Category Archives: Poetry

A few poetic laughs by Micki Peluso


There was an old house in Kentucky
That neighbors considered unlucky
When it kept falling apart
Its owners soon lost heart
And moved to a tent in the park

An Eagle Named Eddy

There was a young eagle named Eddy
Who loved to soar by the jetty
He made a dive a little too wide
Nearly got swept by a rip-tide
Yet his dynamics kept him steady
His endurance filled Eddy with pride
Childlike, he threw caution aside
Happiness faded quickly away
As a huge trash can got in his way
Poor Eddy had a really rough ride


The Web of Lust

Tarantino the tarantula, so greedy
Felt pangs of arousal, so needy
Amorously peeked through the web
Of Tabitha, the tawny beauty
Emitting her sensual musk

“Might I enter?” He implored; bowed head
“Most certainly, my love, come test my bed.”
Tarantino’s hormones leaped for joy!
He followed Tabitha, so sweet, so coy
His eight legs(maybe nine:) trembled with lust

“So sorry, I can offer you no flies,
To please your palate, my handsome dear
But I offer other pleasures, never fear”
Tarantino thought he would surely die
Foolish male, his brain had turned to dust

Tabitha smiled a secret smile
Enticing him with all her wiles
She contemplated many eggs, his spawn
To be conceived well before dawn
Tarantino spent—fell asleep before dusk

She wrapped him tight within her silk
Proudly surveyed the tomb she’d built
By sunrise, Tarantino was quite dead
Tabitha sighed; her babies would be fed
Tarantino filled his needs at great cost

A word to male spiders everywhere
When crawling past a silken lair
Keep right on going or end up dead
One might hope his babes, well fed
Revered their father, at the very least

Sadly, this never crossed their tiny minds
In spider life, survival is all that binds
Tabitha played her part as host
Poor Tarantino lived, lusted and lost
Tabitha layed in wait for next time

There was a lass named Purella
Who bedded a very odd fella
But when he refused to wed her
She locked him in his own cellar
He wished then he’d never met her

If you enjoy Micki Peluso’s humor, you can find her work on Amazon.

1966 by Bryan Murphy



I recently returned to my home town, where I took my better half to see a local park in which I’d kicked a soccer ball around as a teenager. It took me a while to recognise the place–it is so much better now: the local authorities and teams of volunteers have managed both to conserve a stretch of wild countryside in an urban environment and to make it a civic amenity. This is truly shocking. We all know that things are supposed to get worse, that nothing can possibly be as good as it was when we were young, healthy and hopeful.

Fortunately, soccer exists to console the ageing English fan. On 30 July 1966, England won the World Cup by beating West Germany at Wembley Stadium, London.  Half a century later, England was humiliated at the European championships by Iceland. Since I was lucky enough to witness the former event at first hand, please join me for a little wallow in nostalgia.


I have to fight to get time free
from a summer job at the Castle Hotel,
washing, cleaning and clerking
to be up here in London,

a provincial doing the Wembley walk:
cigarillo in mouth, rosette on jacket,
hand clutching the entry voucher
to a sliver of history.

Though the Cup has been won an hour,
only pigeons fill Trafalgar Square.
News travels slowly, ecstasy
has yet to light the English party spirit.

I ride the train home to a town dormant
between its shopping and its pubs,
flee, five years after, to the World
that gives the Cup its name.

Bryan Murphy welcomes visitors at . You can find his e-books here: and several of his poems and flash fiction pieces here: . Bryan is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s.

An Introduction to What I Found in the Dark by Clayton Clifford Bye

These 12 poems are the first of 50 thematic poems that can be found in my collection called What I Found in the Dark. Available on Amazon, through most stores and at


1. The dark between this life and the next, between past and future or between mind and matter haunts all of us at one time or another. Yet… there is beauty in what we can’t see and must imagine.


at contiguous depths
send blue lightning
across clouded voids
to be caught
by red-laced fingers
that recreate
the perfect sound
of a drop of water
splashing on skin.


  1. Too often we look inward where shadowed rooms filled with sideshow mirrors bend the “I” to fit what we expect and want to see. Thus, it is the rare person who can state “this is who and where I am.”


Happenstance is but a way of words,
the stumbling path of fools;
yet a trail met in the wooded night
cares not for weathered rules.

Deaf and dumb goes the traveler
toward the outer shape;
glancing not beneath the rock and leaf,
a sketch of the human ape.

But in vapid searching one still learns
to scratch the inner vein.
Eyes roll and bangles burn in that light,
the answers seem insane…

For piercing the learning dark we see
new visions clear and clean,
struggling with our ever-cluttered minds
to grasp what they might mean:

I can’t speak for you my passing friend—
what beauty lies inside;
my own journey is answered below
but still seems a fair ride…

A white-winged horse and a graceful moon
seek form in mountain fire,
while I, the fool, not too simple yet
of ornaments do tire.


  1. The excitement of a child stumbling upon one of the miracles we adults have become too jaded to enjoy and often too blind to see emphasizes the veil—darkness between one generation and the next, between past and present, and between each and every one of us.

A Hole in the Clouds

radiant beams
a hole in the clouds
gossamer strands
speak out loud
warmed heart
a child’s eyes aglow
soul is livened
I drive slow


  1. It’s said we realize the extent of a loss only after the thing has gone into the dark, and even though we might wish with all of our being to go back, it just doesn’t seem possible.


A crystal passage from here to there
but no light with which to see.
“So what?” he asks with bitterness,
that door is closed to me.


  1. I was playing with words when I was given a brief look at how my thoughts could touch another, one who had traveled through the dark and found me after a quarter of a century.


Secret longings, mind-burnt,
now loosed from my soul,
are sweet knives outward slicing,
host-bound on the wind;

Diamond ice, time-picked clean,
will melt asunder,
a heart met in morning hours,
her dark eyes of joy.


  1. Sometimes the veil wraps around a life, keeping all who would see out, and leaving you to walk alone in the metaphoric dark.

The Town of Me

My days have been
the passing of dreams,
not quite real clouds
built of smoke and dust,
marking each pained
but gritty footstep
with rasping laughter
to steal away
the life-blood of
this aging ghost town,
while colourless
thoughts raised without form
walk through my halls,
echoes of silence.


  1. When love is brought to an empty, monotone life it may, at first, be difficult to see the changes wrought.

An Awakening

The heart loomed
royal purple
in a life of faded hues.
“What manner of beast is this?”
asked the startled soul,
ripped from living death;
fresh blood dripping from flat eyes
to colour white, wrinkled skin:
new growth to come.


  1. An old farm has slipped into the dark, yet the golden glow of life in a child resurrects it—if only for a little while…

The Farm

Down to the chicken coop,
played inside,
ghost birds chuckle
as white eggs gleam
between shadow and sun.

The silver of rooftop tin
beckons me
to gray barn boards,
twisted, bent, proud—
old scents of animal hay.

Swing do I on hand coiled hemp,
bright new wings
challenge horse flies
over watching
Calico cat named Queenie.

Heavy drops of summer rain
chase me quick
to dusty tomes,
above Grandad’s model-A.

Space Operas call my name;
I visit:
Tycho on moon;
fight for my life
in airless dust;
Saved! by alien contact.

Gram’s voice floats high in the wind,
brings me back
through cedar smells:
shavings, raw wood,
to bubbling tang
of strawberry-rhubarb pie.


  1. Love is a powerful thing: it can shine light where naught but dark has reigned for an eternity, and it can crack open the black casket of a broken heart.

Mind Places

soft steps,
veritas upon dark soil
alive with
light moves;
pale, warm breath undulating
catches fire
branches, perse and ardent trees.

I look up:
ripped wings
wind-sung in endless heaven,
in sun,
an abeyant but hungered
watching soul—
marking the path before me.

She calls me,
hard fought,
sweet pains of life taken in
without charge:
now to shine upon my heart,
a sentence once self-bestowed.

beasts of emotion vie for
a warm place
in light;
moors of heather bleeding a
desire seeks
to found a knoll of power.

Home at last:
flesh opened to spoken love,
beating hard,
butterfly wings God-given;
all tinges
hinting of wondrous eras to come.


  1. I was lost, yet unknown to me, she had already traveled the same dark road, following a light I didn’t believe existed.


Her darkness beckons to me
from the distance of a winter night,
to walk upon ancient and unknown shores
without the use of seeing eyes.

Her grace is cast on the moon,
black hair glistens in the light,
and with the cold, harsh wind
a teardrop falls into my dream.

Ease by rock so wet and black,
taste the salt upon her lips;
keep those hard-found treasures:
the ice-cold stone becomes so thin.

