Poetry from Mahbub

Middle aged South Asian man with glasses and combed black hair and a white collared shirt

A Journey to You

I can rush to the underworld in the stillness

Than any other worldly pace

No entrance of any other than I

My heart picks all you desire

It moves me altogether even I find you nowhere

In the open air or in the garden of flowers

It empowers me all body and soul

Like the determined Orpheus to bring Eurydice back

I feel your existence all my side

Remain deep in the hole

The dread goddesses always round about you

Should I deny the confidence in you?

You made a space

Devoured by passion

Only for making this journey to you

All seem to be relaxed.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh

Phaedra’s Lust

Phaedra lost her life only for love to her stepson

An incestuous and incredible love

The world got too much for her

A passionate, maddened, wretched and undone woman

Only her uncontrolled love made her build this condition

Finding no way Hippolytus mingled in the woods

Theseus heard all she covered up with gold or bronze

Aghast Theseus called on Neptune for this judgment

At the news of his death Phaedra poisoned herself

Realizing this Theseus ordered to bury her deep in earth

They are dead in physique but lain in love

Irrespective of any creed, caste or religion

A tune of love we can’t ignore of

From time immemorial we learn that

For love and lust nothing comes before or after

The ascending result

Can you say that hides the cause?

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh

The Knots and Bandages

We know how to make the knots

We know how to tight the bonds

An important part of life to travel the earth

Any challenge that we face on the path

Wandering along with the birds or animals

Enjoying the beauty of the bounty of the land, the ocean or the sky

The bandages you taught me how to make and set on the spot

Now let’s start from one to another from land to water

This journey to nature full of merriment

A sphere not to forget

We like to be in touch to get things in hand

We like to overcome the restraints 

And beautify the earth more than that we have got.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh

Dying Campus

For whom I write my love

For whom my eyes dance

Escalate my hidden thought

To step farther means to find myself dead

The environment of a university

Reflects the whole society

We confess or not

We, not sure of what we actually learn

Only to get pass with top grade is not enough

Once my teacher taught me in the class

‘Make a man of you’

Though not followed by all

But what we see at present can’t be allowed at all

It was Abrar Fahad, a second year student of BUET

While reading and writing some young guys called him out

From his reading room no. 1011

Beaten to death taking in room no. 2011

Of Sher-e-Bangla Hall only because

He made his status on Facebook

‘The weak agreement with India for exchanging water and gas’

This is one and the other –

 ‘To show the power as seniors’

Made them plan for death

The ruling party students and activists

Time from 7.30 pm to 2.30 am

Between 05 to 06 October, 2019

So cruel and monstrous long seven hours beating

Till the confirmation of death

Now in every step wherever I go

I don’t find any lesson learnt in the classroom

All inner-outer I can’t sleep

Can’t move my body on path

This hectic red sight always brings me back.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh

Beating the Heart

The beating of the drums touches the heart

On the other side, Abrar killed by beating every parts of the body

We appreciate our development regarding some infrastructural set

We got this Bangladesh due to a sea blood

Now after long time we can see the light of progress

But shedding blood on the path or by the river, on the ocean or indoors

A record of death, just dengue attacked our body

Biting by Aedes mosquito

Drum is beaten, our heart is dancing

Enlightening the dark at night

Can’t we see the heart beating so high? 

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh

Cristina Deptula reviews artist, gallery owner and woman of faith Sara Joseph’s memoir Gently Awakened

Blue colored book with Gently Awakened in a slightly scriptlike lower case font, white letters. In the background is a sculpture of a woman's face and hair, with the stone it's carved from still there behind her.
Sara Joseph’s memoir Gently Awakened

Sara Joseph’s Gently Awakened, reviewed by Cristina Deptula

Sara Joseph discusses apprenticeship in her memoir Gently Awakened, about how her career as a visual artist is infused with and an outgrowth of her Christian faith.

Historically, the apprentice to a great artist wouldn’t always have lessons in the craft, but would instead assist with chores around the studio while watching the artist at work. This would give the apprentice a chance to pick up attitudes and methods that couldn’t be easily explained in a lecture or demonstration.

Sara views her faith journey in a similar way, participating with God and joining the work He’s already doing. This means that rather than worrying about how her whole artistic life will take shape, or completely filling her schedule, or taking it on herself to preach through her art, she steadily develops her technique while following inner promptings.

Advice from non-religious business coaches for creative professionals are now saying similar things: don’t commit 100 percent of your time and other resources so that you can follow your intuition and be open to opportunities as they arise.

