
eyes hot with a black cold light
All my years I've tried to choose
a way out but my heart
is two-fold:I'm with the people
and with the fires in my first by myself sight

©2021 Linda Chown
All rights reserved

In This, Dying | Linda Chown

In This, Dying 
And we wake to a slue of death
Every day now come the morning. 
Someone’s blood gets blown dead 
And i can’t stop seeing those tribes, 
Long woven beards and fields of opium 
Waving and thickening in Afghan sun 
Charlie Watts a panacea of balance
And substance, he was a golden child gone.
Don Everly widening in the time of his dying.
Such a classical hillbilly he was. Susie wake up.
It’s that we’ve shot our loads. In deliberate. 
In our wicked lust to have more of more 

©2021 Linda Chown
All rights reserved

Hold onto it Now | Linda Chown

And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be 
       Are full of trees and changing leaves,
                 Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Soft bird,  as though we’ve only just begun,
The way our arms reach upwards as though
Hanging in a William Blake painting 
In which closeness is everything
The spiritual become all physical
A radiant yellow cloud of pulsing light 
In spite of all the bad light around
This beauty only makes a luscious sound
Soft bird,  you and I continue to soar 
Onward and upwards forever more. 

©2021 Linda Chown
All rights reserved

Inauguration 2021 | Linda Chown

This natural national revolution 
has taken my breath away 
and given me my heart back
in a democratic moment
when sharing is the name of the game
all these different people becoming one 
in the winter Washington sun
where we’ll make new rules new ways
to give more that many an authentic say.

©2021 Linda Chown
All rights reserved

little girl and the sailing moon | Linda Chown

How wonderful it is that 
nobody need wait a single moment
 before starting to improve the world.

   Anne Frank

It is like how to explain the paucity of beauty 
On a hillside, how to hold silence stiller
Clumps of marjoram, Greek symbol of happiness, make a plenty.
Forthwith in this troubled land where the President of France 
Was face cuffed, where thousands of sick boys
Play murderous games and sing aloud to blood.
How to hold silence stiller to make a plenty,
When I was then her she held life in this staring.
In the city she saw the moon sail and marjoram 
Grew while she stood trying to understand Anne Frank
Who was too a little girl staring like she was and going 
To feel her roots and her eyes pulverized all dying
We must hold silence riper and green the marjoram.

©2021 Linda Chown
All rights reserved

to heal the world | Michael Dickel

I don’t much like reading any more
as I’ve read more than enough
explanations accusations rationalizations
incarnations of old disputations
empty words for empty stomachs
nothing to sink teeth into for many
while exorbitant feasts for a few
yes, I’m even tired of these words
writing reading listening while
wild fires forage famines feast
diseases prevail over
results of my every action
reactions to human infestation

		    rushing toward entropy

	crisis the turning
	teshuva the return to

		healing requires movement

			(re)direction turning inertia
				toward tikkun olam

teshuva — to return, usually used in the sense of returning to (the Jewish) faith, from Hosea 14:2–3: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled in your iniquity. Take words with yourselves and return to the Lord. Say, "You shall forgive all iniquity and teach us good, and let us render bulls our lips.”
———
tikkun olam — the healing (or repair) of the world (or creation), according to Kabbalah, this is our purpose as humans.


©2021 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved

Cost Differential | John Maurer

The price of everything 
goes up when you're unemployed
It's not a slight shift in a continuance 
of shifting incomes and outcomes

It's a weighted hook
sinking endlessly 
into a bottomless 
unexplored part of the ocean

Unimportance is a concept 
for the man who 
hasn't conversed with his consequences
in the crepuscular hours

I'm at a point 
where I can't 
even afford 
sleep for dinner

Time is of the essence 
and sleeping allows 
its capture 
to escape

I have a pillow but can't figure out how to use it
I unscrewed the armrests from my desk chair 
because my arms shouldn't rest
Motion is existence, work is the reward

I'd rather be starving
as a poet than rich as anything else
I care too much about the process
I have entirely stopped caring about its yield

©2021 John Maurer
All rights reserved

Pathetic and Pointless | John Maurer

The universe was the first Rube Goldberg machine
The first overly complicated boondoggle of a way to get nothing at all done
What would be the purpose of having a purpose if you did have one?
Would you still think it's comforting once you realized you couldn't fulfill your fate?

