Synchronized Chaos Magazine January 2020: Co-Evolution and Adaptation

Welcome to the New Year! In this issue of Synchronized Chaos, we focus on the continual journey of co-evolution.

Paleontological evolution chart by Edward Hitchcock

Elizabeth Hughes reviews Robert Cohen’s If God Allows, a novel where an American ‘party boy’ and advertising executive adapts to the restrictions and possibilities of life in Jakarta.

John Middlebrook’s poems also illustrate adaptation, how people and stories evolve over time. People figure out how to handle changing physical and economic conditions as what was once real life fades and expands into misty legend, and modern people lament how their own leaders never quite live up to the ideals of yesteryear carved into stone.

Gregorio Stephens’ piece on working at a Bob Marley festival also points out hypocrisy, highlighting the difference between honoring an inspirational leader and using his memory only to benefit oneself. To him, the slide away from ideals represents adaptation in a negative sense.

In Henry Bladon’s poem, characters draw on the language of others to both reveal what they want to say and to conceal what they can’t, or won’t, communicate. He shows how we can adapt words and concepts to our needs, but also the dangers of letting formal language get in the way of honesty.

From a UC Berkeley blog, evolution-inspired art

Daniel DeCulla sends us mixed media artwork exploring our complex and mutually co-evolving relationship with nature. Some of his images suggest anthropomorphizing nature, while others reflect being reclaimed by it.

Jeongeui’s newest artwork conveys how she appreciates beauty in nature while hoping for human love and the beauty of being in a romantic relationship.

Mahbub’s poems also celebrate the psychological renewal, connection and rest we can find in both natural environments while on vacation and in steady romantic relationships.

Abigail George’s poems reflect the search and longing for romantic love as well: the relationship that never quite happened despite many commonalities, the questions over whether one is too complicated to be loved.

More pragmatic in intention, Chimezie Ihekuna’s monthly relationship advice piece urges married people to move with the current into a new season of life, focusing their energies and time on being spouses to each other.

Robot and human co-creation

In Mark Young’s poems, rather than focusing on individual relationships and psyches, we step back and look at both historical incidents and modern technologies from a broader perspective. What would have happened if one person had done things slightly differently? What will future excavators surmise about the purpose of our artifacts?

In J.J. Campbell’s poetry, ‘it is what it is.’ There may not be any overarching narrative, personal or even cultural. Events happen, seemingly without reason, and people are adrift and alone in the world. We seem to lurch into nothingness, yet while never quite giving up on the search for meaning and love.

In Jeff Bagato’s poetry, speakers resist oblivion in various ways: creating digital identities, building objects as a distraction, even lashing together sticks to form a raft in a rushing current.

Donna Dallas’ poetic narrators are souls on the edge between night/day, life/death, the land/the ocean. As with Jeff Bagato’s speakers, Dallas’ characters go to great psychological and physical lengths to assert their existence as they move from one phase of life to another.

The contributors to this month’s issue join with this publication’s editors in raising our voices, using our words and pictures and minds to take part in natural and cultural co-evolution. And we invite you as a reader to join all of us in our journeys.

FYI: Our co-editor, Kahlil Crawford, is designing a special issue for this February with a theme of ‘Philosophy.’ You’re still welcome to submit whatever work you would like, just think and mention, if possible, how it relates to philosophy of any sort.

Poetry from Abigail George


Signs of the wise Marie Curie’s gentle brilliance
(for my parents, Gerda and Ambrose Senior)


This is not a suicide note to remind the cruel world
about me, about my name. The boy with the dark
hair has already moved on with his life and forgotten
all about me, and oh, did I forget to say that nobody
loves me, that I’m a gifted stranger to most boys, and

mostly men, older men, with beautiful wives and them
children, their children. And of course, because of
my endometriosis I cannot have children. Love me,
I’m difficult. Hate me, I’ll submit. I’ll do your bidding.
The bathwater is cold, but I wash his back in circles.
I promise I’ll only talk about the abuse if you’re bad

to me. I’m some kind of chef too. I keep marking time,
score after score after score, drawing up lists, ingredients,
because life is an adventure, and I’m lovesick and all
alone. If you give me all your affection and support,
I promise I’ll keep my distance, and I promise I won’t

make a scene, or talk about my auditory hallucinations.
All you have to do is bake half-truths, tell me ochre, that
you’re fond of me, that you love me, that you’ll go
quietly, and then I won’t speak about death to you, won’t
speak about death, not wanting to live quietly-cute.
You are in my blood, and I am in your blood. I sigh,

