February 2020: Philosophical Permutations

This month we consider nontraditional philosophy across all media. A departure from the stoic philosophy of centuries-old granite statues, our contributors sculpt new outlooks keen on personal experience and (self-)critical observations true to the semantic essence of philo (“loving”) + sophia (“knowledge, wisdom”).

Philosophy is a struggle against the bewitchment (Verhexung) of our understanding by the resources of our language.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Norman J. Olson examines his intuitive art philosphy of being a professional hobbyist. He ruminates on his existence as an “old school” artist seeking meaning in the contemporary milieu, and the embrace of his work by the literary set. MA Papić prophesizes the postfuturistic state/fate of our living planet – referencing the limitations of free thought as well as our history of global hysteria and multiethnic anxiety.

Ivan Arguelles’ latest poetry collection HOIL: An Unfinished Elegy, reviewed by Christopher Bernard, highlights the paradox of our existence. No matter how high our creative aspirations soar, we still, like the poet’s son who passed away recently from encephalitis, have to live within bodies vulnerable to illness, injury and age. Doug Hawley elucidates a deistic look at the universe through a humorous interview with God, who set nature in motion and then, bemused, watched it unfold.

Chimezie Ihekuna espouses his philosophy of sexual chastity in pursuit of “Mr/s. Right” across dimensions, whether it be professionally or personally. J.J. Campbell continues his explorations into domestic angst. Physical and emotional pain powers his poetic suite in an intimate manner devoid of companionship. Poet R.M. Englehardt explores physical death in his poetic suite. The darkness of music and his Southern Goth aesthetic emanates through words filled with bitterness, rage and personal nostalgia.

…and philosophy is nothing else, if one will translate the word into our idiom, than “the love of wisdom.”

– Cicero, De Officiis

Poet Susie Gharib takes us on a contemplative retreat thru her celestial monastery alongst a water sphinx and cerebral historian. Daniel DeCulla bemoans the vagaries of an unsuccessful fishing trip and the unpredictability of the natural world. Joan Beebe illustrates the simplistic beauty of nature with succinct descriptions of flower, bird, star, sky, sun, and soul. Conversely, poet Jake Cosmos Aller provides a retrospective account of complex, global affairs and personal transformation, which all fuse together in a fateful dream.

Visual artist B.T. Lowry postulates a “polyculture of complementary knowledges” to ensure human sustainability and honor inspired by “badland landscapes with knobbly stone hoodoos and deep ravines.” Neila Mezynski offers a poetic catharsis in the spur of the moment akin to the transience of Mark Young‘s graphic photography. Their creative nontraditionalism is further echoed by the surrealistic poetry of Husain Abdulhay and John Dorroh.

Philosophy is the question: from which side shall we look at life, God, the idea or other phenomena.

– Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto 1918

Author Cliff Garstang provides culinary and commuter backdrops for his short story and novel excerpts exploring familia and human dynamics. D.S. Maolalai’s poetry celebrates the beauty of moments of ordinary life with regular people: drinks with friends, the moment just before a couple gets engaged, father’s perfect turkey soup. Even an ordinary moment can be quite lovely with time and care.

Book columnist Elizabeth Hughes introduces us to the work of Glenn Peterson as he chronicles his Mother’s journey from Nazi-occupied Denmark during WWII to the safer shores of North America. Meanwhile, Jeff Rasley takes us through the streets of Kathmandu wherein the ramblings of his emerging culture shock quake beneath the lives of regular people. Mahbub also finds inspiration through travel, visiting gardens, temples and elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and wishing for the same peace and posterity as the resting cats he sees.

Essayist Abigail George evokes literary modernist Franz Kafka in her autobiographical tale of monstrosity, abuse, pain, love, and healing. Similarly, the poetic determinism of Mickey Corrigan evokes Rimbaudian symbolism, as he captures our participation in the cycles of nature.

“…philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables.”

Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics

Film critic Jaylan Salah illustrates the appeal of the movie adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s romantic comedy Confessions of a Shopaholic to Egyptian young adults as more Western consumer products became available due to economic globalization. Yet, economic reversals in the country rendered the seeming prosperity and the culture that grew up around it a mirage, tempered by reality in the same way as the book character’s credit-card financed lifestyle.

Actor Federico Wardal describes a performance where he intentionally blurred the distinction between illusion and reality to delight the audience. San Francisco poet Joan Gelfand likens the local tech scene to a bovine pasture – is the Silicon Valley tech dream really all its cracked up to be? Or is it merely an insomnia-induced illusion as described by poet Henry Bladon?

“…begin the long, slow process of reintegrating the Eastern philosophical tradition with the Western one…by restoring the application of theory to practice as a central measure of philosophical worth…”

Adrian Piper, Yoga vs. Philosophy?

Finally, and poignantly, returning poet Joan Beebe contributes a wistful piece where she remembers the simpler and happier days of her past.

