Happy April and Happy Easter to those who celebrate. This month’s contributors create a sense of suspense, an uneasy creative tension throughout the issue.
Leonard Traumel’s lecture at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California, reviewed here by Cristina Deptula, shows how leading physicists and cosmologists say that much of our universe is composed of ‘dark’ matter and energy, about which we know next to nothing. Poet Kira Burton urges us to embrace dissonance and confusion, while Neil Ellman’s poetry comments on paintings whose protagonists are perched between love and disaster, beauty and death.
San Francisco’s Fashion Tech Week reflected the influence of high technology, startup culture and environmental concerns on San Francisco’s emerging fashion aesthetic. Returning poet Tony Longshanks LeTigre describes social contradictions within the same city, where during the same week he can visit a renowned botanical conservatory for free and be harassed for napping briefly in a public park.
Sonny Zwierkowski’s poetry presents images that carry hints of unreality and disconnection: empty foreclosed homes, people who have trouble speaking to each other, a backyard view reflected in a pool of water. Joshua Dunlap’s poetry and prose vignettes tell stories with themes that have resonated with people throughout human history: striving for accomplishment versus living in the moment, fighting with others to prove oneself, contemplating mortality in the midst of vibrant life.
Russell Sivey presents a relationship where there is simultaneously passionate love and intense conflict.
Joan Beebe’s gentle, thoughtful pieces convey the earth’s natural renewal in spring and the rhythms of her childhood working on a family farm. Yi Wu’s poetry presents spring as fragile, almost tipsy and clumsy in how it clears away frost. Patrick Ward also contributes a pleasant piece about growing beans in his garden, and in later pieces encourages acceptance and respect for those who are somehow outside the mainstream, even those who seem scary at first glance. Ward also points to the existence of cruelty and evil in one of his pieces. Again, the complexity of life involves both good and bad, compassion and malice.
Ann Tinkham’s travel essay, like Patrick Ward’s work, comments on the lives of those who are different. She portrays a moment of tension in a family whose baby has Down’s syndrome and wonders if we can broaden our concept of ‘having it all’ to encompass ‘welcoming all.’ Shawn Nacona Stroud’s poetry conveys themes of family and loyalty, showing the beauty of building a history with loved ones. His final piece describes a near death experience, reminding us that we are all vulnerable. Laurie Byro’s work embraces all, love, memory, travel, grief, separation, culture, the foreign, prayers, through lush imagery.
Elizabeth Hughes reviews titles in her Book Periscope column where protagonists must make choices that determine their character and destiny. In K.C. Simos’ Ambrosia Chronicles, the characters within the adventure trilogy slowly grow into themselves, discovering their supernatural powers. In pastor Stephen White’s self help guide Saving Dr. Jekyll, Destroying Mr. Hyde, the author gives advice on how to live a moral life and overcome one’s addictions and bad habits. Characters and readers must choose to show courage and do the right thing even when faced with constant danger and pressure to give in to temptation.
Ryan Hodge, in his monthly Play/Write column, discusses how the most interesting video games encourage characters to solve problems in more creative ways than simply shooting as many enemies as possible. As one game demonstrates, sometimes peace can be even more complex and interesting to maintain than war.
In his lengthy poem about the provenance of a clock, Christopher Bernard reminds us that most of us are inextricably connected to others. Nigerian political columnist Ayokunle Adeleye urges his fellow citizens to turn away from selfishness in the social and political spheres. Laura Kaminski and David Subacchi advocate for tolerance and nonviolence in the wake of killings of civilians within Nigeria by terrorist group Boko Haram. Warwick Newnham presents the moral chaos still present in post-colonial Myanmar/Burma through a vignette about drunken sailors, lovers and fireworks.
There’s plenty of chaos in this issue, but also plenty of love and understanding and creativity. These pieces point to a way forward where we embrace complexity while acknowledging our pasts and accepting and honoring our connections with others.
Announcement from our partner Rui Carvalho, who has worked with poet Janine Canan and other writers here:
Now you can publish your e-book for Windows or Windows Phone, with your poetry, tales or novel, for only a donation of the following amounts:
a) annual donation 10 USD (maintenance);
b) price per page 1 USD;
c) authorize the inclusion of automatic ads in 10 % of the pages (at least and only if you aren’t happy with this).
