June’s Synchronized Chaos issue: Coping and Catharsis

 

Welcome to June’s issue of Synchronized Chaos International Magazine! Happy graduation, Father’s Day, and change of seasons.

Our monthly theme is Coping and Catharsis – using writing and storytelling to face and process personal and social suffering and alienation.

Our writers portray a mixture of individual, social and global wrongs and griefs. Having these pieces grouped together reminds us that at some level all suffering is personal, because it affects people and other living beings.

Catharsis is defined medically as purging, the removal of poison or waste or the excess of anything from the body. In ancient Greek and Japanese Noh theater, playwrights induce catharsis by showing intense drama or emotion so audiences can express and release the feelings along with the characters and afterwards return to psychological balance. Many of our writers’ work this month reflects great sadness but also represents the potential for healing in audiences by providing a venue for cathartic identification.

* Linda Allen creates vignettes of midwestern American life, with one of the most powerful a funeral from a child’s point of view, grief underscored by the contrast with the boy’s innocence and curiosity about the black clothes and other ceremonial details.

* Justin Karfs, Erin Rabon and Sam Burks all explore loss, longing and loneliness through distinctive poetic styles. Kurt Dunlap illustrates the confusion of some aspects of modern life and the challenge of developing an authentic relationship when people aren’t sure of their own and others’ motives through his tragicomic fictional piece.

*  Some cathartic works also serve to encourage audiences to harness their vicarious experience of anger and sorrow by doing something about social injustices. In fact, playwright Bertolt Brecht intentionally avoided reaching psychological conclusions in his dramas in order to leave audiences feeling inspired to complete the story arcs themselves by taking social action.

A few of this month’s contributors confront local and global social injustice through their writing.

Martin Sunnafrank illustrates systemic manipulation of society by the powerful, rich and selfish in his novel Three of a Humankind, reviewed by Bruce Roberts, and George Teseleanu reviews the writing of San Francisco Beatnik performance poet Mark Schwartz, who uses language in unique ways to protest and subtly mock war, racism, conformity and other wrongs he saw in post WWII America.

Poet J’Rie Elliott sublimates criminal violence into verse which derives its power from the intentional lack of a happy ending, thus refusing to mask or romanticize the brutality and senselessness of what happened. Leena Prasad discusses the physical and neurological response to a personal violation in her column, Whose Brain Is It.

The most direct, positive element of hope this month comes from an actual stage production, the comedy showcase Justin Alan attended in San Francisco’s Mission District. Alan describes the joy and comfort he experienced from the performance, comparing the show to a ‘warm hug from a friend.’ He points to one of the perhaps less high-brow, but still useful aspects of culture: to pull us out of dark moods so we can function and make it through the day.

An anonymous Bay Area writer, using the name ‘Quest Forself,’ also points to how people can learn to connect to and comfort one another, starting by looking within and overcoming personal barriers to empathic relationships. This can represent another pathway towards overcoming suffering, if we’re willing to put in the thought and effort.

And, finally, returning contributor Christopher Bernard reviews the Victorian Cult of Beauty (1860-1900) exhibit at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, which shows the power of beauty to calm, inspire and renew us, taking us back to the idea behind the Ray Bradbury quote on our informational page:

Ray Bradbury

“And what, you ask, does writing teach us?First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.”
Ray Bradbury, The October Country

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Thank you and happy reading!

Christopher Bernard’s review of the Cult of Beauty: the Victorian Avant-Garde (1860-1900) at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor

 

THE VICTORIANS’ BLISS

 

The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860-1900

 

The Legion of Honor, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

 

Through June 17

 

A review by Christopher Bernard

 

 

For a shining moment in the savage tale called history, pleasure was held as the highest good rather than as the road to damnation for a weak and sinful humanity. Happiness was seen, not only as a legitimate aim, but as the sole aim of human life. What was virtue without pleasure; what indeed is goodness without happiness?

We’re still not sure: our meaner impulses insist on what some may see as a preposterously heroic view of life in the pursuit of money, power, celebrity – if you’re not training for the Olympics, what’s wrong with you? “No pain, no gain” is many a person’s mantra; though to gain what, they don’t always say, or perhaps know. The pursuit of mere pleasure, the right to a happiness made of the sweetness of life, we darkly suspect are signs of laziness and a lack of courage, a romantic withdrawal from the Darwinian struggle, rather than the civilized repudiation of the mindless callousness of nature, of evolution and its economic incarnation, capitalism.
So it’s quite a revelation to be reminded of something many may remember from their art-history classes: in the middle of the era of those old, dull Victorians, the Aesthetic movement flowered for almost two generations, and pleasure, happiness, love, and their objective correlative, beauty, were honored, pursued, worshipped, even adored.

The very success of the movement led to its own repudiation by the early modernists, and much of the art and criticism of the last century dismissed many of its products as kitsch. Yet, as often happens, the impulses behind the repudiated style went underground, and continued to nourish arts less susceptible to public ridicule; in this case, the crafts, home decorations, fabric design – the domestic arts in general. In fact, the very idea of a beautifully designed home, of the “house beautiful,” with stylish but not costly furnishings, that people might actually be able to afford – an idea most of us now take for granted – originated during that time.

And now we have an ambitious exhibit of work from the Aesthetic movement and the sister movements that followed – from the Pre-Raphaelites to art nouveau – now at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco, that succeeds wonderfully, even spectacularly, in bringing back to the center of our attention this often-dismissed but enormously fecund movement in the arts. Not only is it about “the cult of beauty,” it is itself a feast of beauty and offers revelations around almost every corner.