Essay from MA Papić

Fear of a Living Planet (Sides A & B)

There might be lots of opinions on what is most important to the dignity of humans, but all of those opinions, these days, fall into only one of two camps: those who believe in a living planet, and those who do not. In these two camps reside an operating principle that determines the underlying logic and prejudices that filter concepts around politics, religion, power and diversity that lead to different logical conclusions. Within these two camps there is a constant overlap in identities and roles, but subjective and seemingly objective conclusions skew in only two poles: living or dead planet by nature. 

A living planet is a planet that must be respected and worked with — while a dead planet waits, like a sterile clay, for something or someone to animate and give it direction. In these two models and camps of philosophy a person either believes in their right to step into the role of sole creator or to allow themselves to be part of a more dynamic, collective creation. History shows that philosophies of domination and exclusion always found their rights to oppression in the belief that somehow this world was separated from the essential living spark that created the planet, and ultimately space and time. Abandoned through this separation, the essential life force had to be pantomimed by those in positions of an almost god-like power. 

Oppressors ultimately believe in a dead world and see all other peoples, beings and materials as essentially inanimate objects to be manipulated, collected and controlled. They sell this view through their methods of media and outright coercion, so that a perversion of all other concepts of love or philia discussed in the day to day discourse are set to serve the dead planet paradigm. A dead Earth philosophy allows for the exploitation of labor, mass incarceration of minorities and outliers, as well as the wholesale use of poisons being poured into the ground as a method for increasing fertility. The logic ultimately finds itself, by whatever means, using poison and poisonous virtue signalling to generate fears towards the basic tenets of life and co-existence. 

A typical dead Earth view can distort many ultimately useful concepts, such as those we might find in holy books. One example could be found in Genesis, where the idea of “dust to dust” is first posited. Of course there is a deeper conversation around the loss of immortality (unfettered and direct connection to the Godhead) and the casting out of Eden that accompanies this scenario, but taken as a well known phrase often used by Christians to show humility in the face of life on Earth, there is something about it that begs our attention. 

Dust to dust, or Earth to Earth is reflective of a circular system, one where the body returns from whence it came. The body, itself, returns to itself through what are primarily biological processes. As a society that reduces its pieces to chemistry and physics, to mechanical agents in a system that somehow gives life but is not made of life, we find the body’s return to Earth troubling. We thwart this process by infusing the body with chemicals when possible, making the very thing we are meant to return to the Earth toxic. The circle of life is broken in our efforts to maintain a separation from the subsumption of humans bodies into those of micro-organisms and insects, into those beings that function as part of a larger biological system. 

Only in a system where the body has been reduced to some less than whole version of itself can we find a rationale that manages to treat the body as separate from the world of its biology. This rift between humanity, Earth and an underlying living systems unity can be traced down through dogmas that developed along with the technologies of production. This rift was exploited as technologies grew so that humans and their planet could be parsed into bits, cut into small and tiny parts to be manipulated as objects out of relation to the whole.

Although the spiritual truths of our culture pay lip service to our unity with a biological foundation, the dominant political narrative has been one of an essential deadness that we must pretend exists in us. In archaeology, it is understood that the way in which a culture buries its members is a core element for understanding their relationship to life and myth. If that is the case, then our culture will be known for a hallmark of denial and for absorption with its own creations to the point of exhibiting a complete division with the realities of biology. 

In this way, a belief in a dead planet is the foundation of the schizophrenic nature of our culture, and an underpinning of its widespread mental debilities. To reconcile ourselves with the dead planet theme, we offer the chemistry of modern pharmacology in place of integration and have done so with stunning results. This, of course, has been our history and has led us to the brink of a self-fulfilling group prophecy of end times. These end times, of course, are just a new beginning – one whose character and timbre are up for argument.  

The Rebirth (of a Living Planet)

For many today who espouse living systems design there are lineages in every discipline. There have been voices that at first held the lineage of older cultures, and then there are newer voices that link them to the politics of the day. It is not impossible to draw deeper connections between the voices of mystics who healed in keeping with the seasons and plants, and spiritual teachings and those who point to statistics illustrating the dire need for women; and primarily women of indigenous cultures, color, and poverty to be uplifted from their oppressed placements within their local cultures and the global culture at large. 

A living planet requires and thrives in biodiversity, and it evolves itself towards cooperation. From early findings of the naturalist Darwin, through the work of evolutionary biologists such as Lynn Margulis, to the recent research of scientists who have found that insect communities evolve to cooperate and negotiate –  this is a thread found in science. The concept of competition as a type of demi-god of a dead system view is refuted by Darwin’s full texts, and continued by all the work that shows our bodies are not simply bodies, but interconnected ecosystems working in tandem with our tiniest and oldest living ancestors of microbiota. 

Denial of a living planet is necessary for those who would deny the planet and its beings the intrinsic rights of the living, such as dignity and freedom. This denial and its collapse was picked up in the prophetic voices of scholars and rights advocates for generations. Announcing itself again and again, a living planet and the fear it induces in those who see their lives as somehow exceptional and primary and all others as unnecessary and troubling was called out as unsupportable. Famously, in 1990, Fear of a Black Planet was released by the musical group Public Enemy (PE). Taking their thoughts from scholarly foundations while involving themselves in the plight of their people regarding race, color, economic power, and urban experience; PE represented a collective voice heard ‘round the world. Their truth spoke to the power of our fear – the one upheld in the dominant undertones of even the most free-thinking areas of our society. The truth of a living planet is that it requires no supremacy, no hegemony, and absolutely no single best way or people. 

