100 TPC* in “H-Ray Vision”. A poem by Hillol Ray

Hillol Ray Photo 5142015

100 TPC* in “H-Ray Vision"
	

 	Dawn of civilization opened up human vision
To portray their own intrinsic mind-
And an "internal sense" of aesthetics was born
That's still prevailing on present mankind.
Biogenetic influence in our culture 
Relates to the seed of beauty in our  brain-
Followed by ethical values, disappearing fast,
Like passengers in a locomotive train.

For our primitive forefathers, beauty of art
Started as a secured but hidden joy-
And kept it alive for the millenniums
To come, like a treasured toy.
They painted and carved their own bodies 
With the brushes, scalpels or blunt knives-
To extricate the beautiful form,
In the shapes of mountains or beehives.
Connection between realities and imaginations
Was established with a powerful mission-
And I as a part of 100 TPC visualize as I dwell
On next millennium with "H-Ray Vision".

During "Stone-age Civilization",
We practiced solo dancing and song-
Irrespective of the month or season, 
These rituals went on too long!
Music became an inherent part of life,
Evidenced by poets’ and historians' tales-
And 'Art' was engraved in our brains
To ring the knowledge doorbells.
Aesthetic emotions led us in vast waves
Of creation to hop on a velvet joy ride-
And provoked the feelings of enjoyments
Without any scorn or life's ebb tide.

Primitive poets emphasized the aesthetics
And ethical values quietly in men-
And exemplified the manhood as a demigod
Drenched with beauty in the heroes den.
But modern religions have obscured
These thoughts to disguise them well-
And converted men from self-assertion
To where our minds now dwell.

Material things have prompted God
To depart from the spirit of man-
While evil spirits keep on provoking 
To commit sins whenever we can.
Aesthetic values left temples and churches
With the exception of an only few-
And kept the Gods alone, decaying,
Preserved for a historical view.
Center of life changed from inner spirit
Of modern man to the world outside-
While I watch the growing cities,
Full of tunnels, designed for us to hide.

Obviously, there's beauty in world today
That man constructs to appease the eye-
But in 'H-Ray Vision', that's a beauty 
Of genuine art and causes me to sigh!
Modern beauty of replicating forms 
Seem to sink in nothingness at best-
And to me, this feeling is pathological,
As it draws mankind to a perilous test.
The idea of being beautiful or heroic
Ties with modern hectic pace-
While rooms for perversions and pandemic
Are being made to glorify our sanely face.

Modern poet is an addict to all excesses,
From chemical stuffs to junk food-
And abandoned himself into gluttony
To be an obese, may be for good.
Obesity is not only a relinquishment
Of self-aesthetics covered under shirt-
But it's also the forsaking of the idea
For man has to be an object d'art.
Poets have ceased to be performers
To become observers on the Earth-
Whose aesthetics have left us behind,
And taken away the life's mirth!


Today, “H-Ray Vision” reveals, modern changes
Are recreating the lost beauty sense-
And have chosen the way of mass-beauty
Of rigid men in uniform marching in tense.

Certainly this has some beauty 
Of mass destruction and senseless killing-
Immersed in slaughtering and cleansing,
While leading our bones to chilling!
Questions flocking my poetic voice
Now whisper in the stormy air-
And ask: how should we reclaim our rights
To aesthetic emotion that's genuine and fair?
How do we regain our innocence on Earth 
To a spirit of wonder towards beauty and art?
And reclaim our ethical rights to an answer
While we mend the broken heart!

I am sure, as a poet, these are trivial questions
For the modern intelligent poets to talk about-
As life is now being built like a machine
That grinds and squeaks without a doubt.
So far, no one has yet claimed somnolently
The "aesthetic" rights we all are entitled to-
Nor to preach "ethical" human rights
The way the poets deal with or love to do!
In Brazil, the poets have chosen music
With slow dance as an artistic goal-
And they adore their active bodies 
With costumes to cherish the soul!
To an outsider, this seems to be a futility,
Or not a beautiful attractive sight-
Rather it's the way, the Brazilian poets 
Assert their own aesthetic right.

Modern poets think that aesthetic emotions
Are a by-product of civilizations for sure-
Instead, they come from pre-historic poets;
Similar to ethical feelings they had to endure.
Many poets quietly forsaken the tribal life
To replace it with a grim boredom now-
And destroyed their emotional incentives
To promote lust, and technical know-how.
Our aesthetic values are sadly mixed up,
And emotions grow on watching a television-

So we love to view the gory scenes
Of crimes, followed by nuclear fission.

We would be better off if 100 TPC starts to write
About their "inner sense" of beauty-
And claim their aesthetic rights to nourish
The ethical values as a moral duty.
There's no beauty in the squalor and poverty 
Of population in poor nations on Earth-
Likewise the beauty lacks in "shallow lives"
Of richer countries since their birth.

As a revolutionary poet and thinker, today I advocate
The continuous reconstruction for change of mind-
By sharing science, arts, technical know-how globally,
And putting aesthetics with emotions in a bind.
Science has the essential tools, and poets have the pen,
For making a better world, and there's no doubt-
But uncanny human mind is curtailing the cultural
And political means to create the game of shout.
So for betterment of mankind, as a poet, may I urge
To strongly build our brains and culture until it's right?
Via the homogenous blending of efforts of 100 TPC*
In "H-Ray Vision" with precision and foresight!!


