Synchronized Chaos December 2021: Through the Lens of Time

Welcome, readers, to Synchronized Chaos December 2021.

First of all, we invite the authors among us, and other book-lovers, to spread books around the world. Refugee Reads, a project launched by a mother and her young son in Texas, is collecting books that a local resettlement agency will offer to people who have recently moved to the United States. They ask for new books, so you are welcome to order books to send to them or mail them copies of your own books. Alternatively, Books for Africa accepts gently used books (up to 15 years old) which they will ship to various African countries. They have more specifications on what genres they’ll accept (no violent thrillers or murder mysteries or cookbooks or Western-centric titles) but are open to used titles in good condition.

This month’s contributors reflect upon where we stand in time: remembering, reminiscing, imagining their future or the world’s future, pondering mortality and immortality. Or just wondering what would happen if we stepped for a moment out of time’s moving stream to take stock of where and who we are.

Photo courtesy of Mathieu Stern

Michael Robinson writes of a dream where he felt at peace, happy with himself and his place in the world. Isabella Hansen chimes in with her own dream, contemplating the timeless moon with her mortal consciousness. Hongri Yuan, in poetry translated by Yuanbing Zhang, imagines eternal life in a supernatural realm of perfect orderly beauty, with the energy of a teenager.

In contrast to immortality, Mike Zone’s superheroes carry out their dramatic acts of strength in the shadows of their own impending deaths. Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal’s poetic speakers consider their physical humanity and the incongruity of someone violently attacking fellow vulnerable humans. Mark Blickley illustrates the poignant indignities of aging while lonely J.J. Campbell takes comfort in wishfully enhanced memories and Gaurav Ojha reflects on life with the full awareness of death.

John Thomas Allen ponders the aesthetics of a broken roadside sign while poet Mary Mackey interviews fellow poet Andrea Carter Brown on her new book September 12, about the United States after the September 11th attacks.

Stephen Jarrell presents a vignette of coming of age in a small town, while J.K. Durick ponders trees, leaves, family heritage, and aging and Doug Hawley considers the culture of Portland, Oregon before and after his arrival. Abigail George reflects on how as an adult she would love to reconnect with and rediscover her deceased mother.

Photo courtesy of the Laramy-K Independent Optics Lab

Z.I. Mahmud finishes up his thesis on Charles Dickens’ literary output, highlighting themes of change and redemption. Chimezie Ihekuna’s screenplay collection Christmas Time also celebrates hope and redemption through stories of several different families, and the hero of Abdulloh Abdumominov’s short story finds peace at the New Year by deciding to forgive a friend with whom he had a small argument.

Christopher Bernard’s young Ghost Trolley hero figures out how to re-integrate himself into his ordinary world at the concluding installment of the tale. Hazel Fry laments lazy storytelling that deprives female characters of their strength and agency while Michael Reich critiques the false comfort manipulated media narratives attempt to bring us. Jaylan Salah interviews artist Danielle Shorr on topics that include how the media presents and discusses female artists and society’s treatment of abuse survivors.

Photo courtesy of sagriffin305

Mahbub’s poetry evokes romantic love as well as international spiritual and historic tradition, connecting our humanity to something greater than ourselves. Starlie Tugade’s lovers pass each other by like passengers on separate trains, as one of her characters is unable to open up and receive the other’s love.

Linda Hibbard warns of the future ahead of us with climate change, while Henry Bladon’s nihilistic pieces semi-humorously question our fears and concerns about our present or our future.

Photo by Neil Howard

David L. O’Nan pays a tribute to a musician whose art he considers timeless, while Ike Boat announces the launch of the novel Berganda by Dennis Mann.

J.D. Nelson sends in more of his playful, near-imagistic words, while Alan Catlin’s words, ideas, and iconic names flow into each other in his pieces. Mark Young’s images hold together with swathes of color and an internal logic, and meanwhile, Rus Khomutoff invites readers on a wild surrealist adventure.

