Essay from Randle Pink

America is a nation built on, among other things, the idea of not being a phony.

 

You’ll notice that whenever pundits and politicians refer to blue-collar, Middle-America-types (read: White People™) as “hardworking” on the teevee, the word “honest” almost always precedes it. America is a nation that, for good and for ill, sees itself as unflinchingly honest and forthright, and has plenty of powerful mythologies to back it up. One of our favorite stories Americans tell our children has to do with our first president coming clean about chopping down a tree after he lied about it, for Chrissake. Hell, Abe Lincoln stayed mealy-mouthed on the question of abolition until the Civil War was nearly concluded and the body count was well over half a million , and they called him “Honest,” too.

 

America’s notion of itself as a nation with integrity, combined with the myth of our exceptionalism, have again, for good and for ill, made us into the most powerful nation in the world. But these things have also made “honest” Americans believe themselves are the sole arbiters of global truth, based on a narrow set of Judeo-Christian (read: White People™) values that no more reflect who we are as a nation than some Evil Queen’s magic mirror when she says “tell me I’m pretty.”

 

Where that narrow set of Judeo-Christian values collides with the realities of human sexuality, chaos almost always ensues. Generally speaking, anyone who doesn’t look, act, think or fuck like Republican Jesus says “honest” Americans should is an apostate, an impostor, and probably looking to bugger your children and/or your spouse. Sadly, for the coalition behind of our nation’s most colorful acronym – LGBT – this usually spells big trouble when it comes to interacting with straight society, or as “honest” Americans like to put it: society. Discrimination, violence, and death are not just common: they’re baked into the value set itself.

Continue reading

Poetry from Joan Beebe

MY PIANO
There is an old friend
Who silently waits for me.
I walk by with hardly a glance,
But silently and hopefully she waits.
I thought about my old friend and
How I have neglected her.
Right then I decided it is time for me
To share my friendship with all my love.
The piano bench is gleaming
And calls me to come.
My fingers start playing
And the sound refreshes my soul.
A STORY AND A WISH
I had fallen asleep when
Something strange occurred.
It seems I was in surgery with
Masked people everywhere.
There were many instruments
Lying on carts and everything very sterile.
Large lights shining down upon me and
All kinds of machines and oxygen tanks.
I had such a fear of what was going to come next.
Suddenly a hand from behind me took my hand –
It was warm, tender and loving.
I experienced the most peaceful feeling coming over me.
It was a feeling that I cannot even explain.
Never before had such a feeling of perfect peace
Come to me.
Though I can’t explain it, my wish is that the whole
World will know that “peace that surpasses understanding”

Poetry from Mark Murphy

Disaffection

Who is the estranged brother, you or I?
Who seeks who out?
Who lives a life of asceticism?
Who is outcast in this society of denialism?

Which brother carries the chip on his shoulder,
as if it could never be lifted?
One time friends, comrades, confidents –
whatever happened to our united fight to the death?

You have struggled to care for your family.
I have no family to speak of.
Will we ever see eye to eye, in this life,
or does hopelessness fill your heart as much as mine?

Waiting for the One

for E.F.T

I am waiting for Epicurus.
She is also waiting for the one who will free her
from her nights alone –
her existential time bombs.

Wish that I had gone some little way to help
with my bag of extant tools,
though, I expect, she will find her own way
without me.

For ten years, I’ve struggled under her spell,
the tongue upon the lips, licking
ever so provocatively at me with my beard and sandaled feet
like some kind of ‘new age beatnik’.

I guess a lot changes in a decade between two people
trying to live (pleasurably) best they can,
avoiding pain
in favour of some golden rule.

She spies the world in a grain of sand
and my many contradictions
as only she can
without any air of gentle condemnation.

I do believe we could live without any other love
of man or woman,
except for our own blind spots,
after all, these are the only divinities we live by.

Unrequited Love

If I asked for your hand over night,
you would not grant me asylum
on your floor

from my own thoughts,
no more than you would kiss me,
or ask me to hold you.

Even though, I find myself at a crossroads,
unable to navigate the next stretch
of the race towards oblivion.

If I should die now, it would be like
nothing was ever achieved
as man or poet.

Since there is no one to champion
my work, I should die
without recognition or prayer.

Not a single solitary murmur is enough
to denote an ending,
yet end it must

like applause in the auditorium,
bravery,
and the all-too-familiar foolish loving.