*100 TPC = 100 thousand Poets for Change


Hillol Ray, Poet and Author, is an Environmental Engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Dallas, Texas. His accolades include: Bronze Medal and Customer Service Award from EPA; Literary Achievement Award from BECAA (Bengal Engineering College Alumni Association of North America and Canada); Distinguished Service Award  (“Literary Accomplishments and Human Rights Activist”) from the Cultural Association of Bengal in New York.  He is listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, and Who’s Who in the World.  In 2018, he was presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis in New Jersey, USA.

For additional information, you may visit:  http://bwesner.wixsite.com/hillolrayawards      

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Every Heart. A poem by Connie T. Braun

Connie Braun

Every Heart

The maps have been redrawn and the roads
are filled again with refugees.

Have you not heard? 
Even the stones listen,

hold each footstep.
Heartbeats 

return to the earth, engraved
on stone, touched with fingertips

of memory. Cobbled roads
are lined with linden trees, yellow

with blossoms in summer. Their lingering 
scent draws the bees, flavors the honey. 

August breeze through withered grass,
the river’s pull. Each is a longing. 

Do you not know? 
The body is at once matter and light,

the firmament 
without border. Separation

displaces the earth, and every heart 
is drawn to love, but like a refugee.

Even the dust
of stars makes its way home to the body, 

and the planets gather in their house
when a woman gives birth.

Connie T. Braun (MA Humanities; MFA) instructs creative writing and mentors undergraduate writers and editors and has published two books of non-fiction and two poetry chapbooks. Grounded in the war-refugee and immigrant experience of World War II, her explorations of memory and witness of trauma, silences and language, and the sites of geographical and spiritual displacement and belonging are resonant in the present. Her academic and personal essays, poetry and reviews, appear in various journals and anthologies, and her poetry has been set to musical compositions. She is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets, among other writing associations, and lives in Vancouver.

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The Other Life, by Patrick Connors. A Review by Darcie Friesen Hossack

To the Point
The best poems are written to be read by anyone.
Meticulously crafted over a period of time
To seem written
                quickly and simply

The best moments in life
are the result of years of preparation
passing by in a burst
causing change
                even if you are not ready

Before you realize
they have happened
                they have happened

and stay with you forever.

Whether Patrick Connors is referring to himself or not (I suspect, in fact, he means to address the many, many poets he has helped lift up over his career), this first stanza describes his own work and poetic sensibilities. In the two stanzas that follow, the poet seeds the earth for what is to come: a collection that reads something like a fractured memoir. Stained glass that pulls apart various wavelengths of lived experience, before spilling them on the floor into a prism of living colour.

In the beginning, with some of his closest-to-current-day selections, we find the poet, waking up to a Wednesday that felt deceptively, even disorientingly ordinary.

Hangover

The morning after the election
which changed the whole world
the sun rose faintly.
I got out of bed
pulled the cord to open the blinds.

I slowly made my way to the washroom
checked my dry tongue in the mirror
wobbled my way towards the kitchen
stopped to pick up the paper.
Ignoring the news, I opened the sports page.

Read about the Leafs latest loss - boy did they lose
put together the contents of my lunch
laid out my clothes - better wear a sweater
had peameal bacon and pancakes
for breakfast - just like every Wednesday.

A direct line might be draw from there to when Connors writes:

Don't blame the children.
The way of the world is not their fault-
it is my generation that has caused this mess.

In this way, Connors has a view not only into the human condition, but a self-awareness grounded in empathy and hope, allowing us to “feel an occasional surge of faith” along with him.

Connors’ faith is also evident as a thread woven through these selections. A quiet, enduring faith that guides both love and hope. Love for others, and a growing and hard-won love for himself, and a hope that the past, both his own and the one we carry collectively, is not binding. That a time will come “when love is the purpose of the rule of law.”

I have several favourite poems from this collection, that connect across time and generations and pages. The one that will remain with me most stubbornly, however, is My Father the Poet, which in these excerpts, captures a 13 year old poet, becoming:

...

I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
...

I finished the poem
but wasn't done
so I wrote another one.

When I was finished
I cried tears of healing
of self-discovery and accomplishment -
I felt less alone.

I couldn't figure out
which poem to hand in
I liked them both so much
and so differently.

So I gave them to my Dad to decide.
After all, he was the one I looked up to
not as a hero, or role model, or mentor
mostly as a demagogue with veto powers.

After about twenty minutes, he cursed them both
denounced them as crap, worse than crap;
he made me burn them in the fireplace.

...

When I was 39, I submitted two poems
in honour of my first headline reading
to a website celebrating my family's ancestry.

Venerable Jack, the keep of the domain
said in reply, "Ah, young cousin from Upalong,
you are indeed a poet, just like your old Dad!"

At last, although I had never known
I finally understood.

...

Throughout all of the poems in Connors’ The Other Life, we see, almost visually, certainly emotionally, the poet accepting and embracing his nature as a sensitive, caring, progressive and deeply empathetic person. We see a man who has embraced both his masculine and feminine sides, and as such, has overcome the kind of damage that is so often passed down by a society that insists that a man must be a certain way, and must, certainly, not be a poet.

These poems are a testament to human and individual change. And by the end, we know how very possible it is to become more than anyone else may have intended us to be.

The Wonder

The years which have led me
into middle age
unwittingly, unwillingly
have yet been kind

I have lost 20 pounds
I have gained strength, patience.
My eyes may not work as well
but I see much more clearly.

What I used to hate I now love
what I used to love I now adore
what I cannot change I accept-
what I can't accept I try to change.

I am not what I will be
I am not what I once was-
and yet I appreciate everything which has brought me here.

