Monthly Archives: October 2014

Peacemaking more than prize, By Andrea W. Doray

Malala2Peacemaking is more than a prize

By Andrea W. Doray

 

With the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan became its youngest recipient at 17, sharing the award with Kailash Satyarthi of India. Shot in the head by the Taliban in October 2012 when a gunman boarded her school bus, Malala made a remarkable recovery in England, where she continues her advocacy for girls’ rights to education that began when she was only 11 years old.

I was deeply disappointed last year when Malala’s 2013 nomination did not result in the Peace Prize, that pre-eminent, political, and often controversial award handed out every year by the Norwegian Nobel Committee on behalf of the estate of its founder, Alfred Nobel. I was gratified this year for Malala’s well-deserved recognition, as well as for the spotlight this award has cast on both education and peace.

Not all efforts at peaceful activism can result in such prizes, of course, and this is the case — so far — for Fort Collins-headquartered Writing for Peace, a now-global organization that began as a local Young Writer’s Contest in 2011. Today, the nonprofit Writing for Peace shares an international stage with its high-profile advisory panel. Sponsorships from educational institutions such as Colgate University help produce an annual publication, “DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts,” which attracts literary submissions from around the world, as well for its Young Writers Contest.

Writing for Peace helps cultivate empathy through education and creative writing to develop a foundation of compassion on which to build a more peaceful world. Its goal is to inspire and guide young writers so that their literary focus can be part of bringing nations closer to nonviolent conflict resolution and societies that value human rights.

Teachers all over the world are preparing their students for a relay race of unprecedented consequences. Our generation is passing them a heavy baton: a world in crisis. If we are to hope for a more peaceful world, we need future leaders with vision, clarity and empathy. The Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest challenges these students — including contest winners from South Korea, Vietnam and Nigeria, as well as the U.S. — to develop global and cultural awareness while refining their writing skills.

Among the Writing for Peace advisory panel members are poets, novelists, memoirists and essayists — artists such as Sam Hamill, who founded Poets Against The War, and Karachi-born Syed Azfar Ali Rizvi, now a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker who survived ethnic cleansing as a child in Pakistan. Young Writers Contest judges are no slouches either, including Guggenheim Fellowship winner Antonya Nelson and New York Times best-selling author Steve Almond.

Yet, as impressive as this may be, it’s work with young people that drives the mission of Writing for Peace. The first Young Writers Contest in 2012 resulted in five entries from U.S. students. By 2014, Writing for Peace has received submissions from students in 24 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Great Britain and the Netherlands, as well as Bangladesh, Macedonia, the Maldives, Malaysia and the Philippines.

This impact on young people around the world is reflected in the words of Kasturi Panajady, 15, from Karnataka, India, “Since Writing for Peace, I have become bolder in terms of sharing my work.” Jordan Dalton, 16, from Indiana, said, “I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world.”

Although it’s not likely that Writing for Peace will be nominated for a Nobel Prize (yet), such activist efforts at empathy through education prove that peacemaking is more than a prize. As Dalton puts it: “Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired.”

[This article first appeared in the Denver Post on October 18, 2014.]

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberAbout Andrea W. Doray

Andrea W. Doray (a.doray@andreadoray.com) is a communication consultant, writer and editor, and is a youth writing instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She serves on the Board of Directors for Writing for Peace. 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 AdviserManaged Democracy, Expendable People

“As the elections draw near, the plutocracy and crisis of democracy become more visible. ”

Stay abreast of Climate Change 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.

 

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.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following 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

 

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Pilgrim’s Progress, by Robert Kostuck (Part 2)

Butterfly, The Pilgrim's Progress, By Robert Kostuck

The Pilgrim’s Progress

(Part Two of Two)

By Robert Kostuck

Sunday, January 28th, 1945

Now we have rumors of surrender, spoken in hushed voices. What will happen? The Russians will turn to our nation of islands built on the cracked spine of the Pacific Ocean. Depredations continue. We wash linen and clothing without soap, in cold water. Two days ago some rice was delivered, heaven-sent. Unlike my village here the men still go out to fish. Part of their catch is donated to the hospital, also heaven-sent. Mostly there is dashi with fish and greens, also some rather dried-up roots. Someone brought us a large basket—almost 90 kilos!—of last year’s sweet potatoes. Flavor and fiber. Shizuko tells stories of growing up in poverty on a farm. She is eighty-one years old, strong as an ox and missing two fingertips on her left hand.

