I’m sorry, she said. Fuck you, zey said. I made a mistake, she said. You make a lot of mistakes, zey snapped. She hid away under a widow’s veil of tears. Zey hiked the Bahamas and found forgiveness.
She tried to contact zem a month later: hope you’re doing well.
Apparently, zeir forgiveness only extended so far.
It had been two years, three months, eight days. Like planets orbiting the same sun, they once again aligned: they walked into the same coffee shop. They froze, stared. You dyed your hair, zey said. You gained weight, she said. Zey smiled; coffee--on me?
…is a high school student pursuing writing. Their favorite elements of writing are clever word plays and irony. They have been published in the anthology The Sky’s the Limit as a result of winning a writing competition, and the The Thread, their school’s art and writing anthology, for three years in a row. When they’re not writing, they spend their days creating resin dolls and sewing clothes.
Darkness covers me like a blanket
Shadows surround my thoughts
My arms wrap tightly around me
Deserted, no one home
You keep me isolated
My only friend, just you
Smiles ne’er intrude our space
With you, I’m safe and whole
The thorns of my emotions
Keep rising from deep inside
Always in your shadows
Always in your arms
I cannot see the rose
Only thorns of pain
Madness all around me
It keeps me huddled tight
Tomorrow won’t be different
It will always be the same
Fear keeps me shaking
My spirit is tattered, worn
Darkness gives me comfort
Forever, all alone
My prayer is you’ll
Remember me and return home
…biography goes here, with ellipses in front. Link to known social media accounts, website, and / or blog. Delete the words if no links. Edit the Find the The BeZine button link to include the names where it says FirstName and LastName. If there are more than two names, add a plus-sign (+) and additional names, in order. Add Social Media links if we have (do not need to, but can delete the social media block if none). Replace art to the left with a photo. (Use the NO photo block if there isn’t one, not this block).
In my body rattle the dead
like beads shook-up with longing
in Rachel’s ovaries.
Oleander, calendula or olive,
Only the living sow memory,
open their eyes each dawn
to scan the fields.
I buried a tooth for every
kindness I recall.
In the days between Yizkor
and Yom haZikaron, some being
of smoke fills my throat.
Is an organ implanted in a
body, a tree’s grafted limb?
What is your heart’s fruition?
Ima from Kafr Qassem,
where exactly are you now,
I think I should ask your
home-town Sheikh, who wrote,
organ donation will be halal.
I ask my heart: do you hold
two souls? We’ve cradled one
another, not months, but years;
should time condense to tissue,
This, then? —a culture unfolding,
beating its wings, in another.
—and we all hold our parents.
Do I contain four souls—
No, her parents—six?
My heart is splitting
This heart—what does it mean to you?
like rain pelting earth
When that had done rattling
in my head, I asked my heart
how do you feel?
She burst into streaks of water,
throat of smoke: my kids—
How old are you now?
What have the years been for you?
Who has cared for you?
We used to tell
the younger ones, stay together
and take care of each other
But our children begin
by scanning the fields
for a few stalks of kindness.
I’ve been sending letters to various areas controlled by the islamic state
explaining how peaceful & loving ways of life are possible
that to kill in the name of God is mistaken
& that a little dialogue could do wonders
I sent poems describing a future world without war
& inspiring quotes from political & religious leaders
I received a reply:
“to the dreamer who mistakes a nightmare for paradise”
“it is beyond us to know if by God you mean Allah
yet let us assure you
a thirsty man lost in the desert may find a pool of pure water
& then run off to share his hydrating discovery
until the pool is depleted
such is your state
you call out to God
to control the rain
& to replenish the empty form
which memories & stories claim was filled
by the power of Allah
will move from pool to pool
decimating fraudulent temples erected not to worship
but to control the rain
until the whole world submits to Allah
& our expansion ceases
leaving only a pure motion
dams will not be erected
as people flow across the land
no different than water
across the earth
you speak of love & peace
you only want us to pay taxes
to erect more static artifices
from now on
use extra postage
as we grow
our operations carry more overhead”
gunshots in the distance
in distinct intervals
marked by a sloppy unison
of soldiers at the firing range
the odd out-of-sync shots
blossom into a single roaring echo
as I lay in a bush-filled field
surrounded by weeds of varying heights
perched in a weed’s canopy
of white flowers
a white spider
black flies & red beetles
scrummage through the bed of sweets
climbing beside & even over
the still white spider
its body mounted
by little legs
while two longer white legs
extend half bent in the air
till certain sized flies pass
triggering those long thin legs
to swoop down
striking prey dragged
into a hungry face
sometimes when released
those bodies fall motionless
& sometimes they begin
mid-air to fly
of two soldiers in a watchtower
talking through the night
will history judge us poorly?
