Calvin breaths the haze

thinks about its engulfment.

What mask to wear

if all of the sudden the air waves clog.

Where will we all run for cover?


Four more days of sun

my arms begin to blister

a dark red rash.

Drench my skin with honey and salt

more like a salve then a train wreck.


To think about

touching in a heat wave

and skin falling off -

a dress unzipped, dropping

wrapped around my ankles.


Calvin and I sleep,

wait for the peace of an air planes breeze.

He's moving towards me

says he can't help being so close,

though his breath burns my skin.


I've misplaced the path,

lost my place in this apartment,

stumble on carpet.

I look for Calvin in the dark

guided by the map of his weather.


More months of swelter

and buildings melting into sand piles.

before the rain comes.

Calvin is a name I am speaking

when found, passed out on the kitchen floor.


Emily Crocker

I Believe

- for the Grateful Web

My earliest memory of feeling connected to spirit (or God, as I call that wonderful force in my life), happened far away from any man-made church.  It happened when the noise of the world was (literally) drowned out by the noise of my motorcycle, and my feeling of peace and stillness was exaggerated by the confines of the helmet on my head.  I felt alone, as if I was the captain of my destiny, setting my course and making my own decisions.  And strangely, at the same time, realizing I was not alone.  That there would be something, some force, some life-giving force that would travel the road with me.  Offering me unconditional love, counsel and encouragement; helping me to understand the paradox of my insignificance and significance, my sameness and my uniqueness.  I began to sing and pray and simply commune with God and have not stopped in my twenty-five years, though I would be challenged with guilt, shame and fear for seeking out my own answer to the question you are asking me now, "What do you believe and why do you believe it?"

Growing up in a conservative Christian environment has been both a blessing and a burden.  I never felt compelled to question the beliefs laid down by that community's interpretation of the Bible, in part because the main tenet that It was based upon, God and His love for the world, has never been something I've questioned because of my epiphany whilst riding my bike in the woods.  But the larger feeling that kept me from questioning the doctrines of the church and whether they were what I really believed was that I had been instilled with the impression that it was basically ludicrous not to believe the way we did. Thus, growing up I was heavily burdened (in addition to my inherent know-it-all-ness) with self-righteousness, harshly and overtly judging others and deeming them not worthy of Heaven (which I equated with the ultimate reward), simply because they did not share my religious views.  I believed in God and His love for the world, and yet felt that love was given more readily and freely to us, His chosen people.  When I prayed and sang at church or in school, my heart would bubble and just about burst with faith in my beliefs.  I was so sure that my beliefs were the RIGHT beliefs (as if there is one right way to believe) that I was smug and insensitive.  Sadly, I was the one suffering.

Thank God I have seen the light. The light that makes me feel happy, challenged, inspired and connected. The light and love of God that allows me to happily acknowledge my imperfectness and accept the grace that is mine, and that my heart has known ever since that moment years ago on a backcountry trail.

I do not concern myself with thinking about things such as the reality of Heaven or Hell, what happens when animals or people die or even bother trying to define my beliefs in any standard terms (i.e. Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim etc...).  I feel that I would be wasting my time, since I've already dealt with the guilt and fear that accompanied the practically sacrilegious thoughts that it doesn't really matter if I believe in Heaven or Hell, lay claim to Jesus or Buddha.  I am trying (and doing) to live fully in the moment, with integrity and in accordance with my moral fiber, which is to say, in truth and love.  On my personal journey I've come to the conclusion that what is most important is to be continually open to whatever lessons life has to offer, to respond thoughtfully and compassionately, and to have an open heart.  Everything else seems superfluous.  Because much of what I did or did not do in my younger years was either for the reward of Heaven or to avoid the consequence of Hell, my actions were for appearances' sake and little else. I feel that I'm now living and striving to live a more actualized, genuine, spiritual life. I treat others well because that is what feels right in my heart. So I guess I've come (in a roundabout way to be sure) to what I believe:

I believe in keeping an open heart and mind, letting things marinate and resonate within my heart (my most trusted friend), letting that be my guide, trusting it will take me where I need to go.

To borrow from the Indigo Girls, "the less I seek my Source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine."

This may seem simple and naive to some, but truth (your truth, my truth and the truth), is never complicated.  And to trust in and have faith in something is one of the greatest blessings in the world.  Children know how to believe; we adults have just forgotten that we know.

Grateful Web Book Club & Review 'The Rice Mother'

''The Rice Mother'' - for the Grateful Web

Original title:              The Rice Mother

Translated in Dutch:         De Rijstmoeder

Author:                      Rani Manicka


Rani Manicka was born and grew up in Malaysia. She studied economics in Germany, where she met an Italian man with whom she moved to England. Nowadays, she divides her time between Malaysia and the UK.