We wish all of you happy reading and a happy New Year!

Essay from Doug Hawley

                                  Them Changes (Quoth Buddy Miles)

                                               Doug Hawley

The History of Portland Oregon Seen Through Blurred Lenses

Pre Doug History up to 1943

Here are a few select happenings before me.

Visitors from the old world arrived from a temporary land bridge from a mythical land which was eventually named Siberia.  They were good with boats and had good running through the inland passage formed by islands off what came to be Alaska (native for “really cold”) and British Columbia (named after a colonial power and a reviled guy that had nothing to do with Canada).  Experts believe that they were drawn by the many outdoor stores and fly fishing.

European residents learned about what became known as the Specific North West by fur trappers and traders and the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Portland got a big boost from the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition used to promote the city.  Side note – the Largest Log Building In The World leftover from the Exposition was around long enough for me to tour it before it burned down.  Despite Portland’s position at the confluence of two rivers – Columbia and Willamette – its ranking among West Coast cities has been sinking for some time.  Seattle and San Francisco gained from gold rushes.  Other places have better ports (getting to Portland via the Columbia requires going though the Graveyard of the Pacific), and attracted bigger business.

A few years ago, elderly friends told us they met at Lewis and Clark (meaning the college).  I asked if they meant Expedition or Exposition.  I hope that their laughter was sincere.

The next big deal for Portland was the shipbuilding during WWII, which leads up to my first turn here.

Doug’s First Portland run 1943 – 1965

Personal – Lived in Northeast Portland in a house built in 1941 which my parents moved into about the time that my sister was born.  Went to what was Whitaker Grade School.  It survived through a couple of fires and now houses Native American Youth And Family Center.  Excruciating biographical information is in “Cities” in my blog.

I barely remember the 1948 Vanport Flood.  Vanport was named for Vancouver WA and Portland.  It was used to house ship builders during WWII.  Whites and Blacks were recruited from all around the country.  Oregon has a cruel history in racial relations – no need to recount here.  Blacks were redlined into a small area and many had not gotten out when the flood came.  Water came up close to the back of Whitaker and Vanport, once the second most populous city in Oregon, was destroyed.

In the late 1940s Portland was a crime and corruption hotspot.  The book “Portland Confidential” gives the details.  As a young kid, I remember seeing gambling devices out in the open, particularly punch boards.  Dorothy McCollough Lee was elected a reform mayor in 1949.  Portland didn’t care for reform and she wasn’t re-elected.  She taught as a substitute in a political science class I took, but I remember nothing from it.

Throughout those years Portland was a Democrat and union stronghold in a mostly Republican State.  It was conservative socially and culturally.  Portland was known as the whitest city in America (no longer true I think).  It changed some during those years, but racism and Anti-Semitic didn’t disappear.  During my Portland State years, the times they were changing.  Marijuana, which some thought was just a Black thing, moved into wide use and there was rebellion over Viet-Nam.  Queer culture was emerging into prominence.

Like the rest of the country, the suburbs grew because of better schools and better houses.  Urban Renewal (Negro removal), hospital and other major construction projects such as the Memorial Coliseum and freeways took away a lot of the housing.  Ethnic enclaves were broken up.  While Portland the city stayed relatively stable, the suburbs burgeoned and everything merged into a big slurb.  Farm towns of ten thousand population grew as big as a hundred thousand.

There were no major league sports in town.  There was a Triple A baseball team and college games.  As a boy scout I ushered some pre-season NFL games played in Portland.

Portland was characterized as boring white suburbs, which is mostly correct.  There was the Black community in North and Northeast Portland.  A few Asians lived in Portland, but they were limited by the Japanese being sent to internment camps during WWII and the earlier Chinese Exclusion Act.  The near west section of Burnside, which divided the town into north and south, had a version of skid road (if you want to be bored, ask a purist why it isn’t skid row).  It had (and has) a mission and flophouses serving the down and out.  Famous Tempest Storm was a fixture at the burlesque house.

