Bez & Co- April 2021 Issue

Table of Contents:

Introduction • Daniel R. Jones

Poetry-

Prayer • Peter Mladinic
M. Caravaggio • R.L. Bussell
The sleep of angels • Michael Murdoch
In Domino Confido • Mary Tarantini
Sketch for Desert Fathers• Jacob Riyeff

Introduction

Call it a “sophomore slump.”

For whatever reason, Bez & Co had a decrease in submissions this quarter. This happened even despite enacting a nominal payment for accepting pieces. Interestingly, the vast majority of submissions this issue were also poems. This comes, ironically, at a time when I have been more focused on writing prose.

Since most of my prose isn’t yet at the caliber I’d consider worthy of publication, I haven’t posted it on this site. I am continuing to work on my craft, and the theme of the day seems to be transition.

The heavily curated selection of poems I’ve gathered here inspire me. As is typical, the emphasis is on Christ-honoring work that hints at a sense of wonder. Still, each poem is very much grounded in our physical world.

In some respects, the physical is a simulacrum of the spiritual, right? And so, even if the quantity of the offering is meager, it is the intentions of the heart that matter. Although the pickings are scant in this issue, they are of high quality. I offer up to God and to you, Reader, this issue. The “crème de la crème.” I hope you enjoy it.

-Daniel R. Jones, Managing Editor of Bez & Co.

Prayer
1. Cambric Splint

The lake at dusk: a tableau of trees
across the water in silhouette,
silver sky, bathers near shore,
skiers behind boats.  Our towels on sand,
Andy breast stroked across a lagoon,
and I followed.  One Saturday
driving home from the lake we stopped
at a strip mall in Rogers,
and went into a yogurt shop owned by
Syd, a man in our singles group,
who was originally from Iran.  Syd
wore a huge cambric splint on one hand.
A week before our visit he was unhitching
a boat from a truck.  It slipped.
Its weight came down on his hand.
He treated Andy and I to yogurt parfaits,
tall glasses of coffee colored froth,
whipped cream, cherries.
At a small vinyl table, before eating
we prayed for Syd’s hand.

2. Wheelchair

Our feet creaked on two-by-fours
in the dark, her makeshift ramp.
Her six year old son, Brandon
opened the trailer door.  A kettle steamed
on the stove from which Pam turned
wheelchair-bound to greet us.
After the accident her husband left her.
In the family portrait
that hung framed in a thin black frame
on the living room wall, his dark brown
wavy hair came down over his ears.
Dark eyes, dark clipped mustache.
Pam offered us coffee.
Brandon had gone to bed.  I remember his
calling Pam through his bedroom wall.
Andy, tall, slightly stooped, prematurely
gray and balding, stood
and bumped his head on a ceiling lamp.
Pam’s motorized chair hummed softly.
She reached for her Merit lights
on an end table.
Before Andy and I left the three of us
held hands and prayed
for Pam’s well being in Jesus’ name.

-Peter Mladinic

Peter Mladinic

Peter Mladinic has published three books of poems, Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press.  He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

M. Caravaggio

Painter. Profligate.
Michelangelo, the fool. —
Cardsharps in Kahn’s hall.

Was there a time when demons conquered, stayed;
when Anthony’s tormentors shied away?
Why roam through Rome your bravado displayed;
why take your eye from your vision to stray?
Your meanest tableaus set my mind aflame;
Your work has worked itself into myself; 
Your brush became my only brush with fame. 
Uffizi’s Medusa’s upon my shelf.
Blesséd Matthew, gripped by passion and flame,
is taught by an angel’s breathless whisper.
Then there is your telling of our night’s shame
when, in the dark, Light was framed with silver.
Do you still lie amid the labyrinthine
streets of your Caesars’ stony concubine? 

The echoing step
Moves us through history’s halls —
Saint Matthew’s burning.