And the most meaningful opportunities that Sara finds, the most memorable and nuanced parts of Gently Awakened, are the small and humble stories of how her artwork encourages people. In one case, a portrait she reluctantly paints of a plain-looking woman becomes a chance to uncover her subject’s deeper beauty. Another time she echoes an inspiring vision a struggling widow experienced, helping her find the strength to continue. These are things that happen along the way, God-orchestrated connections for Sara, rather than big moments of drama or career success.

She also learns to let go of avenues for her work just as gracefully as she accepts them, such as a personal studio in an artists’ collective, which she excitedly rents, then gives up when her oldest child moves away to college and vacates his room. This gentle grace and dignity is a hallmark of her book, and of the artwork interspersed between each chapters, mostly watercolors of people and natural still life.

Sara touches on themes familiar to the lives of many artists: figuring out whether one should really be an artist, learning the craft, locating time to create and cash for supplies, finding inspiration, handling disappointments, and developing a personal, unique style. She handles that last point in a different way: seeking and following personal faith-based guidance on how to proceed with each work and letting her style form naturally, rather than specifically setting out to be original.

Overall, Sara Joseph’s Gently Awakened presents an artist committed to living out her beliefs and who humbly seeks to serve others and a higher purpose with her work.

Sara Joseph’s Gently Awakened is available here or internationally on Amazon.

Poetry from Michael Robinson

Middle aged Black man wearing a tee shirt hugging an older White woman, fellow contributor Joan Beebe, to his left. They're standing on concrete in front of some bushes.
Michael Robinson (right) and fellow contributor Joan Beebe.

Mirror 2020 

In the mirror facing one’s self as the reflection, 

Looks familiar but not familiar as we thought. 

Tears that once were smiles bring reality into view. 

An afterthought comes and wake up our numbness,  

Numb to the reality of life in the 21st century, 

Violence has become a way of life in America, 

In the 1960s it was social consciousness,

Speaking out against oppression against a race.

Now in the 21st-century tyranny and oppression  

Has become the norm, which is enforced,  

By the very military that fought in our great wars. 

Our streets are roamed by American soldiers. 

We are the virus of discontent and selfishness, 

Clinging to our ideas of being a great nation. 

While people go to bed hungry and dejected by, 

Our fellow Americans in a fit of rage against us. 

A virus that has no vaccine nor end in sight. 

People wanting it to be over, so they move on,  

Unaware that they are the virus and will not,  

Be able to move on from themselves.  


Time III 

Inspired by Joan Beebe 

“Once Upon A Time.”

It has been said throughout my life. 

It once was a time when my ancestors were slaves, 

Brought over on a slave ship and chained together.  

Now in today’s time, we are chained to greed.  

No longer content to live a life of freedom but a life, 

Of total disconnect from our race and our future. 

Now we sing about bitches and whore with no regard, 

For Motherhood or Sisterhood, or just human hood.  

Family have dissolved into a six-letter dirty word, 

No longer chained to one another we walk through life. 

Rudderless with the wind facing us in a tidal wave, 

We are slaves on a ship to nowhere.  

Shadows of Life 

                   For Joan Beebe 

Pages of nothingness in life, 

A life surround by shadows,  

Of nothingness waiting to come alive.  

Alive with expectations of hopes,  

And dreams of what could be. 

Outside the shadows of doubt,  

Into a reality of what has happened.  

Moving past the shadows into fullness,  

Of life through the baptism of fire.  

Finding the strength to grow and bloom. 


Wishing to have a father to follow in life, 

A man to show us what it is to be a man.  

Alone we follow a path of going nowhere, 

Standing on the corner without nothing.  

No idea of the reality of life and manhood, 

Attached to ideas of self-destruction and death.  

Ideas the float away from the true nature of,  

Fatherhood we have remained isolated and afraid. 

Afraid of what we could have become if we had, 

Have not fallen into the abyss of self-denial. 

We are our own father looking for a way to, 

Follow in our own path of regret.  

Tears of Life

                        Inspired by Joan Beebe

My heart takes the shape of a series of cirrus clouds. 

In moments of sadness, beauty remains in my heart,  

Tears fall from the sky in the dryness of my soul, 

Tears will fall from my eyes onto my cheek lightly, 

Reminding me of the kisses that you have given me. 

Kisses through the goodness in life and sadness.

A rainbow appears in the shape of my heart, 

Forever lighting my path to your heart through time.  

Time that will stand still for our affection to life, 

Goodbye is a moment of never forgetting our beginning.  

