Synchronized Chaos January 2021: Loss and Resurrection

Dream states, meditation, closing your eyes – all darkness. The child in the womb, the stars, the vast universe – all in darkness. Seeds planted in the ground – in darkness. Darkness is the breeding ground for all life. Who taught you to fear it? — social media wisdom

Black and white photo of two trees in a field. The one in the foreground is dead with twisted empty branches and the one to the right in the background is full of leaves.

In this month’s issue, Patricia Doyne urges us to drop-kick 2020 to the curb. As she mentions in her second piece, illness and death from the global pandemic, along with ruptures caused by underlying social inequities, played a large role in the past year.

Bruce Roberts also writes of the pandemic, and also compares the departing US president to Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Ahmad Al-Khatat mourns the loss of a life to political violence, while Santiago Burdon explores the mental state of addiction, the loops of need and desire. Jack Galmitz’ speaker lies awake at night, missing and wondering about someone not present.

J.J. Campbell writes of our human frailty in plague times, mixing a bit more havoc and chaos in with his usual loneliness and pain.

Chimezie Ihekuna writes of love lost and found amid our human physical and psychological weaknesses and social injustices.

Other authors contribute thoughts and ruminations, exhalations of the subconscious in one form or another.

Single windmill in a wet marsh area with water and some windswept grassy plants, clouds overhead and a pink/purple sunset or sunrise color.

Daniel DeCulla poetizes on the human body through random whimsy, comparing his large male belly to his pregnant daughter’s. A. Iwasa reflects on the random day-jobs he held on his pathway to artistic creativity and social activism.

Jaylan Salah identifies and explores queer male visions and intimacy within current Egyptian cinema.

Dan Raphael starts his meditative pieces with ordinary life – weather, food, hikes, the calendar – and goes deeper through steady thought. Ferris Jones’ poems convey the fluid nature of many of our childhood memories and the different ways our mind can perceive time and space.

Norman J. Olson reflects on decades of his own personal history, following many Americans of his generation from the ‘farm to the city to the suburbs.’

Mark Murphy also probes history and memory through a poetic rendering of a painting of Renaissance political leaders and explorers.

Joan Beebe offers up a compassionate prayer for healing while R.S. Mengert reflects on death, grief, and renewal in pieces reminiscent of medieval mystics.

In Sheryl Bize-Boutte’s short piece, a teacher reaches out for comfort after her loved one suffers racially motivated violence.

Mahbub and John Culp both turn to nature to find reminders of renewal. Butterflies in early spring and a lemon tree in winter suggest to Mahbub that he can, as John Culp affirms, find strength through letting go and accepting the natural passage of seasons.

Ike Boateng showcases an annual masquerade parade in his home country, Ghana.

Large fruiting lemon tree planted in red-brown soil near some grass and other lemon trees.

Mark Young’s poems speak to us of delicate moments, little interruptions, while Hongri Yuan’s writing, translated from Mandarin into English by Manu Mangattu, celebrates instances of spiritual transcendence.

We invite you to reach for moments of that nature as you read this month’s issue, and we hope that you find grace and inspiration even in these global circumstances.

Poetry from Daniel DeCulla

Older white man with thinning hair, a light orange collared shirt and a large chubby belly, uncovered. Next to him is a young white woman, with a black top and black pants. She has also uncovered her pregnant belly and has a tattoo on her side of red roses and what looks like film reels.
Daniel De Culla and his daughter? or daughter in law?


There are two Lives

Two bellies, to which more.

The one, by Isabelle

Waiting for a new life:

Kylian’s, boy, who, now

In the beautiful Isabelle’s belly

Is sucking his finger, no doubt

And that his first cry birthing

Will be: “To drink, to drink!”

Like the Rabelais’ Gargantua

At birth.

The other, by Daniel

Whose good is based on eating well

And at an incovenient time

In the Rabelais’ Pantagruel style

Who calls his belly “Thelema”

And it is very similar to him

In the Gustave Doré’s illustration

As do You see.

Those two bellies

Of Duchess and Duke

Are two “O” that we can pronounce

Happy seeing them.

