Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Protest Series - Lauren Coe

“do not tell me to smile”

Lauren Coe

locker room talk.
boys will be boys.
but it was just a joke.
you’re so pretty when you smile.

his words are far away but i can feel them inside
coursing through my inner organs 
my throat my chest my veins my heart.
you’re so pretty when you smile. 

his words are the finger that punctures me
the organ that penetrates my quietest moments
the blade that scrapes the wound
you’re so pretty when you smile. 

but i am not surprised by his words. 
they are deeply held beliefs 
they are the religion that feeds our society.
and from his pulpit he will continue to preach

but unlike the first time, the second time,
the third time, the last time
he will not speak over me. 
i will not abide by the predatory sermon.

i will play the nastiest hand with my deck of woman cards because
my body is not ratable and my choices are not punishable
and my pussy is not up for grabs
so don’t tell me to smile. 

don’t tell me to smile because
this time i’m fighting back. 

Copyright©2016 Lauren Coe – All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Protest Series - Janyce Stefan-Cole

“Happy Days Are Here Again”

Janyce Stefan-Cole

Changes are coming. I try to tell myself I won’t be affected.

Maybe reversing climate control measures world leaders are trying desperately to enact will affect me. New York may fill up with smog again; we’ll experience strings of air quality alert days in hotter and hotter, drier and drier summers. Or course, if global warming is all a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, we’re safe. If not, most likely I’ll be gone before the waters rise and food becomes scarce in longer and deeper world droughts. The millennials can worry that one—if I want to be selfish about it.

Walls won’t be going up in Brooklyn, nor will midnight raids harass suspected Latinos in their beds, a la the Kremlin. Our mayor has said our city won’t assist in Federal immigrant purges. That won’t guarantee the rust belt states won’t hunt people down, or Louisiana or Kansas, or Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi or Arizona. I hope there’s loads of press coverage when the cleansing begins, as they haul little kids in Pjs onto busses headed south of the Great Wall of America. And I sincerely hope the missing jobs come back once the corporations, who, after all, are people too, find it in their hearts to quit sending them over that same wall.

To me and my sisters: I would urge extra caution in elevators, lonely corridors, crowded streets and subways. Our new leader has okayed genital grabbing, long as a Tic Tac is on your assailant’s tongue. Handicapped people, prepare to be laughed at. Minorities of all stripes (increasingly that’s us whites, but never mind: power trumps numbers) prepare to be fair game for KKKers and White Supremacists. LGBT? Could you slip back into the woodwork till this blows over? Coming ideologues don’t think bakers have to bake or sell you their wedding cakes. There’s even talk of caged camps for Muslims, right here in the land of the free. “Oh, say can you see …”

No, no: Cheer up, the good old days are back, America will be great again! Sing along:
                   Happy days are here again! 
                   The skies above be dirty again,                   
                   The women won’t have choice again,
                   And the sick will have no care,
                   We’ll all feel free to hate again, plus
                   The rich won’t pay their share again,
                   Let’s sing a song of cheer again
                   Happy days are here again!                     
Janyce Stefan-Cole is the author of the novels, The Detective’s Garden, and Hollywood Boulevard

Copyright©2016 by Janyce Stefan-Cole – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Protest Series - J.K. Zimmerman

“The Dream About the Eagle”

James K. Zimmerman

he never intended to knock at the door
just flew in through the window
(more bomber than jet) through
the screen, the sheen of his white-
feathered head was blinding, reminding
of black ice on back-country roads

he showed little fear, just alit on the table
a little ways off with the rest of us there
staring hard, didn’t care what we thought
caught completely off-guard when he neatly
removed the first of his feathers, the tip
of his tail, didn’t fail to yank hard at his chest
and his wings, singing anthems aloud
at the top of his voice in rhythm with pulls
at his pinions ‘til nothing was left save
a pileate crest on the crown of his seemingly
gleaming bald head

am I dead yet? (he asked) as he spread
out his bones on the dining room table
now known as the crypt, he was prone
to be pronate but offered to donate
his fearsome gold talons and hooked
glossy beak to the weak and the poor

to be sure, it was only a joke with a wink
and a poke at the rest of us watching to see
what he’d do or to fly with the fleas
on what’s left of his back, a sack
of potatoes by now for damn sure

but the cure to confusion was purely
his choice, his voice (still quite strong
among feathers and claws long removed
from their places, amazement still drawn
on our ashen-white faces) declared

in a tone on a par with the groan
in a bar when the bartender shouts out
last call:  remember (he said, with his eyes
turning red from the blood that surged
up in his featherless throat) don’t gloat
over things that you think you still have

or still own or still rule like a fool
or a juggler, don’t struggle to keep
what you reap for yourself on a shelf
where no one can reach it but you

then he threw the parts of himself
in a heap on the floor, and the door
flew off its old hinges before we
could move or approve of his stark
raving sanity gone

yes gone, leaving floating white
feathers and bits of gold paint
in the wake and the wind as he went
out the door, up the chimney and out
in the yard, breathing hard, and we

knew what he meant as he faded
from sight: maybe nothing at all
or to all a good fright