Oh, I can see the beauty,
and find warmth beneath the darkened land,
but will I ever know from what still pool
came that pure water in her hand?


  1. I’ve found that what we perceive as darkness can actually contain the most brilliant of lights: love.

I’m loved

There is a deepness,
not dark,
an inner universe
emotional suns
of brilliant blue;

these freely given
soul orbs
keep alive my dreaming
life wish:
the two hearts I have—
oh, such wonder.


  1. If a heart closes, whatever good is hidden there doesn’t die: it waits in the dark, sometimes quietly, other times raging for release. The lucky ones are found, their hearts cracked like chestnuts, to reveal that which has been saved for all time.

God Smiled

God smiled upon me yesterday:
a voice from the past
was sweet water
on a dry and dusty evening;

the voice of a resurrected
angel with dark hair
came soft and warm
from across the digital heavens;

reciting stories of sunsets,
salty ocean air,
halibut steaks,
The Barra MacNeils and clams to dig.

And love, true, pure, glistening, free;
polished by the years,
honed with worry,
then set loose with faith and dignity.

I take it in with gratitude,
open my locked heart,

speak the words there
and hope what’s revealed can make things right.


Clayton Bye is a specialist writer. And while he has written many of hisclay own books, stories and reviews he now focuses on his work as a ghostwriter (40 books and counting) who listens carefully to the customer and then skillfully draws out the story they want to get on paper. Contact him directly to
discuss the book you want to write and to inquire about rates:

Reflections on life—a grouping of poems by Kenneth Weene

Early Breakfast

The worm – half eaten – burrows deeper
The robin’s beak is even fleeter.
Regrets the worm that he must eat her;
the apple makes her that much sweeter.



With a sneeze of nostalgia
I go antiquing.
I like things made of bronze, brass, copper –
Shiny memories that whir and clang.
I don’t want to buy –
Only to look.
I create new memories –
Reminiscences never lived.
It terrifies me when I find
My childhood in a shop,
Reminding my mortality
That I am getting old.
Wheezing with historic dust
I go antiquing
Only to see me in a mirror
Abandoned on a musty shelf.



Sprung full boobed
Ready role model
For a generation
Willing to die
Of self-starvation
For flatter stomachs
For thinner thighs.


in time

the sweet mary and joseph flow of life
lost itself
as she wandering from man to man
sitting in the parlors of wheelchairs
touching each upon the head
in sweet caress
was lost



crossing herself with nervousness
wearing away the bodice nap
of the off-purple robe
that the angel of death
seeing such proof
might pass her by

stopping to preen her close-cropped gray
gazing in a mirror of empty air
and then again
the rounds renew
at once the sinner and the saint
without the bit
to pay her freight
across the river of her doom


I wouldn’t want to anthropomorphize

I wouldn’t want to anthropomorphize –
Not about penguins at the Chicago aquarium.
I wouldn’t want to over-identify
With the Rockhopper
Trapped on the highest ledge –
Marching un-surefooted back and forth
Not quite learning the narrow passage
Or perhaps inhibited by the Magelenites
Playing house and talking about the weather,
Which they could no longer remember
Never changes when one lives in glass cages.
I wouldn’t want to over-interpret
Her trapped marching back and forth,
Unaware of the desperation
A lesser species – such as man –
Might feel in her place.


While Love Sleeps

You stir in the dark, and I waken.
Strands of light poking through the blinds
outline your body curled beneath the covers.
Controlling my urge to reach into your dreams,
I watch – counting your breaths –
until sleep again descends.
In our sleep we breathe as one.


Ken Weene observes, “Every now and again I find poetry rather than prose expresses my mood and vision.”  Ken’s poetry, essays, and prose often reflect on the irony of life. Still he celebrates the humor and the intimacy that we can salvage from the only experience of which we can be sure, our earthly existence. You can find more of Ken’s work and view at

Kenneth Weene

About family …

What makes a family?  Our group blog begins with a poem about a man and his wife sharing quality time on an autumn afternoon. And then there are children. The next two pieces are true stories that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud. And if you’re a parent of small children, let this encourage you. You might be pulling your hair out right but someday you’ll look back and laugh.

The next contribution takes a look at parents and their feet of clay from the (now grown-up) child’s perspective. Then, on a more serious note, a man whose family moved all over the world reflects upon what family truly means.  Our last contribution is a movie lover’s praise for her favorite cinematic dysfunctional families—and for unconditional love. After all, isn’t that family at its best?

Rowan tree. Perthshire.

AT THE MARKET by Clayton Bye
The north wind is back
To cleanse both mind and soul
As a far away sun
Paints a pastel sky.

Elk sticks thicken breath,
A rich welcome to friends
Beneath a yellow tent
Of country wonders.

Pulled pork sandwiches,
Corn-wrapped parking meters,
Bright orange Rowan trees–
Make a pleasant lunch.

My heavy pumpkin
Offsets white and purple
That frost has left untouched,
Petunias in air.

Seagulls overhead,
No boats on the water…
Quick kisses and a smile
To end our summer.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009


Clayton Bye is a writer, editor, and publisher, and the author of poetry, essays, short stories and novels. He now focuses on his work as a ghostwriter who listens carefully to the customer and then skillfully draws out the story they want to get on paper. Learn more at and


Family Matters by Dellani Oakes


You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. We’ve heard that often enough. I guess I’m fortunate. With very few exceptions, my family members are people I’d associate with even if we weren’t kin. They are wonderful, funny, intelligent people who make me laugh and feel good. We may go years, if not decades, without seeing one another, but we always have a great time when we get together.


The importance of strong family ties, is something my husband and I have tried to instill in our children. For the most part, I think we’ve been successful, though our children’s logic might have skewed our meaning somewhat…


When my oldest son was in third grade, he was more the size of a first grader. My daughter, two years older, wasn’t large either, but feisty and very protective. One day on the playground, a bully decided to assert himself by picking on my son. He accosted him on the playground, pushing him around. Before my son could move to protect himself, the bully pushed him again, knocking him down.


Suddenly, a banshee like scream grew louder and a little, brown haired missile shot across the playground. She tackled the bully, sending him face first into the dirt. She then proceeded to hit him, screaming, “No one beats up on my little brother but me!”


The assistant principal, who had witnessed it all, called me—laughing. “I’ve got your daughter here in my office.” He explained and added, “She’s mostly sorry.”


“Mostly sorry?” I asked, puzzled.


“Yeah, she’s not sorry she beat him up, she’s sorry she got caught.”


The assistant principal told me later, “She hit him with a flying tackle. Clipped him right in the knees. It was the prettiest take down I’ve ever seen.”


By some miracle (and the fact that the assistant principal and principal both liked my daughter) she wasn’t suspended for fighting, though the bully was. We had a talk about how that wasn’t the way to handle the bully, which made no impression whatsoever. She swore if it happened again, she’d do exactly the same thing. That was her brother and no one was going to smack him around—except her. She is still fiercely protective of all her brothers, though she’s the first one to give them hell if she thinks they deserve it. No, you can’t choose family, but given the opportunity, I surely would choose mine.


Dellani Oakes may not be a native, but she considers herself Floridian, and her writing reflects that. She’s written everything from historical romance, set in St. Augustine in 1739, to contemporary romantic suspense set in and around Daytona Beach. She enjoys writing, not only about family, but on a variety of other subjects as well. You can find more from Dallani at and on Amazon




A Family Portrait by Micki Peluso


I smiled to myself when they told me about their plans. As a mother I believe even grown children should learn by experience. They kept talking, and I had to hang up the phone before spasms of laughter overtook me. My two daughters thought that taking all of their children to a professional photographer would make wonderful presents for the grandparents. They thought it would be easy. Ideas are always best in their infancy.


On the hottest December day in decades, the children were dressed in their winter finery, and off we drove to the Mall. Kelly is blessed with three boys, a good-natured five-year-old, a tyrannical terrible two-year-old, and a one-year-old with attitude. All three were all sick with low-grade temperatures and noses running like Niagara Falls. Endless nose-wiping with tissues on gentle skin resulted in red faces and grumpy dispositions. Makeup partially solved that problem.


Nicole, has a nine-year-old, Nicky, already protesting the humiliation of posing with his “baby” cousins, and a daughter, Bailey Rose who, at four, believes that one cannot be too rich or too beautifully dressed. Local clothing stores know her by name.
The photograph studio is seasonally crowded, with tykes of assorted ages running amok and babies wailing—not my choice for a fun day. The temperature, and parents’ tempers, keeps rising as appointments run behind. One-year-old TJ takes a power nap, while his two-year-old brother, Brandon, makes several escape attempts, one almost successful. At long last, my family is called for their shoot. Nicky, still disgruntled, is itchy from his woolen Christmas suit and has broken out in livid hives. He announces that he may throw up. His sister Bailey, the ‘Calvin Klein’ of the four-year-old set, insists that the tights she’s wearing are certainly not the ones she chose with her outfit and begins to remove them, much to her brother’s chagrin and Nicole’s horror.


