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Do You Have Any Magic? By Julene Bair

By Julene Bair

 

In my dream, a little girl stands in a dim room beside a row of women. The women, dressed demurely in cardigans over dark shifts, sit erect in straight-backed chairs, their hands folded in their laps. The girl moves from woman to woman, asking, “Do you have any magic?” Each in turn smiles indulgently at the girl. “Oh my! Why no, dear.”

The little girl, of course, was me. And the women were the distilled, reticent essence of every woman I’d known growing up. Take for example the members of the Sunny Circle Home Demonstration Unit, the farm-based ladies club my mother once belonged to. True, most of those women lived up to the club’s name. They were sunny, not dour, and wore bright dresses, not dark shifts. They laughed often and seemed relaxed, even as they held fancy saucers shaped like lily pads—with raised rings on them that keep their delicate cups from skidding or splashing coffee onto the hostess’s homemade cookies.

But they never confided a personal concern or expressed an opinion that might differ from anyone else’s. This left them little to talk about other than the weather and what they’d cooked for supper the night before and how their gardens were growing. Lord forbid they complain about a thoughtless husband or probe a religious question or share a political insight. They had to live among these same few neighbor women for the rest of their lives and were therefore careful not to say anything they couldn’t live down.

When I went to college, I was at first aghast at the topics that some of my new friends considered suitable for conversation. Nothing, not even their sex lives or their parents’ marital problems, seemed off limits. When sad, they shed open tears. Witnessing such “blabbing and blubbering,” as I thought of it then, embarrassed me. But over time I grew less inhibited and came to cherish my intimate friendships with women.

I had no interest whatsoever in moving back to remote western Kansas, where I was raised—until, that is, three decades after my escape, when I met someone who caused me to consider doing exactly that. My father had died a few years before, and on a routine visit home to see my mother, I decided to take a drive into the surrounding countryside in search of water. My father had been a dry-land wheat farmer in my childhood, but, like many others in the region, had since converted the farm to irrigation. Each year, farmers were pumping billions of gallons out of the Ogallala Aquifer, the vast groundwater reserves underlying the High Plains all the way from South Dakota to Texas. This concerned me, as I’d read that the aquifer was being depleted and many of the spring-fed creeks and rivers had dried up.

I did find water that day. Reassured that irrigation had not—at least not yet—robbed the surface of every last drop, I was sitting in the shade of a cottonwood tree beside the creek when a pickup came into the pasture pulling a stock trailer. At first I was afraid the driver would accuse me of trespassing, but far from it. His name was Ward. After we’d chatted for a while, he said, “I know who you are!” It turned out Ward had read my first book and liked it so much he’d considered writing to me through my publisher. This astounded me. As far as I knew, the only people back home who’d read that book were my mother and my high school English teacher.

The story that unfolded between this man and me—together with a crisis that wasogallalaroadcover unfolding in my family around the future of our farm and the crisis facing the aquifer—became the subject of my second book, The Ogallala Road.

Now, years later, on the verge of publishing that book, I was terrified. The publisher planned to send me on tour. Soon, I would be standing before audiences in Kansas and other plains states, arguing that to use water the way we were doing was a collective crime against nature and future generations. The claim seemed beyond denial to me. In many places, the aquifer was already drained of the water that had made plains life possible for the last ten thousand years. In most other places, it would be used up before the end of this century. But irrigation played a huge role in the economy of the region. Those whose livelihood depended on the Ogallala were not likely to take the criticism well. Knowing I’d written the best, most passionate story I could didn’t change my impending fate.

Not only that. I’d centered much of the story on meeting and falling in love with Ward. Loving a man so thoroughly Kansan—in his bearing, assumptions, and way of life—had shown me that, however liberated or worldly I thought I’d become, my ties, like his—to the prairie, sky, air, water, soil, plants, animals, and people of home—ran deeper than my ties to anything, anyone, or anywhere else. “We don’t talk about private matters in public,” my parents had always warned me—for good reason it seemed to me now. Shortly, I would be embarrassing myself in public and inciting ire everywhere I traveled. Instead of tapping keys on my computer, “telling tales out of school”—another of my parents’ favorite sayings—I wished I’d just kept my hands folded and my lips sealed, like those women in my dream. Who was I to challenge the status quo back home? It would have been easier to look the other way and say nothing.

Except it wouldn’t have been easier. Not really. In inheriting part of the farm, I’d also inherited a share in the profits that came from irrigating. As a writer, it came naturally to me to explore the problems that troubled me most, and I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t spoken up. But now that “speaking up” was going to entail not just typing, but actual blabbing back home, yet another Kansas-ism took on new meaning. You could take the girl off the farm, but apparently you couldn’t take the farm culture out of the girl. I’d learned much the same thing loving Ward. To be from a place is to be of it.

Those women, in their dark dresses and denial, couldn’t have shown up in my dreams at a more critical moment. I knew I didn’t want to be like them. They had been so uptight and contained, unable and unwilling to share all that life had taught them, when even the little-girl me knew that life had taught them a lot. Take their hands, which they kept folded in their laps. Those hands had planted thousands of seeds and nursed them to fruition. They had diapered babies and bottle-fed piglets, calves, and lambs. The women had been witness, midwife, and nurse to life’s miracle ever since they were little girls. They had even borne life forth from their own wombs. They might as well have been magicians, yet they denied any knowledge of the magic they wielded.

Behind every magic trick is a secret, and behind life there is a not-so-secret yet very magical substance. Loren Eiseley, one of my favorite writers, put it this way in The Immense Journey: “If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in water.” Substitute the word “life” for “magic” in that sentence. There could be no life without water. It is what makes the earth habitable. Like me, Eiseley grew up on the plains, where water could not be taken for granted and where every man, woman, and child knew this. Every woman of my childhood certainly knew it, yet I never heard one of them express concern for the water that was being drained from under her land.

Like the dream women, I’ve been witness, midwife, and nurse to life for as long as I can remember. My father used to raise sheep, and when lambing season rolled around in January, it fell to my brothers and me to fill quart-sized Coke bottles with warm formula, affix big nipples onto them, and hold them, one in each hand, for the orphans. I will never forget the way their dangly tails danced as they suckled or how eagerly they butted the bottles, sometimes knocking them right out of my hands. I remember everything about those lambs—their pungent smell; their many voices, each one distinct and insistent; their tiny hooves against my thighs as they tried to climb me to get at the bottle sooner; their bony foreheads and warm but still nearly naked backs under my palm as I pushed them back down.

I felt their need in my own body, where I knew what a hunger pang was and what thirst felt like and where I’d registered the lambs’ heat and life on my own skin. The body is where all feeling resides. When I first heard the phrase, “feel your feelings,” it struck me as ridiculous. Isn’t that what a feeling is—something you feel? But being aware of a feeling depends on there being an open pathway between your body and your mind.

In repressing their fears and concerns and keeping mum, in having no outlet for their tears and their voices, the women of my childhood, like so many women of that generation, were prevented from feeling their feelings. When doctors and magazines told them that formula was better for babies than their own breast milk, they must have known, in flesh, blood, and bone, this was not true. But to breastfeed was to risk social stigma, so they denied their own bodily wisdom.

I’m sure I would have obeyed the cultural messages too. If I had been a woman of my mother’s generation, I would have walled my body off from my head, and paid, as my mother did, with chronic stomachaches, which she chalked up to “just nerves”—or resorted to calming drugs. But I was luckier than my mother. I had the benefit of friendships with women who created, among themselves, their own culture.

Thanks to the many friends who listened to me with open minds when I spoke and who offered me uniquely feminine nurturance and support when I cried, I don’t need the dream women to explain magic to me anymore. There is an open channel between my body, where I feel the thirst of life to come, and my mind, where I can shape the words to argue on behalf of that life. I know what magic is here on this earth and can speak for it myself.

Previously published by Wellesley Centers for Women.

Bair Jacket Photo-edited-by-drpAbout Our Guest Writer, Julene Bair

Julene Bair is the author of two books, most recently The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning.

 

 

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserPraise For The Radicals

In his recent article, “The Dance of Liberals and Radicals”, the liberal Robert Kuttner writes, “No great social change in America has occurred without radicals, beginning with the struggle to end slavery. Causes that now seem mainstream began with radical, impolite and sometimes civil disobedient protest.”

We at Popular Resistance share the view that there need to be people and groups who see the bigger picture, who fight for what is not on the table and who are willing to put their bodies on the line to make change. Those are the people we try to lift up in our daily coverage of the movement because they are rarely recognized and are usually lacking in resources.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Games of Greece, By Cara Lopez Lee

AthensThe Games of Greece

By Cara Lopez Lee

 

In 1999, during my solo trek around the world, I was startled by the daily roar of fighter jets passing overhead in Athens. Like many backpackers at the time, I often lived in a news blackout. I had no idea what was up, until a man shouted at me on my way to Syntagma Square, “What does your president think he is doing bombing innocent people?!”

