Synchronized Chaos August 2016: Storms of Change

storm at sea

(Photo above courtesy of the free digital archives of the New York Public Library, which you can access here. Just enter a search term—like “storm”—or terms, & see what comes up, it’s so fun!)

Good evening, this is guest editor Tony Longshanks LeTigre.

We are all disaster survivors at the moment of one kind or another, it seems. Someone asked once if had PTSD. I replied, “I’m alive, so yes.”

The sense of being caught up in an impending disaster seems common to people all over the world at the moment, & it is reflected in the submissions for Synchronized Chaos for this month. The only sensible thing to do seems to be to declare the theme of August 2016 Storms of Change. (I hope that doesn’t sound too presidential & platitudinous.) Painful storms brewing, evolution facing obstacles, growing unhappiness & backlash against unhappiness from those satisfied with the status quo or desirous of protecting their wealth, & their illth, to use a word suggested by English art critic & social critic John Ruskin. The submissions we’ve received for August are riddled with discontentment, primal screams of anguish & outrage growing louder, pressure building up to a major earthquake, a drumbeat in the distance growing louder, adverse branching futures from which a path will emerge (whether it likes it or not) in time, the sense of homelessness, of belonging nowhere, of being  or being treated as an alien legally & otherwise, a eulogy that asks “impossible questions,” nature hallowed & nature besieged (whether we are nature’s besiegers or her fellow sufferers hard to say), our distraught predicament as humans seemingly mirrored by various other creatures across species lines.

At least, that’s what I see. Maybe I’m just being a paranoid drama queen or something.

Prerna Bakshi, an Indian writer, poet and activist based in Macao, sends us three poems pertaining to the partition of India / Punjab. “I belong to the family of refugees and have been deeply moved by what’s taking place in the world at the moment.”

Redolent with sadness is Christopher Bernard’s eulogy for Adelle Foley, a writer married to an accomplished poet. “At times like this / I ask impossible questions.” Bernard reviewed Adelle’s husband’s chapbook Eyes for Synchronized Chaos back in December 2013.

Developing the catastrophic theme, Hanoch Guy treats us to several poems about a series of natural disasters, including the tragicomic image, “A glacier sails away carrying a family  of polar bears.”

Next we have a poem from Colin McCandless in alliterative / Beowulfian style about the “balancing act” between prey & predator.

We are always happy to have submissions from Jaylan Salah. This month she gives us an edifying interview with up-&-coming Australian actor Jackson Gallagher. “The Man Who Roamed the World.”

Yours truly offers an excerpt representing the first chapter of a new novel-in-progress, & a long, excellent review of a long, excellent book, Douglas Hofstadter’s 1980 Pulitzer Prize winner, Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Donal Mahoney has been asked by non-writers many times, “Why Did You Write That?” That forms the title of his essay in which he describes his habit of accumulating words until he has enough for a poem. “Next I try to determine what the poem, if anything, is trying to say. And that’s not always easy.”

Like determining the theme of Synchronized Chaos!

Michael Robinson offers a timely reminder that black lives matter with a series of short essays or prose poems. No shield exists here between the reader & savage realities of life as an oppressed person in a warlike scenario of feeling under attack at all times. “Have you witnessed the pain and heartbreak of black mothers when they learned that their son has been killed in the streets?” he asks, & cries out, “I don’t want to end up like Emmett Till,” an African-American teenager who was lynched on suspicion of flirting with a white woman in Mississippi just 61 years ago.

A trio of poems from returning contributor Joan Beebe find solace & nourishment in the sun, & bewilderment in those “times when life seems to overwhelm us” with a broken heart. She wakes up to a new day & faces the question, “Where is the joy that should be part of this day?”

I. W. Rollins sends poetry describing “a timid shrimp of a
middle aged man,” a young who “eats this love he doesn’t deserve,” & his memory of getting drunk for the first time, when “the bottle’s kiss was a kiss / the other boys couldn’t have, / it was all my own / just like my sadness.” He closes with a poem about being trapped by capitalism into a kind of pleasant slavery.

And we have poems from J. K. Durick examining that possibility “that Under all / this fuss and noise we live through, we walk around with, / We dedicate our days to, there may be nothing at all.”

Good luck weathering the storm, my literary comrades & fellow human beings.

Tony “LongShanks” LeTigre
Portland, OR, USA
August 2016


Reminder for everyone that author Rui Carvalho and administrator Sara Rodriguez Arias invite all writers here to enter a literary contest.

Details, deadlines and entry form available through the link.

INTERNATIONAL LITERARY CONTEST: NATURE 2016: “Tales for the Ones in Love” in partnership with The Book Park & Arts & Literature.


Janine graduated from Stanford University cum laude and from New York University School of Medicine. She is a passionate champion of women’s equality, and a devoted follower of Mata Amritanandamayi.