For more information please contact Rui M. Publishing at:
-Ryan J. Hodge
For someone who enjoys a great story, is there anything better than a narrative that engages you from the very start? Imagine a world so rich you can almost smell the scents in the air, a delivery so clever it forces you to think in a way you never thought you would. I’m Ryan J. Hodge, author, and I’d like to talk to you about…Video Games.
Yes, Video Games. Those series of ‘bloops’ and blinking lights that –at least a while ago- society had seemed to convince itself had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In this article series, I’m going to discuss how Donkey Kong, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and even Candy Crush can change the way we tell stories forever.
How Unconventional Problem Solving Makes Stories More Exciting
There’s a certain habit one can get into while writing as well as playing video games; the habit of resolving problems in the most straight forward, obvious way possible. Be it with firearms or sharpened sticks, it is easy to think of conflict as an uncomplicated affair of each party dueling the other until one falls over. Unfortunately, this can lead to a bit of creative stagnation and, worse, make combat in a story outright boring.
Take Ultraviolet (2006, film) for example. In this movie, Milla Jovovich’s character, Violet, lays waste to the enemy forces with such brutal efficiency that nothing the villains send against her can really be considered a threat. Though the number of enemies is scaled up with every encounter, because Violet’s default problem solving mode is pure attack we, the audience, need not even ask ourselves How’s she going to get out of this one?
Such modus operandi is more than applicable to a lot of modern video games. The worst offenders, in fact, are some of the most popular on the market; including Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield. Despite their financial successes, however, there tends to be little about these titles that players find memorable. However, the moments they do find memorable tend to have little to do with endlessly felling waves of enemies.
by Tony Longshanks LeTigre
yobo (noun): young hobo
I take a nap in George Sterling Park
broad daylight, early afternoon
I’m tired, between appointments
sleep for an hour or less
do not litter, in fact pick up
a bottle left by someone else
pee on the concrete
don’t drink or smoke (though I might)
as I wake up, guy confronts me
“are you camping out here?”
tells me to leave & not come back
calls me “buddy”
I say, “don’t call me buddy”
does this guy know
what it’s like to be crazy tired
and have nowhere to sleep?
I leave, for my own reasons
but may be back again
to this park named after a bohemian roustabout poet
who would totally take a nap in a park
Simplicity in chaos
The disorientation of unreality
Of your own insignificance
Finding that time
Is the most valuable commodity
The clock ticks
As you read this
Is it worth it?
The most beautiful moments
Because they end
We are always waiting
For something to begin
Lingering has consequence
We say forever
Like it actually exists
Optimistic in our hubris
Embrace the discord
Because change is perpetual
And without its ongoing tilt
We would wither
We would wilt
Let whimsy rule the day
Let nonsense out to play
And place logic in a box
Only to be used when requisite
If possible avoid it
There is honesty in discord
That is not easily ignored
Because it makes up our very existence
And it is exquisite in its persistence
It is the majesty of juxtaposition
Peace within dissonance
Me AND Now
Few years ago I conducted a study wherein I asked my FB friends to
translate a simple sentence starting with “You and I” into as many
languages as they are able to. (Not) Surprisingly, while non-African
languages typically place “You” before “I”, African languages
typically place the Speaker, “I”, before the Other, “You”! Where is
our chivalry? You and I are a selfish lot!
Sometime last year, I “boarded” a bike only to realise, some two to
three hundred metres to the agreed destination that the road would be
bad further on, having rained heavily the previous night. So I took it
upon myself to alight prematurely and save the bike man avoidable
trouble: slips, falls, and mud. But when I paid him what was
commensurate with my new stop, he refused flatly and said I had to pay
him for the whole journey, a journey I will now complete on foot out
of consideration for the ingrate! I and you are a selfish lot!
