Synchronized Chaos June 2015: Waiting and Watching

This month’s writers show us protagonists who consider, and reflect upon the action around them.

Joan Beebe’s poetic speaker watches a thunderstorm from her window. Safe inside, she can observe the spectacle with wonder and excitement. G.K. Brannen’s piece voices an old-style lament inspired by a roadside memorial for people who died in an accident.

The book reviews here also strike a tone of thoughtful expectancy. Elizabeth Hughes’ monthly Book Periscope column includes a personal essay from the author about why and how she loves to read, which she has typed to fill the space while technical difficulties slowed her reading. While she waits on a computer repair, she looks at one title, Charles Schneider’s The Vale of Years, whose protagonist leaps into action, inserting herself into history for personal gain. Rui Carvalho brings a fresh perspective to Karolina Simos’ suspense novel trilogy The Ambrosia Chronicles, showing how the books inspired not just suspense and curiosity, but consideration of deep existential questions.

Kahlil Crawford looks at professional chef, recovered addict and anorexia survivor Lisa Stalvey’s biography Food Sex Wine and Cigars, the story of how this accomplished businesswoman and artist learned to heal by letting go of what she couldn’t control in her personal life while continuing her professional striving. Stalvey embraces watchful waiting as a position of strength, choosing to focus her energy where she can learn and make a difference. Ryan Hodge, in his monthly Play/Write column, explores the psychology of addiction and why people who become obsessed with a substance or activity feel the need to continue even when they no longer derive pleasure from that activity. Certain video and computer games, including Candy Crush, harness these psychological pathways, making it difficult for players to let go and put down the game.

John Grey’s poems present physical experiences in the natural world, such as preparing to raft down a river and encountering wild animals, in a contemplative way. The speaker observes the world around him and plans his near future, and also reflects on a long-term relationship. Lysious Ogolo’s upcoming musical A Priceless Heart presents a heroine, Lauren, who must choose among her musical aspirations, her working-class Nigerian immigrant lover, and her father, who has big plans for her to inherit and manage the prosperous family business. Lauren seeks the true love that John Grey’s speaker describes, yet has much to consider before she can feel confident in pursuing the romance.

Patrick Ward brings us the somber sound of a whippoorwill in his poetry, along with images of a lighthouse and a ‘quiet man’ who stands apart from others and who is braver than they realize. Yet, as Ward’s bold, capitalized titles reveal, the speaker here may seem quiet, but he is definitely present, clearly aware of and taking in what happens around him. Timothy Drake’s poetry creates more of a rambling, personal, almost diary-like effect, with its short lines and lack of any capitalization.  Left alone at the end of a relationship, Drake’s speaker seems to talk to make sense of his feelings in his own mind, rather than to assert his existence or express thoughts to others.

Christopher Bernard’s lengthy piece on restructuring our civilization to better mesh with the natural environment affirms that we as a species are all currently watching a major planetary-level change and suggests broad strategies to redirect our course. Shannon Snyder, in the two essays she has contributed for this issue, describes experiences observing fellow Londoners on the Metro and in museums, and immigrants waiting for needed papers and services before they can make a fresh start in their new homeland.

Poet Michael Robinson considers his heritage, both personal and cultural, in two sets of richly described poetic collections. He draws upon the strength of those he remembers as he personally waits and hopes for a more peaceful environment. As with Christopher Bernard, he lengthens the timescale and widens the geography of his frame of reference to better understand his situation, and as with Shannon Snyder, he shows how chronic social issues and inequities impact individual lives.

This month’s issue provides an excellent opportunity to consider weighty issues and refocus on one’s own life goals. We encourage you to think on these matters while perusing the site.

FYI we are hosting a reception Saturday June 20th or Thursday June 25th, TBA, at San Francisco’s Cafe International, 508 Haight St. Lewis Mark Grimes, artist who creates unique ‘feather rishi’ Egyptian inspired patterns from peafowl feathers printed onto silk scarves, will come up from Southern California for this event to show off his work. All others are invited to read, bring books to sell and share, or just enjoy food and drinks and conversation.