The Other Life @ Amazon.ca
The Other Life @ Goodreads
The Other Life @ MosaicPress
The Other Life @ Chapters.Indigo.ca

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press), was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LA Crete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightning), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, an international award winning chef.

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The Autumnal Series. Poems by Debra Black

Debra Black2

The Autumnal Series

 #1 
ten thousand joys and sorrows,
a single silver leaf
under the paperly sky.
beloved, befriended,
then gone, gone, gone.

#2
 ten thousand sorrows and joys,
the slatish grey moon,
the silvery dusk settles in,
my heart leaps into
emptiness, beingness,
the suchness of such. 
beloved, befriended,
then gone, gone, gone.

#3 
the thrumming of my heart,
the bird sings; wings its way
under the autumnal sky.
ten thousand joys and sorrows.

Debra Black is a former feature writer and news reporter with the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper. Over her 28 plus year career there she won a number of national awards for her journalism, including the National Newspaper Award. She also has won a number of awards for magazine writing prior to her working at the Star. Her poems were first published in University of Toronto literary magazines in the mid-1970s when she was a student. The magazines have long gone, but her love of the written word and poetry has not disappeared. Her most recent work appears on the prestigious literary websites the Queen’s Mob Teahouse and WordCity Literary Journal.  She also has just published a limited edition book of poetry and art in collaboration with a Toronto artist Janne Reuss entitled A Call and Response Images and Words, inspired by the pandemic.

Throughout her career as a journalist, she covered public policy issues such as education and immigration and diversity and has interviewed some of Canada’s leading politicians, writers and thinkers. She has travelled extensively and taught journalism in Rwanda and covered the HIV crisis in South Africa and Swaziland for the Star. While working and raising a child, she continued to write poetry for herself and others. Having left the Star, she now teaches yin yoga and meditation and spends many an hour writing and polishing her poetry, exploring the human condition and themes of love and existence.

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Father’s pigeons. Fiction by Sherzod Artikov

Sherzod Artikov

Father’s pigeons

Translated from Uzbek into English by Nigora Dedamirzayeva

“This is the place that you told,” the driver said.

The taxi came to a halt near the edge of the road. I looked around from inside the car. The view – the edifice with two green cupolas and myriad pigeons around them appeared in front of me. Coming closer I found the yard full of pigeons which were eating birdseed scattered by people.

“Back in the day, it’s called « Pigeon cemetery»”, indicated the driver. “It’s become the shrine of a renowned holy man who lived in the city. The building at the corner used to be his praying room in the dim and distant past.

Plenty of people in front of that building were coming in and out turn by turn.

“Hundreds of people go on a pilgrimage every day,” he continued. “Here, people pray for the dead, patients for healing, childless couples for babies. They make imam* give the blessing and recite the Koran** asking for invocation. Walking in the yard they strew seeds and make a pilgrimage to the holy men’s grave.”

I was keeping my eyes peeled for a flock of pigeons flying in the sky even as I was listening to him, honestly. They were just the same as described in my father’s album: bluish grey, white, and black, more gentle and softer than each other as if giving a meaningful look.

“Dear guest, I’ll be in the car,” the driver said after some time as he prepared to get in it. “If I didn’t have an allergy to autumn air, I would escort you, unfortunately staying outside a lot makes me sneeze.”

Blowing his nose, he walked towards his car. I came closer to the pigeons busy pecking seeds. They were fighting over food as a few grains were left on the ground. In this case, the same as with humans, the weaker group will be sidelined, luck is only on the side of the more agile.

There was an old thin woman selling grains on one side of the shrine. I didn’t see her at first.  People were fetching grains in a cellophane bag from her. When I clapped eyes on it, I bought some. Seeing me scatter seeds on the ground, the pigeons surrounded me. Those flying in the sky also descended and joined the flock. In an instant, I was amongst countless pigeons. Forgetting fear, some of them pecked at my grain, as well as my hand, while others tried to climb up my shoes.

Soon, the bag in my hand was emptied. I sat down as I was getting tired. There was a cemetery behind me. The shrine and cemetery were separated by a long wall and it were clearly visible through a fenced chink in the midst of the brick walls. I guess there was a mosque next to it because the image of a soon-to-be-crescent moon made of copper on a high dome was inclined eastward.

As I sat on the bench watching the pigeons, I took my camera and photographed them several times. Then I opened my briefcase and took father’s album from inside it. I compared the pigeons around me with the ones drawn in the album. I looked through the notes and the dates written under the pictures there. Below each picture was a note and date. For example, next to the picture of a grey pigeon with the date «04.06.1995» was written «My darling, my child went to the first grade today.» Underneath was a picture of a white dove with the date «02.11.2001» and the words «Yesterday, I looked at the firmament through the window. I felt as if I was seeing you, Snow White.» Among them, the one that attracted the most attention was the picture of a black and white, plump pigeon. Father had dated it «07.06.2006» and written beneath it: «I bought chocolate from the store today, it has a picture of a dove on a package, just like you, Fluffy.»

When there was no one left in front of the scholar’s praying room which had been mentioned by the driver, I got up and went there. Inside, an imam with a turban on his head and white beard was sitting in the room, the Koran and the worry beads were on a table covered with blue velvet in front of him.

“Come on, sir,” the imam said giving me a warm welcome

“I want you to recite the Koran for my father’s spirit,” I said when I saw his inquiring look.