That was the year NATO forces, with the support of President Bill Clinton, spent 78 days bombing Serbia, to halt President Slobodan Milosevic’s massacre of ethnic Albanians. Greeks and Serbs have a long-standing friendship, so I was immersed in a world where Americans were the bad guys. I got used to the occasional Greek telling me off during my month there. I didn’t know enough information to respond then, and I know better than to try now. So why mention it? Writing for Peace has generously offered to post an excerpt from my memoir, and as I think about “peace,” I can’t help recalling that trip to Greece, and the caring people who took the sting out of all the shouting:

 

Basic RGB

Excerpt from

They Only Eat Their Husbands:

Love, Travel, and the Power of Running Away

 

When I arrived at a travel agency in Patras, a man informed me, rather rudely I thought, that I was two hours late for the last ferry to Italy. My eyes filled with tears. This might seem an overreaction, but my delay at the Olympic Ruins had already pushed my thirteen days with Sean down to twelve. Missing the ferry would knock that down to eleven.

“But I called ahead and they told me the ferry to Brindisi leaves at ten,” I said.

“That’s every second day,” the travel agent said with a pompous show of indifference. “Tomorrow there is a ferry at ten.”

“Is there no other ferry to Brindisi tonight?”

“No. There is one, but it’s leaving now.”

“Maybe I could still make it.”

“No. There are procedures. There is paperwork. You will never make it. That ferry leaves now, and it is never late.”

Dejected, I sank into the nearest chair. “Are there any other options?”

He shrugged in that now-familiar Greek way: shoulders near the ears, elbows akimbo, hands palms up, lips pressed into a grimace. The Greek shrug has dozens of meanings based on the shape of the grimace and how emphatic the gesture. It can be used to show indifference, acceptance, confusion, anger, disdain . . . This guy was giving me the disdainful one.

“Thank you,” I said stonily, and walked out.

After nine months of traveling, I’ve learned never to trust anyone who says, “It’s not possible.” I walked a few doors down to the next travel agency and straight toward the first person who smiled at me. A woman. I wiped all traces of desperation from my face, figuring the key was to calmly declare what I wanted as if it were the simplest of requests.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, I’d like to take the next ferry to Brindisi,” I said, smiling serenely.

“Tonight?” she asked.

“Tonight,” I echoed.

She made a quick phone call, hung up, and explained, rapid-fire, that I might be able to catch the last ferry if I hurried. “But you must buy your ticket quickly!”

“How much?”

“Ten thousand drachma.”

I slapped ten thousand drachma on the counter. She slapped down a form to fill out. I slapped down my passport. Then, with the speed of a stock show auctioneer, she gave me complicated directions to the ferry, which I rattled back verbatim: “Left out the front door, to the train station, through the gate to the dock, turn left, go just past the duty free shop to the port police, give them this ticket with the passport, then ask which way to the ferry?”

“Yes. And you must run!”

I flung on my hefty pack, rushed out the door, and started to run—possibly faster than I’ve ever run in my life—with a thirty-five-pound load bouncing up and down on my back. People gaped as I ran past. Sweat poured down my back and chest, my calves and lungs burned. I grew dizzy and spots jumped across my vision. This was no short sprint, and I was no Olympic athlete. I was surprised at the immensity of the ferry terminal. More than half a dozen mega-ferries and a number of other boats lined the long docks. Don’t slow down! I know it hurts, but don’t slow down! I thought. You’ll suffer even more if you miss the ferry. Sean’s waiting for you.

I flew through the port gate, darted left, wove in and out of people and port vehicles, shot past the “Duty Free” sign to the port police desk, where I waved my ticket and passport at . . . no one. The police weren’t there. I rushed across the building to a small bar and shouted hysterically at the two or three bewildered people standing there, “Port police? Where are the port police? I will miss my ferry!” My eyes were wide with panic and oxygen deprivation. The middle-aged bartender said, “Port police, six hundred meters, that way!” He pointed in the direction from which I’d run. I would have to backtrack. “Drop your pack here. You’ll kill yourself.”

Afraid to lose the time it would take to remove the pack, I simply turned tail and kept running. My ferry sat a tantalizing fifty meters away. Workers were loading trucks into the gaping aft-end, and the line of waiting trucks was rapidly shrinking. I pumped my legs harder.

Suddenly I realized I hadn’t asked the bartender what kind of sign to look for. I tried to run into the grocery store next door to ask directions again, but the glass doors wouldn’t open. It must have been the exit, but I couldn’t see any other doors, so I banged on the glass, startling a lineup of cashiers and customers. The closest cashier rushed toward me and opened the door.

“Port police?” I frantically waved my passport at her and pointed at the nearby ship. “I will miss my ferry!” She pointed at the building I’d just left, the building with the empty police desk and the bartender who’d told me to head the other way. “There’s no one there!” I moaned.

She shook her head insistently, took me by the elbow, and guided me back to the building, where the bartender heaved a sigh and said, “The police are not here. I told her to leave her pack! It’s six hundred meters that way.”

He then rushed past me, through the front door, and urged me to follow. He jumped on a motorbike parked just outside and started the engine. I unbuckled my pack and, without pausing, let it fall from my shoulders to the ground as I leapt onto the back of the scooter. I grabbed the bartender’s waist and we took off, speeding down the docks, dodging passengers and vehicles from another boat. “I’m afraid I’ll miss my ferry!” I shouted merrily and giggled, picturing how we must look.

We stopped at the little window of a small building, where a policeman started from his seat in surprise. The bartender shouted something in Greek as I handed the policeman my documents. He scribbled on them and handed them back. Then I jumped back on the bike, and we were off again at high speed. It was like a James Bond chase scene—no bad guys, but plenty of near misses, fleeing pedestrians, and brake-squealing trucks.

“What’s your name?” I shouted over the bartender’s shoulder.

The unfamiliar Greek syllables he shouted back got lost in the din of the motorbike’s engine.

“I’ll tell this story to my grandchildren!” I said.

“It is a good story,” he agreed.

“I guess I’ll either make my ferry or I won’t.”

“Don’t worry. You will make it for sure.”

Efharisto (Thank you),” I told him as we approached a small group of people gathered around my backpack.

Parakalo (You’re welcome),” he replied as I leapt off the bike.

I hauled on my pack with help from a couple of bystanders. I bowed deeply but quickly to the entire group, said another “Efharisto!” and started to run.

Siga! Siga!” they shouted after me. “Slowly! Slowly!”

The cashier from the grocery store rushed forward and yelled, “I ran to the ferry to tell them you are coming. They will wait for you!”

I halted and turned an incredulous face on the small clutch of half a dozen Greek strangers on the dock. I smiled, pressed my hands together in a prayerful clasp, and shook my joined hands toward them, a supplicant thanking the saints who’ve interceded on her behalf: the bartender, the grocery clerk, the cop, and the dock workers. “Brava! Thank you.” I turned and walked away.

When the purser took my ticket, he said, “So you are the one they told me about.”

“Yes, that’s me!” I said, with a self-effacing grin.

It was 8:30 when I boarded the eight o’clock ferry, which the first agent had told me was “never late.” It left five minutes later.

Still dizzy, I made my unsteady way to the Pullman deck: this ship’s version of steerage, minus the partying and dancing promised by James Cameron’s Titanic. I was one of five backpackers flopped amid dozens of uncomfortable seats…exhausted from my much more than 200-yard dash through the obstacle course of the ferry terminal.

During the Ancient Olympic Games, the city-states of Ancient Greece—Athens, Sparta, Mycenae, and the rest—would declare a truce, setting aside war for peaceful competition. In the modern Olympics, that’s what people call “the spirit of the Games.” Some American travelers have told me they think Greeks are rude. Judging by the angry graffiti and shouts I’ve endured, many Greeks don’t think much of Americans, either. Not to mention the perverts, pick-up artists, and psychos who’ve had a go at me. Yet my last thought before drifting off to sleep last night was of the small group of Greeks who, although they had nothing to gain, pulled out all the stops to help a complete stranger, a foreigner, an American, make her boat on time.

 

Cara Lopez Lee - Headshot (2)About Writing for Peace Adviser Cara Lopez Lee

Cara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands(Conundrum Press, October 2014). Her stories have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Rivet Journal, and Connotation Press. She’s a book editor and writing coach, and she teaches for the youth program at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She has traveled throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the United States. Cara and her husband live in Denver.

 

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserManaged Democracy, Expendable People

“As the elections draw near, the plutocracy and crisis of democracy become more visible. There are reports of ‘dark money’ in record amounts influencing races. ”

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Release May 1st, 2015

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceThe 2015  “Nature” edition of DoveTales will be released and available for purchase through our website on May 1st. Watch our blog for more information as we get closer to the release date.

In the meantime, check out our previous publications and support Writing for Peace! Both books are also available for download as pdfs.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Purchase DoveTales “Occupied”

A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionPurchase DoveTales “Contrast”

Poetry, essays, short stories by international writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra,
Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell
Bänoo Zan

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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Two Poems by David S. Pointer

Marine_CASEVAC_FallujahTwo Poems by David S. Pointer


Field Craft Phantoms: Ghillie Suit Vapor

Surveillance duty: I hear the Corps snipers
talking about civilian shooter opportunities

one year tours
                taking out as many
target list locals as possible overseas
high pay hardship tours
                        for hard chargers

                              radio call,
                              rifle, ammo
                              resupply
every once in a we don’t know who you
are or ever were
                 delivery
                           make it back to die
Orchestrating Worldview: Africa to Chicago

Plutomaniacs design mass economic
mirages like fine murals, jet-teaming
around globally as if they were big
Nelson Mandela fans, auditing the
monetary end exclusion as to how it
impacts incoming financial growth with
untranslatable economic-tunnel-vision
beneath champagne diamond chandeliers:
pet the lion, pet the people, bury villages,
deny same while extracting resources,
while surveillance cameras start coughing
in the world’s ear as Chicago exile teams
up with the coroner’s office to bypass top
down issues redefining it all as ordinary
underachievers’ crime and non-news…


About Writing for Peace Adviser David S. Pointer

David Scott Pointer, Writing for Peace AdvisorDavid S. Pointer has been a social justice poet for 25 years. He earned a master’s degree in Sociology. Later he picked up a surgical technology diploma. David has work included in Proud to Be: Writings by American Warriors, Volumes I, II and III. He serves on the advisory panel at “Writing for Peace.” Learn more about David and his work here.