Photography by George Hodan

Photography by George Hodan

Poetry from J. K. Durick

                                Sink Holes
If no one was hurt, the news treats them as a bit of humor,
A diversion from politics and the economy, a photo with
a work crew next to it, for scale, works best; they’re like
A movie set, one of those old Western ones, with a hotel
And saloon, precisely built facades, but through the door
There’s empty space, nothing, it’s like taking a mask off
An invisible man; sink holes are a reminder that under all
This fuss and noise we live through, we walk around with,
We dedicate our days to, there may be nothing at all.

Continue reading

Poetry from Prerna Bakshi

What’s the name of your pind?

(First published in The Ofi Press)


He asks me which pind
do I belong to?

Confused, I respond by telling him
the names of my grandfather’s and grandmother’s village.

He interjects, her’s not necessary. Your belonging, your identity, your pind is traced through the pind of your father and his father and so on, you see.

I say nothing, and just nod.In the blink of an eye, my grandmother’s history was deemed irrelevant. Erased.

History belongs to victors, they say.
Clearly, she had lost.

Her past, torn
like it was an unwanted page from the book of history.

Her clung together memories
got flushed down the toilet like a clump of hair stuck in the comb.

What is her pind, then?
What is her home country?

Or is she a traveling soul?
A wandering Sufi?

An escaped soldier?
An absconded convict?

A fugitive?
A refugee?

If she had no home to claim as her own,
which borders did she cross then?

To what extent did she even cross any, if at all?
What was her supposed ‘home’?

Or was there even any?

Continue reading

Poem from Colin McCandless

Balancing Act

A stealthy stalker stops and stares, still life
Before it’s prudent prey, poised to pounce
The hunted, hunched down and hovering low the hunter
Is waiting and weighing, wired in and watching
Crouching and creeping, crawling ever closer
Tiptoeing toward the tantalizing target
Leaping and launching, letting loose a lethal
Attack that achieves an aim and addresses a balance

Colin McCandless lives in Charleston, South Carolina where he works as a PR/Marketing Director for a nonprofit that serves youth in foster care. In his spare time he enjoys reading, writing poetry and traveling the world. 

Haiku from Christopher Bernard

Haiku for Adelle
by Christopher Bernard


Adelle Foley

I bend down to pick

   up, in the fragrant garden,

   a sleek, dark feather.


   A fallen glove. A

   smell of cloves and grass. Far off,

   a small, drunken bell.


   If death is sleep, you

   are like the little mountain flowers

   folding under a vanishing sun.


   At times like this

   I ask impossible questions,

   like an abandoned child.


   Nightshade. Day lily.

   Noon. A hummingbird sips sweet water

   from my astonished hand.


Adelle Joan Foley (1940−2016) regularly appeared in performances of the choral poems of her husband, Jack Foley. She also wrote haiku.

Christopher Bernard is a regular contributor to Synchronized Chaos.

Poetry from Hanoch Guy

At this moment                                                  

“At this moment I realized that I did not know anything for certain:”*
Hundreds of thousands of bodies wash to shore
A volcanic eruption at sea submerges twenty islands,
forest fires leave piles of charred redwood  trees,
a glacier sails away carrying a family  of polar bears.
Layers of stars get entangled in strings shaking them off
into  a network  of milky ways.
The St. John river flows away from the bay of Fundy.
Cars go back on Magnetic Hill.

The creek in my back yard is as huge as the Nile or the Amazon.
and  is still polishing pebbles,
Mallards fly over.
The birch tree splits , dies and
falls into the water.

The torn balloon was once the sky dome.
Yellow and red balls left by little Lilly
contain the code for future universes.

Evening touches morning
Night swallows high noon.

A door opens in the basement ceiling
goes up to visit the attic.

*    Tadeusz Borowski


Continue reading

Interview by Jaylan Salah with Jackson Gallagher

The Man who Roamed the World

Upcoming Australian Talent Jackson Gallagher Speaks on Photography, On-screen Machismo and Being an Icon of Modern Fan Culture


(Jackson Gallagher – credit: Oli Sansom)

One might try a little harder if they plan to scare Jackson Gallagher.

Going from one extreme to the other seems to be his game. From directing serious documentaries to flirting on-screen with countless love interests on the famous Aussie soap opera “Home and Away”, Gallagher is not what you’d expect from your average 26-year-old Australian. Being a farm boy and growing up on a farm in Daylesford (a small town in Victoria, Australia) still didn’t keep him from barely escaping death during an ice-climbing trip in New Zealand, and traveling deep in the desert on photography missions with the “Act for Peace” organization, Gallagher documented experiences of the Syrian refugees in Talbiah Camp in Jordan and Al-Amari Camp in Ramallah.