The exhibit, a model in how to be richly informative and enlightening without condescension or dry academicism, unfolds historically, establishing immediately the harrowing social conditions and the peculiar circumstances that inspired, and made possible, the movement. For Aestheticism was a reaction to the industrialism of mid-Victorianism, to its ugliness and social carnage, and was one of the roots of the various progressive movements, from feminism to the trade union movement to socialism, that germinated in the rich humus of Victorian society.

One of the causes of the movement was sheer embarrassment and shame when, during the international exposition of industrial products presented at the Crystal Palace in 1851, English goods appeared shabby and poorly designed when compared to similar products from France and Germany. Well, the intensely competitive English would not put up with that. And there was, as it were, a national decision to make up for lost time.

In the following decade, such designers as Owen Jones, Edward William Godwin and Christopher Dresser were hard at work creating designs for the home meant to appeal to the eye as much as the pocketbook: wallpaper, cabinets, sideboards, chairs, tea services (regarding the last: some of Dresser’s are so remarkably sleek and functional they remind one of the height of the Bauhaus several generations in the future, and others are so avant-garde they wouldn’t see their like again until a century later, in the studios of Italian designers in the 1970s).

The early years also saw the paintings and poetry of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, the poetry of his sister Christina, the paintings of Edward Burne-Jones and Frederick Leighton, the domestic designs of William Morris (several spectacular examples of which are show highlights) and Frederick Hollyer, Thomas Jeckyll, Philip Webb, and Lewis F. Day, and later on the flowering of the greatest artist of the lot, James McNeill Whistler, two of whose “Symphonies in White” are on display along with a satisfying offering of work by artists and artisans already mentioned, as well as Whistler’s etchings (a deliciously sensual sleeping Venus rests permanently in the mind), and several of the famous Nocturne, Harmony and Arrangement series, not least the famous portrait of Thomas Carlyle.

One gallery is devoted to the influence of the newly discovered Japanese aesthetic and the ancient influence of classicism, now more frankly hedonistic than the usual nod to Roman virtue and Greek grace. Elsewhere there are small gatherings of photographs from the period, in particular the romantic portraits of Julia Margaret Cameron.

Some of the furniture deserves special mention, including “The Seasons” cabinet, by Godwin, of mahogany, satinwood, brass and ivory, with painted and gilt panels (of medieval peasants in seasonal poses of sowing and reaping, possibly painted by Godwin’s wife, Beatrice); the masterly “Ladies and Animals” sideboard by Burne-Jones in trompe-Renaissance style; a tall folding screen, decorated with images of cherry blossoms and birds, by William Nesfield; and another piéce de resistance of pre-emptive modernism, a grand, black Mondriaanesque sideboard by Godwin.

In fact, the most satisfying artwork in the show tends to be in the domestic crafts: a pair of cast copper candlesticks by Philip Webb, of a kind of stout elegance, colored like honeyed gold, and originally designed for William Morris’s Red House in Bexleyheath, Kent; a black wall clock of ebonized mahogany and pained en grisaille; Morris’s big, shimmery, almost statuesque tile panel for Membrand Hall, Devon, richly colored in dark and light greens with pale-brown branches woven among them; a hanging fabric by Lewis Day of faded yellowish narcissi (a favorite flower, emblem and motif of the Aesthetes) against an almost-black background; a nobly subdued study of lilies by Hollyer; simple but elegant, and reportedly comfortable and affordable chairs by Webb and Morris, and a throne-like armchair by Alma-Tadema; and swatchbooks and “grammars of ornament” and books of designs for wallpapers and other domestic uses.

Not that the “high arts” are neglected: besides the Whistlers, there are some fine paintings, including Rosetti’s “Bocca Baciata”; a nude by George F. Watts that presents an Eros frank among the Victorians; Leighton’s study in serene sensualism, “The Bath of Psyche”; and John William Waterhouse’s sweet, if a little overly elaborated, masterpiece, “Saint Cecilia,” where two angels kneel, poised over their viols, wondering whether they should continue playing for the saint sitting in a chair across from them, asleep.

This wonderful exhibit is curated Dr. Lynn Federle Orr, of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Stephen Calloway, of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London (the exhibit was seen at the latter museum and at the Musée d’Orsay before coming to San Francisco, its sole U.S. venue).

After spending some time here, you may find yourselves agreeing wholeheartedly with the quote from Richard Jeffries: “The hours when the mind is absorbed in beauty are the only hours we live.”

 

Christopher Bernard is a San Francisco poet, critic and novelist (A Spy in the Ruins) and co-editor of Caveat Lector magazine (www.caveat-lector.org).

 

Poetic essay from a Bay Area writer

Look closely, judge what you think I am, hear clearly my voice, then judge once again, I’m making this noise, because I need a friend, who wont judge but accept, what I am in this world because, the glares from the ones, who appear to be them, burn deep in my soul and I cannot pretend, that this beam is just part of this strange alien, so judging, so smart, so feel my stem, the roots of my brain, we’re all the same lens, perceiving diversity and focusing then, on the adverse unity some let-be progression, when the lines between you and me are clearly prisons, and we’re all just prisms, so lighten your load my hands are your friends, and my smile’s the brightness through darkest tunnels, because all i promote, is energy, zen, and the peaceful zygote, regardless of race, gender or hope, all blossoms from one love-balancing flow, and the one who has written this piece has chosen this callous deceit & wrote with its feet for you to be freed, from violently hateful destruction & malice, because the you and the me that were once little kids, still have the same powers, imagination and time, but they’re memories not hours, so let’s set aside, the lack in our lives, that has drawn us to all this chaos inside, we can still seek and hide, just don’t loose the sight, of this vision of mine, for distracting the hunter, when peer prey falls behind, because my back is your back, we both have a spine, we’re all just friends here, the enemy’s mine, so the only war that exists is the one within mind, a vortex from our cortex where we share the same lives, how many times I’ll implore this, same state of mind, repeating ‘its formless’, before you begin to decide, that the dreams that you see, regardless of height, are the same as the difference, between wrong and right, or the end and the start, there really just isn’t, but a concept of time-timing constants, mere choices from which, beliefs have derived, and beliefs become real, but now these words have arrived, from your heart now ‘s the time, release all the pain that could ever reside, & you’ll find new loving-logic to lead you, extremely precise, to the dream that’s your life, where both spirit and science coexist throughout time, how do I know this? What are you, what am I?…

— From a San Francisco Bay Area writer who goes by “Quest Forself.”