I cry, I’ll watch you leave, I’ll watch you say goodbye.
You’re gone, you’re gone, some kind of unkind, gone.
You are body and mind and mine and nothing short
of a walking and talking and armed miracle, you
have my heart, you have my brilliant, brilliant heart.

Now we don’t write and we don’t even talk. Now we
have absolutely nothing to say to each other. Once we
were lovers, once we were friends, and sometimes,
just sometimes I used to say to you, “Let’s get married.”
You always thought I was wise, sweet and innocent.
Always told me that you weren’t the marrying kind.

The origins of the X-men, leaf falls to the ground, and symbols of
radical feminism
(for my parents, Gerda and Ambrose Senior)


Most people live in between the married and the
single life. I want death. I want life. I want my life
to be celebrated in death. I just expected you to
say something else. I am life. I am death. I am a
solitary figure, staggering to reach you if you’d let
me. You don’t call me on the telephone, and even
though it is raining men I don’t admit addiction.
I want to be free, and that is all a single woman wants
is to be free, independent, acknowledged, loved,

but it is impossible for you to love the public me,
all the administration of me, my cruel and cool
and bewitching persona. I’d probably love you, if
you’d let me. I dream of a dream house of love, a
family and children, and I’d dream I’d be a wife, and
a lover, and mother, that’s what I’ve dreamed since
childhood. You’re perfect, and I’m imperfect,
and you’re lovely, but my approach is a family affair.

I’m a scorekeeper, but unloved. You keep all your
passion for your girlfriend like when you eat her meat, and
sink your teeth into her cooking, and her heart,
and bare wrists, and ankles, and dark hair, and her
all positive, positively-loving, her positive-outlook
on life, I say I’ll take you there, but you don’t care
because you have it made with your it-girl, feeling-
girl, and she makes eye-contact with your mother
when you say my name in their presence, and they

roll their eyes heavenward, and I’m a joke. I get that.
I understand that. That you’re not mine anymore.
You’re too comfortable, and I’m an emotional slob.
I don’t want to drag you down. I want to uplift you.
I’m too late, that’s all. And filled with half-truths
and dark thoughts of cave-dwellings, but you
know me better than I know myself. That suicide
is on my mind again, that I’m lovesick, and after you
to save me. The atmosphere here is of a wedding.





On mourning, the paralysis, the gift and curse of grief
(for my parents, Gerda and Ambrose Senior)