What drew him to the experience was mostly, “Talking to the men and seeing how despite everything they try to sustain their integrity, how their roles -as providers for their homes- were affected and it hurts them. As the conversation goes on you could see through the cracks how intense the tragedy they’ve been through. All their lives they’ve been caring and looking after their families and now they lost a lot; homes, jobs, prolific careers. The women have shown great bravery in the face of turmoil and tried to maintain a sense of family.” The refugee experience had also tremendous importance for him because of his strong opinion on the way the Australian government handled the refugee crisis.

Continue reading

Review of Gödel, Escher, Bach by Tony Longshanks LeTigre

Review of Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

by Tony Longshanks LeTigre

When I lived in San Francisco, there was a hackerspace in the Mission district that became my entire world for two wild years. It was like being beamed aboard an experimental anarchist spacecraft full of creative technology & the coolest, weirdest people imaginable, forever immersed in fascinating projects & conversations. All at once, I realized that hackers were the people I’d been searching & subconsciously waiting for my whole life. Everything was free in both senses. There was a laser cutter, a kitchen, a darkroom for photography, a woodshop; there were 3D printers, fabrics & sewing materials, tables & bins & shelves stacked with gadgets & computer parts & soldering materials; there were two classrooms, & best of all in my view, a beautiful little library where I spent many happy hours. I got to know hacker history & culture & what hackers like to read. I read The Jargon File & delved into the dazzling vortex of The Illuminatus! Trilogy. And I heard many raves for a book called Gödel, Escher, Bach.

By the time I finally got around to reading GEB (as we henceforth abbreviate it), I had left San Francisco & life had changed; but Douglas Hofstadter’s “metaphorical fugue on minds & machines” will always remind me of that hackerspace in the Mission district where I spent some unforgettable days.

Continue reading

Essay from Donal Mahoney

Why Did You Write That? 

Anyone who has written fiction or poetry probably has been asked at one time or another, “Why did you write that?” I’ve been asked that question and I have never been able to provide an answer.

Some writers may set out to write a poem that will address an important question about life, such as who we are as human beings and what purpose, if any, we have on Earth. I have never tried to write a poem like that. Nor have I ever written a poem knowing in advance what it might say. I just write down “words” that come to me, provided I like the way they sound and like their “rhythm” when heard together.

I might be sitting in a diner or in my living room and “hear” a few words that sound as though they belong together and so I jot them down, often on a napkin or scrap paper. Maybe an hour or a week later, those same few words will “give birth” to a few more words that seem to fit with their “parents” so I add them to the scrap paper.  When I have enough words, I make my first conscious decision to do something with them. I add verbs or nouns and whatever else is needed to add structure. Eventually I have sentences which I then break into lines, according to sound and inflection. End breaks are important to me. Next I try to determine what the poem, if anything, is trying to say. And that’s not always easy.

I have never been impressed with adjectives and adverbs. I like concrete nouns and strong verbs that drive those nouns wherever they need to go. Sometimes they never go anywhere. Sometimes they “sleep” for a long time, technically alive, but not developing into anything. It’s as if they were an ovum needing semen to become an embryo. But no matter how long a group of words may lie dormant, I never abort them because some day I may know what to do with them and they might develop into a poem.

Continue reading

Essays from Michael Robinson

Outside the Shadows

I want to live outside of the shadows…beyond the guns, batons, and tear gas. I want to live with a sense of dignity and calm. I want to live among others without an attitude of deference and anger, and suicidal thoughts. You are homicidal and suicidal she said and I thought it’s the world in which I live that being me to this place. I want to live on a farm with the earth beneath my feet instead of blood running down my face from the beatings. I don’t want to die like Emmett Till. I want to see the world with my own eyes and speak to whomever I please. Don’t tie me down or hang me up in a tree. Does this sound unreasonable to you that I want to live and not die as if my life don’t matter… in the end I want God to hold me close to his/her breast and give me life. My tears can no longer be held inside of my soul. I can no longer exist beyond my pain and suffering while hanging on that cross. Do you feel my regret being in this black skin of mine screaming into my pillow in broad daylight. Do you feel my despair of dying alone in the street with a crowd watching me die. My grave is a cemented yard where all the others have buried into the weeds. Does it matter that I was innocent of any crime other than being black.

Showers of Rain

My tears can no longer be held inside my soul. I can no longer exist beyond my pain and suffering while hanging from this cross. Do you feel my regret being in this black skin of mine, screaming into my pillow in broad daylight. Do you feel my despair of dying alone in the street with a crowd watching me die? My grave-a cremated ditch where all the others are buried in the weeds. Does it matter that I was innocent of any crime other than being black? Living in the shadows I hear the guns; I feel the batons and smell the tear gas. I live with the awareness of being homicidal and suicidal and I’m indifferent to it all. I’ve become used to the blood flowing into the gutter. My blood mixed with the blood of other black males. And nothing grows. I don’t want die in this place…does that sound unreasonable? I want to live and not die with bullets in my chest. I want to see the world with my own eyes and speak to whomever I please. I don’t want to die like Emmett Till buried in a swamp after being nearly beaten to death with a bullet in my head. Don’t tie my hands behind my back and hang me from that tree and dismember my body. Does this sound unreasonable to you that I want to live, that my life does matter?