The wannabe Ansel Adams, a smile permanently pasted on her face, manages to get all five children lined up. Brandon is sitting in the sleigh as the session begins. For reasons known only to her, the photograher decides this will not work and tries to remove him from the sleigh.


Did I mention Brandon has a bit of a temper?  He screams so loudly that the security guards rush in like Marines on a mission. TJ begins to suck his thumb, a habit he’s never exhibited before, and Christopher, his older brother, slinks to the floor in an effort to appear invisible. Nicky tries to pretend that he doesn’t belong with this family. Bailey has her hand on her hip, a glint in her eye, and one foot pushed forward—never a good sign. Now the future photo genius snaps the shot!


The photographer is determined to complete her job. She lines everyone up again for some final takes. It seems to be going well, until she snaps the picture at the precise moment Brandon, who now refuses to sit in the sleigh on principle, catapults backward off the platform. There are more blood-curdling screams, but he’s unhurt since he is a very tough
little boy.


By now the other parents are quietly moving away from my family, some actually leaving the store. The photographer makes one last attempt to catch the children on film. She is, if nothing else, courageous. All the kids are in place at last. It is a bit much to hope for smiles from them, so she clicks away at the exact moment Brandon once more falls backward off the platform. The shoot is over.


My daughters are not happy with the shots but I find them spectacular. TJ has a startled ‘Oh’ on his mouth, and it may take a while for him to recover from this experience. Christopher has a perpetual smile on his face, but it is rumored that he believes he was switched at birth. Nicky looks disgusted by the entire event, and Bailey is asking for a reshoot. All that can be seen of Brandon is his two legs sticking straight up—perhaps the best shot.


My daughters asked how I ever photographed all six of my kids.


“Are you crazy”?  I said. “I never took all of you out at once, except to church, until you went to school.”


Some things must be learned, not taught. Meanwhile my favorite picture with all the kids is a conversation piece, especially the kid showing only two legs.


Micki Peluso, author of the award-wining memoir . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang, is a journalist, humorist and writer of short fiction and slice of life stories, fiction and essays. ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog ‘ a children and YA story is about to be released, followed soon by her collection of short stories, called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck.’ See more from Micki at




The Downfall of Diabolical Geniuses (aka My Parents) by Cody Wagner


If my parents wanted to rule the world, it would have happened. And you’d have no idea they were doing it. They wove a tapestry of sneakiness.  Case in Point:
Back in the 90s, there was no texting, no iphone; kids talked on the phone, landlines with cords. My family had one phone and five kids. Those are terrible odds. We fought over phone usage like crazy. Every second of second of every evening, someone was whining
about someone else hogging the phone.


So what did my parents do? Well, they could have sat us down and explained the rules. Or set up schedules of who could use the phone and when. Did they do any of that? Nope.


Instead, Dad installed a secret switch–at the back of their closet– that shutoff the phone.


I’m not kidding.  The phone suddenly and mysteriously started going out at 6:00PM every night.


The five of us threw absolute FITS. But what could Mom do about it? “It’s the phone company,” she’d say, shrugging. “I can’t do anything about it.”


And that was that.


At this point, you might be asking yourself: So what happened if a phone emergency arose?




Mom would say, “Oh sometimes the lines get messed up. They feed into the walls just outside my bedroom. If I go mess with them, they may work.”


She’d disappear into the bedroom, shut her door, and we’d hear banging on the walls. After a few minutes, the door would open and she’d emerge, wiping sweat off her brow. “OK see if that works. If not, there’s nothing we can do.”


Lo and behold, the phone would work again! We thought Mom was an electrical genius. Little did we know she was a diabolical genius.


However, all my parents’ “geniusing” backfired my sophomore year in college. They had bought me a new car. By “new,” I mean a 10 year old piece of crap. But it was my piece of crap and I loved it.


My best friend at the time, David, lived out in the country. His house was off a long caliche road. For all you non-Texans who have never heard of caliche, it’s a firmly packed dirt road, not paved but the gravel is so firm, it’s the next best thing.


For some reason, my mom had an insanely irrational fear of caliche. Maybe she had nightmares about a caliche road hiding in her closet. Or perhaps she was molested by a caliche road. Either way, I was expressly forbidden from ever ever ever driving my car down that road.


“A stray rock could fly up and snap your axel in two.” Mom seriously thought a pebble could crack inches of steel. Let me just add to this little scenario the fact Mom didn’t even put gas in her car. She, who knew nothing about automobiles, somehow knew about “pebble axel”.

And there it stood. I couldn’t drive to my friend’s house.

So what did I do? I drove over there anyway—until the evening David ratted me out. We were all chatting in my living room.


“So you gotta hear what Cody said last night in my room,” David said.


Mom flew up out of her chair. “Your room?!” She glared at me. “YOU DROVE ON THAT CALICHE ROAD!”


David’s eyes went from normal to “deer trapped in headlights.”


I sat there saying, “Um…er…. Ummmmmm,” as my brain fumbled for an excuse.


The next morning, I had to work. I stumbled, half asleep, out to my car. Mom walked out with me.


“What are you doing?” I said.


“I have to run to the library.” She headed to her car and started it up.


Shrugging, I went to my vehicle. I turned the key and nothing happened. I kept trying, but still nothing.


A horn honked. Mom was waving from her car. “What’s wrong?”


I hopped out of mine. “It won’t start!”


“You have to be at work!”


I threw my arms up. “I know!”


“Well, get in and I’ll take you. Your dad can look at it later.”


Two weeks passed before my dad looked at my car. Two weeks to the day. And I was expressly forbidden from fixing it myself.


“I don’t want you or your friends messing something up!” Mom said. “You’ll wait for your father.”


Again, I had to wait exactly two weeks. And then, Dad fixed it in about five minutes.


The problem?


“The battery cable came loose,” Dad said.


Suspicious? Well, let’s examine the evidence:
  1. My car stopped working the day after Mom became furious at me.
  2. Mom just happened to be leaving at the same time as me so I wouldn’t be late for work.
  3. I wasn’t allowed to touch my car for exactly two weeks.
  4. The problem was a loose battery cable.
I think we an all know what happened: I was being punished. I was too old to be grounded, but, with a little Dad sabotage, my parents found a way.


I never looked at my parents the same after that. I’d always believed the random coincidences and excuses. But they’d taken it too far. Despite mom’s insistence the caliche road shook the cable loose, I knew what had really happened. And I wouldn’t let it go.


Years of needling later, Dad finally came clean. And my parents fell from their positions atop twin towers of diabolical genius.


Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at, and Amazon at


MY FAMILY by Jon Magee


I am the youngest of six children. My father served in the British Royal Air Force, and my family moved frequently, from one part of the world to another. By the time I had completed my secondary schooling, I had studied in 14 different educational establishments. As a result, my siblings, along with my parents, were the core of my childhood relationships—how do you bond with a grandparent who lives on the other side of the world? With friends you see for a year or two?


My immediate family was the continuity from one experience to another. I remember the walks we took together through the hills and in and out of the caves that surrounded our home in Germany.  We lived under the threat from terrorism and military conflict in Aden. In Singapore, we climbed coconut trees to enjoy the fruit, along with the milk inside.


It was as a family that we would also develop a close bonding with people of different races and cultures. We shared picnics together, as if we were all part of a wider family. The colour of the skin was not relevant, but our relating together as people of the human race was.


When it came to Christmas, I recall soldiers being invited to the home to enjoy a family Christmas meal. They were stationed abroad, as we were, with no family at all to spend time with, not even brothers and sisters and parents. We had more than they had in terms of family, but together we shared some of what family is meant to be.


When returning from Singapore on the ship, the Empire Fowey, I recall my mum speaking of my gran and aunt, who we would be staying with for a few months. I looked from the ship wondering who these folks would be, what would they be like. My aunt met us, a stranger to me. I was not sure how I should be relating as a child, yet here was someone that was clearly important to my mother.


During those few months, I found there was nothing to fear. This stranger was not at all strange when I got to know her. She had warmth that would draw children to her, even if she never married and had children of her own. Then came the parting once more. I was a child that needed to move from country to country. A child that nevertheless discovered that family is not just siblings and parents, but also the people of the world wherever we meet and whoever they are, all seeking to know a bonding with the family of the human race.