“Old Man Has a Can of Beans for Lunch”

James K. Zimmerman

eatin' a can of them beans th'other day
y'know the kind what got just a little
fatback in 'em an' the sauce got tomatuh
an' brown sugar an' all

makes pretty good eatin' with a roll
or a bag of Fritos or somethin' an' maybe
a Twinkie or a Ho-Ho for dessert
long as my stomach ain't actin' up
bubblin' around, makin' all weird sounds
like thunder or that ol' freight train
used to come by midnights, wake me up

made me think 'bout that ol' cannin' factory
down outside town, got a job there one time
first real job, really, with reg'lar hours
every week an' a week's vacation every year
they didn't pay you for, an' time off
for lunch, didn't pay you none for that neither

but they let us open the cans of beans
that didn't look right an' eat 'em out back
near the loadin' dock, and Ol' Charlie –
or maybe it was Mo – would bring along
a fifth of Jack or JB or a six-pack of Schlitz
or PBR or maybe even Stroh's, I dunno
and it was pretty good that way

Ol' Charlie used to nip a little more
than the rest, an' me, I was just a kid
maybe sixteen, seventeen, so I only did
a little, maybe just once a week or so
an' anyways Ol' Charlie didn't have no
wife no more an' didn't have a coupla
fingers on one hand no more neither

story goes he got 'em caught after lunch
one day in the sortin' conveyor, missed
a coupla weeks' work that way
coupla weeks' pay too

an' Mo, he had a big patch on his face
looked like somebody else's skin or
maybe treebark or a lizard or somethin'
'cause he got too close one afternoon
to the stare-lizer where the cans got clean

gone coupla months after that
jus' 'bout bought the farm, he said

so me, I didn't drink too much at lunch
those days, just ate my beans, drank
a ten-cent Coke outta the machine
listened to Ol' Charlie an' Mo tell stories
'bout the ol' times an' the hard times
an' the war an' all, kept at my job

worked my way up from the loadin' dock
to dumpin' them beans in the sortin' machine
an' even sometimes – 'cause I guess the boss
he liked me – sometimes loadin' the cans
on the trucks when they was all done
an' ready to go to the IGA or Kroger
or A&P or whatever

but after a while they came in with them
new-fangled, fancy-ass machines
with lotsa buttons to push, an' you gotta
have high school or so an' all kinda trainin'
just to run em', so we all got laid off

just 'fore Christmas, think it was

but the beans still taste just the same's
they always done, just the way they's
sposed to, the ones with a little
tomatuh an' brown sugar an' fatback

still make pretty good eatin' with a roll
or a bag of Fritos or somethin' 
an' maybe a Twinkie or a Ho-Ho
or a PBR for dessert, maybe even
a Stroh's if it's a Saturday

“Hero Worship”

James K. Zimmerman

thirty-gallon garbage
bags, home on the broken
dog-shit sidewalk

black ones tied with rags
savings bank for nickel-
deposit bottles and cans

shopping cart of sweat-
stained shirts, torn pants
year-old magazines
            laceless shoes

any change
            to spare, brother?

buy you something to eat?
(won’t help you feed
            your habit)

I could use a hero

oh -- can’t do that
            but here:

(hand in pocket
            singles snug
between fives, tens
and twenties) 

here’s a buck

thank you, brother
            bless you

walking on, venti
latte, house and car
            quicker step

a hero

“A Fable For Our Time: The Fox in the Henhouse Revisited”
with a nod to JT

James K. Zimmerman

There's this fox, see, and he's really, really good at breaking into the henhouse. He can get in any time he wants and take whichever hens and chicks he chooses, with impunity and no repercussions. And certainly without any regard for the effect of his skill on the chicken population as a whole.

So he goes to the chicken farmer and says, "Y'know, you've got a real problem with security around your henhouse. I can go in any time I want and take whichever hens and chicks I want, and you can't do anything about it."

And the farmer says, "Yeah, you're right, it's a real problem! It's making it so I'm not so sure I can even keep the farm going. I'm feeling like a loser. But what can I do?"