The out of town years 1965 – 1997.

During those years I was in Eugene Oregon, Manhattan (Kansas that is), Atlanta, Louisville, Denver, Los Angeles and Marin CA.  Got married, earned a living, switched occupations, became self-employed house husband.

Over time on trips back I noticed changes.  What had been green bean and berry farms between Portland and Gresham were housing developments.  The two cities had grown together and annexed the land that had been between them.  My old home got swallowed by Portland.

Portland got an NBA franchise, the Trail Blazers, and won a title.

While visiting my mother a house cattycorner to her place burned down.  The people who came out looked like representatives of the United Nations.  Portland remains majority white, but not as much.  The first shopping center in our neighborhood from the early 1950s became Hispanic oriented.

Doug’s Second Portland Run 1997 –

I came back to a place that was the same and yet different.  I thought of it as a backwater compared to eighteen years in California, but Portland wasn’t much different than California and deemed to be an “it” city.  Compared to major West Coast cities it is less expensive (we bought a condo for half of what we sold our place in California for, but later moved up to a better place than what we left at about the same cost).  The comparison may still be valid now that home prices in both places have doubled or so.  According to my last check on Zillow our old California place after apparent upgrades, on fill, in an earthquake zone, was valued at 1.3 million.

Some things here are much the same as the rest of the country.  

Crime rates went down – but Portland now is setting highs in homicides..

Department stores are failing, particularly downtown ones.  We visited the downtown icon Meier & Frank store shortly after returning to town.  It was where people ate at the Georgian Room, met under the clock and children went to see Santa in a monorail.  You could buy clothes, appliances and furnishings there.  Clark Gable sold ties there many years ago.  After going through changes, the building is the luxury Nines Hotel.  Of two major local stores of my youth J.K. Gill closed shortly after I returned and Olds and King closed before.

Traffic congestion increases.  When I moved back I could drive thirteen miles west side to east side to see my mother in eighteen minutes.  We laughed at people who talked about traffic here.  It was nothing compared to Seattle or California cities.  We aren’t laughing anymore.

Beer is something in Portland’s favor.  We discovered the McMenamins lodging, restaurants, resorts and drinking empire.  When we are at one of their places, we get Terminator Stout, at other places we get Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery in Bend or a different dark.  Portland has competition for Beervana, but it is in the running.

Portland lost baseball and got soccer.  For some that is a gain.

We don’t go into Portland much (we are eight miles south of downtown), but we do enjoy the zoo, art museum and the museum of science and industry.  The zoo is the most changed, it moved and became much bigger and better.  Its main claim to fame is the elephants that recently got a bigger habitat.  The museum of science and industry also moved.

The best part of Portland is the access to adjacent Oregon and Washington.  The Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood to the east and the coast to the west are beautiful with hiking, skiing and snow shoeing trails for hundreds of miles.  They are available on days without flooding, freezing or burning.

Portland itself is well known for rioting, protesting, crime and thousands of people camping all over the town.  Every election someone promises fixes, but nothing changes.  The qualification for mayor is to be ideologically correct.  That includes, but is not limited to, punishing business and rich people.  The Portland council form of government means that people who have the ability to convince people to vote for them get appointed to positions which should require intelligence and professional qualifications as the heads of various bureaus.  It is stupid and it shows.  As in the rest of Oregon, hiring bad employees and then paying them to go away for fear of being sued is standard practice.  Bad cops go to mediation and get little or no penalty, one of the downsides to fealty to public unions.  The retirement plan for police and firemen is pay as you, a poor financial practice, particularly given the ease of going on disability and early retirement.

Politics hasn’t ruined the weather in Portland; climate change took care of that.  Then – moderate rainfall, temperate summers and winters.  In the last year or so, we went 5.5 days without electricity and the neighborhood was scattered with downed trees and branches because of an ice storm, had a heat dome that raised the temperature to 115F where nothing over 107F had previously been recorded, and wind blew one of our fences down.  The forest fires give us a lot of toxic air.

