Mahjabeen Rafiuddin reviews Michael J. Robinson’s poetry collection From Chains to Freedom

Michael Robinson’s poem collection in his book From Chains to Freedom depicts genuine and authentic lived experiences of many black males in the United States. These poems are timely reminders of how far we have to go in our fight for equity and justice for Black people. He has been writing for a long while. Many admire Michael’s courage, voice and determination to tell his story and open other’s eyes and minds. I love his poem “Moving on with Life.”

After the murder of George Floyd, many of us who have been fighting for justice and equity for many years, want to ensure this is not just a moment of reckoning for racial justice in the United States, but that the momentum continues and becomes a movement. That is my prayer and hope after I read Michael’s book. These poems are great reminders of how we should keep fighting and never give up. Thank you Michael for this five star poem collection to hold us accountable and urge us to be responsible allies and advocates for many who are voiceless.

Middle aged Black man with short hair and brown eyes. He's got a hand on his chin and is facing the camera.
Poet Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson’s book From Chains to Freedom can be ordered directly from the author. Please email Michael at to ask him about a copy!

Poetry from Marjorie Thelen

 Poetry on a Rural Theme:
 Living in the Middle of Nowhere & Wondering Why
 by Marjorie Thelen
 The Ditch Witch Blues 
 after helping John again
 with some impossible task
 in her estimation
 this time trying to load 
 a 600 pound piece of equipment
 a ditch witch
 its big wheels 
 spinning in the mud
 onto a trailer covered with snow
 that fell overnight, predicted
 that the ditch witch slid off of the first time
 nearly smashing into John
 she's thinking a modest apartment
 with an alley view
 in a liberal, progressive community, 
 cultural venues by the boatload, 
 surrounded by people who have been in therapy
 no concern about running out of water
 or neighbors shooting at the devil
 or rabid extremists
 or fulminating fundamentalists
 is beginning to look appealing
 her country gal era may be over
 oh, she's singing the ditch witch blues
 yes, she's crying the ditch witch blues
 time might be right to hit the road tonight
 because she's singing the ditch witch blues
 the silence is nice
 mountain views spectacular
 you can see the stars
 John has plenty of space for his treasures
 the roads are abominable
 the dust never ends
 and there's the water problem
 oh, she's singing the ditch witch blues
 yes, she's crying the ditch witch blues
 time might be right to hit the road tonight
 because she's singing the ditch witch blues
 Damn Coyotes
 I can't believe she left the radio blaring again.
 She thinks it keeps the coyotes away.
 Well, I can't sleep.
 Stop complaining. The treat bowl in the morning makes it all worthwhile.
 It was skimpy this morning. 
 Oh, shut up. Quit complaining. I hear she's going to butcher this fall. 
 You might be on the list. I notice you aren't laying like you used to.
 Ha, neither are you. God, I hate NPR. You'd think she'd at least put on the country and western station. 
 Little blind duck
 Little blind duck
 bumps into doors and fences
 but knows the way to the pond
 if John's fire truck isn't in the way
 Scarlett is her name
 old Indian runner duck
 now covered with mostly
 white feathers that used to be black
 Her favorite foods are tomatoes,
 watermelon, and cooked pumpkin
 she has one duck friend left
 a short, squat mallard
 who sometimes looks out for her
 sometimes not
 A turkey gobbler mistook her 
 for a turkey hen
 insisted on humping her
 squashing her into the ground
 and bloodying her head
 he went into the freezer
 Then the two hen turkeys did the same
 bloodying Scarlett’s head again
 which caused her blindness
 they went into the freezer, too
 Moral of the story:  be careful who you hump
 how can you eat your pet?
 because we raised him
 because he got back rubs every day
 because he got orange peels, corn cobs, and cabbage treats
 because he had girl friends
 because he grazed green pastures, ate alfalfa
 because he had nice shade to chew his cud
 we nourished him
 he nourishes us
 we wouldn’t do it again
 Purple Potatoes
 We could make a potato dish
 to take to the potluck
 like potato salad or casserole 
 that would be easy
 I don't think the guys 
 would like purple potatoes
 are you embarrassed
 to take something that 
 has been grown in our garden
 organic, local, non-GMO?