 

 

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typist 2Young Writers Contest Deadline Nears!

The March 1st Young Writers Contest deadline is getting close. Time to finish up your brilliant poetry, fiction, and essays to inspire and educate us! Check out our guidelines here, and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction.

Teachers who would like to receive a free pdf version of our DoveTales journals to share with their students may request copies at editor@writingforpeace.org.

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Young Navajo Complete 225-Mile “Journey for Existence”, by Lyla June Johnston

Walkers are given horses by local residents on their journey past White Horse Lake Chapter House, Diné Tah (Courtesy Orlando Begay)Walkers are given horses by local residents on their journey past White Horse Lake Chapter House, Diné Tah (Courtesy Orlando Begay)

Young Navajo Complete 225-Mile “Journey for Existence”

By Lyla June Johnston

On February 1st 2015, the walkers of Nihígaal Bee Iina (pronounced ni-hi-gahl beh ee-nah, meaning “Our Journey for Existence”) completed their quest to walk over 200 miles in the name of their children, land and ancestors. The walk was in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of The Long Walk, whereby over 9,500 Diné (Navajo) were marched at gunpoint for hundreds of miles into Bosque Redondo—a concentration camp where they would stay for four years. Only 7,304 survived the internment to return back to Diné Tah, the original Navajo homeland. In addition to honoring the resilience of their ancestors, the walkers also set out to raise awareness about issues surrounding oil and gas extraction in Diné Tah. Ultimately, the group walked the entire span from Dził Naa’oodiłii (Huerfano Mounatin) to Tsoodził (Mount Taylor) in 26 days, a total of 225 miles.

“It was awesome to be walking up that mountain, carrying those prayers, to feel the stillness of Tsoodził and just for that day it was really calm, sunny, bright,” commented Kooper Curley, one of about 70 walkers who joined for all or part of the journey.

“My favorite part of the journey was when I saw that picture of Tsoodził. It really brought tears to my eyes and made me think, ‘They did it. They did it,” said Libby Williams, an elder Diné woman who assisted the walkers on their journey.

“They kept singing that song, ‘Sheenaashaa,’” stated Enoch Endwarrior, of Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I’ve always heard that song but I never knew what it meant. I learned that this is the song the ones who survived Hwééldi [“The Place of Suffering,” or Bosque Redondo] sang when they burst into joy, relieved to leave that place and go back within the four sacred mountains. To see the peak reminded me of my great-great-great-great grandmother. She was just a little girl during the round up, during Hwééldi. It was a family of five and only two survived—my grandma and her sister. I will never know the true degree of that suffering but it was such an overwhelming feeling of joy just to see the peak of Tsoodził. Just to know that she stuck it out, she survived, she endured, just for me to see that.”

Walkers celebrate their approach to their end point at Tsoodził or Mount Taylor. (Courtesy Orlando Begay)Walkers celebrate their approach to their end point at Tsoodził or Mount Taylor. (Courtesy Orlando Begay)

According to the walkers, their journey leading up to Tsoodził was full of sobering experiences. Along the way they spoke with children in Lybrook, NM whose schools had been shut down due to water contamination from surrounding oil wells. At another point they walked along miles of idle cars that were held up due to a gas tank explosion. One local resident they encountered experienced a murder in their family, incensed by lumps of money offered by the oil industry. One young woman they met reported that she could no longer run alone in the evenings because of the countless oil and gas workers that pepper the land.

Cheyenne Antonio, a young woman from Torreon, NM—the heart of the Dine hydraulic fracturing industry—joined the walkers after they visited her community. “It felt good to finally have people come and really talk about how the violence has gone up. It’s hardly ever discussed and it needs to be discussed. There’s so much violence among our children, our women. Once that oil money comes in there is a whole new person in front of you. Money is controlling them. And that’s new in my life, dealing with greed.”

“This is about addressing the issues with fracking, coal mining and the gas extraction around the four corners that NASA can see from space,” says Leslynn Begay of Flagstaff, AZ. “When people see the walkers they become interested, they ask questions and they become more aware.”

Due to migraines caused by air pollution near Lybrook, New Mexico, walkers wear gas masks for this portion of the journey (Courtesy Orlando Begay)Due to migraines caused by air pollution near Lybrook, New Mexico, walkers wear gas masks for this portion of the journey (Courtesy Orlando Begay)

Seeing a great herd of walkers along the road laid the foundation for many discussions and conversations with local residents, according to the walkers. “Someone was always pulling over asking, ‘What are you guys walking for?’ Even a Peabody employee pulled over and said, ‘I work at the coal mine, but it’s just a job and I support you guys.’ Things like that put everything into perspective. That these workers, they’re not just people, they’re family,” stated Curley.

Despite the continuous hardship they encountered through the oil and gas corridor of Dine Tah, the walkers indicated that each day ended with a note of hope.

According to Kim Smith of St. Michaels, Arizona, “The plight of the people was the most memorable thing throughout the journey. Really seeing how poor our people were and how beaten down. But the most beautiful part was when we told them about our prayer walk, that we didn’t have to accept that the only jobs for us are in oil fields and coal mines. It gave them a pep in their step. That’s what leadership does. And it was a group of people that did that. It wasn’t just one person, one savior that came in to give people that hope. It was a group of young people.”

Another young female organizer, Amber Hood, stated, “I had an elder tell me the other day that through these walks we are breathing life back into Hozhó [inner/outer balance]and I think he is absolutely correct. I realized about a third through the walk that this is bigger than fracking, this is bigger than the energy sector, it’s bigger than resource extraction and corrupt tribal government. It’s truly a journey back to our original selves where with every walk, hopefully every year that we do it, we are becoming more fluent in our language, we learn more stories about our land and our ancestors. On the next walk I want to focus on bringing in our traditional herbology to the walkers.”

Throughout the interview process with the walkers, this was a recurring theme: that the solution to the ailments of Dine people is not necessarily fighting what they don’t want, but embodying what they do want and returning to their traditional way of life.

Walkers are joined by youngest generation (Courtesy Orlando Begay)Walkers are joined by youngest generation (Courtesy Orlando Begay)

“When we were at Tsoodził today, I felt this surge of overwhelming positivity,” said Dana Eldridge, one of several core organizers of the walk. “We saw a lot of really bad, terrible things on our journey. Things that hurt physically, emotionally and mentally. But this journey has shown me that Nihima Nahasdzáán [Mother Earth] really does have the power to heal. Being outside, walking outside it really does uplift you. Going up the mountain today, that’s all I felt. I wasn’t thinking about the negativity. I wasn’t thinking about how awful all this destruction is. I was just thinking about how beautiful everything is and how thankful and happy I am that I got to experience this.”

“I believe that In our original condition we were people of hope,” said Hood. “That is being restored. A year ago, even though we were working very hard to understand what’s going on and work with community, it felt very hopeless. I’ve felt a certain type of emotional paralysis. And this walk, it gives me hope now. I really believe that things are going to get better now. I really believe that we are restoring our lives, our original state of being. With every walk I see that beauty being further and further compounded, if you will.”

According to organizers, this walk will be the first of four major journeys to each of the four sacred moutains of the Diné (Tsoodził, Doo’ko’o’slííd, Dibe Nistáá and Tsisnajini). Through this first walk, organizers reported to have gained a great deal of useful experience for the journeys ahead.

I’m really excited about [the next walk], knowing that we were capable of it, knowing that it’s not going to be a horrific failure,” says Eldridge. “I really believe that all we need to do is be with the earth after this. This is just the beginning of a whole awakening.”

As the journey began with a focus on women’s leadership and women’s healing, interviewees also ended with this message for their movement.

Walk was characterized by a healthy balance between genders, with female leadership and plenty of support and encouragement from male protectors/walkers. (Courtesy Orlando Begay)Walk was characterized by a healthy balance between genders, with female leadership and plenty of support and encouragement from male protectors/walkers. (Courtesy Orlando Begay)

“I am honored and proud to walk side by side with these true naataanii [leaders], our women, selfless Diné women. This is a walk of healing for our land, our people, our women, our relationships, our mother, in faith to truly restore hozhó. It’s so old it’s new. This is the medicine that is needed and only women can bring it. To see the way our communities live is sobering; fracking, toxic water spills, pollution, tank explosions across the street from an elementary school. It’s time. Our elders need this. Mother Earth needs this. The five fingered nation needs this. It’s not just about Navajos, it’s about all people, all living things, all hands on deck. When women support each other, incredible things happen,” stated Smith.

Hood, a major advocate against the rape epidemics occurring in Indian Country, states, “We are saying no more of this connected violence. Our land is being violenced and that violence is reflected upon or bodies. Whether it’s through sexual abuse due to increased man camps, contamination of breast milk due to toxins, spontaneous miscarriages, children born with developmental delays, those are all ways that violence upon the land directly impacts native women’s bodies. We have to pull back the veil that leads us to believe that this is normal, that this is okay. They say for every one woman abused, we pray four come home and are restored and are healed. May as many women as possible walk with us and receive healing for whatever trauma they may carry, may they be restored simultaneously as our land heals because when we heal, our mother heals and when she heals, we heal.”