He began to recite the Koran. Listening to him I visualized my father: I called to mind his last days at the oncology department of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Back then I often stayed with my father who was lying on the bed for the last few days of his life with brain cancer and had lost his hair completely. He was emaciated and his eyes were sunken.  He always lay holding my hands; when I fed a spoon of water or soup to him, he looked at me smacking his lips and blinking his eyes. He always wanted to say something, but couldn’t speak as he became speechless, he was only wheezing.

One day, his condition worsened. As I didn’t move away from him, I took the remote control of the TV set on the wall and changed channels to distract myself. At one point, father wheezed in a low voice putting up his right hand as if screaming. Pigeons were being shown on television. At first, I understood that his grunting was for me to change to another channel.  When I did this, he got nervous, and his hands started to shake.

“Bring back the channel showing pigeons,” Mum said and approached father trying to quieten him.

After returning to that channel, father immediately calmed down watching pigeons. But his hands were still shaking, his trembling jaw seemed to be hanging when my mother wasn’t holding it.

“Ramadan, did you miss your pigeons?” asked Mum gripping his jaw tightly as if to read his mind.

Tears welled up in my father’s eyes, he tried to say something, but he didn’t go beyond gasping for breath again.

“I think your father misses the pigeons,” my mother said, turning her face to me. “In Marghilan, where we were born, there was a place called «Pigeon cemetery». Your father’s childhood was spent there. Even his youth.  There were countless pigeons. Your father adored and passed much time with them. He took me there a lot, too. When we went, we always fed the pigeons sprinkling grains and sat dreaming for hours.

My father was lying quietly listening to my mother. One moment he was staring at her mouthing, the next at the pigeons on TV. Listening to her words, he more or less understood what she was saying, and perhaps that was why he wept bitterly and tried to get up, wrinkling his border of bed.

After finishing reciting, the imam opened his hands in supplication. I did the same.

“There’s nothing wrong with asking,” the imam said glancing at me. “Son, you look like a foreigner.”

“I’m from The United States,” I said introducing myself to him. “But I’m Uzbek. My parents were born here. They lived in Marghilan for some time and immigrated during the “reconstruction years”***.

“They moved away before gaining independence, did they?” he asked.

The sky was dark, and the clouds were floating in blue. The yellow leaves of a plane tree in front of the praying room were falling over the ground in the breeze. I reminisced about my childhood in Chicago stepping on the leaves. My father said that I wasn’t born when they moved to the USA. Father had a deep affection for me as he was raised in an orphanage.  Every weekend we used to go either to matches of basketball team called “Chicago Bulls” or the nature museum. We also went to the cinema a lot. At night, I always passed into a slumber listening stories and tales. Whenever he was free from work, he used to call me to his room and teach me Uzbek and how to play chess. At that time, he impressed me as a blithe and pleased person. On top this, he was very jokey. 

Even after growing up, I didn’t notice any common human feelings such as woe, longing or grief in him. True, sometimes when we came back on foot after watching the “Chicago Bulls” match or drank tea on the porch in the summertime, his heart sank seeing a flock of birds in the sky. It would happen so quickly that he fell silent as if he had lost his tongue at that point where he was telling a joke or an interesting story, and sudden change in his soul continued for several days. Sometimes I saw my father opening the window wide and his eyes had a distant faraway look. Even then, the birds would be flying in the sky, and my father watched their movements hearing their cries.

He worked for a diamond trading company. Even worked at home because of his busy schedule. Sometimes I watched him from the doorpost of his room and sympathized seeing him working, wiping the sweat from his face. He worked overmuch, but in the meantime, he took a break, and wrote in the album that I now have, putting his hand on his chin. Then I realized that he had drawn the pictures of pigeons at that time.

After his passing, I flipped through this album every night.  Seeing the light in my room hadn’t gone out yet, my mother often entered the room and we looked at the album together, her eyes filling with tears. The inscriptions and dates under each picture were more heartbreaking than the picture of pigeons there. The more I read them, the more I felt like I was bent over the flow of memories.

“I think your father wanted to go back to his homeland,” my mother said in such woebegone moments. “He wanted to see pigeons.”

A light drizzle started to fall. October here is just like Chicago’s, it’s kind of cloudy and rainy. As it started to rain, the people who came to the shrine began to disperse.  Seeing them go, the pigeons seemed to be sad. They looked at each other as if they didn’t understand anything and stared thoughtfully at the people’s backs who had sprinkled them with grains.  Just then, the heavens opened and I walked to the car parked on the east side of the shrine to avoid catching a cold. The driver was dozing in the car waiting for me. He woke up when I opened the door suddenly. 

“Were you here?” he said rubbing his eyes.

On the way, it was pouring even more heavily. The car’s windshield wiper was unable to wipe off the raindrops hitting it. Seeing the sheets of rain, I thought of the pigeons with concern. I thought they got caught in the rain. After a while, I reassured myself that there was a place for them to keep inside. I couldn’t stop myself thinking. Another thought, if there would be a shelter for those countless pigeons began to flicker through my mind.

“Did you forget something there?”–the driver asked when I asked him to please turn back.

When I got back to the shrine, I got out of the car quickly. I hurried to the yard which had become a haven for pigeons.  But there were no pigeons, neither on earth,  nor in the heavens, as if they had vanished somewhere without a trace. I stood in the rain for a while not knowing what to do.

“Did you forget something?”

The imam who was closing the door of the praying room gave the same question.

“Where did the pigeons go?” I asked turning to him.

The imam looked around as if he did not understand.

“They went nowhere,” he said in a calm voice.  “Look at the roof. They have nests here.”