Right to self determination, to equal value, to space on the land and air and water – all of those rights we tend to think of as human rights must be extended to our view of our planet. We may need to eat, make houses, and take up space as a species; but that does not correlate to a set of rights to displace, destroy or demean others. As our technologies evolve into the ethereal space of computing, this balancing of rights is core to our maintenance of this planet and its peoples. To maintain our evolution we must shift to circular systems so the rare minerals we mine and the refuse we create no longer go into the few virgin territories left in the wake of our dead planet history. 

The fear of a living planet will not go quietly, we have seen; but it will go either taking our society and our bodies with it, or it will go on its own while we, as creatures, persist. Our biosphere, our bodies, our very selves as mini-ecosystems can only move forward if we choose to comprehend our place within this world. Whatever the spark that created our planet’s conditions for life, whatever dressing of myth or belief we choose to relate to our visions of perfection and gardens of life – there are still only two choices. We must choose to love a living planet with its limitless forms of expression, with its constantly vibrating and oscillating identities and interactions between them; or we can choose static views and static roles, and ultimately a static planet. Stasis is death, and yet we have been taught to adore it at all costs; to demand that our structures and our identities and our hierarchies do not change. We currently fear our planet, not out of humility for the circle of life in which we participate; but because we fear the true beauty of interconnectedness.


KC Fontaine (Liner Notes)

A simple Ecosia search for “Gaia” rendered me unto a multisensory dimension of indie rock tragedy, digital apocalypse and transcendental nomadism:

MA Papić
(n/adj/v)
rare hybrid:
part scholar,
part artist,
part designer,
part activist,
part scribe,
part icle.

A grandaughter of Hrvatska (Croatia), she processes stimuli with one foot in The Americas (Turtle Island) and the other in the Balkan Peninsula (Balkanski poluotok). Her hands, however, hover within an eclectik spacetime of disembodied poetics, liminal philosophy, encrypted economies, and so on….

MA’s creative range is harmonic and agile, volleying across platforms and modalities toward our inevitable, intersectional balance. She emits the post-apocalyptic coded language of Rucker & 4Hero, Wiliams & Krust – exhibiting the full cycle of creative resilience and epic finality.

Novel excerpts from Cliff Garstang

Author Cliff Garstang

Short story, Papel Picado

Consuelo’s father shows Oliver how to place the patrón over the sheets of colored tissue paper and cut the shapes—angels and crosses in this pattern—with the hammer and chisel. They are in the workshop behind the family’s cottage, itself some distance from the hacienda where SeñorOrtiz is the caretaker, while Consuelo prepares quesadillas for their lunch. She has brought him from Mexico City to meet her family, a major step in their affair.

The aroma of garlic and grilled chicken makes it hard to concentrate on the papel picado, but Oliver tries to imitate the older man’s technique. With each tap of the chisel his head pounds, and he is all too aware that Miguel, Consuelo’s twin brother and the instigator of last night’s tequila wars, is watching from the doorway, blocking the fierce noon light.

“Women’s work,” Miguel says in English so that his father won’t understand. A sneer warps his lip.

Qué?” asks Señor Ortiz.

Oliver looks up, marveling again at Miguel’s resemblance to Consuelo, two impressions from one mold. Last night, in the cantina, Miguel caught Oliver staring. He couldn’t help himself: Consuelo’s lips; her brother’s. That’s when Miguel challenged him to a round of shots, and then another. Oliver had no choice.

Consuelo enters to call them to lunch. Oliver removes the template and lifts a delicate red tissue, lets the light dance through the gaps. He presents his handiwork and kisses Consuelo’s mouth, his eyes searching for Miguel. 

Excerpt from Clifford Garstang’s upcoming novel The Shaman of Turtle Valley:

Driving south on the Pike, Aiken has to pull onto the shoulder as a sheriff’s car flies by, siren wailing, then a fire truck, and then a second. It’s as if he’s racing them, falling farther behind, and he accelerates to close the gap. They turn on his road, and he does, too, skidding on loose gravel, and then he knows. In his gut he understands, even before he sees the smoke, or smells it. And then he does see smoke rising above the trees, black and churning. As he gets closer, he spots three pickups pulled to the side, and men he recognizes from the farmers’ market leaning against their bumpers, watching the flames lick through the roof of his barn. The fire trucks block the driveway, and he pulls into a ditch. He jumps out and into the yard. The barn is engulfed, lighting the night sky. He moves closer, but even if the Sheriff’s man hadn’t dragged him back the angry blaze would have prevented him from getting anywhere near the barn door.

The building burns like dry grass. The windows explode. Now flames are leaping through the roof, and then the roof collapses in a gusher of sparks and cinders. Paint cans erupt inside, each a dull burst, like the echo of a distant gun. Aiken drops onto the steps of the house, eyes tethered to the unfolding catastrophe.