Jon Magee is the author of From Barren Rocks to Living Stones and Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey. His writings reflect the depth of personal experience, having lived at the heart of much of the major events of late 20th century history. You can find Jon at  and


MESSY FAMILIES by Linda Varner Palmer


I love movies about messy, aka dysfunctional, families. I know that sounds weird, but the idea of being loved unconditionally—no matter what awful things you do—intrigues me, the writer who tippy-toed through life doing what she was supposed to do because she wanted her parents to be proud of her.  Now I’m not saying that my family would’ve tossed me out if I’d rebelled. I had wonderful parents that I love and miss very much. What I am saying is that fear of disappointing them kept me on the straight and narrow. So I like watching a movie about a family that is all over the place.


The Family Stone is my favorite Christmas movie. Set-up: Mom’s breast cancer has come back, and she hasn’t told anyone but Dad, who is doing his best to pretend nothing is wrong so they can have a last happy holiday with their five grown children—Susannah, Amy, Ben, Thad, and Everett.


Susannah is happily married and pregnant with her second child. Her husband will be arriving on Christmas day. Amy and Ben are both single. Thad, who is deaf and gay, is in a relationship with an African American named Brian, who has come with him. Everett is dating Meredith and has brought her to meet the family. He plans to get his grandmother’s diamond ring and propose.


No one but Everett likes outspoken, fashion-conscious, foot-in-her-mouth Meredith. Feeling outnumbered, Meredith asks her sister Julie to join them. Julie agrees, because that’s what sisters do, and hops on a bus.


As the movie progresses, we realize the family is right about Meredith. She and Everett are not a good match. Julie, her sister, on the other hand, is perfect. Perhaps that’s why Everett can’t take his eyes off her. Does Meredith notice? Not so much. She and Ben, who helps her escape to a bar, seem to be oddly in sync. Can you see where this is going? Meanwhile, Thad and Brian are trying to adopt a baby.


By the end of the movie (one scene a year later), we see that this completely dysfunctional family has somehow survived not only the death of their beloved Mom, but also a complete shuffling of the roles they once played. With love, forgiveness, and acceptance, the family Stone has become even stronger and bigger than before.


Another favorite movie is Moonstruck, which is about two dysfunctional families. Mama and Papa Castorini live in a big house with their adult daughter, Loretta, Grandpa Castorini, and several dogs. Loretta has just accepted a marriage proposal from Johnny Cammareri, who has to return to Italy to see his dying-mother. Before he leaves, Johnny asks Loretta to find his estranged brother Ronnie and tell him that he wants to end the bad blood between them.


Loretta finds Ronnie, but he’s still angry with big brother Johnny for distracting him, resulting in the loss of several fingers to a bread slicer. Loretta naturally wants to repair the broken relationship and fix Ronnie, who is definitely damaged goods. Somehow they wind up in bed.


While a big full moon shines down on them all, Loretta goes to the opera with Ronnie, who has promised he won’t ruin her engagement by spilling the beans.  At the Met, she runs into Papa C with a woman who isn’t Mama C. Papa tells her he won’t tell Johnny if she won’t tell Mama. Loretta, already annoyed because Papa C doesn’t want to pay for her wedding, doesn’t know what to do.


By the final scene, Papa C agrees to give up his floozy and is forgiven for straying.   Johnny, who promised his manipulative dying-mother that he wouldn’t marry, has returned to the US and the Castorini home so he can break the engagement. He finds all the Castorinis, and his brother Ronnie, at the breakfast table. That’s a shock, but Johnny manages to break up with Loretta. He asks for his ring back. Ronnie promptly borrows the ring and proposes to Loretta, who accepts. Poor Johnny—so confused.


The best part? Everyone celebrates the engagement with champagne, even Johnny, because they’re all family now and that’s what families do. There are many other movies out there with the same theme. And I always take to heart the message that acceptance, forgiveness, and love—unconditional love—are what family is really all about.


Linda Palmer has been writing for pleasure since the third grade. She was a Romance Writers of America finalist twice and won the 2011 and 2012 EPIC eBook awards in the Young Adult category. Linda married her junior high school sweetheart many years ago and lives in Arkansas, USA with her supportive family. Learn more about Linda and her writing at

Cornucopia of Thanksgiving Nuggets by Sharla Lee Shults


Within the Thanksgiving Holiday, opportunities abound with blessings that Embrace the Past, Empower the Present, and Enrich the Future. History books are filled with accounts of the first Thanksgiving. Within that history are some of the coolest nuggets of trivia surrounding this day that nudge at the heart and tickle the funny bone.

Embrace the Past…

With the coming of Thanksgiving comes a special time to embrace the past. The feast of which we are most familiar took place when the Pilgrims arrived and the Wampanoag Indians gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. This was a time of autumn celebration and that’s right, it took place in the 17th century!

Did you know?

  • Turkey may not have been the main meat that filled the guests’ bellies at the first feast,
  • George Washington declared Thanksgiving to be a February holiday,
  • Fledgling colonists lacked butter and wheat flour for baking, thus no pumpkin pie,
  • Whether mashed or roasted, white or sweet, potatoes had no place at the first Thanksgiving, and
  • While cranberries were plentiful, in wasn’t until 50 years later that sauces and relishes were made with the tart orbs.

Even though turkey may NOT have been the main meat that filled the Pilgrim’s bellies at that first feast, one can rest assured that today very few tables will be void of Mr. Tom Turkey with all the trimmings. In fact, if it had been left up to Benjamin Franklin, the Turkey, not the Bald Eagle, would have been designated as our national bird. Mr. Tom would have been fed his own feast at Thanksgiving, rather than being the bird feasted upon!

What about corn?

With no mention having been made of corn brings about thoughts of popcorn, one of America’s favorite snacks that has become ever so popular during Thanksgiving with flavors such as garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Would you believe there is even a turkey-flavored, as well as dressing, variety? Since corn was a staple of the Pilgrim’s diet and ubiquitous to the Americas, this brings about the question…

Did Pilgrims Eat Popcorn?

Some believe to this day
Popcorn as a “parched” treat
Was brought by the Indians
To the first Thanksgiving feast

Banquets of harvest tradition
Surpass any myth of yore
Hearty, bountiful plenty
Did grace every table galore

Venison, goose, duck, and eel
Beckoned the most squeamish lad
Time of rejoicing and feasting
Meant only the best to be had

A cornucopia of fresh fruits
Berries, grapes, apples, and plums
Competed with homegrown veggies
Squash, peas, beans, even white corn

No potatoes to be had
Pumpkin pie hadn’t been invented
Bread puddings, milk, and honey
Left no appetite unattended

Indeed much more beer than water
Quenched the harshest of thirsts
With gin and wine not far behind
Unbeknownst which came first

But what about the popcorn?
Were pilgrims the early munchers
Of that salty, puffed corn treat
Or was someone else the launcher?

Not until over a century later
Did sweet yellow corn none the least
Become corn that traditionally “popped”
As part of a Thanksgiving feast

©2012 Awakenings
Sharla Lee Shults

With popcorn prevalent today, it is no wonder it finds a place on and off the Thanksgiving dinner table like never before. Just think you can enjoy all the succulent flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving meal with the only utensil to wash being your hands!

Empower the Present…

Did you know there are two sides to the Thanksgiving holiday? One is celebration with a holiday feast often referred to as Turkey Day. The other is a celebration of gratitude known as thankfulness. Which will you celebrate this holiday, perhaps like me it will be both!

Thanksgiving Day: A Holiday Feast

Cornucopias of fruits and veggies
Turkey, trimmings, cakes, and pies
More than anyone could ask
Instead of a treat, become our demise

All time family favorites
Homemade dishes galore
Make us gluttons for punishment
Beckoning more, more, more

Thirsts quenched, bellies overstuffed
Rocking chair conversation not too deep
Is it rocking motions or Tom Turkey
That puts everyone to sleep?

Thanksgiving: A Celebration of Gratitude

Cornucopias of thoughts with gratitude
Thanks from the heart, as well as the lips
More blessings than anyone could ask
Comes with all the trimmings this day equips

Family and friends unite in fellowship
Granting praise for all the gifts of the year
A candle is lit and with prayerful hands
The blessed meaning of Thanksgiving is clear

Whether heart-to-heart, hand-in-hand
Meaning never scatters
It’s the power of gratitude
Why Thanksgiving matters

©2009 Remembering
Sharla Lee Shults


This day forward may the message remain resolute during daily meetings
Thoughtfulness begets thankfulness within hugs & smiles of holiday greetings!



Enrich the Future…

Thanksgiving is a day of celebration not only for the blessings of today but for blessings to be extended into tomorrow’s tomorrows. Take a moment to count your blessings but most importantly ask yourself how you can bless someone else. Perhaps something as simple as a smile could brighten someone’s day. Bring blessings into the world around you—one moment, one day, one person at a time. The future is in your hands!