My name still flies amid cent’ries’ darkness
and like an ever circling bird, rises.
My demons still roam my Rome in darkness
looking for young flesh and tender prizes;
Time’s elusive progress is circling ’round.
Night required I prick with sharpened sword
and sharpened tongue my enemies to hound;
they were circling ‘round my girls to hoard
their beauty and so keep my fame at bay.
Have you seen my Fillide? Does she still live
within Peter’s shadowy cabaret?
I need to know if our flame will outlive
my canvas, my sword, my haughty bluster.
Do her lips still call men to her chamber?

Tiber flows swiftly.
A starving tern yearns for food —
Pleasures at coin’s cost!

Fillide did what she had to do to live
and at the dawn of her womanhood, she
plied her flesh and soul to live; the attractive
are often forced, in poverty, to flee
morality, and thus all the devils win.
Fillide did die so many years ago
that time has almost forgotten her sin.
It must be pain entire to hit so low.
I’m sure your Fillide’s flame is still burning;
for her will did will herself in a frame.
She died remembering you without spurning.
She left us while petitioning our Dame.
I pray Mary heard you at your last breath
that all your darkness did not mark your death. 

Mortar frames her bed.
We all seem to hold our breath —
The nightingale sings.

I can’t recall the cutlass’ cut ’n’ flash.
My flesh was torn too soon to notice much.
I recall the slow gasp, the bloody slash,
the eyes so filled with knowing. And no touch
can bring my blood to flowing. And no word
can now make sinew move my dusty bones.
All was darkness, there was a footfall heard,
(the mute sound of leather on hardened stones)
and then a challenge I could ne’er refuse.
My rage ’twas like on Malta’s rock. I burned.
I flared. “I’ll not have you my name ill-use.
I am Caravaggio! You’re ill-learned.
Honor you’ll show me or you’ll die tonight”,
then came the end to me who once was knight.

Gilding frames his head.
Now we speak of light and dark —
Salomé dances.

-Roger (RL) Busséll

Roger (RL) Busséll
Roger (RL) Busséll is a poet, artist and drafter. He has a bachelor of arts from the University of North Texas. He has a one man exhibition of his art in Groveland, CA. and publishes his work on his blog, rlbussell.com. Where he was able to share haiku daily in 2019. He was able to explore a story of love and the penultimate year of Vincent VanGogh. His work reflects an interest in history, art, and theology. He resides in Texas with the wife of his youth and the second of their two daughters

The Sleep of Angels

Babies breath 
Spouted pure
Released and sent adrift

Nightly death
Engulfing vapour
Sweeps into the rift

Mimicry crowds 
An age old ploy
Assigning sheep a number 

Cotton clouds
Softened with joy
In readiness of slumber 

Let rhythm follow
Of images known
Coalesced in tangled streams

Trust in Apollo
The guidance shown
Winged to the gateway of dreams

A Patient lover
God’s grace captured
Vigilant however painful

A Watchful mother
Stares enraptured
At the face of her own angel

-Michael Murdoch

Michael Murdoch
Born beneath the Southern Cross, Michael Murdoch a.k.a. the mouse, is a poet and fiction writer, who chased love to his new home under the Northern Lights. He resides in Helsinki with his wife and three children. You can find a selection of his works at his home away from home, The Twisting Tail.
murdochmouse.wordpress.com

In Domino Confido

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses”
Some seek to join the parade of immortals
Some parade wisdom through endless discourses
In Domino Confido

How do the angels guard and befriend?
A penny, a sign, from on high they descend?
The image of you in my sleep as I dreamt?
Deus amor est

God speaks to us in a gentle whisper
So heard Elijah after the wind and the fire
Respond in kind to this holy elixir
Amor vincit omnia

-Mary Tarantini

Mary Tarantini

Mary Tarantini is a high school English teacher and has been writing poetry for seven years. She has a BA degree in English and a MA in Theological Studies. She is also a second-year novice in The Third Order Society of Saint Francis. Some of her poems have been published in the newsletter The Franciscan Times.