Stop, Thief! May’s Whose Brain Is It, a monthly neuroscience column from Leena Prasad


Stop, thief!

topic anger
organ amygdala
chemicals adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin

The vibrant colors of the murals in Clarion Alley in San Francisco awaken my senses. The twilight is perfect for capturing the mood via photographs.

I finish planning a composition and am about to click when a man on a bike rides by and snatches the camera from my hand. For a few split seconds, I do not comprehend or accept what has just happened. Then I start to scream: He stole my camera! He stole my camera!

I feel violated. I have several months of photographs in that camera. My camera!

I run after him, screaming, as he turns right onto Mission Street. I realize that I have lost my photos and will not be getting them back but I am unable to accept this fact. I continue to scream. Then a strange and unexpected series of events occur.

The man who has stolen my camera comes back into the alley on foot. He holds up the camera as if he is going to give it back to me. I reach for it, unsure as to what is going on. He runs with the camera tightly held within his large hand. What happened to his bicycle, I wonder but I do not have time to consider this. He is running now in the opposite direction from Mission and towards Valencia Street. He is running towards the Mission Police Station! I doubt that he realizes this, however.

I start screaming at the top of my lungs and run after him. I am not saying anything this time. I am simply making a deep guttural sound, primitive language-independent screams of distress.

A policeman on a bike rides by me and asks what happened. He is headed from Mission to Valencia, the same direction as the thief. I tell him and he rides after the thief, who has already disappeared around the corner on Valencia. Another policeman on a bike also chases after the thief. I wonder if this might be why the thief has abandoned his bike, to perhaps find a route that does not allow a bike passage. Or, perhaps his bike is stolen also.

Then I hear sirens.

I slow down and start walking instead of running. I am out of breath and feeling calmer. A group of people walk towards me “You are lucky, they got him,” one of them says.

Why do I react with so much aggression and without any consideration for my safety?

Surprise or fear can trigger an adrenaline rush. The quantity of the adrenaline released and thus the degree of reaction is determined by chemical factors. A low quantity of the “happy” neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain triggers a higher degree of adrenaline production. In other words, the less happy the brain, the higher the level of adrenaline it produces.

When the thief ripped the camera from my hand, my adrenaline level probably shot up. The level of adrenaline might have been exacerbated even further by the fact that I was in an unhappy mood. I had left my apartment a few hours ago in an angry mood because I was upset with my boyfriend. This would have resulted in a depletion of dopamine and serotonin.

In a different state of mind, would I have screamed less and potentially let the thief get away? Or would I have not made the primitive guttural sounds that, in retrospect, seem to be an over-reaction to the loss of some photos, as precious as they might have been.

Low dopamine and serotonin and high adrenaline do not activate a response but only contribute to the activation. The response is activated in the limbic system specifically in the amygdala. The amygdala is one of the major organs responsible for the perception of threat and for triggering an emotional response. It can hijack the potentially rational responses from other parts of the brain and cause irrational reactions. In my case, I did not consider my own safety because I was furious that my personal space and property had been violated.

Later that day, when I am in the Police Station talking into a tape recorder and going through the story of what has happened, the police inspector asks me if I want to press charges.

“It’s wrong to steal and he should be punished. But he must have been really desperate to want to steal a camera,” my thoughts tumble out of my mouth. I decide not to press charges. Technically, it is not my decision because the district attorney will press charges anyway because the man was arrested. I did not know this at the time, however, and despite my conflict, I made a decision to not punish the thief any more than he had already been punished.

Perhaps I was being kinder because the dopamine and serotonin levels in my brain had surged back up when I found out that justice had been done and that I would get my camera back. Also, my boyfriend came to the police station and held my hand and kept me company while the inspector was talking to me. His presence might have contributed to the raised levels of the “feel good” hormones.

This is all hypothetical, of course, based on my knowledge of neuroscience and research on the neuropathy of anger. I would have had to be hooked up to an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imager) to prove my hypothesis about the actions of the amygdala and the levels of adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine in my brain. Nonetheless, it is fun to try to guess the biological triggers for my actions when confronted with a “fight or flight” situation.

References:

Dr. Goulston, Mark,Usable Insight, The Neuroscience of Anger, Monday, April 18th, 2011, http://markgoulston.com/usable-insight-the-neuroscience-of-anger/

