Category Archives: Peace

Staunching Wounds, By Richard Krawiec

 

antonio-rotta-helping-hands-approximate-original-size-24x30Staunching Wounds

By Richard Krawiec

 

Recently I met with a group of women who had suffered terrible transgressions and losses in their lives from an early age. Deaths of loved ones, violent rape and abuse, humiliations by friends and abandonment to strangers.

We all know the clichéd responses to this, right? When life gives you lemons…put it behind you and move on…etc.etc.

But I think there is something ultimately dismissive in failing to recognize that sometimes we suffer damage we can’t get beyond. Sometimes we suffer damage that creates a wound so deep it will not heal. We can learn to live through it, we can try to accommodate it, to go forward despite the wound – but the wound remains. It’s what is meant by the term ‘survivor’ I think. The person who knows what happened can’t be ignored, or changed, but has found a way to live past without denying the damage.

Many of us have things happen to us that are difficult to move on from. I had a girlfriend who was haunted by the memory of watching her father die on their kitchen floor, begging God not to take him from his family. I can’t seem to get past my best friend as a child growing into an estranged teenager who blew his brains out with a shotgun; I’m still haunted by memories of the time I walked out of a Juvenile Court in Pittsburgh without the 5-year-old girl who was returned, by the courts, to her sexually abusive father.

I know these incidents pale in comparison to what others have to deal with. I didn’t survive the concentration camps. I wasn’t a child growing up in war-torn Gaza. No gang of soldiers raped me in a tent. I wasn’t that girl, that friend.

So it always feels childish, whiny to admit these things still create a profound sorrow in me when I think about them. But we don’t choose our damage, and to a large extent we don’t choose, at least initially, our ability, or inability, to deal with the traumas of our lives. Aren’t our ways of response to at least some extent conditioned by those around us, especially those around us when we were growing up?

On another thread a woman speaks about visiting her father in the hospital and holding his hand, like she used to when she was a child. I can’t remember ever holding my father’s hand. He wasn’t a cruel or abusive man, but he wasn’t attentive in that way.

When friends died in high school – from hanging, drug overdose, leukemia – I don’t remember any of our parents offering support, advice, condolences or ways to deal with the loss to those of us who remained.

When you don’t have a way to deal with a wound, it remains unstaunched. People find different ways, not so much to move forward as to cover it up, to bandage pain with sex, drugs, violence. Because they don’t know how, or aren’t allowed, to look at it. Just put it aside, we’re counseled, forget about it, so you can become a productive member of society again. It’s a type of cultural denial, isn’t it? But what do people do when they can’t. Well there is the previously mentioned trinity –drugs, sex, violence. But there are other ways for people who can’t articulate but somehow know their concerns aren’t being addressed.

Some people turn to writing, others to song, painting, dance. Because nothing offers a better path into the interior, a more honest and unflinching way to look at what has happened, as well as a better vision of new paths out of that darkness, than art. I think it was Springsteen who once said the best part of him existed in his songs. In real life he could be a mess. I know that feeling. God, do I know it.

But the point is, art offers us the potential to examine the past and an array of paths – spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, psychological – that can lead to a future full of what, in another context, David Brooks calls “the eulogy virtues”.

I never thought I’d say Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a probing piece -but there it is. In today’s NYT, Brooks talks about something that resonates with what I’m thinking about here. He discusses how we live in an age of self-absorption; we are told to be individualists, “be true to yourself…follow your own path.” It’s easy, Brooks says, “to slip into self-satisfied moral mediocrity.”

And he contrasts this with those whose lives had followed a pattern of “defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding…The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative.”

What’s the connection with this and damage? I guess that what I’m trying to say is this – the culture that says take an anti-depressant when your loved one dies so you can obscure your pain is not a culture that accepts damage. Damage is distasteful, unpleasant, not something we want to discuss. Let’s all get beyond it as quickly as possible so we can go out and have fun.

And if you don’t? Why isn’t there something wrong with you?