On top of Oregon’s 9% income tax rate, Portland adds 1.5 – 3% for “high” earners, and “high” isn’t very high – a good reason to go across the Columbia to Vancouver Washington with no income tax if you make very much money.

With all of the bad, why has Portland attained its exalted status?

Exaggerated woke/progressive image, as opposed to the incompetent, second rate reality.

Cheaper than the other guys, but still expensive.

Things are bad everywhere.

Laid back presentation by the “Portlandia” series.

The country around Portland.

I hope that this discourages anyone from moving here.  There are 2.5 million people in the metro area now, up from the much more manageable and pleasant under a million in my youth.

Much of the above is true.

Poet Mary Mackey interviews poet Andrea Carter Brown

Mary Mackey Interviews Poet Andrea Carter Brown

Andrea Carter Brown’s new collection of award-winning poetry September 12 was published by The Word Works for the 20th anniversary of 9/11. She is previously the author of Domestic Karma, The Disheveled Bed, and Brook & Rainbow. “American Fraktur,” her current manuscript, won the 2018 Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award from Marsh Hawk Press. Her poems have won awards from Five Points, River Styx, The MacGuffin, and the Poetry Society of America, among others; and are cited in the Library of Congress Online Guide to the Poetry of 9/11. They have also been featured on NPR. Andrea was a Founding Editor of Barrow Street and Managing Editor of The Emily Dickinson Journal. For six years, she served on the Virginia Center for the Arts (VCCA) Fellows Council, the last three as Chair. Since 2017, she has been Series Editor of the Word Works Washington Prize.

Mary; Welcome to Synchronized Chaos Magazine, Andrea. September 12 is a powerful series of poems. Before we discuss the poems themselves, could you please set the scene by telling us what happened to you on September 11, 2001?

Andrea: That morning, I was sitting in our apartment a block from the World Trade Center drinking coffee and reading the paper. Later I planned to spend time writing and then get dressed and go to a client (I did freelance accounting work back then). At 9:03 am, the phone rang. My sister, in North Carolina, had just seen the 1st plane flying into the North Tower on “Good Morning, America.” I ran to the far end of the room, looked out the window, and saw flames curling through blown-out windows, rivers of black smoke, chunks of debris falling, people jumping. I knew immediately the towers would come down, and I fled.

Rather than head north, as did almost everyone else, I went south and ended up on the Staten Island Ferry. From there, traveling on foot, by ferry, car service, pick-up truck, another stranger’s car, and cab from Staten Island, through New Jersey, and Rockland County, I finally met up with my husband in his boss’s house in Larchmont, which is in Westchester County—about 110 miles altogether. It took twelve hours. The first four, when we couldn’t reach each other, my husband was sure I was dead.

Mary: September 12 is divided into five sections: I. Cloud Studies: The Hudson River School; II. September 12; III. The Rock in The Glen; IV. To The Dust; V. The Present. I’d like to start with Section I, which is lyrical and almost dream-like. There’s an innate silence and innocence to these pre-attack poems, one of which looks back to 1609. Why did you decide to start September 12 with these poems and how do they reverberate through the rest of the collection?

Andrea: After I had written most of the eyewitness account and some of the aftermath poems, it occurred to me that you cannot have a book of elegies without showing what was lost. For me, that was the life before, a life lived on landfill facing the Hudson River, fourteen years, longer than I had ever lived anywhere else, including my childhood homes. The river is actually a bay of the Atlantic Ocean at the base of Manhattan, so that my life was punctuated by skyscrapers on one side, and on the other by tides, boats, weather, and changing light, a life filled with history and beauty. For ten years I had been writing about that world, and I decided to use these poems to set the stage for 9/11.

As you noted, these poems reverberate through the rest of the collection. Each one plants the seed for something to come, sometimes several: a love of birds and birding; rivers, the ocean, and the estuaries where they meet; the essentially domestic nature of my odyssey on 9/11; the many writers, especially poets (for me), associated with NYC (Whitman, O’Hara, Amy Clampitt); the distrust between Henry Hudson’s crew and the local Native Americans who lived in the area, the Lenni-Lenape, which lead to violence and death during their initial encounters in early September, 1609; the fascinating geology and glaciated terrain of the area, gneiss and schist, the metamorphic bedrock near the surface of Lower Manhattan, making possible the extreme height of the WTC Towers; and my love of baseball, especially at that time, the Yankees.

Poet Andrea Carter Brown

Mary: Section II, September 12, is a nine-page series of prose poems, each a paragraph long, which describes your flight from your apartment on 9/11 and what you experience as you and those around you run for their lives. Polished and beautifully crafted, these poems retain a raw, immediate, emotional power that is stunning. I’m particularly impressed by the way you avoid hindsight and deal with events as you lived them moment-by-moment. Could you please talk about why you chose prose poems for this section? For example, were they originally diary entries?

Andrea: Oh, how I wish I had diary entries! But, no, the truth is: I didn’t write at all for 6 months. Instead, I re-lived the events in minute detail again and again in my mind, day and night, telling my story to others, especially my husband, beginning the night of September 12, as recounted at the end of this section. Each retelling, for the first few years at least, new details came back. I added these to the story, until this past became more real, more present than the present. Just as I didn’t want to wash my dirty clothes the night of 9/11, although I had nothing else to wear, I didn’t want to let anything go. Even the dirt and dust. I didn’t take a shower for days. Eventually my husband would complain, “cut to the chase” when I was telling the story, but I couldn’t. All the little details together made the whole.

Since then, I have often thought of writers in gulags who made themselves memorize vast bodies of work because there was no way to write. I’ve never been good at memorizing and still am not. Nonetheless, six years later, when I tracked down what I had said to a reporter on Staten Island that afternoon, I learned that my memory had stayed true. And if my memory was accurate about those details, I could trust it about others, which was an enormous relief. Very liberating. Nothing, in all the research and interviews I did for this book, contradicted the story I kept telling myself. How could this be? And yet it was. It is.

It was a challenge not to stray from the moment-to-moment story. Since I was a poet, “poetic” gestures unconsciously crept in: the impulse to offer metaphors, similes; the way meter and musicality elevate the material, heightening the emotional power but draining away immediacy. These I tried to resist by stripping description down to the essential minimum, making every word count, limiting rhetorical devices like repetition. I tried to stay in the present tense. Not to use words that were hyperbolic or inflammatory, words that had been over-used in describing the event and to which we had become numb. One example of this: the word “terror” only occurs once in the entire book, and not about the event, a terrorist attack, but to describe the look on a first-time father’s face when he contemplates the newborn baby in his arms (the poem “Joe” in the Section III).

Avoiding hindsight was difficult because experience being sequential, knowledge builds. Since the book took so long to write, I began asking myself constantly, “What did you know at the time?,” and then stripping away anything that had crept in later. Sometimes that felt like pulling teeth, especially for the sections that were hardest to write and therefore took the longest. I’m thinking of the people at the windows who jumped, the ferry engulfed in smoke (when the first tower fell), and the swimmers seen from the ferry. Shortly before we went to press, I read the narrative closely, looking for all these things. To my dismay, despite repeated checking, I still found instances that had to be fixed. I couldn’t be more happy that you noticed this aspect of the book.

Mary: Do you have a favorite poem in Section II that you’d like to share with us? Why is it a favorite?

Andrea: Many of the individual prose poems in the long sequence September 12 consist of crucial moments in that story. It’s very hard to pick my favorite, but recently I’ve come to a new appreciation of the poem about the Staten Island policemen in Section II. Readers seem to love him, as I do too, and that makes me happy. Sadly, I’ve forgotten the name on his shield. Here’s the poem, with the lead-in, on pages 36 to 37 in the book:

 . . . When the uniform cop hears She lived there, he opens his arms and gathers me to his chest.