Sketch for Desert Fathers

Paul the hermit in his desert 
or Guthlac of Crowland in his fen, 
they gather the birds to nest 
on their outstretched hands and shoulders 
as if roods animate and bearded: 
their friendship a mirror of Eden. 
Blue joy on the bush, 
on the ground outside our cell, 
perched heavy on my shoe. 

These Stellar’s Jays avian miracles— 
that, or they want our food. 

Jacob Riyeff

Jacob Riyeff

Jacob Riyeff (jacobriyeff.com, @riyeff) is a translator, poet, and scholar of medieval literature. His work mainly focuses on the western contemplative tradition and the natural world. Jacob teaches in the English department at Marquette University and is a Benedictine oblate of Osage Deanery.

One Last Push (Accepting Submissions)

Hey guys,

On April 15th, I’m running my next issue of Bez & Co, the literary magazine! I’ve gotten a few great submissions, but there’s still room for more! Just a reminder…

I’m looking for original photography, artwork, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric essays! If you have interest, please check out the Submission Guidelines here.

Each submission that is accepted for publication will be paid at the rate of $5 USD. Payment is upon publication. Bez & Co prefers to use PayPal to pay its contributors. If you need alternative accommodations, please let me know upon acceptance of publication, and I will work to find a solution.

-DRJ

Some Inspiration/ Accepting Submissions

“Embarrassment is the cost of entry. If you aren’t willing to look like a foolish beginner, you’ll never become a graceful master.”

I keep thinking about this quotation. It haunts me, if I’m going to be honest. So often, I let my fear of failure lead me into a tailspin of self-sabotage. I’ve redoubled my commitment to be “okay” with looking like a foolish beginner.

One way can affirm that same commitment is to put yourself out there. It’s not the smoothest segue, but I’d like to remind you that I’m currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2021 issue. We’re a month out from publication, and I’m looking for original photography, artwork, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric essays! If you have interest, please check out the Submission Guidelines here.

Each submission that is accepted for publication will be paid at the rate of $5 USD. Payment is upon publication. Bez & Co prefers to use PayPal to pay its contributors. If you need alternative accommodations, please let me know upon acceptance of publication, and I will work to find a solution.

‘The Sylphid and the Sage’ Available Now!

The Sylphid and the Sage is now available as an eBook on Amazon!

Check out this sprawling, novel-length poem, written in heroic quatrain. It serves as both a whimsical story set to loose iambic pentameter, as well as a heartfelt allegory on sanctification. If you love poetry, fantasy, and allegory, this may be right up your alley.

Here’s a quick blurb:

“Three Sages make up the governing authority in the city of Selvus. The open-secret, though, is that none of these supposed wise men are actually learned or intelligent, at all. When one of the city’s Sages dies unexpectedly, it’s time to elect a new leader. But a mysterious fairy-like stranger arrives, promising the Selvans a better way. But can she be trusted?”

Pick yours up today!

Accepting Submission for Spring Issue!

Good morning, all!

Just dropping by to remind everyone that I’m currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2021 issue! I’m looking for original photography, artwork, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric essays! If you have interest, please check out the Submission Guidelines here.

Each submission that is accepted for publication will be paid at the rate of $5 USD. Payment is upon publication. Bez & Co prefers to use PayPal to pay its contributors. If you need alternative accommodations, please let me know upon acceptance of publication, and I will work to find a solution.

I’m excited to see what you’ve got to bring to the table!

-DRJ

New Novel-Length Poem Available for Pre-Order

True to the schedule laid out in my New Year’s resolutions, I am pleased to announce I’m self-publishing The Sylphid and the Sage. It is available for pre-order now, and will be released on Amazon on March 1, 2021. In truth, the fairy-tale set to verse has been several years in the making for me. It is a sprawling, novel-length poem, written in heroic quatrain. It serves as both a whimsical story set to loose iambic pentameter, as well as a heartfelt allegory on sanctification. Admittedly, this book is pretty esoteric, and won’t be for everyone. But if you love poetry, fantasy, and allegory, this may be right up your alley.

