Synchronized Chaos July 2017: Scale Factor


A scale factor reveals how much a map has been adjusted to depict a much larger or smaller reality. Are the places shown ten times bigger than they appear, or twenty times smaller?

This month’s Synchronized Chaos contributions explore life at different scales. Photos and poems focus in on fragments of the body or of physical objects, probe individual psychology, or discuss people in relationship to society, human history or the non-human natural world.

JD DeHart’s surrealist poem confronts death through the point of view of a detached nose, wondering about its fate apart from the whole body. Jim Zola’s photographs show fragmentation as an artistic experiment rather than a sign of dysfunction, riffing off of broken Christmas ornaments, tree bark and ladder steps.

Elizabeth Hughes reviews Jamel Gross’ Exit Lives in her Book Periscope column. This is a short horror novel built around the premise that even violent people can change when confronted with events they can no longer ignore.

J.K. Durick’s poetry looks at how the human psyche responds to time: lengthy marathons, paranoid fear of the future, tracking the exact moment when circumstances and attitudes begin to change. J.J. Campbell’s pieces reflect cynicism and resignation in the face of death, yet suggest the possibility of renewed life through experiencing erotic love and the popular music of Prince.

Ryan Flanagan’s poems suggest that a degree of madness in human psychology and behavior may be as natural, although perhaps as disruptive, as an earthquake. He points to the absurd in our lives with readable humor, finally aimed outside our planet at the perennial controversy over the status of Pluto.

Allison Grayhurst starts with the individual and moves to a reflection on a person’s immediate social world – family, friends and local community. While interactions on this scale may seem less grandiose and relevant on a large scale, this is the sphere of experience that most directly shapes our lives.

Mahbub’s poetry highlights the intensity of our emotional response to our micro-environments. Romantic love, friendly affection, and personal religious faith carry physical weight and bring about a bodily response. Joan Beebe acknowledges individual self-awareness and consciousness and suggests that rather than just staying in a place of self-reflection, we can suppose that others have similar self-aware thoughts and thus feel a connection to others on a larger scale. She also points to a more personal religious faith, where God has a purpose for a small church mouse and can look after her pilot nephew.

Todd Wiggins contributes a profile of his son R.J., who is a skilled communicator and linguist at a very young age. While supported and encouraged by those around him, he’s on his own path, not determined by his age, his past or his environment.

Joe Schueler’s poetic subject seems excluded from his social world, and responds by actively breaking into someone’s life and psyche.

Rui Carvalho reviews a Japanese film, Delices de Tokyo, that focuses in on small communities: a dessert shop with a few distinctive characters, and a leprosarium where the patients find life together while in the process of dying. The film’s cinematography and rich color highlights the vibrancy of individual lives and relationships.

Akinmade Zeal moves from personal relationships to critique of the broader society. He calls out for the leaders and citizens of his native Nigeria to become more ethical and less corrupt and self-serving and to build a society driven more by thought and understanding and less by power and class privilege. In an interview with myself, Zeal points out how he and other Nigerian writers are driven to put pen to paper by their social consciences.

Vijay Nair lambasts the sitting U.S. president, comparing him in verse to a mouse who, although small, can destroy much larger beings by infecting them with plague. Like Zeal, he expresses direct, unambiguous critical sentiments through aesthetic poetic form.

Tony Nightwalker LeTigre reviews Tom Robbins’ novel Still Life with Woodpecker, an offbeat and humorous social satire of American culture and counterculture told as a loosely reinterpreted fairy tale.

LeTigre also contributes a poem showing how nature re-enters our civilized lives in a gentle, but determined way. This poem brings to mind Carl Sandburg’s fog, which enters on little cat feet.

Michael Robinson reminds us of the restorative psychological effects of nature, as forests and sunlight can expand our perspectives when we feel trapped in toxic human-made situations.

Vandita Dharni offers up elegant verse on romantic love and nature’s beauty, reminiscent of the aesthetics of Wordsworth and Elizabeth and Robert Browning.

Theophilus Adeyinka presents a contrasting perspective on nature, as his speakers labor to survive and produce food on dry, rough land. Living in the natural environment is a constant struggle, but also a dignified, worthwhile pursuit worthy of celebration in verse.

Finally, I myself review San Francisco State University’s annual Personalized Medicine conference. Researchers who presented discussed ways to make medical treatments more effective by customizing them for certain groups of people and ultimately for individuals.

As the closing keynote speaker pointed out, though, there can be psychological and social implications of how we understand and interpret what we see in the natural world. As Dr. Charis Thompson (of UC Berkeley and the London School of Economics) illustrated, a scientific and physical focus on the individual can be counterbalanced by a simultaneous social focus on social inclusion. This involves making sure individuals from different backgrounds are taken into account in medical research and policy and striving to extend this type of personalized care to more people.

As Joan Beebe also shows in her poem “Universal Oneness,” examining individual experience and acknowledging its uniqueness does not have to preclude understanding of and empathy for a broader community. We all share the experience of being unique in some particular way. The scales at which we understand our existence are not mutually exclusive, as understanding oneself can help us build bridges towards relating to the larger world.

