Synchronized Chaos, November 2012: Senses and Emotions

Welcome, readers, to the November 2012 issue of Synchronized Chaos! Our pieces for this month vary widely in format—ranging from poetry to prose pieces to visual art to literary criticism to performance reviews—but they share a focus on human senses and emotions. With the five senses, we perceive the world around us, while the emotional response represents our reaction to these observations; let’s see what our contributors have to say about these vital elements of the human soul…

An absolutely unforgettable sensory experience comes from Justus Honda, whose prose piece “Sound Man” involves one person’s lifelong search for an elusive noise. Be sure to investigate this tale, with its truly original premise and its superb portrayal of the protagonist’s sense of longing. Moving from the audible to the tactile, Avi Hoen’s poem “Lazy” features a similarly detailed and evocative set of descriptions: it recounts the sensations (and lack of sensations) felt by the narrator, who walks barefoot through a stark and litter-filled cityscape.

A wide variety of the senses play a role in another of our prose pieces for this issue, Luca Foggini’s “Pavement Ends.” In this work, a haunting description of a deserted town, the atmosphere is conveyed through the sights of empty buildings and discarded garbage, the sounds of bells and tires, and the feelings of hot asphalt and cold snow.

Of course, any great concert is bound to feature an interesting variety of sounds; this issue features a review of just such a show. As Synchronized Chaos editor Cristina Deptula describes, the Tom Sway Orchestra’s performance at the Mission District’s StageWerx Theatre contained an excellent array of styles, ranging from jazz to bluegrass to the realm of fantasy (including one song about a car-stealing mermaid!). A different but equally brilliant and meaningful sort of sound can be found at the many poetry slams around the Bay Area, and Christopher Romaguera covers two of them–the Berkeley and Oakland Slams–for this issue.

You might start to exercise your sense of sight in a new way after looking at the work of artist Frédéric Choisel. “Vertical Horizons,” a set of six pieces, takes the ordinary skylines of New York City and reinterprets them into new, more vibrant images; he accurately points out that his work conveys “an impression of something beyond human scale.”

Kwesi TerboLizard, who contributes the poem “Stop” to this issue, also uses the sights of the modern city as a springboard for some fascinating work. In Kwesi’s piece, the colorful radiance of red and green stoplights serves as a metaphor for the struggles of the protagonist to stay on pace with the surrounding world.

Another source of visual fascination is the work of artist Michael Dickel, whose bright colors, unusual settings, and impressionistic designs are a veritable feast for the senses. In addition to his three artistic pieces in this issue, Michael also contributes a set of four exquisitely-crafted poems which explore the emotions of love, despair, and desire.

Let’s take a look at some of our other emotion-related pieces. This month’s installment of Leena Prasad’s column Whose Brain Is It? investigates political beliefs—which often seem to be among the most passionate and emotion-based elements of a person’s psyche—and lays bare the little-known physical factors which lie under our ideological choices.

The emotion of anger is represented by poet Raj Dronamraju, whose works express harsh but justifiable criticisms of the hatred, prejudice, and shallowness of modern society. His new book of poems, Travels with the Anti-Johnny Appleseed, is reviewed by Bruce Roberts in this issue. Bruce also has one of his own poetic compositions for us this month, and it brings us into a very different emotional world: “Pelican Ballet” describes a unique natural sight—the beautiful, almost-synchronized movement of the particular birds—with a sense of awe and exhilaration.

Yet another side of the great range of human emotions can be found in J’Rie Elliott’s poem “The Cowboy and His Lady Love,” a memorable and powerful love story whose conclusion will definitely bring a lump to many readers’ throats. And J’Rie also contributes a short story in a very different vein–“Dream Girl,” a memorable tale of fear and sudden shock.

