Category Archives: War

The Night of Shattered Myth, by Swatilekha Roy

Swatilekha Roy is a 2016 Young Writers Contest Notable Finalist who writes from Durgapur, West Bengal, India. Swatilekha’s story caught the attention of our judges with its courage and hope. As one of our judges commented, “Swatilekha reaches for empathy in the darkest places of humanity and imagines not only what could cause a man’s extreme loss of compassion, but also where he might possibly find it again.”

In her words:

For me, the most deadly weapon yet discovered by mankind is a pen. ‘A pen is mightier than the sword.’ In today’s world, we have everything except peace and as they say, everything comes with a price. The biggest price yet has to be paid by those who fight for peace, physically and verbally. Writing has the power to bring about revolution. It is that gentle tremor that can shake the world. It is writing and writing alone that can change the face of the world for the better and make it a more peaceful place to dwell in. I would like to congratulate Writing for Peace on their outstanding feat of spreading the aura of peace through mere words.
~Swatilekha Roy

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The Night of Shattered Myth

By Swatilekha Roy

 

9th November, 1938

Just as our truck neared the corner of the Heidereuter Alley, the moon retired behind the clouds. Shards of glass littered the pavement. The night was filled with desperate shrieks, breaking glass, gunshots, and pleas for mercy.

Our orders: to ship these savage fools with yellow stars to extermination camps.

Our duty: to follow without question.

Our job: to kill.

The coal-black swastika on the rear of the truck showed a ghastly grin. Peace is a fool’s concept. War is the imperial truth. The synagogues heaved desperately, and thousands of Jews prayed for escape.

The orders were precise, “Execute as many children as you wish. They eat, yet can’t work.” Men and women would be sent to separate extermination-camps to be starved or tortured until death arrived as a welcome release.

As I was loading the emaciated Jewish children into the truck, I felt something tug at my shirt sleeve. Disgusted, I turned to find a bony child with hollow eyes. My duty was to kill, but something about him was familiar. And then it dawned on me. “Abbott?”

The child nodded. “I am Issao, Abbott’s son. They killed my father.” Tears welled in his eyes.

I suddenly remembered the pool we had loved as children, Abbott and I playing our reeds at the lake’s edge. Our different religions never came between us until Herr Hitler began his crazy rampage. When I was taught about the Jewish scourge, I hadn’t wanted to think about my friend. And now, looking into his son’s eyes, I was no longer a soldier. I was just a human being, an indebted friend.

I knew I was making a terrible mistake. I could almost hear the Führèr screaming, “Treason! Death!” But, the one speck of humanity that still blotted my soul rebelled. Acting on instinct, I checked to make sure the children were seated safely in back and bolted the latch. I turned the key and the truck’s engine rumbled to life. The swastika glared at me. Treachery? Death! As I sped off with the truckload of gaunt children, the moon abandoned its hideout and lit my way. Children were crying from hunger and fear and I was in disbelief. How could anyone justify the murder of innocent children?

Near the heavily guarded Berlin border, my heart began racing faster. There was no way I could pass through without getting shot. I prayed for a miracle.

As I neared the gates, the guard stopped me. “Your pass?”

“I, well…the orders were last moment. I’m shipping this scum out of Berlin. Here’s my badge.” He eyed me suspiciously. I flipped him a couple of Reichsmarks. “For bier!”

The guard saluted and, with a cry of “Heil Hitler,” opened the gates.

Driving away from Berlin, I racked my brain for connections I could use for the children’s safety, but most of the people or places I knew were far too risky. And then I remembered Paul, my childhood teacher and the kindest man I had ever known. He was my only hope. I made my way toward the familiar village from my youth.

As I reached the outskirts of town, I was comforted by the familiar sights. I drove through the village, past the solitary willow tree and my old church, and turned onto a dirt road marked by a rusty signboard advertising cheeses and fresh milk. I pulled to a stop in front of the farmhouse, got out, and knocked on the door, but when I asked for Paul, the woman shook her head.

“Please, Paul was my friend and teacher when I was a boy.”

She hesitated, wiping her sturdy hands on her apron. “Follow me,” she said, and stepped outside to lead me around the house toward the barn where a man with gray hair and rimmed glasses sat on a bench, reading. He looked up at my uniform in alarm.