Two wonders of Creation

That produce good effect.

Compelling reasons

That the life exists.

It is true that a child will come

With pleasure and with care

Hearing him, with joy, cry

Learning what birth is

Since then,

As true as that Daniel’s belly

So slender

Is making a thousand progress

Without lying to Pantagruel

Eternal companion of eaters

And convincing dinners

Converted, today and now

In an oracle

Of the divine bottle

From Ribera’s  wine.

-Daniel de Culla

Short story from Sheryl Bize-Boutte


Miss Pennwender was late. 

The five of us in her first period American Government class were not particularly worried at first.  After all, she was a total flower girl hippie, the young white woman icon of that day in 1968, and we knew she liked to smoke a bit.  Sometimes we could smell it on her clothes or in her hair. We all loved her in our own ways. We all knew she loved us and wanted the best for us.  She came prepared each day to make sure we had everything we needed to excel in her class and to ace our college entrance exams. She didn’t just teach us the basic elements of American Government, she taught us the background and history and atmosphere of it all. She was unlike any teacher we had ever had and our bonds with her and hers with us, although never verbally expressed, were strong.

So, on this day, it was just not right that she was not standing in her usual place at the door when we arrived. Things felt tilted and out of balance as we took our usual seats in the portable classroom. Maybe she was just held up in traffic or had overslept, we reasoned with each other. In the beginnings of her lateness, we didn’t entertain any other options.

We sat there just waiting, not speaking as five minutes passed and too quickly became ten.  And even at that mark of time, in our know- everything- overconfident youthfulness we remained certain in our assumptions about her not being on time. After all, we were the “smart” kids, the “gifted” students who had been specifically chosen to be in Miss P’s accelerated college prep twelfth grade class at our Oakland, California high school.  This was no small accomplishment in our white flight neighborhood where being deemed as smart or gifted was a designation bestowed on students at our school less and less.  

While old yearbooks would reveal that almost half of the student body had been inducted into the National Honor Society, and two-thirds were enrolled in special college preparatory classes, this year, only the five of us out of twelve hundred students at our now mixed-race school, had “tested” smart enough to be placed in Miss P’s and other such courses.  We had been hastily assembled in the principal’s office at the beginning of our senior year and without looking directly at us, he mumbled to us that we had “fallen” into the “genius” category on our intelligence testing from the year before and would be taking “special” courses designed for “high achievers” like us.  It all seemed fairly messy and felt as if we had been notified at the last minute, and unwillingly.

We were an interesting group, to say the least. There were the Japanese twins, tall and angular Steve and Mark Tanuki; red-haired and introverted white girl Adelaide Morrison; blond and overly muscular football star Jimmy Fargo; and me, the talkative sandy-haired Black girl.  Sometimes there were four of us who wondered why and how Jimmy got into the class, but we didn’t dwell on it.

Soon enough, the ten minutes became fifteen, the universal cutoff for waiting for a teacher.  For some reason, we didn’t budge. We didn’t even look at each other.  We knew something unsaid. The tilt became more pronounced as we struggled to remain patient.  We knew things did not feel exactly right this day, the discomfort prompting nervous chatter.

“She will be here soon,” Steve said.

“Yes, any minute,” I said.

Adelaide began pacing the floor in the back of the classroom.

“Will you please stop that walking, Adelaide?” Jimmy said a little too loudly, making us all look over at him. “Your footsteps are driving me…”

Before he could finish his sentence, Miss P burst through the door, all shawls and straight middle-parted long brown hair, red-faced, sweaty and looking a bit crazed. In her right hand was set of Volkswagen bus keys.

 In her left hand was an 18-inch-long metal pipe.

“Guys and girls, get your things!” She said breathlessly, a small bit of spittle spray escaping her thin, dry lips. “We are going on a field trip!”

Without a second thought, we gathered our bags and books and followed her down the hall and out to her VW bus, haphazardly parked right in front of our classroom building.  Somehow, she had driven past the gated and fenced teacher’s parking lot and through the school grounds to pick us up.  We were so excited to be doing something out of the ordinary with our freewheeling teacher and going on what we thought was a field trip, it would only seem out of character when we looked back.