I looked at the roof. At first, I didn’t notice the shelter. After some time, I saw a long, narrow passage. The passage was enclosed and there were several openings to allow light inside.  The pigeons were close together and watching the rain fall outside, sticking their heads out from the windows.

“Do they all fit in there?” I said looking at him for clarity while my concern disappeared.

“Of course,” he said wiping his rain-soaked face with a handkerchief. “They  have been living there as a family for many years.”

When I returned to the hotel, my clothes were absolutely sopping. Seeing me enter through the main door, one of the servants there handed me a towel. While toweling, I ordered the manager to place a call for me to America. He immediately dialed the numbers I told and connected my mother.

“Mum,” I said when my mother’s familiar voice came from the receiver. “I went and saw my father’s pigeons. They are the same as the pictures depicted in the album.”

Mother wanted to say something, but her voice didn’t come out. Only the sound of her crying could be heard from the receiver.

2019, October

Comments:

*Imam – a Muslim religious leader

*The Koran – the holy book of the Muslims

* Reconstruction years- years between 1988-1990 in the Soviet Union.

Author: Sherzod Artikov

Translated from Uzbek into English by Nigora Dedamirzayeva

Sherzod Artikov was born in 1985 in the city of Marghilan of Uzbekistan. He graduated from Fergana Polytechnic institute in 2005. He was one of the winners of the national literary contest “My Pearl Region” in the direction of prose in 2019. In 2020, his first authorship book “The Autumn’s Symphony” was published in Uzbekistan by publishing house Yangi Asr Avlodi. In 2021, his works were published in the anthology books called World Writers in Bangladesh, Asia sings and Mediterranean Waves in Egypt in the English language. In 2021, he participated in the International Writers Congress organized in Argentina, the international literature conference under the name “Mundial insurgencial cultura” dedicated to Federico Garcia Lorca’s life and work, the International Poetry Festival in Tunisia, the International Poetry Carnival in Singapoore. This year he was honoured as “Global Peace Ambassador” by the Iqra Foundation, “International Peace Ambassador” by the World Literary Forum for Peace and Human Rights and awarded “Certificate of friendship” and other certifications by “Revista Cardenal” in Mexico. Currently, he is the literary consultant of the cultural website of Pakistan “Sindh courier”, the representative and delegate in Uzbekistan of the literature magazine of Mexico Revista Cardenal and the literature and art magazine of Chile Casa Bukowski.

His works have been published in several magazines and newspapers of Uzbekistan. Then translated into Russian, English, Turkish, Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Albanian, Romanian, French, Greek, Hebrew, Portuguese, Bengali, Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Persian and Urdu languages.

Besides, his works have been published in the literary magazines, newspapers and websites of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Romania, Poland, Israel, Belgium, Albania, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua .

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Histograms. A poem by Dr. Rubeena Anjum

Rubina

Histograms
   
histograms show city mounted on a graph 
stormy grey clouds perched on skyscrapers
pillars of isolation stand at 90 degrees
friendless patios braving bipolar weather 
elevators pass through the curtained glass 
 
penthouses to down below are inmates
barely talking, not even to themselves
towering flat-chest avenues, yawning
at night, quadrilateral lights watch
looming shadows befriending ghosts    
 
brown bags binned; tv screened black
unpaid bills stacked; cell phones de-stressed
whacked bundles put to bed, logged off  
so schooled are dogs inside our bodies_
unleashed, they howl, run wild in dreams
 
filled with gravel and steel, in the bars
of connectivity is wired isolation, condos 
converted airtight vaults are not homes 
in hives piled one on another, bees 
never complain; they embrace hierarchies
 
on skewers of compliance, every day
pushed against the columns of linearity  
baby dolls, dandy boys, hooked on dating apps
uptown spas, diesel gyms, hop-daddy getaways
life stays vertical, lonely, unloved and sad

Dr. Rubeena Anjum is an educator and a psychologist. Now retired, she pursues her passion for reading and writing poetry. She is a member of the Dallas Poets Community and the Richardson Poets Group. Her recent work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Artistic Antidote UMN Clinical Affairs, and Corona Virus Anthology by Austin International Poetry Festival.

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The Torch That We Never Saw. A poem by Mansour Noorbakhsh

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is canada-persia.jpg

The Torch That We Never Saw

(A prayer for Afghans and Afghanistan after brutal Taliban advance while American soldiers and diplomats are leaving Afghanistan.)

The water hit us like the hard rocks. The darkness engulfed us by the violent waves when we heard the boat breaking and we saw the light of the bullets towards our boat. The waves that we had never seen before and had not known how powerful they are to smash our weak body and the boards of our boat, had hit us. We had been taught the water is for liveliness. We were not familiar with the deadly waves, nor with dying in the wandering waters. With the first whistle of a bullet and with the first shake of the boat that broke, we left ourselves in the stormy waves. As we had been told.  We had nowhere but the embrace of deadly waves. And we had learned nothing but that. And only then did we realize what they had taught us was to die and dying only. Not how to survive. On the beach, no hand was shaking any torch for us. Because no one neither expected nor believed that we could reach the shore from such violent waves.