I’m lost, lost, I’m lost, I confess. In a minute I’ll be gone. In another
minute I’ll belong to the past, escape the present. I’ll be stripped
bare. I’m a stranger to man, and I’m a stranger to woman, and all
I’ve ever wanted was to be in your arms, and be loved forever. But,
this relationship, or whatever it is, or was belongs to the past, and
I’ll count myself forever holy amongst the stars, and the passing of
time, and the illustration of dust, and the interpretation of prayer.
And all I ever wanted was you, dear boy, dear man, dear finite space,
and biological gap, and psychological warfare, and a wish bone to
lead me home, and universal sanctuary, and a university degree, and
a high school diploma, and now, and now I have none of these
trivia, none of these things that makes the woman, that marks the
career woman. And I have a mother, but she abandoned me at birth
because my father loved me more, and my sister despises me, and
my illness, my disease, my Christianity, my radical feminism, and
most of all me. I’m an extra, I’m a starlet-harlot, I’m a monkey who
does not want to behave, but I’ll only behave in your arms, except
that position is filled. It is nearly midnight, nearly turning-point when
I’m near-death, near-life, and in death I’ll be extraordinary and in
life I’ll be extra-ordinary. And if I ever get married, I promise to
submit, I promise to obey, I promise to love in sickness and in health.
I am in a tunnel fast approaching another bright light, another
nervous breakdown, and was I really so difficult, so different to love,
and you tell me in a thousand different ways of how much I’m
impossible to love, and the hallucinations,
and the insomnia leave me bleary-
eyed, and I look you straight in the eye, I want to try and make
eye-contact with you, but you look away because you love another,
and I don’t binge-drink anymore, I’m no criminal mastermind,
fuck my intelligence, I’ve never slept with a married man, I’ve never
fallen for a woman, and even though I feel as if I’m a statistic, you
don’t, you don’t, you don’t love me anymore and I find it all so
difficult to be on my own, and I can’t bear the loneliness, I can’t
face you with another woman on your arm, and you say I look
like your daughter, and then I find it difficult to breathe, to look
away, because all I’ve ever wanted was you, and you tell your
secretary to tell me to fuck off and leave you alone. You’re work,
and I love your superstar personality, you were my sweet escape,
once my sweet embrace, and now because of the Sylvia Plath-
effect you want nothing to do with me, because of the mania and
the euphoric-high, because of the unstoppably catastrophic blue-
depression I guess I’m no good for anyone, but especially for you.
I’m a saint walking on water, I am Saul of Tarsus, I am Paul on
cocaine on the road to Damascus. I am the finite apostle glowing.
I’m swimming, my body like velvet, head above water rooting
for all daughters, and then drowning. Body-surfing, and then
head sinking beneath the vibrations of the waves, drowning again.
You have genie-daughters, while I have none. The lunar-phases
of endometriosis saw to my infertility. I have had orphan-abandonment
issues in the past. You have had abandonment issues in the past.
We’re both orphans. That’s the one thing that we have in common.
I can’t bear the rhetoric, the dogma, you can’t bear the church.
We should be lit in love, life-falling for each other but we’re not.





Poetry from Donna Dallas

And if we Forget

poured into a bottle

of souls

I drank

I laughed

I survived

I swam to an island

laid on the beach

naked under

God

I whispered my sins

to the ocean

in vein

I danced along the sand

gave in to Satan

again

and again

I discovered

later

a heart

meaty

I bit of it

sipped the blood                                       

from the cup

born again

into breasts and

soft pale skin

I wander

in search

of the

bottle

I was bled

from

Virgin Abyss

When I look out onto Song Shang Lake

just prior to sunrise, the bats flutter their wings wildly

to get the last few morsels of food

as the stress of daylight

sheds frenzy into their flight

I sit and wait for the day to open up and suck me into that vacuum

we call life

I watch the darkest sun glower over me

I wait

the lake is still as death….gray translucent

morphed into charcoal trees that surround it

the place before the world

eerily naked and primal as if a snark or a dragon will creep out

It’s the place before me

before mind

where I go empty

into the void of the lake

to seek those souls

who lure me with glimpses of

what will come to pass

but I can only see it through murky waters

Cheap Thrills

Touch me

tell me I’m not a mute

I raised kids for Christ sake

the world was my apple

and I bit of it but

I never took the time to

actually taste

I wanted

but there wasn’t

enough

time………

and if I’m dying

and cannot taste

let me watch your mouth move

with brilliant teeth and

satin tongue

let me see those lips

dull pink

soft like a breath

buried under full beard that

covers a perfect cleft……

give me the good of it

I go out knowing

it was not in vein

I studied Creative Writing and Philosophy at NYU’s Gallatin School and was lucky enough to study under William Packard, founder and editor of the New York Quarterly.  I am recently found or forthcoming in The Opiate, Anti Heroin Chic, Quail Bell Magazine, Pacific Review, Beatnik Cowboy and Bewildering Stories among many other publications. I currently serve on the editorial team for Red Fez.

Essay from Chimezie Ihekuna

Chimezie Ihekuna

Deception 9

As a married man or woman, I can still keep company with bachelor or spinster as friends.