"Well, here's my plan," says the fox. "Since I'm the best one in the world at breaking into your henhouse, I'm the only one who knows how to fix the problem. So what you should do is hire me to tell you how to keep your hens and chicks safe. I can make your farm great again. Whaddya say?"

And the farmer says, "Y'know, that's a really totally awesome idea! Why didn't I think of that in the first place! You're on!"

So the fox designs a really, really beautiful system for protecting the hens and chicks, much easier to understand than the one the farmer had originally, and the farmer is totally happy. "Life really is great again," he says.

But after a while, he notices that his poultry population is continuing to decline, the ones that are left seem really anxious and off their feed, and the fox and his family are getting sleeker and happier all the time.

Eventually, the situation gets so bad that the farmer decides to give up his farm, declare bankruptcy, and sell off the few remaining hens and chicks. And even his last rooster – to the fox and his beautiful family.


James K. Zimmerman

it is moot to maintain hands
up don’t shoot will change
the world when a little
girl with errant aim can
claim the life of her instructor
at a vacation-destination
firing range with one stray
shot from an uzi

accidentally I’m sure --
no one to blame, no
cure, the same all over:
guns don’t kill people
            bullets do

and who’s to know how
many of us would die in
any case, of shark attacks
lightning strikes, black  
widow bites, or apples
fed to us by green-faced
vampy witches if there were
no guns around to jam
those evil bullets into

and too there are the rituals
we share to keep our fair
humanity intact:

we openly carry high-
powered pride and stand
our self-determined ground

we hunt our ducks and deer
with rapid rounds to keep
them from escaping

we die and rise to play again
safe within our online web
rebooted from the ashes

and to celebrate when peace
breaks out we fire our bullets
in the air so sure when they

return to earth they will not
find their resting place directly
on uplifted heads of blissful
cheering children

All work Copyright©2016 by James K. Zimmerman – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Can $5 send a student to college and save rain forests? You bet!

Dear Friends:

We’re campaigning to raise funds for a single 4-year scholarship for a deserving Indonesian student as part of the successful Orangutan Caring Scholarship Program through The Orang Utan Republik Foundation. The purpose of the program is to award tuition funding to talented and needy Indonesian students on a competitive basis enabling them to attend local universities in the fields of Forestry, Biology and Veterinary Science.

Please donate your $5 HERE.

To understand the important, ground-level work of the foundation, please watch this short video of Dr. Gary Shapiro, its president.

We ask that you make a donation of $5-$10 dollars and that you share this funding campaign on social media. Our goal is to raise $1500 by January 2017.

We are participating in this program since it aligns with a number of our core beliefs:
1. Education is the most powerful way to impact culture positively;
2. Deserving and qualified young people should have an education that helps them improve their community;
3. Climate change is a distressing reality that must be acknowledged and addressed on a local as well as a governmental level;
4. Rain forest protection is vital to the wellbeing of future generations globally;
5. Sustainable farming in some regions is a realistic goal;
6. No species, especially not one as close to us as the orangutan, should have become critically endangered because of its habitat loss at our hands. 

If you agree with any of these principles, please consider making a donation and sharing our request on social media.

To make a donation to the scholarship fund, go HERE.

For more information about The Orang Utan Republik Foundation, go here: http://www.orangutanrepublik.org/

Gregory F. Tague, Ph.D.
Founder, Evolutionary Studies Collaborative
Editor, ASEBL Journal
General Editor, Bibliotekos

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Some Reading

Our readers might be interested in two books by former Bibliotekos contributors. Patty Somlo’s short story collection, The First to Disappear; and Janyce Stefan-Cole’s new novel, The Detective’s Garden.

1. Here’s what reviewer Jenny Bhatt has to say, in part, about Somlo’s collection. (Full review here)

“The true beauty...of this collection is that each story is an actual ‘story’ - by which, I mean, that each one has something interesting and different to offer. As Mark Haddon recently wrote in his now-famous Guardian article on short stories: ‘I have read too many beige short stories in my life, too many short stories that feel like fivefinger exercises. There are limits to what can happen in the real world. In fiction there are no limits: anything is possible on paper. It seems to me that if you are writing a short story and it is not more entertaining than the stories in that morning's newspaper or that evening's TV news, then you need to throw it away and start again, or open a cycle repair shop.’ These stories are anything but beige. They shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow, and they are definitely more interesting than what goes viral in news or social media these days. It is clear that Somlo writes for the sheer pleasure of writing and storytelling, and that pleasure transfers easily to us, her readers