Mansour Noorbakhsh writes and translates poems in both English and Farsi, his first language. He tries to be a voice for freedom, human rights and environment in his writings. He believes a dialog between people around the world is an essential need for developing a peaceful world, and poetry helps this dialog echoes the human rights. Currently he is featuring The Contemporary Canadian Poets in a weekly Persian radio program https://persianradio.net/. The poet’s bio and poems are translated into Farsi and read to the Persian-Canadian audiences. Both English (by the poets) and Farsi (by him) readings are on air. This is a project of his to build bridges between the Persian-Canadian communities by way of introducing them to contemporary Canadian poets. His book about the life and work of Sohrab Sepehri entitled, “Be Soragh e Man Agar Miaeed” (trans. “If you come to visit me”) is published in 1997 in Iran. And his English book length poem; “In Search of Shared Wishes” is published in 2017 in Canada. His English poems are published in “WordCity monthly” and “Infinite Passages” (anthology 2020 by The Ontario Poetry Society). He is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society and he is an Electrical Engineer, P.Eng. He lives with his wife, his daughter and his son in Toronto, Canada.

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Sloshing sound of a flowing river. A poem by Bhuwan Thapaliya

bhuwanthapaliya

Sloshing sound of a flowing river

Through my window, 
filthy clouds of dust reel in 
from the graveled lanes
of an offended city.
It distorts my sights,
soaks my shirt with filth, 
churns my stomach 
and infuriates me all the time.
It is not just 
the denseness of the air 
or the stench of
the corporate garbage 
strewn over the streets
or the lethal chemical fertilizers
that have run off
into rivers and lakes
causing horrible, 
creepy blooms of algae.
It is in knowing the part
that I too have played 
in destroying the beautiful nature;
it takes a heavy toll on me. 
It takes a heavy toll 
on my mental health.
I am missing
the persistent sloshing sound
of a flowing river, 
my youthful days
in my village, 
where I enjoyed
splashing and playing
with the little fishes 
and aquatic insects
through the waters
as my grand mum
was busy washing clothes 
by the riverbank.
I could still feel
the sensation
of the flowing waters
on my legs
and smile at the women, 
carrying freshly cut grasses
on their backs,
hurriedly walking past
the blooming hillside flowers
with spiritual essences 
in their eyes.

Nepalese poet Bhuwan Thapaliya works as an economist and is the author of four poetry collections. His poems have been widely published in international magazines and journals such as Kritya, Foundling Review, FOLLY, WordCity Monthly, Poetry and Covid: A Project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, University of Plymouth, and Nottingham Trent University, Trouvaille Review, Journal of Expressive Writing, Pendemics Literary Journal, Pandemic Magazine, The Poet, Valient Scribe, Strong Verse, Ponder Savant, International Times, Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Life and Times, VOICES (Education Project), Longfellow Literary Project, Poets Against the War, among many others. Thapaliya has read his poetry and attended seminars in venues around the world, including South Korea, India, the United States, Thailand, Cambodia, and Nepal.

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Yours. Fiction by Bruce Meyer

Author Photo Bruce Meyer

Yours

A salutation is gesture of sincere utterance that either says hello or offers a goodbye. The sign off defines a relationship. ‘Yours sincerely,’ is business-like, professional, cold, and objective. It offers no warmth. It leaves one with the feeling that what has come before was merely a transaction, a letter to the electric company stating payment is enclosed.

‘Yours truly,’ is even trickier. It suggests there is some faithful bond between the writer and the recipient, a lasting attachment of devotion that cannot be broken by goodbye, a kind à bientôt, until next time. The word truly carries the subtle suggestion that everything else that passed between two people was a lie, and that may have been the case. Relationships are deceptive.

People get hurt because they read meanings into things rather than from things. Jane’s Dear John letter to me was signed with a curt ‘Yours sincerely.’ I have the feeling she really wanted to say ‘Yours truly’ because she had been lying to me about how she really felt. If there is a truly or truthful version of how she perceived us I will never know now that we have broken up. I wish her the best, but I wish I had some modicum of clarity. I’d feel better with a bit of clarity.

            I am not sure what I did to hurt Jane. Even if I had, she would never have said because truly isn’t ‘Yours with clarity.’ People never tell you how you’ve hurt them. Was it something I said? Something I did? I still don’t know. I don’t blame her for not wanting to reveal the truth to me. If someone is wounded, they rarely show where their vulnerable point was.

Jane knew I was leaving for three months overseas to work on my thesis. In the end, I stayed longer. The work was important to me. I wanted my doctorate. Jane thought education was pointless. Maybe that was the problem between us. I stayed longer because there was nothing at home for me to hurry back to. And with a broken heart, I could be just as miserable while I was doing something constructive far away as I would at home.

The international postage system in those days was remarkable. Letters moved with a speed that is now the domain of emails and text messages, though people who break up via text messages are just being tacky and I will give Jane credit for both penmanship and emotional courtesy. She wrote me a standard breaking-it-off letter. The problem, I later realized, was that we were still dating when she wrote it. It had been posted three days before my flight. That had to hurt because I felt that our final, tender hours together had been a lie. We were walking in High Park. The cherry blossoms were coming to the end of their bloom, and as the petals fell and scattered on the wind, I couldn’t help but feel that the beauty of what Jane and I shared was also being scattered to the wind.

When I arrived at my London flat, jet-lagged, and dizzy from the time change, her letter was already on the table inside the front door of the flats where the custodian lined up the letters alphabetically each day. My first reaction was no one had taught her how to write a proper personal letter. It began “Hey,” and most of her sentences were fragments that wanted to communicate what she felt but fell short grammatically. Those fragments left me wondering if there was something Jane wanted to say and could not. Perhaps English had never been her forte and possibly the reason she felt I was wasting my time pursuing my PhD in English literature. Letter writing is a lost art. At least she hadn’t texted me.