Eldridge ended her interview in gratitude: “Tsoodził is the same mountain our people saw when they were returning home from the concentration camp. When I saw it I was just thinking about how uplifted I feel and how positive I feel and how hopeful I feel. And that’s what it feels like to come home.”

The next journey is scheduled to begin on March 21st, spring equinox. For more information on Nihígaal Bee Iina, contact nihigaalbeeiina@gmail.com. Some useful links are as follows: http://www.bosqueredondomemorial.com, https://www.facebook.com/walkforexistence, http://www.navajotimes.com/news/2014/0314/030614oil.php#.VNfNo0tHFBU

About Writing for Peace Young Adviser Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world. After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about Lyla’s work here.

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNewsletter: Dominion Meeting Overrun By Storm Troopers

“Our action today at the Waldorf Astoria – hiding place for the robber barons. Dominion Resources held an investor’s meeting there. Darth Vader and Storm Troopers joined us to expose Dominion’s dark side.”

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest

Young Writers Contest GuidelinesThe March 1st Young Writers Contest deadline is coming up quick and entries are pouring in from all over the world. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here. Teachers who would like to receive a free pdf version of our DoveTales journals to share with their students may request copies at editor@writingforpeace.org.

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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Three Poems from Brash Ice, by Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook©2015

Djelloul Marbrook©2015

Three Poems from Brash Ice

by Djelloul Marbrook

The ash tree’s scrawl

A dead man said goodbye to that barn;
can this be told by its looks?
what can an ash tree’s shadow
etched on the moon tempera of the roof
tell a passerby of that man’s sorrow
at having to leave his scythe and rake?

Everyone is a ghost of someone else,
everything is ghosted—dogs and children
know this, and soundlessly we understand
the languages of the carbon community
to which the word belong belongs,
in which belonging is a crime.

The redwing reading by swamp lights knows
the dead man comes to the barn to sleep
because the days are hard on his eyes.

*

As I have among humans here

There was my own next life
drawing lines between the stars
in anticipation of a final shape,
there in clouds’ womb wondering
if any more would be learned
by being another kind of beast,
a chimera of lights, a daemon
gamboling among universes
as I have among humans here.

*

That kind of beauty

I made a geometric,
I could not add a thing,
not according to that esthetic
that penetrates the object
but finds no other side.
My gaze is lost in what I make,
I don’t want it back,
I don’t ask for a report.
It warms my feet at night,
haunts me in a sob;
did it ever belong to me,
can I count it as a loss?
Not a perfect geometric
but something more than harm
that drowns the light
in certain people’s eyes,
the kind of beauty
that sops up the night.

Poems from Brash Ice, By Djelloul Marbrook (2014, Leaky Boot Press)

Hear three additional poems read by Djelloul Marbrook in the video for Brash Ice here.

Read Writing for Peace Adviser Robert Kostuck’s review of  Djelloul Marbrook’s book of fiction, Mean Bastards Making Nice here.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Djelloul Marbrook

djelloul-marbrook leaning“Our poetry, our fiction, our art is the news of our society, not the fog that a handful of oligarchs call the news. War means profit to these oligarchs. How to smash this lock on the way we view conflict? First, writers must be conscious of their role as rogue operatives. They must subvert the propaganda machine that conceals the real purpose of war in geopolitical blather. We have examples of this—the scriptwriters of the films The International and Lord of War. They showed us that war is a racket, like insider trading.”  ~Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook is the author of three poetry books, Far from Algiers (2008, Kent State University Press, winner of the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize and the 2010 International Book Award in poetry), Brushstrokes and Glances (2010, Deerbrook Editions), and Brash Ice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK). His poems have been published by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Taos Poetry Journal, Orbis (UK), From the Fishouse, Oberon, The Same, Reed, Fledgling Rag, Poets Against the War, Poemeleon, Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Atticus Review, Deep Water Literary Journal, and Daylight Burglary, among others. He is also the author of five books of fiction: Mean Bastards Making Nice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK), Guest Boy (2012, Mira Publishing House CLC, Leeds, UK), Saraceno (2012, Bliss Plot Press, NY), Artemisia’s Wolf (2011, Prakash Books, India), and Alice Miller’s Room (1999, OnlineOriginals.com, UK). He won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill” (http://www.literal-latte.com/2008/11/artists-hill/), an excerpt from Crowds of One, Book 2 in the Guest Boy trilogy, forthcoming in 2015 from Mira). His short fiction publishers include Literal Latté, Orbis (UK), Breakfast All Day (UK), Prima Materia (NY) and Potomac Review (MD). He serves on Four Quarters Magazine’s poetry peer review board and maintains a lively Facebook and Twitter presence. A retired newspaper editor and Navy veteran, he lives in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. Learn more about his work here.

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Update: The Young Navajo Stage 200-Mile Trek for Cultural Survival

by Lyla June Johnston

So proud of my sisters. Ayoo ahe’hee’ shadi adoo shideizhi. You are so beautiful and you are almost done with the first leg of #NihigaalBeeIina, #OurJourneyForExistence. I appreciate this movement that you are carrying and this movement that is carrying you. You have walked almost 200 miles to honor 150 years after #Hweeldi, The Long Walk, where 9,000 of our people were held captive for 4 years, starved and beaten to death in a concentration camp. We walk to honor our resilience as #Diné people, as people who see and respect #Hozhó all around us. We walk to unravel the lies and the labels that were placed on us and to reveal the true beauty of our land, our children and our language. And we walk as a prayer to get these oil wells off our backs… May it all be gone. May our water be clean. May our soil be safe. May our children live healthily and happily in #DinéBikeyah forever and ever and ever. Ahe’hee’!

To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x.

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNewsletter: Our Task-The Future As A Frontier

Tune in to Clearing The Fog Radio on Monday, February 2nd to hear Dr. Margaret Flowers “talk about why we must stop the TPP, ‘NAFTA on steroids,’ and how we’ll do it!”

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace, Lennon Imagine PeaceYoung Writers Contest entries are beginning to pour in from all over the world. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here. Teachers who would like to receive a free pdf version of our DoveTales journals to share with their students may request copies at editor@writingforpeace.org.

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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How to Become a Revolutionary Icon, By Lyla June Johnston

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” The group will embark on a 200-mile trek through western New Mexico—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley.

How to Become a Revolutionary Icon

By Lyla June Johnston

1. Speak your truth aloud
2. Say it with love and humility
3. Ignore the thousands of people (including yourself) who will tell you that you’re unworthy of bringing this message
4. Repeat
……………………………………
I look at some of these young warriors like Nahko Bear, Ta’kaiya Blaney, Xiutezcatl Martinez, and others who are so sought after for their presence and their words. They are no different from anyone else. They are simply willing to stand up and speak light into the darkness, brazenly, at the risk of seeming overly idealistic or arrogant. This is not idealism, this is the truth that our child-selves saw so clearly but did not have space to express. This is not arrogance, this is the deliverance of nourishment to a world starving for truth. I was blessed to learn that I CAN speak in a society that expects and rewards silence.
……………………………………
I remember once at Stanford I came to my poetry collective with a poem that loudly professed my allegiance to unity and love. My entire team laughed at me and said they would not partake in the group performance I had sketched out. The tagline was, “WE WANT YOU FREE!” I guess it was too corny for them… But when I have the courage to say these things to the crowd something happens in their hearts. The rumbling of my voice, the clarity and conviction of the message, awakens dormant volcanos within them that have been waiting, silently, patiently, for years to erupt. Once I am finished they burst with applause and rise for the standing ovation. I know in my heart they are not cheering for me. They are cheering because, finally, the sleeping wolf has arisen within them. The wolf that sits in its conformist cage. The wolf that begs to howl this truth into the dark night with all its might but is not allowed to by societal norms. They are cheering for the Love that has triumphed, the Truth that has overcome all obstacles set before it. They are cheering for Creator, that Her message has finally been released, that it has finally breeched the walls Iktomi has built all around us. Walls meant to distract us from the ever-present, ever-shining, ever-true reality that we are free, we are love, we are loved and we hold the very breath of the Creator within our lungs and in our veins. This is the beauty our child-selves knew we were born for. This is the beauty we are all able to hold again. If we only have the courage, to step forward and… speak.

About Writing for Peace Young Adviser Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world. After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about Lyla’s work here.

 

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BREAKING NEWS:

Young Navajo Stage 200-Mile Trek for Cultural Survival

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley

(Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley.)

By Writing for Peace Adviser, Lyla June Johnston

HUERFANO, New Mex.- At dawn on January 6th 2015 a group of young Diné (Navajo) women and their supporters will gather at a fire department near the base of Dził Na’oodiłii (Huerfano Mountain). From there the group will embark on a 200-mile trek through western New Mexico—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.” Throughout this journey they intend to raise awareness about historical and present day challenges faced by Diné people and inspire hopeful solutions to address these issues.

Organizers are calling out for community support in the form of walking, hosting or helping to garner basic materials. This first journey will end at Tsoodził (Mount Taylor), their southern sacred mountain. Three more walks are scheduled for spring, summer and fall so that each of their four sacred mountains is visited. The walkers intend to cover over 1000 miles in 2015.