Poetry from Moustafa Dandoush

Young man with brown hair, a beard, and a collared red and blue plaid shirt
Poet Moustafa Dandoush
For You
I’ve made worlds for you,
But you refused them.
I’ve written poems for you,
But you didn't understand them.
I’ve expressed my feelings a thousand times for you,
But you never felt them.
I’ve spoken using new languages for you,
But you didn't try to translate them.
I’ve knelt down many times for you,
But you didn't even notice them.
I’ve cried a lot of tears for you,
But you didn't want to wipe them.
I was waiting for your hands and you,
But you didn't come for them.
Celebrating Your Birthday
Although lots of blessings in this life,
I'm only blessed with you and yourself.
For me, On your birthday,
"you mean the world" is all that I want to say.
Blow out the candles of your birthday cake,
Don't be afraid, I won't leave you in the dark.
I pray, may God be always by your side,
I want you to always lift up your head in pride.
You have a good, honest and true heart,
You're my bestie, and my soulmate.
Happy birthday to you from someone who truly appreciates you,
Happy birthday to you for all the good work that you always do.

Okay, WE are NO longer together,
But, What happened to “FOREVER”?
My heart is now in so much pain,
My tears are falling like cats-and-dogs rain.
I can no longer sleep a full night,
You broke my heart and we’re torn apart.
No one can save me from the dark's might.
Now, there is no light.
Kindly know that
I loved you, I love you still
I promise, I always will.
I still don't know why you said your goodbye
but still I know that I'll love you till the day I die.
My heart is broken, but hope is still there
That One day, we might get back together
Maybe next time, it will be FOREVER.
Moustafa Hamoud Dandoush is a writer with a degree in English Literature and Language at Syria’s Tishreen University. He enjoys reading poetry, novels and plays as well as writing.

Poetry from Tim Suermondt


On one knee, near the main intersection

where we’ve met the best and often.

I don’t have much to offer, but she knows

this. And I know she’s absorbed many

blows these many months, her lovely aura

placed in jeopardy by those threatening

to leave or by those deciding to lie low

until she returns in full, her strawberry hair

flowing over the bridges and the boulevards

again with sass, vigor, time, and beauty,

the kind you believed in when you first

arrived, your old world spilling out of your

suitcase, waiting not a moment to start anew.


I’m down by the canal, rotting planks everywhere

but the chocolate shop there has a reputation

for making the best in the city. In short order

I’ll have my selection and be on my way to meet

my wife who has a “sensational” blouse to show me.

The weather is colder but the sun has been out early,

water reflecting the world down to a tee, robust

as the brushstrokes of a painter lonely and in love.

Oh everything is impossible, but some mysteries

can’t always be solved, no matter how many clues.

I walk up a steep incline, the leafless trees finally

flaunting some buds. Nothing ends even when it does.

Tim Suermondt


My wife points over the railing,

out into the blue distance—

“Honey, that might be a whale.”

She thinks Moby Dick. I think

Melville down on his luck and forgotten.

It isn’t a whale and she’s disappointed—

Poetry from J.J. Campbell

Middle aged white man with glasses and a coronavirus mask in his bedroom. Posters on the walls.
endless misery
the humid air
clings to the
of afternoon
endless misery
looks to be the
only highlight
you ever wonder
why your loneliness
seems infinite
why your dreams
are never allowed
to come true
why luck seems
like some fable
told to children
to keep them
why your genius
has been squandered
for pennies
while other dumb
fucks are rolling

in cash
happy poems
an editor once asked
me why i never write
any happy poems
i told her i learned
long ago to only
write what you
any good reader
can see a fake
fucker from

miles away
a morning in the swamp
these endless summer
days where the night is
as sticky as a morning
in the swamp
air conditioning is
something only the
rich have
open a window for a
breeze and it's nothing
but the stench of death
you learned long ago
there is no damn point
in complaining
god moved on from

these parts years ago
a much simpler time
saw the obituary
of the last guy i
bought drugs off
that was so many
years ago now
a much simpler
time than this
not that nostalgia
wins the day
the weed is so
much better these
like going from
black and white
to suddenly owning
a tv the size of the
wall and as clear as

pollution free water

Essay from A. Iwasa

Crushes in the time of COVID
by A. Iwasa

Woman resting on a couch in a dark room with a blanket over her and the curtains closed. Light from a window illuminates a green houseplant.

Though I’m sure I’m not the first person to riff off of Love in the Time of Cholera during this pandemic, here goes.  And I’m not going to Consult The Oracle about it, I’m too stoked on this name.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the greatest works of fiction that I’ve ever read.  When I asked a Colombian friend if he ever read Marquez in English, he laughed hardily in my face.  When he was done, he asked, Why would I do a thing like that?