“Ten years old,” she says. “An argument between me and a knife for cleaning fish. The knife won! Clean living, young woman. Rice wine and plenty of vegetables. Makes one strong and long-lived. Your Buddhist grandmother was right. Too much meat makes the body weak. You have doubt? Look at me!”

I tell her about my tuberculosis, how disease comes with indiscretion to any and all. Always there is weakness and lassitude, other times I cough so much I think it will be my last breath. Because of my illness, I am segregated from the rest of the ‘staff,’ and most definitely from the patients. My volunteer work is limited to laundry and gathering firewood for cooking. There is a park near the city center, once beautiful with decorative cherry and peach trees. Unhindered, each week we go there with the cart and the old men and the young girls cut down the trees. Everything is burned for cooking fires and the wet, green wood smolders and fumes and blows sparks upward to heaven. I want to go on my knees and pray at this perverse cooking fire shrine, bow and make obeisance like Obāsan in front of her Buddhist altar.

*

Thursday, February 1st, 1945

I’ve temporarily stopped working on the novel.

It is becoming difficult and somewhat pointless to continue keeping a journal. I discovered a ream of typewriter paper in one of the abandoned administrative offices here at the hospital. I made a brush from a thin bamboo and my own hair. Ink? That must be the office worker’s India ink that comes in a bottle. I pour a bit in a dish and pretend I have ground a black stick into the sumi stone. Mind you, all pretend. The ink is inferior for anything but practice. My calligraphy takes on a dream-like quality, one day elaborately cursive, next day crude as a child’s first attempts. And that is just my handwriting.

My sister writes:

Yuriko-chan, we miss you and pray for you. Your illness is such that no one will prevent you from leaving the hospital. Here is food, comfort, and the love of family. How can you expect to get well living in a place filled with the sick and dying? Please, Sister, listen. Come home.

*

Sunday, March 25th, 1945

Spring. Patients sun themselves. I am one of them. The wind from the sea and the scents of new life. It seems everyone except me knows how to plant a garden. Seeds for cabbage, onions, and daikon; more donations. Shizuko oversees all, orders the volunteer nurses here and there. The girls obey. Measuring out the space for the rows in the lawns behind the hospital. Grinding up the beautiful lawns and tossing out the white boulders of an unkempt decorative rock garden. In the distance a child’s loud and happy voice shouting, “Ma! Come look!”

“We won’t grow rocks,” says Shizuko. “Better to grow melons and radishes and cucumbers. You came to the right place to be sick. Too bad there’s no medicine.”

She eats less and grows stronger. I eat less and grow weaker.

I sit on a bench in the sun. Sometimes I fall asleep. Messengers and medics arrive in trucks belching smoke and deliver official documents and angry wounded soldiers. So many important papers, so many men. Mail deliveries are sporadic. If my Kuri still writes I have no way of knowing. In my mind I continue to compose the new story. I think it will be my final novel. After this I will retire to my childhood home at the age of forty-two and spend my spinster days writing poetry and feeding my sister’s chickens. If I get better. When I get better.

The new book is equal parts fantasy and autobiography. In fact as I have it now it begins and ends with autobiography. Paragraphs, sentences, entire chapters form, dissolve, and reform in my imagination. Beginning and ending = memories of my own childhood. I never cut my finger with a knife. We had a servant who helped in the kitchen. I see now that my cherished memories were made possible by the labor of others. I was a spoiled child and I became a spoiled woman. The parties, the drinking, the public scenes. We build our lives around fantasy. In the end I am left taking orders from an eighty year-old woman, left eating roots and weeds.

Today I stood at the side of the road as a convoy passed from somewhere to somewhere. Not one soldier saw me, not one turned to look. So now I am invisible, turned into a pattern of leaves and shadows of leaves, turned into smooth river rocks and silky red fox fur. Invisible.

*

Tuesday March 27th, 1945

I drift. Somehow I have run aground in an abandoned fishing village. From the signs everyone left quite suddenly. Nets rot in the boats, gulls pick listlessly at offal on the wet sand. A bicycle leaning on the single automobile, the hood of the vehicle still warm. Smoke curls from the finest house: a western-style stove warm with embers; a pot of broth hastily removed and set to the side. Watery fish broth: I eat until I am full. Back on the beach I find a beautiful seashell, large as my head. When we were children we held shells to our ears, told each other: You can hear the ocean.