There will be many empty seats at tables across our nation this Thanksgiving as conflict still rages overseas. Thousands of brave young men and women in uniform are defending our nation on foreign shores. Remember them: Our troops—men and women— who are away from home, separated from the ones they love, for the greater good of America.

Support our Troops: Support America!

On this day, every day may each soldier be blessed
’Til reunited with loved ones to hold, to caress!

Some poems for your consideration

Poetry is a large part of my life. I enjoy reading and performing it, but my secret joy is writing the stuff. I’m one of these fellows who dashes off the first line or two in a frenzy of inspiration, then settles down, finds the metre and, sometimes, the rhyme and just lets it flow. I have no idea how I do it.

Poetry was difficult for me in school. Robert Frost, one of my favourite poets, was beyond me. Shakespeare was hell. It wasn’t until I fell in love for the second time in my life that poetry opened up for me and shared her secrets. I was never the same.

Yes, I write love poems. I’ll admit it. My one published book of poems, What I Found in the Dark, is a thematic visitation with my great lost love upon her re-entry to my life as a friend only. Some good stuff, there. Many of the included poems have been picked up by magazines like Dead Snakes, The Write Room, Publishing Renaissance and the blog hub, The Deepening World of Fiction.

Today, I would like to share some of the poems from What I Found in the Dark that have been included in other publications. The reason? Someone other than myself found them worthy. And that’s a rare thing in my life, as I’m a self-publisher. Have been for more than 20 years.

So, without anything further, here are some poems for you to ponder upon …



at contiguous depths
send blue lightning
across clouded voids
and are caught
by red-laced fingers
to recreate
the perfect sound
of a drop of water
splashing on skin.


The Town of Me

My days have been
The passing of dreams,
Not quite real clouds
Built of smoke and dust,
Marking each pained
But gritty footstep
With rasping laughter
To steal away
The life-blood of
This aging ghost town,
While colourless
thoughts raised without form
walk through my halls,
echos of silence.


The Taste of You

In another life I would have tasted deep,
Passion mounting as I would you,
Soft cries a love song to me
Until I kiss the softness
That brings to you a silent bliss,
Enjoined as the one which never now shall be.

Mind Fuck

Chemicals in my brain
Are toxic today,
Hurling spikes
Of preformed anger
Into unwary flesh.

Go away dear people.
Do not venture close:
I draw blood;
A storm of slicing,
Razor-edged, words of bale.

Sadness underneath is
Tearing me apart
As I rend
In my helpless rage,
Destruction unfettered.

I call music to me,
And the Gods, so that
The devil mind fuck,
Is ripped from its warm hole.

Bruised from this psychic rape,
I lay on cool sheets:
Silence heals.
Don’t ever tell me
Evil is just a myth.



Happenstance is but a way of words,
The stumbling path of fools;
Yet a trail met in the wooded night
Cares not for weathered rules.

Deaf and dumb goes the traveller
Toward the outward shape;
Glancing not beneath the rock and leaf,
A sketch of the human ape.

But in vapid searching one still learns
To scratch the inner vein.
Eyes roll and bangles burn in that light—
The answers seem insane…

For piercing the learning dark we see
New visions clear and clean,
Struggling with our ever-cluttered minds
To grasp what they might mean:

A white-winged horse and a graceful moon
Seek form in mountain fire,
While I, the fool, not too simple yet
Of ornaments do tire.


Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 10 books and as many ghostwrites, he has also published a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews. Turning publisher Bye has released four books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. These books include three award winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it’s like to live with and die from anorexia. Visit his e-store at

Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing related services, including small business management for writers.

Way Back When by Sharla Lee Shults


Stepping back in time is so interesting . . . in fact, it is often just plain, simple fun! Whether you are a teenager wanting to learn about the eras in which your parents grew up or the adult who wants to relive the memories, the nostalgia is an alluring invitation for a trip down memory lane.

More than likely at one time or another you have said, or heard someone else say the phrase way back when. Its context could be in reference to good times or bad times but in either case reflects upon events of the distant past—a different year, decade or even a different era. Some folks refer to it as back in the day. But, whose day? Before indoor plumbing? Before electricity? Before the phonograph? Before the automobile? Before radio? Before television? Before the cellphone, iPhone, iPad?

Regardless of how you say it, distinctive spans of time become identifiers for each individual. There are countless, precious moments held dear to the heart before time erases all memory. Each footnote has its own unique melody playing out the music of life. Looking back provides reflections into who we are, how we have evolved and in some instances, where we are going [again]. Making comparisons of how things were ‘back in the day’ to present day is often hilarious. The changes in fashion, cars, appliances, entertainment and sayings about the future (which is now the present) can have one doubling over with laughter or simply smiling in amazement.

Conversations can quickly turn to making comparisons of the amenities that are commonplace today but totally void in the past. Such things as living in houses with dirt floors, having to complete private business in outhouses, boiling clothes to get them clean, bathing once a month with or without soap, etc. are considered primitive by today’s standards. Of course, we don’t have to step that far back in time. Simply disregard the cellphone, TV and Internet. Without those three, some people would not know how to survive.

Many comparisons to way back when or back in the day are derived from the changes in the state of the economy. For instance, think about the cost of gasoline. Today excitement abounds if to fill the car, truck, lawn mower or farm equipment with gas costs under $4.00 a gallon. Also, if a trip to the doctor’s office or a prescription is under $100, shouts of jubilation can be heard! It has not always been that way. Can you date either of these scenarios? Do you remember when…

Who would have thought gas would ever cost 25 cents a gallon? I hear it will soon go up to 26 cents. Up a penny now, another penny later. The rate it is going gasoline will reach a dollar a gallon before we know it. What’s the world coming to?

At $15.00 a day in the hospital, no one can afford to be sick anymore. All those doctors want to do is make their lives easier at our expense! Maw, what’s that home remedy for sore throat?

These are only a random sampling of conversations today that ultimately begin with I remember when or back in the day. These examples would place one’s when in the 50s.

Another inevitable change through the decades is the use of catch phrases. These are expressions used repeatedly until at some point in time they are replaced or simply have worn themselves out. See if you can date any of the following:

Look at that cat’s ‘zoot’ suit. It’s crazy, man.

You are ‘lighting up the tilt sign!’

‘Are we having fun yet?’

Can you dig it?

Say what?



If you recognize the ‘zoot’ suit, your memories have dated back to men’s fashion of the 40s, which consisted of a long jacket with wide shoulders and pants that were wide at the top but narrow at the bottom. ‘Lighting up the tilt sign’ was slang of the 50s when someone was not telling the truth. ‘Are we having fun yet?’ is the most famous quote by bizarre, non-sequitur-spouting comic strip character Zippy the Pinhead. This caught on quite rapidly with the general public in the 60s. The phrase ‘Can you dig it?’ was first used in the awesome cult classic “The Warriors.” It became synonymous with ‘groovy’ in the 70s. The wild and funky decade, the 80s, spawned ‘Say What’ and ‘Mikey Likes It,’ both of which ran the gamut. ‘Whatever!’ was made popular in the 90s and is the one that has been dubbed the most irritating in the English language. Then, there is ‘Wassup!’ stemming from a Budweiser commercial that definitely bludgeoned itself to death in the beginning of the new millennium. It thankfully died!

Movies are a great source of entertainment with certain movie lines sticking in our heads, much like the catch phrases, to be repeated just at the right place and time in real life. Here are but a few. See if you remember using them upon occasion, perhaps even recently.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Gone with the Wind (1939)

“Well, nobody’s perfect.” Some Like it Hot (1959)

“Bond. James Bond.” Dr. No (1962)

“May the force be with you.” Star Wars (1977)

“I’ll be back.” The Terminator (1984)

“Houston, we have a problem.” Apollo 13 (1995)

The memory triggers during a visit to the past vary greatly. Hopefully those shared here are ones that have brought on smiles, adding a bit of humor to the day. To end our trip down memory lane, do you recall who said…

“Love is being stupid together.”

“Ever notice how “what the hell” is always the right answer?”

Both are still very apropos in the 21st century. The first is credited to Paul Valéry but made popular by Lucille Ball in the I Love Lucy show. The second is said to be attributed to none other than Marilyn Monroe but not credited to her as an original.