Because if we really, truly looked closely at the damage people endured, and it’s long-lasting effect on them, wouldn’t we have to do something to help?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec

Richard KrawiecRichard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award. His latest collection is Women Who Loved Me Despite (Press 53).  To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

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Writing for Peace News

Meet Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserAs a Palestinian, peace for me is the the end of Israeli policies of the occupation of our historical lands, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and racial discrimination that have been continuously condemned by human rights and international law organizations, yet Israel chooses to ignore all these calls with full impunity. Peace is by putting so much pressure on this settler colonial state to abide by human rights and international law. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one of the tactics that has proved its success to tell Israel that you’re no more impune; the world is watching and looking for a peaceful Globe. I use writing as a way to raise awareness and to express myself. It is good to have approachable platforms that one can use to reach a large number of audience around the world.

~Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian activist, freelance writer living in Sheffield, and our newest member of the Writing for Peace Young Adviser’s Panel. A powerful voice for peace and justice, Malaka graduated with a BA in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza and a MA in global politics and law from the University of Sheffield in Britain. Read Malaka’s articles on Huffington post here.

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBeyond Extreme Energy: Uniting to Retire Fossil Fuels

Clearing the FOG speaks with activists from Washington State to Washington, DC who are taking on Big Energy to say “no” to more fossil fuel infrastructure. We begin with four organizers who walked across the United States last year to raise awareness about the climate crisis. They visited front line communities along the way. When they arrived in Washington, DC, they spent a week protesting the little known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the Beyond Extreme Energy coalition. Now they are planning more resistance. In Washington State, the “SHell No” campaign is organizing a Flotilla to keep Shell Oil out of the Port of Seattle. We’ll discuss why direct action is the necessary tactic to end fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources.

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

 

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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.

 

Ebola Crisis in Liberia, By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace AdviserAnother Look at the Ebola Crisis in Liberia

By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Where there is no vision, the people perish…,” yes, that is in the Bible, folks, in the great Proverbs, particularly, in chapter 29, verse 18, and now, I guess, you’re saying, “Hallelujah, preach it,” but hold on; I’m not trying to preach anything. I’m simply taking you somewhere different than a preacher would take you. Where is this trouble-maker going? You may ask. Yes, I’m going somewhere. Liberia, West Africa, along with two of its neighboring sister countries, Guinea and Sierra Leone, have been grappling with the deadly Ebola virus and in just a few months nearly two thousand of its citizens have died from this deadly virus. Most of the dead, nearly 1,500, have died in Liberia alone. And Liberia, my home country, my lovely homeland of a vibrant and happy people, a people whose laughter is so contagious it steals the visitor’s heart, is dying out one family after another, whole families of dozens, annihilated in simultaneous attacks across the capital city of Monrovia and throughout the country. If we should defeat this virus and win this new war, the effort by the Liberian government, its citizens, and the world at large, has to be a peace effort. For how can the world declare itself a peaceful place when some of its nations are being annihilated by such a deadly virus? Here, I am approaching my discussion from the point of how a government cannot have security or peace when its citizens are dying like sick chickens.

For some reason, I always knew that there was a connection between good medical services in a country, the provision of the most basic needs for a nation’s citizens, and peace. Over the last several years during my research trips to Liberia and during a long five month stay for my 2013 sabbatical, I was troubled that the lack of the most basic needs, including but not limited to adequate medical centers, medical supplies and medicines, a serious educational structure and system, good water supply, electricity and roads connecting all parts of the country to the capital and throughout each section of the country, have hampered the peace process and the rebuilding of Liberia after 14 years of war. I was deeply worried, despite the heavy United Nations presence in the country and the false sense of security the Liberian government has enjoyed for the last decade. Today, Ebola has confirmed my fears. Liberia, with its false sense of stability and peace,  is so troubled by that dangerous threat that Ebola could destroy the nation’s place on the world map and annihilate most of its citizens.

Peace is not the absence of war; peace is the ability of a people to benefit from all of that nation’s wealth and power, and silence is not the evidence of peace because silence itself could be the lack of peace. A nation is at peace when its people are empowered by their leaders and the laws of the land to enable them to function in a civilized world, and where the lowly as well as the powerful enjoy the wealth of their land. But this was not so in Liberia. Now that we are convinced that Liberia has failed its people, we must defeat Ebola and usher in a more abled leadership or at least an abled style of leadership.