I'm not depressed, I'm fundamentally unhappy, and there's a difference
I'm not incapable of appreciation; I just can see that there isn't a thing to appreciate
Even god committed suicide, my parents sent me to a school to teach me only that
You aren't bad at math, it just doesn't add up; don't blame the equation, it's the variables

In order for the universe to love you, it had to hate all of your ancestors
Not to say they were much better than you, but they probably were
They may have eaten dirt, but at least they did it honestly
While you eat off of the tasting menu and still have bulimia while almost everyone starves

©2021 John Maurer
All rights reserved

Well Kept Secret | John Maurer

You can die of consumption the same as starvation
The equinox is not without solstice in the same way
Too far in any direction is too far, that is clear 
Yet turning around testifies to a waste of time
This is a fallacy; an error does not make a solution moot
The noctambulist wishes it did

I will rest when I have no questions left
So when my tongue gets cut out
This is Hammurabi’s code
For how many have I sliced with my own serrated voice
This is truly the meaning of Socratic
Following laws you don’t believe in
For reasons you can’t or at very least won’t reveal

©2021 John Maurer
All rights reserved

Consumer Temple | F.I. Goldhaber

Welcome to the warehouse, temple 
of consumer excess. Fill your carts 
with ten-pound boxes of sugar 
cereal, hundred-pound bags of flour. 
Batteries by the dozens; soap 
in ten-gallon jugs too big to lift. 

Enough food fills the shelves to feed 
a small country, but it parades out 
the doors for the SUVs to 
swallow while shoppers waddle through the 
exit sucking in pizza, ice 
cream, and hot dogs too big for their buns.

First published in 2008 in Pairs of Poems and on protestpoems.org

©2008 F. I. Goldhaber
All rights reserved

The Hypocrite’s Creed | F.I. Goldhaber

All life is sacred and begins at conception, but we must
	deny life-saving medical care to the poor;
	deprive needy children of food, shelter, clothing;
	beat, bomb, shoot, hang to death men, women, children. 

Deeply held religious beliefs require tax exemptions, and
	forbid paying for women's reproductive health;
	deny funds for science education/research;
	allow financing of civilian-killing drones.

Children are a gift from god, a reward from him, but we must
	rip children from their mother's breasts, their father's arms;
	warehouse them in tent cities despite extreme heat;
	cage, torment, and traumatize them while they're alone.

Religious freedom must always be protected, but we must
	ignore Muslims', Jews', Sikhs', Pagans', Hindus' rights;
	reject religions that conflict with our beliefs;
	obligate others to observe our holy days.

The bible is god's word, taken literally, but we must
	claim verses we disagree with are old fashioned;
	invent prohibitions never mentioned in text;
	judge harshly those who follow actual scripture.

States retain sovereignty and powers not assigned, but
	must not be allowed to legalize cannabis;
	can't protect the Internet from telecom greed;
	can't pass sanctuary laws to protect migrants.

We must save sex workers from human trafficking, but we must
	eliminate safe ways for them to find clients;
	force them onto the street, vulnerable to pimps;
	allow police to rape, rob, arrest, murder them.

The homeless crisis is a city emergency, but we must
	criminalize public camping, sitting, sleeping;
	protest attempts to open neighborhood shelters;
	fight rent control and minimum-wage increases.

Congress must cut taxes and frivolous spending, but must
	slash payments only for the rich, adding trillions to the debt;
	spend more on defense than seven countries combined;
	take food away from babies, seniors to compensate.

The hoax pandemic became an emergency that requires
	huge corporate bailouts, no strings attached;
	loans to small businesses, with myriad conditions;
	pittance pay outs that won't cover rent to minimum-wage slaves.

All life is sacred and begins at conception, but we must
	only make testing available to the rich and celebrated;
	sacrifice seniors and children to save the stock market;
	prevent "prioritizing human life over economic stability".


©2021 F.I. Goldhaber
All rights reserved

The Politics of Food | F.I. Goldhaber

Have you ever known hunger?
Have you ever chosen to 
feed a child instead of eat?
When did you last know aching
emptiness that lasted days?
Millions of children in the 
U.S. go hungry daily,
many more throughout the world
while billionaires steal the food
from their mouths to buy yachts, huge
mansions, fancy cars, private 
jets, and their own Congressmen.
We subsidize the very 
rich who eliminate jobs, 
bust unions, ruin cities,
devastate education, 
neglect infrastructure, and 
take away your right to vote.
What they squander on one meal 
at a fancy restaurant 
could feed a poor family 
of four for a month or more.
But, they begrudge the working 
poor, the disabled, and the 
unemployed whose jobs they stole, 
a few hundred to spend at 
the discount grocery store 
to stop the rumbling in their 
young children's empty bellies.
Forget about nutrition
that's an unaffordable
luxury available
only to those deemed worthy:
those who got rich taking from
the public coffers, building 
their wealth with government-paid
subsidies and government 
funded airports, roads, and ports.
They pocket their tax breaks and 
complain about "handouts" and
nonexistent welfare queens. 

Walk a few miles in a poor
man's shoes and skip eating for 
a day or three. Try finding 
a job when you're dizzy with
hunger. Give your meal to a
child who only eats at school
and goes without on weekends.