The commemorated event occurred in 1864 when Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson—under the command of General James Carleton—enforced a merciless, scorched earth policy to bring Diné people into submission. During this time nearly 9,000 Diné and 500 Mescalero Apache men, women, children and elderlies were marched at gunpoint for 300 miles to a small patch of arid land known as Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Many perished along the way.

During their four-year internment at this reservation “experiment”—known in Diné as Hwééldi or “the place of suffering”—hundreds died due to starvation, illness and physical violence. In 1868, high costs of rations and soldier commissions caused the federal government to disband the experiment and release them back to Diné Tah, the Navajo homeland.

“We are walking to honor the resiliency of our ancestors who 150 years ago were forced to march hundreds of miles in the dead of winter on a genocidal death march,” says Dana Eldridge, one of several female organizers of the walk. “They sacrificed and suffered so much so that we could live within these four sacred mountains. So we’re walking to honor them.”

According to the organizers, the walk is not simply a re-enactment of The Long Walk, but their return to a traditional lifestyle.

“It’s something that people don’t do anymore. We have the convenience of vehicles. But walking an entire journey is something that’s revolutionary in a way,” says young organizer Nick Ashley of Gallup, New Mexico.

“Our ancestors walked so that we could be here on our homeland singing, dancing and praying the songs they did. But now everyone is chasing the American Dream and neglecting our homeland, our language and way of life,” says Kimberly Smith of St. Michaels, Arizona.

Several Diné elders, including Larry W. Emerson, think present day problems might be due to “an abandonment of self.”

“One purpose of the walk might be for us to come back into ourselves via our traditional knowledge—into our homes, families, relations, communities and earth-sky knowing. Ké and k’é hwiindzin—to be conscious of our interdependent relationships based on compassion, love, and nurturing—are vital to our survival and we cannot come home to ourselves without these vital teachings. [We] offered several teachings [to the walkers] that might address the practice of coming home to ourselves, including some prayer songs.”

According to organizers, land-based prayer is an important part of their journey. “Everything we do is a prayer to return to our original selves,” says Laura Red Elk of Pueblo Pintado, New Mexico. “The mountains were our original naat’áanii [leaders] before IRA governments or the tribal council. Since our government is failing to protect us, we are returning to our original leadership by letting the mountains determine how we walk on the land.”

Organizers and their elders have chosen to name their movement as “Nihígaal Bee Iiná” or “Our Journey for Existence.” Due to the widespread presence of uranium, coal and gas extraction throughout Diné Tah,organizers feel that their environmental situation has reached a boiling point.

“One hundred and fifty years ago our ancestors stared their extinction in the face. And today, we young people are staring our extinction in the face. Our home will become an unlivable toxic wasteland if nothing is done,” says Eldridge.

According to the EPA, nearly 4 million tons of uranium have been extracted from Diné Tah since 1944. With over 500 abandoned uranium mines throughout the region, both homes and water sources are contaminated with high levels of radiation.

Additionally, over 20,000 tons of coal are strip-mined from Diné and Hopi lands every day by Peabody Coal Company alone. This coal feeds Navajo Generating Station, rated by the EPA as the highest emitter of toxic nitrous oxide in the country.

Organizers forecast that the next major threat is the onset of a boom in oil and natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing—a process now banned in the state of New York.

Erin Konsmo of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network in Alberta, Canada, says that resource extraction is not only a threat to the environment: “Some of the highest rates of missing and murdered women are in the tar-sands extraction areas. This is related to worker’s camps and the lack of jurisdictional protection for women on tribal lands.” Organizers state that the heavy presence of extractive industries is having a similar effect on Diné women.

“We give life and we nurture life just like the land does. Our traditional leadership structure is matrilineal because we are the spinal chord of society, the first teachers of the children. We are journeying back to our original selves including our responsibility as women to protect the land and take care of it,” says Red Elk.

“It’s all the more reason for this walk to be led by majority women. As traditional caretakers of the land, their physical presence is in and of itself a resistance to resource extraction,” comments Konsmo.

Weekly paychecks for Diné miners and generator operators are a constant reminder of their economic dependence on the fossil fuel industry. Walkers hope to raise awareness about self-sufficiency as an alternative to the extraction economy. They will disperse heirloom corn seeds to communities along the way and speak on the importance of food sovereignty and self-reliance.

“We are being told to invest in our own destruction in the name of the economy,” says Eldridge. “People say we need these jobs, but we don’t. To take care of ourselves it will take a tremendous amount of work, but it is a beautiful dream and it is so possible.”

Organizers are urging others to join them, especially Diné people, for all or part of the walk.

Smith encapsulates the spirit of the walk by saying, “We have to go back to where the wisdom is embedded. We have to reintroduce ourselves to those places. It is our inherent right and responsibility. The uplifting that our people need is there. We want to bring it back for our people, we want to honor our elders, our children and most importantly, we want to honor the earth.”

For more information on “Our Journey for Existence,” contact nihigaalbeeiina@gmail.com. To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x

Enter the 2015 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest 

Writing for Peace dreamerThe deadline is March 1st, so time to get serious about polishing your entry! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here. Teachers who would like to receive a free pdf version of our DoveTales journals to share with their students may request copies at editor@writingforpeace.org.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is currently accepting fiction, essays, poetry and art submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Deadline is January 15th. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Writing for Peace, By Wang Ping

Writing for Peace Adviser Wang PingWriting for Peace

By Wang Ping

“Without poetry, how can we live?” said Confucius to his son, who whined about having to study and write poetry every day.

Why do we write? What’s the need to write? What’s the meaning of writing?

For me, it’s the condition to be alive, after the basic needs for food and shelter are met: to be alive as a human, a conscious, conscientious being. It marks me as a person aware of who I am, why I am, how I am, and what connects me to the world outside my consciousness.

Writing is our daily mirror: we face our beauty and shadows up close, no shame or fear, no judgment or grandiose.

Words can hurt and kill. They also soothe and heal. We are warriors who bring peace, unity and joy together through poetry, stories, and memories.

When we write poetry, we are on the highest level of consciousness and joy. Our brain becomes the quantum field where anything everything is possible, where we step into the two rivers at the same time, where magic is a norm.

We are ambassadors of joy. We are messengers of harmony. We are warriors of peace.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Wang Ping

Writing for Peace Adviser Wang PingWang Ping was born in Shanghai and came to USA in 1986. She is the founder and director of the Kinship of Rivers project, a five-year project that builds a sense of kinship among the people who live along the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers through exchanging gifts of art, poetry, stories, music, dance and food. She paddles along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, giving poetry and art workshops along the river communities, making thousands of flags as gifts and peace ambassadors between the Mississippi and the Yangtze Rivers.

Her publications include Ten Thousand Waves, poetry book from Wings Press, 2014, American Visa (short stories, 1994), Foreign Devil (novel, 1996), Of Flesh and Spirit (poetry, 1998), The Magic Whip (poetry, 2003), The Last Communist Virgin (stories, 2007), all from Coffee House, New Generation: Poetry from China Today, 1999 from Hanging Loose Press, Flash Cards: Poems by Yu Jian, co-translation with Ron Padgett, 2010 from Zephyr Press. Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000, University of Minnesota Press, 2002 paperback by Random House) won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities. The Last Communist Virgin won 2008 Minnesota Book Award and Asian American Studies Award. Learn more about her work here.

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNewsletter – 2014 In Review

Stay abreast of Climate Change, Net Neutrality, and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

Support Writing for Peace

ShalomSalamPeaceIsraelisPalestiniansWriting for Peace is  a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Contributions go directly towards publishing, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to our contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We hope you will join the generous contributors who make Writing for Peace possible. Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

Writing for Peace dreamerYoung Writers Contest entries are beginning to pour in from all over the world. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here. Teachers who would like to receive a free pdf version of our DoveTales journals to share with their students may request copies at editor@writingforpeace.org.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is currently accepting fiction, essays, poetry and art submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Deadline is January 15th. Read our guidelines and submit here.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas; 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan; 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners: Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

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Considering Tears, By Yahya Ghobadi

Writing for Peace welcomes Guest Writer Yahya Ghobadi, director of the animated film, Tears.

The Tears, by Yahya Ghobadi 2

 Considering Tears

By Yahya Ghobadi

 

Tears is a reflection on the crisis of war which continues in Syria, Iraq, and other countries. “Dove Tear” soars above the rooftops, witnessing the annihilation caused by mankind’s power and actions. Only hearts of noble extraction are capable of feeling the full impact of war’s devastation.

This nine minute movie includes a collection of World War I footage showing the use of chemical weapons and their affects on humans, the ongoing environmental damage from those weapons, and the reality that there are still countries using these weapons of mass destruction today. Parents will risk their lives to protect their children, but they are helpless against weapons of mass destruction such as the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

Rather than focus on any specific country, the story is told predominantly from a child’s perspective. It is the girl’s birthday and her family is celebrating. She loves the stuffed bear her parents have given her, and is completely unaware of the war that is taking place. The young girl leaves her parents, excited to show her friends the doll, but meets terrible tragedy. Too many children lose their parents in war tragedies like this. Children drown in their dreams and lose everything to pure cruelty; air strikes kill innocent families – just for power.