You may wonder if, like many Liberian political aspirants, I am advocating for a change of leadership in the midst of this crisis, but I’m not. I do not believe in creating war while another war, the struggle with the Ebola virus, is ongoing. Anyone knows that a change of leadership in Africa is one of the most complicated processes anywhere in the world. African democracy is never independent of outside intervention, and the African sense of leadership change often creates more confusion than peace. I am therefore advocating that every effort should be made to support the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf leadership to overcome the Ebola virus and save our nation. I am advocating that the government works to win the people’s confidence. But that will begin when the current leadership purges itself of those who lack the understanding that leaders are servants, and not lords. If you have visited Liberia in the last decade or even earlier, you will have noticed that most of the leadership believed that they were not servants of the people, but lords. I hope they realize now after not only the civil war, but as a result of the current Ebola crisis, that their belief in themselves as “lords” is only an illusion. In addition to a change in the leadership’s attitude to leading, I recommend that they reeducate themselves to understand who we are as Liberians and as Africans. Maybe by understanding their place in the world, they will value their own people as human beings, and thereby save the nation.

For those calling for a change of leadership, I am sorry. Any call for a change of leadership at this crucial tragic time is from a completely misguided vision of where Liberia should be going. What Liberia needs right now is not a change of leaders just to usher in a similar set of leadership; what we need now are visionary leaders who can work with everyone for our future and to overcome this Ebola tragedy. What we need also is a complete rewashing of the Liberian psyche so we understand the connection betwee­­n someone with vision and the determination to develop our country, to lift our people out of the dirt they’re in, and to rebuild Liberia to genuine stability. We need selfless, capable, caring and visionary leaders, people who see beyond themselves, big brain people, those who are not afraid of educated and wise people, but embrace both the educated and the uneducated alike because it takes all to rebuild a nation. We need people with big, big hearts, not in the Liberian “big heart” colloquial sense, but people who care not just for their own, but for the larger society and the larger world. We need men and women who know that they are indeed Liberians, not some expatriates with the mind to run away when things get bad. We need folks with eyes to see the future and with big hands to get in the dirt to do the work and usher in a new and better future.

We also need a Liberia with a citizenry that is never satisfied with nothing as with this generation of Liberians. We need a Liberia that has high expectations of its leaders, and makes them accountable to them. We need folks who are not satisfied with small peanuts and crumbs from the President’s table, folks, who know that crumbs are not enough, that crumbs are for slaves, and slavery has nothing to do with freedom, peace or democracy. We need Liberians who can learn to love themselves, learn to love their heritage as Liberians, as Africans, not some imported people, but as people with a great culture. We need leaders who can bring back our lost music and our dances and cultural centers that have been traded to investors, those who can bring us back to what we ought to be. We are not foreigners trying to be Africans. We are Africans and, until we can help our people appreciate what they are, it will be difficult to heal the wounds from the civil war and this Ebola crisis. We need a true visionary group of people to see that the future is better than the present or the past, and that we can get there.

So, stop toying with the idea of changing the truck driver until you get a driver that has the ability to drive over the potholes the old driver and his/her old truck has dug us into. We need someone whose eyes are radiant with a vision to lift Liberia, and it is not impossible to find that person and that group of Liberians right among ourselves. It is not impossible, but to find them we, the ordinary voices crying out from afar and near, those of us rejected and those of us included, must come together with the clearest vision ever if we are to fight this deadly virus and rebuild a better Liberia.

About Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace AdviserPatricia Jabbeh Wesley is a survivor of the Liberian civil war, immigrating to the United States in 1991. She is the author of four books of poetry: Where the Road Turns, (Autumn House Press, 2010), The River is Rising (Autumn House Press, 2007), Becoming Ebony, (SIU Press, 2003) and Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa (New Issues Press, 1998). In 2013, she published her first children’s book, In Monrovia, the River Visits the Sea (One Moore Book Publishers, 2013). Her fifth book of poetry, “Biography, When the Wanderers Come Home,” is forthcoming in the spring of 2015.