& his friend said
yes & nosince history forgives the perpetrators
with a flare
for watching those who suffer most
who inherit evil
so they say
an M-16 in someone's hand asserts: kill or be killed
it only argues with adults—whereas children
they deafen all arguments into chatter
a stray dog doesn't know that it roams about as if it's not a target
a tree couldn't care less that it can sustain many bullet wounds
a wall must separate sides—no matter its thickness
it's fine if we're mistakenly standing on some graveyard
it's ok if you can't stop all people from fighting
it's nice to take care of a cat that you dislike
let all the varied kinds of privileged people tell you what's right
let thoughts of distant violence grow more distant
let yourself breathe—simple & stupid—grinning like a gorilla
it's alright if the news improves its powers of seduction
it's alright if one day the sun just burns out
it's alright if you desire—deviously—to litter a little
even if ambiguous firework-explosions startle you
if you move & speak according to what you believe is right
it's good if life & death dissolve into some unspeakable truth
—for Mr. Visher
both before our lives and before our eyes
upon every death before us we live
thoughtlessly leaping from this height to that
we continue & learn also to love
to continue living as if stable
upon whatever ground beneath our feet:
our subtle world produces fertile soil
like this lush field where children play—knowing not
how they grow upon the dead body parts
of some passing war & of all thought as war:
with ever-shifting translucent pillars
death supports all mortal experience
waning & waiting
past people’s ears
on city streets
I have shot
the same gun
others have used
the stop signs have
no gun holes here
the sun is blocked
from flirting strands
with the rising
& the setting
of lust-filled days:
I’ll find her
perhaps I will pull
hard on her hair
I wake up
a blinded bird
that craves to fly:
who can resist
the savage pleasure
of pushing hard
against the air?
…founded Jerusalism, a non-profit organization to promote Israeli literature in English. He is a PhD student at Hebrew University, researching the intersection of modernist art and orality through a study of David Antin’s talk-poems, and he is currently an OWL Lab Fellow.
With a sword raised
towards the sun,
they used to rule the land
looks so much
like an elongated cross ...
by a dove
with outstretched wings.
towards the sun
and to God.
from the sky
for the innocent
as a belief...
One at a time
The memory of peace
sharing all the joy...
splendid tenderness of Eden...
of caressing sky glory,
soul enlightened by the heaven...
Chanted warming blessings.
Crickets symphonies of peace.
Travel back in time, enhancing...
Feeling of a childhood breeze...
…is Bulgarian who writes poems in Bulgarian and in English. She lived in Luxembourg and currently she lives and works in Belgium. Dessy has publications in many Bulgarian magazines and newspapers, also in Romania, Belgium, USA, India, Peru, Philippines. She has 4 books in Bulgarian, 1 in English, and she has also compiled a book as translator from Bulgarian into English, an anthology of Bulgarian top authors. She writes about nature, love and God, and her accent is the positive message at the final. Member of Flemish Party for Poetry. Editor in Homagi international Web literature magazine.
while we’re busy romanticizing the softer side of things
well-disguised vibes disregard
the countless beings made into (numb)ers
favoring an unawakened righteous feeling
through a façade that denies inner reality
nurturing the phallic identity of war
she is little bits of earth
scattered bits of belonging
an appropriation for those who take
feeling nothing is taken because it is paid for
to feed a selfish desire that places her to burn
underneath a halo of fire
creating the compartmentalized
as we stigmatize in the quiet and unitedly reject her
unconscious—while busy chasing false ideals
searching for pretty in politics
as connoisseurs of fixation with introspection
gingered by the allure, continue to devour her shell
with blades of combative motivation
that takes no accountability, as we all inadvertently fuck her
she reads Hello Universe in old bunny slippers
lives in an agricultural area
sits on the porch reading
hears a diminutive echo
it is the year of another great pandemic
and other distractions
from the millions starving
for one reason or another
however, much less critical
than the societal incubator
or the soccer game
as the shadow
in a white van
uses a burner phone
three days, three rooms
a ringing in the ear that means more
as you look away
from the empty swing swaying
a temperamental questioning of the self
remembering it grew past two months
a choice sucked into the symbolic
a static feeling remains
refusing to breed
as it parallels a vision
even if it means killing the unborn seed
to not throw away hope for a child
that is already someone
locked inside a small dark apartment
getting used by an endless stream
as it pours from your daughter in the arms of your son
the majority continue connected to the mask
killing a turkey and then sending a card
with a contented one on it
eating a pig and calling it pork
their teeth pulled out
as the mother watches them squeal
buying a stuffed bear for the child
while purchasing its bile; they are bred and tortured
we treat our animals as we treat each other
but this isn’t what we want to hear
