Synchronized Chaos Magazine – Oct 2011: Art Solace

Art Solace is about establishing a home for oneself by way of creating art and literature. It’s about having artistic freedom regardless of any would-be barriers.

The act of painting and drawing is a welcomed refuge for Artist Bobby West who has spent decades in federal prison. His cultural, abstract work gives us an intimate look at his struggles and loneliness.

Jamie D. Meissner, who is currently incarcerated, can also relate to finding passion in painting. Her work is reflective and emotionally-driven.

In the poem, Tears On Her Guitar, Jaylan Salah expresses finding solace in music…an attempt to drown out depression and distractions.

Additional poetry contributions are from Corey Mesler, Joseph V. Milford, Lucinda Troth, Linda Sheppard, and Sam Burks. In these poems, there are some thematic commonalities regarding distractions, bodily sensations, and isolation.

We have several book and performance reviews along with a few special articles to share with you this month:

Book reviews:

  • Laura O’Brien on Sugar Zone, by Mary Mackey
  • Christopher Bernard on Visions & Affiliations, A California Literary Time Line: Poets & Poetry 1940-2005, by Jack Foley
  • Sarah Melton on Fire Monks, by Colleen Morton Busch
  • Nicole Arocho on The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman
  • David A. L. Brown on Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice, by Alia Malek

Performance reviews:

  • Bart S. Alvara on Opera San Jose’s production of Idomeneo
  • Suzanne Birrell on The Encyclopedia Show, which was recently held at the Famous Four Colors Gallery in Oakland, California. The reviewer was so inspired by the show that she completed the review in verse.


  • Michaela Elias’ interview with Dulcimer Players Patricia Delich and Wayne Jiang
  • Tapati McDaniels’ conversation with Sarah Katherine Lewis about her self-published book, My Boring-Ass Rehab Diary
  • Christine Aratas unique article on the challenges and rewards of caregiving

Also included is a heartfelt short story by Megan Guernsey entitled, “Harry and the Potting Soil.”

As always, be sure to read Leena Prasad‘s monthly Synchronized Chaos column: Whose Brain Is It? Presented as a mystery with fictional characters and clues, this is a monthly column with a journalist’s perspective on brain research.

Please do also check out the artwork from Fabio Sassi. Sassi’s use of interesting patterns and shapes creates an industrial vibe for the viewer.

We hope you enjoy reading this month’s issue! If you haven’t already done so, check out the Synchronized Chaos Magazine Fan Page on Facebook! “Like” us and you’ll be able to stay in tune with the magazine, use it as an event and gallery resource, and network with like-minded individuals.

Compassionate Caregivers: Experienced Voices Heard

[Article by Christine Arata]

Compassionate Caregivers: Experienced Voices Heard

“There is time for work. And there is time for love. That leaves no other time.” Coco Chanel

When I was 5 years old, my mom went to work and I became a latch key kid. I remember lying on my mother’s bed as she went through her closet to find clothes for her day. I also remember times waking up and she would be gone, to work. Little did I know later in life she would need me and I would get that time with her back. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2006. I was working full-time. I was also living with her at the time. Her needs gradually increased and I decided it best to quit my job in 2007 to work part-time. It is now 2011 and I have worked on and off as my mother has progressed in the disease. Aside from her need to work in my early years, my mom has always been a great support to me. I could always count on her. In her weakness, we became even closer. I am thankful for these years I am spending with her and I am happy I can keep her home with me. She earned her home and garden. Luckily, my brother and sister agreed. It’s not all easy; I don’t want to make a fable out of caregiving. It does take its toll, but it’s the reason you do it that can carry you through it. Instead of statistics to explain the issue, I have compiled stories from a few caregivers in the San Francisco Bay Area and one from Arizona.

Ashlee found herself caring for her grandmother while raising her daughter of only a few months. Her grandmother enjoyed having the young companionship that often brought smiles. She too found it was quality time with her grandmother and that she learned valuable lessons from her. Her family was close and her grandmother had done a lot for them all, and despite having a difficult life, she remained positive and was a strong woman. Ashlee added, “We felt our time taking care of her was in return for the wonderful things she had done for all of us, we had a family support system. This led me to my strength and patience.” Ashlee admits she gave up some freedom and a normal social life being a live-in caregiver. She found this challenging at first, but found her balance over time. She states, “We need a support system, when we receive it helps our positivity.” “…People forget to give back to their community and lend a hand. Caregivers are making a difference and leading to a rewarding life by learning something valuable from our patients.”

Christine Arata may be reached at

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Performance Review: Opera San Jose’s Production of Idomeneo

[Reviewed by Bart S. Alvara]

I was unfortunate to have seen Idomeneo at the Opera San Jose, only because I now have a love of this art that will probably have me buying season tickets, and I’m in college, money is not my thing.

