All posts by SynchChaos Staff

Cristina loves hiking, biking, fresh strawberries and blueberries, classical and worldbeat music, travel, photography, babies and children, literature, astronomy, volunteerism, and publishing Synchronized Chaos Magazine! She's currently finishing a master's in journalism at San Jose State University and lives in Northern California with her family and cat Mischief.

Poetry from J. K. Durick

Convenience stores

Convenience stores must be easy, out there alone, late;

around here two or three get held up each week, as if

there were a quota on them. It’s easy to picture, the lone

clerk dozing a bit by the register when the guy comes in,

the only person in the store, brandishes a weapon, they

always say brandish for these guys, either a gun or knife

or what looks like a weapon, and the minimum wage night

clerk always turns over the cash, an undetermined amount

they always say, and then he’s gone back out into the night,

so often around here the bandit leaves the scene on foot, as

if familiar with his or her surroundings, some local talent

perhaps; then on the evening news they will show pictures of

the thief, caught on the convenience store’s security camera

and we are told to call the police if we recognize this person,

a person who someone will know, a person who, more often

than not is caught. It’s as if convenience stores have become

the stage, the backdrop for this predictable play, this tired story

about our world, a dark lonely place where it seems as if we

either tend the till or come in from the night brandishing or

pretending to brandish a weapon, then leave with a hard to

determine amount of money, leaving behind each time just

enough of ourselves that we get our picture on TV and finally

someone recognizes for what we are and calls it in.

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Poetry from Benjamin Blake



Alis Volat Propriis 

Wandering the desolate Oregon coast

Salt-swept rocks shrouded in ocean mist

Something flutters in the pines positioned on the cliff-face

And somewhere not too close

A dog barks, ceaseless and urgent

Joined by the cries of plaintive gulls

I always dreamt of shipwrecks

And lamp-lit smugglers’ coves

Of sun-bleached bone

And sand-worn bottles

Their messages long lost at sea

So it is here that I’ll sojourn

Lay down with someone else’s wife

This old body needs its rest

And it’s time we moved on from writing letters

At least for a little while

Sophie, for the sake of Conversation


Alone again in autumn

The leaves drift down from the trees

Dew drops accurately reflect isolation

Newly departed from a passing bus

She’s standing on the roadside

Clad in a plaid jacket and over-sized white headphones

And I could have been hit by it

By the way I’m feeling

If only I could

Catch more than inquisitive looks

From such a pretty face

I’m fumbling in the outfield

From the prettiest face

Tripped and fallen again

Why am I still writing these stupid songs?

A whimsical by-product of delusion

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Poetry from John Grochalski

marin says


marin says,

like what am i supposed to do?

like i’m just

supposed to take it

and they know that

i mean

i’m their waitress


marin says,

they knows this

but they still try to bait me

like they ask me

if i voted for trump

because i’m latina

one of them keeps asking me

what i think about his policies


what am i going to say?



i think trump is a sexist, racist ass

but i need your tip money

even though i know the whole group

gives rachel more money

when she waits on them


marin says,

the one in the make america great again hat

he’s always talking about

all the great things trump

has done already for america

like they say to me

even though i’m mexican

i was born here

so i should be cool with the government

kicking the illegals out


i’m not even mexican

i’ve never even been to mexico


marin says,

i want to like tell them all off

show them a map of south america or something

show them what chile looks like

but the little bit of money

that they do give me

i actually use

for like college

for like my rent


it’s just frustrating sometimes


marin says,

the job is all right otherwise

families with loud, messy kids tip well

you get college kids in

people my age

but they just sit around drinking coffee

and playing on their phones

sometimes they forget to leave anything


but i like them

better than the people who come in

on my morning shift


at least we don’t always have to talk politics


marin says

on the days those people don’t come in

it’s pretty okay working

at donnie’s

like i can almost forget that trump

is the president

or like my feet are sore

or that i’ll be smelling like bacon all afternoon


and how when the shift ends

i only have an hour to race over to manhattan


or i’ll be late

for my calculus class

or sometimes my biology 101

Continue reading

Essay from Donal Mahoney

Strangers in Peoria

I met a proper woman in a proper pub on a Monday in Peoria. It was noon, time for lunch, and we were sitting stool to stool over very large burgers at a long mahogany bar. It curved in and out as if wind-swept and featured high stools with padded seats and backrests, all in a rich faux maroon that complemented the authentic mahogany. The waiter had put us at the bar together, on the last two empty stools, thinking we had arrived there as a couple. Apologizing with his head bowed, he said no tables were available.