            Letter writing was drilled into me by my grandmother who wrote personal letters in a very archaic and flowing script. My Gran had practiced her art during the First World War without realizing that letters to and from the trenches were censored. She kept carbon copies of each message and in one – I was the intrusive descendant who found her cache of correspondence after her death and read each one before tucking them away with the belief they were historical artefacts – she wrote to a soldier who had been her beau telling him that his brevity, his postcard of ticked boxes where the only personal element was a check mark beside “Send more socks” left her distraught with the belief he had fallen out of love with her.

Gran probably never learned if the young man was or wasn’t still in love with her because the next piece of correspondence in the stack was a telegram from the beau’s sister in Regina informing my Gran that the young man had been killed in action. I don’t know if she even got around to buying the knitting needles or the regulation khaki wool. The letters from the beau were returned to her.

My Gran’s stationery was scented with lavender. When I was a brat to my mother, my grandmother made me learn how to write an apology letter. That letter was signed “Every faithfully, if you forgive me,” in a pleading, aulic tone. ‘Every faithfully’ means ‘you can trust me…please trust me, I won’t do whatever wrong I had committed again.’” I realized letters can be punishing as well as soothing. My father wrote love letters to my mother. I have never been permitted to read them and I don’t blame Mom for keeping them private, but when I asked her if they made her feel good about herself her reply was, “Like a million dollars.”

            I sat in my flat overlooking St. George’s Square. The landlady had been kind enough to leave a packet of coffee beside the kettle and a small pitcher of cream in the tiny refrigerator. I tilted back in my chair, looked at the residents’ garden, and wondered what should happen next. Should I reply to the letter? No. That would be awkward politeness – etiquette taken too far. She I write a letter back to her asking why she did what she did in the way she did it? No. That might end up sounding vindictive. There are two people to every piece of correspondence. Writing letters is like playing tennis. One person hits the ball and another returns the volley. When one receives a goodbye letter either from a dying relative or regarding a dying relationship the correspondence becomes a matter of talking to oneself where the recipient of thoughts and observations is reduced to silence. The best a person can do when the recipient vanishes is to vanish too.

A day or so later, I was in Boots Pharmacy and found some stationery that I thought suitable for writing to my parents to keep them up to date on my progress. The bottom of each page was decaled, and the envelopes had ragged flaps to match the decal-edged paper with its bearded ends. I didn’t care if my mother took the time to write back to me. We had arranged for long-distance phone cards so we could talk once a week or twice if I was running short of funds for groceries and train fare to libraries in other cities. But nonetheless I wrote to my folks. I tried to put into words the places I’d seen, the books and manuscripts I’d read, and the immediacy the past has when one holds something old and rare in one’s fingers and learns from it.

I thought of going to the London Eye and sending Jane a postcard of myself against a mock backdrop of the city’s vista but decided once I was on the wheel that the gesture would be pointless. To her, the London Eye photograph would just be another picture for her to toss out either immediately or years from now (if she was sentimental) and had to clean out a drawer. I had the picture taken but I sent it to my Mom.

Even if I had sent Jane the picture postcard of me in one of the wheel’s gondolas, my arms spread to embrace a whole new experience, what would I say? “Wish you were here?” That wouldn’t be right. She had written me a Dear John letter, the kind soldiers used to get when their girlfriends or wives found someone else at home while the combatant was off serving God and Country.

For the first several weeks in London I wanted Jane because I missed her, but I didn’t want her there because she didn’t want me. If she missed me, I could experience a vicarious schadenfreude, though putting anything of that nature in a letter would be mean and even meaner if I had written it on a postcard. No. I did not wish she was there. I wished her the best, but I wished her the best from the safe distance where recovery from a broken relationship is possible. That kind of distance is what embraces a ship as it sails off into the horizon, shrinking in size and importance until it can no longer be seen. Out of sight and out of mind.

            Besides, postcards are the worst kind of letter. There are two types of postcards that I detest, and the worst is the photo Christmas card that friends with kids send me. One couple always dressed up in matching awful seasonal sweaters with the children scattered around their ankles in footy sleepers. What put me off photo cards last year was that the Christmas family gathering, now that the kids were older, had been taken on a beach in New England and a very buff guy minding his own business photobombed the corner of the image. The kids were dressed up in sleepers even though they’d outgrown that kind of gear, and every member of the family had a red snowman sweater and Santa cap on. I could tell they were sweating profusely and just wanted to get the whole thing over with. The shirtless guy was carrying a surfboard and looked like he was in a hurry to find his Christmas gear before someone pointed out he was almost next to nature.

            Several years ago, I made the mistake of dating two women at the same time, both of whom were Sarah. They were from different backgrounds, different parts of the city. They went to different universities, studied different subjects, and moved in social spheres that, as far as I could tell from their online existence, never intersected like the edges of a Ven diagram. There was no way they knew each other.

Both Sarahs announced they were going to Italy for the summer to study art – one to Florence and the other to Venice. I thought ‘Italy is a big country…what are the chances?’ and dismissed the possibility they might accidentally encounter each other. Secretly, I was counting on one or both to fall madly in love with someone they met overseas for their studies and in doing so excuse me from the duty of having to write a goodbye letter to one or both of them.

Fate is an odd beast. They met in the Coliseum in Rome, began talking about home and people they knew as they sat down at a tiny sidewalk table for espressos and gelatos. They sent me souvenir postcard of a ruined city, their middle fingers raised, and the salutation about what I should do to myself. I admired their ability to put me in my place. That’s what a good letter can do if it is meant to do that.