Walking in off of a street filled with car horns and cell phones ringing, the Opera House instantly transported me into 18th century France. Opera San Jose may not be the largest one, yet that only adds to its elegance and charm. With the richly decorated vaulted ceilings, Greco-Roman columns along the walls and a live pianist playing chamber music, the mood lifts you out of the modern world. That immersion into the past gave the show I was a going to see a sense of authenticity that no amount of downloaded music and iPads could deliver, so I knew I had to give the Opera my full attention.

There is something so visceral about the live performance that it almost overwhelms the senses. For the modern audience, we are too used to hearing our music on speakers, and forget that real song and music is made with instruments and voices. I say this because if a thundering drum was hit, you can feel the percussion resonate through the air. When an Opera singer hits a high note, the sound waves carry through the air to you. That connection to the music is something that television and movie screens cannot equal.

The plot comes from Mozart by way of Ancient Greece; a love story between a star cross Prince and Princess, and a father and King torn between sacrificing his city or his son. It builds from the tale of the Trojan Princess torn between her grief over the fall of Troy and her new love for the Greek Prince, into a powerful tale of being at the mercy of Fate. Filled with vengeful Gods, scheming lovers, and cruel destinies, the plot excels at creating tension and awe until its powerful climax.

You can contact the reviewer, Bart S. Alvara, at

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Art by Bobby West


Artist Bobby West’s coffee-colored hands gently revisit and redefine African culture through his passionate renditions. Bobby has been locked behind concrete walls for the past twenty-three years transforming canvas into some of the most brilliant, original, African-American, reflections composted today. Bobby’s inspiration comes from a lonely, desperate childhood.

In 1981, he was sentenced to forty-five years in federal prison for bank robbery.

While traveling throughout institutions, he polished his skills and perfected every art form that was permitted there. He paints with acrylics, oils, and watercolors, and draws with pencils, ink, pens, and chalk.

Presently, Bobby’s reverent mood and themes of Biblical serenity move the artist to pour his affections across fabric, selflessly giving an intimate view of his private world of pain, remorse, life, healing, and forgiveness. The cold concrete holds his feet and steel bunk cradles his aging body. As with so many others, artwork is the liberation of Bobby West.

The works of Bobby West are currently on display at the Community Arts Program, 1009 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. Call (415) 553-4525 x304 for more info.

To contact the artist directly, email

Short Story by Megan Guernsey

Harry and the Potting Soil

In the year 2004, Harry lost his job with the orchestra, in which he played the violin for 15 years, and he moved next door to his elderly mother. At times, he felt his mother was doing quite well, and he would play his violin, all alone, until late at night, in the top story of his three-bedroom home. His house was stately, brick, and quite ornamental; his yard was quite plain, just a front sidewalk and some scraggly grass. Although Harry’s yard was nothing to complain about, it was nothing to praise either, and Harry decided that he would put some of his free time into making the yard more presentable.

When spring rolled around, Harry borrowed a pitchfork and a shovel from his Mother’s garage and just started digging. As he dug, he found treasures from the past that made him wonder about the families that had live in the house before him. One day he found a fork, once an old coin, and one day he even found the eye of a doll. He kept them all in a special box in his bedroom. Souvenirs from gardening, he thought. Treasures that others had cherished.

Before he’d begin digging in the yard each morning, he’d go next door to his mother’s for breakfast, just to check on her. He’d eat his eggs and toast with an extra eye on his mom’s right knee, maybe shakier today than yesterday. But usually everything was okay, and he’d go back out to the yard, start digging again, repeatedly noting the progress he was making.

Megan Guernsey is a writer, poet, and lawyer from Missouri, California. She may be reached at

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Poetry by Jaylan Salah

Tears On Her Guitar

She plays the guitar
Her father talks about the tragedies of the world
She keeps playing
Her tears fall leaving burning marks in the mocha colored wood
Her father just keeps talking
The news in the background; protests and street fights
Her father speaks of the increasing prices
As she fumbles with the keys, her father throws the grocery bag on the ground
Her eyes are shut, she’s on her father’s shoulders, her arms spread like an eagle and she’s flying
She’s three again
She’s happy
Her father is a bitter old man, his stories of chalice, humiliation and betrayal like fuel to her art
She sings about love, happy couples and intimate moments in bed
Her father interrupts her singing, asks if she wants beans or peas for dinner
She’d rather live off chocolate chip cookies but he doesn’t get it
“It’s a sad era” he grunts. “This country is damned”
Through the window she could see her bare-chested ex, his hips swaying with the girl he chose two weeks before
His hair is a haven of Twix and Mars and honey
His eyes a smoldering gray, like smokes sent by gods of the outer space
Yet she plays on her guitar, trying to change the atmosphere
She plants a seed, her father ploughs the soil
She sings a song, her father turns on the TV
Her ex abandons the woman pregnant with his only son
The news fades in the background
But only her music lives and sadly, so do we

Jaylan Salah is a freelance writer and Synchronized Chaos contributor from Alexandria, Egypt. You may reach Salah at

Poetry by Corey Mesler

Blues for Pamela Franklin

“There is always a real and an imaginary person you are in love with;

sometimes you love one best, sometimes the other.”