The place was awash in men who had obviously spent a lot of time in the sun. They were talking agri-business very loud. Plaid shirts and John Deere caps were everywhere. Apparently, the price of pork that day had hit new highs and that event seemed to delight the majority of diners. It was obvious these men knew their pork and probably their corn as well. The odd thing was, not one of them seemed to notice the lady sitting next to me. The price of pork notwithstanding, she deserved a second glance if not a whole lot more. She was certainly no farmer’s daughter. Probably never baked an apple pie.

It was easy to see why the waiter thought we were a couple. I was in a Brooks Brothers suit, button-down shirt and a serious rep tie, and the lady was attired in the feminine business equivalent, a conservative suit, albeit in tasteful lavender, and a string of pearls. An hour earlier, we had both landed in Peoria on different planes and found our separate ways to the same restaurant. I was taken by how much she looked like Jackie Kennedy after Dallas but without the pillbox hat. 

Eventually she spoke. It turned out she was from New York and I was from Chicago and that we were in Peoria for final interviews for jobs we thought we’d get. But living in Peoria, we thought, might not be a fit. We didn’t doubt that Peoria was a nice city, a good place to raise a family even though neither of us was married. But we agreed that adjusting to Peoria might be difficult for urbanites like us, especially at the start, since we wouldn’t be taken with the price of pork, whether it went up or down.

The lady was a surgeon recruited by a hospital. It took a little prompting but finally she said: “I repair pelvic floors in women.” 

Not too worry, I thought. She is still a very nice looking woman.

She paused to see if I’d react to her announcement of her vocation and when I didn’t, she continued.

“If a bladder drops, or a rectum tumbles or if a womb is full of fibroids, I’m the surgeon that lady needs to see. These are ailments most men wouldn’t understand unless they’ve had a wife who’s had them.” 

I told her I did not have a wife, nor any candidates lined up in Chicago waiting for my hand.   

She took a dainty bite of her burger that was still too big, despite being cut in quarters. She sipped her Coke and then informed me, “When I get done, the lady’s free of all protrusions. She can urinate, defecate and have sex again, all without discomfort.”

I had met my share of women but I had never met a woman, drunk or sober, who had ever said anything as startling as that even when in the throes of breaking up. I had no idea what to say and so I sat and listened as she continued with my education. 

“Actually, my patients have a choice,” she said. “They can let me do the surgery or they can buy a pessary, a device few women know anything about until I pull a sample from the cabinet and explain its ins and outs. The pessary makes surgery seem simple. All we have to do then is pick a day for me to tuck the lady’s organs back where they belong.”

I said a procedure like that sounded painful, even allowing for an anesthetic. It sounded much worse, I said, than a colonoscopy, a procedure I’d become acquainted with early in life due to family history.

She nodded slightly and continued, “Now, if the lady’s womb is full of fibroids, I’ll suggest we take the uterus out as well. I’ll tell her we’ll remove the crib and leave her playpen intact. Often that’s the best solution.”

She sipped her Coke again and said, “Somewhere in Peoria, as we speak, a bladder’s dropping, a rectum’s quivering and a fibroid’s growing. Believe me, if the salary is right, I’ll take this job because a fibroid in Peoria is no different than a fibroid in New York.”

Then she looked me in the eye and said, “Well, that’s my story. Now tell me, what do you do for a living?”

I finally had the floor and so I took a breath and said: “I repair sentences in documents written by intelligent people expert in arcane fields. Some of them can’t spell or punctuate. Or if they can, they dangle participles, split infinitives or run their sentences together like mountain rams in rutting season.”  

I knew I could not trump her pessary, but I added, “I put muscle in their verbs, amputate their adjectives, assassinate their adverbs. I give my clients final copy they can claim is theirs. The reader never knows that a ferret like me has crept between their lines, nibbling at this and chomping on that.” 