most will deny it has meaning—desensitized
it has feelings
nearby, a widowed Arab mother with eight sons
must reveal herself to strange men
in a place where she is no longer a wife
there are no brothers, no uncles
no man to claim her
so she removes her hijab to feed her children
inadvertently teaching her sons about their “brothers”
with this allegory, for most is not as it appears
but it’s not our country, not our home
not our irony, so we willfully swallow it
like “meat” ignoring the rape
of another number—an accepted behavior
as we slumber
instead of reaching beyond the pale
diagonal, horizontal, vertical
the lines we hide in
the lines we love between
the lines we point from
these lines play us
clogging internal processes
clinging to us as belief
that keeps us hunting
and hostile regard safe
inside our cumulative womb
trafficking the guns gunning us down
while bound in an addiction town
a vignette rotting
a fostered feeling
a male-centric mainstream
a movie she wishes could be unseen
a floret falling apart
petal lips cascading
as we skate through the details
infested with dark limbic thoughts
the egregore overidentifies with form
trapping her in a sea of sharks
disconnecting from impending matters
coded for the untrained eye
lulling inborn wisdom back to sleep
that serves the omniscient streams
bribing the scribe with the felicitous mind
before the eye traverses the den
to make Laureate’s paper words mean nothing
because she doesn’t know she is, too, prey
as another stately white man
uses rubbers on a mattress with one thin, dirty sheet
we all want to be in an uplifted state
with a God that makes us feel safe and entertained
while we shoot semi-automatics
to kill the seed, we do not call our own
it is part of cancer’s permeative conditioning
the Dubble Bubble happening around the globe
as we say, “It’s not me, it’s them. It’s there, not here.”
as the lights blink on and off in the small dark apartment in our mind
we are it pretending to be a _____________
an absent black moon
a carnivore awakening
(interpretations of the comforts of [personal] space)
the church / the temple / the sanctuary / the synagogue
the mosque / the pagoda / the gate / the abattoir
(words for the same thing): within
a surrendered state
deeper than thought
a sleeping infant in my arms
even in trauma and sticky situations
gathering the momentum of the tormented and tormentor
in the house built by metaphor
aligning consequences with reflections of truth
in dimension deeper than possession
entwined in the silence
of secrets that have an audience
…lives with her family in Colorado. She is an artist, teacher, and emerging writer with a few published pieces online and a children’s book. The poem submitted is from a full-length collection entitled, The Small Dark Apartment. The work explores uncomfortable aspects within the silence of the collective mainstream. Adrian strives to bring life elements to the surface to push past deceptive illusions and create more light.
The world has gone mad. Again.
And again voices incite—then hoarse leaders
pretend to have been polite. They did not shout
fear and hatred to explosive tension, to a thin-
wire stretched, first sounding a note then cracking,
snapping in two, each piece twisted. The world goes
mad. Again. The leaders call for calm, like arsonists
who work in the fire department. The fires burn
in the streets at night. The checkpoints flow
with blood and tears. And most of us just want
to go to work, have coffee with friends, teach
our children something other than this craziness
in a world gone mad. Again. And most of us want
to turn away and not see the burning, the smoke,
the arsonists lining up toy soldiers at borders
ready to pounce, to attack, to burn. Again.
I don’t think that I need to explain about Ukraine, and why I titled this Special Section “Ukraine Peace.” There are some who may raise legitimate questions about the focus on Europe, with so many countries at war in Africa, Asia, the Middle East. There are some who raise legitimate questions about supporting the US in battling Russia, given the undeniable history of and current aggressions world wide (and supporting other countries as they invade neighbors). So I will repeat below a version of the blog post that announced this special section and called for submissions.
Even with all of the tensions and warnings leading up to it, Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, shocked the world. This violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty could easily expand to a broader war. This puts progressives, as I think myself to be, in a position of wondering how do we wage peace? Is there a path to peace?
I don’t know. As I write this, the war continues in its third week. The images of the invasion invade our consciousness and my conscience. How do we wage peace?
Whatever the path to peace may be, the path for social justice would not allow for accepting Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, I also am aware that Western Imperialism has acted just as viciously in its own interests, and that the US and the West continue to promote wars in their interests.
Could a world-wide strike be the path, opposed to all war and demanding peace? Is such a thing possible even? How do we follow Gandhi’s path of non-violence and quickly grow it to a global scale? I can’t imagine that it could be done in time to help the people in Ukraine.