Just last month, I was regaled with tales of how Buhari formed the WAI
Brigade during his (in)famous reign of terror, of how a few civilian
youths would patrol the streets and hand over defaulters to the
soldiers for (inhuman) discipline, of how they were themselves terror
in the community, respected, nay, feared! And the kicker was that the
narrator was routing for General so he could dust his uniform of
thirty years and resume his delusions of authority, summarily! That
was his reason for singing Buhari to the polls; even after I told him
we are in saner times!
Of Artists and Scientists
Medicine is both a science and an art: the study of Medicine starts
predominantly as science, the Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and
Biochemistry; continues as a blend of science and art, the Anatomy,
Physiology, Pathology and Pharmacology; and ends predominantly in art,
Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Medicine and Surgery.
In the one you are expected to think outside the box, imagine, and
explore; in the other, well, just cram and pass, do it as it has been
done for centuries: stand on the right side of the patient, say it
thus and thus, no need to reinvent anything. In the one you have to be
smart and genius; in the other, just be alert and attentive, and tune
your antennas to synch.
And as it turns out, Medicine asks for scientists, admits more
scientists than artists, and turns us all into artists by virtue of
the training; yet, Medicine makes it (extremely) difficult for the
scientist to survive! Much like Nigeria: Nigeria votes you in as a
Democrat, but expects you to be a Dictator; wants you to swear to
protect and uphold the Constitution, yet would rather you threw
everyone in jail, even without lawful convictions; wants you to build
lasting structures, but would rather you did so overnight.
(André Masson, painting)
The dragon-night, its smothering wings,
holds her fast, its tongue, embered
by the stars it eats, turns her skin
to smoldering coals, her soul to the stone
she has become.
No escape from this dark enemy,
none, nor even the light still tangled
in her hair, once a princess
now a servant to a basilisk, she
struggles to no avail.
Once upon a midnight time
Andromeda, set free, released
to wander destiny
her ashes scattered in the sky
dark star, to the naked eye.
The World in the Palm of Your Hand
By Christopher Bernard
As my eyes opened
the sun struck the clock –
a little plastic thing
with a face, round, plain,
given for Christmas by my closest friend.
I moaned a little. “Mmm—let me
sleep a little longer….” It said a minute
or two, but not enough, before seven.
There was nothing special about the clock:
small, functional, foldable, accurate,
it could be slipped into a pocket and carried
to the farthest ends of the small blue planet.
It had a delicate but curiously penetrating alarm.
My friend had bought it at a little store
in Chinatown from a teenage gamine-like girl
named Mary Chew, who had a mole
on her chin, perfectly shaped eyes, and a stutter.
Usually she worked only weekends, but
that day had been the first of winter vacation,
and she wanted to earn some extra money
to buy a motorcycle helmet (a surprise)
for her 20-year-old boyfriend, Daniel Chan,
whom no one in her family liked.
“His family is not from Guangzhou,” complained her mother.
Mary’s employer, Charles “Charlie” Wang,
was a little wiry man, all abrupt manner
to his workers, all unctuous simpering
for his customers. He usually paced
the back of the store looking at all
the clocks, but could never remember the time.
He had purchased the clock
as part of a consignment from a saleswoman
named Kelly Smithfield, a tall, big redhead,
born in Modesto, a graduate of Davis,
who had brought it in a case of samples
she showed him one day at the end of October
on a cold call at the Golden Mountain Happy Clock Store.
Kelly was twenty-seven, vaguely desperate –
she waved her hands a lot and laughed too often –
still on probation with the company,
she hadn’t sold a single clock since August,
and nearly fell over when Charlie Wang
bought her entire case. When Charlie
invited her to lunch at the Dragon Palace of Dim Sum –
“You will love their chicken feet!” – well, how could she refuse?
Kelly had been given the clock
by her assistant, Amanda Clark,
at the home office in Sacramento.
Amanda was twenty-three,
petite, blond, scattered,
with two years of community college
and aspirations to become a real estate agent,
though she was afraid she may have missed
the height of the market
by a decade or two.
Amanda had gotten the clock
in a case with other clocks –
small-traveling, silent-alarm, valedictory, vanity-table,
of all shapes and designs, from the plainest, like mine,
to luxury, to joke and variety designs:
Dooby-Doo, Bart Simpson, Princess Elsa, Shrek –
a case she had gotten
from the office delivery clerk, Steve Butts,
a middle-aged man who had been downsized
by a local insurance company at the age of 55
and was taken in out of compassion
by the office manager, who knew him
during his glory years as a claims adjuster.