Window On Top of the World

From this window in the sky, there’s no telling
what we might learn – as we hear
the bell in St Mary’s clock tower strike 9 times over.

Above the turrets and runways, ladders and mazes
of Victorian roof top architecture,
we watch the clouds turning from red to grey

as if a great déjà-vu had taken control of our minds,
reminiscent of prophecy
written two decades ago, looking forward to death.

Do not worry, dear readers, we do not mean to die
just yet, though our death be necessary
as the passage of birds on the wing, or endless time.

Below us the thick hum of traffic tries our patience,
as if to say, ‘help your self only,
because helping others is the scourge of society.’

Now a moth has flown in through an open window,
bringing us back to a reality
where we shew the creature back into the night air.

Now only one creed speaks, despite all our efforts
at living kindly, and that is
you are not obliged to make sense, only to make love.

Being and Doing

What a to do over ‘to be,’ or, ‘to do.’
‘To be is to do,’ says Kant.
‘To do is to be,’ says Nietzsche.

To be sure, ‘We can not not be,’
any more than ‘We can not not do,’ –
both truths being told simultaneously.

You might find, then, there is nothing
much to do but ‘do-be-do-be-do.’
To be continued…

Poetry from Laurie Byro

 

Taos Tree, painted by Michael Byro

Taos Tree, painted by Michael Byro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Fox as Fey Totem

For DH Lawrence

Why does the fox that divides the grass tempt me so?
Hasn’t the black whip of the snake hardened my heart?

Left behind, I seem to have a knack for abandonment.
A coven of vixen skulks from its den, stealthy and mad

as dreams.   They are a brown crust of sleep that fades
into  red-ribbon sunrise.  These feral children summon

me;  my soul is a dark forest.  Like any forsaken creature,
I lap up my philosophy of blood.  I have no conscience:

I seek out these scarlet whores as I name my unborn children.
And you, Fox about to disappear into mist, a red gash

of autumn still asleep on my chin.   You have charmed me into
embracing my savage self. They call me the disciple of Rasputin,

the Godson of Caliban. Is love such a fiendish discipline:  my beard,
pelt red, my dog’s head throbbing scandal,  my heart drenched

in Holy wine? I am beguiled by sly brides. I have been reluctantly
corrupted.
Oh, to be surrounded  by vixen in the seductive tapestry of trees.

I have not confessed my intent, nor left my warm bed
of dreams to meet them among a sentinel of fir.  If you examine

my crooked heart, you shall see I am both beast and master,
gamekeeper and  vixen,  a rifle and a thieving fox.

 

Continue reading

Poetry from Mahbub

Blows On Me For Stealing Some Money

Once I stole some money from my father’s pocket

It was long since I had done that

At one point my father came to know the matter

He caught me seriously to be a thief

I became nervous but I denied

When I denied he became more furious and dangerous to me

Suddenly at the time of speaking with him

He started to beat me

Again I told him I didn’t

But he couldn’t believe me

And nothing could make him believe

His blows on me over body and head

Took me to the world of death

He beat with sandals and sticks

With what he got beside him

At one time I was going to die

Suddenly I confessed I took the money

He stopped beating and with his burning eye

He warned me if I would do such kind of work

In the next time he would teach me more

That I’ll never forget

How can I forget the torment, my father, you rained on me?

It was not because I took the money for any serious purpose

Only to buy any toys according to my choice

But my father took it to be otherwise

And taught me a lesson to be remembered from time to time

In life.

 

 The World To Me

 

This is the world

The world to me strictly as it is

Where we are played as a ball

Dance on the legs

Kicked to the goal posts

Directly enters into

Sometimes it is caught by the goal keepers

Sometimes the kick is missing

We are all played by the players of the world

Everybody wants to supersede on others

We perform our duty as subservient wearing the mask over

Trodden on and suppression

suffocating as well as severe humiliation

By our upper ranks and positions

It’s an uneven area

Where we fall down to walk

It’s not dark but more than dark condition

I’d not like to stay here any longer

I am a ball, not to be played

I’d  like to shift  the place

and want to live

Where love and beauty play

With the objects of nature.