I can no longer exist beyond my pain and suffering. My tears can no longer be held inside my soul. Do you feel my despair of dying alone in the streets with this policeman on top of my chest with the crowd helpless to help me. I hear my mother’s scream: “No not my son, my only son.” She sobs and shouts Jesus’ name. Her body shakes uncontrollably a pitch plea to God to not take her son away. She has joined the long processing of black mothers that grieve in the midnight hour. Years of mourning comes while setting in that rocking chair of hers. God whispers into her ear… gentle drops of tears roll down her tannish red skin. Her silver hair is in place and her heart still aches at the loss of her only son. She remembers given birth to her son and his death was as if he had been torn from her womb.

Midnight Tears

Have you witnessed the pain and heartbreak of black mothers when they learned that their son has been killed in the streets? Those mothers cry to Jesus and they weep and scream: “no, not my son!” I have witnessed far too many mothers weeping. This weeping isn’t for an hour or a day but for years. My foster mother would slept in a chair and years later after her baby son was hit by a Greyhound bus…I would see the tears rolling down her cheeks. Society don’t understand that for a black mother their sons are their life no matter what the world says he is still their beloved. In their heart within their souls these mothers mourn as if their life has been torn from their womb. All they have left is their faith in Jesus.

After several weeks of mourning for those black males who have been killed in the streets of America. They have been killed either by police or those of their own race. Death is death so what makes the difference when a law enforcement officer kills a black male? It’s because the officers are sworn to protect the life of others…they are sworn to uphold the law and to protect all lives. Since childhood I just wanted to feel safe but I did not. I feared that I would die at a young age as I walked the streets alone going to school or to the store. My foster mother always worried about me because I was so naive and gentle. I learned that the streets was not safe and I had nowhere to turn…I wanted to feel safe when I saw the police but I did not. Yes, police need to know that all black males are not a threat to white America therefore they need not to be profiled and excited. RIP Emmett Till.

I no longer grieve for the loss of my childhood. I do grieve for those two young black murdered in past several weeks. I grieve for the black males who feel and know they have no place to call home. I grieve for the loss of innocence of those who live in the inner-city.



Poetry from I.W. Rollins

Blood of Kings Past

i sat across from
this man in my office
building. He stated that i looked
so familiar to him and he did
to me as well when he exclaimed “I am cousin Dave!”

cousin Dave
a man i have not seen since
i was a child. fucking shit,
cousin Dave
my father’s cousin
nephew of my grandfather
son of my grandfather’s sister
who is the daughter of my
great grandfather Francis
who was fresh off a rotting
boat with a dream of the vast
spoils of America

yet here we are
direct bloodline of his
in a sweltering office
building in southern New Jersey
not even 20 miles from
where his ship crashed into shore
just over the bridge
no American Dream
no Manifest Destiny
no vast spoils, conquered lands
just a timid shrimp of a
middle aged man
and a mid twenty something college dropout
sitting in an
office in may
discussing insurance premiums and
commission schedules
and i feel that blood we share
well up around me
first my chest, then my throat and mouth until
it begins to fill my lungs and
choke me
and a vile gurgle
pops through
“dave this was you! you did this!
we were
supposed to be

i shake his hand, and pat his back
as sales men do,
“oh yes Dave i will tell my father you say hello
yes he’s doing well, yes we should all get together
yes tell aunt kate, yes Dave
i will call you thursday Dave, yes you
take care Dave, goodbye”

i have not spoken to my
father in 8 months

that is a silence
i am not breaking
Continue reading

Novel excerpt from Tony Longshanks LeTigre

Wreginslag: The Magic Castle
By Tony LongShanks LeTigre

Chapter One

Razel-An & Zeffidar decided to take a walk through the woods one day rather than going straight home. It was still morning & the fog wrapped the land in thick wool, so dense that you couldn’t see more than a few feet in any direction.

“I love it when the fog is like this,” said Zeff. “Let’s take a little wonderhike & see what we find.”

Raz was game, so he hoisted his little sister onto his shoulders piggyback style.

They passed through the woods, where birds called to one another in the treetops, seemingly engaged in an intricate symphony, a choir of many voices singing to one another in an unknown language of melody & pattern. They had only explored the fringes of these woods before, but today they went farther. The belt of trees proved to be quite narrow, rather than going on for endless miles as they’d imagined. They broke through & came to what appeared a defunct quarry, where Zeff let Raz down from his shoulders.

“What’s this?” she said, examining a large, unusually round rock near the edge of the quarry.

Continue reading