Steve had gotten the case from a warehouse clerk,
José Parra, thirty-two, prematurely balding,
undocumented, who lived in a trailer park
with several men from his village in Guatemala.
He sent half his minimum wage to his family
and sold clocks he had filched from the warehouse
late at night on eBay.
A young warehouse worker named Minh Vuh,
a Vietnamese whose parents had been boat people
when they were children, had placed the clock
carefully in the case, with a handful of confetti. Minh
was engaged to a sweet young Laotian
who lived three blocks from his family home.
Their parents were not too happy about that,
so they had to meet secretly after school
and on his work breaks when she was in the neighborhood.
It all felt very romantic. “Like Romeo and Juliet!”
his girlfriend said, giggling. Minh kissed her on her tiny nose.
Minh didn’t remember (he had no reason to), but
he had put that very clock on the
second shelf from the top in column 37 of aisle C
after receiving it in a shipment of similar clocks
off a truck driven by an ageing Filipino
named “Jack” (he had rejected his original name when a young man –
he said he wanted to be “100% American!”
and that meant having a name like Bob or Joe or Bill,
and he thought “Jack” sounded sexy and macho).
Jack had picked up the shipment from a Sacramento wharf
where it had been unpacked from a container
by a young African-American
named Obadiah Washington,
who was in fact a rap artist (the day job was a secret)
and performed at local clubs at night under the name
The container had been hauled off the ship Flower of Seoul
by Ted Anderson, of old Swedish stock, on his last day
before retiring. The container was his last but one.
When he hauled the final container of his career,
his fellow longshoremen smashed a champagne bottle against it
and made a party of it for the next hour on the wharf.
The container with the clocks inside got a splash of the champagne,
but was otherwise undamaged by the festivities.
The Flower of Seoul had carried the container
across the Pacific the week before.
The ship was manned by a small crew,
most of them young Indonesians, and piloted
by a Taiwanese captain named Jiang-Ji Li,
forty-five, with a family of six girls at home
and a nagging wife who made the boredom of sea life
seem like an endless vacation by contrast.
Getting his girls married, however,
was another matter: the eldest
had been poisoned by “women’s liberation”
(as he still called it) and wanted to become a captain
like her father. Why couldn’t she have been a boy?
These thoughts had made the crossing
an onerous one for Captain Li,
especially the prospect of going back:
the Flower of Seoul would be making a week-long stop,
after picking up timber in Portland,
The clock had sat for the entire trip,
unseen in its dark container,
its hands set at the traditional 10:10.
n the port city of Busan, South Korea,
the container with my clock in it
(though, of course, it was not yet my clock –
would it ever be, really? Is ownership
of anything, let alone a clock,
time’s strict and impartial measurer,
by a limited and mortal being like man
even possible? That is a delicate
that we can not, alas, pursue here),
that container had been placed on the deck
of the Flower of Seoul
with two dozen other similar containers
of different colors and sidings –
some corrugated, some smooth –
with the result that the ship looked like a father
so overburdened with packages
he was likely to fall down,
by a longshoreman named Kim Dong-hyun,
twenty-eight (a little fat fellow
who loved dakon kim-chi so much
his mother gave him a case every year
using a crane
to lift it from a semi driven by a driver
named Kim Ji-hoon (no relation), a tall, skinny fellow
who still lived with his parents
and played computer games on the weekends,
driving his mother to despair about ever having
He had driven the truck
from a small factory outside Seoul,
where he had stopped by for the clock consignment,
up near the border
(it was a long drive not helped
by the bad heat wave and the endless traffic –
the highway was becoming a continuous traffic jam,
but no one in Seoul wanted to pay for improvements,
so Ji-hoon just growled and daydreamed about the next version
of WarCraft, supposed to be coming out in August).
A young woman – a sixteen-year-old named Song-hi
with long hair and fat cheeks and a pert expression –
had packed the clock in the consignment box
after taking it from the end of the assembly line
where it had been checked for quality by a grim matron
named Yun, who had a drunken husband,
two ungrateful children and a spoiled cat,
the only creature in the world she felt understood her.