 no, no, it's not that
 it's just that the guys around here 
 aren't used to purple potatoes
 Shooting at the Devil
 the devil flies around the sagebrush at night
 the neighbor shouts back
 and orders him to go away
 the trouble started 
 when the new people moved in
 when the neighbor comes home 
 stuff is moved around
 they hexed the place
 they grind up animals and
 throw them raw against her house
 she called out the sheriff twice
 he was no help
 so she shoots at the devil instead
 scaring the neighbors to death
 Obituary Notice for the Oregon Frontier
 Burns and Hines 
 old frontier towns in southeast Oregon, 
 died a slow, agonizing death 
 after refusing to acknowledge climate change
 and that they were using water
 faster than it came into the basin. 
 The residents of Harney County 
 were among other rural Oregon communities 
 that launched a sustained effort 
 to defeat every carbon emission reduction bill 
 that came before the legislature,
 that squelched every voice that said
 the way they used water
 was unsustainable.
 Well, they got their way. 
 They kept their diesel farm equipment 
 and old gas hog trucks. 
 They kept their methane-producing cows. 
 They kept their water devouring pivots. 
 They watched the Harney Basin Aquifer dry up. 
 They scratched their head when their domestic wells went dry 
 and their cows died for lack of water. 
 No water. 
 No alfalfa. 
 No cows.
 No way to live. 
 You drive through two ghost towns today. 
 Front doors stand open 
 on long deserted homes. 
 Grass grows 
 through the pavement of the main streets. 
 Traffic lights hang dead, unblinking. 
 Tumbleweed is the only thing moving. 
 No one home. 
 But they won all those battles 
 to keep fossil fuels cheap 
 and polluting their environment. 
 They won the battle 
 to keep their center pivots operating 
 and guzzling water. 
 But they didn't win the battle 
 to preserve their way of life.
 One Hundred Feet Down
 are snail shells
 under layers
 and layers
 of black sand
 of an old lake
 millions of
 years ago
 then clay rock
 and then clear water at last 
 at 220 feet
 how old is that
 water we drink?
 how long has it been 
 down there?
 are we drinking ancient swamp water?
 what have we disturbed 
 with our modern technology?
 maybe three toed horses
 will coming galloping out of the well
 or ancient rhinoceroses
 or gigantic cockroaches
 The only evidence
 I have
 of ancient life
 from our newly drilled well
 are tiny snail shells
 that were sleeping, undisturbed
 one hundred feet down
 on the road from Burns to Bend
 Glass Butte rises to the south, full of obsidian
 that oozed up and hardened into beautiful black glass
 millions of years ago
 between Hampton and Bend south of the highway
 lies the Brothers fault swarm
 that runs southeast to northwest across Oregon
 patiently waiting to move again
 to the west rise the Sisters, Newberry Crater, Mt. Bachelor
 Mt. Jackson, the resplendent Cascade volcanoes
 to the north across the Columbia River
 lie Mt. Rainer and Mt. St. Helens
 sleeping, waiting
 even further west 80 miles off the coast 
 lies the Juan de Fuca fault which last moved
 January 26, 1700 about 9:00 P.M. 
 a 9.0 on the Richter scale
 crating a tsunami
 that left dead cedar trees still standing
 on the banks of the Copalis River in Washington
 and waves recorded in Japan
 the Juan de Fuca plate gets unstuck
 on average every 243 year
 we think we have problems now
 We average 80 years here on planet Earth
 from baby to elementary to high school
 maybe college, maybe marriage, maybe kids
 then old age and we're done
 80 years
 The earth is 4.54 billion years old
 we are gnats on the back of time

Poetry from Ivan Jenson

Dusty Dusk

These days
I often melt into
the arms of chairs
and I find myself
gripping the banister
as I head down the stairs
and I prefer
to have guests
visit my thoughts
rather than actually
having them here
and I am selfish
with moments and often
search under furniture
to see if happier times
like my long lost dog
might be hiding
and I was going
to keep these
dark musings
to myself
but after
careful, tearful
to share

Jaded Journey

I move
through a dusty
cluttered room
to a paint-peeled door
that leads to a driveway
with weeds
punching through
where I get in
my old jalopy Ford
with its tattered seats
and start the elderly engine
which clears its metallic throat
and then I drive aimless
through the rain
on an errant errand
and distracted
by the rubbish
of redundancy
I briefly forget
that my to-do list
will one day
be all checked off
and come to
a bitter end

