Synchronized Chaos August 2018: Dichotomies

Welcome, readers, to the ten-year-anniversary of Synchronized Chaos Magazine!


This publication has lasted over the years due to the creativity and resourcefulness of many people from around the world who have contributed graphic design, editing, monthly editorial letters, technical support, web hosting – and regular, faithful sets of writing and art each month. Thank you all for helping us to foster a culture of craft, innovation, thought, and resilience.

I honestly had no idea that our publication would last as long as it did, as we depend on receiving work each month to continue producing issues. Even in August 2008 we wondered if the world needed yet another literary magazine while we were facing many deeper issues. Yet, people from around the world – India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa, England, Congo, Egypt, Portugal, Romania, Canada, Brazil, Korea, Australia, the United States and other places – have steadily continued to submit, for no other seeming reward than the chance to express and communicate thoughts. We seem to have stumbled upon a deep need for many people and have been both humbled and emboldened enough to continue, as long as people send their work our way.

For the month of August 2018, we showcase works that reflect several of the basic dichotomies and dualities of our existence.


Karen Mitchell writes of being at home with uncertainty, comfortable with drifting alone with the current rather than rushing with the crowd towards the popular, supposed safe harbor of the day.

Chimezie Ihekuna, in the third installment of his drama The Success Story, presents another individual who charts his own path. With only a few months of college left, the protagonist decides to become a writer rather than an engineer. Yet, while he’s the one who makes the choice, his professors and others eventually come around to support and coach him.

Sheryl Bize-Boutte, in her short story ‘Uncle Martina,’ relates the tale of a person who had to keep a major secret in order to live somewhat authentically decades ago in American history. This tale is from the point of view of a young niece who begins to put the pieces together as she grows up, figuring her uncle out with a mixture of bewilderment and compassion that parallels the changing attitudes many in society have held towards people in Martina’s position.

Ahmad Al-Khatat’s poetic speakers draw upon the world around them – rainfall, perfume, national and political metaphors, to express their longing for connection to something or someone outside themselves. Whether through adult romantic love or through childhood collections that reflect a fascination with ‘big ideas’ such as love and death, his speakers reveal they aren’t content being solitary independent individuals and want to go beyond themselves and become part of the larger world.

Sylvia Ofoha’s poetry evokes similar feelings and a shared desire for connection, communicating lost and misplaced love, loneliness, difficult seasons in life and the feeling of abandonment by God through metaphors of natural cycles and phenomena. Yet, she suggests through the very metaphor she has chosen that she may find some relief from her ‘dark night of the soul,’ because seasons and times of the day don’t last forever.

J.J. Campbell, our recurrent poet of lonely cynicism, contributes more pieces about heartbreak and lingering self-loathing. Yet even his speakers break out of their self-absorption to a greater degree than before in this issue, as one speaks of spending time with a very ill close friend.

Some people offer up pleasant dreams. Lil Snott contributes an eight-line Beatnik-inspired snapshot of San Francisco’s art and literary culture, and Joan Beebe celebrates vacations and relaxing on the beach with friends and family. Yet, others hint at nightmares beneath the surface of our consciousness: Robert Allan Beckvall presents horror made all the more intense through its mysterious, clipped, cryptic style.

Kirsty Niven’s work uses the elegant language and dramatic images of yesteryear’s romantic tropes – demons and damsels in distress, dark oil paintings behind the fireplace, scarlet roses – but subverts those images into something grotesque and inadequate to convey her speakers’ real feelings and memories. And Mahbub writes of the real-life nightmare suffering of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and Bangladesh in graphic terms, along with the violence of a random auto accident. Yet he also includes a piece that rhapsodizes about relaxing in nature near some lush green trees, a mental escape like Joan Beebe’s beach vacation.

In her essay critically analyzing the work of television director Mohamed Solaiman Abdelmalek, famous in the Arab world, Jaylan Salah points out how his work reflects the tension between the dreamlike hope of building a better world inspired by the Arab Spring democracy movement and the optimistic social climate at the time when many TV watchers in the region came of age and the current realities and continued political and economic struggles of the region. His most famous current work, the show Rasayel, involves communication from beyond the grave and a desperate desire to somehow right wrongs and re-make personal history, which resonates with modern audiences in a way that Jaylan Salah explains.

Michael Lee Johnson writes poetically of the minor, and larger, indignities of aging and loneliness, evoking the fear of being forgotten too soon. The specific details in his pieces make them gently humorous and poignant rather than tragic, yet we know why his speaker seeks respite from the winter season of his life. In contrast, Vijay Nair includes a brief bit about the short life of a candle, too brief to contemplate or fear or mourn the impending end, with only enough time to fully live the single moment granted to it. And Karen D’Antona raps about a boy in Brooklyn who tries to grow up, all too soon.

John Robbins probes emerging authors’ sometimes dual love-hate relationships with professional success. In one piece, the narrator shares his awkwardness around an older, out-of-touch intellectual, and in another, he reflects on the moment when he first realized that he’d earned a reputation as a writer. Yet, his most lasting connections seem to be with everyday objects: his beer and his bike.

In pieces inspired by Japanese modern art, Neil Ellman explores separation and dislocation. What do dragons feel as they destroy land and human cities, what will it feel like when another universe collides and intersects with ours, what if home were nothing more than a fiction? These pieces, and the paintings which inspired them, are at once liberated from traditional artistic constructs and tightly organized in their own right, where each word and each bit of color has a purpose.