She has won several awards and grants, including the 2011 President Barack Obama Award for her writings from Blair County NAACP, the 2010 Liberian Award for her poetry, a Penn State University AESEDA Collaborative Grant for her research on Liberian Women’s Trauma stories, a 2002 Crab Orchard Award for her second book of poems, Becoming Ebony, an Irving S. Gilmore Emerging Artist Grant from the Kalamazoo Foundation, a World Bank Fellowship, among others. Patricia has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English from Western Michigan University, a Master of Science degree in Eng. Education from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and a BA in English from the University of Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia. Learn more about Patricia’s work here.

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 From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNext For Climate Justice, More War, Student Protests & Police Abuse

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.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest JudgesCheck 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.

EVERYDAY PEACE, by Samantha Terrell

Vincent Van GoghEVERYDAY PEACE

by Samantha Terrell

I’m an everyday kind of person.

The youngest of four kids, I grew up in an old farmhouse smack-dab in the middle of a Kansas wheat field where there was dust, and sweat, and homemade bread, and prayer…mostly led by my dad, a progressive Presbyterian minister.

When I was a teenager we moved to the Missouri Ozarks which was a culture shock for a Kansas girl, though I would adjust. I spent my college years all over the (United States) map, both literally and figuratively, as I struggled to find my way—switching majors and schools, dropping out altogether, and working here and there, before ultimately earning my Bachelor’s degree and meeting my husband.

In all things though, I kept striving for the out-stretched hand of a faith to give me peace in my decision-making; it’s a faith that has guided me as an adult, through career changes, marriage, parenting, and many other everyday kinds of things, and it provides a peace that I don’t dare take for granted.

So, these days when my sons occasionally grumble about their “first-world” problems, my husband and I make a point to explain the privileges we have as Americans living in the 21st century. While to some it may seem harsh to push these “grown up” issues on kids, I want them to grow up knowing that as they complain in-between bites of breakfast cereal about going back to school, many children in the world are enduring the hardships of poverty, starvation, and war.

I would consider it not only the ultimate “parenting fail,” but also a “humanity fail,” if I didn’t attempt to instill in my own children the sense of peace that comes from an appreciation of (what we consider) everyday things. It is in this vein that I write.

TAKEN FOR GRANTED

tonight my sons
eat pizza that I pulled
from my electric-oven
with a hot blast in my face
transporting me to our own youth
when oven-heat from
a floor-vented furnace sent
our pink nightgowns billowing up
in clouds of warmth,
as we giggled, and sighed with relief
at the comfort of that heat
in our very own home
which mother-nature has now
simultaneously stolen from each of you,
in your respective struggles,
as I worry over you from a distance
with overdue gratitude for
a family home,
a source of heat, and the
laughter of sisterhood

 

Samantha Terrell, Writing for Peace ContributorAbout Samantha Terrell

Samantha Terrell is a published poet, who has been writing for nearly two decades. Her chapbook ‘Honesty,’ is published six times annually. Her work has been featured in DoveTales, by Writing for Peace; LaBloga Floricanto; and other formats. Samantha resides in Missouri with her husband and two boys.

Samantha’s new book “Vespers,” features her original poetry and offers the reader a weekly prayer journal to assist in finding peace of the ‘everyday’ variety. For more information, or to place an order, go to: poetrybysamantha.weebly.com. A portion of all profits will be donated to charity.

 

 

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Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers Recommends:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserPopular Resistance Newsletter: We Believe That We Will Win

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where we 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.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest Judges

Check out our 2015 Young Writers Cntest! To date, 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 By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTale

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition

The 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.

 

Why I can’t unsee what I’ve read about 9/11, by Andrea W. Doray

5005784023_3c240e4624

Why I can’t unsee what I’ve read about 9/11

by

Andrea W. Doray

 

I haven’t watched the videos of the recent slayings of American journalists. I read the news accounts and the still photos were horrific enough for me, and I knew that I could never unsee it.