Low Profile

There is a lot
I could, should,
or would do
if I was brave
and bold
and outgoing
like cliff or
social climbers
but I tend to stick
close to home-base
rather than step outside
and chase
elusive opportunities
disguised as
attainable goals
most nights I stay in
and count wolves
in sheep’s clothing
and I never cease
to be amazed that
all my ambition
amounts to nothing more
than pillow fluffing

Flip Side

By day
I am that guy
who you assume
is alright because
he is gregarious
and seems like
he really could
care less
and by night
I am the
phantom gentleman
who carries himself
like a Casanova castaway
who kissed the world
and made it cry
sadly smiling
with an overbite
on a defunct
online dating site
a lonely non-smoker
who often asks
the darkness
if it would
like a light

Ivan Jenson is a fine artist, novelist and popular contemporary poet. His artwork was featured in Art in America, Art News, and Interview Magazine and has sold at auction at Christie’s. Ivan was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to make a painting titled Absolut Jenson for the brand’s national ad campaign. His Absolut paintings are in the collection of the Spiritmusuem, the museum of spirits in Stockholm, Sweden.  

Jenson’s painting of the “Marlboro Man” was collected by the Philip Morris corporation. Ivan was commissioned to paint the final portrait of the late Malcolm Forbes.  Ivan has written two novels, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah, both of which illustrate the creative and often dramatic lives of artists. Jenson’s poetry is widely published (with over 600 poems published in the US, UK and Europe) in a variety of literary media. A book of Ivan Jenson’s poetry was recently published by Hen House Press titled Media Child and Other Poems, which can be acquired on Amazon. Two novels by Ivan Jenson entitled, Marketing Mia and Erotic Rights have been published hardcover. 

Poetry from Sushant Thapa

Under the Sky

Sky observes daily

Below it.

Many walkers

Looking around do not

Know about the gateway to man-made heaven.

It should not be a poem every time to

Talk about sky, rain and the sun.

Cracks on my ceiling

Climbs down to my spine

I search coherence in my papers

Grasses are gentle

Thorns sometimes pain the eye

Without pricking the finger.

Most of the time it is the beating heart

Afraid of the vastness above the clouds.

Homeless World

Homeless still people live

No lights are lit to turn off

No sheets and high held pillows

To wipe the tears.

No time to set an alarm for the morning

No morning to rest for the day.

How to live without staring at the ceiling?

Makes me wonder about the stars

 Sky of vast blanket can rain

Can cause the unwanted pour

Still life is carried

To sail like the every other leaf

Swept by the rain water.

Screenplay from Chimezie Ihekuna

Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben) Young Black man in a collared shirt and jeans resting his head on his hand. He's standing outside a building under an overhang.
Chimezie Ihekuna

Title: One Man’s Deep Words
Adapted from a book by Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben)
Screenwriter: Robert Sacchi

Genre: Drama

For reviews, production consideration and other publicity, please contact us through the email addresses below:

Mr. Griffins, six feet tall, handsome but frowning, always in a suit, middle-aged Euro-American Philosophy lecturer at the University of Maryland, was good at what he loved doing most: lecturing all levels of philosophy students. He was so knowledgeable in the subject that most students saw him as the best of all philosophy lecturers at the Department of Philosophy. However, ‘Professor’, as he was popularly called, was plagued with a challenge. He was tired of following the “by the books” tradition. Professor looked forward to a time when Philosophy would pay back the dues he had paid to it – to come up with ideologies that would stand the test of time.

Charles and Kelvin were freshmen at the university studying Philosophy. From their first to their final years, they have been under the tutelage of Mr. Griffins but realized his displeasure despite his teaching proficiency. This got his students unhappy with him. It soon got to the point that one of his students, Adam, during an hour-long lecture, amplified Griffin’s innate desire by asking: “Mr. Know It All, when will you come up with your own ideologies?!” This stirred a wind of change that affected his personality completely.

Inspired by Adam and Sandra, his wife of twenty years, and encouraged by his students and friends Charles and Kelvin, Mr. Griffins wrote the most thought-provoking, national and international bestselling, philosophy-based book the university has ever recorded in its history – One Man’s Deep Words. He was awarded the university award for “Most Outstanding Lecturer of all Time.” Along with being a highly regarded philosophy text, his book influenced other departments of the university in many ways.