Poetry from Allison Grayhurst

Looking In
How easy to feel the weight
of choice, mutually
with the burden of circumstance.
Childhood ripens then wilts,
and in your unguarded hands, only
shades of poverty-stricken
summers remain; enormous & unavoidable.
What is real is not always the same as
what is eternal, yet those days,
when overabundant with love,
reappear, and strangely, make a difference.
You hold a torch, moving urgently through aqueducts
towards icy light. When you reach
the blue loneliness of abstraction, secretly
you are sure
the fullness of truth has rushed away
from you; and that this knowledge
too, is unusable.
You flourish beside the lightheaded angels. You carve
in stone, in vain
their god-affirming songs. You stand
outside, alarmed. You disappear.
Time hangs in your thoughts like an imaginary lover.
You look in the mirror and see
a great void, a perfect smile . . . and see
there is still so much left
to learn.


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Interview with Akinmade Zeal

Akinmade Zeal

Akinmade Zeal

Synchronized Chaos International Magazine interviews Akinmade Zeal here so that he can describe his inspirations and thoughts in more detail.

Please provide some background on your pieces that would help someone from outside Nigeria understand your two poems.

The first of my poems, Father and Son, as I have said, is a poem that talks about racism and class prejudice in contemporary society. I like to say it is a post modern piece. It is immanent, transcending beyond the Nigerian setting. Nigeria happens to be the microcosm of the macrocosm (the world) in the poem.

It is a dramatic poem. You find the father, a more experienced person in the world, educating his son on the evils in the world. The child comes back from school, battered and with the taste of bile in his mouth. His father eavesdrops and comes over to educate him; tells him he will put him in a better school so he can meet people of his own social class and fit in better. But, his father also was quick to remind him that even at the new school, he would find no peace. ‘Peace cannot romance with men as beast as they are’ unless they crush class, hierarchy, bigotry and so on. That’s the only condition for peace. It depicts the nature of the world generally,  not just Nigeria. It is sheer coincidence that the poet is a Nigerian and sets the poem in a Nigerian context. He is of a more radical perspective, not parochial, nor oblivious of what happens outside his own setting.

The second poem is a rather more complex work. Every line of that poem, A Whim To Lie, is symbolic and saddled with imagery. It cannot make much sense to A South African, it cannot make much sense to A Ghanaian, it cannot make sense even to a Nigerian from the minority Hausa, Ibo, Ijaw groups we have in Nigeria. The poem would only make much sense to A Yoruba (the majority tribe in Nigeria to which Soyinka belonged) person who is well familiar with the pantheons of the Yoruba people. If you study Soyinka to the letter, you find him talking about Ogun, the non benign. Ogun is one of the gods of the Yorubas. To understand that poem, you need understand how these gods work in the Yoruba settings. Ogun is known to be a keeper of sacred oaths, sanity, and the god of iron, and he was so feared that he was said to relish bathing in blood. Ogun is still worshipped here in Nigeria by motorists and cyclists as they see him as the pinnacle of their existence and profession.

A Whim to Lie is also a postmodern work, a social satire about politics and contemporary ills in Nigeria. The Christian God in Revelation 22 says : ‘Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me to give unto every man according to how his works had been.’ I have placed the traditional Yoruba gods up on a pinnacle to perform that function, judging every African and asking to hear all the ills of the land. I tell the reader that I would have to lie to the gods if they wanted a report on the world’s behavior.  Otherwise, would I have to tell them about the money the politicians bury in Ikoyi building (How shall I tell you our fertile soils?  How shall I tell you Ikoyi spouts legal tenders? These are facades of the truth I lack the temerity to tell)  Acertain politician here in the country who stole money and kept it in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria is the object of my satire there. I reported his behavior to the gods, as our demiurge and arbiter.

Again, I talked about the Big Brother Nigerian reality show here where a certain lady bares her breast live on the T. V.  That’s not something we tolerate in our culture, it’s un-African. I spoke to the gods about that, telling them to not be angry should I lie, for I cannot boast the courage to tell them about her lack of modesty (our damsels bare their breasts for bigger brothers).

It could go on and on. If you understand the Yoruba pantheons, you would unearth the poem sheepishly!

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Poetry from Tony Nightwalker LeTigre

mother nature is the best squatter
she doesn’t ask permission
she doesn’t fill out any paperwork
she doesn’t care about regulations
all she does it tap tap tap gently at the windows
so softly that you in all your busy human hurry may not notice
if there is no answer, after a time,
she lets herself in
she fills your empty corners with webs
she sends a green tendril in, like a quiet poem, through the window crack
she comes in & sets up shop
soon it will be a secret garden again
like it was before
she makes herself at home
like the once & future queen
she is

Elizabeth Hughes’ Book Periscope

Exit Lives by Jamel Gross
BV323 front cover
Exit Lives is a short horror story about a couple who plan to go on a trip after the husband’s grandparents died. The man’s grandparents told him stories that were so horrible he went to a doctor and was prescribed anti-psychotic meds to handle the delusions. On their way to the airport they meet someone who stops to help after their tire goes flat, and that person also tells them horrible stories. This book is a fast read and a must read for fans of the genre of horror. I highly recommend it.

Poetry from J.J. Campbell

up against the roof
sometimes on these
nights where i can
hear the rain pounding
up against the roof
i lay in bed alone
and wish to die
i know it’s not likely
but a boy can dream
though, i have no
interest in seeing
my funeral
i don’t want to start
off my death with
yet another

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Photography from Jim Zola

These four photos include what I call the Georgia O’Keeffe Tree (a tree directly outside of the O’Keeffe Musuem in Santa Fe, NM) — a broken Christmas ornament, branches reflected in water, and an installation art piece made up of donated ladders.

Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook — The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) — and a full length poetry collection — What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC.