Art by Valerie Brown-Troutt

Valerie Brown-Troutt

Current Exhibit:

January 5th – Feb 26th

La Peña Cultural Center

3105 Shattuck Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94705 USA



Whose Brain Is It? [Feb 2012 – Leena Prasad]

Whose Brain Is It?

By Leena Prasad

Presented within the flow of the lives of fictional characters, this is a monthly column with a journalist’s perspective on brain research.

Phil is moving slowly through the jungle. Is it a jungle or a banana plantation? All he sees are the tall and thick banana leaves. And why is he moving so slowly. He looks down. He is riding an animal. A bright orange animal.  Orange? That is strange. It lifts its long trunk and makes a sound.

An elephant! He is riding an elephant. What the fuck? Where is he? He must have said something out loud because a voice answers back.

Relax Phil. Enjoy the ride.

He recognizes the voice. It is his friend Lucy. Her voice calms him down. Everything must be okay.

He starts to do as she suggests and concentrates on enjoying the ride. It is pleasant really, so smooth. Elephants are gentle animals, he recalls from the Nature show he saw with Lucy a few weeks ago.

He feels a desire to lie down.

Is it okay to lie down, he says to Lucy.

Yes, you are in the backseat of car, she says. Albert is driving. He is taking us to Dolores Park.

Oh, he is in a car. Not on an elephant. The “banana” leaves are actually the palm trees along Dolores Street. The orange elephant is Lucy’s shawl sprawled on the seat near him. He was hallucinating.

It will be easier in Dolores Park, Lucy says. Since Albert lives nearby you can use his restroom or we can go to his place if you need to lie down or something.

Yes, it would be nice to be in nature. How long has it been now? He and Lucy had started the “journey” in the morning, at Lucy’s apartment in Bernal Heights. Dolores Park is not that far away from Lucy’s house. Why is it taking so long to get there?

He and Lucy are holding Albert’s hands. No. It’s Albert who is holding their hands. Unlike them, Albert is sober and is their guide. It’s his job to make sure that they are safe both physically and emotionally.

Phil stops to look at a purplish blue flower. He knows the street and the neighborhood fairly well and remembers seeing this flower before. But now he feels compelled to observe it more intimately. It’s so beautiful. He wants to gaze at every intricate detail.

Come on Phil. You have been staring at the flower for more than ten minutes now. We should head down to the park. It’s Albert, urging them on.

But look how beautiful it is, how perfect. Phil doesn’t want to move.  Albert puts a firm hand on his shoulder and starts to guide him down the steep hill to the park.

Phil stops at the corner of Church and 20th to admire the cityscape. He has seen this view countless times yet he feels as if he is seeing it for the first time.  The three of them sit down near the corner, at the crest of a hill.

Phil hears a jazz band playing not too far from where they are sitting. He looks at the band and can see the music coming towards him in beautiful improvised notes. He can see the music. How strange, he thinks.

Phil is not dreaming. He is fully conscious and will remember all the details of his experiences later when the effect of the Magic Mushrooms wears off from his system.  Magic Mushroom is a popular term for a wide variety of mushrooms that contain psilocybin, a chemical that is known to produce hallucinations and other effects.

Psilocybin is not addictive. Probably because the effects last for several hours and the experience is not all thrills and games and there is potential for dangerous side effects. Products that contain psilocybin, including the “magic” mushroom family and the synthetic drug LSD, are Schedule I illegal drugs in the United States because of the possibility of dangerous side effects.

On the other hand, psilocybin has potential benefits which researchers around the world have been studying. In 2010, scientists at Johns Hopkins conducted an experiment to examine the affect of psilocybin on cancer patients. Many patients reported relief from depression and long-term improvements in their lifestyle. One patient, Dr. Martin, rated the experience as “among the most meaningful events of his life.”

“Under the influences of hallucinogens, individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change.” This statement was made by Dr. Charles S. Grob who conducted an identical study at UCLA on cancer patients. He noted that psilocybin helps lessen the intensity of fear, panic, and depression in terminally ill patients.

Phil is not terminally ill and does not have any mental disorders. Psilocybin or any other hallucinogens are also not recommended for people with mental illness because the impact on a disturbed mind cannot be measured or controlled and could lead to serious consequences. The formal studies are conducted in regulated lab environments within the supervision of medical professionals. Phil is being guided by his friends Albert and Lucy who are experienced users of the drug. They are ensuring that his experiences stay within a “safe” zone.

