Essay from Chimezie Ihekuna

The Help from where I Least Expected

Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben) Young Black man standing with his hand on his chin under a shade structure near a building. He's wearing a collared shirt and jeans.
Chimezie Ihekuna

‘’If you’re not a part of my struggle, you can’t be a part of my success’’

                                                  …..Anonymous

‘’Friend, I wish you the very best in your chosen writing endeavor. I’ll give out my very best to support you whenever you need me’’

                                                                August 15, 2006

‘’Congrats! It’s a great feat establishing a career in writing. I’m with you all the way. All the very best!’’

                                                    October 3, 2006

February 8, 2008: ‘’Give me some time to rebrand and re-package my TV program. When completed, I’ll formally invite you on air for an interview. Be rest assured and be patient’’

Six months and a day later…

August 9, 2008 (A Phone call): ‘’Hello Ben, I know you’ve been patient with me all the while. Following me up through regular phone calls to ascertain the progress being made and all of that… However, I regret to inform you that I won’t be able to invite, as promised earlier. I strongly advise you seek another platform to showcase your literary works. Thanks for contacting me, Nigeria’s most revered media personality’’

The first two statements (the ones of August 15 and October 3, 200) were made by friends who were, in my thought, ‘’able to see me through my writing journey’’. In fact, back in school, my colleagues were convinced the friends I had would be instrumental to my being successful in future as an author. I could remember my room-mate say to me: ‘’It’s no doubt that the age-long saying ‘show me your friend and I’ll tell you who you are and if you want to know the you now and then you, in the next five years, status-wise, two things will have to determine that: the  company you keep and the books you’ve read.’ Ben, I know you’ve read quite a number of books. And it’s no surprise you’re embarking on a writing expedition. Of course, you are flanked by friends who are seen as being resourceful and will be helpful to you, now and in the future. From me to you, I wish you all the best!’’

One would think I will be supported, considering how assuring their commitments were. They sounded convincing. But I was in for a shocker!

Just Read!

About two years later…

August 18, 2008

I recorded a phone conversation (text message chat) between the friend whose statement was made on August 15, 2006 and me.

Me: It’s really been a while, friend. So sorry I’ve not been keeping in touch for ages! How are you doing?

Friend: Yea. I’m good. You know, twenty friends can’t be in a place for twenty years. We’ve been through school together and we just have to part ways at some point…which we had done. This is almost two years since we finished school. It’s really been a while, I must agree. How about your writing?

Me: Still on it. Currently trying to get it across to publishers in Lagos and Oyo states… It’s been, so far, a ‘no-no’. I’m not giving up, nonetheless.

Friend: That’s the spirit! I know you for that. You have the never-say-die attitude to life.

Me: Thanks man. What’s up with you now?

Friend: Through my father’s connections in society, I secured on On-air personality job at 92.79FM* in Lagos. I’ve been very busy working with (or should I say for?) this station for about a year now.

Me: Interesting! Will be great if you can invite me for a possible interview…

Friend: Tell me, how many works have you written?

Me: Ten. But still on a look-out for a publisher who will take on the projects

Friend: I’ll see what I can do. But remember it’s just a year is started working with this radio station. But we could still keep in touch with each other over the phone. Let’s keep tabs on each other.

Me: I’ll be waiting. I trust you’ll be instrumental to my success in a not-too-distant future.

Friend: Thanks for believing in me. Will catch up with you later. So, long friend!

Me: Bye for now!

The text messaging ends

For the next six months, I kept calling and texting him on phone. But neither my calls nor texts were returned or replied to. About the same period, I attempted to contact the second person (the one who made the statement on October 3, 2006). Except for the message (as read below), he never, even till this day, replied or returned my calls or text messages. I didn’t even hear from you via social media (Facebook and Twitter)

‘’My father owns a publishing firm. I told him about you. Just give him time. He’ll get back to you. I forwarded your contacts to him. Don’t worry. I’ll update you from time to time.’’