I sit on the bench and watch Shizuko guide other hands in the garden. And now sick, coughing Yuriko has been conscripted! My pages of calligraphy discovered! I am pressed to the honorable task of writing letters for the unschooled soldiers. They say tuberculosis is catching but the men crowd around me. Dear Keiko-chan. Fumiko, mother dearest. Brother, I hope this letter finds you well. Secrets and fears, anxiety and anger, sadness and yes, sometimes love. One insists I write to his former employer: You bastard! Where are my back wages!? I never realized the importance of writing for those who cannot read or write. The stories and desires are warring with the plot of my novel. Who will win? The finger or the knife? I will call it unasked-for research notes. Already new stories fill my thoughts, overflow, pool around my heart like moonlight on still water.

*

Monday, April 2nd, 1945

Letters are gathered. I fold the pages into envelopes, write out the addresses. We put the letters in a bag and give them to a surprised military messenger on the way to Kyoto or Tokyo—he’s not sure. Of this I am certain: the letters will never be delivered. The soldiers remain steadfast in their devotion to the Emperor. For them there is no disruption of daily life—this in the face of food shortages!

The worst days are when my appetite returns and there is nothing to eat.

*

Saturday, April 14th, 1945

Shizuko’s garden is lush with tiny green shoots. I’m a small-town girl who forgot her roots in the city. The garden amazes me. I am beginning the second batch of letters but these are now more ‘thinking out loud’ than notices of day-to-day happenings. My novel—all jumbled in my mind now—soldiers and nurses telling stories, prophecies soon to be fulfilled, dreams for the future. They ask about my life as a famous writer. I tell them if they never heard of me then I’m not so very famous. I embellish anecdotes from a not very wild past. Some wildness. That good-looking actor with the dark eyes and quick laugh, for example. Crazy about me, followed me everywhere for months, told me he would die without me. I don’t have to embellish that.

*

Monday, April 23rd, 1945

Today we sent out another sack of letters. Where will they go?

*

Saturday, May 19th, 1945

Today is my birthday. Unlike most women I am not ashamed to tell my age. Today I am forty-three years old. Shizuko clucks her tongue.

“You look older than me,” she says.

I tell her: “I am sick and dying. Disease, unfathomable, directed by a mysterious and probably uncaring god. Besides, you were raised on rice wine and vegetables. Me? I ate too much meat and drank too much Irish whiskey and Russian vodka. And the men! Tempting me, leading me astray!”

We laugh at that.

She holds up her amputated fingers. “We both lived the life we wanted.”

“Yes,” I say, “the life I wanted. Now I am a respectable public scribe composing confessions, testimonials, and love letters for free. If only they could see me now.”

I think: This is the life I was meant to live.

*

Sunday, July 29th, 1945

Who will read this? I lost my appetite. My breathing became so shallow. I thought I was dying. I think I am dying. The girls put me in a tiny hut away from the hospital. They cleaned it out and called it a cottage but it smells of rotted plants and gasoline. A disused storage shed. Each day Shizuko comes in the morning with tea and broth. Unable to stand and use the clay pot in the corner of the room I soil myself in the night. She cleans me. The other volunteers check on me during the day. Outside someone burns incense. A moaning prayer rising and falling in pitch. I have to ask: What day is this? It is Sunday, July twenty-ninth. Why do you need to know? You see, I tell them, I am keeping a journal. I am making notes for my next novel. I am composing—creating—recording—remembering—

*

Tuesday, July 31st, 1945

I can breathe again. The air is hot and dry. There is less food. Wild mushrooms and bits of strange fish in the dashi. What would a sweet potato taste like? Fresh bamboo shoots?

One of the girls brings me a dish with radishes, cucumbers and salt! From Shizuko’s wonderful garden. We are growing our own food. While I was isolated all of the soldiers were evacuated to Tokyo and Yokohama Bay. Now it is just the volunteers and no one to serve.

*

Friday, August 3rd, 1945

Today is the Day of the Ox, hottest day of the year. Shizuko brings back eels from the fishermen and roasts them on an open fire near the garden. As per tradition of course they are expected to keep us cool on this hottest day and provide us with strength for the rest of the year. Much work for a tiny eel! For some reason I am the first served. Everyone watches me eat and swallow. Day of the Ox. Now there’s a folktale I never thought to re-write.