George Teseleanu’s review of San Francisco Beatnik poet Mark Schwartz

This month’s assignment was to write a review about Mark Schwartz’s poetry. Although the information about him is scarce on the internet, I managed to find a few poems and some word about him. About the author I managed to find out that he was born in the Bronx and that he graduated from Cornell University. He started to be a regular at open poetry readings from ’81 forward and his style is influenced by the 1950’s Beatnik movement.
The poems that I found are a mix of a weird, funny sense of seeing the world and an acute social sense. He places sensitive matters in an amusing setting and so the reader isn’t upset when he reads the poems, but it’s pleasantly amused. The author likes to juggle with words, and to use them in unlikely scenarios, for example “will you wear my eyes” or “chewing a cop’s ear”, but this helps him to create a surreal world where he can easily hide sensitive problems.  His writing style is a relaxed one, since he uses a playful and informal tone.
Also, he is not afraid to use slang words in his poems, for example “doobie” or “stash”.
For the last part, I would like to share with you, one of my favorite poem by Mark Schwartz from the few that ones I found:
One thing that is good about the war
is that it took one’s mind off the earthquake
which took one’s mind off the drought
which took one’s mind off the homeless
which took one’s mind off of sex 
which took one’s mind off.
Mark Schwartz is a Beatnik performance poet in San Francisco, California. George Teseleanu, the reviewer, may be reached at blana_de_maimutza@yahoo.com

Bruce Roberts reviews Michael Sunnafrank’s Three of a Humankind

Three of a Humankind, a Review

By Bruce Roberts

 

Three of a Humankind, by Michael Sunnafrank, is an interesting book, filled with ideas relevant to human thought the world over. But is it a novel?

This book takes place in Napa, California, a world class tourist attraction, famous everywhere for wine and wineries, symbolic of “The Good Life.” Yet throughout the book, problems between the characters exist, endemic problems that undercut the euphoric tourist attraction world created by the Chamber of Commerce–something to remember when we’re in vacation mode, visiting pleasant places where real people live. Indeed, Napa here becomes a microcosm of class strife in the world. The town is dominated by the rich. They own the wineries, the country clubs, and earn everyone else’s hatred with their arrogant behavior.

In this book, driving these behaviors, on all sides, are spirits and demons. Yes, actual demons, who control the rich and see to it that they are properly greedy and arrogant at every turn. The chief demon is Mamona—the Biblical epitome of arrogance and greed– and he is upset—and vengeful—when two rich characters try to change their ways, for he fears to offend the head demon—The Master. Mamona is counterbalanced by a variety of spirits who advise and inspire the non-rich characters: The Grandfather, The Enemy, the Hawaiian god, Pele, a man in a hat, even an eagle. Toward the end of the story, even Ronnie, a long-dead friend, materializes in an old white jeep yet. Who knew spirits could drive? In fiction, of course, anything goes, but this infestation of spirits and demons does not make the story more believable.

In teaching writing all my life, the standard rule, for fiction at least, has been “SHOW NOT TELL.” This author missed that lesson in junior high. He “TELLS” 90% of the story, so it’s really more like a political and philosophical treatise than a novel. There are a few scenes where he attempts to let action “SHOW” what’s going on, but even those are heavily framed in “TELLING” the philosophical basis behind them. His is a total third person, omniscient narrator, a style that gets old quickly. Even when the narrator is reading the characters’ minds, nearly every thought seems, again, a political diatribe.

The author and I, politically, are kindred spirits. I subscribe to The Nation, a very “liberal” magazine, and this book is like a long Nation editorial. Characters and spirits have been added for a little spice, but they are essentially mouthpieces—talking heads– for the author’s political ideas. And I agree with them. I think the author’s understanding of our nation’s problems, from a “liberal” point-of-view, is right on. Yet the fact that I’ve “heard it all before,” detracts from my interest in this as a novel.

Through all the improbable spirits, the mouthpiece characters, and the political diatribes, one idea does stand out as a different way of defining the human condition—that the root of all our problems is our self-centeredness. Any human-caused problem can be defined this way, from war to politics to sibling rivalry over the family bathroom. People look out for themselves first, instead of caring for those around them. But while some of the characters certainly exemplify this, we are mostly told about it, instead of watching it develop naturally through the characters’ words and actions.

So, if you’re interested in a beautifully written novel, the kind that makes you want to read aloud and savor every word, filled with vivid atmosphere, unique characters, and startlingly new ideas, this book is not for you. However, if you want a clearly-written dissection of America’s problems, from a liberal point-of-view, with a trip to Napa and myriad demons and spirits thrown in for spice, then take a chance, and read Three of a Humankind, by Michael Sunnafrank.

 Bruce Roberts may be reached at brobe60491@sbcglobal.net and is an accomplished sculptor and schoolteacher from Hayward, California. 

Poetry from J’Rie Elliott

“…Some endings are not nice…”
By: J’Rie Elliott
He watched her through her window pane,As she moved in her room;Her body drove his mind insane,

He would put her in her tomb.

The night drew on as he stood and hid

He never made a sound;

Just watched her dress, then watched her sleep—

While no one was around–

The sun brought light and daytime warmth,

As he slept in the bushes outside—

She dressed and made ready for the day ahead;

Unaware she should run and hide.

We never think of the things so simple;

That alter each day of our lives.

If she had she never would have agreed,

For him to give her a ride—

A year ago to the day

She sat inside his car;

A friend of a friend or a cousin of a friend

She thought she was safe by far.

That night had been without event;

A blown out tire without a spare—

So she climbed inside and said “Take me home”

Her life was without care.

She saw him at the coffee shop,

She saw him at the store,

And then again at Sunday church;

You see it was her he did adore.

He planned it out,

To the last detail;

How they would spend their special day.

Roses, wine some soft candle light—

Then with him she would lay.

The day it turned and twilight fell,

And as always she journeyed home.

To her cat, her dog and little goldfish–

She always came home alone.

He waited until she was in the bath,

To make his presence known.

Her face was covered as she rinsed her hair.

When came time to make his presence shown.

He grabbed her by her arm and then,

She screamed and slipped away

He grabbed again at her nakedness—

This time his grip did stay.

He professed his love for her,

And said “I know you love me too.”

But fear was there inside her heart,

Yet there was nothing she could do.

He pulled her from the soapy tub–

And into the room he prepared.

