Synchronized Chaos July 2017: Scale Factor



A scale factor reveals how much a map has been adjusted to depict a much larger or smaller reality. Are the places shown ten times bigger than they appear, or twenty times smaller?

This month’s Synchronized Chaos contributions explore life at different scales. Photos and poems focus in on fragments of the body or of physical objects, probe individual psychology, or discuss people in relationship to society, human history or the non-human natural world.

JD DeHart’s surrealist poem confronts death through the point of view of a detached nose, wondering about its fate apart from the whole body. Jim Zola’s photographs show fragmentation as an artistic experiment rather than a sign of dysfunction, riffing off of broken Christmas ornaments, tree bark and ladder steps.

Elizabeth Hughes reviews Jamel Gross’ Exit Lives in her Book Periscope column. This is a short horror novel built around the premise that even violent people can change when confronted with events they can no longer ignore. Kahlil Crawford also explores personal change and growth in his mixed photography/poetry piece. Finding a positive creative milieu isn’t as simple as moving to a trendy city.  Our surroundings change us, (especially when they are distinctively twisted cypress trees at the edge of the West Coast!)and we affect and shape the world around us as well, so our experiences in a place may differ from the popular expectations of what we may find there.

J.K. Durick’s poetry looks at how the human psyche responds to time: lengthy marathons, paranoid fear of the future, tracking the exact moment when circumstances and attitudes begin to change. J.J. Campbell’s pieces reflect cynicism and resignation in the face of death, yet suggest the possibility of renewed life through experiencing erotic love and the popular music of Prince.

Ryan Flanagan’s poems suggest that a degree of madness in human psychology and behavior may be as natural, although perhaps as disruptive, as an earthquake. He points to the absurd in our lives with readable humor, finally aimed outside our planet at the perennial controversy over the status of Pluto.

Allison Grayhurst starts with the individual and moves to a reflection on a person’s immediate social world – family, friends and local community. While interactions on this scale may seem less grandiose and relevant on a large scale, this is the sphere of experience that most directly shapes our lives.

Mahbub’s poetry highlights the intensity of our emotional response to our micro-environments. Romantic love, friendly affection, and personal religious faith carry physical weight and bring about a bodily response. Joan Beebe acknowledges individual self-awareness and consciousness and suggests that rather than just staying in a place of self-reflection, we can suppose that others have similar self-aware thoughts and thus feel a connection to others on a larger scale. She also points to a more personal religious faith, where God has a purpose for a small church mouse and can look after her pilot nephew.

Todd Wiggins contributes a profile of his son R.J., who is a skilled communicator and linguist at a very young age. While supported and encouraged by those around him, he’s on his own path, not determined by his age, his past or his environment.

Joe Schueler’s poetic subject seems excluded from his social world, and responds by actively breaking into someone’s life and psyche.

Rui Carvalho reviews a Japanese film, Delices de Tokyo, that focuses in on small communities: a dessert shop with a few distinctive characters, and a leprosarium where the patients find life together while in the process of dying. The film’s cinematography and rich color highlights the vibrancy of individual lives and relationships.

Akinmade Zeal moves from personal relationships to critique of the broader society. He calls out for the leaders and citizens of his native Nigeria to become more ethical and less corrupt and self-serving and to build a society driven more by thought and understanding and less by power and class privilege. In an interview with myself, Zeal points out how he and other Nigerian writers are driven to put pen to paper by their social consciences.

Vijay Nair lambasts the sitting U.S. president, comparing him in verse to a mouse who, although small, can destroy much larger beings by infecting them with plague. Like Zeal, he expresses direct, unambiguous critical sentiments through aesthetic poetic form.

Tony Nightwalker LeTigre reviews Tom Robbins’ novel Still Life with Woodpecker, an offbeat and humorous social satire of American culture and counterculture told as a loosely reinterpreted fairy tale.

LeTigre also contributes a poem showing how nature re-enters our civilized lives in a gentle, but determined way. This poem brings to mind Carl Sandburg’s fog, which enters on little cat feet.

Michael Robinson reminds us of the restorative psychological effects of nature, as forests and sunlight can expand our perspectives when we feel trapped in toxic human-made situations.

Vandita Dharni offers up elegant verse on romantic love and nature’s beauty, reminiscent of the aesthetics of Wordsworth and Elizabeth and Robert Browning.

Theophilus Adeyinka presents a contrasting perspective on nature, as his speakers labor to survive and produce food on dry, rough land. Living in the natural environment is a constant struggle, but also a dignified, worthwhile pursuit worthy of celebration in verse.

Finally, I myself review San Francisco State University’s annual Personalized Medicine conference. Researchers who presented discussed ways to make medical treatments more effective by customizing them for certain groups of people and ultimately for individuals.