-Anthony Powell

I’m reading Anthony Powell
with the TV on and the sound
mum. Anthony Powell thumps
me on the cerebellum. It is al-
most autumn, almost. The
day is bright like a lemon and
like a lemon a tart, willing to
lift her splendid skirts. Or may-
be it’s just that Pamela Franklin
is on TV posing stripped for her
art teacher. I am stirred. Anthony
Powell imparts his tricky words.
I reach out for Pamela Franklin’s
perfect fundament but it is gone
now, these 42 years. I still long.
I still keep reading as the chill
enters me and pricks my sconce.

Corey Mesler has published 4 novels, 2 full-length poetry collections, and 3 books of short stories. He has also published a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and 2 of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He also claims to have written, “Coronet Blue.”  With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. Email for more info.
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Poetry by Joseph V. Milford

Nest Under Lorca Aurora

I nestle in your space.

I create a nether sphere
So we can tether here
Any time under a tent

Of stars crudely drawn.
Preparing, I try to create space
For us to crescent in
Spreading the world blanket

Over the stellar broken glass
Of history so you can walk
Safely to the deli even when
You are not hungry-potential salvation.

I nightingale in your space.
You sing in mine.
A small symphony

All at the same time,
same cage, good page.
This duet from the black contract,

Cataract of the bubble chamber
and nautilus-this spiral spitting
a spore of truth, a quark or quirk.

I crepuscule and pulse in your face.
Neither neo nor nascent noir orb
Can chronicle this infamous lore.

Simply crumble.
They make tricycles out of the poets’ bones.
Children ride them all day

Down sidewalks partitioning zoos and museums.
It’s vainglorious and golden unctuous.
Hologram laurels waver among the scattering lizards.

With level heads we bevel landscapes in our own images.
Barren survivalist wildernesses nestle near our stars.
Amen. From aleph to zen, all will be well. Promise you, I’ll call.

Joseph V. Milford is a Professor of English at Georgia Military College south of Atlanta. His first book, Cracked Altimeter, was published in 2010. He is the host of the weekly Joe Milford Poetry Show, which he maintains with his wife, Chenelle. He also edits the literary journal Scythe with his wife from their shack in rural Georgia. Currently, he is happy with the Atlanta Falcons football team.

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Poetry by Lucinda Troth

In the Silence

She hides from day
And lives the night,
Her paws betray
Her padded steps.

She slinks through gardens,
Alleys, gates.
She hides from streetlight,
Drinks the dark.

Her silent grace
Knows each step
Away from humans,
Buildings, noise.

A shadow; black,
Unseen, unknown.
Her eyes glisten,
Await her moon.

A final crack
In wooded fence,
She crawls, and stretches,
Licks the trees.

Her quiet sea
Of grass, of green,
Caress’ whiskers,
talons, fur.

She rolls and mews
And takes her moon,
And lies in silver
Soft, serene.

The night flows gently
Heart is calm.
She feels the silence,
sky, the stars.

And here she feels
The earth, the air,
Beating in her
Soft and pure.

Til eyes move gently
Remember time,
The coming sunrise
Threatens her eyes.

Back through woodland
Through the fence,
Back through the gardens,
Alleys, gates.

She must return
Before the sun
Burns through her fur,
Her paws, her tail.

She shuffles in
The urban house,
Pads through the cravings,
Hunger, strife.

She climbs the stairs
Into the room,
Heartbeat racing
As the light

Slowly sets
Her fur aflame.
Awakes in hands.
In skin.

In life.

Lucinda Troth may be reached at

Poetry by Linda Sheppard

The Banshee

Within the wail of the banshee…
This concept I will await
As momentarily, she touched on my soul…
but as yet, she has failed to take

A Celtic spirit, an usher proclaimed…
for those amidst us
that move to the next world

Foregone is the conclusion
that my loved ones
will be forewarned

My torment echoes
and my soul has been destroyed…
As my soul is in limbo
and my prayers for release
are being ignored.

Regardless of the Banshees silence
whilst she washes human entrails
I again get to meet my old friend
Darkness once again
The prince of darkness
The bringer of death

Again I ask my old friend
Why is my spirit in limbo
and the banshee does not wail?

Awkwardly he acknowledges
my plea…and dispositions it
as the undead of society.

Relentlessly I forgo my quest
of seeking normality
As darkness has succumbed my

Within my hopes, my dreams
and desires
My old friend darkness will
always transpire

As within the realm of light
Darkness will always prevail
As the wail of the Banshee…
Is no more

For what was once accepted
As a warning of foreclosure
Which was duly accepted and understood
This concept is no longer
Instead I still seek refuge and
Comfort in the realm of the shadows
Whilst my life is in limbo
And my feelings no more.

Linda Sheppard may be reached at