How had she not known he was in her house–

Oh how she was so scared.

He wrapped a towel around her breast,

As he sat her down to wine.

She tried to do just what he asked,

Hoping things would be fine.

He ranted and he rambled on,

About all the times they shared;

The laughs, the dance, the midnight dreams—

Things that were never really there–

Then her fear turned to dread,

As he said, “Let’s go to our room.”

She knew what he wanted and what to expect;

Her head began to swoon.

He caught her as she swayed to faint,

And slapped her face awake.

“Wake up my love.  You’ll miss the fun.”

He was not about to wait.

She would not go silently into the forever night,

Nor would she let him take her with ease.

Now it’s time to put up a fight,

And make him say “No please.”

She threw her head into his face,

Breaking his nose with the blow.

Then grabbed the lamp and cracked his head,

Time seemed to move so slow.

He dropped to the floor with blood on his face,

She jumped to flee the room;

He grabbed her foot and pulled her down—

This fight would not end soon.

He called her names and screamed in pain

As she bit him on the arm;

He slapped her face and knocked her down—

Now he would do her harm.

This story ends with a death—

There is no reason why.

There is no moral to be derived from here,

Just a family left to cry.

I relayed the facts as known to me,

Simple and concise—

Some outcomes we cannot change;

Some endings are  not nice.

J’Rie Elliott is a mother, wife, daughter, and accomplished horseback rider from Alabama, USA. She can be reached at dixiepoet@gmail.com

Poetry from Justin Karfs

Old Proposal

I just want someone, to be there with me
Stick through defeat, and victory
Through the highs, and past the lows
There to help me handle the blows

Cause life is tough, the world unkind
Id like you there for peace of mind
Because I think your just divine,
Would you please, be mine?

Yes, the word I hope to hear
Being alone, my only fear
To never ever have you near
Hell, Id rather cut off my ear!

Id rather not swear us to secrecy
Not just smooch at the speak easy
I really do love you so much,
Your kisses sweeter than the dutch
I don’t mean to feel so much,
But being without you life’s on a crutch

So at last I get upon thine knee,
And solidfy our bond, I to she
I certainly believe this meant to be
So darling will you, marry me?

 

 

Never Say Forever

You’re beautiful
I heard him whisper
As his soft hands touched my gentle heart
Forever he says
Such sureness in his tone
Forever right now I respond
For the future is putty
No definite shape

Coffee? He asks
No, I swiftly respond
Why would I want to wake from this,
Dream
An adrenaline shot
Preventing me from entering the peace of death
Twisted comparison?
Thats what you do baby, I say
You twist me up inside

Forever always, he replies
There goes that word again
7 letters, isn’t that a lucky number?
Lucky, ha, for a word that cause heartache
Like a man who spends his money on the lottery
Once in a while you get a winner,
But for the most part, disappointment
Sorrow
Anger

Too many heavy promises
Broken, rope cut
Smash into my already fragile heart
State of mind, red, blue
Strange, our world, rivals
In the emotional spectrum of life,
Copilots
Sadness, the calm before the storm
Anger, one mean motherfucker

Stop, I say quickly
Because underneath I see
I, just a notch in the belt
You, another knot in my noose

Before the floor drops
I drop you instead
Out I shout
Or You’ll be dead

Tears run down
As you leave my house
While I lay here
Quiet as a mouse
Cliché?

Forever baby,
More like
Forever on guard.

 

Justin may be reached at jkarfs@gmail.com

Prose poetry sketch from Kurt Dunlap

Woke up this morning without a clue as to what was going to happen on this fine day or what was on the top of my list to accomplish with minimal distraction. Waking up alone without a warm and sensitive body next to me is hardly earth shattering news since I am pretty much a loner character. Under the radar I think is the best way to achieve your wants or needs. I intend to remain well under the radar as my existence on this planet unfolds or unwinds from the tangled web I hqve been engulfed in.