From 2006 and 2009, I struggled in my writing journey, all on my own (in Nigeria, such a state is depicted by the acrostic O.Y.O, which stands for On Your Own). Lagos and other parts of Southwestern Nigeria were places I visited to get the eyes of publishers’ attention. Yet, my efforts ended in wild goose chases!

I gained admission to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (now the Federal University of Agriculture), Ogun State, Nigeria. It was towards the end of my second semester of my second year that I decided to go fully into writing. Making it a career, in other words. The reason I chose to enroll for Mechanical Engineering is still, to this day, a mystery to me, considering the fact that I saw no ‘future’ in it long before I gained admission and I’d almost silenced the writing gift in me. It was when circumstances beyond my control—irregular financial support, the consequent difficulties in coping academically and poor teaching facilities—to be an author—a long-ago conceived dream.

Having being rejected by over forty publishers in Lagos and Oyo states, I decided to shift my focus online—the use of the internet. Between 2010 to 2013, my online journey into the search of book publishers began. I’d written over twenty manuscripts that cut across several literary genres. I also suffered over a hundred rejections during that period. It never deterred me from forging ahead—finding a home for my works.

The year 2014 remains a red-letter year in my life. It was in that year that my name, that is, my pen name, ‘’Mr. Ben’’, appeared in print! Indeed, it was a dream-come-true experience for me. A period in my life where I could say to me, ‘’I’m a success being a published author!’’ The publication was The World We Live In, a short story collection, published by Taldros Publishing, Lebanon.

Today, I am proudly a published author of several books.  My books can be found at www.amazon.com/author/mrben . I’m grateful to the publishers whom made homes for my books, friends (the ones I met online since 2015 and still keep in touch with them) for their support, advice and encouragement.

To Cristina Deptula of Synchchaos Magazine, Dane Zahorsky of Youth Passageways, Kalahari Review, Savant Anthology, Maria Zani, Martino Cruz of The Silentium Project,  Steve Canon (of Blessed Memory) of Gathering of Tribes, Revival Waves of Glory Books and Publishing, Pen It! Publications and many others, I say a ‘big thank you’.

With them, it has been a rewarding journey. I look forward to seeing them being a part of my grand-breaking literary success in future! They have been: ‘’The help from where I least expected!’’

*92.99FM has been changed for privacy reasons.

Poetry from Mahbub

Author Mahbub, young middle aged Asian man with glasses, wearing a collared shirt with a pen in his pocket.
Mahbub

A Magnetic Bubble

Believe me or not

You are my conventional campus

I reside on your breast all day and night

Touching my head I walk and take rest

In this dark atmosphere you are my only starry sight

Forgetfulness can only dominates

All our spirit

You are my juicy grapes

I am your honey bee

We enjoy the whole night thrilling

What a tight bond to the magnetic electricity!

There may be huge potentiality

To belong to the future

There lie before the eyes the vast waters

Beside the hilly trees

We flow and walk

No clog to separate us

A feeling with a magnetic touch

Again I say

You are my only conventional campus.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
13/09/2019

We Need For

I have no breastplate like the aegis of Zeus

I don’t have any chance to reach Dodona in the land of oak trees

Nor can I punish the oath breakers

Neither I to the liars

You had the power to hide the infidelity to your wife

You would make as many sex and love as you desire

The lord of the sky

In the Mount Olympus

The best of all gods

Today the world misses you too much

Can’t you come back?

Where humanity always cries for

In this dark gloomy night

And weather, we need lots of rain

And the rain of love, from every corner of the earth

We always need for.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
13/09/2019

A Breath of You

Your one breath of love

Can lead me unimaginable paths or above this

A fly to the sky

Like the flying fishes from the Oceans

The fins in the soft wind soars higher

The roars of the Ocean and the starry sky

The condensed of the hills or the forests

We like to lie down at any circumstances

Here is a tiger, there is a lion

A journey through the waters to the sky

A breath of you, the waving heart

A room filled in colors, no fear of any roar or chaos

Inside or outside the room.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
20/09/2019