The Rice Mother is Manicka's debut novel and is infused with her own South Asian family history. This book is her way to reawake her grandmother, and to bring her back to a time when she was still proud and strong. The book won a Commonwealth Writers Prize for 2003.


Short summary:


The book contains the history of four generations of a Malaysian family. The story begins with Lakshmi, the rice mother, who has been married off to a man twice her age. Her mother was told this man was rich, but Lakshmi realizes very soon that he can hardly make ends meet. In a short period the couple gets six children, three sons and three daughters. Lakshmi wants her children to have a better life than she had, but she does not succeed in realizing this dream.


A milestone in the family is the capture and killing of their beautiful daughter Mohini by the Japanese during World War Two. Only when Dimple is born, a grandchild of Lakshmi and a mirror image of Mohini, Lakshmi and her husband Ayah's world changes. Dimple is very interested in the family history and records the stories of different family members. After Dimples tragic end, Nisha, her daughter, gets knowledge of this tapes by which she gets to know her ancestors…


Comments on the book:

-         The book is written from different points of view, in that all different characters take the floor by turns. One might find this confusing, but with the clear headings and the family tree in the beginning of the book, it is easy to follow the story.

-         The book is written in a flowing style, and it is easy to visualize the situations described. In this matter, one should be warned for the cruel passages on the Japanese occupation during World War Two.

-         As others have said "Manicka's voice is strongest in presenting the sadness and loneliness of characters, and in the beauty and culture of South Asia".

-         Rani Manicka already finished a second book: "Touching Earth". I am looking forward to read this book as well.


Kelly Bobelijn, European Editor

The Grateful Web

Grateful Web Book Review - 'Child Of The Jungle'

Kuegler''s ''Child of the Jungle''- for the Grateful Web

Original title:                   Dschungelkind

Translated in Dutch:     Dochter van de Jungle

Translated in English:  Child of the Jungle

Author:                             Sabine Kuegler


Sabine Kuegler, daughter of a German couple, is born in Nepal in 1972. She has one sister, Judith, and one brother, Christian. Her father is a linguist; her mother a missionary. When Sabine is five years old, the whole family moves to West Papua (Indonesia) to live with the Fayu, a violent tribe which even today lives as if it were the Stone Age.


At age 17, Sabine goes to a boarding-school in Switzerland to get a diploma, which is really hard for a girl who feels, thinks and lives like a Fayu. At the time, Sabine lives in Germany and has four children. She plans a trip to the Fayu in the near future, where she hasn't been since she left for Switzerland.


Comments on the book:

-         This woman really has a story to tell!

-         I'm sure she still has so many things to tell about her past and recent life. I really hope she starts writing another book.

-         There is a certain chronology in the book (before, during and after living with the Fayu) but it mainly consists of short anecdotes, by which we obtain knowledge of this tribe (e.g. hunting, eating habits, nature, etc.).

-         This story makes you dwell on the life we live: on the one hand, on all the luxury we have (e.g. running water, electricity,…); on the other hand, on little things we don't (or nearly) pay attention to anymore (e.g. laughing, playing, ice-cubes,…).

-         The book is illustrated with beautiful photos.

-         By writing this book, Sabine hoped to find herself and succeeds in accepting she is different compared to other white people. I hope she reached her goal!


Kelly Bobelijn, European Editor

The Gateful Web

The Porchlight Prophecies

Porchlight Prophecies- for the Grateful Web

                               By Dustin Smith


                     Book III: The Ivory Basins of the Quintlight


2. Thunder from the Throne Basin and the Journey to Basin Major


Never the nearer,            the Great Being went North

The spider, spun crumpled,   his spirit wrecked.

Janice with joy              jumped to his tail fins

And scuttled his scales,     scraping the floor,

Ice cold from the            corners and crooks

Of the sheer walls           of wicker and black work.


The Great Being              belted a belch from the sky

And sat in the North         on a seat with a sigh.

Thunder then rose,           a thorny sound clapped.

The echo enchanted           the Great Being's ego.

A stench startled            and stained the Ivory Basins.

The smell smoldered          and smote the two companions,

Nearly knocking the life     of Octavian to Nevermore.

The face of the Being        feigned frolic and cheer

For the thunderous fog       and fright would not disappear.


But Janice ignored this,     sending spells for the spider

To lift himself, healed,     to the hearth of the basins.

Drifting and diving,         the spider defied gravity.

Arctic blasted chill         dared effort from gripping

Heavily ice's jolting        kick, licking moments, never                                            Octavian

Pondered quietly,            realized soon the utter                                                 violence

Wound xylophonically,        yearning zenith.