                  The cuckoo clock had run out of chain and stopped at 6:10 +/. It could be anytime for all I could tell. Dark and foggy out, so it’s a toss of the coin considering the cuckoo doesn’t have one of those Led glow all the time screens to tell me what is before me. I saw daylight as I opened my eyes further glancing out toward the bay windows protruding over Jones Street looking east at Treasure Island, a blue sky with puffy white clouds, Mt. Diablo in the distant view that is past the Hayward Fault and with suburbia separating it all from me.
                Feeling safe, I had nowhere to go in a rush, so slowly I slide around the mattress finding a familiar spot and drifted off for a couple more winks. When I found myself within my dreams I drifted further and further into the abyss. A rare commodity with all the sirens, horns honking and squawking birds that surround my hole in the wall. I enjoy being nestled up out of the way from prying eyes with curious minds and devious thoughts that you find in an urban setting such as San Francisco.
                Suddenly, everything shook like a slab of chilled jelly on a small plate. This little piece of the sky I stumbled on ten years ago has become one of those places you don’t care to leave, or, would even want to regardless of a nuclear attack. You could watch it all from this location, plus some. Granted, it may be close to a hundred years old, smaller than a 36C, closer to a 34 she claimed, as it is sandwiched between to other buildings.So the minor earthquake I was feeling right now didn’t concern me. I am comfortably on the top floor. Now, had I been located on the bottom floor I would be out in the street by now away from the overhead electrical lines that run down the street for the MUNI buses. If for some unknown reason we happened to rock or slide off the foundation there was a row of buildings that would have to go down before I felt concerned. The domino effect, if accurate, suggests that it is best to be on the top for as long as possible. Simulating life, staying on top of it that is.
                A morning walk seemed to be in order. The neighborhood is a blessing in disguize, you will see I think as we head down Jackson Street toward Polk Gultch and the thriving throngs of resident transplants from all corners of the globe. We’ll see it in a few,as I am stumbling around with my feet hitting the cold tile floor. I am out of the comfort zone where I was installed in a deep mindless rest. Little did I know at the time, my fate was sealed. A seducer lurked amongst us and saw what we could not ourselves visualize. I better be on top of it if I am going out into the world.
                I felt positive today hitting Jones St. walking down Jackson as the Cable Car dinged away down to Fisherman’s Wharf with a few locals in a commute. At this time of the morning any tourists visiting The City by the Bay are still in their Union Square top dollar bed. The Wharf tourists are slumming with us blue collars, artists and homeless. A hipster on occasion may be spotted unable to find their way back to Valencia  Street in The Mission. They look for the 49 MUNI or 14L Mission line to get them to fqmiliar ground. Every citizen should appreciate their publicly funded private chauffeur aka the bus, for all to use, I know I do without a doubt. A good walk down the 27 line right will do me wonders. When we hit the Wharf, The Bush Man and Chrome Guy should be performing as we wander down past them through the throngs of bodies of all ages. You’ve seen the likes of them at the Pike in Long Beach, Sunset Strip or Venice Beach. There must be some in Ft. Lauderdale at spring break, South Miami and all the hot spots for the XYZ Generation for that matter. Who would know it would boil down to the creative mind over what mattered. New age, new standards and tolerance levels for the absurd are part of the norm until maybe you get over to the bookstore.
                .Well, considering the previous evening, it is an amazing feat I accomplished. My toxic behavior, bluesy mood and sour attitude had taken full advantage of my senses. As she walked up to me as I was reading my novel, her smile was recognizable from my years of existence so right then I realized this again is not going to be another one of your normal encounters. I motioned her ear over and spoke softly, to her noticing her slim neckline and slender back. “I’m not sure if you’re looking for me or not but, I am available for your any needs”.
                She countered with” Do I know you”?
I responded with “Not well enough yet.” A short feminine sigh came out of her. “well I haven’t heard that opening before.”
                “Please, join me for something to eat, I have this table right here. We can enough the street traffic and locals as we eat”.
 She had trapped me and until the moment of her coming into my life I was a lost soul scattered in the wind of an emotionless existence.
                Biggest Frog in the puddle I am not. So why do I seem to attract these seductive females? Have they no common sense? I don’t see how it could be my pleasant personality and demeanor. No one I know currently would agree with me on that without a wary glance.
                Some small weakness had become to me early last night and I chucked it away as a foolish hillbilly would discard a fresh mason jar of home brew. The notion of traveling back to memories of forgotten times just doesn’t appeal or fascinate me. I rather have my mind and thoughts on the here and now. I now can figure out who is generating the heat next to me. A sweet dazzling woman, blonde and full of life’s positive outlook, Lizzie. I’m going to try and figure out how people stay in bed all day having intimate contact while the world drifts by in chaos. Maybe, I should have a finance committee do a study and give me the results. All profit margins need to be met, and will, trust me on that one.
                I haven’t even crossed the threshold and gone out into the real world yet as the sun rises above the financial district. Boy, it sure is bright out today I thought squinting my eyes as I slide on my round Lennon shades discovered at the thrift store for a mere investment of $2.49.Lizzie stirred, moaned a sexy question “What time is it?” Knowing she wasn’t ready yet to open her eyes I let it go unanswered. Across the bay Berkley is glistening from afar. The blue sky against the green hills scattered with puffy white clouds is a site to behold. Sailboats listing in the 25 mile an hour wind filled the choppy bay water. Another day in paradise waited my attendance. The numerous ferries with their bows breaking the water into wakes spot the bay waters, while the weekend sailboat crowd is out in full. The Bay Bridge all new after 25 years of starting with the process is about completed. Sacramento sure moves fast or I should say slow when the pork is involved. Steel imported from China certainly didn’t help our local economy.
                Okay, hitting the road,leaving Lizzie smiling away in her oblivia I start wandering down for a cup of java. I’m not a $3.00 a cup Starbucks character so I stopped into the local joint ay Hyde and Jackson as life surrounded me. Cable cars clanging the brass bells, little rat dogs yipping as you walk by woke me up as I walked half asleep and dazed from an excellent evening. One yapper stretched his leach at me on the way down at so I stamped my foot and growled. Its tail went between its legs as it shivered as if in a snow storm. The owner gave me the one finger salute, so I gave it back, said good morning, “control your rat dog buddy”.” I can kick your ass” he countered with. I kept trekking down Jackson. Way too early for this noise or any conflict.
                One must appreciate art forms that are an extension of reality. Who’s reality is yet to be seen.
                  I must admit, the ladies that frequent these little coffee bistro’s are intriguing, sensual and, well, that too. This is an arousing first thing in the morning excersice. We all need to keep the blood flowing and an active, vivid imagination regardless of age and personal situations  
                Back to last night, I thought about her blood flowing freely. Pulsating and throbbing, a woman’s swollen anatomy is better than one would believe.I have convinced myself or convinced Lizzie a sure way to spend some time on a layover, coming from across from the other side of the continent is to make love and have intimacy with someone other than the normal. That sounded like a good idea yesterday when we met. Or should I say I wouldn’t let her get away? That’s right, see is a stewardess. Cheesy she said to call herself a stewardess, so I go with the politically correct version, Flight Attendant.. My personal situations crossed my mind and I had to chuckle to myself. Reality be damned I want no part of it. A pleasure seeking fool is all I have amounted to, so back off. My personal situation is still in bed no doubt wondering where I have wandered off to without serving a tasty cup of drip brewed coffee. I figured or hoped, after a night of healthy, intimate contact she wouldn’t be raising her head until noon or later, closer to happy hour that we enjoyed, our favorite time of the day.
                Ambient awareness, such a concept delivered to me from places unknown. Better check the orbit page and see if I am listed. Wondering what was next I simply thought of nothing. Let it all come about at its own pace. Who cares if the world is round? Maybe your geography instructor you had from 8th grade, but not me. It could be a rectangle for all I am concerned today.
                 Anyway, the creative urge took control of my soul and what little common sense I carried at this god awful hour of 10AM.
                It’s like, I thought back when I was a younger man. My professional talent was required and insisted upon to trim the trees newly arrived from the north coast. Into finely shaped dunce hats I carved away creating the dreams and memories small children would have. What did Santa or ole St. Nick bring they would wonder for weeks. Finally, opening another finely wrapped gift it would dawn on them that the gift was made in China and after a couple hours of play it became top drawer material. No doubt the national debt could be resolved if the government took eminent domain over the season and mindless shopaholics bustling about all in a hurry to go nowhere but the ATM machine. Don’t forget the fake snow flocking, another $22.95 of product sold.
                Hell, you could drive to the snow for that with gas at $3.50 a gallon and have the real stuff. You might get cold and wet but at least it wasn’t like watching television the other fake reality bestowed upon us by some marketing guru in the Hollywood Hills or Manhattan. The Almighty dollar working wonders for all involved. This included myself at minimum wage, just enough to keep me in a few beers and a burger.
                So, not withstanding any prior indulgence in comprehendible thought I turned into a homicidal tree carver. The Jewish community that surrounded my carving area stuck behind the store, thought it was quite spectacular as I butchered, sliced and diced the trees into finely shaped masterpieces. I think this is when it came to my pea brain that I was The Artiste. They all came out onto their back porches as I went to work an applauded after each butcher job I completed.
                My talent went unappreciated by the manager of the one store I was trying to get transferred to. I would have been closer to home, I would be able to sleep in an extra twenty minutes and be in my own neighborhood where I thrived. Here I could relax some, wait on the neighbors, and who knows even maybe meet someone interesting at the burger joint next door on my time off.
                The no go on the transfer happened and I couldn’t even believe it. This came after I helped my new potential superior, that’s not superior in intelligence, up off the sidewalk in a drunken stupor one evening. Apparently I learned from the homeless guy that hangs out in front of Walgreens panhandling all day that this bozo had been stumbling drunk for the most part of the early evening. I wondred to myself if I was looking at my future self.
                The sidewalk had weeds that were growing up through the cracks, leaves and trash blew down the gutter and piled up against the storm drain giving an eerie feeling. It seemed that you were really not here but in a place of uncertainity. It was still early enough that we still had some old timers strolling by with their walkers humming the night away. I could not believe this guy didn’t even recognize me as I grabbed him by his arms and pulled. I could have claimed disability trying to lift him and his beer belly up before the beat cop came by and dragged his ass down to 850Bryant Street, home of the grey bar Hilton. No doubt he didn’t realize his errors even then. Sometimes I should just stay in bed and dream away the day.
                So home I headed, found Lizzy still smiling in a sleepy daze as I fondled her panties off with little protest. Difficult this wasn’t, exuberating it was. She just couldn’t stop me from my actions no matter how she wanted it to come out of her sleeping haze. I gave her my best thoughts and gently slide down her pants as she grappled with the buttons of my Levis. Lusting her I couldn’t help but get as hard as a crowbar. I wanted to pry it open and indulge myself while she moaned and shimmed along with the beat of the music blasting out from the speakers placed sporadically about the humble abode. Sliding gently inside of her we both could feel the motion around us and between us.
                The neighbor walked in as we continued to enjoy ourselves, grabbed a beer, cracked it open sat down and inspected the activity. Now you would think this might cripple my activity but since having not heard anyone knock or ring the cow bell I was in a world of my own blissful existence. At least being unaware at times helps with the calmness of serenity. Lying back on the massive pillow pile when I had finished with my tasks, getting some of the tasty bush, heart beat near critical.
Kurt Dunlap hails from San Francisco, California and may be reached at kurtdunlap@yahoo.com