Elizabeth Hughes reviews a set of books that reflect a mixture of pain, love, family closeness, cruelty, service to others, and gratitude. She discusses Khris Holt’s Afflicted, Jacqueline Mallison (Wearing)’s Great’ Ma: A Life, Vicky-Lyn Ashby’s Colors of the Heart, Donald Bartling’s For Country: My Little Bit, Twenty-One Months of Service, Michael Washington’s Living in Peace While Living in Pieces, and Robert Perkins’ Let Us Give Thanks. As a species, as the alien character affirms to Jodie Foster’s character in the movie Contact, our species is capable of ‘so many beautiful dreams and so many terrible nightmares.’

Thank you very much for celebrating 10 years of publication with us! Whether you’re a long-time reader or a newcomer to Synchronized Chaos Magazine, we hope you find more of the dreams and fewer of the nightmares in this issue.

dreams  nightmares

Poetry from Sylvia Ofoha



Staring out the window,

Hoping for a new sun to come,

Sun that can blind the darkness from within,

And raise its rays above the clouds of the roof,

Illuminating the grounds beneath.


I stood there praying for him to come back to me,

Hands closed like that of a praying mantis’,

But I was trapped in my own shadows of black and white,

As there was no color to brighten my heart,

The wait took longer than the birth of an elephant.


Can one weigh out a kilogram of fire?

Can one measure the cubic metre of the wind?

Can one bring back yesterday?

Can one find the exits from the world of the dead?

Can one point to the entrances to paradise?


But still I stood here hoping and praying,

For that sun, that beautiful sun,

That will bring colour to my life and smile to my face,

But a dream is always a dream,

And a wish it shall be,

Till infinity calls……..


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Poetry from Karen Mitchell

I am the one who floats, carefree among the chaos of the world. As the hordes swim by playing follow the leader, without a true leader. I stand outside. I don’t follow the crowd. I follow the ebb and flow of my own tide. Floating in the serene, tranquil ocean. Moving as the ocean would have me, rather than fighting the current to get to some imagined perfect location. I float in the vastness and I am the one who is at peace.

I am the one who stands out. Out of my element but perfectly at peace. Everyone around me the same. Work to live, live to work. But I do what I want. I enjoy life. I live to explore, to learn, to observe. I watch as others fight the tide to get to shore, to their perceived safe haven. But I have chosen the world as my safe haven. I am the one who stands out because that is my home.

Poetry from Lil Snott

_/\/\/\/boulder flatirons;
airplane visions,
literary dive bars,
book shop dust.

>micheline murals on mission;
vans veer across van ness
up to haight where noel
strums upon his flatbed__

Poetry from Ahmad Al-Khatat

Lips of Sweetness

Sweetness of lips talk nothing but kind words

as if you were reading verses from the heaven

when those lips draw near me in bed

I hear the echoes of lovers from the distance of moon

Back to desires, you are the first one

blue-eyed lake in dark, like your eyes all the times

I enjoy the rain because it spreads

your taste upon your skin below the red dress

This universe has moody seasons

people whisper to stand against our shields

close to you and my secrets become the

shadow to protect you all night

For you, I will drink your wine

and break all the bottles of sorrows

For you, I will inhale your scent

and damage all the pack of grieves

Even your perfume has a promise

to seek you with the beats of my heart

hopefully, I will turn myself into a

candle to hear your voiceless wishes

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Poetry from Robert Allan Beckvall

Stories From the Home Road

The escort was working with folks that had been ordered into a program for sexual offenders, and this is what they wrote:

Three Works By The Escort and Friends


Four kids from Brockton High decided to go to the haunted house where a family was murdered:

They decided to break things, until an old woman with dirty hair that covered her face and wearing a tattered gown, confronted them


Back in ‘89 I was lost and a little high

In the sky I never thought I would come down

Twisted mind, spinning everything

Clap, stomp, jump to the moon

Feel kind of dead, kinda loose

Kinda strange, drinkin’ my juice

You know I went loco

On my own like Al Capone

Fly low to the ground, died in the dirt

To die last or die first, heartburst


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Poetry from Michael Lee Johnson

Old Men Walk Funny (V2)









Old men walk funny with shadows and time eating at their heels.

Pediatric walkers, prostate exams, bend over, then most die.

They grow poor, leave their grocery list at home,

and forget their social security checks bank account numbers,

dwell on whether they wear dentures, uppers or lowers;

did they put their underwear on?

They can’t remember where they put down their glasses,

did they drop them on memory lane U.S. Route 66?

Was it watermelon wine or drive in movies they forgot their virginity in?

Hammered late evenings alone bottle up Mogen David wine madness

mixed with diet 7-Up, all moving parts squeak and crack in unison.

At night, they scream in silent dreams no one else hears,

they are flapping jaws sexual exchange with monarch butterfly wings.

Old men walk funny to the barbershop with gray hair, no hair;

sagging pants to physical therapy.

They pray for sunflowers above their graves,

a plot that bears their name with a poem.

They purchase their burial plots, pennies in a jar for years,

beggar’s price for a deceased wife.

Proverb:  in this end, everything that was long at one time is now passive,

or cut short. Ignore us old moonshiners, or poets that walk funny,

“they aren’t hurting anyone anymore.”

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