Held against his massive bulk, the embossed brass buttons on his jacket, the decorations pinned to his chest pressing into my cheek, I cry my heart out. Only when I’m ready does this burly red-necked stranger release me, murmuring Stay close to me. You’ll be safe here. I stand beside him, reluctant to move, our arms touching. A wool blanket miraculously appears around my shoulders. For years, he volunteers, we’ve known something like this would happen, but didn’t do anything to prevent it.

Mary: The poems in the final three sections deal with the aftermath of 9/11 from September 12, 2001 to September 8, 2020. Why three sections instead of one entitled “Aftermath?” What prompted you choose to organize the poems in this fashion?

Andrea: Given the difficulty of this material for readers, from the beginning I knew that I had to break it down into manageable chunks. Even my own attention would flag after 15 pages. It was too much to take in. I spent a lot of time experimenting, trying to find the poetry equivalent of prose chapters.

The solution became clear to me only after I visited my old home town, Glen Rock, New Jersey, which had lost 11 residents on 9/11. This was one of the higher victim counts from among the surrounding suburban towns. Although I learned about these victims in late 2001, I didn’t yet see them as part of my story. It had been 25 years since my parents retired and moved away, and I had not been back. But these names haunted me. On a research trip in 2007, I realized the town had essentially not changed at all since I grew up there. It was still a peaceful commuter town of modest homes for starter families which shuffled its fathers (mostly men back then) off to work weekday mornings on Wall Street in Downtown Manhattan. They would emerge from the ferries or the train into the area around the WTC and fan out to their offices, repeating the same journey every night in reverse.

Those ten men and one woman who died on 9/11 could have been the parents of my friends; I knew intimately what a town like this was. Suddenly, those 11 victims became people I might have known, and I wanted to memorialize them. That town came to represent all the small communities, inside NYC and in surrounding areas, which lost residents that morning. These poems became the central section of the collection, The Rock in the Glen, serving as a bridge between my first person eyewitness account and the aftermath poems, allowing me to separate the immediate aftermath poems in Section IV from the longer-term aftermath poems about life after moving to California in Section V. As a former accountant descended from a math teacher and a long line of bookkeepers, I love numbers. You can probably tell by the sheer number of numbers in this interview. The idea of a collection with five sections, two sections on either side of a central sequence about the town that lost 11 people that day, like a palindrome, made me happy. It felt perfect.

Mary: You’ve said that it took you twenty years to write September 12 and that the original manuscript was 200 pages long. How did you go about paring down the manuscript to 80 pages?

Andrea: The first 10 years I was writing this book, I kept adding more and more material. The last leg of my journey and our return to the apartment 4 days later, which completed the circle of my odyssey begun 9/11. The history of New York City and the Hudson River, human and natural. And about Ground Zero, which had become our neighborhood, and how we navigated the challenges of living so close to the site of a mass, world-changing tragedy, now a toxic waste site.

As it approached 200 pages, I saw September 12 more as a collection of short stories or a short novel in verse. But this length is a tough lift for poetry publishers, who are used to less than half that. Friends told me I had to be realistic and pare it down to find a publisher. I fantasized about publishing it in 2 volumes, but knew better than to try that. Over time, the manuscript shrank to 143 pages, then 110, before settling on the version with 80 pages of poetry accepted by the Word Works.

Readers also told me the fundamental structure—the main narrative told in 12 double sonnet crowns (each 14-15 sonnets, the last line of each poem repeated as the first line of the next) separated by the hay-sonnet Glen Rock victim portraits and punctuated by step-out poems in other forms which highlighted dramatic moments along the way—was cumbersome and sapped the drama of its power. All those repeated lines, even varied, seemed like wasted space. This was very hard to hear. The sonnet crown structure had made writing the material manageable by dividing it into smaller units; the step-outs provided formal relief and variation from the constraints of the 14 line poem.