Like love, hope is one of the most important human emotions–it allows us to get through each day and maintain a vision for a better tomorrow. Natalie (Neco) Haviland, who has been imprisoned for some time under California’s Three Strikes law, conveys an inspiring sense of hope in her essay “Coffee in My Cup”; in spite of the suffering which she’s endured, she continues to think positively and is working to improve the lamentable conditions of the state’s justice system. A similar sense of hopeful inspiration comes from Kim Brown, whose prose piece “Imagine a Woman” urges its readers to live life to the fullest while maintaining a sense of self-respect, courage, and love.

Several of our other poetic pieces for this issue deal with emotional subjects. Regular contributor Sam Burks weighs in with “A Simple Matter” and “What Bridge?” which have a well-evoked tone of wistfulness and underlying determination, and Ria Burman contributes “Snap! We’re All the Same” and “The Woman in the Wind”—the latter of which features a memorable exploration of emotional sympathy and human interrelationships.

The artwork of Doug Beube—which includes honey-covered Bibles, reshaped world maps, and books turned into facsimiles of bombs—seems designed to provoke an emotional response, and reviewer Kelly Munoz admits to some initial shock from her initial encounter with his work. Yet, as she points out, his art (collected in his book Breaking the Codex) has quite a few layers of deeper meaning, and he conveys some vital truths about the current societal attitudes towards books, art, and the power of the written word.

Swedish playwright August Sternberg (1849-1912) is renowned for his five pioneering chamber plays written in the early twentieth century, and the entire quintet is currently being performed at San Francisco’s Cutting Ball Theater. As reviewer Christopher Bernard points out, the plays delve deeply into the love and hate which characterize human emotions, but it’s also important to examine the actors and the emotions which they instill in the audience members.

Closing the issue on a note of pensiveness and quiet humor, we have Hazel Mankin’s microfiction piece “Matches,” which features beautiful descriptive writing as well as a particularly unusual idea from the mind of the narrator.

We hope you enjoy this month’s issue of Synchronized Chaos! As always, feel free to leave comments for the contributors; if you’re interested in submitting some of your work to the magazine, please send it over to

Art from Michael Dickel

Mediterranean Sunset, Israel


Garden of Mind



Michael Dickel’s prize-winning poetry, stories, & photographs have appeared in journals, books, & online—including: Sketchbook, Zeek, Poetry Midwest, Neon Beam, why vandalism?, & Poetica Magazine. He lives and works in Jerusalem at the moment. His latest book of poems is Midwest / Mid-East: March 2012 Poetry Tour (

“Stop”: A poem by Kwesi TerboLizard


by Kwesi TerboLizard


the light turned red
and they ran ahead of me
as they slipped into tomorrow
no one looked back and they ran
while my heels were still glued to the curb
while I waited at the light for eternity
racing past midnight
they sank out of sight
the gap between us growing wider until
the light turned green
and I ran, too
chasing after them
even though they wouldn’t stop
and then the light turned red again and
catching up was out of the question.

Poetry from Sam Burks

“A Simple Matter”

Where is home?
I want to know,
when will these foggy windows
look out upon a familiar road?
One that I
have never seen
save for in the fleeting
of dreams


“What Bridge?”

I have seen
different lights,
strange reflections,
distorted by shifting winds
the crossroads over
the currents,
the stepping stone
upon the shaking ground

I have lived
and I
have died
at these crossroads
I have burned every bridge
and danced within the smiles
shimmering with the reflected
fading, and quickly lost

I still dance
for the sake
of those lost grins

I still dream-
too vividly at times-
of those lost directions
and missed connections

I still smile
even though I
have lost it all

and west

I still cross the bridges
even though
they are gone


Sam Burks is from the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, and can be reached at

Poetry Review: Bruce Roberts on Raj Dronamraju’s Travels with the Anti-Johnny Appleseed


While teaching 7th grade for 35 years,  I would tell my students, “I’m such an optimist, even my blood type is B positive”—which it is.  Raj Dronamraju, author of a book of poetry, Travels with the Anti-Johnny Appleseed, probably could not make that claim, if his book is any indication of his world view.