At the end, I added a remark I hoped might prompt a get-together later, perhaps for dinner and drinks, another chat, a little laughter, and who knows what else. If our spirits meshed, a coupling was something we could accomplish before we’d have to take different planes back home.

“I believe our professions are similar,” I told her, sipping the last of my Coke. “I too put things back where they belong and I cut away anything protruding.”

About an hour later, we had paid our tabs, said long good-byes, shaken hands with considerable warmth and headed off in different directions for our interviews. 

By day’s end, we’d both be flying home to different cities. And although we’d still be strangers, we’d be strangers who had had an interesting conversation. 

Not interesting enough, however, for either of us to ask the other for a name or number.

Donal Mahoney

Donal Mahoney lives in St, Louis, Missouri. He has had work published in various publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at


Synchronized Chaos March 2017: We’re Going on An Odyssey!


'Odysseus and the Sirens' by Waterhouse

‘Odysseus and the Sirens’ by Waterhouse, 1891

Welcome, readers, to Synchronized Chaos Magazine’s March issue. Bon voyage and grab your hats, this month we’re setting sail and heading off on a journey!

Two of our submissions mention Greek mythology and drama directly (Vijay Nair’s poetry, which celebrates the beauty of love through a comparison to the story of Leda the swan, and Christopher Bernard’s review of the performance of Antigona at San Francisco’s Z Space, retelling the classical tragedy through flamenco dance).

So, in the spirit of the Odyssey, we’re wandering through different ‘islands’ of themes and topics, keeping in mind our loyal and brave Penelopes and Telemachuses who are keeping the candles burning for us at home.

Some places we stop are quite enjoyable, and we can spend a good deal of time on these idylls, as Odysseus spends seven years under the spell of the nymph Calypso.

Carol Smallwood describes the renewal of the world that comes with the American Midwest in an excerpt from her novel In Hubble’s Shadow. 

Stella Pfahler contributes poetry of love and country roads, but a current of danger underlies her thoughtful and precise words. Her speaker envisions her travel companion paralyzed, rendered immortal and forever hers by a lightning strike.  Similarly, Calypso employed magic to trap Odysseus, keeping her lover at her side until he finally awakened and remembered his home and family. Sometimes a place can be wonderful, but not quite home.

Other idylls can simply be draining and unimaginative, such as Doug Hawley’s teaching position in the ironically named small town of Manhattan, Kansas.

Like the coral reef with the enticing Sirens, some places we visit sound lovely at first, but are nothing but dangerous temptations, destructive when fully considered.

J.D. DeHart offers us poetry of disillusionment, where people and situations, including his speakers themselves, aren’t all that he expected of them.

Tony Nightwalker LeTigre’s poetry warns against assuming that our societies have done enough to care for the poor just because we have created some organizations with noble mission statements. Also, he looks at, but ultimately rejects, the allure of a life spent in addiction, which would allow him to temporarily escape harsh realities but leave him less able to create change.

And J.J. Campbell’s pieces reflect loss and longing, disillusionment and rejection – normal feelings after an encounter crashing your flimsy boat against the rough rocks of the island of the Sirens.

Great dangers can threaten us, as the giant Cyclops menaced Odysseus and his men. But, as he did, we can sometimes escape through our cunning, resilience and wit.

In the review of the American Conservatory Theater’s production of Ursula Raini Sarma’s dramatic adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by yours truly, we see two women trapped in a violent, restrictive situation who ultimately overcome through courage, endurance and family love.

Returning poet Michael Robinson evokes the images of family and sensual love that allow him to navigate and survive youth under the constant threat of random, senseless violence.

Other times, the dangers prove too powerful for us, especially when they arise out of our own natures and our own pasts. Mike Zone’s short sci fi/fantasy/horror story Life-Hack presents a woman tracked down at long last and tormented by the son she abandoned. She likely wished she could have escaped to the Land of the Lotus-Eaters, where, like Odysseus’ crew, she could have lost her memory and identity.

Sometimes we encounter circumstances that change who we are, that cause us to reinterpret ourselves, as enchantress Circe changes Odysseus’ men into pigs.