I seem to have misplaced my notes for The Shell God.

*

Sunday, August 5th, 1945

I feel stronger. Does tuberculosis completely leave the body? Obāsan was a spiritual woman. Maybe I can still be like her. I resolve to change my ways.

*

Monday, August 6th, 1945

Today I woke before sunrise. Everyone else is still asleep. The hospital silent and empty. Shizuko was correct about today’s weather—country folk have a secret sense about nature. Clear skies and a breeze from inland. The odors of outdoor fires, of earth giving up summer. Premonitions of autumn. My heart is calm. I think the rest of the year will be calm also. I feel stronger. Maybe I will yet return to Hashikami—my very idealized fishing village. I’ll end my days filling volumes of thin rice paper with poetry, scattering grain for my sister’s chickens and ducks. After all this sickness and traveling—to return. To stay.

To remain.

[THE END]

[The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in Roanoke Review, fall, 2013, Vol. 38.]

 

About Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace AdviserRobert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction and essays appear in many American and Canadian literary journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and a novel; his short story collection is seeking a publisher. Learn more about Robert Kostuck and his work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserCommunities Standing Up

“This week we are inspired by the communities that are standing up to police abuse and by the students in Mexico and Hong Kong who are placing themselves at risk in order to fight for their rights.”

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

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

 

DoveTales Call for Submissions

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

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. 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.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following 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 © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Pilgrim’s Progress, by Robert Kostuck (Part 1)

Butterfly, The Pilgrim's Progress, By Robert Kostuck

The Pilgrim’s Progress

(Part One of Two)

By Robert Kostuck

 

Thursday, July 6th, 1944

The Emperor’s decree: all civilians who commit suicide before the arrival of American troops on Saipan will be assured equal spiritual grace in the afterlife, same as soldiers who die in combat.

*

Friday, July 14th, 1944

Thousands of men and women—NOT soldiers—took their own lives. Thousands. One era ends but nothing supersedes what has gone before.

*

Sunday, November 26th, 1944

I thought to keep a journal but everything is moving too fast. War, food; dying, food; family, food. It comes down to having something to eat. Can’t write with an empty belly. Time to leave the city—all ‘loose ends’ will be left unresolved. Where will I be welcome? There is really no future for us—for our country. Everything is changed.

Today I look to nature for my writing inspiration. A butterfly, still alive in the midst of autumn. I watch it—glistening and at the same time a bit shabby. A warm day, the door to the hospital kitchen open to the grounds, and this yellow and orange butterfly on the bush near the door. I sit on the step and I am inspired—until I realize the insect is dead. Touch it—it flutters to the ground, brittle, broken. I am like these butterfly wings—wanting to fly but no longer of this world. I told my sister Kuri everything. She begs me to come home and stay there. I will return when I have decided who I am. Who will read this?

*

For future generations: I am Yuriko Suzuki, the well-known author. I was born in 1902 in Hashikami on the northeast coast of Honshu, some miles south of the city. I had an excellent education for a girl, considering the cultural expectations for women in Japan at the turn of the century. Part of my education came from six years attendance at the Catholic Missionary school in Hachinohe. Both of my parents converted to Catholicism before my birth and the Catholic faith is something I will reject and embrace for the rest of my life. I have one older sister, Kuri, with whom I maintain an intimate and intense relationship.

The early years of my career began with a prolific output of short stories. Subsequent success and popularity owe much to the traditional subject matter of this early work. For example, “Shitakiri Suzume” (The Tongue-Cut Sparrow) is a traditional folk tale updated to reflect contemporary society. My modern version seems traditional—up to a point. There is nothing to indicate the time period or place, until the old man in my version of the story takes the smaller basket from the sparrow and brings it home to his greedy wife. In a traditional telling, the basket turns out to be filled with gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, coral, and coins. It is precisely at this point in the story that I introduced my twist on this traditional tale. “The basket was full of treasures—a razor with steel blades, dresses of the newest American fashion, leather shoes, a pearl necklace, lottery tickets, chewing gum, English cigarettes, and a black and silver camera.”