“Got to ask you some questions, Aiken,” Billy says, his leg propped on the step.

“Why would she do it?” Aiken asks. Just then the back wall of the barn collapses, and the two men watch the structure cave in on itself.

“Now, see, that’s just what I was going to ask you,” says the deputy. “We can’t get too near the place yet, of course, but there’s a gas can out in the yard that somebody didn’t bother to hide. I was wondering if you knew anything about that.”

“Me? You think I had something to do with this?”

“I didn’t say that, Aiken. I’ve got to ask. So you think your wife did it?”

“Who else? She wants to hurt me. To punish me. She wants to go home to Korea. Maybe this is her way.”

“Punish you? For what?”

“Damned if I know.” But he does know, and he wishes he could tell her he’s sorry. It’s long overdue.

There’s nothing the firemen can do for the barn, but they stand by in case the flames spread. Billy and Aiken go through the house, room by room, to be absolutely certain she isn’t there. Aiken tells Billy about his dead dog and shows him the gun cabinet. He assures himself and Billy that she’s taken only the shotgun and Hank’s pistol.

“How’d that little girl learn to use a shotgun, Aiken?”

He has no idea. Ordinary people in Korea didn’t own guns, although her father had fought in the Korean War and no doubt knew something about weapons. Maybe she learned from him. But that’s unlikely, from what little he knows about the family, and there has to be another explanation.

It comes to him.

“Cousin Tammy’s a crack shot. She’s been hunting since she was a kid. Damn. We’ve got to call Tammy.”

He dials Tammy’s number, but there’s no answer. It hardly matters. He already knows what she’d say.

“Jesus, Tammy, what have you done?”


Clifford Garstang is the author of a novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, a novel in stories, What the Zhang Boys Know, which won the Library of Virginia Award for Fiction, and a prize-winning short story collection, In an Uncharted Country. He is also the editor of the three-volume anthology series Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, stories set around the world, and the co-founder and former editor of Prime Number Magazine. His new story collection, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, will be published in May 2020.

Garstang’s work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Blackbird, Cream City Review, The Hopkins Review, Los Angeles Review, Shenandoah, Tampa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review,and elsewhere, and has received Distinguished Mention in the Best American Series. He has won the Confluence Fiction Prize and the GSU Review Fiction Prize and has been awarded fellowships by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale Foundation, Hambidge Center for the Arts, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is the recipient of an Indiana Emerging Author Award and an Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Writer’s Center in Maryland.

After receiving a BA in Philosophy from Northwestern University, Garstang served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Korea, where he taught English at Jonbuk University. He then earned an MA in English and a JD, magna cum laude, both from Indiana University, and practiced international law in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Singapore with one of the largest law firms in the United States. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and worked for Harvard Law School’s Program on International Financial Systems as a legal reform consultant in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He then served as Senior Counsel for East Asia at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., where his work focused on China, Vietnam, Korea, and Indonesia. Subsequently he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Poem from Husain Abdulhay

Sui generis

one day i wanted to be top on the news
while watching superstars on boob tube
i dreamt of it as a whim for no bona fide proof
howbeit, my dream came into reality
like a raw fruit, a tenderfoot
i was high in a jubilant mood
heading for Hollywood
donning a la mode tuxedo
while I was afoot to give my first stage debut
that was like a rendezvous
potpourri of confetti firing into air all aglow
over Miss Celebrity, the bride, and Daffodil, my nom de plume, the groom
i was like a seed abloom
going to Tinseltown
i made my best clean sweep
riding on the moon, touching sky on its roof
i fell between two stools
when i was making good
turning myself into a tycoon
i was stuck in a groove
waving at throng from my limo’s sunroof
to leave it for no good
paparazzi had poke all around in pursuit
high and low, they snooped
this story can be true
but keep it entre nous
everyone can be Santa Claus in the Yule
take it as a dandy boon
after all these years i’ve been through
let me tell you the truth
i’ve become for this too old
growing long in the tooth
you live in a cutthroat vale
maybe you’ve heard of this de trop
easy come easy go
life is full of turpitudes
be careful not to lean on a slipper dude
you also find this abstruse
but get off on the right foot
i had repeatedly fallen into lock horns
you won’t find a rose with no thorn
no one can keep a good man down
even by running him out of town
we may grow up living in forest of fient
big waves whip barques by cat-o’-nine-tails
but they never ever lose
enlace tight your own combat boot
even when someone gets on your nose
mens sana in corpora sano
you might find a foe who would inspire you
whilst a cunning cully meaning to deracinate you
no one will be a dead ringer for you if you believe
take the life on life’s term as tickety-boo

Bio: Husain Abdulhay has poems published in Alban Lake Publishing,
Avocet, Cacti Fur, Eskimo Pie, Fib Review, Foliate Oak, Jellyfish
Whispers, Madness Muse Press, Quail Bell Magazine, Scarlet Leaf
Review, Soul-Lit, and Ygdrasil.