Poetry from Sam Burks

Back to what matters (and what doesn’t)

Even the rocks
and the dirt
on our feet
have worries.
There is wonder even
in the dusty webs
of leaves and moss
draping
the cold and lonely side
of the mountain

Out here
in
this bubbling, smokey,
sun-baked empire
of stone and cedar walls
the winds of Babylon
sneak in
and dance
in the curtains

Out here
with
the building blocks
of our eyes
we too
are cold
and lonely
alone
with
the whole thing

And even the trees
and the clouds
and the glaciers
are melting
and drying
there is warmth
even in the lost
memories
of our bed
strewn about
over the rocks and dirt

The Longest Night

I was wasting my time

in those sleepless nights

holding a ghost,

who appeared to me lost,

scared

and alone

and in a different body

every night

And when the sun

would sneak up

she would

be gone

Those nights

were the longest

and the embrace

was so so sweet

But

she held me

in substitution

of the body

that she missed

and I held her

for the lost warmth,

the skipped beat,

for everything that

had been taken from me

even though I knew

she would never

be able to

give it back

But,

the embrace

was so so sweet

I would just have

to accept

that my body

was the night

and my soul

was lost

in the dark

The Texture Of Stones

Much like stones
we toss ourselves about
with hostility
landing and meeting
in a neutral wasteland
silent collisions
followed by
blank expressions
the who’s
and the what’s
and the why’s
fleeing like the fulfillment sustained
right as the waking eye
becomes
the rising sun

