Synchronized Chaos January 2017: Life’s an Elevator, We are Merely Passengers

Happy New Year! Many folks are glad to throw off the miasma of 2016 and thrust headlong into a new calendar year, while others hesitate, nervous about the vast unknown that is 2017.

Christopher Bernard kicks off this issue with a review of San Francisco’s 13th Floor Theater Company’s show Next Time I’ll Take the Stairs, which seems to be a cacophony of amusing tales by fanciful characters all stuck in an elevator. This reminds our editor of our own publication, and I now introduce several other contributions by fellow ‘passengers.’

Rui Carvalho describes a graphic novel by André Oliveira (writer) and graphic designer Joana Afonso. The piece, Living Will, fits in with the New Year theme as it’s about an older man mourning his lost spouse and resolving to restore what’s broken or incomplete in his life.

J.J. Campbell’s poetry brings us a mixture of vulnerability  and determination, fragility and resilience, loss and hope. Like Andre and Joana’s character Will, his speakers are worn down by loss and deprivation of various sorts, unsure about themselves, but never quite give up on fixing their situations.

J.K. Durick gives us his take on manhood in older age, describing a group of men who talk together, attend to their physical comforts, and reminisce about the past. In his prose poem, written as a story-like character sketch, we hear the men’s vague recollection that they wrote pieces and accomplished something in their younger days.

Jaylan Salah interviews Spanish film director Giovanna Ribes, who made an appearance at the Cairo Film Festival, about her new movie The Family: Dementia. This black and white piece, infused with the director’s personal memories, conveys the gradual deterioration of an old man’s mind, the sensory experiences that ground him to physical reality as long as possible, and the tension his condition provokes in his family between remembering him how he was and interacting with him as he has become.

Tony Nightwalker LeTigre, past editor of this publication, contributes a personal essay exploring the intersection between his unconventional lifestyle and his political activism. Sometimes survival itself can be a revolutionary act.

Tony also continues these themes in a collection of poetry, prose, lyrics and artwork entitled ‘Old Town Tony’ describing his experiences outside mainstream society in Portland, Oregon.

Jaylan Salah interviews Lebanese film director Selim Mourad, creator of This Little Father Obsession, a tale of a young gay man’s coming to terms not just with his own identity in a traditional society, but with what it means to be part of a family and to find older masculine role models and interpret the role of fatherhood in a way that makes sense in his life.

Donal Mahoney recollects his friendship with a Muslim colleague, how they were able to laugh and joke with only the regular awkwardness of social faux pas before the world political situation imposed another level of separation into people’s lives. Like the protagonist of Selim Mourad’s film and Tony Nightwalker LeTigre’s essay, Donal and his friend Mohammed are ordinary people figuring out their lives, in retrospect in their case, within a broader background framework of political and social relationships and tensions.

Mahbub’s poetry, when taken as a group this time around, probes the power and capacity of individuals to impact the world where we live. Are we little boys playing in an outsized world not made for us, or helpless pawns in someone else’s political game, or lonely hearts lamenting our lost loves? In any case, we are mortal, our time here is limited. Perhaps our best option is to appreciate what we can enjoy, starting with that contemplative moment in the evening when the light is perfectly slanted.

Vijay Nair’s poetry calls our attention to something we all must resolve as a species in coming years: the global shortage of clean drinking water. Already many people walk miles to gather water each day and get sick from waterborne diseases.

Michael Marrotti’s new poem evaluates and ultimately defends the work of his neighborhood rescue mission, where he volunteers to assist the homeless. His poem suggests that perhaps limitations on freedom might actually benefit those who have lost control over their lives. And that some efforts, although imperfect, to assist those in need, can be better than nothing.

Christopher Bernard also calls out the social injustice he sees wreaked upon the world by the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency. Perhaps in opposition to the aesthetic of a young nation that sees itself as exceptional and values innovation over tradition, and its new leader, who sees himself as personally important and personally able to restore the nation to greatness, Bernard situates his commentary on Trump within a historical and cultural literary context. The United States, and all of its leaders, are only part of a broader world history, and so far all great empires have risen and fallen.

Joan Beebe also reminds us that as humans we are part of a larger whole, the world of nature. The natural world has seasons and cycles, where we live and die, rise and fall, and take our turns impacting the world. While we’re here, we can care for each other, as Joan does by sending her love and best wishes to a relative serving in the armed forces. Joan also celebrates a lovely and adventuresome vacation she and her husband took through the American Southwest.

Like Mahbub’s speaker, she takes simple joy in experiencing natural beauty, which may be one of the best ways we as mortal, fragile creatures can find happiness.

Whatever floor life’s elevator brings you to this coming year, whether your fortunes rise or fall, or even if the elevator gets stuck and you end up camping out there for awhile, may you enjoy reading this issue. Happy New Year!


Essay from Tony Nightwalker LeTigre


Old Town Tony & the Second-Hand Smoke Shop

By Tony Nightwalker LeTigre

A friend asked where I’m going to go now that I’m houseless again in winter.

(Winter hasn’t officially started yet, but in reality it started December 8th. That’s the morning I woke up cold in the unheated Rat House from icy winds. You know what’s amazing? December 8th is also the exact I remember noting last year as the day the weather turned shitty!)

What am I going to do? I’m going to do what I’ve been doing for five & a half years now: find a new place to stay, for as long as it lasts. In the meantime, I’ve got a rainproofed tent to sleep in. It needs to be rainproof, otherwise last night I would’ve got soaked. I’m not sure if this mummy bag is filled with down, but if so, it might lose its insulating ability if it gets wet. Keeping it dry has been a challenge.