Essay from Abigail George

Kafka had a tyrant for a father

By Abigail George

“Sex on the lips. Give mummy more sex on the lips.” Said my beautiful mother, while watching her favourite soap opera, drinking a homemade martini after the vodka was finished. She was reclining on the sofa, with a lit cigarette in her mouth. She popped a mint in her mouth afterwards. I was two and a half years old. Hair tousled. Skinned knees from falling outside when I fell of my tricycle. I had bruises on my arms. That’s how I broke the fall. I was brave even then. Didn’t cry. You think that it is just a phase. Talent, doing well academically, passing exam after exam, being creative, the writing. I was four and a half when I read my first poem. Eight when I wrote my first poem. At twelve, or perhaps even younger than that I was published in the local newspaper. I contributed letters to the editor, opinion, short stories all through my teenage years to the same newspaper. Poets write about monsters. Monsters in the abyss, in their dreams. In their devil-may-care suffering. In their blissful ignorance. The monsters in the closet, under the bed. The monsters who touched them (like I was touched for years, molested by my own mother). There are millions of us out there. Dealing with incident, or, incidents from childhood. Dealing with the currency of sexual ambiguity in our relationships. Not having romantic affairs, not caring about matters of the heart, only a beer buzz in the morning. Starting early, roundabout nine or ten o’ clock in the morning. I don’t blame God. I’m not on some spiritual quest. On a pilgrimage to find myself. I write about the sex, about the abuse, but I see it as if it happened to a stranger, not to me. As if it happened to my doppelganger. Yes, I was the outsider all my life. But when I write I tell the truth. Honesty is dazzling for me. I don’t want to win hearts. I just want to impact one life. I read James Baldwin. Martin Amis. Then his father. Hemingway. Oscar Wilde. I fell in love with Dorian. With Van Gogh. I had a crush on his art dealer brother too. I fell in love with every single one of the young English lords of the flies. Piggy. That was me. Young. I read everything too young. There was, for me, still is, a kind of seduction when it comes to A Streetcar named Desire. Marlon Brando’s rippling muscles. I’ve been rejected. I’ve had love affairs, both intensely emotional, and sexual. Touch has always been physical for me. My mother was mentally ill. Abused most certainly herself. She buried a sister, a brother when she was just a teenager. We are defined by our demons. It will also teach you how to love. Letting go. There was no tension between me and my father. We had an understanding. We did not talk. He never spoke to me. Never came to a teacher-parent conference. For most of my life the devil came my way. The devil came for me. Now, surrendering the weight of pain is the name of the game. Pain slanting, leaning into my childhood psyche. Abuse kind of seals your fate. It goes the distance with you. You never forget. It will oppress you, sabotage you, transform you for the rest of your life. I see everything in a metaphysical light now. My mother’s spiritual wounding is my own spiritual wounding. I remember their bedroom. I remember the sound of the rain on the roof. Her mouth. I remember how she smelled like the sun. Her bed hair. Her older brother was pharaoh. She looked on death early on in life. Her father was an alcoholic. He worked in a canning factory. The drudgery of life and work getting to him, he took to frequenting taverns, bisexual affairs unbeknownst of course to my religious mother. Every Sunday she would dress, doll herself up. A flash of décolletage. Crimson lips. Peacock blue eyeshadow. Showing off her good legs. She had played tennis at provincial level. Received her colours. Even made it into the newspapers. She confessed once to me, afterwards in the bedroom, before my father would come home, that she only started smoking because of the stress. Your father, she said, brushing the tangles out of her hair at the dressing table, is stressing me out. He can’t decide whether he likes girls, or young men. He sleeps with both. How does that make you feel, Jerome? I said nothing. I just wanted to leave the room. Not smell her perfume. Her perfume even now is still in my head. Every flashback. Early on I read D.H. Lawrence before I had any knowledge about sex, about what sexual assault was all about. Predator, pervert, paedophile. These are all words I knew before I was ten. I also knew there were older men who would pay for sex with boys. It was the physical abuse that started it all. Drinking was in my genes. I think back to my very first downward spiral into the world of narcotics, of anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. Of how my mother hovered in the background of my every academic achievement. Every award at prizegiving. She took all the praise. As if she was the one who deserved it. I see me, the victim gate-crashing into the underworld’s belly of addiction. My dealer on the line. I used everything. I started young. There was also a side-addiction to pornographic material, books and films and gay magazines that they put behind the counter. The manager of the store would be ever so discreet about it. You had to summon up the nerve to ask for them. The owner looking you over. Knowing what you were, before you even knew yourself. I never called myself homosexual. But I guess maybe it’s the mouth, the way I dress, the manner in which I talk, the way I walk. But I’m still insecure. My inner child is still two and a half. I can talk about it. But I don’t want to. It hurts too much. My spirit captive forever in my mother’s arms. In the end, she was an inconvenience and curse in my life, but then I had this gift. I became a poet. I had lovers. Most of them emotional attachments. Then there was the first love of my life, Giovanni. He was a physicist. A brilliant, brilliant man. The first intellectual I ever met. We don’t talk anymore. He doesn’t write to me anymore. He’s moved on. I’m still here like driftwood. My son escapes into television series as well. I married. Everybody deserves happiness. I married Sujata. A journalist. She is just as intense as I am. She is proud of the poems. Nobody could be prouder. Nobody could love me more. She’s not a substitute for Giovanni. She is the second love of my life. The hills are blue. The animals, the dogs, happy. They have had nothing that hurt them in their lives. You slowly become the happiness of the people you surround yourself with. Sujata is my muse. My soul’s sweetheart. She is also a talented amateur photographer. Many hurt. Millions. I write for them. The writing was always on the wall for me. Awkward in the beginning stages. The content filled with disorder. Young, my mind was ambivalent, like my sexuality. My life, there are times a terrible sadness comes over me. But