There are a few movies that had a profound affect on me as a young man – movies that I will never forget. One of those was Schindler’s List; it inspired me to make movies about Human Rights and Justice. It was difficult working on my own, and it took a long time to finish Tears with no financial support, but it was a film I was passionate about, and I’m proud of what I have achieved. The majority of what I’ve depicted in the film is real, but there is truth in the surreal, as well. I’m grateful for the recognition Tears has received, including winner of the best animation reward from the STEPS International Rights Film Festival jury in 2013.

In the storyline, the whole city is targeted, and bombs are dropped on civilians. The little girl miraculously survives to witness her city, home, and family destroyed. Days pass, and white doves fly into the sky, symbolizing the spirits of those innocent people who lost their lives. Eventually, the little girl finds her grandmother alive, though mournful and traumatized, because I agonize over these questions: Who will look after these children who are orphaned by war? And will they ever recover from the mental and emotional trauma?

In the end, the word “Justice” is what spiritual people are looking for and understand well. My film exposes the repeated unjust history of innocent people losing their lives for others’ greed, and I, as a Kurdish director from Iran, have created this film to show the people of the world these inequities.

I wish for peace and justice in the world.

About Yahya Ghobani, Guest Writer

Yahya GhobadiYahya Ghobani lives in Kermanshah, a city in West Iran. He began learning animation on his own through free study and experimentation when he worked at a local television, and collaborated on several animated children’s serials. He created the award winning short film, Tears, without any financial backing. His interest in further developing this art form led him to enroll in the university where he now studies in the field of film and imaging.

Watch the film (and other important links):

View the trailer for Tears here and watch the film here in its entirety (Use password 25252525YG.) Follow Yahya Ghobadi on Facebook here. View Yahya Ghobani’s International awards here. View a short video about the making of The Tears here.

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserMedical Students To Hold Nationwide ‘Die-In’: #BlackLivesMatter

Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers was one of the demonstrators arrested in this case. Stay abreast of Climate Change, Net Neutrality, and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

Plus 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Plus 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd

Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd

Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Support Writing for Peace

Our administration is board operated and volunteer based, so your contributions go directly towards publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to our contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We hope you will join the generous contributors who make Writing for Peace possible. Writing for Peace is  a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Guest Contributors, Guest Writers, Peace, War | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Shaking it, By Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserShaking it

By Adriana Paramo

By the time I arrive at the ladies only gym where I’m supposed to do a Zumba® demonstration, a few of the women are already at the lobby waiting for me. It’s hard to communicate with them, first, because they are Arab and don’t speak English fluently, and second, because I didn’t expect them to be in full Muslim garb: black robe, head covering, black veil over their faces. I say hello, sign in, and open the studio.

While I plug in my ipod and get ready to start, the women disrobe in the hallway. I see their reflections in the mirror. Under their black abayas, they have animal print leotards and figure-hugging leggings and Victoria’s Secret t-shirts and loud multicolor sneakers. They fill their water bottles; friends kiss each other in the right cheek, two, three, four times; they checked their cell phones one last time before the class, and walk in, ready to party.

I start out nice and slow with “Cumbia Arabe,” a song that invites a few machete motions of the hand, a shuffling travel across the room, and a very basic salsa step. The women do their best to follow. They try, I mean, they really try to make sense of this rhythm from faraway lands and histories, this rhythm of incandescent drums, possessed accordions, relentless gourds, and high-pitched flutes. They need to relax, let their guard down, and simply feel the music, I think while I study their apprehensive moves in the mirror. And just like that, some let loose and a few of them do some Arabic-inspired hip shaking. So far so good. At the end of the second song I hoot with my chirpiest fitness instructor’s voice.

“Are we warm yet? Wooh, wooh.”

They don’t hoot back. My imitation of an owl either confuses or embarrasses them. I can’t tell. They are shy, not sure about how to behave in this unchartered territory of latinness, let alone make animal sounds. Maybe they need something faster. I go for a merengue—more like a perico ripiao—that involves some serious grinding, pelvis back-and-forth shaking and my version of a clean twerk. Three of them stop, showing no intention of following me, and it dawns on me that maybe I’ve gone too far, that I’ve crossed the line, that I’m teaching a class of hip-gyrations, frantic pelvic-tilting, and booty-jiggling to a group of ultra conservative Muslim women. I’m sure they feel nude, exposed. They are anonymous under their black abayas and burqas, and this anonymity is their shield when they are outside their homes, but here, in the dance studio, they are naked before each other.

What was I thinking? I’m in the Middle East to finish writing a book not to teach Latin dances. Zumba® is a thing on the side, something that I do for fun, which come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t do after all. It crosses my mind that this kind of dancing might even be forbidden in this country; that the moment the word gets out about all this rattling and shaking I’ll be sent back to the sunshine state on the first available plane. But just like that, I see the women, self-conscious and hesitant, giving this dirty grinding thing a go. This encourages me to do more. I lunge into a crazy quebradita of high hill-Billy jumps and back-kicks; I show them some serious pectoral-pumping, which makes one of them hold her bouncing breasts with both hands. She gives me an embarrassed, mortified smile. But a smile nonetheless.

I figure that if they are offended, they’d either stop and leave the class, or report my vulgarity to the manager. They do neither. Most of them have never worked out and came to the class just because they heard I’d be playing Latin music, which they love. They can’t do full squats, or lunges, or Pliés. The 1-2-3-pop of the bachata confuses them and the four-beat measure of salsa makes them giggle. I play Gloria Stefan’s “Wepa” and half way through it I shout: “Walk sexy!” and I do my sexy walk with both arms extended over my head, hips popping right and left. They don’t walk sexy. Not here, anyway. If they do, they do it for their husbands at home, or at weddings where older women walk about looking for future wives for their sons.

“Are you ladies having a good time? Whoohoo!!!” I get nothing in return. They heave and gasp for air. Every time one goes out to the water fountain I wonder if she’d return to the studio, or if I’ve scared her away with Pit Bull’s reggaeton and Carlos Vives’s vallenato. They all come back, sweaty and breathless. I can’t stop smiling. I shout my most Colombian wepa, Weh – pah, a word of jubilation that makes sense to no one in the room.

During the water break, as we wipe the sweat off our faces, I have a childish thought. Would it not be fantastic if we could stage a So You Think You Can Dance for world leaders? Before one more settlement is demolished in Gaza or one more gun is fired in the West bank, let’s get Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu on the dance floor. Dance off your differences, Hot Shots, and let the best dancer win. I know it’s shallow. Please allow me some levity here as I’m a dancer, a musical being and therefore, a child at heart. I interpret the world through dance. My surroundings are filled with notes and trebles and beats. I dream about music. If whistling is a musical expression, then my mother was a world class musician. My sister is a contralto, my brother a baritone, my father was a fantastic dancer. Rhythm is in my blood. I can accurately describe the personalities of the women in my classes based on how they move: the bold and the reckless, the timid and the afraid, the butterfly trapped in a diving bell, the risk taker, the hard worker, the perseverant, the patient, the unstoppable, the firefly, the warrior, the unhappy. Can we get Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Putin and the leaders of each side of the Ukrainian conflict in a locked ballroom, watch them sashay across the floor to a martial waltz, shake their stiff hips to a dirty mambo, and not let them out until they have exhausted and out-danced each other?

Current conflicts have caused thousands of casualties, millions of refugees, social tragedies, political instability, and human misery. Not a laughing matter. Yet, I look at the women in this room, including me, and realize that thanks to music we have crossed that infinite bridge that separates our cultures, languages, upbringings, religions. It is through music that we conquer our differences and everything that sets us apart. Through music, right here, right now, I’m not a Colombian, Spanish-speaking writer, working out with Arabic-speaking Muslim women. No. This gym is a sorority. We are sisters. Sweaty sisters. That’s why as I get back on the stage, it dawns on me that the world leaders have tried everything to patch up their differences: peace talks, armed responses, truces, green zones, etc. They have tried everything, except dance. Why not? Dance is as old as the human race is and we’ve had war dances in every corner of the planet and in ever period of our history. The Greeks had the Pyrrhic War dance, the Maoris do the Haka, the Brazilians have the capoeira, the Scottish Highlanders still do the Ghillie-Callum, Native Americans (Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Apache, Shoshoni, Lakota, Paiute, etc.) have had, historically, impressive war dances as close to real wars as they get.

I know, I know. This is childish, simplistic and out of touch with the realities of modern life, but something tells me that Obama would’ve passed his executive order on immigration a lot sooner had he gone face-to-face on a dance off with his opponents.

At the end of the class, after cooling down to “Hay Amores,” a bolero by Shakira, I stay behind getting my things together. By the time I come out, the women have already changed into their abayas and burqas and I can’t tell who is whom. I recognize their shoes, the shapes of their bodies, and the eyes of a woman with heavy mascara and thick eyeliner that sweat did not smudge. I ask them if they had a good work out and I hear a few nice, and thank you. One woman asks me as she fastens the burqa at the back of her head, “From where you?”

“I’m from Colombia,” I say. Her face disappears behind the veil as she translates into Arabic for those within earshot. Someone mentions Thalía, the name of a popular Mexican singer. I tell them that the singer and I are from different countries. I switch to my baby Arabic.

“Ana Meen Culumbia.”

“Oh, Culumbia. Fee America?” she asks.

“Na’am,” I say. “Yes, I’m from South America. Fee America Al-Janoobeea.”

Among unintelligible words I hear the names Shakira and Sofia Vergara. It would have been amazing to hear them say Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Toto la Momposina, but I’m happy with Shakira.