But in the theater of my mind, I did see it; in fact, I see it over and over. I see it because I’ve read accounts in the news about what happened, just as I did about the mass shootings in Aurora, CO, and Sandy Hook, CT, the innocent civilian casualties in armed conflicts around the world, and the transports and death camps of the Holocaust. I wasn’t a physical witness to any of these, and yet I can see, I can see, I can see these wicked events taking place.

Such is the power of words.

In September especially, but often throughout the year, my mind returns again and again to the images of the Twin Towers. Like most of us, I watched first in disbelief, then in growing horror, anger, and helplessness. Because of the immediacy, even 13 years ago, of real-time news reporting, I watched September 11, 2001, unfold as I was clustered around a television with dozens of coworkers. The planes, the fires, the collapsing buildings…all seared into our shocked and grieving collective consciousness.

I don’t remember if I watched this next part actually taking place, but I’ve seen the photographs of people leaping from the flaming buildings, caught by the still frames of a camera. And as much as these images haunt me, it’s what I have read that frequents my memory and deepens my sorrow on September 11.

I’m referring to a critically acclaimed poem by Brian Doyle, entitled “Leap.” Doyle’s opening line, “A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand,” sets the scene. If you search the Web for this topic, as I did for this column, you’ll find that some people think the images of a man and a woman holding hands as they fell are a hoax, claiming the pictures are photoshopped. But Doyle relies on eyewitness accounts from people who did the seeing – not just of this couple but also of others, very real people forced to make those harrowing desperate choices.

Doyle gives us descriptions from horrified spectators, descriptions made even more chilling in their spare language: “people ‘leaping as they flew out.’ ” And “ ‘falling over themselves’ … ‘too many people falling.’ ” Doyle also relates the events on the streets below, where pedestrians and a firefighter were killed “by people falling from the sky.”

Doyle ends the poem by speculating about the moments leading up to the hand-in-hand plunge. To paraphrase: did they know each other…friends, colleagues? Or were they strangers “thrown together at the window at the lip of hell,” strangers who “held on tight, and leaped….”

Through these unblinking words, I make more of a human connection with the victims than I ever could by watching videos or viewing photos. And it’s because I have read “Leap” that I can’t unsee their desperation, the agony in their final acts. But perhaps that’s what needs to happen, so that these victims, too, will never be forgotten, to keep this tragedy in the theaters of our minds.

Such is the power of words.

 

###

About Andrea W. Doray

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board Member

Andrea W. Doray is a member of the Writing for Peace board of directors, and a writer who, not surprisingly, sees things in words. You can find “Leap” at PBS.org, and can hear Brian Doyle read his work on YouTube. Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com if you would like the links.

A version of this article appeared in Colorado Community Media newspapers and is reprinted here with permission.

 

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Writing for Peace News

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

What Will It Take To Create Climate Justice?

by Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers, and Kevin Zeese

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserAll of the elements required to create climate justice seem to be in place. Activists are well organized, polls indicate public support, and overwhelming consensus among the scientific community, so why aren’t governments taking appropriate action to address climate change? Read the article here.

 DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, 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.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest JudgesOur Young Writers Contest is now open! To date, 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.

he recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act

 13  0 reddit0  2

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed.

– See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

Support Writing for Peace By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTales

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” edition, is now available for purchase. The 2014 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.

 

 

 

 

Voice To The Voiceless, by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Writing for Peace is excited to introduce three wonderful new members of our advisory panel: Robert Kostuck, Djelloul Marbrook, and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. Each of our new advisers has achieved an inspiring level of personal integrity in their work, and dedicated their writing toward the advancement of truth, justice, and peace.

In the last (but not least) of three introductory posts, meet Writing for Peace Adviser, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace Adviser“I’m joining Writing for Peace because as an activist for peace, my career as a writer has been about giving voice to the voiceless in a world constantly at war.”

~Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is a survivor of the Liberian civil war, immigrating to the United States in 1991. She is the author of four books of poetry: Where the Road Turns, (Autumn House Press, 2010), The River is Rising (Autumn House Press, 2007), Becoming Ebony, (SIU Press, 2003) and Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa (New Issues Press, 1998). In 2013, she published her first children’s book, In Monrovia, the River Visits the Sea (One Moore Book Publishers, 2013). Her fifth book of poetry, “Biography, When the Wanderers Come Home,” is forthcoming in the spring of 2015.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace AdviserShe has won several awards and grants, including the 2011 President Barack Obama Award for her writings from Blair County NAACP, the 2010 Liberian Award for her poetry, a Penn State University AESEDA Collaborative Grant for her research on Liberian Women’s Trauma stories, a 2002 Crab Orchard Award for her second book of poems, Becoming Ebony, an Irving S. Gilmore Emerging Artist Grant from the Kalamazoo Foundation, a World Bank Fellowship, among others. Patricia has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English from Western Michigan University, a Master of Science degree in Eng. Education from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and a BA in English from the University of Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia. She is a regular, featured Poet/Study Abroad faculty and speaker both in the US and internationally, and her poetry has been critically acclaimed by many reviewers and scholarly publications worldwide. She has also published dozens of individual poems and memoir articles in many US and international journals and anthologies, including in the New Orleans Review, Crab Orchard Review, English Academy Review of South Africa, The Prometeo Magazine, Bedford/St. Martin’s Approaching Literature: Writing, Reading, Thinking, 2nd & 3rd editions, among others.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace AdviserPatricia also owns and manages a popular blog, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s International Blog on Poetry for Peace. She is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Penn State University’s Altoona campus. She is presently working on a memoir of her Liberian civil war experience.

Links:

www.pjabbeh.com

http://poetryforpeace.wordpress.com/

 Small Writing for Peace logo

Writing for Peace News

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now The United Nations Has Failed To Act

by Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers, and Kevin Zeese

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserThe recent report by the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 national Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. It’s affects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. Read the article here.

 DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, 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.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest JudgesOur Young Writers Contest is now open! To date, 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.

he recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act

 13  0 reddit0  2

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed.

– See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

Support Writing for Peace By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTales

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” edition, is now available for purchase. The 2014 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.

And God Is The Water, By Lyla June Johnston

And God Is The Water

When I close my eyes at night
I can feel the rock being cut open
by water.

I hear a grandfather song
and it sounds like sand
walking down the river bottom.

In this song they talk about how even
the mighty canyon rivers began as
a meandering stream.

Beneath the gentle waters there are people.
Not people like you and me.
Stone people.

When I close my eyes at night
I am one of them
and God is the water.

Over lifetimes She eats at me
until I am polished and smooth.

She teaches me
about being gentle and persistent,
about patience and commitment.

When I close my eyes she says to me
in trickles and bubbles:

“Journeys.
Take them.
Try to remember who you are along the way.
I have nothing for you but these words.
Take them with you
and I will see you again when you arrive
at the ocean’s throne
as one million kernels of sand”

Her voice
hums in my blood
quiet as a stream in the night
and it is a song about how
we are all
just
so loved.

The eagles dip their talons into Her soft body
and pull a fleshmeal
from the water.

They sing this grandfather song with her
and it sounds like feathers
cutting into the sky.

It is a song about how even
hatred surrenders
to wonder.

She is breaking my heart apart like
a stubborn puzzle of problems.

Even the hardest doubts and sorrows
give way to
Her infinite grace.

And who knew that
sometimes grace comes from
standing in the wind until
everything we think we own
is torn away from us
and replaced with a weightlessness
so profound that we can’t not cry
tears of absolute praise
and run all around the river banks shouting to the
the minnows and the cattails and the crawdads
about the truth of beauty?

The truth of a God that
breathes through the trees
weaves winter from water and night
weaves bodies from dust and light
and carries us down the river of life over
and over until we finally understand
the meaning of forever.

In the language of the stones there is
no word for mistake.

Only the complete understanding of what it
means to be a beloved son or daughter.

I am the rock
and God is the water.

 

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserAbout Lyla June Johnston, WfP Young Adviser

Lyla 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.

Learn more about Lyla and her work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” edition, is now available for purchase. The 2014 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

Climate Crisis Connects Us, Climate Justice Requires Unity

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBy Writing for Peace Adviser, Margaret Flowers, and Kevin Zeese: What do rigged corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Treaty, an international climate agreement to be signed in 2015, have in common? They are both tools being pushed by the power elite to rip away our hopes for democracy and to commodify all things to monetize them for profit. Read article here.