Also, our colleague in Portugal, poet and software developer Rui Carvalho, hosts a poetry contest on his blog and invites all writers to participate. Our magazine staff will provide editorial expertise to judge this competition and provide free writing coaching to the runners-up.

International Literary Contest “Poems and Tales for Nature 2015”

Competition Adjudicator: Rui M.. Prize-giving will be by the end of October 2015 using the web and the website where the results will be displayed.

For further details, rules & entry form visit

Poetry from G.K. Brannen

Hiking trail

Poor Robin roadside memorial


Sing a Lament at Poor Robin

by G. K. Brannen

Ah, Poor Robin – what beholds this trek? As we pass,

do we sing a song of joy; an ode to mourn;

perhaps a dirge would better suite our needs?

This road of dust winding between the pine,

the scrub oak seeking the river’s edge,

the weeping song of willow trailing the current.

There! Just about the bend,

where angle’s wings drag the dust

two lives met their end.

The liquor too strong,

the time too fast,

the sturdy oak too unforgiving.

The Mocking Bird, the Wren, the occasional squirrel,

to the beloved, and the unknowns

allowed are their respects. Crosses and flowers mark the glen;

“An unweeded garden;” reminders to all things left unsaid.

Steadfast the survivors.

Lasting is their love passions not easily forgotten.

Now, winter’s sleep shrouds the trail.

Trees are bare tangled webs,

all stand in stark contrast to the dead.

When spring comes forth and the earth awakes,

the children will continue their sleep.

Sing a lament at Poor Robin.


Rui Carvalho reviews Karolina Simos’ Ambrosia Chronicles Book 1: The Discovery

The Ambrosia Chronicles: The Discovery by Karolina Simos

Karolina Simos' book cover
“What am I thinking, saying something like that to the person who just terrified the wits out of me?” confesses Alex to
herself after just telling Lucas to be careful.
Is she just afraid of dying, or is there more going on? I contemplate this when I reach the turning point in the first book of Karolina Simos’ Ambrosia Chronicles. I wonder what further surprises the remaining chapters still contain …
The novel has an intriguing starting point and the sense of adventure grows stronger within each new chapter. When reading the Ambrosia Chronicles, we enter into mystical contemplation and reconsider the most intriguing metaphysical questions we encounter in life.
Mystery, fear and adventure capture my state of mind at this point, and the freshness of the YA fiction genre only adds to these feelings.
Certainly, those who want a captivating reading for this summer should try Ambrosia Chronicles: The Discovery. I have only finished half of the book so far but am already experiencing a good mix of unsolved questions that are transporting me to another world. In this other world, reality contains seeds of a hidden part of our psyche – dreams of things I desperately want to see but which frighten me because they will require me to understand and contemplate my own personal weaknesses.
Ambrosia Chronicles: The Discovery is available here:

Elizabeth Hughes’ Book Periscope

Charles Schneider’s The Vale of Years

Cover of Charles Schneider's novel

The Vale of Years starts where Portrait left off. Nicole is now in modern day Paris and Susanne Bruante is in 1800’s Paris. She is found by Nicole’s mother in Nicole’s small apt. battered and bruised from coming through the portal. Nicole’s mother brings Susanne to her house and Nicole’s son knows right away this woman is not his mother. Susanne tells them that she is a relative. Read Vale of Years for the continuing story of Nicole and Susanne Bruante. This is a very good book and will keep you on the edge of your seat page after page. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it.