But what’s going on in Phil’s mind? A lot of what’s happening is a mystery but scientists have some clue. While people often speak of psychedelic experiences as something that expands their consciousness, the fact is that psilocybin reduces blood flow in the brain. Another common experience is that of feeling more connected with nature and other people. Ironically, during the hallucinations, critical areas of perception and cognition actually show a decreased level of connectivity. This explains, however, as to why depression can be lowered by this drug. People in the throes of depression also suffer from an overactive mind. Thus, slowing down the brain can slow down this increased activity and produce a calmer frame of mind. Extrapolating from this, it makes sense for people who are not depressed to also feel happier under the influence.

This explanation of lower activity in the brain due to reduction in blood flow and connectivity was discovered in an experiment by lead researcher Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London. His team used functional MRI brain scans to observe the brain activity of thirty volunteer participants while they were under the influence of psilocybin. The researchers measured the blood flow in half the patients and in the in the other half, they measured the connectivity among different brain regions. In both cases, the posterior cingulate and the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain were affected. There was less blood flow in these areas and the connectivity between these regions and the hippocampus was reduced. In addition, the thalamus had less blood flow also.

What does this mean?

“Changes in function in the posterior cingulate in particular are associated with changes in consciousness,” per Robin Carhart-Harris.  Both the posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex are thought to be involved in functions related to self-awareness.

The thalamus regulates many functions of the brain so less blood flow to this region means less processing across the different regions.

The hippocampus plays a central role in consolidating short term memory to long-term storage. More studies will be needed to determine the implication of reduced connectivity between the hippocampus, the posterior cingulate and the medial prefrontal cortex.

While more experiments are required to fully document the details of what happens to a brain on psilocybin, scientists have discovered that the molecular structure of psilocybin is similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin which regulates mood. Thus psilocybin binds to the some of the same neuron receptors as serotonin and produces similar results. They are many legal prescription drugs that regulate serotonin. As per Franz Vollenweider of the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, it’s the long-term effects of psilocybin that are important not just the temporary altered states of participants. Even though brain connectivity is reduced in the short term, the long-term effect of the drug is to affect neural growth and connectivity, according to Vollenweider.

Other brain changes that are influenced by psilocybin are still under study and the Schedule I status of this drug complicates the research. It would be helpful to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how the brain is physiologically affected by this chemical but scientists are also studying other benefits. For example, a study by Harvard researchers Dr. R. Andrew Sewell and Dr. John H. Halpern, concluded that psilocybin is useful in reducing cluster headaches. “Our observations suggest that psilocybin and LSD may be effective in treating cluster attacks, possibly by a mechanism that is unrelated to their hallucinogenic properties. This report should not be misinterpreted as an endorsement of the use of illegal substances for self-treatment of cluster headaches.”

Phil is taking a risk in experimenting with something that is illegal and potentially dangerous. But, on the other hand, many patients in the Johns Hopkins and the UCLA studies said that their psilocybin experience was one of the most memorable and valuable events of their lives. It will probably be a while before psilocybin is used in a legal, guided, and safe environment to help people experience the levity that is often the affect of this drug. Perhaps it might become possible to safely “tune out” and feel happier and more connected to the universe. After all, there are many legal drugs like Prozac and Zoloft that have similar characteristics as psilocybin and help improve people’s lives.



Charles S. Grob, MD, et. all. “Pilot Study of Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety in Patients With Advanced-Stage Cancer.”Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(1):71-78. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116

Tierney, John. “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again.” New York Times 11 April 2010. <>

Sewell, Dr. R. Andrew MD, Halpern, Dr. John H. MD. “Response of cluster headache to psilocybin and LSD.” Neurology. June 27, 2006 66:1920-1922

Brauser, Deborah, “Psychedelic Drugs May Reduce Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, and OCD”, 25 August 2010.  <>


Please send feedback and suggestions for future columns to Links to past columns are available at and Leena’s writing portfolio is available at Leena has a journalism degree from Stanford University.

“Lost Souls” Pt. 2, by J’Rie Elliott

Lost Souls

Pt. 2

by J’Rie Elliott


“Why are you doing this to me? I know I wasn’t there for them, I…” He was not sure what he was saying; why had he not been there, did he even have a reason?  What had been so much more interesting and important than the woman who loved him and the kids he helped bring into this world?  These thoughts raced in his mind as he sat in the tattered blue recliner holding his face.  The air about him was damp and cold—chilling him to the bone and making his joints ache within him.  He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his pocket then flicked the lighter to light it—there was no spark.  He walked to the kitchen to light it from the stove and the stove would not light. “Dam it to hell!”  He gripped.  Not only was he stuck here, but he couldn’t light his smokes either.