He states in his introduction that his poems are not necessarily autobiographical, though points in his life are referenced often.  And of course voice in poetry, like a novel or short story,  should not be assumed to be the author. That said,  the speaker of these poems puts forth a consistently negative, cynical, depressing view of modern life—one that is full of truth, yet does not tell the whole story.  Glass half full?  Glass half empty?  As with all complex ideas—and life is truly complex—it’s probably both. This book presents only one side of the story-a legitimate side, but only one, nonetheless.

This book is divided into three sections—Past, Present, and Future. In “The Past,” the speaker is mainly a victim.   Bullying,  discrimination,  rejection in romance,  parental divorce and resentment—all negative forces shape the speaker’s outlook. The book begins, “I can only begin to tell you/Of the living ordeal I have gone through. . . .” and, immediately, a poetic litany of life’s offenses against him begins.

“The Present” section is rabidly anti-American. “Hollywood Bad Guys” speculates on America’s reaction if 9/11 had occurred there instead of New York.  “There would have been cheering and crying/But of a different kind/ Because deep down inside people hate Hollywood/Hollywood reinforces the most negative aspects of America.”  (Ironically,so do these poems.) In “Sick, Sick America,” he laments that “America makes me want to take a hot shower and scrub my skin/thoroughly until it is red and irritated.” He ends  “Empire of Gluttony,” with “Ugly, obese America/I will melt your fat down/And make candles out of it/To light the way to a better world,” ironically one of the most positive comments in the book.

The title poem,“Travels with the Anti-Johnny Appleseed,” comes from the last section, “The Future.”  Like the other poems it is a doomsday tirade.   Instead of apples,  the voice rides in his backpack, watching as this modern Johnny  “plant[s] seeds of hatred.”  Everywhere he went, “. . . . up sprung distrust, fear, class divisions, racial prejudice.”  In “The Golden Age of Knowing Nothing,” the voice boasts “You can’t convince me of anything that is not scripture based/When dogma and ignorance meet up with anger/It’s like a drunk behind the wheel of a car.”

By now you might think this is a terrible book.  Not so. In its own negative way, it’s a brilliant book.  All of the problems excoriated here exist. American people can be fat, stupid,  blindly religious, greedy, conforming, corrupt, prejudiced, bullying, intolerant, shallow, hypocritical,  and on and on.   And using echoing refrains, strong metaphors, and jarring descriptions,  the author has laid all of these undesirable character traits bare—as they deserve.

But where is the positive side of life?  Where is the perception that this  rambling indictment is only one side of the coin?  Where are “Children’s faces/looking up/holding wonder like a cup?” (Sara Teasdale) The last poem, “Outdoors,” offers a glimmer of hope:  “Turn off the television/Turn off the stereo/The iPod gets locked in a drawer/The Internet will not be surfed today/. . . .I can feel the sun cut through the cold air/. . . . I see others out and about/Filled with an energy/That speaks well of humanity.”

Despite Raj Dronamraju’s  persistent dissection of life’s problems— no, they’re not just America’s problems—he’s perceptive and articulate; he thinks “outside the box!”   And that’s exactly why he’s able to attack life’s ills.  He’s able to distance himself from the mainstream and analyze it’s inconsistencies.  And that’s why he should be read.

Bruce Roberts

October, 2012

Bruce Roberts, who may be reached at, is an accomplished sculptor and schoolteacher from Hayward, California. 

“Vertical Horizons”: Art from Frédéric Choisel

Chrysler Building No. 1


Chrysler Building No. 2


Lexington No. 2






Post Street


Frédéric Choisel offers the following artist’s statement:

My aim is to elevate the commonplace to a heightened perspective through this series of six abstracted urban landscapes. Inspired by New York City, the “beautiful monster,” I slowly developed a sense of place and time on large works on paper through the use of multiple layers of graphite, charcoal, shellac, ink and pastels.