“Paul,” I whispered. “Is that really you?”

“Have we met?”

“It’s Alfred. I’ve come for a refresher on formulas,” I said.

Paul flashed me a cautious smile and said, “Come sit, my friend. I had one particular formula that has stayed with me all these years.”

I sat beside him, laughing in relief as he gave my head the same sturdy knuckling I remembered from my childhood. He introduced me to his wife and began filling me in on the goings on at the farm, the cows, and children. It was if we had never been apart. But could I trust him with the children’s lives? With my life? Was it fair to ask him to risk his own life? His family and farm?

Before I could ask these questions, his wife was coming back around the house with two of the children. “There’s more, Paul.” She held their little hands tenderly, but her face reflected the horror of our situation.

Paul looked surprised as I broke into tears. “I, we, need your help. I’m sorry to ask, but they’re just children. Innocent children.”

Paul’s kindness and moral integrity was unchanged. He immediately agreed to help the children with this risky endeavor. Two of his farmhands emerged from the barn to help unload the children and get them into the house.  Some were barely alive. As the children were carried inside, I again felt a tug. “Did you know my father?” asked the boy.

I lifted the bony, weightless thing into my arms and kissed his dirty forehead. “Don’t worry. They’ll take good care of you.” I couldn’t answer his question, admit what a selfish, bloodthirsty cut-throat his father had once befriended.

“It’s time you leave,” Paul said. “Your truck will attract attention.”

I nodded, as Paul’s wife took Issao’s hand.

“May God bless you! We’ll take care of them,” my friend promised.

As I hoisted myself into the truck, the sky was illuminated with a brilliant orange hue. Even if I died today, I had no regrets. For once, I had been my own Führèr.

 

Meet Swatilekha Roy, 2016 Notable Finalist

Swatelikha Roy, finalistSwatilekha Roy is a seventeen years old amateur writer. The day to day fancies of nature leave her flabbergasted. Swatilekha’s favourite pastimes include sitting alone and listening to hardcore music, painting, reading novels and, of course, writing and editing. She loves critical study in literature. She is a diehard fan of fantasy and science fiction. Moreover, traveling intrigues her. Swatilekha writes to ventilate her feelings and to give in to the indomitable spirit of her fountain-pen. Writing gives her great joy. It’s her dream to become a writer and train amateurs like herself. This is the second time Swatilekha has participated in the Writing for Peace contest and the fact that she is a finalist delighted her. Earlier, she had also been selected as one of the best entrants in national level Campfire Young Writer of the Year Contest. Swatilekha would like to use this platform to extend her heartfelt gratitude towards everyone who stood by her: parents, family (especially, her uncle who is unfortunately no more) and friends.

 

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2017 Young Writers Contest

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestOur annual young writers contest will begin as scheduled on on September 1st, 2016. Watch for details and announcements on this blog soon.

The Peace Correspondent: Call for Submissions

Information is beginning to go up on the website about our new online periodical, The Peace Correspondent, a tri-annual solution-based publication. The first issue will be published on October 31st. Submission deadlines are September 15th. Guidelines are posted here.

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts: Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceGuidelines are posted for the 2017 Edition. DoveTales is an extension of our mission to promote writing that explores the many aspects of peace.  Our purpose is to expose young writers to a diverse collection of thoughtful works by established and emerging writers, as well as our advisers. The journal will also feature works by the winners of our annual Young Writer Competition. The journal will be released on May 1st, 2017. There is no fee for submission, but please read our guidelines carefully.

Theme: The theme of our 2017 issue of DoveTales is Refugees and the Displaced. As in our earlier issues, we encourage contributors to take a broad view of the definitions within the context of peace.

  • The reading period begins July 1st, 2016 and ends January 15th, 2017, and the journal will be released on May 1st, 2016.

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Thank you for your on-going support!