How do we protect peace and simultaneously prevent further expansion through military force?
And who to stand behind for justice? It is not as though the U.S. does not use military force, directly and indirectly. The shadows of Vietnam, Irag, Libya, and Afghanistan loom over this battle. Can we trust the US and NATO to do the right thing?
CUNY Professor Peter Beinart offers an apt quote from 1943 to frame his argument that this time, we need to support the US, even progressives who rightly attack the US for its hypocrisy and war-mongering:
In 1943, the Hungarian-born journalist Arthur Koestler wrote: “In this war we are fighting against a total lie in the name of a half-truth.” That’s a good motto for American progressives to adopt in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
CUNY Professor Peter Beinart, “Russia speaks total lies. That doesn’t diminish America’s half-truths” in The Guardian
Beinart acknowledges the lies of the U.S.: Saying the US stands with Ukraine because America is committed to democracy and the “rules-based international order” is at best a half-truth. The US helps dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates commit war crimes in Yemen, employs economic sanctions that deny people from Iran to Venezuela to Syria life-saving medicines, rips up international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, and threatens the international criminal court if it investigates the US or Israel.
But this hypocrisy wouldn’t have fazed Koestler, because it’s nothing new. In 1943, the alliance that fought Hitler was led by a British prime minister who championed imperialism, an American president who presided over racial apartheid, and Joseph Stalin. Koestler’s point wasn’t that the US or Britain, let alone the USSR, were virtuous in general. It was that they were virtuous relative to Nazi Germany in the specific circumstances of the second world war, and that these sinful governments were the only ones with the geopolitical heft to stop a totalitarian takeover of Europe.
These extended quotes give the overall argument. Beinart continues to develop it with a focus on the invasion of Ukraine. He points out that there are times when Russia had been on the relatively virtuous side and the US not, with examples. And times when the US has been relatively virtuous, and Russia not. In the end, for this case, we have to think clearly and make a choice.
As Beinart writes: “But Koestler’s point was that progressives can puncture America’s pretensions to universal virtue while still recognizing that it is sometimes one of the few instruments available to combat evil.”
While I do not support much of what the U.S. does, in this situation, I agree with Beinart that it is, relative to Putin’s invasion, the more virtuous side to support.
However, I still really want to find a non-violent path to peace for all. I recognize that, today, this seems an impossibly distant goal. The non-violent path to peace probably won’t be reached in my lifetime. Sadly, it has been made more distant, seemingly less possible, with this invasion.
And ever more urgent with the use of cluster bombs, vacuum bombs, and threats of chemical weapons or even nuclear weapons.
The creative works in the follow pages of the Special Section, Ukraine Peace, support peace, humanity, and Ukraine in this historical moment. The response to the call that an earlier version of these words made for work came with intensity, sorrow, love, and hope. We have art, poems, prose submissions. We have videos of two powerful readings done on Zoom with poets from the US and from Ukraine reading. We have videos of traditional Ukrainian music.
All of this work supports Ukraine and strives for peace. I encourage you to read and share this outflowing of creativity pouring out to support people and put out into the world declarations for peace.
My heart, thoughts, and good will goes out to the peoples of both Russia and Ukraine who are caught between the anvil and the hammer. May peace return,
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.
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.
According to Jewish tradition, there are 613 Commandments (Mitzvot) in the Torah (The Hebrew Scriptures / Five Books of Moses). I’ve been taught that the Rabbinic tradition holds that repetition in the Torah indicates importance, especially for Mitzvot. The famous Ten Utterances (Ten Commandments in the Christian tradition) occur twice, in slightly different form. Another Mitvah (Commandment) however, occurs as many as 36 times: to not mistreat and even to love the Stranger (Ger, in Hebrew).
Rabbi Eliezer explains that the Torah “warns against the wronging of a ger in thirty-six places; others say, in forty-six places” (Bava Metzia 59b cited by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks).
Why do I mix “not mistreat” with “love”? This this passage in Leviticus, among others in the Torah:
“When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33–34).
Today, there are two types of ger—the ger toshav (foreign resident) and the ger tzedek (righteous convert). Some today interpret the mitzvah of loving the Stranger as a reference to converts because of this. This justifies discrimination and oppression of the Other, for example, refugees. However, this interpretation is illogical. For the passages say, “you were strangers in Egypt.” And this phrase usually appears with the admonition to love a stranger.