The spider caught concern    from the Great Being's crouch.

Suiting, squid-like fingers  squishing a line,

The Being assumed the beast's beat to the bathtub

The Spider's retreat received less than the reach

For the Being's hand covered a white cloud of paper.

Down went the white mesh     to the white mouth of the                             


And Octavian etched          underneath the ice claw.

Janice hovered asunder       and thunder rose again

From the Being,              feeling the froth to his throne.


Magic, mental and majestic,  guided the two,

Traveling treacherously      from the Being's trickery

And into the largest lever   of basin white lily work.

Dancing down the sides       of spider's assumed doom

Into the hole,               the whole world put on hold 


The spider could speak       of the spine tube beneath.

From the whispering wind     and dripping walls

A heat healthy, hidden,      filled the spider's fall.

His limbs lingered back      to their ruby red luster,

Mending miraculously         to their proper proportions.

Abdomen ascended             and filled with warm air,

His like turned to lust,     he descended the lair.

Flemish Sign Language

Alphabet- for the Grateful Web

Column 3: Being deaf


Since October, I'm taking evening classes in Flemish sign language. Therefore, I want to introduce you in the deaf culture as well.


Like spoken languages, sign languages developed spontaneously since people wanted to communicate with each other. There are several sign languages in the world: American, French, Flemish, etc. The sign languages even differ concerning the region you're in (e.g. for Belgium: Ghent, Bruges, etc.). After all, 90-95% of the deaf children have parents who hear, by which these children learn to sign from each other at school. Consequently, between the different schools, there is a variation in the signs noticeable, which in turn explains the (small) differences per region. Sign languages also have their own grammar and structure. In other words, it is an independent language as well


Most, if not all, deaf people are a member of a "deaf club". In the beginning, these clubs were solely accessible for deaf people, but today, people who hear are allowed in too. Lots of activities are arranged: e.g. sports, journeys, formation evenings, etc. In the clubs, they (of course) pass on the aspects of the deaf culture. I'll give some examples of aspects of the Flemish Deaf Community:


° You are not allowed to look away during a conversation; this is insulting

° If you want to draw the attention of a deaf person, you may touch him/her on the arm or shoulder, or provoke vibrations by stamping your feet… You are not allowed to touch him/her at the back since they might be frightened then. If you want the attention of a whole group, you can switch off and on the light very quickly

° You are not allowed to hold someone's hands while he/she is signing. This is the same as putting your hand on someone's mouth while speaking.

° …

To conclude, I'll write something about the 20th Deaflympics, which took place Jan 5-16 in Melbourne, Australia. The origin of the Deaflympics dates back to 1924. That year, the first games (then called "Deaf World Games") took place in Paris. Nine countries, including Belgium, participated. These games are no part of the Paralympics, which started in 1960. There is only one reason for that: COMMUNICATION. In general, deaf athletes do sport following the same rules as hearing athletes. Technics and tactics hardly differ. Adaptations mainly have to do with communication (e.g. light signals instead of whistle). Participating athletes are submitted to dope tests and hearing tests. A hearing loss of at least 55dB at the best ear should be detected to get permission to join in. Hearing aids are not allowed.


In 1953, Belgium (Brussels) organised the 7th edition of the Deaflympics: 16 countries, 524 athletes participated. As mentioned before, this year the games were organised in Melbourne, Australia: 90 countries, 3500 athletes joined in. For the first time, the Deaflympic flame was lighted! For Belgium, four swimmers, four table-tennis players, and two beach-volley teams (men and women) were involved. It was the first time beach volley was an Olympic game. For more information regarding the games, I'd like to refer you to the following websites: www.deaflympics.com and www.belgiumdeafsport.be


The next Deaflympics will take place in 2009 in Taiwan (Taipei). Looking forward to that!

Perception is Everything: Look Busy

Perception is Everything- for the Grateful Web


When I was in 4th grade, we were required to turn in 1 math assignment per day for homework and one for "in-class" work. My mom wanted me to finish the book and go to the next one, so over a break she made me do 30+ assignments. When school started back, I thought to myself:  "why turn this all in at once when I can goof off for at least 2 weeks?"

Two weeks later, my mom caught on to my scam. The teacher, no doubt embarrassed about being outwitted by her student, told me "I would never get away with this malarkey in real life."  I was rather disappointed that I couldn't get away with this behavior. I did the work. How could I be in trouble? It wasn't until years later that I began to understand.

When I turned 16, I decided to get a job at a restaurant. I remember a young bartender telling me the secret to the working world: "Pick something up and look busy. It doesn't matter what you are doing, just look busy."  Eight years later, I realize what a golden nugget of advice this really is.