Taking it out of the form to which I had devoted years was the most difficult thing I have ever done creatively. But the minute I removed the lineation of the narrative, the story came alive to me again. I immediately saw what was essential and what could be cut. Plus, reading it as prose felt revolutionary, similar to the way the idea of the book had always felt radical. Yes, an odyssey, but a domestic one, the narrator being female. A book of poetry that would be relentlessly factual. A hybrid collection which restlessly strayed from or played with the “Poetic.” A sustained eyewitness account in verse that contributes to the historical record. I never looked back from that decision.

Mary: The aftermath of an event like 9/11 goes on forever for all of us, and particularly, I would imagine, for someone who was so intimately involved. Are you still writing poems about 9/11? If not, what kind of poems are you writing?

Andrea: I think I will always be writing about 9/11 as long as I write. My life has not been the same since; I am not the same person. But as time goes by, that writing is less about that day, and more about how it reverberates in the present. Every anniversary, for example, I write a new poem documenting that day in some way, just as I always write a poem on my birthday, an idea I borrowed from Joseph Brodsky. Every 9/11 (except in 2020 during the pandemic), to celebrate our survival, my husband and I go out to eat. One anniversary, the 15th I think, as we raised our glasses to toast each other, we noticed the much younger couple at the next table was doing the exact same thing. Turns out they too were commemorating their survival on 9/11. Here were two couples, complete strangers, having moved clear across the continent to build new lives in the same city, now seated next to each other at the same restaurant. You can’t make this stuff up! Of course I wrote about that. We shared stories, compared dishes, went back to our desserts, waved goodbye and left. Somewhere I have their first names, and I can picture them, their joy, like ours, tempered by memories of that day. I could give you countless other examples of ongoing work related to 9/11.

That being said, I also wrote and published two other poetry collections while I was working on September 12Domestic Karma and The Disheveled Bed, neither of which had anything to do with 9/11. I’ve recently finished a new collection, American Fraktur, exploring my father’s experiences as a WWII soldier ashamed of his German immigrant roots who pretended his origins were Scottish, despite documentary evidence to the contrary. The poems about his wartime experiences dovetail with mine as a survivor of a terrorist attack living in a time of constant war, rising intolerance, hatred, and human and natural disasters. During the pandemic, a time which vividly brought back memories of 9/11 and for which 9/11 strangely prepared me, I finished another collection, Enduring, and I have an idea for an abecedarian collection kicking around inside me. After that, who knows? When you come to writing late, in my case middle age, there is a lot of material inside you.

Mary: If you could ensure that one of the poems from September 12 would survive to be read 500 years from now, which poem would it be, and why have you chosen it?

Andrea: It’s hard to choose, but I think it would be “The Old Neighborhood.” This poem preserves the world I knew, in all its particularity, as it was the morning of 9/11 before the towers came down. This was the world I loved and was happy to be part of: lively, colorful, friendly, diverse, full of people offering and savoring what makes life worth living. Every time I read this poem, out loud or to myself, that world comes alive for me again, even 20 years later, and I am grateful and a little mystified, humbled, to have written it.

Mary: Thank you, Andrea. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you about September 12. Do you have any upcoming readings, workshops, or other events? How can people get in touch with you?

Andrea: The best way to get in touch with me is through the Contact button on my website:, where you can email me or ask to be put on my mailing listing for upcoming events. With everything still in flux about “in person” or “remote,” my website is also the best way to find out about readings and events or audio/video interviews and readings as they become live.

Mary: Thank you, Andrea. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you.

Andrea: Thank you, Mary, for your thought-provoking questions, not one of which has been asked by anyone else. It’s also always a pleasure to talk with you.