We happily piled into the VW. 

“Don’t worry,” Miss P said.  “I will have you all back by the 3:05 bell.”

Off we went.  Miss P’s VW bus allowed us a comfortable and scenic ride. The 580 freeway took us through town and then on to other cities along the way.  We talked, laughed and pointed out familiar landmarks as they passed.  I even showed everyone the exit my family took to get to my grandmother’s house in Richmond.  By the time we passed that landmark, everything else was new territory to all of us except Miss P and Jimmy, both of whom seemed to know much more about places further north from Oakland.

Soon we reached the San Rafael bridge.  It would be the first time I; the twins or Adelaide had crossed it and we paid attention to every bump and window view. After a little more than an hour of driving, we finally reached our destination, Point Reyes National Seashore.

We all disembarked from the VW bus, looking at each other quizzically.  Was this some kind of nature lesson? And if so, what did it have to do with American Government?  Her keys secured into her macrame shoulder bag, lead pipe in her right hand, Miss P turned to look back at us briefly and began swiftly walking toward an incline. We could clearly see the plateau near the top. Like sheep, we followed her.  We climbed along with her and didn’t say a word until we reached the grassy top.

The view of the ocean was magnificent.  It took what little breath we had left away and then its stunning beauty gave it back to us full force.  The waves were calm and dancing against the shore like ballerinas in a choreographed line.  It was a special place.  We knew we were here for a significant reason.

“Come and sit with me,” Miss P. said.  Her brown hair was glinting in the sun, pushed back the slight breeze with rhythmic timing. Her face was drained of color.  Her eyes seemed vacant.

“He hit him with the pipe,” she said as she held it up to the sunlight.

“That pipe?” I asked.


 We all really looked at the pipe then.  There was a red stain on one end we had not noticed before.

“Where, when?” Steve and Mark asked in unison.

Below, even though we could no longer see them from where we sat, we knew the waves were silently breaking against the rocks. Surely, they would soften and cleanse everything we were about to hear.

“At the club last night.” Miss P had her head in her hands and began to moan as she rocked back and forth.  We instinctively drew closer and surrounded her.  We didn’t know yet what had happened, but we did know it was hurting Miss P and that she needed us. We didn’t know what to say to her, so we just closed in on her so she could feel us there.  After a while she raised her head and looked at each of us.  Her eyes were filled with tears. Her voice was weak and thready when she spoke.

“His name is Lamont.  He is the love of my life. That man hit him with the pipe.  He said to me white girl why are you with that spook? He said I have been watching you come in here with him.  Then he hit him with the pipe and dropped it where Lamont fell. He said you won’t be with him again bitch.

I don’t know why I picked it up. I don’t remember much except leaving the hospital this morning.”

She looked up at the sky.  She let go of the pipe and let it settle in the deep grass.

“Well, how is Lamont?” I asked.

Miss P just looked at me and dropped her head.  Then she walked slowly to the edge of the plateau.  We followed.  I grabbed her hand.  Jimmy took her other hand.  The rest joined hands and we just stood there together looking at the waves kiss the shore. They were gray and silty now.

Now we knew why she had brought us here. Of all the people she could have chosen for this moment when she needed someone the most, she had chosen us.

And as we stood there, afraid and worried for a man we had never even met, we felt Miss P’s palatable love for Lamont.  Although in different ways, and for different reasons, on that day we all felt the ugliness, bigotry, tragedy and horrid meaning of what had been done to him.

We heard the roar before we saw it. The waves had become all foam and fierceness. They hit the rocks below with such force the plateau seemed to move backward.

When the spray hit us as we stood there together, we all knew Lamont was gone.

“Well, I said I would have you back by the 3:05 bell,” Miss P said as she disengaged from our hands.

We walked back to the VW bus.  We rode back full of our own thoughts about what had happened. Everyone was sad.  Miss P was silent.  I was angry.  So, so angry.

We reached the school at 3:00 and stepped out of the VW bus.  Miss P hugged and kissed us all.

When the 3:05 bell rang out with a screeching finality, we watched as Miss P turned from us and walked slowly away, climbing into and starting up the VW.  