Here’s a quick blurb:

“Three Sages make up the governing authority in the city of Selvus. The open-secret, though, is that none of these supposed wise men are actually learned or intelligent, at all. When one of the city’s Sages dies unexpectedly, it’s time to elect a new leader. But a mysterious fairy-like stranger arrives, promising the Selvans a better way. But can she be trusted?”

Check it out here, today!

Sartre was Wrong (Short Story)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

…If you can hear this transmission, please listen to it in its entirety prior to turning around.

I’d like you, dear listener, to indulge me for a moment. A simple thought experiment. I promise to be brief and my intentions are pure. I wish nothing but goodwill and peace to all creatures.

Suppose, if you will, that you were the member of a race of beings who presumed themselves alone in the universe. Imagine that this race of beings is sophisticated enough to understand that cryogenic-preservation is theoretically possible, but primitive enough to only solve half the equation. Pretend your race can freeze a person, but they can’t yet bring him back.

Since you’ve humored me this far, friend, imagine for a moment that you were born to this race as a genetic anomaly. A true fluke of evolution. A “mule.” Pretend that while all others of your race could communicate only through speaking, writing, or other auditory and visual cues, you alone could speak to others directly through thought. No other person, before or since, can speak and listen telepathically, but you can.

Imagine. What would the scientists of your race plan for you, when you neared life’s end?

I’m sure, my astute listener, you’ve already deduced that they’d like to preserve your body cryogenically, if possible.

They’d likely say, “He belongs to our race, but not to our time. Let’s preserve this man so that clinical researchers far into the future can study him. They’ll better understand him. Perhaps they can find a way to benefit our collective race. They might be able to prolong his life. Or else, maybe, they can isolatethe exact aspect of his DNA that allows him this extra-sensory perception. Perhaps, the scientists of the future will even be able to duplicate this ability, through genetic engineering, in the progeny of our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren.”

Now, suppose they wanted a better chance at success. Pretend, if you will, that they didn’t wait for you to die prior to cryogenically freezing your body, but rather, put you into a kind of permanent stasis. Pretend your race had the ability to draw out the last couple years of your life for centuries. Millenia, even.

Are you still with me, friend? I’d like to thank you for listening to me this far, and for humoring me. It’s been so very long since someone truly listened. I know this isn’t a plausible scenario. But for the sake of the thought experiment, let’s let it play out.

Imagine now, that to ease the transition from this millennia to the next, they kept you in a sort of permanent sedation by administering drugs, periodically. No one would want to be in a coma for a thousand years, right?  Unable to move, lying still and biding your time, you’d die of boredom! Instead, let’s pretend that you were placed under this anesthetic in a cryogenic chamber a quarter-mile underground.

Now, we’ll get down to brass tacks. Wait. Forgive me. You won’t be familiar with that idiom. I digress. Let’s pretend that one day, you awoke. A panicked clinical researcher told you that there wasn’t much time to explain. There was quite the commotion on the surface.  Let’s say, he told you there was an interplanetary war. Your race is not alone in the universe.

Imagine that this scientist told you that it looked as though the two races, (your own, and the alien race,) had created a scenario of mutually assured destruction. Life on your planet would end. The scientist came to say goodbye.

Pretend that while you desperately tried to piece together the history of the last four or five hundred years telepathically with said scientist, he told you there wasn’t any time. He was going to return to the planet’s surface. He’d obtain a lethal injection. You would be mercifully euthanized.

I’m sure you’ll agree: you’d spend the next hour in a futile attempt to still your racing thoughts, preparing yourself for the end.  Well what else could you do? Death is imminent! You’d reel with delirium, wouldn’t you?

Suppose a day went by.

Suppose a week went by.

Suppose a year.