Continue reading

Poetry from Michael Robinson

Saturday Love Making 
Are you kissing me?
Did I say no?
I meant to say no!
What was I thinking?
Why did I believe I could make love to you?
I’m captured by the memories of my rape.
Yes, I did say it was in my childhood.
I screamed, but no one heard it but me.
No, I cannot be with you tonight.
I will hear my own cries again.
It will shatter my own eardrums,
I will be deaf again.
I will crawl in the corner and die alone with the shouts.

Saturday Night 2004

Slowly the camera follows me across the room,

Each movement that I make is watched.

If only I could have avoided those moments of insanity,

Those moments when it was the darkest in my life.

The nurses wear those white uniforms and smile,

Only if their smiles were real then I could smile back.

One Kiss  2004

She kisses his forehead and holds his cold hands,

Tears fall down his caramel colored cheek.

Essay from Donal Mahoney

Caseworker, 1962
 
In 1962, I was a caseworker, not a social worker, in the Cabrini-Green Housing Project in Chicago. In that era, the difference between a caseworker and a social worker was simple. A social worker had a degree or two in social work and was qualified to work with the poor. A caseworker usually had a degree but not in social work. And a caseworker usually had too many clients to have time to do social work even if he or she had a social work degree and knew how to apply it. 
 
To be hired by Cook County Department of Public Aid as a caseworker in 1962, all one had to have was a degree in anything and the ability to pass a test. I passed the test and was assigned as a novice caseworker to Cabrini-Green, perhaps the “toughest” housing project in Chicago at that time. I was assigned to two high-rise buildings with 458 families. I remember their addresses as clearly today as the address of my childhood home. Some things one always remembers.

Continue reading

Cheese from Yeast: essay from Cristina Deptula

When I was growing up, a common dairy advertising jingle on the radio went, ‘Cows in Berkeley? Moooo.’

There may not be many cows around the Oakland and Berkeley area, yet there are several people involved with creating cheese at North Oakland’s Counter Culture Labs.

According to the Water Footprint Network, a global group of researchers and professionals dedicated to analyzing the world’s water use, a pound of cheese requires 381 gallons of water to produce.

Even after the Bay Area’s rainy winter, many people recognize that our state is prone to droughts. So molecular biologist Craig Rouskey and others are developing cheeses less reliant on heavy water use.

Continue reading

Short story from Mike Zone

Sam Against Time

By Mike Zone

Samuel K. Drexel stood in the hallway, facing down two doors on the second floor of the locally esteemed and moderately priced Cauliflower Hotel. Neurons bouncing around his brain like a wild pinball, trying to determine which room his wife had entered with Coach McMurphy.

Asymmetrical beads of sweat decorated half his boyish face of cut sharp fine features almost like a lady but not quite, having an Adam’s apple and all, he pondered that as he bit into his feminine lower lip but the moisture soaking into his light brown lanky hair snapped him out of it, forcing back into his calculations, factoring variable to no avail determining whether the couple had entered behind Red Door #206 or 208.

Christ, McMurphy! Coach Nicholson McMurphy. How typical, the high school football coach, former semi-pro football player turned philosophy teacher who didn’t know a thing about philosophy; stealing the math teacher’s wife. The kids would be posting this all over FaceBook, tweeting memes or whatever they instagramed; as their parents fondly reflected on the teen McMurphy and Drexel years, in which the same thing happened at least twice a year with Samuel Drexel winding up drenched in toilet water, missing his belt and one shoe but brandishing two black eyes to make up for the lack of accessories.

Continue reading

Poetry from Dave Douglas

Designed to Love You

 

I was designed to love you, but —

Betrayal arrived with my first breath;

I committed treason on a cosmic scale

And for that I must be put to death.

 

I was designed to love you —

Molded clay from which I stand,

But I destroyed your masterpiece —

From Paradise to a wasteland.

 

I was designed to love you,

So I worked to gain your favor,

Then I carved gold into a calf

And glorified in all my labor.

 

I was designed to love you,

But I left you like a prostitute,

And wallowed with the swine

Until I was stubbornly destitute.

 

I was designed to love you

But I spat slander in your face,

Pounded the nails into your hands

And disregarded your embrace.

 

I was designed to love you, and —

Although you drew me to your waters

And I followed you out of the boat,

I denied you over, and over, and over …

 

A mystery from the beginning:

I was blind to your eternal view,

But because you loved me first

I am redesigned to love you!

 

an interdisciplinary art, literary, science, cultural, and travel journal