My feathers were a bit ruffled; I wanted to know how true to form the translations were, I think that’s pretty normal and important.  Later I brought it up with a Peruvian comrade who sometimes does translations for print, and he simply replied reading Marquez in English would be criminal.

Though when COVID went pandemic, he wrote “I’ve been completely broke during this whole time, but now that I’ve some money, I’m gonna find a way to get as many Camus’ and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ books as I can since I feel 2020 has for sure been stolen from their intellectual property. Hopefully I can keep from spending my money on beer, burgers and ice-cream.”

So here I am, trying to bask in Marquez’ glory a bit.  Camus is also apt, and I wish I’d thought of that one.  I’ve long given up on trying to write fiction, because I know I couldn’t make up a good handful of the people I’ve met over the years, nor the situations we seem to regularly find ourselves in if I wanted to.  And rest assured, sometimes I wish I had!

When US Shelter in Place orders started to roll out in the spring of 2020, I panicked.  I had been in Tucson, Arizona for about four months, by then the only reason I was still there was the 2020 ‘Zine Fest, and it was cancelled.  I’d had hopes of going to the Chicago ‘Zine Fest a week afterwards, and it was also postponed.

I freaked out.  What if Shelter in Place becomes Martial Law?!  Was Chicago ‘Zine Fest just an excuse, and should I cut things short in Tucson and just get going anyways?

One of my housemates flipped out on me when I suggested to him there was more than one way to clean cast iron without ruining the seasoning.  You’d think at 39 I would have known better, but I had this illusion that perhaps we were peers, especially considering I was paying more for rent and utilities for considerably less room and time in the House than him.  I suppose there’s no excuse for me dropping my guard like that.  I even thought the proof was in the egg free pan, when I was done eating, with no additional cleaning because the seasoning was perfectly in tact, but no.

Man's laced up boots in front of part of a moving truck.

There was no way I was going to risk getting stuck with this person for upwards of 18 or more months.  I called my old boss from Chicago’s Starving Artist Movers and hammered out the details of working for him a bit again, and split using most of my last paycheck.  

For about 13 months of a recent 20 or so month Hobo’s Holiday, I had been working for and usually with David La Tortuga, Starving Artist’s founder.  But I’d been gone for nearly a year; Food Not Bombing, teaching weaving workshops, printing, reading, writing, forest defending, walking a great deal, hitchhiking a bit, though mostly publicly transporting myself around my old stomping grounds on the west coast from Tucson to Olympia via San Diego, and back. 

I lost my paid gig at a print shop in Tucson, so really nothing was holding me back as Food Not Bombs and its COVID spawn, Food Share were flooded with mostly new volunteers.

Young man and young woman in a room in front of a window with open blinds and the sun entering.

I’ve actually been wanting to write about Starving Artist Movers for a while, since my time with them had greatly improved my life.  But whenever I brainstormed about it, I worried that some of the things I’d write about what made the job so enjoyable, might make La Tortuga sound like someone you wouldn’t want to hire to move your stuff, whatever on earth that may be, such as a giant box full of 20 pound weights (which I thought were cast iron pans until they started pouring out of the bottom of the box…).

Anyways, back to the Corona Virus Pandemic of 2020.  My trip did seem magical at first, especially as I saw a super cute, orange haired artist painting Davidcito’s new box truck as I walked up to his humble, Evanston abode with all of my gear.  Though it was mostly a dud after that, one of the few moving jobs I worked that visit turned out to be one of the best ever.  

It’s been my experience that people seem to have either very little stuff, or a great deal of things.  All the moving gigs I’ve ever worked have been one extreme or the other.  Also, although the harder jobs tend to be just mostly tedious, there always seems to be at least one or maybe two things that are very difficult.  Sometimes they are actually impossible to move into the new place.

Black dog inside a small boat out on a lake, hills and trees in the distance.

I’d been warned this job was going to include a several hundred pound piece of machinery, but I needed the work.  It’s the main reason I’d come back to Chicago!

It turned out the first customer of the day was also a working artist, whose apartment was also her workshop.

In my real, year and a month stint with Starving Artist, I had no serious complaints about any of our customers, and thankfully vice versa.  I think a lot of that had to do with the accuracy of the company’s name.  If people wanted College Hunks Moving Junk, or White Glove Movers, they could actually call them, but instead, they called us.  Perhaps not starving, we were artists, and our clients were always really cool to me.