Our familiar horizons vanish in a metropolitan city and our eyes become accustomed to moving upward in search of ground. Depicting the passages of light that provide a sense of balance in an urban setting, with an impression of something beyond human scale, I call these pieces “Vertical Horizons.”

“Coffee in My Cup”: An essay by Natalie (Neco) Haviland

Coffee in my Cup

by Natalie (Neco) Haviland

I have always believed that without adversity we would have no victories. When challenges arise in our lives, it is yet another opportunity for a victory. The greater the challenge, the greater is your victory. I learned this the hard way, and am hopeful I won’t need many more lessons on this matter.


It was these lessons and challenges that taught me a unique lesson in gratitude. Up until ten years ago, I lived a fairly normal life. I went to college and studied biological sciences. I raised my children on my own, working full time and hustling cars on the side. I made a fair living, between middle and upper middle class. My family wanted for nothing material, and our activities included camping, fishing, and traveling through California on various adventures. My ultimate goal was to create as many good and wonderful memories for my children as I possibly could.


As a family we did a lot of cooking, baking and canning of our own fruits, salsas, jams, jellies and chutneys. We would scavenge yard sales for mason jars, and assorted treasures, and really enjoy all life had to offer.


In one brief moment, my life changed. One bad decision, or perhaps a series of bad decisions, led me to a prison cell. It appeared to me that my life had pretty much ended at age forty. Because of California’s Three Strikes law, I faced a sentence of fifty years to life, because I had a past felony conviction when I was eighteen. Because I faced so much time in prison, I was held in a lockdown cell for security. I would exist in this cell 23 and a half hours a day for a period of 14 months. I was allowed a daily shower, a phone call, and on only a handful of occasions I was led to a concrete box without a roof for yard time. I was blessed just to go to court. As I was transported from the facility holding me to the County Superior Court, I was able to look around and see things such as trees, plants, streets, cars, an occasional dog, tract of homes. Just stuff, anything but the concrete walls, metal doors and wool blankets.


Inevitably, depression and a sensation of low self worth were a constant struggle during this time. I was mourning the loss of my family. While I felt very guilty about what I’d done, I also mourned my life in general. I would no longer be able to go out back and have a cup of coffee in the morning air, or eat ice cream in the evening before bed. I couldn’t see my children off to school, or share a meal with them and tell them I loved them every day. I missed my minivan and the music I’d listen to as I drove around running errands. I even missed washing dishes, folding laundry, and vacuuming. I missed my life.


My mind was spinning at about ninety miles per hour, while my body was pretty much shut down. I sought answers, hope and wisdom from the scriptures. I begged God to help me, to save me, and not to let this terrible thing happen to me. I did not realize that it had already happened, and I was in this. I’d one day learn to suck it up, and keep pushing. It is what it is, and I would learn to accept life on life’s terms, and pray continuously.


It took a little time, but I learned to acquire little things. I bought from the commissary, and had coffee in my cup. To sit and enjoy a hot cup of coffee is a good thing. It is a moment in time to be savored, and held onto for as long as it lasts. A good book is something to be experienced and cherished. Just to have the time in the day or evening to read something I relish. Those times in particular were very special, as I would get lost in the story. I traveled to countries I may never see in my physical life, but I’ve been there and I watched as story after story unfolded before me. I walked in the sand on beaches in Mexico and even sat in the mess hall of a nuclear submarine. I escaped my harsh reality and lived a little. The self-empowering books written by ministers, professors, doctors and psychiatrists helped me to establish some coping skills.