Federico Wardal invents a character for the stage that allows him to express the nuances of his craft while playing classical and modern dramatic characters, as well as speak up for human rights through theater of his own making. Interestingly, he specifically credits the ancient Greeks with the majority of his inspiration and the basis for his style.

Joan Beebe reminds adults that we can still enjoy the breaks from reality and the world-expanding and enhancing effects of imagination.

Sometimes, we get in trouble because we are too bold and we overstep the bounds people have set to protect us. Wind god Aeolus tries to help Odysseus by capturing all the air currents that might set his ship off course into a bag, but when he is nearly home, the crew opens the bag in search of treasure, unleashing all the bad winds.

Dan Morey’s story illustrates the drama his elderly Mom creates in Rome when she attempts to evade the Swiss guards protecting the Vatican so she can make an unscheduled visit to a garden. However, he is more fortunate than Odysseus and, through humor and gentleness, he is able to defuse the situation.

Nancy Schluntz’ poetry conveys an environmental message in its talk of earthquakes and cataclysms, warning us to live sustainably within the natural world. As when Odysseus’ men disregard the admonitions of the sun god Helios and eat his cattle, incurring his wrath and their destruction, sometimes we should heed warnings.

Sometimes, we are blessed to find those who come to the aid of lost travelers. The Phaeacians finally help Odysseus find his way home, following the ancient code of hospitality.

Mahbub, a poet from Bangladesh, encourages compassion for the world’s Syrian refugees in a set of poetry that also celebrates faith, family, community and romantic love.

Donal Mahoney contributes an essay about his Irish parents, in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Ironically, he remembers that he himself is the child of illegal immigrants, headed to the USA for safety and better economic opportunities.

In Elizabeth Hughes’ monthly Book Periscope column, we follow the journey of Thomas Montasser’s protagonist, who finds a welcoming home in a small town bookstore in A Very Special Year. And the life story of Anlor Davin, who, as she relates in her memoir Being Seen, leaves her provincial French homeland and journeys across the US, finally finding home in Zen meditation and accepting her uniqueness. And, finally, we uncover the secrets hidden in a lovely beach resort in Mary Kay Andrews’ The Weekenders. 

Wishing you all safe travels, friendly winds and a gentle landing as you read. Enjoy!





Poetry from Michael Robinson

Star Night Star Bright

Shooting stars shooting past me;

Shooting guns shooting at me,

Shooting stars shooting past shooting guns.

A soul shooting past shooting stars.

There’s hope that I will survive the night.



Stay with me tonight until the sunrises, so I can forget the past, as the cold swear flows through my body. Hold me, but not too tight to suffocate me. I long for the nectar of your gentle warmth next to me. Watch for the demons that have chased me thought-out my life. Pray as I atone for my sins. Kiss me to awaken me to your love. The scent of rosemary on your body reminds of our connection. Your soul reaches for my essence and we both are connected.

Continue reading

Fiction from Mike Zone


By Mike Zone
Eileen obsessively eyed the diner’s entrance. When she couldn’t glue her eyes on the unmoving door, she kept an ear open for the “ding” of a bell and his soft melodious voice (which in reality was really quite squeaky) to signal either a fanciful reprieve or a return to purgatory.
Maybe their pending marriage could work. After a month, there might even be the chance for actual love to grow between them. Depending on the nature of it all that is, she even wondered if he was real and not a figment of desperate imagination or even a nightmare fever getting ready to claim her.
She was sick of her feet hurting, the touches of gray beginning to streak through her copper red hair, and the small belly starting to develop. When would her tits begin to sag? Would they be as bad as the bags underneath her eyes? The result from lack of sleep wrought from anxiety born of cut hours and declining tips.
Most of all though, she was sick of the smug looking old men at table nine, who grinned and nodded at each other; knowing they had, had her in her prime; she was young, desperate and in need of quick cash.

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Poetry from Joan Beebe

Playing a piano concerto at Carnegie Hall,
A baseball star and being voted into the Hall of Fame,
A famous writer with people clamoring for more of your books.
All of these things can take place in your imagination.
 You are able to fly away from reality and be in another world of your own.
Children seem to have that ability and they are happy in their make believe world.
Sometimes we need that time to dream and be in that happier place of renewal and joy.
That imaginary world is one we create ourselves because sometimes the stress of this world is too much and we long for peace and where we feel content and free. 
Our imaginary dreams can become a reality if we focus on the positive areas of our life and push the negatives aside.  We become and create that world of peace and joy within ourselves. 