A golden glow appeared again in the house, this time it was coming from the master bedroom; Marvin Gay was playing softly on the radio.  He walked down the hall to the back of the house to see Hannah sitting on the bed in a spectacularly sexy red full length night gown with white lace trim; candles burned on the night stands and dressers in the room.  “Wow, I’ve never seen that outfit before.  Who are you waiting on?”  He could feel the anger and the lust boiling in his body at the same time.  “Were you cheating on me?”  Hannah stood up and walked to the mirror checking her hair and her outfit; she picked up a card from the dresser—he walked up behind her and read over her shoulder—‘Happy Anniversary to my husband’.  “Oh babe, I’m sorry. I…”  She did a turn in the mirror, her eyes got big when she saw a price tag hanging from under her arm.  Hannah smiled at herself and clipped off the label.  Looking at the clock she sat down on the bed and waited and waited and waited.  Hannah fell asleep; the candles burned down to the nubs, Hannah jumped awake to the phone ringing—though it made no sound for him to hear.  Hannah spun and lifted the receiver with passion and eagerness on her face; the eagerness went away and disappointment took its place.  She nodded her head and placed the receiver back on the base; standing she walked into the bathroom and returned wearing her terry cloth robe holding her sexy night gown in her hand.  She gathered up the candles and the card and threw them into the garbage along with the gown. She dropped across the bed sobbing like a child; he raced to the side of the bed and kneeled beside her legs; he was crying at her feet.  “Baby, please listen to me, I didn’t know you had made all of these plans.  Why didn’t you tell me on the phone?  I would have come back home if I had known you were waiting on me.  Please don’t cry baby, please don’t cry.”  His pleas went unheard; Hannah was not there, this time was not there.  This moment happened twenty years ago—back when his kids were still little and Hannah still wore his ring.  The glow faded and the grayness surrounded him; he now knelt on a floor covered in dust, beside a bed that had no blankets, no warmth; there was nothing soft, warm or gentle in this room—it was just emptiness.

This shell of a man sat on the floor weeping softly, his chest heaving like that of a hurt child.  There was nothing that would stop this flow of emotions that was running down his cheeks; a lifetime of mistakes all rushed to him—the ones he knew about and even worse the ones he never knew happened.

What was taking place to him?  Was he trapped in a horrid nightmare that was vivid and yet still haunting?  He lay on the cold floor exhausted from the turmoil he was dealing with—he could not sleep. “Of course I can’t sleep.  How can I sleep in a dream?” He said to himself; but why was he not waking up?  That was when a voice other than his broke the silence in the damp, darkened room.

“You cannot wake up because you are not asleep.”  The voice boomed in the silent house.  The man jumped with a yelp and jolted up from the floor.  Standing before him was a man, a man of a nondescript race; he was neither White nor Black, Hispanic nor Asian, he appeared to be a combination of all human races.  The tone of his skin changed with his movements through the room; his facial features shifted with the movement of his head.  This gave him a chameleon likeness that added to his intensity.  The only stable thing on this man was his voice; his voice held steady and true—comforting in a way, yet terrifying.

“Who are you?” This terrified lump of a man screamed.

“The question is not who am I; but who are you?  You are a man without soul; a man who wasted the gifts that were bestowed upon him.  A man who squandered the delights given to earthly man in search of instant self-gratification, fornication, depravity, ego, pride, coward-ness and drunkenness.  You spat in the eye of every man in the Universe who unwilling lost everything they loved; every man who had to prematurely burry their wives or children; every man who prayed for the love only to find it was lost from him.  You sir need to ask who you are before you ask who I am.”  This shifting figure continued to pace back and forth across the room like a caged tiger that either had to pace or maul.  The anger in his voice had become tangible; the comforting tone was gone—it had been replaced with distain and disgust.

“I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but how dear you lecture me!”  He could not believe these words were coming out of his mouth to this creature that was walking around him; a creature that might possible have the ability to rip him limb from limb.  “Who are you to judge me?”