The clock had been assembled
by half a dozen other girls, all wearing the same uniform.
Chimin, whose face was a perfectly flat oval
and always rode her bike to work,
added the swivel stands to the clocks.
Soyon, who was always sad
and never talked about her home life,
put in the inner workings of the clocks
and the battery receivers:
the little drawer that poked out of
the clock’s plastic case.
Subin, who liked to clown and make practical jokes,
attached the minute and hour hands, and “sweeps”
(i.e., second hands), when they had them, to the clocks.
Hayun, who was very tall and very proud
(actually, her unusual height made her painfully self-conscious),
added the white face to each clock. Once,
she had been so distracted,
she had put the faces in upside down
for more than 20 clocks.
Nobody down the line noticed until Mrs. Yun, of quality control,
saw them and had a meltdown,
and threatened to fire everybody.
That was a bad day for Hayun!
Chi’u, who was so short she
disappeared under the assembly line
when she stepped off her stool,
put in the oscillating mechanism
that ran the clock.
Hyechin, who, for some reason,
no one liked and everyone made fun of,
put in the alarm.
The girls got the parts from the other side of the factory,
where they were made by two men and a woman:
Chunyong, fifty-five, who dyed his hair,
was the lead craftsman
amd made the clock oscillators.
Songmin, his first assistant,
a stiff young man – the first of his family
not to have to work in the fields –
crafted the cases.
Yuchin was the first woman in the factory
to have made it into “craft”: she had a small tattoo
of a periwinkle on her left inner wrist,
and was considered quite wild,
but that was all right by Chunyong,
because she was so talented.
She crafted the clock faces,
arms and sweeps,
based on her own designs.
(These were first OK’d by upper management, of course –
that was one of the reasons they had hired her:
design and craft in one person, with only one salary!
The clocks sold consistently, especially in the American market,
so “UM” was content.)
Songmin and Yuchin got the polystyrene they used
from bins of plastic parts
that had been delivered by
Kwon Young-sik, who had only one eye,
from a bad accident on his last
delivery job (it had not been his fault;
he had left because he thought that it would bring even worse bad luck,
after his accident, to stay).
The parts had been made in the big
National Plastic Co. Ltd. plant
on the other side of Seoul.
Much of the plastic was recycled
from toys, hardware tools, and other clocks.
Chunyong had gotten the quartz for the
oscillator crystal that runs my clock
(I guess I can call it mine, now)
from a bin where the crystals were packed
in small boxes
after delivery by Park Ye-jun,
a short, fiery man with bad breath
(he lived on garlic for breakfast, lunch and dinner),
from the mines of Tae Wha,
near Chungju, half way between Seoul and Busan.
The quartz from which the mechanism of my clock was made
had been mined from the earth there
by a very young man named Ahn Min-kyu,
eighteen years old, just out of school.
His family had been fishermen from time immemorial,
and he had planned on being a fisherman too,
when the fish stocks of his seashore village
disappeared one day –
it was thought because of pollution from the North –
so he had to change plans and, instead of probing the ocean
for a living, probed the earth, as there were jobs
at the booming Tae Wha Mine.
So he left his village
and went to Chungju
and learned to dig the earth
for minerals. Then one day,
in a poorly lit tunnel,
smelling of sulfur and damp,
he dug out, with his pick
(the machinery was down, as so often),
a clump of quartz – several million years old,
formed by magma thrusting
from deep within the earth –
the mine was along the rim of fire that followed
the edge of the northern Pacific
from America to Asia,
and made volcanoes erupt
and quakes shake the earth
(a smaller quake had woken me
not long after I was given the clock) –
a clump of quartz that had been deposited
in milky white crystals
with other rocks, from fire and river and wind,
in the dark earth.
He placed it, using his shovel, into the cart,
and the cart rolled away to the surface
and the sunlight,
then he turned back to the wall of rock
with his pick, and swung.
And that is the list of people to whom I am indebted
for the appearance on my bed table of the little alarm clock.