When I look at people
on the bus
under neon street lights
on the avenues that ache
with sleep deprivation
I see pain-
I see the letters of rejection
the missed connections
the failing grades
the unpaid bills
all the broken things
the two sets of lonely eyes
never meeting, never understanding
always bleeding
salt and water and life

I see the waking up
without appreciation
for the painless eternity
borrowed for the hours
exchanged for the drudgery
and forced time

And I see
so much potential
in the stones
flying around
my head

The Last Ten Blocks

With only ten blocks left to walk, the brutality of every step becomes
more apparent.  I’m walking you home, but I want to pull you in the
opposite direction.  You’re real busy, and I’m very lost.  My thoughts
scramble to release themselves without being diminished.  There are so
many things I want to tell you, but won’t.  I struggle to put things
in order, I want to make you understand but I’m too afraid to tell you
directly.  Out of fear of rejection, or abandonment, I keep these
emotions subdued for now.  We are strangers, but we’re not.  There is
still so much to learn about you, and I’m afraid that you don’t
understand me as much as I want you to.  It’s rare to find a person
who makes me feel appreciated and accepted, but when it happens I fall
quickly.  I hardly know you, but I know enough to desire your company
over anything else.  And in my delusional mind, I try to find clues
that tell me that this feeling is mutual.  For now, I hope and pray
for a reunion where I will be much braver.

I can’t tell you how much I love you in just ten blocks.  I hope one
day we can take a much longer route.

Sam Burks is from the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, and can be reached at srburks@gmail.com

Justin Alan: Review of San Francisco Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse

Comedy Reviews by a Barely Qualified Bow Tie

Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse:
Featuring 14 Hills Literary Magazine

As I scrolled through my “Event Invites” on Facebook to choose my first comedy show to review, I came across Pam’s weekly radio show/open mic on Mutiny Radio. I had been meaning to attend this open mic because 2 very appealing aspects of the show, the first is that it is such an original idea or structure of a show, and second the show gets 5,000+ listeners/downloads a month. For a comic that is a lot of exposure, hell that is a lot of exposure for anyone.
The structure of this show is fairly foolproof. The idea is to get as many people as she can involved with each episode, so each week she has a new group of people promoting the show. By now you are probably wondering how it all goes down, so I won’t hold you in suspense any longer.

The first hour of the Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse is conducted by a guest host, a new guest host is chosen weekly. That guest host gets to decide how the whole first hour is to be spent. Some have done a comedy showcase, choosing a few comics and everyone does 15 minutes, some do interviews with their favorite comics, there have been plays on air, but this week was a little more refined. This week the guest host was the entire literary magazine, Fourteen Hills. Fourteen Hills is a wonderful publication that presents many forms of literature, ranging from poetry to fiction and many other cross genre formats that captivate and inspire. I sat in on the interviews with some of the staff of Fourteen Hills as they spoke of the hard work put into each issue, and read some of their own entries to the magazine.

I am not a poetry buff, but I must say one poem really touched me. A poem written and read on air by Ivan was titled “A New Suit for Graduation” really hit home as it spoke in such detail of his father, it was so involving to me, I became lost in the thoughts of my own father.

Soon after these wonderful poets, writers, and editors spilled their guts to the entire listening audience came the second hour. The second hour is always an open mic. This open mic has such a warm welcoming feeling filling the entire studio and spilling out the front door out onto 21st and Florida. It is easy to find yourself lost in conversation with comics that feel like family, even if you have only met them the night prior. This week the show even had a fantastically funny group of young comics from Denver, CO. All the comics and poets alike share such an appreciation for Mutiny Radio and Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse, comedian Alex Q. Huffman described it as “…a den of creatives that nurture and support in many creative ways, and Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse is a shining example of that, letting you express yourself in any way you want including comedy and poetry…”

As I walked away to my next show that night, I left with the lingering feeling of a big warm hug from a best friend. Really I can’t express how inviting and special this place is, I encourage all to attend every Friday they have the chance.

If you would like more info on Fourteen Hills please visit 14hills.net, and if you would like to come join the fun every Friday at Mutiny Radio for Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse, come to the corner of 21st and Florida in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA at 8pm.

Justin Alan is a comedian in San Francisco, California who also writes and reviews shows near where he lives. You may reach him at justinalancomedy@gmail.com – and he’s open to suggestions of shows to review!

 

Poetry from Erin Rabon

Good Bye

 

How does one move on so simply?
How does one just forget?

The times we shared,
the memories we made.
Have simply just vanished
and quickly faded away.

It was as if the ocean had attacked the shore,
erasing all the pictures that we had drew in the sand.

You seem so happy now.
At least that’s the image you portray.
But, I’ve seen that smile more than once;
I know the real ones from the fake.

Together we had a love shining bright.
Like that one street light that brings you comfort,
letting you know you’re almost home.

But, as our fighting became no stranger,
and the storm grew rapidly,
our light began to dwindle down,
and then simply just burned out.

She’s pretty—in that weird kind of way.
You always did like different.
I just assumed I was the lucky one.
The one that you let slip through the crack.

I promised myself I wouldn’t be bitter.
And that’s a promise I plan to keep.
I too, will find love again one day.
Just not as fast as you.

And I’m sure when loves comes my way,
that you will talk poorly about the new you.
Ill just say its your insecurity kicking in, raging its ugly head.

Try and get me out of your head. You may think you fool everyone,
but, you don’t fool me.
I’m that thought you just want to dismiss.
I’ll stay there till it’s time for you to move on.
Not a second sooner. 

 Erin Rabon is a student at Georgia Southern University, currently taking a creative writing class. She submitted work to Synchronized Chaos at the suggestion of her professor, and may be reached at er01403@georgiasouthern.edu