And with what would be her final wave to us, and ours to her, we watched wordlessly as Miss Pennwender drove away.

Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as “rich in vivid imagery,” “incredible,” and “great contributions to literature.” Her first novel, “Betrayal on the Bayou,” was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled “No Poetry No Peace,” was published in August 2020.  She is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator and emcee for local events.

Poetry from Ferris Jones


(parked in a cemetery; raining)

i understood early. life is strange for anybody. i didn’t realize my nursery school companions didn’t comprehend. i watched the coffee table walk on its four limbs. i stared at its stability. not a single dip of my father’s beer had overflowed. while it roamed, its supremacy overcame me. Intelligence to each stride. he appreciated where he was going. i craved to be that way.

it’s conscious. everything. nothing ever dies. it becomes foodstuff for the universe. dinner is prompt. we should embrace. treat well. my world, heavier than most. what did i know? i was five years old. what was real? mommy carried me, settled me. the world turned. i could perceive now. it was as absolute as that.

sweet boy

don’t weep. we won’t surrender you on this dilapidated dance floor. we will reconstruct it into a sky that will not squirm. its guardian will be of your crop. we will be the spirits that will yield blood for your tranquility. our minds will accept this pandemic and sections will disappear. nobody will realize how great they should have remained. a parachute will break your loss. go on, little one, conceive those daydreams. the earth cluttered with our remains will attend over you. no mischief will appear to you.

we will draw up arms and overthrow the pagan vampire that is autocracy. its assault will be but fables, flying before the years develop. the hijacker will expire in shackles, millions will lament, rifles will blow, capitals will ignite. airborne joy will torrent the invasion.

i will stand my history in your palms, be delicate with the mass, golden stars will be on your screens. read the message, behold the ground, envelop the tombstones. the karats are the weight, controlled by the painting of your forthcoming. i will stare on to you and your triumph, sweet boy. we will not let you, nor will we dig the tunnels.

past lives

my judgement opens from space. islands inhabit this elegant territory. true, as if planted by god’s palm. it’s rests nowhere else. lives and eye’s, roamed here for centuries. expired here. bones are in divine locations, not discovered. rafts of bamboo carried these waters. sculptures of the heroic warrior’s in the star’s highway at night. they understood time.

i’ve been there. reached from the sky and set on the water. an elegant craft. wealth. but when? i recognize i fell through the crystal water. taken part with the roads of the sand. the moon generates arrangements sustained beyond many deaths. was I one of them?

Poetry from Dan Raphael

Here we Go Again

Most years January doesn’t have to do much—its reputation’s enough, every day

in the 30s, rain with 20 mile wind from whatever direction you’re walking;

sometimes the rain polymers branches, cars and streets in cold hard transparency,

soaked soil and juggernaut wind bringing down trees and lines, increasing the darkness

that should be diminishing:  the suns been up for hours but January wont let it out,

Jan doesn’t look at us at all, knows what we’re waiting for, so becomes 2 weeks longer— February won’t mind, having been the shortest all its life knows what complaining brings,

its only reward an extra day every 4 years like a gold star that won’t stick to its forehead, February’s that long car ride, soon as it begins we’re asking is it March yet.

March marches, mars the god of war showing off its new but familiar uniforms

this month of sideways rain, month of flowers teased into blossoming then frosted brown

by northern winds tromping the calendar line claiming winter’s over

March has no idea how April got here or who let it in, April so caught

in its fashionable reflection. intoxicated by its own promise,

it seldom looks outside—why are you complaining, it’s April—

put on your shorts, dust off your bike and celebrate your way to a terrible cold.