2015 Young Writers Contest Guidelines

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestWriting for Peace Young Writers’ Contest Guidelines for our 2015 Young Writers Contest will be posted on September 1st. We’ll announce our fantastic new panel of judges at that time. The deadline for entry is March 1st, 2015 – not as much time as you might think, so start gearing up by scrolling through the many craft related links and tips on our Facebook page!

Writing for Peace on Facebook

Our Facebook page is your go-to source for inspiration about writing news and craft, peace, and the intersection of the two. Your likes and shares increase our reach and help spread the word, so come by for a visit, share your ideas and questions. We’d love to hear your thoughts about writing and the many ways you are making a difference. Click here to check it out!

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

manifesto, by radhiyah ayobami

Writing for Peace Welcomes Guest Writer, Radhiyah Ayobami

 

manifesto

Radhiyah Yemayatoday i heard a story that made me very happy. in fact, it actually made me feel joy. it was a story about a close sista-friend of mine. i have known her for about ten years. we met when our children went to the same cultural school (our friendship has outlived the school as well.)  i was in my early 20’s- she was about 30. i was transitioning into the cultural world, growing locs, and exploring different traditions. she had already been married to a community leader, and she eased me into her circle and her way of life. she introduced me to roots reggae dances and was the first person i met who blessed herb before smoking it. she took me to african spiritual events and explained the protocol; how to cleanse before entering, when to stand and when to kneel, how to give an offering and receive a blessing. wherever we went, folks cracked into wide smiles as soon as she was on the scene, she was forever being waved at across a crowded room, greeting other smiling people, and being enveloped by hugs.
 

as the years progressed, we went through the same initiations, starved through the same fasts and partied at the same events in long skirts and headwraps on a wednesday night and were late getting our kids to school in the morning. we piled our children and some other folks children in a half-working car and drove to all-night drum circles where they fell asleep under trees as we meditated by the fire, we survived on the same small handful of greens in a foreign country when it had rained too much and everybody was hungry, and when the sun came out we all washed up outside in broad daylight, everything jiggling, breasts that had nursed babies, waistbeads, and our locs heavy with water from the sea.
 

and then came the curves of life. we went to city offices and through housing systems, patching together the help we needed to move forward. we created resumes and got jobs that paid on the books and took out taxes. we transitioned out of our small communities and found that wearing extra long skirts and yards of cloth around our shoulders was sometimes not practical when working with small children or in various other settings. she was first to cut her locs and put on pants, and one day she came walking around the corner on fulton street with no headwrap, no multi-colored skirt swishing her ankles and no scent of sacred oil, and i walked right by her. she had a short afro, creased pants, and a folder full of resumes, and something about the outfit reminded me of the colorful birds i saw languishing in cages at the zoo. months later, when my son and i lived in a building that awakened us with five am fire alarms, she wrote me a letter that helped me transition out of that place and into an apartment where my porch was the entire roof and i could sit and watch the sky.

 

and then we went into the next decade of our lives, and i listened to her laugh become a little less loud as she watched friends and family marry and waltz across the dance floor in each other’s arms as she raised her children and drove to the occasional roots dance on her own. we began to talk about the beliefs and traditions that kept us bound to the idea of being honorable women. elders told us that we shouldn’t be out past nine o’clock. imams said we should be in by maghrib. at the drumming ceremonies, we couldn’t uncover our hair (even though it was hot by the fire, and the breeze through our locs would have been the greatest blessing.) in almost every tradition, we were lectured against smoking herb, and told to have husbands instead of lovers, so we wouldn’t damage our spirits. so me and my sista-friend began to have conversations. we began to wonder, under the skirts and scarves and rules and admonishments, where we could find the seed of joy. our communities and traditions had sustained and nurtured us, but now we were in a new cycle of life, and it was time for change. we talked and argued with each other, we fasted and went to steam baths and spiritual events and prayed and sat with our own thoughts. and then, we moved.
 