As the closing keynote speaker pointed out, though, there can be psychological and social implications of how we understand and interpret what we see in the natural world. As Dr. Charis Thompson (of UC Berkeley and the London School of Economics) illustrated, a scientific and physical focus on the individual can be counterbalanced by a simultaneous social focus on social inclusion. This involves making sure individuals from different backgrounds are taken into account in medical research and policy and striving to extend this type of personalized care to more people.

As Joan Beebe also shows in her poem “Universal Oneness,” examining individual experience and acknowledging its uniqueness does not have to preclude understanding of and empathy for a broader community. We all share the experience of being unique in some particular way. The scales at which we understand our existence are not mutually exclusive, as understanding oneself can help us build bridges towards relating to the larger world.

Poetry from Allison Grayhurst

Looking In
How easy to feel the weight
of choice, mutually
with the burden of circumstance.
Childhood ripens then wilts,
and in your unguarded hands, only
shades of poverty-stricken
summers remain; enormous & unavoidable.
What is real is not always the same as
what is eternal, yet those days,
when overabundant with love,
reappear, and strangely, make a difference.
You hold a torch, moving urgently through aqueducts
towards icy light. When you reach
the blue loneliness of abstraction, secretly
you are sure
the fullness of truth has rushed away
from you; and that this knowledge
too, is unusable.
You flourish beside the lightheaded angels. You carve
in stone, in vain
their god-affirming songs. You stand
outside, alarmed. You disappear.
Time hangs in your thoughts like an imaginary lover.
You look in the mirror and see
a great void, a perfect smile . . . and see
there is still so much left
to learn.

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Interview with Akinmade Zeal

Akinmade Zeal

Akinmade Zeal

Synchronized Chaos International Magazine interviews Akinmade Zeal here so that he can describe his inspirations and thoughts in more detail.

Please provide some background on your pieces that would help someone from outside Nigeria understand your two poems.

The first of my poems, Father and Son, as I have said, is a poem that talks about racism and class prejudice in contemporary society. I like to say it is a post modern piece. It is immanent, transcending beyond the Nigerian setting. Nigeria happens to be the microcosm of the macrocosm (the world) in the poem.

It is a dramatic poem. You find the father, a more experienced person in the world, educating his son on the evils in the world. The child comes back from school, battered and with the taste of bile in his mouth. His father eavesdrops and comes over to educate him; tells him he will put him in a better school so he can meet people of his own social class and fit in better. But, his father also was quick to remind him that even at the new school, he would find no peace. ‘Peace cannot romance with men as beast as they are’ unless they crush class, hierarchy, bigotry and so on. That’s the only condition for peace. It depicts the nature of the world generally,  not just Nigeria. It is sheer coincidence that the poet is a Nigerian and sets the poem in a Nigerian context. He is of a more radical perspective, not parochial, nor oblivious of what happens outside his own setting.

The second poem is a rather more complex work. Every line of that poem, A Whim To Lie, is symbolic and saddled with imagery. It cannot make much sense to A South African, it cannot make much sense to A Ghanaian, it cannot make sense even to a Nigerian from the minority Hausa, Ibo, Ijaw groups we have in Nigeria. The poem would only make much sense to A Yoruba (the majority tribe in Nigeria to which Soyinka belonged) person who is well familiar with the pantheons of the Yoruba people. If you study Soyinka to the letter, you find him talking about Ogun, the non benign. Ogun is one of the gods of the Yorubas. To understand that poem, you need understand how these gods work in the Yoruba settings. Ogun is known to be a keeper of sacred oaths, sanity, and the god of iron, and he was so feared that he was said to relish bathing in blood. Ogun is still worshipped here in Nigeria by motorists and cyclists as they see him as the pinnacle of their existence and profession.

A Whim to Lie is also a postmodern work, a social satire about politics and contemporary ills in Nigeria. The Christian God in Revelation 22 says : ‘Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me to give unto every man according to how his works had been.’ I have placed the traditional Yoruba gods up on a pinnacle to perform that function, judging every African and asking to hear all the ills of the land. I tell the reader that I would have to lie to the gods if they wanted a report on the world’s behavior.  Otherwise, would I have to tell them about the money the politicians bury in Ikoyi building (How shall I tell you our fertile soils?  How shall I tell you Ikoyi spouts legal tenders? These are facades of the truth I lack the temerity to tell)  Acertain politician here in the country who stole money and kept it in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria is the object of my satire there. I reported his behavior to the gods, as our demiurge and arbiter.