The Universe Started in a Kitchen

Warm bread, cold coffee, basil rain

a medium rare minute

my autobiographical menu

dreams with food around but i can’t get any

Boil before you mash

wash but don’t peel

3 minutes per side

don’t measure, weigh

follow the pilot light

A kitchen off the grid

different sizes of spatulas, flippers, wood & metal spoons

3 knives

great grandma’s cast iron pan

this fork grew an extra tine

Eating steak without utensils

my molars aren’t what they used to be

Red means go, when it’s a tomato

someone tall & thin as a cornstalk

7 bees swim in an artichoke flower

some crops don’t want to be eaten

the only thing that grows in my kitchen
         is the stack of dishes and pots to wash

a stove you can take to any room, any where

Times my stomach rumbles for no reason

if i’m eating, it’s mealtime

wish the fridge and fruit bowl could refill themselves

so when I put a bed in here, i might never leave

Under Cloud Cover

a mani-permeable membrane

four way street, traffic circle sprouting sinuous

combination window mirror camera  and screen

as if I’m one

sometimes particle, sometimes wave

for the tiniest increment timeless

one blade in miles of grasses

between breaths, among heartbeats

my roots go everywhere

no reason to taste me

don’t know what I’ve been holding back til I let it go

like that sleepless, walletless hitchhike across the country

how long it took to convince myself I could sleep now

or the second trail day in Nepal, got lost,

take 20 steps, catch my breath, take 20 steps, sit or lean

resilience    recovery    resignation    reignite

in my current flame of mind

in several keys, several languages, not all of them

voiced or heard, no harmony without absence

muscle rippling bone, pushing while pulling away

how hugs become subcutaneous

each pore can breathe, each hair

can transmit and receive

sun slices through clouds

won’t let my hands touch its light

more motion than heat

places where clouds are illegal but not hard to get a little

places the sun shines through the earth ‘round midnight

Of the Land

How are my territories divided:  the physical, the emotional,

the only borders are my clothes, cat scans looking for

quick passage, hidden benefits, mazes of intestines and nerves

the river going through me can be dammed or polluted upstream

Weather grants no suffrage but always provides consequence

seasonal conundrums, the powers of habit and accumulation

but not what I was saving for which comes when

there’s no longer room or company

How to find a balance point with so many fingers on the scales

the momentum of intent, the inertia of comfort, inherent randomness

when supply demands, an idea made flesh, knowing when to shrink

or vanish, a door locked before i could learn the combination

What lets in wind but not light, a skull so tight not even

whispers can get through, an untranslatable past

becoming smithereens of the future, as it takes a thousand arms

to keep all of a life’s moments aloft, a fluid index,

when what seems chaos are the many ways to tell the same story

as plots cross-breed, as characters become their speeches,

costumes gleaned from the effluvia of closets

When we ran on all fours and kept gaining weight

so nothing could carry us away, earning the choice

to stay out of the rain, be close to a fire

what often happens around now, at this age,

what remains a mystery since no one’s seen it before

the country trying to grow inside me must be cut our or dispelled

Born Under a Vague Sign

particular matter     vague concerns     open seasoning

we need wind to mask the freeway noise

windows to keep out what the wind is carrying

how far this dust has come, a slow migration.

local rebels, taking a chance—you don’t know where that wind’s been

when the wind and rain boycott us, meteorological distancing

the masked sky diffusing the sun

adjusting the dimmer for 12-14 hours of equal gray

every time the electricity hiccups all the clocks turn to midnight or noon

shadows growing from the streets and yards

smoke trees     street trees     family trees     triage

when the windows go blank

when there’s nothing beyond my yard

since the sky’s so vacant the thunder must be manmade, ground pounding

pits and spumes of dust as if slow rain but no rain—

earth burps     soil yeast     foundations too unsettled to not squirm

can we just jump from 6 o’clock to 9, from downtown to road free

rotate this valley 90 degrees to change its relation to everything

the rain’s never lost cause it doesn’t care where it’s going

clouds throwing off water like we do cigarette butts and burger wrappers

as if we wait til sunrise to start and stop soon as dark reaches our ankles

as a compass is not a clock of space, gps is just numbers

and you know how stable they are, how easily 8 becomes three,

take the 1 from 10, when it’s easier to count the commas than the places

even temperature speaks multiple languages and never asks us

for a reference or limit, skin wants its own arithmetic

add, divide or multiply, things get so confuddled

even gravity’s misoriented, light slows to get a better look

after decades of steady friction blood escapes, nerves stop receiving

and only transmit, wirelessly, enough pain or joy at times

to reach a satellite and either bounce or tread

into the emotional vacuum, the place so many causes and effects

hide each other. as if the sun is all we got, as if the moon is content

most of the stars are not meant for us

Writing from Chimezie Ihekuna

Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben)
Chimezie Ihekuna

Title: Journey to Love
Adapted from a book by Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben)
Screenwriter: Robert Sacchi

Genre: Crime/Family Drama

For reviews, production consideration and other publicity, please contact us through the email addresses below.