“Who am I to judge you?” The man creature grew from an average height to a looming nine feet tall and widened by another two feet.  His voice deepened and his eyes glowed beams of blue. “I am beyond your meager comprehension; I am the keeper of the lost souls!”  His voice echoed off the walls in the empty house and the world began to spin; he grabbed this pathetic man by the shoulders and tossed him across the spinning room, he landed, his head bouncing off of the floor. “You are to be damned! Have you not figured that out?” Spittle flew out of the creature’s mouth onto the face of this damned man.  The man’s face drained of color—from a peach cream to an ashen white; all of the strength left his legs and he stayed collapsed upon the floor.

“I’m what?” The words came out in a croak and his mouth instantly lost all moisture; his chest felt as though a lead weight was sat upon him and then pressed even harder.  He could feel his bowels loosen within him and had to physically restrain his stomach from retching up whatever was inside of it.

“You are such a pathetic little man.  What did you think, it was all a bad dream and you were going to wake up?  Even if it was a dream, what reason would you have to wake up?  You can clearly see where your life turned out—no one would want to wake up to that.  Even I would not want that, and I have been damned to have to cavort with the likes of you.”  The creature had returned to an average human size, though he was still over six feet tall.  He rolled his neck as though to stretch the muscles; a grinding crunching sound came from him as though his bones were crushed within his flesh.  His face shifted with every tilt and rotation.

“What is going to happen to me now?”  The ashen faced man said looking at the dirty floor beneath him.  The creature gestured his hands through the air; the room turned gold and warm again, the furniture was back and new, the air smelled like fresh washed linens.  It was his home again, his home the way it was when he walked out on it.

“You have been judged and you have been sentenced; not by me, but by him.”

“Him, who is him?”

“Him, God, the Great Spirit, Allah, whatever name you call him, He is the judge.  Everyone’s hell or damnation is different.”  The creature said his voice still stable though certainly not comforting. “A man by the name of Dante said there were nine circles of hell…he did not count high enough.  Each sin we cast makes a mark, each of these marks add up to a story.  You are looking at my damnation; in my life I was what your culture term a racist.  I hated anyone from another place, anyone another color; I was a misogynist who thought women were only for my amusement.  I was a deceitful, detestable man.  Now I am doomed to be all races, both sexes and I have to keep the lost souls.  I am never at rest I am always in pain; I must endure the emotional pain I inflicted on people as physical pain.”  The creature rotated his neck again making that horrid noise.  “That is my hell, this is yours.”

“What about the devil?”  He asked trying not to look at the shifting face and skin before him.

“That’s not for you to understand, nor for me to explain.  What you are to know is that you are to watch all of you mistakes.  The ones you made by your carelessness, your lust, your self love.  You will spend eternity watching and reliving; they will be alive and warm, you will be cold and in pain.  You will never eat, you will never sleep, and it will never stop.  Every vision will be new to you as every cycle you will forget and have to relive the pain fresh each time.  Eternity is a long time…what was your name?”

“Joseph Trilonnie” he uttered.

“Joseph Trilonnie, you will never hear your name again, you will only hear what the visions let you hear; you will be alone with the ghost of your past and the past with your family that you squandered.  I will stay with you through this one last memory, and then you will be alone.”


Click here to read Part 1 of Lost Souls.

J’Rie Elliott is a poetess and ongoing contributor of Synchronized Chaos. To contact her, send an email to

Book review: “StretchyHead” by Ian Tuttle

 Stories to Sip with Your Amuse-bouche

A book review by Christopher Bernard

This beautifully designed little book is based on a thoroughly charming premise: to offer brief stories, vignettes, anecdotes, sketches, set in eateries and boozeries in and around San Francisco, from Minx to Delirium, from Gott’s Roadside and Nomad’s Kitchen to the Yellow Submarine and the Little Spot Cafe.

The original idea seems to have been to write a different kind of restaurant review: one that paid almost no attention to such mundane matters as quality of cuisine, friendliness of service, or stylishness of ambience, but instead plunked down characters entirely imagined (one supposes!) in locations identified only by name and nearest major intersection, and let them have at one another in love, lust, convivial competition, or long-planned revenge: to create dramatic, romantic, satirical or sentimental “fictional stories in real places.”