 Insomnia

Last night I went to bed

But not for a moment I could sleep

It was just all the moment I felt like

So fresh and shinned up the large tree

Rolling from branches to branches I reached my beloved

Kissed her and embracing all the ways

Came back to my bed and closed the eyes

After a long journey around my room

I find no space to cover me with a soft-silent piece of robe

Descending upon to have a sound peaceful sleep

It was a long journey of my sleep

Closing and opening of the eyes

I with your soft blowing hand on me

Wandered the whole night

In this dark space you are my light

When the sun rises the sky turns blue from the dark and white.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
20/09/2019

To See the Little Faces

They are in deep silence

Most of the time they are accustomed

To eating, playing, laughing and dancing

Loving, caring and quarrelling with each other

They spend their time shoulder to shoulder

Screaming and shouting, coming and going here to there

To find them sober sometimes I buy them chocolates and toys

What a heavenly light blows over their faces!

It’s dead of night and deep in sleep 

I look at their faces

My heart sparks with joy

These beautiful flowers always smell sweet

Whether it’s dark or light

I can go through always clear.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
20/09/2019

Essay from Abigail George

Twelve Monkeys

By Abigail George

I’ve made mistakes. More than a few. I haven’t always apologised for my behaviour, for the mistakes I made, the wrong journey I took, the path less travelled. I am broken inside. I sometimes feel numb and dead inside when I exercise. Especially when I exercise. When I’m stressed out, I exercise a lot. I watch films. I read poetry. I write poetry. But these days it just feels as if I can’t carry out the simplest of tasks. I feel that nobody really loves me for me. I think of Elvis, I think of Sinatra, I think of Sammy Davis Junior. I think of their friendship. The bonds between them. They were brothers. They had each other’s backs. They looked out for one another. They loved each other. I do not know what love is. Growing up my mother loved herself. Narcissist I think is the correct term. Always in heels and a G-string. Sexed up. My father was an absent father by all accounts. But, to all intents and purposes he gave me a happy life, a happy childhood. So, I am taking the memories wherever I go. Wherever, whenever, and I mean the happiest memories I’ve had, I still have, are the moments I spent with my father. Eating ice cream, going to the beach, visiting the clinical psychologist, buying the month’s groceries, playing under his desk at work. My father’s friends were my friends. The people that knew my father, knew me from a young age. Precocious and cute, always wanting to make people with sad eyes laugh, and if I couldn’t get them to laugh, I would get them to smile at least. When I was born before the eighties, George Botha passed away that year, from an apparent suicide. Biko slipped on a bar of soap. Then there’s Dulcie.

Dulcie September (I wonder what her children would have been like, her husband, would she have settled in London, married a man who had green, or blue eyes. Rick Turner was assassinated by a man with a gun (they haven’t found him yet), Kevin Carter was killed by a stray bullet as he was taking pictures of the unrest in the townships during the brutal heights of the heyday of apartheid. Political activists of colour were being arrested at every turn. Turn the corner, walk in the opposite direction someone, someone would be following you. The Americans I think termed that phrase Big Brother is watching you, or else it could have been anyone really. I’m young, but I have an old soul. Yes, I read poetry. Yes, I read books too. Basically, anything I can get my hands on. I love getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. The cake flour, the dough I eat off my fingers, dust the doughnuts with icing sugar, or cocoa, keeping busy, busy, busy, trying not to think, trying not to think of anyone, or anything. It is a long, long way to Rapunzel, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Proust, Nabokov, Salinger, Rilke, Akhmatova, and Coco Chanel. It is an even longer distance to Billy Graham, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Neville Alexander, Fikile Bam, Patrice Motsepe, ex-president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, ex-president Thabo Mbeki, ex-president Jacob Zuma, and president-elect Cyril Ramaphosa. Then I think of the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and the American presidents (the leaders of the free world), George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

Nobody knows anything really about their childhood. Rapunzel, like all fairy tales, like the Native Americans, and the Eastern Cape poets Ayanda Billie, Robert Berold, Brian Walter, Mzi Mahola, the late Arthur Nortje, the late Dennis Brutus, Mxolisi Nyezwa, they are all frozen in the snow of my memory. I want people to love me. Just like my dad. People love daddy. People loved daddy. But inside I am sad. I am not even loved in my own home. My mother hates me. How to get over the mental cruelty, her un-loveliness to me over the years, her utter humiliation of me when she saw how close me and dad were getting. She was in the house, put on a disappearing act whenever I appeared. I tell myself that nobody loves me. That I’m a rubbish-throw-away-type of person. Nobody should associate themselves with me. I have no self-esteem, then low self-esteem. Sleep around. No, not really. I just give expert hand jobs, and I never kiss. Never. Too intimate, it makes me feel vulnerable, and when you kiss someone there are just so many levels to it, you know. The first kiss. Well, you always remember that. You always remember the person who first kissed your lips. And after that, after that you open your warm mouth (I think of everything as an experiment, an adventure, an exploration of sorts). They have all gone out into the world now. The wives have done what is impossible for me. Given the boys children. That, that, that right there is too much for me to take, to handle, although I know I will survive. Believe me, I survive without cocaine and alcoholism, without sexuality and the sexual transaction (as Jean Rhys said in After Leaving Mr Mackenzie).

I endure with the best of them. I love like the greats. The great singer and songwriters (the late Karen Carpenter), musicians (Lenny Kravitz, Fiona Apple). I too have been careless with the hearts of delicate people. Some have moved on with their lives, and have forgotten all about me. I pretend to wake up in the mornings to the legends that the boys have become. They are men who rule empires now. They have forgotten all about me, forsaken me for money, prosperity, prestige, status (I’m mixing up my similes here). I miss them. I miss them like crazy. I wish I was back there, not here. Each and every day in Johannesburg was either a summer-ish day, or winter. I wish I was in love again, but I’m not. I’m a wreck. Still the same wreck I was 20 years ago. I’m growing older. I’m in my forties now. What a terrible age. The onset of menopause, flashbacks to a time and place when you were happier, when you could afford to make mistakes, behave foolishly, and love, love, love, and dance the night away with multiple partners on your arms, but I didn’t know about the world. Didn’t know anything about the world. So, mothers, be good to your daughters. They will learn to love like you do. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know anything about love. I can smoke, I can drink when I hang out with the guys. I love men. Women ignore me. Women talk down to me. Women humiliate me in front of their children, mother-in-law, and especially, especially their boyfriends, their husbands, life partners. You know that kind of girl. You know that kind of woman. She’s beautiful, exceptional-looking.

She dresses down, she dresses up. I’m that kind of woman now. Can someone hear my plea? Anyone, anyone? Anyone out there? All I ever wanted was for my mother to tell me how much she loved me, how proud she was of me, and she didn’t. Still doesn’t to this day. And I hate violence of any kind, even in films. I still believe in what Walt Disney proclaimed. It is my mantra still to this day. I believe in family values. I guess it is the principle behind it. Norms and values. Growing up with norms and values. A kind of belief system, even though I did go to Sunday School, and memorise Bible verses, and was indoctrinated into religion by the Union Congregational Church, (I’m not religious anymore, although I still pray, still meditate, believe in reconciliation, and as such there is evil in the world, but there is also the greater good). Anyway, I am much more of a spiritual person now, from an early age I believed in angels. Truth for some, but not truth for all. I believe in the qualities of a good Christian, Brahmin, Yogi, Hindu, Muslim, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic. All religions hold truth at the cornerstones of their foundation. So, instead of making war, think instead (this is for all the world leaders, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters out there), make peace (keep the peace in the house, reconcile your differences, sit at the table and break bread, talk about your day, don’t isolate yourself from either your family, or your community). Be kind. You can kill with kindness you know. Today that person could be your enemy, tomorrow (as the ancients, prophets, saints, angels say) that same enemy could be your friend.