I love quoting myself. Like the American Nathaniel Hawthorne my “twice-told tales” had a built in audience since one would be hard pressed to find a Japanese reader who lacked knowledge of these folktales. At the same time, a gentle humor, picaresque characterizations, and social satire were the very elements that led to my success as a novelist.

In the early 1930s I gained a degree of notoriety due to my involvement as one of the cosmopolitan members of the literary and artistic avant-garde of Tokyo. In 1934, two decisive things occurred in my life. My first novel, Chrysanthemum was published; and I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After that I wrote in a frenzy. My published writing after 1934 consisted of no less than an average of two novels each year for the next six years. One critic favorably compared Season of the Cranes to the English author Jane Austin, “—because of Miss Suzuki’s formal and mannered approach to delineating adult relationships in a socially stratified society.” I quote from the newspaper and magazines clippings my sister has saved in a large photograph album. Myself, early on I learned to feign indifference to fame and fortune. It does one no good to expose one’s desires, even to so-called friends.

I differed from my peers in the use of the romance novel (everyone wants to experience love!) as an expressive vehicle and by the obvious fact of my being a woman. While authors such as Tatsuzō Ishikawa, Ashihei Hino, and Shirō Ozaki had a decided influence on my work, Catholicism and the folktale tradition also had a great effect on her view of the human condition.

In 1941 war deprivations in society finally caught up to the publishing industry, severely curtailing the publication of new work not related to the war effort. That year I took an assistant editor job with the Tokyo magazine Chūōkōron. Contributions were limited to occasional articles and essays on games, cooking, history, and anonymous book and film reviews. None of my journalistic work was even remotely political in nature except for “My Childhood,” a series of essays that sharply contrasted an idealized national past with an uncertain national future. I wrote these essays during the winter of 1942-43. After that I felt I had nothing left to say. War controls destinies. I was no exception. I left Tokyo for the small fishing village of my youth. For ten months I lived a withdrawn life, solitary and self-contained. I questioned my actions in this life. I wondered, and constantly doubted, whether or not I had done anything worthwhile.

In November of 1943 I relocated to Hiroshima.

For one year I have worked as a volunteer in the military hospital. Days I attend to injured soldiers, nights are spent revising the notes for my new novel, The Shell God. It is decidedly a roman á clef, quite the opposite of my previous belles lettres. Realism, not romantic fantasy. There is too much of life and death here in the hospital for me to imagine anything else. I will tell the soldier’s story. He is Everyman, and in his limitless wandering he makes solid our nation’s torn and dying soul. His name is Ando; the woman he loves, Matsuko. Like the traveler of old he will make a pilgrimage through the rural world of the past.

The hospital is filled to the roof with fear. Fear smells like pus and hydrogen peroxide, night soil and ether. Days the men spend bragging. Nights are for nightmares and screams. The volunteers—me and the other women and girls—have sleeping quarters in the same building. Quiet only comes before dawn. In the past year three men have committed suicide. Two with knives, one jumped from a window on the third floor. That one broke his spine and did not die for two and a half days. There is immense difficulty in feeling sympathy for the injured and frightened soldiers who take their own lives. Yet some days I pity them enormously. Some days I envy them.

My own health deteriorates.

*

Saturday, December 9th, 1944

The village sits close to the sea. Pine trees spread down the slopes and line the streets, almost reaching the beach. On foggy days, the village and huge pines vanish in the mist. On these days I wander the enclosed beach, hearing only the splash of unseen waves, and the muted sound of my own footsteps in the wet sand.

The pines are dull aches in the fog. With effort I recall sentinel duty, passwords, and sharp voices. Slow my pace as memories seek and find me; then walk on firmly, resolute with even steps, pacing like an acolyte. My boots scrape the sand. Waves scratch the shore. I think it is home. It might be anywhere.

*

Monday, December 25th, 1944

Today is the Christian holiday of the birth of Jesus Christ. Rumor has it that there will be no attacks or bombing nationwide. The Americans take a day of rest. Our only doctor has been called to another hospital. He left today, hoping for an uninterrupted train journey. We wish him a safe trip. It is almost impossible to keep the sheets and bandages clean without soap. One of the older women, Shizuko, ordered two of us to bring heavy flat stones from the river. We hauled them in a cart. She put the stones in the bottom of the basins and showed us how to rub and clean the fabric on a rock, like long ago.