I think of my loves, my muses. The progress I am making. So adequate. I’m so distant now from my parents. All they are to me now are dead. Very much alive in a nursing home. But to all intents and purposes they are not a part of Sujata and my son’s life. Never will be. I’ve made them immortal. They’ve made me neurotic. It is as poet that I exist. Sujata, she is laughing at something that I’ve said. Tucks a stray hair behind her ear. She is a beautiful and caring woman. She is kind to me. There’s remorse about the past. Also regret. But that’s sporadic. There is kinship in the writing life. It adopted me. In return I worship its every climate selflessly. But is this a poem. But is this a prose poem. If it is, then I am detached from it. Detached, separated from the woman with no impulse control. I am voice and space. There is a split right down the middle of my brain. On the one side there lies the external. The cute mood in television-mode startling the psychological with its scarcity. Whenever I write I also investigate. Mostly the improbable. The spark is the poetic game. See ‘homosexual context’. It nurtures and feeds off its own vanity exclusively. I write the silence. Give it voice, platform, exposure to controversy, censorship, opportunity most of all. The silence opens territories. I am the shaking woman’s son. The lithium has taken its toll on her. Life was, is, always will be hell on earth. Everything that never happened between us is my fault. The idea of you as master. Well, I search for the idea of you in the faces of younger men. Men much younger than me. I want to share everything of myself with them. I want them to come to know me. Which is perplexing, right? I want to sleep with them body and soul. You’re perfect. You always were, Giovanni. Oh, I know how imperfect men are. Especially when it comes to the fairer sex. An older man desires. A younger man envisions. I will write to you my entire life about the wholesomeness of my life now. I’m spiritual, enlightened. I meditate. I pray. Giovanni, I’ll pretend to video call you. I’ll pretend to give you the time of your life. I will predict the exact moment you fall out of love with me. The religious aspects of it. Some days I yearn for it. Yield to prayer like a servant. Trying to reach you (because you are prophet, scribe and here I think of the Dead Sea Scrolls). I try my utmost to seduce the boy, but I’m old now, take sleeping pills at night to sleep, sometimes tranquilisers. I can never again (although I want to very badly) make you mine, but you are not mine. Giovanni, you belong to another. My trauma does not belong to another. It belongs solely with me. The impulse is psychotic. The stimulus is chemical. The imbalance, the medical fraternity tells me, an imbalance in the brain. You are genius too, Giovanni. It matters that you are. It doesn’t matter so much to me anymore whether you are a man of genius, celebrated for your innovation in research. That was never the key issue of faith for me. You are loved. That is the most important thing. I have the survival instinct. You on the other hand are that most rare thing. You are loved. You were never abandoned as a child, or neglected by your elegant mother, or beaten in the dark with a belt. That one time it was my father’s belt. There was a swarm inside my head that night. In every brain cell there’s a fortress inside the adult that I now have strangely become. I wept the terrifying physical pain away, but the emotional trauma has a vein. This trauma travels with me wherever I go. They come and go as they please. My physical body took the beating like a man, not a very young child. My mother screaming at me. While I was screaming too. All I wanted to say Giovanni was that I love you too. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about my mother, or rather the lack of her. If somebody had just loved me, believed in me as a child, not thought of me as plaything, and object perhaps I would be different, feel different, not objectified. I’m subjected now to the indifferent world of men. Can never catch up to you. For I was never educated. Everything came to me through luck and determination and hard work. This case study was largely elf-taught. You’re a man of the world, a sign of the times channelling visions and signs and symbolism that is original only to you. You see what I cannot see. You hear what I cannot. The unseen is seen by me. Only me. And the state of mind I’m in now is one of elation, an uprising movement of euphoria within me. The mania, the obsession I have with you. With the man, with the males who are old enough to be my father. But let me speak about the mania first. Can’t come down yet from that high. I elevate Salinger and Updike. Can talk for hours on Holden Caulfield, his brother the screenwriter in Hollywood for a time. These days I am lonely. Despair eats away into the core of my soul. That vortex filled with chapters of indecision and conflicting choices. I tell myself that even my mistakes matter. Even the past men in my life still matter. It has been years and years. You must be an amazing lover. Robust. Vigorous. Energetic. But I am ashamed for thinking of you in this way. You don’t think of me in that way. All you see is the boy. The boy in his twenties who is disconcerting and intense. Every glance from you simply annihilates him. In his world he is no beauty. Only younger master in distress that must be saved. Nobody comes to his rescue. You were there once. Opportunity passed me by. Now there will never be another chance. Only the fear matters to me. Keeps me inside the house. For the time being let me be frank and disarming, vulnerable, sharp, innocent.  I don’t eat. I don’t sleep. Nothing is nourishing to me. I hurt my mother on a daily basis. Well, I write to her in everything. I still judge her. I mistrust her. This shadow-figure. In my life she is a judgemental figure. A woman of great physical beauty. And when I get that feeling, I can no longer hide anything about my childhood, the man with the child in his eyes. What confessional missive is this? You say I am too intense. My gestures wild. I try and dazzle you, but you can’t, or won’t, or don’t engage with me, don’t interact, don’t involve yourself too deeply in my world. I’m troubled, and jaded by this ancient world, the cracks are beginning to show. Love does not find adoration. Does not find that warm afterglow. Does not find reward. You are you. You remain you. British. British accent. And I find everything about you devastating. You destroy me. The insecurity, the search for identity in helplessness, and the recurring hope found in passion and reconciliation. Grant me a grand permission. Let me talk. Let me talk of the more classical elements of creativity and suffering, ignorance and the triumph of the hope that you, I, will live to see another day. In separate cities. Our separate worlds. Yours research. Hers journalism. Giovanni. Sujata.