“You Latina?” one woman asks.

We hold gazes. Something within me swells and wants to burst like a piñata. I’m far away from the mountains of my beloved Colombia, from the lushness of my second home— Florida—where I’m surrounded by people I love; I’m here in the Arabian Desert teaching women to do the cha-cha-cha. How could I explain to them what it really means to do what I do? The geographical and cultural borders that I cross when I’m inside the studio; the religious boundaries that music erases when we dance together; this hour-long community of sweaty mothers, wives, daughters, sisters colluding to transcend our obvious differences just because we can.But of course I don’t say any of this. I just smile and say, “Yes, habibti, I’m Latina.”

About Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace Adviser

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserWriting for Peace Adviser Adriana Paramo is a memoirist, mother, daughter, wife, friend, student, sister, teacher, dance instructor, and award-winning author of two nonfiction books:
“Looking for Esperanza” and “My Mother’s Funeral.” 

Learn more about her work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserVictory For Climate Justice Activists

Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers was one of the demonstrators arrested in this case. Stay abreast of Climate Change, Net Neutrality, and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

Plus 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Plus 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd

Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd

Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Support Writing for Peace

Our administration is board operated and volunteer based, so your contributions go directly towards publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to our contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We hope you will join the generous contributors who make Writing for Peace possible. Writing for Peace is  a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

Posted in Adriana Paramo, Advisory Panel Contributors, Women's Equality | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Beyond the Sea, by Vicki Lindner

Vicki with JimBeyond the Sea

An excerpt from Baby, It’s You,  a memoir

By Vicki Lindner

 

Author’s Summary:

“Beyond the Sea” is Chapter 17 of Baby, It’s You, my memoir-in-progress about love, race, and rebellion. This story of an ill-fated interracial relationship begins in the early ‘sixties, before the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Birmingham Crisis, and the church bombing that killed four African American teenagers in 1963. Also yet to come is the March on Washington, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Bill, and nation-wide protests against the Vietnam War. With no computers, we wrote on typewriters, and couldn’t imagine the feminist or sexual revolutions. In spring, 1962, however, when the scene below takes place, these changes were blowing in the wind. Although I’d won the “Miss Morris Hills” contest for reciting my own funny “odes,” and was the high school’s star journalist, as well as an actress, I was a renegade, a self-declared Existentialist, determined to defy cultural expectations that all girls were meant to become mothers and housewives. “Jim,” as I call him, the handsome, sensitive boy I fell for, (and address as “you”), was an amazing track star, and the only African American in my large high school. Ready to take on the world of discrimination and prejudice, personified by my southern mother, I had no idea that New Jersey was a surprisingly racist state, known to blacks as “The Georgia of the North.” As for Jim, he wanted, reasonably, to be accepted for who he was, but he rejects the Civil Rights Movement, and when prejudice and taboo come down upon us, he runs from me, only to return declaring his love. We are apart more than we are together. When this chapter begins, the reader knows that the important adults in my life are trying to persuade me that Jim and I, and the “mulatto” children they believe we will have, do not have a future. My Dad, a brilliant engineer, who has worked for the local Arsenal since World War II, will soon become an internationally known authority on conventional ammunition, including weapons now banned by international law. My mother has threatened not to send me to college if I don’t stay away from Jim. My father, as you will see, has another solution. But both of our lives are full of secrets.

Beyond the Sea

Dad suggests we take the rowboat out. “Come on, it’s too nice a day to sit around mooning.”

“I’m reading!” I retort. I hold up The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin’s new essay collection. I know this was the book because I wrote, “I don’t see Jim as a ‘priapic black stud,’” a Baldwin quote, in my journal. Still, Dad is the only family member I can stand at the moment, and I’m pleased he’s asked me to join him.

Recently, he’s traveled to a lot of foreign countries. The Arsenal sent him to Vietnam. From Germany, the last place he went, he sent me two postcards. On one, with a picture of a fountain surrounded by marble monkeys, he wrote that Braunschweig had been hit badly in the war, but was rebuilding fast. In Cologne he’d visited the university, an “awe inspiring” cathedral, and traveled down the Rhine by ship: “While I didn’t see maidens beckoning to me, or hear any irresistible siren calls, I saw the impressive country side and fabled castles,” he scrawled. On a page of thin blue parchment stamped “Hotel Europa, Weimar,” he described the “torturous streets full of hurrying students,” Goethe’s house, herring and black bread, and said he hoped I’d someday find a professor and settle down to raise my brood in a university town. (I pictured a hen pecking worms into cheeping beaks, but didn’t wonder why my father failed to imagine that his bright daughter could become a professor herself.)

He never said what he was doing in Europe. Mom, who complained that Dad didn’t discuss his job with her, had no idea either. But from a newspaper clipping I recently found in his desk, I now conclude that he was making sure West Germany’s defense system was interoperable with ours.

“I want to make you an offer,” he says, as we slam out the door. Suspicious.

We plunge down the steep bank that leads from our backyard to the lake, our shoes sliding on slippery dead leaves. Spring is underway. The maples and oaks have untwisted their twigs into yellow-green sheaves; soon they’ll thrust shady umbrellas above their black trunks.

Although we’ve lived in our big new house in Randolph Township less than a year, my secrets already infuse the grey boards of this dock. Dad has no idea that we kissed down here one winter night, you holding me inside your letter jacket, warding off the sky’s cold glitter. Now it’s too risky for us to be together this close to our house.

I also hang out here with Izzy, my tall skinny friend. He told me about the book he found in a box of his dead father’s stuff—Love without Fear, by Eustace Chesler. “It explains how to explore a woman’s body,” he said. He and Edie, his rich New York girlfriend, had gone through all of Eustace’s preliminary exercises; he wanted to do it with her so bad he could hardly stand it, but she stuck to her goddamned rules. I was dying to know what these exercises were; I didn’t think you and I did them. Sometimes I thought I loved Izzy, too, platonically, of course, not the desperate yearning way I loved you. “Your words are like sun on brown water,” I wrote in a poem dedicated to Iz. “I need not watch your face to know how your eyes crinkle to ripples and what shade of blue they are.”

Mystical events, I’d found out, could happen on this dock. Last week Lorraine and I dangled our feet over the side as she complained about her mother, who’d forbidden her to go to the senior prom unless she lost five pounds. “With Dean, for Crissakes!” Back in October they’d promised to go together if neither managed to score a real date.

“Oh pu-leez,” I’d groaned, clutching my throat. “Dean pushes that huge belly of his around like a baby carriage!”

Lorraine’s laugh clanged like a can of pennies spilled on the floor. (She didn’t tell me her mother had taken her to a doctor who’d prescribed “diet pills” for appetite-control. Later, she figured out how to get more herself.) “I did make out with him once,” she confessed, “when I was insanely frustrated.”

This weathered platform on the windy lake, near yet far from the manicured lawns of the suburban world above, freed us to be our disconsolate, alienated selves. After we quit laughing we screamed “Crash!” at a passenger plane flying overhead. Oh God, the aircraft took a sudden dive toward the trees, spewing exhaust fumes. “No, please, it was a joke!” we yelled at the sky. Miraculously, the plane heard us and righted itself.

Now Dad unlocks the chained oars. After I clumsily maneuver to the rocking hull, he pushes the “Renee Dee” into the lake. Mom named the second-hand rowboat after her step sister, Renee. Recently we’d learned that my aunt’s fifth husband, Horace Dee, was a bigamist. He had other wives all over the place, and the stores came to take back the fur coat and diamond ring he’d bought my aunt on the installment plan. “When it comes to men, my sister never had an ounce of sense,” Mom summarized.

The water is olive-colored, clear; you can still see to the bottom, not yet strangling with slimy seaweed, as it will be in the August heat. I see the skeleton of another house, sprouting in the new development on the opposite shore. The foundation scars the red dirt that was covered with thick sumac and birch. Already this place is ruined, I think.

Dad rows, his brown hands, not too hairy, gripping the oars. Though it’s chilly, he’s wearing his oil-stained gray shorts; his legs, permanently tanned, are shapely with graceful ankles, like mine. In an old photo of him at 16, he posed, slender and muscular in an old-fashioned one-piece bathing suit; he’s still handsome, and his eyes are still blue, but his greying hair is no longer black. Today he’s wearing a bag of salt around his throat to ease his chronic laryngitis, an old Polish remedy from my Jewish grandmother. I trail my lily-white fingers in the sorrowful green water, like a captive princess in a fairy tale.

“Ahem,” Dad rasps, clearing his hoarse throat, “are you aware of what’s happening in Viet Nam?” He already knows the answer: I’m not aware. When I do read The Times, not that often, I skip those parts, always boring and confusing, and focus on theater reviews and ads for linen dresses with wide leather belts. All I know is that Vietnam is a tiny country somewhere in Asia. We never talk about it in American Civilization class.

“We’re putting more of our people in there,” Dad tells me. He was right. In October of ’61, we had increased American troops and advisors from 600 to 16,000. According to an April, 1962 edition of Life, we’d just sent an additional 4,000, plus helicopters, transport planes, and tactical aircraft, armed with rockets, bombs, chemicals that defoliated jungle along the highways, and sentry dogs to flush out the Viet Cong. All this had cost billions. Yet, President Kennedy warned that it would take “skill, stubbornness, and perhaps ten years” for the South Vietnamese to win the war.