In all that was happening, I learned to be so very grateful for everything. I did have my prayers change from please God help me, to sincere gratitude that I still had eyes to see the good in all things and most people. The unique circumstance of living with absolutely nothing completely changes one’s perspective of things. Everything people take for granted every day has become cherished and valued in such a dramatic way. Living in a concrete box with very little human contact will lead you to a greater appreciation for anyone, even your coworker who simply never shuts up, or the family member who is always so critical and discouraging. Even they all have qualities you will miss. You can only sit staring at a wall for so long. One can only enjoy the quality time alone, briefly, before you begin to overthink things and become hypercritical of yourself. I spent a lot of time thinking, oh I should have done this, or I shouldn’t have done that. Situations repeated over and over in my mind, continuously reminding me that I’m not exactly the sharpest tool in the drawer. I learned I lacked some basic life skills, mostly in communication and managing my emotions. While life was beating me down, I’d managed to find ways to beat myself up emotionally even more.


During this time, I was also being sexually harassed by one of the officers who would somehow find time alone with me. He took full advantage of my low self esteem and broken spirit. He’d have his way with me, and then let me shower before locking me back in my cell. My head, and my heart were too far gone to even think of reporting him or realizing the severity of the situation. Every day during this trial, I would consider, plan, and contemplate suicide. I saw no possible way to recover and had no desire to awaken each morning.


One morning I awoke and decided I just couldn’t do another day like this. I took several razor blades I’d been collecting and began cutting. It was so gross and messy that i decided to swallow all the blades and start doing jumping jacks to get them moving to do their damage. I ate 12 in all, snapped them in half and downed them with a cup of coffee. I told God I was sorry but I gotta go. I started doing jumping jacks over and over. I did sets of 50ish until the cops came over the speaker in my cell telling me my attorney was there to visit me. I was kind of stunned by the visit and the timing. I went in and saw a woman who represented my court appointed public defender. She claimed she was there to get me out of that place. I was again stunned. My public defender had told me I was going to do life in prison. She now had hope to offer. I told her it was too late. I already got myself out. She asked me to explain myself, and thinking there was nothing to be done, I told her straight up what I’d done and that I was really okay with it. She pretty much freaked out as I calmly explained this. She ran for the officers to get me medical attention. I was stripped naked and placed in a rubber cell with a blue quilt cover to hide my nakedness. The rubberized cell contained a hole in the floor for restroom use. Again I did my jumping jacks. I kept wondering, and worrying, if perhaps I were going to hell for taking my own life. I kept waiting to feel something other than cuts in my throat or on my arm. I expected blood from my rectum or mouth or something. I waited for the pain. I was exhausted from the emotional drama and the jumping jacks. A doctor came to the door to see me. Everyone wanted to know why. My simple reply was, “Duh! My life sucks!” It was a matter of choice, fifty to life or razor blades for breakfast. Well pass me another shaver please. The taxpayers should be pleased. I saved them close to half a million dollars. I can rationalize anything.


Needless to say, I’d hit rock bottom. The doctors said that I’d be fine, and I was. I was devastated that nothing happened. No internal damage, no cutting, no bleeding, nothing. The razors had processed through, and even x-rays revealed absolute nothing. I lost a few pounds from the jumping jacks, and a lack of food, however, I was completely normal.


My public defender took me to court to tell the judge presiding over my case that he no longer wished to represent me. I was given a court appointed attorney and remained in isolation until I showed some signs of life. It was these severe circumstances that fostered a unique perspective in my life. I still believe that I have seen the worst moments in my life. I have been through hell on earth and I have experienced life’s worst. Praise God that no matter what life may bring from here on out, I should be able to endure it easily. That is a truly wonderful experience to have. Nothing much could be worse than what I have already endured.


I praise God daily for everything. In the mornings I praise God for another day of life. I should have been dead. I’ve had a dozen encounters with near death experiences and yet I am alive and well. I am healthy and strong. I celebrate life and have truly learned to live, not merely exist.


I have a job to go to every day. I praise God for that. I didn’t enjoy the sewing factory job here very much, but I still prayed and praised God for a chance to get out of my cell and do something productive with my time. I was grateful to earn 40 cents per hour to help pay for coffee, hygiene products and goodies. At the end of the month I receive 60-75 dollars. Mind you, I don’t pay rent, utilities, phone, cable, water, etc … I have humble needs and my meager wages cover that. Thank you, Jesus!