The list could go on –
there is really no reason to stop here:
What about the parents, and the grandparents, on and on,
of all those people who at one point or another
touched or handled or carried the clock, or
what would later become the clock?
What about their siblings, uncles, aunts,
cousins, teachers, friends?
What about the original inventor of the very first clock?
And who, or what, invented him?
One could go on and on. And on and on,
And that is just for the clock I looked at
when I woke up that morning.
What if I had to do the same thing
for everything else in my life?
The mind suddenly flies off
like a flock of startled crows,
shredding the air with caws . . .
It was the alarm,
telling me “get up! get up!”
Christopher Bernard is author of A Spy in the Ruins, In the American Night, and The Rose Shipwreck. He is also co-editor of Caveat Lector. His poetry can be found at his blog, “The Bog of St. Philinte.”
Image from: Alarm Clock Wallpaper
Scrawled grocery lists
and Friday afternoon traffic jams,
the smell of lumber in a big box hardware store
and sprinkles on sundaes.
Toothpaste splatters on a 6am mirror
and yearly performance reports.
weaving day by day
such a warm tight
swaddle of flames.
Does San Francisco have its own fashion aesthetic and sense of style? While not as well known for its fashion industry as, say, Paris or New York, the city houses a number of emerging clothing and accessory entrepreneurs. Many would say that San Francisco is creating its own scene rather than emulating the more established areas.
At the invitation of Owen Geronimo, founder of the San Francisco Fashion and Merchants Alliance, I attended the opening reception of 2015’s Fashion and Tech Week and a panel discussion on personalizing the retail experience through technology.
The opening reception included displays of clothes, jewelry, scarves and purses from several designers. Highlights included a line of leather purses made to fit inside each other so one could bring all of one’s belongings, including one’s laptop, to the office and then remove a smaller interior purse with only one’s cash, cards and ID at lunchtime. Another designer created a display that resembled a wooded cabin lodge and explained how her leather was sourced humanely, harvested from cows who had already died of natural causes.
Several people at the event pointed to other cultural influences that have shaped San Francisco, including startup and small business culture, environmental consciousness and the do-it-yourself ethic practiced here and highlighted at the annual Burning Man festival. During the festival, which now takes place in the Nevada desert but used to be hosted at San Francisco’s Baker Beach, participants camp for a week in the wilderness, relying on food and water and other supplies they have brought with them. These cultural ideas have brought natural and recycled fabrics, acceptance of creative re-use through consignment and thrifting, and a more individual and personal sense of style into San Francisco’s aesthetic.
The following night several entrepreneurs, software developers and bloggers discussed technical and business methods for tracking and anticipating retail customers’ preferences when they buy clothes and accessories. In addition to being able to target marketing to the individual consumer, small and larger retail businesses hope to eventually incorporate customer preference into a feedback loop guiding product design. So, customers would become co-creators to some extent with the companies who produce and design fashion items.
I was not able to make it to the remaining three events of San Francisco Fashion and Tech Week, so I talked with Alexius Kaitlynn Baker and others there about what was planned for those nights. Alexius invited me to read her blog Divine Imperfection where she reviewed and posted photos of Dapperhood: The Evolution of Menswear, Fashion Bloggers Connect with SheTalks forum/Women in Tech, and WearTechCon: Art and Style of Wearables.
From what I read in her blog, these three events further illustrated how technology and entrepreneurship influence San Francisco’s fashion scene while showing off the work of many creative designers. While designers are still honing the balance between technical function and elegance when it comes to consumer products, the diverse ideas reflected through the product demonstrations show rich promise for the city’s developing aesthetic.
The Waking of Spring
Today seems different as we venture outside
And a lonely shovel lies on its side.
There is a fresh and scented wind today
And I see many children out to play.
What is that coming up from the ground
With pretty little flowers I have found.
I hear sweet chirping and their songs fill the air,
There are melodies of joy for all to share.
The green grass is soft and beautiful to see,
And there is no other place I would rather be.
There is work to be done in the days to come,
Planting, watering and our chores have begun.
We smile and we’re happy to see the beauty of spring
And our days will bring pleasure for the gifts it brings.