The Vale of Years is available here:


an original piece from Elizabeth Hughes

Since my poor laptop got a virus, I have had to go to the library and use the computers. This one is only 19 minutes left on it. I love reviewing and reading books. I love libraries and the feel of a book in my hand. With all the ebooks around, I still prefer a book, something I can hold, turn pages and the corner down to mark my place. I love to curl up with a book and a cup of tea and disappear into the world of whatever story I am reading at the time. I find it so sad when I see kids just sitting around playing games on phones and tablets and won’t pick up a book. Or parents that actually discourage their children to read books and won’t even let them check books out or have a free book. There is nothing in the world like reading a book. There are books on every subject and books that will let you get lost in your imagination.

I love mysteries, suspense, romance and thrillers the best. Since I have been reviewing books, I have read many different
kinds and it has opened my mind to all different subjects. I have the greatest respect for authors, it is very hard to write a book. Some people think it is easy, but, it is not. You can get frustrated and have writer’s block or simply wonder “will my book be good enough”. I try to suggest to people in our complex to start their kids out in reading some of the free books. They were even going to have a class in reading for the tenants, sadly, no one was interested. So, pick up a book or download one and escape into the world of books.

Poetry from Joan Beebe


Suddenly it seems so quiet.  The birds have stopped chirping,

No longer do you hear the rustling breeze through the trees.

Now we notice the sun is slowly fading and quickly

Darkness enfolds us in its eerie and encompassing determination.

Everyone is wondering when suddenly a thunderous boom is heard and

Streaks of bright light emanating from them are whip lashing in

Jagged forms across the sky.

The wind has become a gale and the rain falls in a cadence of dance,

Pouring itself out in a rhythm of its own.

You watch at your window at this splendid display of nature’s fury.

It seems dangerous but still you are frozen in place.

Nature, in all its magnificence is putting on a display long remembered

All is quiet now and the sunshine brings forth

Beauty in the sparkling raindrops on trees.

Children laughing and splashing in puddles they see

A spirit of peace dwells within us and we know

That, once again, Nature will cause us to stop and wonder.  

Poetry from Timothy Drake


i am out and the

hole world comes crashing through

the viscera the window the pain streaked

on the walls whose virgin white

reminds me of you reminds me of ghost

until day until night i remain in the

stasis in the tumult in the faceless

crowd unblinking undulating breathing

talking wordless

i remember the castle i remember

the shore the cliffs of dover the sunset

the vision always fading of roses of roots of

daffodils of mountains singed with sky

now who are we emptied of each other who

held ourselves out across the bramble void

and made a flame in the devouring dark

all all who kiss all all who last last but an instant


visage my clarity gone

old world absconds in the mists

of the new our machines inject

ancestral void in the marrow and the

compass closed i weigh

my futility on the edge of the world

the razor of horizons

and snap the pendant we plummet

and we call this living

making a living

a living plague in our days

our maladies a routine

penciled in on years of calendars

like a band-aid to stop gangrene

and nothing not dying not leaving

takes us away from our amputations

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Essay from Christopher Bernard

Photo from astronaut Ron Garan

Photo from astronaut Ron Garan

Toward an Ecological Civilization: A Manifesto for the 21st Century

By Christopher Bernard

I am no moral authority—am neither a rabbi nor an imam, a minister nor a pope. But, as an average straight older European American male, I am deeply concerned about a future I may see only the dark, leading edge of, but that will be affected in many small ways by the life I and others like me have lived, to say nothing of our material “afterlife”: our words and actions and their effects, which will last long after our physical existence is over. And so this is as much a personal statement as it is a call to thought and action.

I offer the following as a modest part of a debate we will, all of us, need to have about the long-term future of life, including the life of human beings, on earth. The phrase “ecological civilization” is not a new one; it has become current over the last several years in a number of environmental circles, though its first official use may have been by the Sino-German Environment Partnership, which in 2012 used the phrase to describe the heart of its mission.

That we need to create a way of life in better balance with nature if we as a species hope to have a tolerable future is something most of us, I suspect, would agree on. I will not waste time in describing and trying to justify the sense that we are in a plight that is indeed dire, possibly as great as the human race as a whole has ever faced. The question is how to achieve that new balance. I describe below several basic goals to keep in mind as we take thought on how to act to face a crisis that will drastically affect the future life of the human species, even its survival, and the fate of all of life on earth.