And life goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times…

Way Back When


Way back when could be days gone by

When leisure reigned and time didn’t fly

Back in the day brought a blissful vision

Summer nights with no television


We’d play hide-n-seek way passed dark

When shadows played tricks as we embarked

Wearing socks emitted soundless steps

Muffled strides which slowly crept


Good ol’ days forged many a fable

When conversation ruled the dinner table

Freshly cooked chow incited a snicker

“Peas, please, and the pot liquor”


Way back when could be days gone by

When things remembered made you cry

Reminiscing brought an unwelcomed vision

Summer nights with no television


We’d play inside after Jack Frost

When darkness reigned and time was lost

Sounds of the night repeated all week

Rocking chairs that steadily creaked


Now the days pass much too fast

Memories still linger holding on to the past

Remembrances prompt the slyest grin

“A way of life, way back when!”


©2009 Remembering Sharla Lee Shults

“Let each day begin with happy thoughts that return to remember when.” ~SLS


Poem excepted from Remembering ( by Sharla Lee Shults. Sharla’s passion for writing is poetry: Historical and inspirational. Become acquainted with her writing by visiting where links are accessible to her books, blogs and social networks. Sharla previously shared here at The Write Room:  A Woodsy Morning, A Day That Will Live in Infamy: December 7, 1941, Why do you celebrate Memorial Day? and joined Linda Hales in Turning Winter into Summer

The Reality in the Fiction by Bryan Murphy

photo 1

 I’m working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s: the time of the country’s “Carnation Revolution” that put an end to a very nasty dictatorship.

I’d love to say I was there, but I wasn’t. I spent six months living and working in Oporto, in the north of Portugal, before the Revolution, was back in England when it took place, and returned to Portugal to try my luck some months after the event. As that luck would have it, I arrived in Lisbon on the day of an abortive counter-coup. I was overjoyed to join the revolutionaries who took to the streets that evening; the demo was a great introduction to the city, because all Lisbon’s major landmarks lay on its route.

That experience went into a poem, below, which appeared in The Pygmy Giant in April 2011.

The main character in the novel is very different from myself. He is a businessman, a man of action, affable, outgoing and down-to-earth. This forces me to look at the events of those years from a viewpoint that is not my own, a salutary experience, I think. He shares some of my experiences, but, in most cases, he does not see them or react to them as I did. One such experience, though, troubles him as it did me. It comes at the end of this poem: finding yourself part of a crowd braying for blood. It was exhilarating at the time, but is devastating when you look back on it.

 photo 2



Lisbon! Grungy, unfresh from the train,

I arrive the evening a coup fails, eager

to grab the smudgy, press-hot leaflets

thrust out by enthusiastic scruffs –

revolutionaries for real.


I find my two friends – keys to a new life –

dump my shabby case of battered belongings,

sample wine, cheese, coffee: ready for action

in the warm September night.


Politics and sight-seeing: sensory nectar

for an eager-eyed anarchist. Better

than Aldermaston, as we flow

from the Bullring to the Edward VII Park

(statue of Marquis with lion)


then down the Avenida de Liberdade, yelling

undying devotion to freedom saved today,

into Trafalgar, no, Rossio Square,

our slogans failing to bring down Emperor Maximilian

(bought cheap from the Mexicans who’d shot the real thing,

re-baptised as a Portuguese king, erected too high

for hoi polloi to scrutinise his features),


through the commercial district, laid out in a grid

for the king’s men to navigate fast, not this red tide

of want-it-now millenarians plunging with victor’s joy

into the elegant waterside square, Terreiro do Paço,

where, by day, a river that seems a sea

reflects Lisbon’s unique light.


Above us, on our left, Alfama, the walled Arab town

(where storming 13th century crusaders,

blind to tolerance, murdered everyone,

Christian archbishop and all).


We turn right, follow the river mouthwards,

heaving with indignant, righteous, solid noise,

past a fascist monument to the Discoveries

of long-inhabited lands, past a tiny fortress

squatting on the water, past the delicate fluted columns

of Jerónimos’s closed cloisters


to our destination: the president’s palace at Belém,

cradle of the new-born, military-guided democracy,

where after-midnight campaign euphoria

gives vent to chanted blood-lust:

“Spínola, Osório, Galvão:



Doubt, distaste flash among three friends,

then we rally our voices to the cause:

a mighty shared demand

that the revolution finally begin

to devour its children.


Happy endings.

I went back to Lisbon last year and met old friends I had not seen since those days. I mentioned my shame at the poem’s final incident, and one of those dear friends, who has become more Portuguese than the Portuguese themselves, put my mind to rest by assuring me that it had all been “só bocas” – just mouthing off.

The Revolution had a happy ending for Portugal. It got rid of fascism for good and brought the country into the free international community. Forty years on, people were taller, less poor, better-fed, better-housed, better-dressed and better-spoken; they no longer sacrificed their cities to the automobile; creativity had free reign. The Revolution was long past, but, perhaps because its worst face had been “só bocas”, no-one ever devoured its children.



Bryan is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. He welcomes visitors at . You can find his e-books here: and several of his poems and flash fiction pieces here: .

Celebrating Faith edited by Kenneth Weene


As part of my own celebration of the Passover-Easter season, I asked my fellow members of The Write Room Blog to contribute short pieces about celebration of faith. (Ken Weene)



by Slavatore Buttaci

When God the Father sent His only Son

To be born of flesh and die on the cross,

He could have refused. It was not a done

Deal, but Jesus agreed to pay the cost

Of expiating man’s sins. He would die

A most ignoble death so we could live

Eternally. No human could have tried

To sacrifice what only God could give

To atone for sin –– Himself! A God born

Of a woman so that our sin against

God in Eden would let us all be saved.

He gave Himself to ridicule and scorn,

But it does not end at the Lord’s grave.

On Easter Sunday He rolled back the stone.

No greater love the world has ever known!

Salvatore Buttaci has seen his work in print since 1957. A retired teacher and professor, he writes daily both poetry and flash fiction. He lives with Sharon in West Virginia.



Easter and Africa

by  Rev. Jon Magee

It was 1966. I crouched down beside the grave in one small corner of Africa and studied the writing on the tombstone. “Robert Baden-Powell, Chief Scout of the World” Then, below the dates of his birth and death I noticed the tracking sign well known to many Scouts, a circle with a dot in the middle. It’s a sign instantaneously recognized as a message declaring, “gone home”. Its possible that the message was intended to relate to the place where he was laid in Nyeri, Kenya, where he loved to be and where he had a residence. It was a place he felt a sense of peace; it was his home. In that sense he was at home in the environment where he loved to be during his life. However, as I reflected my thoughts began to wonder, realizing that often people have spoken of “going home” as they referred to their death. As a young teenager, I grappled with this whole sense of being at peace when there is no life

I was at the beginning of a 3-week working holiday in Kenya with a party of men from our church at the Royal Air Force station at Khormaksar, Aden. As we made our way north from Nyeri towards Meru on the foothills of Mount Kenya I was conscious that there would be many new experiences I was to come across. There was my first experience of standing next to a sign declaring the border between the northern and southern hemisphere, the equator. There were my first sightings of some of the wild life of Africa, the lion, one of natures most fearsome creatures, the swift running gazelle and the tall giraffe, to name just a few. There was the excitement of not only visiting the site of where they filmed “Born Free”, but also the home of the Lioness, Elsa which the film was the story of. Experiences that few of my western peers could have hoped to have known. Yet, on reflection, the greatest experience for me was to meet with the local people and get to understand them in their life and culture.

Initially, we were the ones being observed. Each morning we began another stage of the building work we came to carry out. It became a ritual that the young Africans made there way to visit us, to stand as a group and to wonder at who we were, and why had we come to work in their community. There would soon develop quite a sizable crowd, including the young children each wielding their panga, a larger cleaver like knife. Soon, a bond began to grow until the invitation was given by one family to visit their home. They lived in a cluster of round mud huts, and we sat in a circle in one of them as our hosts showed their hospitality. The first item they brought through, they described as being like porridge. It was a liquid, made out of maze, cooked over a charcoal fire, and tasted like charcoal. No self respecting Scotsman would have called it porridge, but we took it appreciating that they had given what they had, simple as it was, given from the heart.

As a teenager, this made a deep impression on me. From a Western perspective I had everything that’s needed to have a meaningful life. I had a home with a roof over my head, the guarantee of being well fed each day. Our hosts had such a simple life in comparison. Though they had none of the essentials as we see it, there was certainly a peace in their life which I did not know. It struck me that the one difference is that they had discovered that the best to be gained is not necessarily within the material, but from their perspective a simple trust in the one they knew as their Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.