In fact, contrary to official reports, the Vietnam conflict, really a civil war, wasn’t going well. Ngo Diem, the Catholic monk that President Eisenhower had pulled out of a U.S monastery and sent back to Saigon to rule the South, was a problem. The shy, reclusive President ignored our military advisors and listened only to his brothers and flamboyant sister-in-law, Madame Nhu. He seemed to believe the U.S. was in Vietnam to keep his wealthy, elite family in power. He put on big parades in his own honor that Vietnamese citizens weren’t allowed to watch, and did nothing for the Buddhist peasants, who the Viet Cong either killed or helped.

When I scrolled through microfilms of Morris County papers, looking for articles about you, I discovered that on February 27, 1962, three days after you won the National Hurdles Championship in Madison Square Garden, two pilots in President Diem’s own Air Force bombed the Saigon Palace. Borrowing U.S. Navy AD-6 Skyraiders, they engulfed the former home of the French high commissioner in napalm flames, frightening the tame deer on the lawn. Finally they crashed and were captured. This was the third failed coup against the leader, but the histories I’ve read never mention it, and my father didn’t either.

What he was likely to say is, “I trust you understand The Domino Theory.” His tone indicates his doubt.

“Not exactly.” On my forays into Greenwich Village, I’d seen old men knocking walls of black and white dotted squares onto concrete tables in Washington Square.

“It means if we let South Vietnam fall to the Communists,” Dad explains, “the Russians and Chinese will swarm in and take over that entire part of the world.” (In fact, after the third failed coup, the Russians had warned that U.S. aggression against the Viet Cong, in violation of the 1954 Geneva Accord, threatened “alarming consequences” for world peace.) (“Consequences” signified nuclear war.)

“No kidding,” I say. “Is that why you went there?” A Mallard takes off, its tiny wings twittering to hold its heavy body aloft. The duck flies toward the island where “Spring still coys her petticoat frill of first green,” as I wrote in Izzy’s poem.

Then Dad gets to the reason why he lured me into this No Exit boat. “I understand the Wellington boy will be going to Georgetown.” Here we go again. I clutch my red cotton cardigan to my torso, wishing for the warm wool letter sweater you gave me, now hidden from Mom’s prying eyes in my bottom drawer.

“Maybe,” I say, pretending indifference. “I think they want to give him a scholarship, but I’m not sure he’s going there.”

This is the truth. When I bring Georgetown up, you don’t say how great it will be for us to be together in D.C. next year. Recently you’d mentioned trying to get into Michigan, where Hayes Jones is, and I didn’t know whether to feel hurt or relieved. I couldn’t quite picture us in D.C. Would we have an affair? I liked the exciting, dangerous word, but the actuality was hard to imagine. What if you dumped me? Or I met someone new? (I couldn’t see myself wearing a scarf and sunglasses in a fraternity boy’s convertible, like the coeds in Glamour.) If you dated other girls would I flunk out, deranged by jealousy and suicidal despair? (I don’t consider that under different circumstances I might get to know you.) Anyway, no one picked a college because it was close to someone from high school. Couldn’t you be in love in two different places?

Now Dad comes out with it: “Your mother and I are thinking of offering you a chance to study for a semester or two at a French university.”

“Huh?” I’m startled out of my musings. “I’m going to American University in the fall as you very well know,” I say with the contempt that denigrates my parents’ intelligence. (Today I’d ask, “What the fuck?”) How did they dream up this bizarre-o punishment? A breeze riffles up wavelets that slap the Renee Dee with a resonant blip.

“Europe would provide a wonderful opportunity for a future writer,” Dad argues. “‘Fabulous,’ as you would say. Think of the interesting characters you’d meet—poets, actors, jazz musicians…. You’ve been studying French for a few years now, and the Sorbonne offers language courses for foreign students. You could postpone American, and enroll there next year, a more knowledgeable and mature young woman, truly prepared for what higher education has to offer. I can attest you’d enjoy experiencing another culture.” He clears his sore throat. “I’ll be kicking around over there myself, consulting with the allies, so we could dine in authentic cafes and explore the Louvre together.”

“Not France!” My squawk flies out of my mouth like a goose.

“But you’ve always said you wanted to live in Paris someday.”

“Someday, not now,” I sob. “You’re just trying to get me away from Jim.” Tears gush out of my eyes. “I hardly ever see him anyway.” This is more or less true. Last weekend, you told me, you were up in Lake Telemark, playing pool with your new Scandinavian buddies. “Maybe I’m part Swedish,” you said, “Why I have these blond hairs on my arms.”

The boat moves farther away from the shore. “You’re just trying to get rid of me,” I rant at my father, “for no earthly reason.”

“That’s not what your friends are telling us.” The slack muscles in Dad’s arms are straining as he leans into the oars, and his soft furry stomach contracts into folds.

“What in high holy hell are you talking about?”

“Watch your language,” he warns. (He’s slapped me for saying “shit” at the dinner table.) “As it happens, a friend of yours called to tell us they’d seen you with him.”

“Who?” I retort. None of my friends would rat me out. Or would they? For the first time, I feel paranoid. I flip through a mental rolodex of everyone who knows about us. A few weeks ago we hung out in Morty Barr’s kitchen listening to his mom tell how she eloped with his dad a week after they met. She’d hugged you and didn’t act like she minded seeing us together. But maybe she did.

“Someone you think of as a very good friend,” Dad says mysteriously. Was Morty himself the tattletale? I wouldn’t put it past him, the double-crossing little skunk. Could it be Ruthie? Quel Horreur! She definitely qualified as one of my best friends. But recently she’d hinted that the girl hosting the Thespian cast party was against us coming together. I felt shocked and betrayed when Ruthie said, “I don’t think it’s such a good idea either.”

“Maybe they’re lying,” I say to my father. “Did that ever occur to you?”

“You’re the one who’s been lying,” Dad states. “To your mother and myself.”

So people I believed were allies were spying on us. “Where did they see us?” I demand, my voice wavering. I consider jumping over the side and swimming for shore in the icy water. It would serve Dad right if I drowned, or came down with pneumonia, but if I made it, he’d be there at the dinner table, angrier because I worried him with that stupid stunt.

“You have no idea where I go or with who,” I rave on. The last time we got together, we were making out in a strip of woods bordering a two-lane highway while Lorraine and your older brother, Nat, just home from Europe, waited in the car, swigging red wine straight from the bottle. Nat, who’d been a major baseball star at Morristown High School, amazed Lorraine with his stories about the West Bank of Paris. Neither of them would have called my parents.

Dad’s mouth tightens, meaning he’s fed up with me.

“You were the one who taught me that all people are equal,” I say, keeping my eyes on the bottom of the boat. Dad doesn’t reply. He turns the Renee Dee around, his arm pulling one creaky oar.

“I REFUSE to go to France!” My self-control cracks; I’m screaming now. “If you make me go, I’ll run away! I’ll kill myself!” These are my favorite threats but they sound hollow, unconvincing, leftovers from the distant past. As Dad knows, I haven’t run away from home since I was twelve, bundling my babysitting money in a scarf like a hobo would. I’d planned to take the bus to New York, and after that? I didn’t get far. Now I lock my door and run away to my secret thoughts, my poetry and journal. When Mom put me “incommunicado” for not cleaning my room, and wouldn’t let me talk on the phone, I wrote to Lorraine, “I may kill myself. I will swim out to sea and drown like the girl in that Moss Hart play, “The Climate of Eden.” Then I admitted, “I’m only toying with the idea of such a dramatic gesture.”

Now I come up with a more original bombshell to drop on my father: “If you force me to go to France, I’ll become a prostitute on the Champs Elysees.” The girl knows she’s losing it—while she maintains a haughty dignity in fights with her mother, her father quickly reduces her to an infantile fool—but she can’t resist adding, “And I won’t take money from Negro men!”

Dad assumes the bemused expression that distances him from his own Irritation. “That might prove a fascinating subject to write about,” he responds coolly.

After more weighted silence, he asks, speaking just above a whisper, “Do you want to try rowing for a while?”

“No,” I say sullenly, folding my arms across my chest. “You got us out here, you get us back.”

“You’re hurting your mother,” Dad croaks, implying he feels no pain himself.

As I suspected, this all came from her, the Racist. Maybe she dreamed up this Paris scheme when I told her I was moving to France after college. The girl believes that her father, who is big on civil rights, secretly approves of Jim, but sides with his wife to save his marriage.

Now he says, “It may not seem like this to you, but Mother and I are mainly concerned with your happiness.”

About Vicki Lindner, Writing for Peace Adviser

vicki Lindner (3)Vicki Lindner is a fiction writer, essayist, and journalist who has published a novel, Outlaw Games, and many short stories, essays, magazine and newspaper articles. She has written about a wide variety of subjects: cooking, bird watching, loneliness, dinosaurs, sculpture, not having children, travel, and medical malpractice. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Fiction, Chick-Lit; Post Feminist Fiction, Witness, the Best of Terrain, Del Sol, The American Literary Review, Gastronomica, New York Stories, In Short: An Anthology of Short Creative Non-Fiction, American Nature Writing, Northern Lights, and The Seneca Review. Her short story about karate, “Barefoot to the Bridge in Winter,” was the Fiction Premiere for New York Woman. Most recently, Lindner’s essays were published in Shadowbox and Western Humanities Review. Learn more about her work here.

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DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

Plus 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Plus 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd

Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd

Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

 

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