Money and wealth won’t make you beautiful. Inner beauty, understanding and understanding devotion to others less fortunate than yourself, the marginalised, downtrodden, those living in poverty-stricken areas in dire straits give them your peace too, and something to eat. The game of life is made up of winners and losers. The loser always forgets about the lesson that they have learned. The winner takes it all. Always remember it is how you play the game. Life is precious. People are precious too. We are only human at the end of the day. Once, they said that someday technology will surpass humanity. Code breakers, the women and men who serve countries around the world, and who are willing to sacrifice their lives for millions of people). I think also of scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Pavlov, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie (twice-winner) of the Nobel Prize. I think of researchers dealing with computers, information communication technology, indigenous knowledge systems, the great digital divide between the haves and the have nots (first world countries and third world countries). I think of intellectuals like Pliny the Elder, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Homer, and Plato. Isn’t every intellectual an authority on philosophy, education, subjects as diverse and varied (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo), as the holistic vision of an educationalist, community leader, humanist, activist, volunteer, just as much as a person can be plumber, he can also be a storyteller (everybody has a story to tell), and a poet. His name can be Yusuf Agherdien, Ambrose Cato George, and Shaheed Hendricks.

(The writers of the book South End: As We Knew It, although District Six in Cape Town is more well-known when it comes to the promulgation of the Group Areas Act). They can even be the curator, and a writer-visionary-maverick of the world-famous museum, the South End Museum, that has its roots in Saint Helena. An island in the middle of the ocean, that could only in the past be reached by a Royal Mail Ship that sailed from Cape Town to Saint Helena. Are we still slaves, our minds enslaved by oppression and racism, prejudice and gangsterism, the abuse of alcohol and mental cruelty? It has become a global phenomenon. It has become a buzzword. In my mind, we are all then victims of circumstance, of trauma, of incidents that happened in our childhood. And yes, we fall prey to evil deeds, and evil thoughts, we sin, and sometimes we pray and ask for forgiveness, and sometimes we don’t. We don’t learn the lesson; we would rather abscond. Go our own way. For some of us, this is all we know. Running away from loss and grief, denial and instigation, and when we do that we are motivated by our own fear, anxiety, even insanity (which means two things, break from reality, or non-reality).  When you’re in high school all you want to do is hang with the popular crowd, go out with the most popular boy in school, obtain high marks, achieve on the sports field and inside the classroom. I was an obsessive-compulsive achiever, and the only people I wanted to impress were the women in my family. The women make babies, and stay at home, cook and clean, raise their family, but in my world the husband was always marrying the mistress.

We know the affect that climate change has had on the seasons, harvests, running water, rain, sanitation, and it spells disaster in all areas. Floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, storms, drought which affects our farmers, and particular our agriculture all over the world. I digress. I come back to those two words again. Global phenomenon. We are reaching a climatic stage of events in world history. Ask yourself these questions, think about them, ponder them as you would any project that is highly creative, and imaginative, that needs you to focus, and concentrate. Put all your energies into it, as you would your children’s lives, and your husband’s or wife’s welfare. What is your legacy, will it be hidden from view, or be there for all to see? What is your calling, your purpose in life, what are you extremely passionate about (I must have asked myself these questions thousands of times, and so, no, I’m not exaggerating)? What are your empirical dreams, lofty goals, pre-imminent plans? Are you concerned about the spiritual welfare of others, as I am?

Poetry from Christopher Bernard

 
 The Hammer and the Dance 
  
 The hammer and the dance
 in this atlas of the world,
 in the season of pandemic,
 like two stanchions on a court;
 between, a tightening line
 like the imaginary line
 on the cartographer’s expedient chart,
 on one side, the dutiful girls,
 on the other, boys in masks;
 around them hung a wall of distance
 that surrounds them like a fort;
 at their feet, forgotten tasks.
  
 And the hammer beats the time
 for the young ones as they dance.
  
 What of the future? What of the past?
 What of the present? You may well ask.
 There was something to be done
 now forever left undone.
 Where there once appeared a mask,
 now a flawed map hides its face
 in a hand scarred by this place;
 now there is a face of ash.
  
 And the hammer beats the time
 for the young ones as they dance.
  