2. Here are some testimonials praising Stefan-Cole: “A mystery both gruesome and metaphysical, this is a story that entertains while delving into the deepest conundrum of all—the tragedy that make us human.”  -Ed Falco, The Family Corleone. “Fine, suspenseful writing.” -Bob Shacochis, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul. “Dreamlike, ruminative, and filled with questions impossible to answer.”  -Kirkus Reviews. There is also a review from Publishers Weekly here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Human Trait: Thom Brucie's Story

In my youth, I enjoyed sports and girls. I did not read, and I did not anticipate a life of careful thought. In an effort to lure me toward wisdom, in the second year of my high school education, my English teacher gave me a copy of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! Perhaps he thought I might be attracted to the excitement suggested by the myth of pioneering. I did open the book from time to time; a page here or there; I even tried starting in the middle; but it remained unread. Nevertheless, the attribute of finishing what one starts tugged at me, and about two weeks before the end of the school year, guilt drove me to spend a number of skipped classes sitting in the boy’s locker room reading O Pioneers! and, on the final day of classes, I finished it.

Beginning my junior year, I became a reader. That change in behavior enlivened the love of adventure which I discovered whenever a good story quickened my imagination. As a final assignment in English that year, we wrote a short story. I enjoyed that project, and at its conclusion, I thought I might one day become a writer.

That process took many years. In the meantime, I went to war in Vietnam, got married, fathered four children, and became a carpenter. I learned some lessons as a carpenter, and I made several decisions as an apprentice which later influenced my efforts at literature. First, I decided that when I retired I would have all my fingers, for I met many journeymen with shortened or missing digits. Thus, I accepted the responsibility of attending to meaningful rules, in this case of safety, later, obviously, to rules of rhetoric and story-form. I also developed an awareness of the importance of preparation. One must prepare to be safe, checking tools, equipment, and so on, just as one must prepare for any successful achievement. Additionally, my father’s admonition, that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well, began to express itself in an understanding that learning occurs with a commitment to willful intent and focused action.

One year after the birth of our fourth child, my wife developed adult-onset schizophrenia, a protracted, debilitating illness. Because of my wife’s disease and the consequent hospitalizations, I became a single father. The depression and isolation that I felt drove me to moments of quiet desperation, for I mistakenly believed I could save her and in doing so, I would bring her back to us, bring her home. The loss of a loved one as a consequence of emotional or psychological distance differs from the more existential loss as a result of the body’s demise. With the loved one alive but without emotional connection, the rules for meaningful closure become complex and often feel illogical.

Eventually, I had to acknowledge that the illness was stronger than both of us, and my children needed my attention. I accepted a job superintending a project in Monterey, California, and this decision fostered the infancy of my serious writing. I began to keep a journal of daily events, of thoughts about life; I suspect many of you know this phase, attempting to find words for life-lessons. However, sprinkled within the pages, I placed a number of entries that expressed a growing desire that I wanted to begin writing stories; I had, by this time, accumulated some stories to tell.

During this period, a serendipitous event played out. I was sitting in a bar in San Francisco after a meeting, and a stranger and I began to talk. While discussing motivation, he said he had a tape of Mr. Ray Bradbury giving a motivational speech. He said he would mail a copy to me. When I listened to the speech, I felt drawn to Mr. Bradbury’s contagious energy, and I read his books. I took a chance and wrote him a letter. I explained a little about my circumstances, including my journal, and I asked if he had any advice for someone who might be thinking about becoming a writer. He did.

I received a personal letter, typed on his manual typewriter. He noted that he received hundreds of letters a month and it was impossible to answer each one, but he took the time to answer mine. In the letter, he gave me two pieces of advice. First, buy a copy of an out of print book entitled Becoming A Writer by Dorthea Brande. I bought the book. The book is back in print. I recommend it. Second, he suggested I take some college-level writing classes. Some years later, I entered a junior college as a freshman to begin my formal education, including an elective creative writing class. I enjoyed school, and over the next decade or so, I earned an AS, a BA, an MA, and a PhD.

I accomplished all this before Mr. Bradbury died, and when I earned the PhD, he sent me a congratulatory card. I could not add anything of value to Mr. Bradbury’s extraordinary life. He did not owe me anything; he did not know me. Yet, he took time and energy to share encouragement to a stranger. This human trait, sharing one’s self with no expectation of anything in return, exemplifies the potential of healing and kindness in each of us. It suggests, for me, a principle of art: that artistic creation should reveal and embolden that which is noble and altruistic in human nature.