 Does the assertion “forward ever, backward never “ring a bell to you? Have you read an expression that reads “Upward will I ascend, downward will I never descend “? Are you familiar with statement: “dream big “? If you are not familiar with any of these, there are salient expressions pointing at the need to elevate or graduate from one stage of life to the other that would have been a part and parcel of you.

 At your work place, you were the only person given promotion from your current designation to one of the most enviable position of the company you work with, would you still keep an intimate company with your colleagues that you were the same level with? What is anticipated, the interaction between you your colleagues? Of course, painful to say, it is going to be on a low key! This is because your attention would giving your all-in – all to the challenging and highly contested designation you are presently occupying interacting more with your colleagues at the same level for the sake of synergy and continuity.      

You and four of your friends have just finished high school and are seeking for admission in a college or University. Along with your friends and to your surprise, you were the only one given a latter of admission to study the course you applied for.Of course, your challenge would be primarily centered on personally equipping yourself; physically, materially and academically and socially. No doubt, you we get to meet people in the University from different backgrounds, make friends with them (based on evaluation of compatibility, depending on how mature you are) and do certain things in common on and off-campus activities, whether good or bad .       Although, depending on schedule, you will get to converse with your yet-to-be admitted friends, such conversation will certainly not be pronounced compared to your stay (with them) as an “admission seeker” Primarily your concern will be more centered on association with your level or course mates.

What if you still decide to keep on intimate relationship with those you left behind as you were elevated promoted or admitted into a University?     A question you may ask. Consider this question: “can twenty friends be in a place or state for twenty years”. If they do, such situation shares a similarity with stagnant water. It stinks after a long period of time. In the same vein, such friendship experiences stagnancy, social decay and as they say “familiarly bring contempt”. There is no moving forward.

 Before you got married, you were a bachelor or spinster, probably flanked by friends who were (at the time) yet to get married. Now, you are married and most of them are yet to settle down, would it be appropriate to keep an intimate company of still-bachelor and still-spinster friends?   It is anticipated you associate yourself more with those who are of the same relationship status as you. In fact, it is expected you keep an intimate company of like- minded friends who are married.  Viewing your current relationship status, what should be of immense importance to you are things that will certainly improve, edify and add flavor to your marriage rather than (trivial) matters associated with bachelors or spinsters. Hence, the reason you keep an intimate company of married friends rather than unmarried ones. Otherwise, you will be stagnating the meant-to-be thriving marriage.

It is therefore left for the unmarried ones to be inspired and challenged by pulling the bull by the horn towards matching the castle of marital convenience and be on the same level of marital interaction as you.   Sincerely, if you are married, how would you feel if your husband or wife still keeps an intimate company of bachelor or spinster friends?

Poetry from Jeff Bagato

A Bleeding Screen of Need

Where we once used words

we now send a swarm of electrons

buzzing across hyperreality, wood bees

aerial dogfighting in futile clumps

to simply say me me me

and mark an ever widening aura

of territory in the saturated

air; static grows thick

locked in mortal combat

for the numbers, the handshakes,

the fleeting flow of friends

across a bleeding screen of need,

careful not to fall off the flat edge

into the pit of the unknown—

a nobody who cannot conjure electrons

to save their life—a life is not a life

unless digitized and tossed upon

the flipping tides of lore

The Pieces Fail to Fit

Waiting for the kitchen to clean itself,

I pick up my old rubber band ball

and stretch a loop or two, massing

it into the bowling ball size range—

it takes a lot of loops to grow an inch,

but it’s just a matter of adding it all up;

another dozen bands makes another layer,

but the clock won’t stop,

and the kitchen won’t clean,

and this life won’t live itself,

or perhaps it will, but one day at a time

won’t satisfy a man who needs to shore up

some vague shelter against his end time,

pieces fallen outside the box and fit together

balanced by no real logic,

and the monument I make thus

is all the monument I’ve got

Salamander Tides

Leaky boats bob

with every tide;

any wave that rises

fills the shell.