Again, I talked about the Big Brother Nigerian reality show here where a certain lady bares her breast live on the T. V.  That’s not something we tolerate in our culture, it’s un-African. I spoke to the gods about that, telling them to not be angry should I lie, for I cannot boast the courage to tell them about her lack of modesty (our damsels bare their breasts for bigger brothers).

It could go on and on. If you understand the Yoruba pantheons, you would unearth the poem sheepishly!

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Poetry from Tony Nightwalker LeTigre

mother nature is the best squatter
she doesn’t ask permission
she doesn’t fill out any paperwork
she doesn’t care about regulations
all she does it tap tap tap gently at the windows
so softly that you in all your busy human hurry may not notice
if there is no answer, after a time,
she lets herself in
she fills your empty corners with webs
she sends a green tendril in, like a quiet poem, through the window crack
she comes in & sets up shop
soon it will be a secret garden again
like it was before
she makes herself at home
like the once & future queen
she is

Elizabeth Hughes’ Book Periscope column

Exit Lives by Jamel Gross
BV323 front cover
Exit Lives is a short horror story about a couple who plan to go on a trip after the husband’s grandparents died. The man’s grandparents told him stories that were so horrible he went to a doctor and was prescribed anti-psychotic meds to handle the delusions. On their way to the airport they meet someone who stops to help after their tire goes flat, and that person also tells them horrible stories. This book is a fast read and a must read for fans of the genre of horror. I highly recommend it.

Poetry from J.J. Campbell

up against the roof
sometimes on these
nights where i can
hear the rain pounding
up against the roof
i lay in bed alone
and wish to die
i know it’s not likely
but a boy can dream
though, i have no
interest in seeing
my funeral
i don’t want to start
off my death with
yet another

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Photography from Jim Zola

These four photos include what I call the Georgia O’Keeffe Tree (a tree directly outside of the O’Keeffe Musuem in Santa Fe, NM) — a broken Christmas ornament, branches reflected in water, and an installation art piece made up of donated ladders.

Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook — The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) — and a full length poetry collection — What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC.

Poetry from Akinmade Abayomi Zeal


A Whim to Lie!

Ogun, hear my plea,
I have a whim to lie.
Oh, Venerated one!
You boast a largeese of oceans
Yet choose to bath in pools of blood.

Ogun oooooooooooooooo!
The mighty man of valour,
Custodian of the sacred oath,
Keeper of sanity.
The mighty king of Ire.
He boasts a chubby wardrobe,
Yet, swagger down the street in fonds.
Ogun,the dreaded one!
It is you I humbly worship.
Who dare dab his palm on your sword in dare?
I pay my homage to you,
So, do not put me in  turmoils for my whim.
I would lie when I come.

Ogun, tilt your most potent ear towards me,
Hear the sins I cannot mention.
Hear the truth that plagues my heart :
Bitter than galls.

How shall I mention our fertile soils to you?
How shall I tell you Ikoyi spouts legal tenders?
I cannot! Let me hold my peace!
I will hedge when I come.

Oh, Sango!
Mighty man in battle.
Do not roust your venom for my sake,
For I will lie when I return!
I would tell my sanctimonious lies!

Give me your words,Sango.
Vow to spear me for my holy lies.
Let Ogun alone be privy to this,
Vow to spear me should I tell the goings on:
Our maidens Are barters for bandits!

Obatala ooooooooooooo!
The dexterous god,
Maker of lifeless beings,
Do not admonish my lies.
They are nothing but holy lies.

Oh, ‘Yeye Osun,
Sengese Olohun Iyo, ‘
Foremost river goddess,
Custodian of virgins,
Queen of queens,
Purveyor of sumptuous fishes.
It is you alone I greet.
‘Iba’ for your majesty!

Foremost mother,
The truth in my heart will inundate you,
So, steel yourself for my lies!
To tell you our damsels bare their breasts for Bigger Brothers is more than I can say to you.
They have thrown the pride of motherhood to dogs.
These are facades of the truths I lack the temerity to tell.

Venerated gods,
You who set us forth:
On the darker part of the world,
On the hinterlands of the West,
On the hottest parts of the soil,
Forgive our trespasses
Though we err our trespassers!

It is the evil one,
The lone one,
Esu Elegbara,
The Evil one who feeds himself in a labyrinth-
Where the roads tangle.

‘Esulaalu Ogirioko’
The evil one who incites pandemonium in time of bliss.
Esu the hostile one,
The cursed soul.
He helps to make cases where there are none!

Esu Elegbara,please,do not hypnotize me!
I beg you with your mealies,
I place your palmwine in the labyrinth for you!

You have never known Esulalu
The damned soul.
The one who cries passionately than the bereaved.
The bereaved whimpers in silence,
Esu exacerbated his problem for him,
Weeps blood to inflate his worries.