At some point, you’d recognize that the scientist wasn’t coming back. You’d realize that you were alone, a quarter-mile underground. Forgotten. In all likelihood, the last survivor of your race. Entombed, alive, but unable to move.

Have you ever had sleep paralysis? Does your race of beings have any sort of analogue? If so,can you imagine that feeling of complete impotence stretching on—not for a night, but for entire years at a time? What would you do?

Panic gets you nowhere! You’d recognize at once that to indulge your fears could lead to certain insanity.

Did you ever lie down in a sensory deprivation tank? If you’ve ever floated in one, you know the feeling of weightlessness. It feels good. But after, say, 15 minutes, the relaxation cedes to existential fear. If you can’t figure out where your skin ends and the world begins, it can be a tad unsettling. You want to talk about ego-death? I’ll tell you what ego-death is. When all sensory input registers a blank, each thought is amplified a thousand-fold.

Sartre was wrong when he said, “Hell is other people.” Wittgenstein was closer: “Hell is yourself.”

Hell is yourself. Alone with your thoughts. Forever.

But no, you don’t know Sartre or Wittgenstein. Those are human philosophers.

I’m sorry. I need to be more discipline in my thoughts. But then again, one can’t be blamed, after a century alone, if the wheels fall off every now and again. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Anyway, back to our thought-experiment. In such a scenario, my friend, you ‘d eventually comb through your people’s mental techniques to find a suitable way of keeping your composure. Zazen, pranayama, Tumo…all the past masters techniques of staying rational in an irrational world. But oh, I studied so little when I had the chance! What I wouldn’t give—

Forgive me. Reset.

You would attempt to maintain your composure and hone your psychic ability. You’d learn how to “throw your voice,” so to speak. You’d extend your reach, hoping that you could talk telepathically through a quarter mile or rock and iron and dirt. You’d begin telepathically projecting your thoughts out into the ether like some pitiful prayer to an empty sky.

How long could you continue like this? How long could anyone be expected to keep their head? Isn’t it natural that eventually you’d develop some eccentricities?

Say, eventually, you heard back. For the first time, you heard back from what you can only assume was a passing vessel from some alien race. Wouldn’t you seize on the chance like a lion pounces on a gazelle?

Oh, what’s a gazelle to you!?

If you felt the presence of another mind for the first time in a century, you’d shout—you’d scream telepathically. But what if the alien race had never before heard of ESP? There they are, cruising along in orbit, and all of the sudden they’re brain is filled with these intrusive thoughts, manic and unhinged. It’s natural that they’re afraid. I didn’t fault them for that!

But what if it took another year before they came back? And then, another decade until they came back a third time? What if, on the second and third visit, every mind aboard their vessel thought iterations of the same idea:  “The mad god is still here. We need to cut this place off as restricted space. No one should again return.”

But I’m not a mad god! I’m only a soul tormented by an eternity of his own thoughts! Can one blame me for giving in to a sense of existential dread? I’m shouting at the top of my proverbial lungs, mentally, now. I’m broadcasting as far and as wide as I can with my mental faculties.

If you can hear this, I’m dropping all pretenses. This is not a thought experiment, it is my reality.

I know you can sense my thoughts unspooling as I reach out to you. I don’t ask that you raise me back from the dead. I only ask that you come and end my suffering. Albert Camus, a novelist of our race, said, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.”

He’s right, of course. But I’m denied the quotidian “To be or not to be” that was afforded to Hamlet, to borrow from another giant in our literary canon. I have no chance to pull the plug. I’m alone, broadcasting my thoughts out to the sky, endlessly on repeat.

I’ve “thought” this same message thousands of times. I sound like a broken record to myself. I’m stuck in a thought loop, like someone who has taken a psychedelic drug, or like a madman. I’m begging you to close the loop.

I will now repeat my message, in the hopes that someone out there will pick it up.

If you can hear this transmission, please listen to it in its entirety prior to turning around.

I’d like you, dear listener, to indulge me for a moment. A simple thought experiment…