Contact Information for Andrea Carter Brown:

September 12 is available from:
SPD (Small Press Distribution):
The Word Works:

Website — For Upcoming Events and Zoom Links:

Poetry from Gaurav Ojha



Gaurav Ojha


Living for endless universe before my eyes   

There is an arch of horizon my gaze won’t surpass 

My life is a circle, trapped within its circumference 

Restlessly rotating along its diameter

Till my clock breaks and time ends 

Death keeps life incomplete

Death knows how to subtract what's been added 

Divide what has been multiplied 

And, keep everything within the reference of empty 

Never plan too much for the life you've imagined 

Death happens and is always unexpected 


I have not discovered anything about the world

I have only read papers and books 

I compare miles I have been left out of 

With inches of the life died too young 

No missed opportunities here, being is enough 

Before nothingness 

Death remind the mortal characters on the stage

Discontinue your acting like eternity, presence here is limited


Life won’t be the life without death 

Scarce, limited, improbable and ridiculously precious 

What if death happens unprepared? 

I hope for conscious death/letting go with some awareness 

Either with deathbed experience or a mistake 

Nothing will happen to this world without me

I shall be erased from the space I occupy

Put into the fire and dusted 

I don’t seek consolations in   

How I am interpreted in living memories

No revival, no afterlife, not even art after life

I live therefore,

I am waiting




Poetry from John Thomas Allen

     Moon Braille on The Broken Museum Roadside Piece

                 Hands of crippled starfish and space wheat, 

                 hands of spinstressed starfish

                The lego windmill spins in morphia stars

                gold occult gears, purple noir.
                The somnolent sweatsocks, time dilation

                 and alloy eyes green leper moons.

            This misshapen Exhibit road sign with crooked arms,
                bark arms wittled by the spun fluxes 

                 cinder eyes of willow moons....
                 gold occult gears, purple halo
                 of colloidal cell slime in the bending 

                 scimitar sickle moons 

                for miles-- notes of Creeping Muzak,

                 (organ grinder's b-flat) 

        Crippled Starfish, hands of wet wheat space meat

                 (three--2--in DS)
          the star spun in gold straw, the gold foil crochet
          darned by the silk divan's royal hypnotist 

        and dilatory tar fudge.

        Hands of crippled starfish, hands of space wheat. 

John Thomas Allen is a 38 year old poet who loves metered and unmetered, experimental and “traditional” poetry.  He would like to attend a psychosocial club in which William Hope Hodgson and H.P. Lovecraft were read to the Velvet Underground’s first album while artist Banks Violette constructed one of his somethings.

Essay from Michael Robinson

Michael’s Dream

Michael Robinson

Early morning there is a moment of stillness within me is noticeable. It is three o’clock… A deep sleep takes me to another place separate from the world. Takes me to a soothing place before the sun rises while the moon lights the skies. Seeing more stars covering the skies of Vermont. Mild thoughts along with a calmness comes. A separation of a world which is full of noise and hustling people during daylight. It’s three o’clock and sleep evades me. It’s always this time in the morning in which there is tranquility. A place where the trueness of life is renewed. While the cardinal sleeps before waking up the world with its melodies. It always been like this as the moon watches. Sitting at the old royal typewriter there was no search and pecking. My fingers danced as they leaped into the air, striking the keys. Thoughts took form as a meditative state came. A moment in time when my thoughts melted like snowflakes.

Grey skies dispensed flakes of snow falling into the winter air. Each flake evaporated upon touching my skin. My soul delighted in the wetness of the snowflake melting on me. Snow always woke up something within me. It was the first time realizing God’s existence. Feelings of softness which blended with my thoughts. Thoughts falling and melting leaving no sign or presence. The taste of nothingness remains within me. Perhaps it was the whole point of snow. A reminder of nothingness. One moment of life. Thousands of snowflakes coming and going like thoughts in early morning. Snow has a quietness. While the snow touches die upon touching the ground. Similarly, life is a snowflake touching our essence before dissolving into the ground. It is five in the morning and the moon recedes and the sun lights the sky. It is time to wake up. It was those hours that harmony existed for me. My dream brought a familiar feeling within me. Perhaps this is reality, and the world is a dream. Who knows for sure? God watches over me.