But it’s not the first time I’ve faced this challenge. I made it through last week & I wasn’t even in a tent, I was straight up sleeping in the open air, & if you live in Portland, you know what last week was like. It was rough. It sucks when things close when you’re houseless, ’cause then you don’t have anywhere to go to warm up even during the day. You’re basically confined to your sleeping bag.

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Poetry from J.J. Campbell

an unforgiving ocean of doubt
a tender note left
for your lonely
only to be swept
away by the wind
like most of your
lost in an
ocean of
struggling to
find something
or someone that
is real
empty another
bottle and pretend
that is the lord at
the bottom of it
when was the last
time something
other than cash
brought you what
you needed

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Jaylan Salah interviews director Selim Mourad (This Little Father Obsession)









Selim Mourad was one of the friendliest faces I’ve encountered during the 38th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival. His energy, oozing with excitement and awe at the city –Cairo, the capital of Egypt- didn’t mirror the heavy subject matter which he chose for his first long documentary This Little Father Obsession which translated –impressively- into a different Arabic title The Austrian Emperor. The Arabic title was derived from a scene where the father comments on the son not having kids –because of his homosexuality- with a casualness that could be implying more than it intended; that he was not the Austrian Emperor, so why should anybody care whether he had children.

Mourad made a personal film that documented a transitional stage in his life, as well as his family’s. He was just coming out to his family when they had to sell the ancient family home for money to survive. So there was an act of creation and another of destruction; where did a 28-year-old gay Lebanese man find his footing?

“I hate labels. I can’t be saying that I am making a “gay” movie. It is a film where the director happens to be gay. My family history is the main plotline through which my sexual identity happens to contribute to the course of action.”

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Jaylan Salah interviews film director Giovanna Ribes about her new film The Family: Dementia

The Family: Dementia Review

A Valencian Family Drama that Defies Storytelling in Color


It was a pleasure during the 38th edition of Cairo International Film Festival to get a chance to sit down with Valencian director Giovanna Ribes to talk about her film The Family: Dementia. This powerful drama paints the deterioration of a man’s memory and behavior against the backdrop of familial tension. One of the greater aspects of the film is how Ribes allowed her male characters to show vulnerability as opposed to their female counterparts, who have more composed actions. Three generations of men come to interact in a well-planned narrative with a scratchy, rough style influenced by neo-realism that contains artistic, magical realist interjections.

The grandfather Roger –played brilliantly by Pep Cortés- suffers from dementia. He ages amongst family members who struggle to accept him as he is while his memory slips away. The most sympathetic –and adorably clueless- is the grandson Roger and he is the only one who succeeds in taking the old man for who he is. Ribes takes us into the heart of a real family. Her narrative is inspired by reality. To her, art has no impact if it is not personal. Ribes’ drive to become a director didn’t turn out to be as easy as I thought. In my eyes, it would be really easy for her to become an artist. Her sensitivity shone through her clever eyes and her compassionate gestures. Through her words, the process was gradual:

“I belonged to a family of circus performers and bullfighters. They were artists in that sense. Growing up, I was tired of the discussions and the arguments which their lifestyle generated. I just wanted to be normal.”

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Poetry from Vijay Nair


Water War

Mom died in a battle; at last

Occurred at a remote aquifers

A battle field, since long;

For a crock of water

A battle aided; none munitions

Threw it into the potable,

That made Croaky noises;

A bucket tied with a coir rope

Milk run after Mexican breakfast none;

Marched miles across all deserted;

Sandals no foot under sore mustered

Neck in crick head on pot mosh

Folks pooled a pond around

Flowed from; pot in no Hydrus

Village an armada in dropped chaos;

Verbose a multitude conquered with

A rift no among them harvested;

A rift in solid waterless reaped

Mesopotamia an uncivilized cradle         

Our Tigris and Euphrates 

Gone with the wind all rocks rolled;

Cloud of water vaporized: weird

Waste land all asexual parasites

Arid nowhere holy hydrosphere

Erosion everywhere an ergative water

Erupted war ergo world again third

His conch in all oceans above decibel;

Hegemony he a Hawk ruled the roost

When in east heard chanting:

Gage cha yamune chaiva

Godhavary Saraswathy

Narmadhe Sindhu Kavery

Jalesmin sannidhim kuru:

                                                                                                         Written By

                                                                                                       Vijay P Nair

                                               Water scarcity leads us a third world war soon……

Poetry from J.K. Durick

Men My Age
Men my age sit in bars with their golfing buddies,
order single malt scotch by name like an old friend,
the connoisseurs they have become; men my age
get their pictures in papers, in alumni magazines,
getting or giving, their due, or just the right amount;
men my age remember retiring, watch their portfolios,
speak of money and past deals with a reverence they
reserve for sacred things, like those; men my age don’t
talk about women much anymore, their wives and/or
their girlfriends are grandparents, like them, and rarely
recall all the names and dates; men my age drive trophy
cars and vacation in warmer places in the winter, around
here only in the summer; men my age like to be asked for
their opinion about politics and current events, like to be
asked as if the listeners expect wisdom from all those years,
love to compare the present to the old days when things
were as they should be and people knew their proper
places and behaved themselves; men my age like to imply
that they did things in the past, knew this guy and that,
knew who did what to whom, but don’t like to talk about it
now; men my age admit their age when pressed, when that
detail adds to their stake in a conversation; men my age
rarely write poems anymore, remember writing them once,
but can’t for the life of them remember why.
J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Social Justice Poetry, Tuck Magazine, Stanzaic Stylings, Synchronized Chaos, and Autumn Sky Poetry.