she broke the no lovers rule first, and invited me over for  tea so we could talk about it, and it was a conversation that lasted all night. it was winter when she broke that rule, and it was summer when i broke it, and i ended up writing a lot of poems. and we discovered some things. we discovered that another human being, particularly a partner, fixing a meal that you like or washing your hair or giving you advice on a complicated problem late at night even though they were tired or rubbing your foot deep enough to ease out the soreness of the day was just as holy as a drum ceremony or lighting an incense stick or the pouring of water- and maybe, even more holy than that. we discovered that the best rules to follow were the ones that brought our spirits balance and joy.
 

and after awhile, my sista-friend stayed in pants. she never went back into daily headwraps and long skirts- although she would wear them occasionally for events or if she felt like it. i stayed in long skirts and wraps because my womanself loved them, but sometimes wore jeans if i wanted to, and we never gave up dancing or late nights or wine or bud. we still prayed and chanted and burned and poured sacred water- but we carried no flags but our own.
 

and then today she called me, ashamed, because she was out on a date with a man that made her heart glow, and they had a little taste of wine and a little smoke, and they went to a roots party, and she ran into folks she knew, and there she was in a short skirt and a wild afro, kinda high, kinda drunk, with a strange and non-cultural man, and all the women were in there with headwraps up to the ceiling and skirts down to the floor. well, i fell out. i laughed and laughed. because at the age and stage that we’re in now, does it really matter? we are far enough into this journey that we know most things are between us and the creator. when i was living in the five am fire alarm place, i was plagued with headaches so bad that i walked around with tylenol tucked into every pocket, every bag, and even under my headwrap for emergencies. and her letter helped me get into a house where the birds would come sing at the windows in the mornings when the sky was still pink, and i didn’t have a bottle of tylenol in that whole house. and some of those women in those skirts would never do that for anyone else- some of them were devils. i know, because i wear long skirts and i’m a devil when i wanna be too.
 

and i wish my sista- friend a hundred dances in a hundred short skirts, if that’s what feeds her soul. and for the rest of us, i wish us permission to be unbound to whatever it is that binds us. sometimes i look at my life- i’m in an expensive grad school but got no money. i’m an older black woman in an mfa program, which is generally made up of students who are young, male and white. i’m fat but i do african dance and yoga and i love it, even when i’m the biggest person in the class, which is often. i moved across the country with a teenager, which everyone says is the worst time to move a child, and now he’s closer to the honor roll than he’s ever been. i’ve made a lot of mistakes, but my son and i have also had some great adventures. life has been our guide, our teacher and our protector. and as shaky as my progress is, i’m continuing on my journey to be fully unbound, fully engaged in the process of life instead of watching it drift by, and fully committed to living with joy.

 

i  give myself permission to:
 

honor my inner guidance

create my own family makeup

not explain or apologize for my choices

not explain, excuse or defend my size, culture or style of dress

treat my body kindly no matter what it looks like

tell my truth even when it’s uncomfortable

tell the stories of my ancestors

pursue all my passions

ask for and accept compensation for my talents

not be afraid or ashamed of mistakes

choose teachers by spirit and not external affiliations

walk away when i need to

humble myself only to the elements; water, sun, trees, land & sky

(& of course the creator)

 

and so it is!

 

radhiyah ayobami: brooklyn born by way of the south, telling stories of black womanhood, motherhood & folks in invisible spaces, believes word has the power to shift consciousness, writes & workshops with pregnant teens, inmates & elders, africana studies graduate of brooklyn college & mfa prose student at mills college in oakland, california, where she is working on a collection of nonfiction essays & the trees give her poems.

 

Writing for Peace News

  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace Our Second edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is available for purchase. The 2014 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

  • 2015 Young Writers Contest

Our exciting 2015 Young Writers Contest Judges Panel will be announced on September 1st, along with our Contest Guidelines!

  • Facebook

Our Facebook page is your go-to source for inspiration about writing, peace, and the intersection of the two. Your likes and shares increase our reach and help spread the word, so come by for a visit, share your ideas and questions. We’d love to hear your thoughts about writing and the many ways you are making a difference!

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.