My sister Kuri writes:

Yuriko-chan, forgive me. I was not able to hide your fine city clothes. Our house was searched and all available clothing was taken. What would the army want with fashionable western dresses? Mother dear was heartbroken. The fishing boats lie in disrepair. The men stopped going out soon after you left for Hiroshima. They say there are demons and ningyu in the water. Superstition, but who can blame them? The men spend all day in the forest digging bamboo shoots and trapping songbirds.       

We had to kill the goat and now all that is left are a few chickens and ducks. We all soon will be vegetarians like Obāsan!—you know how she was confirmed Buddhist all through her life. I often wonder how mother and father ever converted to the faith Catholic. Although I know you are helping the war effort I miss you and I wish you would return. Love, your sister, Kuri.

My own physical pain from the complications of the tuberculosis is exacerbated by these hospital experiences. Perhaps by sublimating personal experience within fiction I will finally be able to have something to say, will be able to say it well.

*

Tuesday, January 2nd, 1945

I sleep in my clothes. No fuel for any type of heat. Coal, oil, gasoline—all gone. Wood is for cooking and sterilizing medical instruments. One young man, a boy really, a city boy with a Kyoto accent. His left leg was amputated one week ago just below the knee. Now gangrene sets in. His body flames with fever and the air in the ward so cold you can see your breath at noon. Burning and freezing at the same time. And moldy rice. Moldy rice! Me, who used to stay up until dawn at wild parties. Writers, artists, actors. The endless tables of food—the saki, beer, and gin and tonics. Now I am happy to share roots and weeds with my fellow volunteers. Kuri-chan, when did we ever go hungry?

*

(To be continued next Monday…)

[The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in Roanoke Review, fall, 2013, Vol. 38.]

 

About Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace AdviserRobert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction and essays appear in many American and Canadian literary journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and a novel; his short story collection is seeking a publisher. Learn more about Robert Kostuck and his work here.

 

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Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

 

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserA Declaration of Principles and Action for a New World

“We will combat the toxic forces on which domination and tyranny variously rely, such as the patriarchy, hegemony, colonialism, and racism that exist within external oppressors, and even within our own movements at times.”

Stay abreast of Climate Change 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 now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. 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.

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following 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 © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

VENDOR, By Maxfield Harding

New York City

VENDOR

(an excerpt)

CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir

By Maxfield Harding

 

I laughed at my cleverness at escaping life. It was a cold late afternoon in early December on my corner at Fifty-Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. I stood behind my small vendor’s cart of dried fruits and shelled nuts. I had been standing at the cart since nine o’clock that morning. Blanched cashew nuts had been the hot item with the few people that came up to my cart that day.

I could look up through the tall windows in the fortress of a building to my left to see well-dressed men seated in large cushioned chairs, smoking their cigars and reading their newspapers and talking about their business deals, I imagined. I laughed loudly and pulled my black knit cap over my eyes, effectively shutting out the world around me and completely convinced now that no one could any longer see me either. I stood there smiling in what I hoped was oblivion. I was very tired.

Soon it was six o’clock in the evening. The rush hour had passed. Office workers had become pedestrians and then commuters and the street had emptied quickly. I began pushing my cart of dried fruits and nuts toward the west of midtown. A half hour later I was almost at the cart owner’s garage in a section of the city called Hell’s Kitchen. I had found three twenty dollar bills in the street about a hundred yards from the garage gate and was so elated I became slightly giddy. I hadn’t made much money that day.

I pushed my cart up the ramp and into the holding area where my fellow vendors and I waited to get the tubs of fruit and nuts weighed, and to work out our day’s pay. It was somehow always lower than what we hoped for.

I took out the three twenties and began to slowly shred them and toss the bits to the floor. A young woman near me screamed and told me to stop but I didn’t. The rest of the vendors scrambled to pick up the pieces while I laughed.

The young woman came up to me, her nose almost touching mine and said, “You need to talk to someone, buddy. You’re in a bad way.” I laughed, knowing she was totally wrong.

“You’re the weird one,” the owner said to me in the sing-song way he and his fellow countrymen from India had. “I’m glad that wasn’t my money you destroyed.” He was seated at a desk with a scale on an elevated platform off to the side of the room. “You won’t last long here,” he said.