Born and raised in Calgary, Tyler grew up with the care of his loving single mother, Grace. Having to raise the wheelchair-bound Tyler for over fourteen years was difficult for Grace, who had two jobs-teaching and factory work. Despite the challenge, she gave her son the best of love and care. Since birth, Grace made it a number one priority to be there for her son, regardless of how busy she was with her job.

Tyler always did well in school. He wasn’t the dull type. His intelligence attracted his classmates to him, even though he was fun to be with only once in a blue moon. His peers, both boys and girls in his class, liked him. But he felt incomplete since he was in a wheelchair. His unhappy mood drove people away. But this attracted the attention of his class teacher; he would do his very best to instill in him what he deserved-happiness.
However, this would be short-lived as home for Tyler meant being attended to by his mom but pushed aside by his neighbors. His mom’s efforts to make him fit in with everyone didn’t work. As Tyler grew older, his confidence and natural exuberance dwindled when he realized he wasn’t able to do what able-bodied juveniles were doing. This affected his relationship with his peers, especially the female ones. But someone, who, from childhood, had always accepted Tyler the way he had been, was…Thomas.

It was during his senior years at Calgary Secondary School Tyler saw the need to fall in love…with the opposite sex. Although Thomas would prove useful to him in a way, his predicament wouldn’t help matters! Tyler looked forward to the time in his life when the right woman would love him for who he is, accept his physical predicament, be in a serious relationship with him and possibly walk down the aisle with him. But the more Tyler searched for her, the more she kept eluding him!

Love: Long Lost But Now Found…The Background

From one girl to the other, Paul had experienced sexual pleasure for years by taking advantage of a whole host of women. Paul walked away from any consequences or relationships and ended up unharmed because of his influence! ‘Identifying’ with women at the tender age of twelve, Paul had been in fruitless relationships with twelve ladies before he met Tania at twenty one; Maureen, Cynthia, Antonia, Linda, Danielle, Katherine, Edwina, Knowles, Twain, Sharon and Faith. He had a free ride with them until he met Tania…

Tania was the only girl with whom Paul had an actual relationship. It was after three years of enduring the pains he inflicted that Tania called it quits with him. Paul looked forward to talking with Andrew, his good friend of seven years, about his fall-out Tania. But Paul was in for a big surprise…a surprise that would bring about this: “Love: Long Lost but now found!”

Prose from Santiago Burdon

Two Dollar Talisman

I have never professed to know much, although what I do know,

is there’s a distance between want and need, the road is treacherous, plagued with storms  in time cause your ambition to rust and your ego to bleed, your hunger doesn’t entitle you admission, to take part in the soul feast, believing no one’s pain is greater than your own, you’ve paid your dues now fate owes you, but you’ve defaulted on the loan.

Your want is always a desire, for  the image reflected in a selfish mirror,  you’re damned to keep counting blessings, coming up short, then feeling cheated, out of what was never yours. Still you ask why your prayers go unanswered, self indulgent wishes are ignored, worshiping the two dollar Talisman, bought at the thrift store, it has exhausted any cosmic goodwill  it never had  before, turns out  to be just another poor choice, as a last resort. if a line between  right and wrong ever existed, you snorted it long ago, and conscience you considered an encumbrance, was shed in liability’s shadow.

I’ve lived in the underbelly of a deplorable existence, the reward for addiction and a troubled mind, been to places where Jesus was afraid to visit, acting on some drug’s bad advice, I learned the less I wanted, the more I understood what it is I need, it rains diamonds on Neptune, and there’s blue sunsets on Mars, but what do I know,

I’m just an imitation of me.