 Deep inside the twisting globe
 opens up a burning robe.
 And tonight the silence hurls
 into darkness its moot sign
 like a banner never furled,
 like the alchemist’s alembic
 charred with his defeated gold,
 like the future’s gathering dark
 and the iron in the heart.
  
 And the hammer beats the time
 for the young ones as they dance.
  
 Spiritus
  
 When you see it, you will know.
 The shaky camera, the kneeling
 men in midnight blue:
 they look at first as though
 they are praying, pious
 as three altar boys,
 caught in an innocuous crime, perhaps
 stealing holy wafers or consecrated wine.
 But they are not.
  
 The shaking camera stops,
 and you hold in your breath,
 like clutching at a hand,
 not quite believing that you see
 what it is you think you see.
  
 Underneath their knees,
 in the brutal sun,
 a dark form. And a voice from the feed:
 "I can't breathe, I can't
 breathe! I can't breathe! I
 can't breathe!" For four minutes and
 forty-six seconds,
 as the altar boys pray
 in the shouting glare.
 Then it stops. The video
 stops. The voice stops. The praying 
 stops. The breathing 
 stops  And you breathe, 
 too late. But you seethe, you seethe.
  
 _____
  
Christopher Bernard is co-editor and poetry editor of the webzine Caveat Lector. His new collection of poems, The Socialist’s Garden of Verses, will appear in the fall of 2020.
   

Elizabeth Hughes’ Book Periscope

The Unseen Blossom by Zlaikha Y. Samad and L’Mere Younossi

Zlaikha Y. Samad and L'Mere Younossi's book The Unseen Blossom. Red title against a white background, fig sprout with green leaves coming from dirt in the shape of a heart.
L’Mere Younossi and Zlaikha Y. Samad’s The Unseen Blossom

The Unseen Blossom is a story that is both magical and a love story. The story is about Princess Zuli and Lamar, a shoemaker in Kabul. They are both chosen to go on an enchanted journey to find the elusive blossom of the Fig Tree. Along the way they go through gardens of enchanted trees, plants, animals and fish. They have realized that in another life, their souls have been interwoven to be soulmates for eternity. Their role is to learn how to bring unity and peace to their world. This is the most wonderful and delightful story that is perfect for any age. The message in the book is completely relevant in today’s world. We can all learn from its message of unity, peace and love.

The Unseen Blossom is available here.

Poetry from Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

Crack His Head 

Push him down.
Crack his head
like an egg,
blood yolk on
the cement. Push the old
man down on
the pavement.

Dominate, so shameful. 
Was that worth
it? Really?
Is that your
training? Push
old men down. Protester
down, peaceful
protester down, his blood
on your hands. 

A slap on
the wrist, paid
leave, is that
punishment for assault?



Captive Wind 

You cannot hold the wind captive.
If it dies, it will kick back up later.
It will pick up the pace in a hill,
gently at first. When going downward,
pity to those who stand in its path.

Do not take it lightly. You cannot
hold the wind captive for too long.
Its ghostly breeze will topple you.
Its memory will be imprinted in
your thoughts. If you fear the wind,
you better bundle up to the neck.

It will leave you in misery. It is a
sea wave on land, and it could strike
softly or with immense cruelty.
It will slap your forehead like a
backhand. The wind does not play.
You cannot hold the wind captive.
It will make a great escape and
bring silence a world of sounds.



Drowning in Fire 

As if drowning in fire,
burning through and through,
it is clear that passion
and desire are running through
my veins.

No amount of water
can slow down this inferno.
Night cannot cool me off.
The water in the moon is not
cold enough.

Like a burnt stone
under ashes I remain. I am a
shadow of flames burning like
stars. My passion and desire are
burning for her. I throw myself
into a lake of fire and I go down
to the deepest depths. I come up
still burning from head to foot.

I take my agony to the frozen lake,
halfway from the frozen mountain.
A flaming shadow follows. I close
my eyes and she is still there, the
woman that I burn for.  She is there
when I am fast asleep in my sub-conscience,
in my dreams, she is
the burning woman, and I am the
burning man, burning in splendor.