We are in the season when many are speaking of Easter, though not always for the spiritual reasons, of course. At the heart of the Easter message is the hope that can be known even when everything seems hopeless. Jesus died on the cross, but on the third day rose to life again. The disciples gathered around the cross felt they had lost everything, but were soon to find that the things they feared most had been conquered. Jesus was to reveal there can be victory over death and sin, and the promise of abundant life can become a reality. There is an eternal dimension within all of that, of course, but when it begins with a simple trust in the Saviour, even when not everything can be understood, then an abundance of life can be known in the here and now too. For a Christian, we can rightly speak of a heavenly home, but the message of Easter also declares we can be “at home” where we are now when we are at peace with Him and where he has placed us. Gone home? Yes, with such a peace we can surely be at home this Easter.

Jon Magee is the author of 2 books, Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey and From Barren Rocks to Living Stones, as well as pieces for magazines and local newspapers. Much of his writings reflect his broad experience living throughout the world. Currently he is based in Fife, Scotland, as a minister with the Baptist Church.



Honoring Our Ancestors

by James Secor

Obon (お盆) is the annual Buddhist holiday honoring the ancestors’ spirits which, it is believed, return to this world in order to visit their relatives at this time each year. Lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors’ spirits home, graves are visited and, in some cases, cleaned off, food offerings are made at house altars and at temples, and dances (bon odori) are performed to entertain them at the Festival (bon matsuri). At the end of the three days of Obon, in order to guide the spirits back into their world, lanterns are floated on rivers and lakes or the sea. Perhaps in olden times these boats were shallow bowls and as the name “bon” means “bowl” (or “tray” in some dictionaries).

This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday and has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years. Confucian because of the focus on veneration of the ancestors and the heavy influence of Neo-Confucianism on Japanese culture.

Obon is a shortened form of the Sanskrit Ullambana (盂蘭盆會, urabon’e), “deliverance from suffering,” symbolized in Japan as “hanging upside down.” Obon arose from the story of Mokuren, a disciple of the Buddha, who wanted to look in upon his deceased mother. To his horror, he discovered she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts where she was being tortured by starvation and being hanged upside down. Mokuren embarked on a grueling journey to the underworld to bring food to ease her hunger. But when he offered the food to her it erupted into flames before she could swallow. Mokuren ran to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from such horror. The Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who had just completed their summer retreat. Mokuren did so and his mother found release. Happy at his mother’s release, Mokuren danced with joy.

Japanese and Chinese Buddhist tradition believes Ullambana Sutra was translated from the Sanskrit by Dharmaraksa in the 3rd or 4th century.

Obon occurs in the heat of the summer–mid-August–or as late as fall. The most famous obon celebrations are those of Tokushima on the small island of Shikoku. There, the bon odori is known by its ancient territorial name, Awa-odori, sometimes also known as the fool’s dance as the dancers dance and shout as if they’ve lost their minds. Perhaps not to be wondered at as the bon odori is said to have started in the later years of the 16th century as a public entertainment, possibly sarugaku noh (monkey noh), a precursor to Noh. In the modern day, the religious coloring of the dance has been all but lost.

The Mexican counterpart is Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead. The three days of the Christian celebration are All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day and All Souls Day. People in the West tend to celebrate Halloween only.

Jim Secor is a Buddhist with many years’ experience in Japan and China. Every year in Japan, he returned to Tokushima for the Obon festivities, some of his friends dancing odori. The temple was at the top of the mountain, the house at the bottom. The river flowed in between. Jim can be found at or on Linkedin as James L. Secor and is e-mail literate at He is the author of Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases, which won bronze from P&E.



Confessions of a Love-Aholic

by Yves N. Johnson

How many females can you handle in your life?  I have a lot.  I think it’s because I’m so charming. All seven of my ladies want my time and attention.  Well, if you “have it,” you “have it.”  One day I’ll share with you how to love multiple females but for now, I’ll simply share a little bit about them.

I’ve been with one of my loves for a long time. She was with me at a special event where I was speaking on career transition.  I saw the love in her eyes.  It seemed to drip out of her eyes and roll down her cheeks.  I felt the pride she was feeling and it made me feel good.

Another one of my ladies seems to always want to hold my hand and spend time with me.  I must admit I think of her constantly.  She’s special to me. I’m a much better man since she came into my life. I feel like I’ve known her forever.  Have you ever met anyone like that?

I have three young pretty ladies also. Years ago we had watershed moment that transformed our lives.  I had received two very prestigious awards.  I was dressed razor sharp.  I think I was walking above ground on that day.  I decided to share my joy and achievement with them.  I was stunned to find they didn’t care nor did they share in my excitement.  The funny thing is they just wanted to spend time with me.  Our relationship is more complicated than the other two ladies. Theses females were roommates and at times volleyed to spend time with me. They were upfront and unbashful in letting me know they wanted “their time with me.” Honestly, I feel 10 feet tall when I’m with each and every one of them.

I might as well continue to spill out my heart. I met a much younger female.  We instantly connected and fell in love. One day we went walking along the river.  For some unknown reason she wanted to jump on rocks!  I tell you, younger ladies.  She held my hand tight at first.  I think she was a little scared.  Then she started to jump on her own.  She stumbled but didn’t panic.  For some reason, she knew I’d be there to catch her.  That was a defining moment for me.  She loved and trusted me without question.

Hold on, there’s more.  While on vacation with my wife I met my latest love.  She was as pretty if not prettier than the previous six female.  When she looked at me she would flash a smile that melted my heart. She had a problem going to sleep and decided to lay her head on my chest.  My wife was in the next room!  She squirmed around and finally settled down…her heart beating at the same cadence as mine.

I confess. I’m a very blessed man.  I have the love of a wonderful mother, a great wife, three beautiful girls and two “wrapping me around their fingers” granddaughters.  Who were you thinking I was talking about? I’m not certain if my “ladies” have me wrapped or if I have them wrapped.   I’m just happy to be wrapped by them.

Yves N. Johnson is the Founder of Christ Is My Savior Ministries LLC.  As a speaker his subjects range from personal development to spiritual warfare. Yves recently published his second book, Outside The Wire: Every Man’s Guide For Spiritual Warfare. His well-received debut book was, There Is No Gray In Moral Failure: A Practical Guide In Preventing Financial and Sexual Abuse.

Learn more at


April 16 photo of Church

On Faith

by Clayton Bye

When I was a young teenager attending the local First Baptist church, I had the misfortune to fall in the crosshairs of an overly zealous pastor. He basically pushed me into being baptized, something that felt so wrong afterword that it was the beginning of a long walk away from the church.

I didn’t lose faith. In fact, I’ve always had a strong connection to that Supreme Being we Christians refer to as God. No, what happened was I came to see the church as a very flawed human construction, something I didn’t need to reach out to God as I know him.

At the height of this battle I was involved in, I attended every denomination’s church or bible group I could find. Nothing shook the feeling that I didn’t belong under these roofs. My visits always seemed to end in anger: from my observations that each church was only as good as the people running the thing, that many just spouted things they didn’t understand or, at times, that they didn’t believe.

Understand when I say I understand the very human longing to belong to something larger than yourself and how the church provides that for many. It just isn’t for me.

But there’s an unusual and happy end to this quest of mine. It came in the form of the largest fraternity in the world, that body known as Freemasonry. This is an institution that teaches a moral code based on the belief in some sort of Supreme Being. One that has revealed his will to man and that will punish vice and reward good behaviour. The bible is always open during our meetings, plus whatever book any individual might believe in. This is to remind us to give up some portion of each day to study these books.

Freemasonry takes in good men and tries to make them better, but it never tries to do so without instructing you to turn to your own religion for guidance. It is completely nondenominational in structure, and while it is not a religion, it is does have religious aspects, especially in the appendant bodies that one may pursue.

One of these bodies emulates the code of Christian Knights and has done more to bring me closer to the church than anything else in my life. I still don’t attend on a regular basis, but I celebrate such things as Maundy Thursday and Easter, and I can now visit a church and read the Bible without the anger of my youth.

It is strange where one can find God.

Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 9 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and hundreds of reviews, he has also published (under the imprint Chase Enterprises publishing) 3 award winning anthologies: general fiction, horror, and short detective stories.

Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing related services, including small business management for writers.

Visit his website and bookshop at: and



Domingo de Pascua (Easter Sunday) at an Orphanage by T.R. Heinan

The women arriving at Queen of Angels House orphanage are fewer in number than usual this morning.  Easter is a family day in Mexico and the teachers, tutors, our psychologist and some of the caretakers are allowed to be at home with their own families.  Those who have agreed to work today are all carrying flower bouquets to place near the altar in the orphanage chapel.  It will be the first day since the beginning of Lent that the chapel will have flowers.