The spiritual healing which is the true baptism that makes us fully human occurs only after enduring the difficulties of vicissitude that St. John of the Cross calls the “dark night of the soul” and that Joseph Campbell calls the “belly of the whale.” Carl Jung considered this a lifelong, on-going process; he termed it “individuation.” Whatever its name, its universality unites us to one another as human family. The outcome of this passage emerges as an intense striving to discover truth and to know love – truth, as in the wisdom that derives from a life which combines the fullness of the body, the mind, and the spirit; and love in the passionate, emotional, physical sense, as well as love in a philosophical-spiritual connection to the Divine. As such, I choose both to honor and to explore truth and love through the creative expression of story-telling, for story remains the most fundamental trigger of human solace and bonding.

I have found delight and guidance in such works as The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer and in The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. These two volumes suggest in formidable detail the abiding attitudes of spirit, family, and community that exist across time, geography, race, and language. They highlight the similarities among us, not the differences. They do not ignore nor minimize differences; they explain them, recognizing such variants as size of community, adaptation to nature, trust of science, linguistic complexity, and so on. Nevertheless, the startling reality of human history reveals that we are all connected in our intellectual search for meaning, or truth, and we are all connected in our psychological make-up, especially in our desires to give love and to receive love. Carl Jung’s theories, specifically his identification of archetypes and of the collective unconscious, further highlight the significance of our ties to one another.

Four American writers have influenced me more than others, Ray Bradbury, as already mentioned, for his great spirit, and for the intensity and the diversity of his story-telling; T.S. Eliot, for language and theory; Nathaniel Hawthorne, for tales that bring spiritual complexity to the world of fiction; and William Faulkner, for style.

Eliot’s poetry, as with all great literature, offers fresh discovery with each additional reading. His finesse with language, his intermingling of the old and the new, and the clarity and usefulness of his theories, elevate Eliot to a position of master that will linger as long as masterful literature lingers.

Hawthorne’s tales combine the physical world and the spiritual unknown. He is neither a literary author as we consider today’s literary genre, nor is he a horror author as we sometimes consider horror as an exploration of the unknown, spiritual kingdom. Hawthorne’s characters struggle with the same problems that all individuals share who live within a complex, organized social structure: how does one advance a culture in which the individual possesses enough freedom to express his or her uniqueness, while simultaneously protecting the integrity of the tribe, and somehow still maintaining space for a meaningful submission to the goodness of a Divine will?

Faulkner’s greatest attribute remains his biggest difficulty, his style. A colleague once told me, “People either love Faulkner or they hate him.” I suspect this might hold validity. Nevertheless, no writer in English displays such dexterity in the joy of free-flowing language, except Shakespeare and Pope. Within the complexity of Faulkner’s style, one can lose himself or herself in the resonance of sound, full of disparate images and multitudinous clauses that allow the work to control real time. His best efforts, especially when read aloud, like fine poetry, mesmerize with discrete clarity and poetic majesty.

Being human in a physical world, acting within a time-space continuum of experience, provides a fertile thematic landscape for story-making, for therein one can explore the physical universe, including earth’s natural phenomena, that is to say, nature, and the human body, with every complex dialectic these suggest; one can explore the mind, including the turmoil of both sanity and insanity; and one can explore the spirit, that unseen world of knowledge that enmeshes reason, intuition, and imagination. Within this broad essence I include the concept of life-death-and-resurrection as it is played out in the universe; in each life lived and ended; and in the psychological growth pattern of each person as he or she struggles through the adventure of an on-going development of self-discovery and adaptation as Campbell implied in his examination of the hero cycle.

My choices in plot, character, theme, and so on, draw on my own life experiences and the meditative correspondence which reconciles them to my self-image. My stories tend to reflect ordinary people who confront extraordinary circumstances, and by doing so, they reinforce the elegance and grace of our human nature. Thus, the imperatives of free-will, courage, and independent thought form the foundation upon which my characters struggle to interpret each adventure and how they discover a way to endure.

At this juncture, one might expect that I identify some rules for writing. I will share some lessons I accepted from Mr. Ernest Gaines when I studied with him in Louisiana.

Mr. Gaines promoted six rules for writing.
1.      Read.
2.     Read.
3.     Read.
4.     Write.
5.     Write.
6.     Write.

            Mr. Gaines fostered two rules for writing well.
1.      Write with fire.
2.     Re-write with water.

Finally, in its search for truth and love, my work makes every effort to discern the myriad possibilities of human drama and of hope secreted within the two great commandments of Christ: love God with all your strength, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your entire mind; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Peace and blessings.
Thom.   www.ThomBrucie.com

Copyright 2016©by Thom Brucie, All Rights Reserved