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Purse String Stagecraft, By David Scott Pointer

brain-barcode

   Purse String Stagecraft

By David Scott Pointer

 

Flesh-eating economic system

innards,

rolling

over community blood pressure apparatus,

attached to intergenerational empty wallets

attached to local and international poverty

attached to invisible, intertwined groups

with similar, different interests systemically

turned upon each other like pit-bulls or birds

innards

opening up the doors of paddy wagons

dispensing

box spring-bounce house, driver euphoria

disguising decades old ‘screen test’ metal

rebranded as unfortunate rough ride…….

splashed into teenage brain cells

addicted

to corporate college, mass consumerism

revisionist

page-turner TV, sound byte burn-bits

strategically misusing blackness stilled

aiding 1% adding machine economics

 

 

Brake Slamming Role Players

 

Police act like casting agents

while

driving

prisoner transport van, vamoose,

stomping on, lead-footing gas…

catapulting cuffed, unsuspecting

prisoners head-neck first into

their ‘screen test’ debuts, with

slim chance at Hollywoood, now

enroute to overcrowded hospital

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser David Scott Pointer

david-scott-pointer-writing-for-peace-advisor

David Scott Pointer is a long time social justice/political poet. His father, a piano playing bank robber, died when David was just 3 years old, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, who determined that the best way to keep her young charge from emulating his “scoundrel” father was to socialize him to be a good soldier.  David’s earliest memories are of training for battle in his backyard in Kansas City, Missouri. Learn more about David and his work here.

 

 

quill3Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Creating Story Tension with Characters

By Victoria Hanley


An important part of writing a story is creating a convincing antagonist to oppose the main character. For this writing exercise, bring to mind someone from real life whose personality grates on you and whose perspective seems to be all messed up. Now, write a scene from that person’s viewpoint. Describe the world through their eyes, and do your best to imagine and express the turbulent tides of their emotions. How will this help you to create an interesting antagonist for a story of your own?

 

Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserVictoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.

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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” proves that the corporations which profit from the burning of fossil fuels knew about global warming decades ago, knew their industries contributed to it and responded by funding propaganda to deny global warming and pushing policies that increased their profits at the expense of a livable future.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 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.

Beyond the Sea, by Vicki Lindner

Vicki with JimBeyond the Sea

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

By Vicki Lindner

 

Author’s Summary:

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

Beyond the Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Vicki Lindner, Writing for Peace Adviser

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

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserFCC Commissioner Clyburn Does Reddit Chat, Is Evasive On Net Neutrality

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

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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.

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

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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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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

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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/

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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

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

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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.

Jigsaw, by David Scott Pointer

Marine Corps coffins ride the ancestral iron horses of Captain Lincoln’s fabled line

Army caskets are tended by the spirits of Ernest Hemingway and Great Uncle Walt Whitman

Navy submersible boxes sometimes request sea burial slowly floating into the divine deep blue

Air Force urn ashes escort eternal winds into a nomadic spirit world cemetery

Coast Guardians keep to themselves about internment or ashes, but actor Buddy Ebsen served and that’s enough Uncle Jed Clampett type goodwill to set the breeze free

Civilian causality mass graves to vast to easily identify or ride out burning on a single squadron of spiritual Thunderbirds do haunt most service folks in the smoky-know

Conscientious objectors like William Stafford sometimes resist, refuse, fight-hard or roam-off through the cross-fire to ponder all the craters, issues or casualties on all sides

Enemy combatants do what they are ordered or asked to do until superior training within a superior force stand atop the finality reading the final sermon

Energy wars somehow drink at the fibers of freedom’s tattered war flag hiding fossil fuel requirements from the enlistee’s collective mother-guard while tipping the dusty top hats to abandoned steam and electrical field research

Banker’s expensive cash suitcases start to over-bloat aboard their elite airbus shuttle like the corpses who built all of this empire

Politicians hope for increased access inside the billionaire’s white administration building with secret symbolic revolution built into each 4 year election cycle facade

David Scott Pointer, Writing for Peace AdvisorAbout WfP Adviser, David Scott Pointer

David Scott Pointer is a long time social justice/political poet. His father, a piano playing bank robber, died when David was just 3 years old, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, who determined that the best way to keep her young charge from emulating his “scoundrel” father was to socialize him to be a good soldier.  David’s earliest memories are of training for battle in his backyard in Kansas City, Missouri. Learn more about David and his work here.

 

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  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionOur 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 Guidelines

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestGuidelines 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!

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Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.