My cell has a window. I can not only see outside, but I can crank it open, and get fresh air. I praise God for my window, air, and even the harsh metal screen that keeps the insects out. Most prison cells have no window, while others may have a four foot by eight inch window with chicken wire. All air is recycled and pumped through vents that are not cleaned and maintained regularly. Some people live year after year in such conditions.


I figure if I had to go to prison and serve so many years, that I am so very grateful I came to this place. This is the best of all California women’s prisons. I am blessed beyond words to have come here where I see, and can walk barefoot on grass. Trees, flowers, bushes, and animals surround these grounds. In the other women’s penitentiaries I saw, sadly, very little signs of nature. I am grateful to see a dog walk by and see cats hunting squirrels and gophers. I find all these things to be peaceful and fulfilling to my soul. For these things I give thanks unto God.


I praise God for sunshine on my face. After months and months of dark, dank cells, I can appreciate sunlight and even a cold overcast morning. After so many months of darkness, I was sentenced and transported to the State Prison in Chowchilla, California. It only took three hours of sun exposure for me to get sun poisoning. My face became swollen and distorted within eighteen hours, and I was taken to the medical clinic for observation. I had up until that point never heard of sun poisoning. I’ve always loved my fun in the sun, regardless of the many warnings of harmful effects of excess sun exposure. Despite the slight scarring from the burn I received to my forehead that fateful day, I still relish my moments out in the sun. I love that I can go outside daily. I hardly notice that I am in a large cage. I’ve been so grateful to just not be in a cardboard box all day, every day.


My heart aches for those men and women who still live in such a way. Our men are treated so inhumanly. They live up to 10-20 years in such conditions.They are taunted and tormented by many of the guards and fellow inmates, given a cold shower two or three times a week, and their mail and phone privileges are used as forms of torment. Bear in mind that after this is done, these men are given $200 and released back into society, expected to become productive, successful citizens.


My heart truly bleeds for my fellow human beings, and this knowledge brings me to my knees frequently. Not just for mercy for them, but in the most sincere and reverent appreciation for my own circumstances.


No matter where my life may take me, nor what may come and go in my path, I will always remember that it could be worse. I could be in prison in Indonesia, Mexico or some other country where rape, starvation, and harsh weather are the norm. I thank my lord Jesus that I am here. Praise God I have a parole date. Glory be to God the Father that he poureth out wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things, though He Himself is surrounded by light. (Daniel 2: 21-22)


I will always lift my cup towards heaven and praise God for coffee in my cup, sunshine on my face, fresh air in my lungs, and all the good things in every circumstance and every person.


I can honestly say today that I’m grateful to have had this experience. I’ve learned so much about life, God and myself. I’ve experienced the worst of life, and circumstances, and seen the worst of humanity. The Jesus inside of me taught me to learn, to see, to believe, and now to write, to share these experiences in order to inspire others.


I am currently working on a manuscript called, “Prisons are a Crime.” It details the injustices of our current justice system, however, it speaks even more of worse prisons we experience in our lives. Prisons of depression, anger, addiction, poverty, and so much more. It should go to print in 2014, as I am still housed in a physical prison and am property of the State of California.


I wish to help anyone stuck in prisons. Any form of prison. I will seek and fight for freedom and justice until I leave this earth, all the while with an attitude of gratitude, sunshine on my face, and coffee in my cup.


I am humbled that you took the time to read my little story. I am thankful to and for you. God bless you abundantly.


Natalie (Neco) Haviland


Natalie may be reached at Natalie Neco Haviland #X00256 DOB: 4/17/61 

16756 Chino Corona Rd EB 526 Corona, CA 92880-9508 and looks forward to reconnecting with her family, continuing to write, advocating for others, and celebrating the great outdoors upon her release.