Jews were outsiders in Egypt and eventually enslaved as a perceived threat. They were not converts. Rabbi and Professor David Golinkin tells us: “The Bible is not familiar with a ger tzedek or righteous convert. In the Bible, a ger is a stranger or resident alien of non-Israelite origin living in Israel” (Erev Pesach: ”The Stranger Within Your Gates”). He later quotes another occurrence of this mitzvah from Exodus:
“‘You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Exodus 22:20) The rabbis interpreted this to mean that you may not oppress a ger toshav either verbally or monetarily (Maimonides, Hilkhot Mekhirah 14:15-16; Shulhan Arukh Hoshen Mishpat 228:2)” (Erev Pesach: ”The Stranger Within Your Gates”).
So, who is the Stranger?
An earlier passage a few verses up in Leviticus from what I quoted earlier gives a clue: “You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18). When compared to Leviticus 19:33 which says about the stranger to “Love him as yourself,” Rabbi Sacks does, the echo suggests to me that the Stranger is also our neighbor. Does this mean those who live in proximity, that is, our neighhborhood?
Some indeed argue resident alien, someone who is legally living with you. I have hear oral arguments that this is “the stranger within your gates” (Exodus 20:10). However, the passage from Exodus where I find this (also translate in the JPS Torah edition: “the stranger within your settlements”) refers not to loving the Stranger and does not mention “for you were strangers in Egypt.” It is the mitzvah not to work on the Sabbath, and includes those who live with you (also son, daughter, your slaves, your cattle…with the stranger listed last among those specified in addition to “you” who shall not labor).
The phrase that frequently accompanies the mitzvah of treating well and loving the stranger, “for you were strangers in Egypt,” provides a wider scope than the neighborhood—at least the dynasty of Egypt in size. And I would suggest that if we think of the whole earth as our current residence, and countries as neighborhoods, we could got further. Any stranger on earth—now less foreign from from another nation, but more stranger from another neighborhood, someone we don’t know well or at all. The “them” of “us and them.”
And this Other, all others, while we may still perceive an “us” and a “them,” the mitzvah here is to not mistreat, better, to treat well, and more than that, to love. How to love the stranger? As ourselves.
How do we approach this revolutionary loving of the erstwhile threatening “them”? Perhaps we begin by finding common ground. The most grounding common principle for such a radical notion? That “they” are human beings desiring and deserving social connections of being treated well and loved, as are “we.” In ways small and large, we can seek to take steps to look at other human beings and see in them reflections of our own desiring and deserving of love. Thus, they become one of us.
And this is a principle of the godhead / creative force. As the Israelites are about to enter The Promised Land, Moses tells them that The Creator “shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving the stranger food and clothing. And you are to love those who are strangers, for you yourselves were strangers in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17–19). May we thus spiritually enter The Promised Land through loving our neighbor by finding common ground.
This is not an easy or quick task. Rachel Farbiarz explores the question of “you were strangers in Egypt.” We were not. And in the end, Moses (according to the narrative) outlives those who left Egypt. The Israelites he tells this to at the end of the journey in the wilderness were not those from the beginning of that journey. She tells us this:
“…helps us understand that empathy is work, that there is something awkward and uncomfortable about its habit. We must be schooled in its compulsory nature no less than 36 times, tutored in its essentialness through the heuristic of self-deception: ‘It was you who were a slave; it is you who knows the heart of a stranger.’ Moses’ elision [of the change in generations] thus helps us internalize that empathy is not always and already there, burrowed inside like a jack-in-the-box, awaiting an opening to spring forth. It is rather an iterative effort that demands rehearsal and repetition” (Treatment of the Stranger: Our existential relationship to our ancestors and how we learn empathy).
I gather stones from ocean, sea, lake, river, stream, and the dry desert wadi; to protect my straw life from the storm winds of time they line the walls, shelves, walks, and a small corner rock garden. Snow buries them in winter, the outer ones, and the inner turn invisible beneath plaster and book dust as these stories and poems renovate the narrative, revise my living space into something that might hold up to erasures of climate, and my life into—something. Long after my DNA strands become a statistical probability chancing in some descendants’ groins; long after the house falls to dust, the garden to weeds, the shores of the oceans and seas recede, advance, the lakes come and go, the rivers dry and flood, the wadi erodes to flatlands; long after all of this; a few stones out of place here in a row, there in a pile, might attract some little notice, a bit of curiosity. This flint tool from Baaka. This agate from Superior. Amethyst from Ontario. Lava from Hawaii. Mica from Pennsylvania. Polished smooth granite. In some way we will remember. Where did such stones come from? When? How did they end up here? Why? What story do they tell? Who gathered them in? And who after all will stop to notice; in what climate will these stones be uncovered? Perhaps by a robotic rover returned from Mars…