            Jane had my undivided attention, and our relationship still went wrong. I wanted her to be my one and only. My last day with her was spent in the park and I remember looking into her eyes as I picked cherry blossom petals from her hair. I wanted to kiss her. I was falling in love with her, but I was too much of an idiot to do anything about it. The blossoms were pink, and they reminded me of the blush in her cheeks. She’d been out in the spring sunshine all day and was sunburnt. I think I told her she looked deep pink, but I forgot to add the blossom part. If I wrote to her now and said what I had forgotten to say the message might read like a letter of unconditional surrender and I won’t give her the joy of that. Besides, the truth behind our beautiful day in the park was that she had, in her mind, already broken off our relationship. I just had to go to the other side of the Atlantic to find the letter.

            It was still early in the morning and London was alive. I went for a walk through St. George’s Square, up Denbigh Street to Tavistock, and all the way to Victoria Station. I must have passed at least ten letter boxes, all painted red, some with ERII on them and others with GRVI. The open slots looked hungry. But I passed them by and told them, sincerely and truly and with fond regards, I would feed them if I met someone who also wrote letters but didn’t need them because we had so much to share with each other.

Bruce Meyer is the author of 67 books of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and literary non-fiction. His most recent collections of short stories are Down in the Ground (Guernica Editions, 2020) and The Hours: Stories from a Pandemic (Ace of Swords, 2021). His stories have won or been shortlisted for numerous international prizes. He lives in Barrie, Ontario. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Meyer

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All Shook Up. Non-fiction by Paul Germano

Paul Germano WordCity pix

All Shook Up

Ring, ring, ring, ring. Roughly 44 years ago (August 16, 1977, to be exact), my landline rang and Nancy was on the other end. Nancy didn’t even bother to say hello. Instead she blurted out, “Elvis is dead.” I was, and still am, a big fan of Elvis Costello, so I immediately thought she meant my Elvis. When she clarified that it was Presley, not Costello, I felt slightly relieved, but still quite stunned and saddened. My brother Tony and sister Kathy, both roughly a decade older than me, were true-blue Elvis Presley fans, especially my brother who was a super fan. So growing up in the 1960s, I was exposed to Elvis Presley’s music as well as a plethora of singers and bands making names for themselves in Rock and Pop, as well as California Beach music. I had even earned the trust of my big brother and big sister, who willingly let me, their little kid brother, listen to their albums and 45s on my own, including Presley’s music, with the caveat that I handled the vinyl with care, which of course I did. By the time I was eight years old (in 1966—please, don’t do the math), I was already a diehard music fan and discovering a slew of my own rock stars to idolize. These are the blessings of having an older brother and older sister to show one the way.

When Elvis died on that sad summer day in the middle of August in 1977, my hometown of Syracuse, smack dab in the center of New York State, was already in an Elvis state of mind. Fans were excited, some of them downright giddy, that his concert tour was making a stop in Syracuse, scheduled for later in August. My brother Tony and his wife Jeanne had tickets to see Elvis, but sadly that concert never took place. I imagine there are a lot of people here in Syracuse who still have their concert tickets tucked away somewhere in a memory box.

Now, back to that phone call. Nancy was on the line wondering whether our crew would still be doing our weekly thing or whether it would just feel too strange to go out and have a good time. There were roughly fifteen of us in our so-called crew, most of us college kids. We had a standing mid-week tradition throughout the summer of going to a disco on Erie Boulevard called Uncle Sam’s. Yes, I said disco; it was 1977 after all. Some of the crew skipped a week or two here and there, but there was a core of regulars who showed up week after week. My girlfriend Sandra and I were at the center of that core, along with the aforementioned Nancy, plus Cindy, Doug, Elaine, Artie and Beth. After a whole lot of phone calls back and forth amongst the crew, we ultimately decided we’d stick to our plans and go to the club. We danced to the boom boom boom of Disco music, drank cheap mixed drinks, and talked in shouted conversations in order to be heard over the loud music, same as always. The club had a long narrow raised dance floor with bright colorful lighting underneath to go along with the flashing lights from up above. It was a catwalk of sorts, where we could show off our best, and sometimes worst, dance moves. (Remember the Bump? Or the Hustle? Or shaking your groove thing?) So even though there was an odd feeling in the air that night, it was still business as usual: music played, people danced. Men and women flirted. Drinkers drank—some in moderation, others excessively.

Abruptly, the boom boom boom of the Disco beat came to a halt, and the deejay broke with the club’s steadfast policy of only playing Disco to play an Elvis Presley song. I cannot remember what song it was, but I do remember the uproar of cheers. People who weren’t already dancing, rushed in, overcrowding the space, with some being forced to dance along the sides of the raised dance floor. Sandra and I were on that crowded dance floor, crammed in like gyrating sardines, all of us dancing to an Elvis Presley song on the night the angels took away Rock ‘n’ Roll’s original King. Yeah, that was roughly 44 years ago.

 

Paul Germano lives in Syracuse, smack dab in the center of New York State, with his dog April, a beautiful, strong and lovable Pit Bull mix. Germano’s fiction has been published or is forthcoming in roughly 40 print and online magazines, including Boston Literary Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, The Drabble, The Fictional Café, Flash in a Flash, Free Flash Fiction, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Sledgehammer Literary Journal and VIA: Voices in Italian Americana. In his nonfiction adventures, Germano has worked as an editor/writer for Le Moyne College, Syracuse University and The Catholic Sun. As well, he freelanced for Syracuse New Times, The Post-Standard and Stars Magazine.

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