I laughed again and walked into the back of the garage to use the bathroom. I sat and put my face into the palms of my hands in defeat and waited as long as I possibly could to just before the urge to scream became too much. I walked out of the bathroom and the garage was empty of people save the owner at his desk on the platform. I stood before him. I said nothing. I could not think of the words to speak.

“What are you doing here, Max? Everyone’s already gone for the night,” the owner said to me.

I didn’t respond.

“Go have some dinner, Max. Unless you are filled up already from eating your own profits.”

Again I did not respond. The owner got off his platform and stood in front of me and looked directly into my eyes. “Okay,” he said. “Just this one time.” He walked out the door leaving the lights on and lowered the heavy steel gates that protected his investment and, for this night, me.

It was cold that night, but thank God for us street vendors there was no snow on the ground. There was little heat in the owner’s garage either. I huddled under his desk near the faulty steam radiator and tried as best I could to sleep. I laughed at myself in disbelief and wonderment: in my mind I was losing the sense of feeling “cool” selling dried fruits and roasted nuts on the moneyed streets of New York City. I had chosen this path rather than having what was then called a “straight job,” climbing the corporate ladder, making a lot of money. But I also knew that night that I could have used a few more ten dollar bills in my pocket and wondered why I had shredded those twenties a few hours ago.

Downward mobility had become my attitude of nobility which I had adopted since I graduated from Brown University fifteen years before. Certainly scrambling for a few dollars a day was supposed to be more entertaining and honest to me than sitting behind a desk, or so I had thought. I had made my choice and it seemed there was no turning back now. I was out of the economic mainstream and out of a place to live and sleep and had not much money with which to eat.

Maxfield Harding, Guest WriterAbout Maxfield Harding, Writing for Peace Guest Writer, and Author of “From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir”

Max Harding arrived at Brown University as an “A” student. His descent began then in rebelliousness and a journey he hoped would bring him a life as an author. Inexplicably, he eventually found himself homeless and mentally ill on the streets of New York City at the age of thirty-five.

Maxfield Harding, Author of From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A MemoirMax was unable to fathom what was happening to his brain and the images and sounds of the world all about him. He roamed the city in full psychosis from small homeless shelters and down-and-out residential hotels to the large Camp La Guardia for homeless men north of the city. He was soon removed from that facility and sent back to New York to be put in handcuffs and eventually consigned to Bellevue Mental Hospital, more of a threat to himself than anyone else. He had given up all hope of dealing with the voices and strange powers that brought him to fully expect his execution at the hands of the doctors and nurses at Bellevue.

Casualty, by Maxfield Harding, on Amazon.comFrom the hospital bed from which he awoke the first morning at Bellevue he was eventually able to rise up with psychiatric medication and therapy and the great and generous help of his social worker. He gained entrance into a psychiatric apartment program and then onto work again in mainstream American society. Many of the programs and aid which Max received are no longer available today or are in very short supply. Close to half of the adult victims of over six hundred thousand homeless in America today are mentally ill and have outrageously become our most disposable citizens. Most disturbing are the returning military veterans with more psychic than physical wounds languishing in agony within this substratum of American society. The terrible actions of a few rare mentally afflicted individuals gunning down dozens of innocent people, many of them children, call out for greater and better treatment of the mentally ill in our society.

After thirty-five years of productive work, Max now lives in subsidized housing in Bronx, New York.

Max’s story comes to us through Writing for Peace Adviser, Lorraine Currelley. Lorraine shared this account of their meeting:

Maxfield Harding Group Circle SPARC“I was a 2014 S.P.A.R.C. Seniors Partnering with the Arts Citywide recipient. It was a citywide competition and my proposal for a program won. I taught poetry and creative writing.

“Max joined my workshop and attended twice weekly. Max was an experienced writer, but I don’t believe he was ever published. His short stories and the work he produced in workshop was phenomenal.

Maxfield Harding SPARC 2 I encouraged each student to publish. As an end of workshop project we published a book, On The Write Path. Max informed me he was writing a book and it was near completion. The book CASUALTY and the rest is history. It’s available as an ebook and within a week or two will be available in hard copy.”

You can purchase a copy at Amazon.com here.

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Check Out the Latest Recommended Reading From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserWorld VS Bank: Take Action To Break Wall Street Exploitation Of Global Community

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

DoveTales Call for Submissions

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

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace; Purchase Our Latest Edition Of DoveTales

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following 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 © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.