At Vesuvio, a young man, between quaffs of a nameless spirit, practices damage control over a failed romance, writing a last love letter in the shadows of the old Beats’ North Beach watering hole. At Radio Habana Social Club, a saintly schizophrenic delivers an incoherent exhortation to a warmly bleary reception in the Mission’s tiny gem of a restaurant bar, while not far away, at Shotwell’s, a trio of gazillionaire geeks blackball the brew pub beize. At Soma’s Bar Agricole, a failed date encounters a successful marriage, proving that jealousy and resentment do not a successful evening make, while in the Financial District’s Boxed Foods Company, a young female exec-wannabe is eyed by two financial sharks way, way too into Pilates and commodities and asset destruction, and across the Bay, at Mill Valley’s Depot Bookstore and Café, an older man contemplates his newly acquired loneliness as he slowly constructs, one word at a time, the acrostic of the rest of his life.

Some of the stories are first-person anecdotes, some third-person shaggy-dog stories, some brief but penetrating glimpses into the hearts of those ordinary-looking people sitting at the second table down from you. Most of them last no more than a couple of smoothly turned pages. There is humor, there is insight, there is lots of satire, and there are moments of genuine poetry, as when the young husband at Noeteca whose wife has sacrificed her musical career to help him make partner in his law firm, fails in a sweet gesture whose greatest value, nevertheless, lay in its intent.

And Tuttle has a definite way with a phrase:

“Wood, bare, like inside skin, and wine. Kyle watches his four ladies not drink, just tap nails against the jars. The obscure bottle recommended, expensive, boutique. He drinks, even though they won’t, out of his own mason jar.”

This from a story set, benignantly, in a wine bar called Heart where a newly liberated, divorce-bound husband hangs with a quartet of available lovelies between a Turkish red and his new scarlet car.

The little volume is a lovely piece of bookmaking too, with witty illustrations by Jason Toney―not much larger than a passport, it’s pocket-portable to the nearest café.

Leslie Sbracco, you’ve got company. PBS’s “Check Please, Bay Area” and StretchyHead could, between them, make a poem of every night by the Bay.



By Ian Tuttle

Portuguese Artists Colony Books

Christopher Bernard is a San Francisco writer, founding editor of Caveat Lector magazine, and author of A Spy in the Ruins.

Book review: “Not Exactly Haiku” by Leena Prasad

[Reviewed by Nicole Arocho]

Leena Prasad’s Not Exactly Haiku is a book that was developed through an innovative route, and the results are just that, very fresh and different from anything else out there. Haiku is defined (in as “[a] Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.” Prasad utilizes this art form freely, without restricting herself so much with its technicality but focusing her efforts in the usage of nature as a metaphor and the short length of traditional haikus.

The author created the “haikus” that compose this book through a Twitter account (@notexactlyhaiku). Prasad would post her original pieces and people would retweet them, encouraging her to put them together in this book. Thus, this book was Prasad’s creative effort, but the tweets made the haikus known through social media before getting published in Not Exactly Haiku. This concept of using social media to promote literature is fascinating and shows how the industry is changing with the boom of social media and online publications complementing or replacing printed books.

The drawings on these haikus embellish the pages, but, more profoundly, they complement the authors’ metaphorical ideas on life. When I read the first haiku, titled “ants”, I could see that this compilation was going to be a very poetic journey through the mysterious ways our minds process what happens everyday. The author writes a neuroscience column for this same magazine, and I can see how her perspective on such matter has influenced her writing and rewriting of these haikus. Most of the haikus are pretty straightforward with their message, but some others mean more than what we perceive in the first reading. Such is the case of “grass is greener”: “some days the grass/ is greener, in my yard/ but, i do not see”. When I first read it, I thought it was simply talking of how season change and how that can reflect in our moods and such. But, as I read it again, I could gather the whole nature of the haiku. The grass represents our interior world; our souls, our hearts, our deepest desires and wishes, our knowledge, while the yard is the exterior world; our bodies, the people around us, nature, civilization. When our interior, the “grass”, is at its height, sometimes we are blinded by what is happening in the outside world (the “yard”) and its pressures and tribulations, such as stress, work, frustrations, depressions and many other variables out of our control. This way, we forget how truly amazing each of us are in our own unique way, and let the world get the best of us.

These drawings sometimes even changed the meaning of the haikus. This happened with “clouds”: “clouds hovering/the sky holds its breath/ before the storm”. After one read, this haiku was talking of a general idea of the moment before a problem comes to our lives, where everything is alright, but there are some signs of the “storm” coming to descend upon us. But the drawing is that of a pregnant woman with a man touching her belly while looking at the woman’s face. This made me as the reader focus on one event in life (pregnancy) that is the pre-event of childbirth and raising children, both of which can bring difficulties and problems to the parents. What the author couldn’t say with the haikus because of their minimalistic nature, she expressed through these sketches.