After writing a thesis based on his bestseller, he was awarded a Doctorate Degree in Philosophy. Three years later, he retired and wrote full time. With his name poised over every nook and cranny of Maryland and different prizes to his credit, Dr. Griffins has now written four great works, which have been reviewed in the Washington Post, Seattle Times, New York Times, ABC, Fox and a host of other major media outlets. He has been interviewed on podcasts and radio programs and in magazines by most media outfits in the United States and some in Canada.

Second installment of Z.I. Mahmud’s thesis on Victorian literature

Synopsis, Plot, and Summary of David Copperfield

         Charles Dickens, the critical realist and social satirist of the Victorian era depicted childhood memorabilia recollections in David Copperfield through the rhetoric of fictional biographer David Copperfield. Contemporary British polemical social critique and satirist George Orwell, said, “Among the British writers there is no better than Dickens in depicting childhood.”11 year old Dickens worked in a shoe polish factory as an apprentice and later a scanty legacy enabled him to attend school since his father was released from debtors parole. David’s widowed mother Ms. Clara was seduced by the affair of Mr. Murdstone, the cold hearted or stone hearted wine merchant and entrepreneur or proprietor of the firm Murdstone and Grinby. Blunderstone Rookery had to be forsaken ever since David’s being harassed by didactic dogmatism of the step parentage.

Downcast destiny of David Copperfield, leading to vulnerable exploitation among the insalubrity Victorian industrial pollution. Mysteries of childhood labour thus deteriorates the physical, mental, emotional and psychological health of David. He doesn’t have a sustainable living standard. Lack of love and affection were prevalent universalized themes of Victorian Literature. Miracles of the Industrial Revolution ironically provided malice and malevolence in the factory lives. Descriptions of Salem House portray the inevitable tyranny of deplorable and despondent educational institutions in Victorian England.  “Scraps of old copy-books and exercises litter the dirty floor. There is a strange unwholesome smell upon the room, like a mildewed corduroys, sweet apples wanting air and rotten books” Mr. Creakle, the headmaster and owner of Salem House, although profits from this enterprise but remains lackadaisical of improvement or pragmatism.

Shabbily clothed languishing lethargic master Mr. Mell and subsequently the unwelcoming embarrassment faced by David (“Take care of him. He bites”) criticizes the ethics of pedagogy and pedagogue. At the age of sixteen, Dickens began working as the apprentice for a law firm in London. The London Museum library attracted him overwhelmingly and he was privileged to learn short hand. By 1828 Dickens was endowed the Courts of Common reporter.

Soon he forsakes the legal profession to devote to the passion of journalism featuring reportage pertaining to parliamentary affairs. The legacy and fortune of David Copperfield was embellished by the association of guardian angel, Miss Betsey Trotwood, the eccentric widow with a quick mind and independent spirit (the comic precursor of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations). Mr. Wickfield and his daughter Miss Wickfield together encouraged David’s pursuits of attaining higher education. And the Canterbury Micawber family and the seashore Yarmouth Pegotty household occasionally enabled David Copperfield to idyllic settings for recreations and holiday destinations. Twists of broken hearted incidents highlight significance of parting with Emily (Emily was really naïve  in bigotry and class prejudices or economic discrimination); “good as his word” and “very good looking” James Steerforth eloped with Emily sardonically. Elopement with Emily couldn’t satisfy the incest of obsessive infatuation.

Furthermore, James Steerforth blandishing accomplished wooed of Dora Spenlow, David’s first wife. Micawber family was always broken into some financial crisis or other. Mr. Micawber satirizes the biographical allegory of Charles Dickens’ father John Dickens. John Dickens was incompetent with money and piled up tremendous debts throughout his life. When Dickens was twelve his father was arrested and taken custody in debtors’ prison of London New Gate. Whistling, childish naivety of Mr. Micawber’s witticism found resentment and indignation at “put lemon –peel into the kettle, sugar in the snuff tray, attempted to pour boiling water out of a candlestick”.

Nonetheless the melancholia and manic depression from burden of bankruptcy, enraged due to involvement with schemes of Uriah Heep squandering wealth whimsically mutated dramatically ever since Agnes’ aroma perfumed in this anticipation. He admires Agnes more than a daughter and indebted to her in benevolent spirits as elicited explicitly in the manifestation. Micawber proclaims to David in this passage: “Wickfield”, said Mr. Micawber now turning bright red. “My dear Copperfield, she is the only starry spot in a miserable existence. My respect of that young lady, my admiration or her character, my devotion to her for her love and truth, and goodness!…”

More next month!