First published in Subversive Verse October, 2014

©2014 F.I. Goldhaber
All rights reserved

An Ethiopian Woman Nursing | John Grey

Nursing a baby, the worried trees trouble her.
Her breast pokes through her unbuttoned blouse
and the wind blows the branches about incessantly
Tiny lips suck on her nipple, declaring
with tiny bites, that this is the first
free meal, as walls shake, windows rattle,
the oak slaps against the house.

Nursing a baby, she nudges the rocking chair
back and forth, her only input to the hunger
at her chest, the storm working up its rage.
She moves to a chorus of creaks, scraps of sound,
discovering in the urge of her muscle, her bone,
an endless way of going nowhere.

Nursing a baby, she bends her head over the
child's to protect it from the lightning,
covers tiny ears from errant thunder.
The infant sucks on regardless of the weather,
regardless of the constant sway of the body
all around her. She is nursing a mother.
To do that, you feed off her and nothing else.

©2021 John Grey
All rights reserved

Who Are We Anyway? | John Grey

In your sleep without end,
you're just a bit player
in the use of moss and grass,
roots passing through your skull
on the way to light and glory.

I'm more attuned
to the dead squirrel I buried in the garden.
His decay grows my tomatoes.
His bones are the shoulders
on which every pumpkin heaves.

Flowers come through you singing
but no one hears the song.
Whatever I pick,
place on the table,
is a rodent's epiphany,
the fine tuning of a short life
of hunger and fear.

I'm sorry that it all can't fall into place
the way a sermon would have it.
It's not the grit of ancestors that grows us
but the nasty side effects of sharing this world with others.
Sure, I bring you flowers from my garden.
But who plucks the heresy of your blooms?

©2021 John Grey
All rights reserved

Palestinian Voices | Anonymous

This is an anonymous submission by a Palestinian, after the shooting of a young woman near an IDF checkpoint — via Ester Karen Aida

I feel angry at the tyranny of injustice and darkness on our lives.
I feel angry at the lack of hope.
I feel angry because the value of human life has become zero. Decided by a distressed or terrified soldier at a checkpoint.
I feel angry that most of the peoples of the earth enjoy freedom and my people are occupied and enslaved.
I get angry when my life or death is decided by an extremist and spiteful.
I feel angry at the spread of racism and hatred.
I am angry that I am being targeted because of my national and religious affiliation.
I don't hate people but I feel let down.
I hope that the humanitarian principles of freedom, justice and sympathy will prevail throughout my country, a freedom that does not differentiate between a person and a person because of their national, religious or sexual affiliation.

—B.S.

Another anonymous submission by a Palestinian — via Ester Karen Aida

We will keep knocking on the doors of your hearts.

©2021 the anonymous writers
All rights reserved

Hand on Destiny | Fabrice Poussin

Chest of treasures under the tall forest
he listens to the murmur of the flood
his hand comforting the ancient wound.

Lost in this quest for a kingdom
he remains entranced by the sounds
of a single life beneath the dense foliage. 

Longing for a knowledge revealed
he is still for fear of causing a tremor
in the hidden world below.

His warm palm upon the secretive hearth 
they share a private moment in the fire
as the torrent continues to nurture a life.

Lame warrior disarmed of his singular steel
he may soon perish for lack of other nectar
his ear poised to the sound of his desire.  

Sparrows and Fireworks | Fabrice Poussin

Walking on forgotten asphalt
alone in the distance they attempt a smile
upon the hill yet yesterday a mob.

Gentle drops venture from above
chancing a journey among blinding rays
she wonders whether it will be sun or rain.

He offers a glance as she continues
thoughtful of the uncertain morrows
a faint sign of welcome in her eyes. 

A vague siren screams down below
distracting a sparrow from its daily duties
but it persists in its call.

The field lives in the midst of a dense forest
hoping to soon again shake 
with the thunder of another fourth in July.

©2021 Fabrice Poussin
All rights reserved

Where Have All the Hearts Gone | Fabrice Poussin

Memories flee of those grand’ ole days
when upon a war’s end they embraced
strangers strolling on a frozen avenue
littered with joy and relief for the uniforms.

Riots overtook the tree lined grassy knolls
where eternal learners cried for a renewal
to only fall in tiny pools of crimson rivers
dreams shattered for another generation.

Animals hungry for a senseless fight gather
their teeth and claws drooling with pasty slime
leaving trails of a hateful contagion behind
a poison few can avoid in darkest times.

No one sits on porches any longer
most stay glued to strange images of dissent
while balustrades rot in perpetual abandon
where have all the hearts gone, she asked.

Alone as if trapped between infinite scrapers
she seeks traces of joyful moments sadly lost
in times of such terminal turmoil
those absent seek only reason to breed death of the gentle.

©2021 Fabrice Poussin
All rights reserved