But I almost never helped move anyone that I thought would hangout with me.  In fact, I frequently felt like a rented friend, and frankly a bit guilty accepting good money, especially when people were really nice and did things like give us food.

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when only for the second time our client was young, covered with tattoos, and seemed like someone I would hangout with.  To boot, she thought she recognized me?!  I’m horrible with names, but good with remembering faces and tattoos.  I’m fairly certain I would have remembered meeting her, even if it was only once, and years ago.  Also, she was a leather worker, my original craft.

After getting my Leather Working Merit Badge when I was 12 or so, I inherited my granduncle Gusty’s leather working materials.  In fact, to this day, the template I use for pouches came out of those supplies.

Also that day, a new coworker, Chris, I just met turned out to be really cool.  I was looking forward to meeting them, since their in was Glad Matt of The Glad Rags.  A nice person, good worker and talented musician, I figured they would be birds of a feather and all that.  I was not disappointed!

But this was a hard job.  A great deal of stuff, coming down from a third floor walk up.  Also, a neighbor was taken away on a ventilator by an ambulance, a grim reminder of the pandemic.

It also turned out there were actually two multi-hundred pound machines to move, down stairs, on to the truck, then back off again, up thankfully straight to… only a second floor loft?  I mean here, I had been misinformed that we were also going to a third floor walk up, so this was a relief.  In addition, the customer had a friend show up to help, and she turned not only also be just as nice and pretty, but a fiber artist!  She actually made the mask she was wearing, she was impressive.   

After unloading the first truckload, we took a lunch break.  This always makes the job more enjoyable for me, and this was oddly Davidcito’s idea, a rare occurrence.  The client actually bought Chris and me falafel and waffle fries, and we had a nice talk while La Tortuga and Rooster dealt with an unrelated SNAFU, on their lunch break.  This was actually probably why he suggested taking a break, but I wasn’t going to argue!

I gave our clients, it turned out the first customer’s friend was going to be our second client later that day, copies of two of my recent ‘zines, also giving them to Chris

We giddily joked about how we had to abandon social distancing, and one of our customers called lunch a falafel make out party.

We reconvened with Rooster and La Tortuga at the first apartment, and like a woman out of my dreams, our first client gave us all coffee!  Also, our second customer’s mom dropped off a home cooked meal, enough for all six of us working for later, and I swooned.  Whenever our clients were local, and their family turned out in anyway, I always thought it was really sweet.  Sometimes it was just in references to how a family member or two helped with the smaller things before we showed up, but other times they really did just as much as work as us!  Once a father helped Davidcito move a bed I couldn’t get up a staircase for the life of me, when we were moving his daughter, I thought that was about as cool as it gets.

But frankly, I think the occasional moral support was just as slick.  And of course a friend or two turning out occasionally was also really nice.  Sometimes they were what made us able to go on to a second scheduled gig with the amount of work they did!  Or at least wrap things up at a reasonable time, which can sometimes be no small feat.

But back to this gig.  The second load only filled the box truck half way, so we went to the next customer’s since they were moving in together.  Even though she was also a working artist, using her apartment as a workshop, her stuff barely filled the other half of the truck.  Also it was a first floor unit, though it started to rain fairly heavily to keep things interesting.

I couldn’t fit anywhere in the box truck, so rode in the first customer’s truck with our other client and Chris.  Somehow internet dating came up, and our first customer asked if I had a partner, and I could have keeled over and died!  I’m aware that I’m projecting here, but it’s the kind of thing I’d only ask if I was interested in someone.

After we finished unloading the trucks, we ate dinner together, and the second client gave me shoes and sandals, because she had noticed my shoes were falling apart, and all the thrift and boot stores were closed.  For the millionth or so time that day I wondered if these women could get any greater?!

The first customer gave us stickers and pins promoting her business, and paid us, including a fat tip.  I try not to get hung up on the whole tip thing, since paying movers is so expensive anyways, and I’m not sure how widespread knowledge about tipping movers is.  But it’s pretty great when clients do it!

She also offered to give me yarn when she dug her’s out and I figured out what I was doing.  Of course, if I was a cartoon, hearts would have been floating all over.  I offered both of our customers something out of the small part of my weaving inventory I carry with me without price tags just for such occasions.

Sadly, my housing situation ended before I could figure out something else.  After a couple nights sleeping in the box truck, I headed back to Tucson the easy way.  But as Chris said once during that job, it felt like the first real day they had lived since the lock down started.  I couldn’t have agreed more!