I am who I am because I had a tyrant for a mother. She taught me nothing about love, but everything about being a dramatic player, a spoilt artist, rubbed my nose in the intelligentsia of the day, so I could smell like them. Like a rose garden. Chlorine in a swimming pool. I have your number. You have mine.  I have your email address. You have mine. But you don’t write to me anymore. This makes me sad. You don’t worry for me. I am not in your care. I am neither wife, nor husband, nor Giovanni’s lover. Nor the stepfather to your adult children. I achieved what to me was the impossible. There’s this dazzling fear and anxieties inside of me like a fire breathing volcano. I use that word often in my correspondence. Volcano. There are days when I am that volcano. There are days when my mood is like a river. You understand me. Sorry, understood me like no one else. And then you took your love away. Just like that. Knot in my throat. Ache where my heart should be. Nothing but heartbreak. Heartbreak can be seductive when repeated. When it is the dominant feature in all of your adult relationships. Call me toy radical. Call me, invent me, turn me into a toy exile. Everything I am capable of doing I turn into something called art, or vision. The sky is waiting for the heavens to open up. Rainclouds gather. You are me. You are not me. I am you. I am not you. I would love to be where you are, but cannot reach those breath-taking hearts. I asked you take me far away from this childhood home. Once you could have done that effortlessly. Rid me of mental and emotional pain. Rid me of the burdens in my life. To play caregiver, cleaner, slave in my childhood home. This is my soul. Speak to my soul. It is the only language that I can understand. Otherwise we are lost to each other again, as we have been over the years. There will always be circumspection. You are a compelling figure. Attractive to other men. All men are arrows to my heart. You are more handsome now than you ever were before. Love sets this species apart from the biological makeup of the spirit. The wilderness-decay of the soul. The change in climate transforms my mood from easy-going, I’m too difficult in a matter of hours. You guessed right. I don’t think of touch. Of making love. I think of my parents. They might as well be divorced. They do not make love anymore. They haven’t for years. They sleep in separate king-sized beds. What is love anyway. It never brought me any satisfaction or fulfilment. It gave you an empire. You have a laboratory were other geniuses work under your supervision. You call it a science. All of science is fragile. All of science has karmic accounts. All of the dimensions of the flora and fauna inter-related in the cosmos. Their inter-connectedness spellbinding in nature. The nature of the beast is wolf. I am content to be wolf leading the pack. Understanding, accepting of my followers. Followers are usually disciples. You don’t love me anymore. Not in that way. How am I supposed to live without you, Giovanni? You’ve been the all that I have waited for, survived for, lived for. You gave me a sense of the natural world whenever we went hiking in the mountains. Became inspiration repeatedly. Told me that fear and anxiety were the most natural feelings in the world next to kindness, mediocrity, child prodigy. You were the first man who ever called me genius. I showed Giovanni some of my work. Just for perusal’s sake. He always had input. Be it in a line, phrase, verse. Don’t talk so much about your mother, he said. The work will improve after time, he said. The work will evolve in its own time. I loved him for that. How to describe it? He became my atmosphere. I had a tyrant for my mother. I told you that, Giovanni. I never told you about the romantic feelings for you I was inclined to have time after time. You, so wise. Beyond the phenomena of constellations. Beyond the galaxies that exist in another space, another place and another time. Oh, I know you don’t think of me in all the ways I think of you. Your lips are warm. The husband is exotic-looking. Of German and Nigeran ancestry. He is exquisite. You are surrounded by men. You surround yourself with men like you. I cannot sleep anymore. Not even during the day. I have been awake for hours. The cold air is brutal. Its force has a disarming intelligence. The fear is aloof. Family is non-supportive. Birthdays in my life area non-event. I always eat salmon and Philadelphia cheesecake on my birthday. There are only ever two guests at the kitchen table with me. My narcissistic mother. My elderly father. Over the years I lost my lanky frame. I think back to how bone-thin I was in my early twenties. It has been more than years. You married. So, did I. There are no arms to hold me. No loving glance. No stare to turn me on. Just my legs. My bone-thin legs. The only thing blue about me are my wrists. Then there is my genetic makeup. I might be anorexic again. I wear layers of clothes. It is spring. In exactly two months it will be summer. I promised myself I wouldn’t call. You said what you wanted to say in your last message that you emailed me. It’s over. The dream of you was over at the end of that letter. We were talking again. We were communicating. There was a meeting of intellect. Like mind meeting like mind, and for a brief moment in time I could forget my old life, being a child stuck in a man’s body. You can’t possibly imagine the ways in which I love you. Now that you’re no longer in the scenario of my life anymore. Now that you don’t feature in its landscape, I must move on. I’m so out of touch. I live within this non-reality. I don’t want love. I don’t want a master to care for me, to stand up for my rights. I don’t believe in the waves of radical feminism anymore. I’m a mess. I’m not your gay mess. I’m a shadow, just a plain shadow-figure of the confident person I used to be when you knew me. You think I’m suspect. I expect you are right. I don’t seduce any more. I’m not pulled in that direction. That’s not the path I follow anymore. My life as it was then is over. Every day there’s a verse, or a line of remarkable beauty. There’s nobody to share that part of my life with. Only Sujata. The writing life. Here I must be honest. I work. My trauma work for me. I produce. I’m an artist. Artists create. I’ve given up smoking cigarettes. Will sometimes inhale but never smoke marijuana. It always gives me a headache. Red wine also gives me a headache. I can stomach pain. Nothing about it is ever wasted. Everything is a race. I have yet to meet a man as complicated as I am. I was forward in the old days. Not anymore. I have a high pain threshold. I have had no male suitors. Nothing but empty promises from boyfriends over the years. Measure the span of a decade. All I can see for that decade is a boy with wild hair with a new boyfriend every week. Nobody wanted to marry me. So, I shut the majority of my indigent self and ego away from the world. I withdraw, withdraw, withdraw ever mindful of the fact that I might be mad again. Be hearing voices again. Seeing the unseen. People suffer all the time. Suffering is the most natural feeling in the world. I suffered as a child, but so do millions. Kafka had a tyrant for a father. I had a tyrant for a mother. Giovanni’s bright existence has become my fortress in a close-knit jungle. I don’t want you to see me like this. Ever. You want to know something. You still have an epic mouth on you. Hottest summer in years. But summer didn’t bother getting up this morning. It is raining. All the trees forgot to wake. The river is a mental river. Today it is too wide. Today I bury my father. The topic for today is hell.