Nonfiction essay from Dan Morey

 A Vatican Adventure


Dan Morey


“Are you sure we’re allowed to see the pope?” said Mother, as our bus rumbled along the Tiber. “We’re not Catholic.”


“Of course we’re not allowed,” I said. “If the Swiss Guards find out we’re Lutheran they’ll spear us on the spot. Just last week they beheaded a Methodist on charges of ecclesiastical espionage.”


“Haw, haw.”


We got off at Castel Sant’Angelo, and made our way to St. Peter’s. The approach was designed to be awe-inspiring, and it is. As you walk the column-hugged piazza toward the towering façade and cathedral dome, you can’t help but feel small—a tiny soul in God’s vast universe.

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Poetry from J.J. Campbell

on an old radio
the pain of another
birthday alone, just
the bottles of courage
and some music on
an old radio
images of the few
girlfriends of the past
rush by throughout
the night
you can’t help but
think what your life
could have been
sometimes being
passed over is a
it’s all those other
times that you
understand why
rejection leads to
a lonely death
not everyone can
stomach the bitter

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Elizabeth Hughes’ Book Periscope

Thomas Montasser’s A Very Special Year
A Very Special Year is a delightful and captivating book about a small very special book store. Valerie takes over running the book store when her Aunt Charlotte has suddenly gone somewhere and just left a note for Valerie to look after her book store for her.
Valerie and her boyfriend do not understand why the aunt just doesn’t close the store. It does not seem to be doing all that well financially and they do not think many people even read actual books anymore. Valerie stays and tries to bring the bookkeeping and bookstore up to date. On many of the days when she does not have much to do, she sits down with one of the many books and reads while she drinks a cup of tea or coffee. She comes to realize how magical reading can be. She comes to realize how the feeling of the pages, the feeling of the cover and the smell of the different books can be just as captivating as reading the books themselves. She becomes so immersed in reading the many different stories she tries to save the bookstore from closing.
Then she comes across a book called A Very Special Year. The book only goes so far and does not seem to be completed. Valerie thinks the book is just a defective one that got through at the publishers. Then a man comes in and sees it sitting in the wastebin. He asks if he could purchase the book. Valerie tells him it is not a complete copy and tells him he can just have it. He convinces her to take remuneration for the book. This is a delightful book that was originally written in German and then translated to English. I really enjoyed this book. It could be enjoyed by a wide variety of ages.
Synchronized Chaos Magazine encourages you to request this book by name and have it ordered for you at your local bookstore!
Being Seen by Anlor Davin
This is a very deep and important (in my opinion) book on autism. What sets this book apart from other books on autism, is that Ms. Davin is autistic. It is her journey through life as an undiagnosed autistic child and through part of her adult years until she is finally diagnosed. It tells of the heartbreak and pain, both physical and emotional, of being different in a time when “different” is both not understood and frowned upon. This is a very informative and important book for people who are or may know someone that has been diagnosed or may have not been diagnosed yet of autism. I found this memoir to be very educational and informative. It is well written and I highly recommend reading it.
The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews
This book is a suspenseful murder mystery that will not disappoint fans of Mary Kay Andrews. If you have not read any of her books, I highly recommend them.
The Weekenders takes place on Belle Isle, a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina. The story has many twists and turns. It will definitely keep the reader on the edge of their seat throughout the whole book. When you think you have the murderer figured out, you will find out you were wrong.
It is the story about a family that owns most of the island, the husband of the main character dies mysteriously and everyone finds out he had a rather sinister side to him. He was the CEO of Belle Isle Enterprises and was secretly going to negotiate to turn the island into a huge tourist attraction while borrowing money from his in-laws and others to fund his project.
Then everyone finds out that all of his “projects” fell through and he is found dead. Then everyone is a suspect until the killer is found. This is a really great read for all mystery buffs and will not disappoint. I highly recommend The Weekenders.
Synchronized Chaos Magazine encourages readers to request The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews from their local bookstores.