In the following I sometimes take a deliberately provocative tone; I do this to inspire response and engagement, not in mere comments on the internet, but in the analog world where we live, breathe and have our being—and where we will decide how, and if, we will live in the future.

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Kahlil Crawford reviews Lisa Stalvey’s memoir Food, Sex, Wine and Cigars

Cover of Stalvey's memoir. Photo of author with a bandana standing in a kitchen.
A renowned chef, Lisa Stalvey spent the past eighteen years of her life penning her independently published cookbook-to-memoir, Food, Sex, Wine & Cigars.
A raw, experiential self-reflection; FSWC, to me, is more than a mere book – it is a Movement. Lisa embodies the literary risk-taking often absent today – a reality she, certainly, can relate to as a culinary innovator.
A personal memoir, in itself, is a massive undertaking; and to pen one, in lieu of culinary trendiness, is quite admirable. Reading Lisa Stalvey is like working in the culinary domain she previously mastered – spontaneous, intense, unpredictable, shocking..
One can never fully understand an artist’s creative process, but Food, Sex, Wine & Cigars is guaranteed to fulfill.
You may order Lisa Stalvey’s book here:

Poetry from Michael Robinson

Fall Day

The noise of the summer is over,

The breeze of fall showers of leaves falls over me,

I’m left with a sense of wonderment,,

My spirit is captive by new emotions,

Old fears dissolve into something that has passed by,

Watching for a sunrise that I now can see,

The summer with its heat,

As the sweat falls down my face,

I can remember the gunshots,

But it’s different in the fall,

As I reach maturity,

It’s refreshing to watch the moon’s glow,

Darkness has its own peace.


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Essay from Shannon Snyder


I descended into Euston station, pulled further down by the fast pace of the crowd on their way to work, just like me. The escalators took me further and further underground and I quickened my pace as I followed the throngs of people onto the platform. I glanced to my right at the giant sign outlining the blue veins of the Victoria Line, confirming that I was going the right way. I strategically made my way to the ends of the platforms, where I tried to convince myself that there were fewer people here and thus a shorter wait time. I stood behind rows of Londoners, listening to the cries of the worker who stood at the edge of the platform. He stood in a bright yellow vest, calling loudly for passengers to keep away from the platform, and blowing a sharp whistle to signal the closing of the train’s doors. I heard the automated, pleasant voice telling me to mind the gap, the whoosh of the train as it departed, and inched closer to the edge of the platform and my turn to board.

I could finally step into the train compartment, and pressed forward with the many other bodies. It was rush hour, and the passengers made themselves as compact as possible to allow room for the new people getting on. Today, I was lucky enough to snag a spot next to a pole to hold on to. This immediately brightened my mood; I was too short to reach the handles that dangled overhead and usually only had the wall of bodies around me to keep myself from stumbling as the train lurched forward. I had four stops: Warren Street, Oxford Circus, Green Park, and finally Victoria. With each stop, pedestrians came and went; there were businessmen with long, expensive-looking coats and perfectly trimmed haircuts, young men and women in casual dress, often with a book or headphones in, and always people sitting with their eyes closed and heads tilted back. I surveyed all of them, in wonder of what they wore and what they read and where they were going.

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Poetry from Michael Robinson

A Change of Seasons

It is time for a new view of the seasons in my life.

As I get older and my hair turns gray and my bones crack,

I get older with the passing of the seasons.

Looking forward to spring as the winter snows cover my balding head,

Finding refuge in the room with the fireplace burning the coal of yesterday,

It was warm in that room with the one book and one chair.

It was only yesterday that I rode my tricycle and flow down the hill,

Alas, yesterday with all its promised tomorrows,

Yesterday with all its promises of a better life,

And the seasons change and I grow too old to care.

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