It is interesting how the author doesn’t use any capital letters in her writing. As a poet myself, it is a stylistic approach I can relate to, and that, aesthetically, gives the haikus a feel of continuity and impreciseness that heightens the effect of shortness that characterize these pieces.

Leena Prasad still has her Twitter account running, where you can read her latest haikus and retweet them, and a Facebook page to discuss them in order to continue on this literary effort.


You can contact the reviewer, Nicole Arocho, at

Leena Prasad recently wrote an iPhone app which was inspired by Not Exactly Haiku. The app is currently available for 99 cents at



Book review: “Defining the Edge Between Truth and Madness” by Wade Alexander

[Reviewed by Bruce Roberts]

Wade Alexander has had a rough life. From the book jacket mentioning his alcoholic parents, to the forward by his wife, loosely chronicling their tempestuous, up and down relationship, to the numerous allusions in his poems to fighting, cheating, lying, abusing, etc., it’s obvious his life has not been easy.

In fact, if the old standard of poetry as therapy is to be believed, Alexander has written 200 pages of intense, self-illuminating, self-healing poems, and probably feels the better person for it.

Certain themes recur over and over throughout the poems, all laid out with the great feeling that comes from conflict: Strength versus weakness, truth versus lies, life versus death, love versus pain, reality versus illusion–all common here. True, after 200 pages of recurring themes, in recurring style, the poetry tends to blur together. But taken individually, Alexander has some very interesting and insightful poems.

Besides poems, nearly every page ends with a brief spark of philosophy, of wisdom, set off by space and italics. Sometimes these sayings follow up on the previous poem, sometimes not. For example, (p.170) “Look up and to no others./the sky is always yours.” Or on 187, “The tears we cry today/Water our growth tomorrow.” Amid poems mostly focused on the glass as half-empty, these pithy philosophies often provide the balance of a glass also half-full.

Most of Alexander’s work rhymes. The problem with dependence on rhyme is that the rhymes sometimes have to be coerced to carry out the meaning. Rhymes should be so natural, so smooth, that they are barely noticed by an intent reader who’s absorbing the meaning. When they get forced and a little awkward, then probably the meaning is too. On page 153, for example, “The reason that grew from such denial/Gave way to the Truth, it was quite a pile.” “Pile” and “denial”? Pile of what? The smoothness and vitality of the rhymes here is erratic.

At times, Alexander seems like a true Christian, knowing that all his earthly pain will be transcended when he’s with God in Heaven. (God save us all! p.145)  Other times though, his religion reverts to older, polytheistic beliefs, referring openly to “the Gods” as in charge of life. “Do the Gods look down sad for what/They have done [?]” (p. 148) Perhaps another conflict in the author’s life.

The bottom line here though is that throughout 200 pages of intense writing, Alexander is wildly in love with his wife:

When I am gone,

I will live in the waves that

Kiss the beach forever

Or the wind that cools your face,

The sunset that stops your worries,

And the sun that warms your heart.

(p. 157)

And when he writes of that love—without rhymes, he writes his best poetry.


Bruce Roberts is a poet and ongoing contributor to Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Roberts may be reached by at








Book review: “Defining the Edge Between Truth and Madness” by Wade Alexander

[Reviewed by Katherine Merriweather]

Poetry is usually a quick read for me. The books I pick are slim. When I got ahold of this book, it was nearly 200 pages. Stunned, I wondered what I could be getting into.

This collection, a love story written during a time of struggle, led me into its universe and didn’t want to let me go.

In the forward, Wade Alexander’s wife, Mara, tells the reader that although their marriage was good from the start, life issues began to take their toll and a hell that spanned two and a half years was the hardest.  Mara withdrew during that time to shield herself from the pain. Wade began writing poems to reach out to her and to heal himself from his own mental suffering. The collection presented is the result of that time.

Wade’s words carry a deep message in seemingly simple verses about love, loss, life, and the Universe. I felt that some poems were quite Zen (such as “Quiet Your Mind” and “Life Is A Riddle”). Enthralled by the melancholy, sometimes tortured work, I took his book everywhere, reading a few pages when I had the time. I found myself re-reading the book as I found this collection therapeutic because I was also going through a love struggle.

I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of poetry, and to those going through a hard time, romantically or not.


You can contact the reviewer, Katherine Merriweather, at