Blame our evils on Esu!
It is he who brought evil to our holy hearts,
Made us profane.
He came to our sacristy and polluted our monks.
Ha,Esu Elegbara, I know you well,
I dare not incur your venom.
I know you,  Esu!
The dreaded evil known as Latopa.

Venerated gods, I plead you forgive our evil,
Cast Esu to your furnace for us.
I would tell these lies when I come to report how the world fares!

A. A. Zeal, 2017.

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Poetry from Michael Robinson


Have you seen my soul? Do you see what I see when I look into the mirror? Seeing my soul is seeing the woodpecker at the feeder with its black and white body nesting in the morning sun.
He wanted to write a poem of the mountains only to describe his own success for words created on the page. Each letter, each word, and sentence was a reflection of newness found.
The winter snows did not freeze my awareness of being a Fresh Air kid. My essence has been refreshed by the summer sun. Only the mountains could have restored my yearning for salvation.


He noticed her perfume smelled of love,

Her eyes floated like waves in distress.

In the shadow of the moon,

He saw her soul dancing.

Narrative essay from Todd Wiggins

A Father’s Purpose


My name is Roozario Wiggins Sr. I’m a native Louisianan born and raised. Proudly, the first of my mother’s children to graduate high-school and college. While attending college in Wyoming the reality of culture shock hit me hard. Big open space, mountains and cattle were quite the opposite of my upbringing (low-income housing neighborhoods, crime and the sounds of gunshots every other hour).

Wyoming showed me I can be proud of the things I’ve accomplished, that your environment doesn’t determine your outcome or automatically hinder your future success. The world can be a frightening place when you’re alone. I know this fear first hand and became well acquainted with it as I grew up fatherless. The moment RJ came into this world I knew I was ready to make any and every sacrifice needed to assure he wouldn’t grow up ever experiencing the loneliness I did as a child and still experience to this day at the age of 25.

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Film review from Rui Carvalho


Cinema Critique: Les Délices de Tokyo by Rui M. Carvalho (30 May 2017)


Full of poetry, Les Délices de Tokyo, a movie directed by NAOMI KAWASE, is a film that imprisons us inside the screen. Gradually we forget everything around us, until we almost refuse to be confronted with the end of this wonderful piece of art.

At first glance the story seems trivial: one Spring’s day, Tokue, a 76-year-old woman approaches Sentaro, the chef of a small restaurant. Sentaro mainly sells dorayaki, a small cake filled with red-bean (azuki) jam and Tokue explains him that she always wanted to make them, she implores him to let her have that life opportunity. He tells her “no” but she leaves a small sample… and he finally accepts.

Aditionally, there’s a teen named Wakana, a very perceptive person, a regular customer, who ultimately also applies to work at the shop. Together they are a family, Tokue, as the mother of Sentaro and Wakana, and a “mystic” member who seems to glue together all the feelings of these characters.

We can’t imagine a possible end to this story, but Tokue gives us very subtle clues, for example, when she speaks of the natural world in a way that might seem strange to us because she’s much more aware of nature than most folks inside a city… There’s a sense of being different, being isolated inside the grey walls of buildings in open air. Tokue’s eyes emanate compassion in a mysterious way.

We are only able to understand them when the owner of the restaurant learns that Tokue is a patient who lives in a leprosarium… and demands Sentaro fire her, something he refuses but must accept at the end.

When Sentaro and Wakana visit Tokue, for the first time, at her home, the leprosarium, the vivid Wakana alerts him that he will be seeing people with deformed faces. When they meet the patients, the lepers are talking together, smilling, happy despite their reality: they are also a family. That’s the power of being accepted as we are… despite our differences, our different ways to  see the universe and the different ways others see us.

Also, there’s no victory against nature here ; the nature of disease. On the contrary, Tokue determinedly accepts everything… especially without words, simply with the way she looks to cherry blossoms. She sees herself as a piece of the natural world, destined to live and to die. Maybe the fact that the actress deals with cancer in real life helps her with this role.

At the end, we remember the moment when she explains she had to release the canary Wakana gave her… he asked her to do so… and this, combined with the fact that she confesses that after her death, through a cassette recording, leaves us a final thought: a timeless reminder that our mind wants to forget that we are sick for awhile so that we can be happy during all moments of life. That’s certainly the secret of her azuki jam.

This movie explains the human condition in depth: the capacity of small things to change our lives; the importance of simple ordinary people; the power of chance that can transform small moments into important parts of history. The photographic look of the film’s scenes additionally help the director with this therapeutic message. The random bubbles of the boiling beans and Tokue’s coat, with colors resembling cherry blossoms, look like living creatures. Visually, even minor background objects come to life.

This is a movie about the most important people: the simple people.