The night crew files through the metal security door and out the gate, having already assisted the Easter Bunny in hiding plastic eggs and candy around the playground.  The bunny is a very un-Mexican visitor, not much of a feature in the national culture, but our orphanage is located just three blocks from the United States in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico.  The community shares a border with Douglas, Arizona.  Here the Easter bunny and Happy Meals are as much a part of the local flavor as picante and piñatas.  What is missing is Mom and apple pie.  Apples are expensive in this desert locale and Mom died from cartel violence fueled by the American appetite for drugs, or for survival, she abandoned her child to feed the American appetite for cheap labor.  In some cases, Mom is in prison, or tried to sell her child into prostitution. Maybe Dad was abusive. There is no Mama at an orphanage.  The priest, who will arrive this afternoon is addressed as Padre (Father) and, for some reason I have been given the title “Papa Tim”.  All other male visitors are called Tio (uncle).

One of our goals at Queen of Angles House has been to minimize the effects of institutionalization.  It is easy to overlook the small but critical skills children acquire from parents…how to sew a button, how to manage an allowance, how to launder your own towels.  Every effort is made to simulate a caring family environment.  Having a consistent, reliable staff is important.  That requires careful health, educational, and psychological screening as part of the hiring process.  Tactile and visual stimulation is especially important for the babies in our nursery. Sensory stimulation during the first two years can actually help build neurons in the brain. It affects intelligence.  Student volunteers are recruited to help the “tias” hold and touch the infants.

The children range from newborns to age 17, so we must develop skills that can help break the cycle of poverty.  English as a second language and computer skills are added to basic tutoring as part of our curriculum.

Our tias start the day with a cup of Café Justo, coffee roasted locally by a local better-than-fair-trade coffee cooperative, before they head off to change diapers and getting the older children showered and dressed.  Adorning the girls’ hair with ribbons is always a part of the morning routine, but it seems even more important on Easter morning. Dress today will be casual. The kids love a day without uniforms. The menu for the hot breakfast was designed by a certified nutritionist. An Easter egg hunt, videos in the TV room (deliberately built to be the smallest room in the orphanage), and family-style games will fill most of the day.

Queen of Angels House orphanage is a project of the Blessed Nuno Society, Inc., an integrated affiliate of the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.  Correspondence can be sent to The Blessed Nuno Society, P.O. Box 3484, Duluth, MN 55803. Both the Society and Queen of Angels house were co-founded by T.R. Heinan.  His book, “L’immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen” is an Easter themed story focusing on a fire that took place during Easter week in New Orleans in 1833. Proceeds from sales help support the orphanage.




Maryam Sakeenah

The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, ‘there is a festival for every nation, and this (Eid) is our festival.’

There are two Eids in the Muslim lunar year, essentially about thanksgiving, sharing and strengthening communal ties. The first of these (Eid ul Fitr) is celebrated at the close of Ramadan (the fasting month), as an expression of thanksgiving for all that Allah has blessed us with, particularly the Divine Guidance in the Quran the revelation of which began in the month of Ramadan. It is also a thanksgiving for having received the blessed month and acquired spiritual reward through spending it in intense worship and self-restraint.

The second Eid (Eid ul Azha) celebrates the end of the pilgrimage season and the Abrahamic legacy of sacrifice that Islam revives. Both emphasize on giving and including others in joy and festivity by making charity on the occasion a compulsory religious obligation.

On both Eids, the day begins with special prayers performed in congregation in which God is glorified and the prayer leader (imam) engages in ritual invocation to God before the congregation. This invocation calls upon God to ease the suffering of Muslims in specific and mankind in general, to keep one guided and accept one’s effort in His way. At the end of the service people meet and greet each other and give charity to the poor, many of whom congregate to mosques to receive their share to be able to partake of the festivities. Hence a day of celebration commences.

Celebrations on each Eid have unique cultural aspects all over the Muslim world. While the essence is the same, the expression varies across cultures. In my culture, some of the interesting and spectacular Eid day practices include the Pakistani ‘three step hug’ and eating sweet vermicelli cooked in milk for breakfast. For the ladies it means dressing up in glittery traditional clothing- the ‘shalwar kameez’ and ‘dupatta’, which consist of loose pantaloons and flowy long shirts draped with a long traditional scarf. Ladies also wear coloured bangles and paint their hands in intricate patterns with henna. For children Eid means getting pocket money from all uncles and aunts called ‘Eidee.’

One beautiful experience exclusive to Eid ul Azha is the distribution of sacrificial meat. I remember family elders gathering to do the annual ritual efficiently and zealously. According to Islamc tradition, the meat is to be divided into three parts: the first for oneself and one’s family, the other for relatives and neighbours and the third for the poor and needy in one’s community.

One of my Eid day moments is when the door bell rings… I rush to the door and find some hungry old man with sunken eyes or a ragged woman with her malnourished children wanting to know if they could get a share of the meat. The act of giving of what has been entrusted to you by the True Giver, and which is to be spent in His way for His people is spiritually fulfilling.

Having studied at a Catholic convent, as a child I always found Christian celebrations more grandly ritualistic and colourful. I now realize that the simplicity characteristic of Islamic festivals is beautiful in its own quiet way. Islamic sources strongly condemn extravagance, pomp and luxury as ingratitude to God and a sign of selfish arrogance. The simplicity levels all to reinforce Islamic fraternity and egalitarianism. The simple joys of Eid are affordable to all.

Venturing out in the streets of my city on Eid day is a heartening experience- I see, for once, smiles and laughter- little girls all dressed up, children at the park flying kites and holding balloons waiting for the ice-candy man. I let my spirit join in, my heart light and celebrating a vicarious happiness. It comforts me with the illusion I wish to hang on to just a while longer- the world is a happy, sunlit little home, after all!

Although not a member of The Write Room Blog, we are delighted to have Maryam Sakeenah join us with this special post about Islam. A freelance writer based in Pakistan, Maryam divides her time between teaching Sociology and Islamic Studies and working for the education of the underprivileged in Pakistan. The prominent themes in her work are Islam and society, international politics, human rights, the clash of civilizations and the war on terrorism. Her work promotes the values of moderation and the idea of ‘middleness’ between extremes as enunciated by Islam.


Song of faith – A Passover reflection

by Kenneth Weene

We never sang. I knew from Sunday school that we were supposed to. Passover, Pesach, the feast of the Exodus: there should be singing and joy. There wasn’t. Every year I learned the songs anew; we sang them in class and discussed their meaning; but at home — actually my uncle and aunt’s home, where we had the yearly family Seder — we didn’t sing.

My uncle did not understand the joy of the holiday. For him it was all obligation and seriousness. The bitter herbs of captivity mattered; the sweet manna with which God fed the wandering Israelites did not. He yelled and growled through the Haggadah, the order of service for a Seder. He yelled at his children, growled at his wife, and then went to sleep while we ate chiffon pies.

Very quietly we said goodnight: Always say goodnight to sleeping gorillas; it does not do to have them feeling ignored and angry. But it is far worse to wake them. So very quietly indeed, we said goodnight. We would leave, dreading that another year would pass and we would again have to listen to him monotonously say those prayers and angrily correct everyone’s Hebrew.

Being a Jew in those days was not a reason to celebrate. Many people, even some who had helped liberate the camps, thought Hitler should have gotten rid of us. And the myth that matzoth were made with the blood of Christian children persisted. Sometimes, I would try to point out that there were no Christians at the time of the Exodus, but that didn’t stop the taunts or slaps. There were gorillas everywhere.

I don’t know if it was the camps, Hitler, the war, or the pervasive anti-Semitism that made my uncle so sour. Perhaps it was just being stuck in the house with his wife and children for a holiday.

Years later, when I developed a more intellectual sense of religion, one in which God is more a metaphor than a supreme being, less a gorilla than a ground of being, my wife and I celebrated the Passover in our own home. No fancy dining room for us, we sat on the floor under a makeshift tent and leaned on pillows. Our animals (live, some stuffed, and others of wood) surrounded us. We wrote our own Haggadah and celebrated the Eucharist in remembrance of the long-ago preacher who taught that God is love. We invited friends and we sang folksongs: Songs that rejoiced in the joy of life, the love of creation, and the wonder of human freedom. Songs that challenged us to live with dignity, compassion, and truth.

I no longer think of myself as a Jew or a Christian. The God around which I build my worldview is the God of Spinoza, the unification and reason of a universe which I cannot understand but which challenges my mind every day. The Hassidic philosopher Martin Buber suggests we need an aesthetic model of the divine against which to view our lives and purpose. Such a modern God will not guide us out of Egypt, nor will that God protect us from Hitler or from other haters. Still we can draw on that sense of the divine and on the realization of order and beauty in the universe to help us appreciate the wonder of it all.

And we can sing. Oh, yes, we can sing.

Song, spontaneous and joyful, is the true fruit of faith.

Ken Weene’s novels, short stories, and poetry reflect his continual search for personal meaning and universal humanity.