Poetry from Joan Beebe

Joan Beebe and fellow contributor Michael Robinson
Joan Beebe (left) and fellow contributor Michael Robinson

BEAUTY

We who live in this world and behold the elegant works of nature that enhance our lives every day are very fortunate.

There are days when we are in awe of the striking brilliance of the sun. 
On a dark and rainy day, we hear and see the dazzling beauty of sparkling raindrops. 

When that storm is over, we often see a colorful rainbow arching across the sky and, at times, it seems to be never-ending.Did you ever wish upon a star?
Sometimes the sky is filled with twinkling stars and it is an awesome sight.

Many days we observe different kinds of birds who are arrayed in colors of beauty.
Sometimes, we see flowers of many kinds reaching out to a nurturing sun. 

As we enjoy the these visions of nature, it brings sense of peacefulness to our soul.
The animals on this earth are many so we can love and enjoy and be thankful for the gifts of nature.

Mixed media from Daniel DeCulla





HERE WE’ RE COMING WITH WORMS

GO TO AND FRO, PALS

This saying came from my friend Zalito

To fishermen who had cast their reeds

Before us

In the waters of the Arlanzón dam

In Burgos

Thinking that the trouts would sting

In our reeds

Where nobody saw them

After walking half a league

And hurting my head.

-Lead down the voice, friend, he said

That some very large trouts are approaching

And you can scare them away.

Yes, a large trout

It seemed to take the bait

But what it did was take out his beak

Out of the water to breathe

Laughing at us

And at our earthworms.

– It’s impossible! Zalito exclaimed

If worms are the best delicacy

For trouts

As are worms from the children’s ass

To the pedophile priests’ mouth¡

Seeing my friend that trouts not sting

We left the place

Coming back to home

Not without first eating in Pineda de la Sierra

Passed more than five hours.

I came back with a lot of grief

Because I lost in the swamp waters

The hook, the thread and the cane.

Fortunately, Zalito is a good man

And penalized me only

With take him on my shoulders

On the way to Pineda de la Sierra

Leaving the car at the entrance of dam

Right in the same place

Where we had left it before.

Walking, he told me:

-You’re lucky, friend

You are going to be the foal

That neighs in this saw.

-Daniel de Culla