Bailing, whether you

like it or not,

becomes the only

way to float

Logs pull together

as a raft, so dead trees

rise again, this time

to move free of land,

roots abandoned,

cast off like a rind,

like leaves,

like memories

of a time before

these floods

A salamander sheds his tail

to escape the dog,

slapping its muzzle

like a lick of shameful fire

smoking to conceal its flight

A multi-media artist living near Washington, DC, Jeff Bagato produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. He has published nineteen books, all available through the usual online markets, including And the Trillions (poetry) and The Toothpick Fairy (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at http://jeffbagato.com.

Short story from Gregorio Stephens

Forever Hustling Bob Marley

By Gregory Stephens


            I was standing outside a trailer in Ft. Worth, waiting to get paid at the end of a two-day Bob Marley Festival. May 11 is the anniversary of Marley’s death, a good time, I’d learned, to hustle a gig. I’d talked the director into paying me as an M.C. to do a memorial presentation about Bob, and provide samples and music throughout the festival.
            Standing there at dusk in Trinity Park along with musicians from regional bands, I was in a disillusioned mood. This festival had degenerated into excuse to sell products. The throng mostly shopped in a sea of booths. The Bob Marley hustle keeps getting stranger. There was one red-headed singer, a gal in tight pants and with a dubious voice, who went into a monologue about Bob, which ended with her shrill declaration: “Bob Marley died for your sins!”
            My time finally came and I was ushered into the trailer. Two 30-ish African American women with processed hair were in charge of paying performers. From their looks, their manner, and the R&B on their radio, I guessed they knew little about Bob. Our conversation, in which I described my work about Bob as a “real revolutionary,” quickly confirmed this impression.
            The talk turned to money – the real reason we were all there. One woman insinuated that I wasn’t going to get paid. “Didn’t you read the fine print of your contract?”
            “No,” I confessed, although in truth I only had an oral agreement.

            She told me the contract said I would have to, in essence, sing for my supper.

            “Show me what you got,” she said.

            I was determined not to take these women seriously, and they were determined to make me grovel. This went back and forth, as I tried to figure out exactly what they wanted, and whether or not I was willing to give it to them. At first, they made it sound like they wanted a strip tease. Or a demonstration of my bedroom techniques. They seemed to be in no hurry, so I finally stood up and demonstrated a “slow wine” to these women. They squealed in delight or amusement, and quickly forked over the money.
            I remembered this incident later while living in Jamaica, when Bob’s birthplace was being invaded by Robert Roskind. In 2001 Roskind published a book, Rasta Heart: A Journey Into One Love. After Roskind fell for Marley’s music, he envisioned the Rastas as saviors of humanity. Roskind’s naiveté was comic in the scene where he takes a jambox onto a Negril Beach, puts on Legend, and begins testifying to Jamaicans about the gospel of “One Love.”

            I began seeing Roskind’s name all over Jamaica. Penning a letter or editorial for the Gleaner, in full reverse-missionary mode. Putting on concerts all over the island. Sure enough, Roskind found co-sponsors for this missionary work in the Marley family, and the Jamaican government, who together put on a 60th earthday tribute to Bob in New Kingston (February 6, 2005), which I attended. It had been hard for me to take seriously Roskind’s reports about his various missions, like carrying One Love to the Havasupi Indians in Arizona’s Grand Canyon. But Roskind’s interests clearly intersected with those of the Marley family, and the Jamaican Tourist Board.

            We’ll be forever milking Bob, I reflected. I suppose I was as guilty as the rest. I’d written a book with a chapter about Bob Marley, and although it paid me little, it did put me into contact with Marley fans from all over the world. I rationalized what I was doing with the knowledge that at least I was actually bringing pieces of Bob’s voice to public events, sides of Bob that have never been aired in public before. But I was doing the Bob Marley hustle, all the same.
             

            And the Bob Marley hustle continues….in 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that companies including Wal-Mart and Target could not sell items with Marley’s image, without obtaining permission from the reggae star’s children.

            But here in Puerto Rico, where I live now, small vendors everywhere sell merchandize with Bob Marley’s face and name. No court of law will ever be able to stem that tide.

Gregory Stephens teaches creative writing to STEM students in Puerto Rico. He was born in Ada, Oklahoma, and during the 1980s was an award-winning songwriter in Austin, Texas.