Anyone who works in tech-support can tell you about the "Microsoft fix."  The person you are helping thinks you are a miracle worker, when in reality you didn't do that much. To that person, you are a hero, because you solved their problem. Its all about perception.

I'm often reminded of that teacher's lecture. How wrong she was. Life is all about perception. Its not what you can do, or how you do it. Its all about how people perceive you. In the end, it doesn't matter how you got the job done, it matters if you got it done.

Image Credit: Brian Forsse


Other Robert Pray Articles:

Home Brewing Wine

Throw your vote away

Ideology Maintaining Structure; The necessity of gender roles in the public/private dichotomy

- for the Grateful Web

The feminine ideal in American culture no longer embodies a submissive woman kissing her husband goodbye as he leaves for work to earn the "family wage" while the wife/mother hands out lunch sacks to the children. However, these "June Cleaver" images have been very effective in getting women to take pride in their role as a housewife - reinforcing their own oppressive location in the hierarchical structure of American social relations. Capitalism and patriarchy have shook hands, working together in continuing to find new ways to trick the American public that domesticity equates with femininity and masculinity equates with power. These superstructures are at fault for the foundation of female oppression; not only because the sexual division of labor has instinctively put women in a disenfranchised location in the system, but also for the social paradigms that continue to reinforce the basic assumptions/needs of capitalism and patriarchy.


Several theories posed from socialist feminists argue that separation of the private and public spheres on the basis of gender is inherent in a capitalist system creating a society that organizes its structure of social relations around female oppression. The theorist Betty Friedan addresses the social consequences of this public/private dichotomy, namely the way it affects the domestic woman, from the vantage point of liberal feminism. I will use these two very different forms of feminist thought to support my argument that the current ideologies and structures sustaining the sexual division of labor are the main sources of female oppression. The current definitions of femininity and masculinity play a large role in reproducing this detrimental way of life even though it continues to be counterproductive in the movements to cease all forms of oppression, including those of feminist struggle.


Dissecting the public/private dichotomy in both social mind and body should be the most crucial concern on the agenda of every form of feminist thought. The permanence of the division of spheres lies deeper than you could ever imagine. It cannot be changed by a revolution of any particular government, as socialist and Marxist feminist might suggest. It cannot be touched by the solutions of access posed by liberal feminists. The ideologies and paradigms supporting the sexual division of labor are embedded in both micro and macro levels of capitalism and patriarchy. The performance of the gender roles that make this system possible exist on an abstract, unconscious level. People are brainwashed by the ideals of masculinity and femininity to the point where we, as men and women, are transformed into vessels of performance of gendered bodies. The prescriptive guidelines mapping our gender tell American women that they are less of a woman if they are not domestic servants; and tell men that they are less of a man if they are not productive, successful and powerful.  Women might be more accepted in the labor force than ever in recent history but there are some basic truths about these gender roles that haven't seemed to move:  for women, the house is never clean enough; for men, you can never have too much power or money.


The structures might have created the ideology, but it is at the level of ideology where change will be most successful. The system of maintaining gender categories/classes works so smoothly, its games and tricks go un-noticed to the general public. This is how gender is a form of (and effect of) power. It is not the sort of power that can be pinned on one person, group, or institution; but rather a system swallowing us whole, and spitting us back out as acceptable gendered bodies.  It is when these gender ideals are eradicated that women (and men) will truly be free and equal not only in the public/working sphere but also in the private/domestic. I believe that woman and men are continually compromising these forces of society in revolutionary ways and telling the media (who produce these limited prescriptive gender ideals) to "fuck off" producing a gradual transformation from the June Cleaver stereotype and replacing it with the independent, sexual, successful woman model of femininity.

Censorship is the Answer?

- for the Grateful Web

Apparently, Clear Channel Communications and whoever makes decisions there has been very, very touchy about the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.  The media giant has formulated a list of over 100 songs that will be banned from its stations; Clear Channel owns over half of the commercial radio stations in America.  It is true  that there are several songs that DJs should avoid playing for a while, just for the sake of good taste.  Such songs include Mudvayne's "Death Blooms," AC/DC's "Shot Down in Flames," and others that would reasonably be seen as offensive for a period of time. However, Clear Channel has chosen to exclude any songs that have anything to do with violence or fire or death, including all Rage Against the Machine songs.  Although Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield" may include a term having to do with war, I hardly think that most Americans would be traumatized upon hearing it. Other choices seem absurd, such as The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," Peter, Paul and Mary's "Blowin' in the Wind," John Lennon's "Imagine," and several others. One choice I thought particularly laughable was the Tramps' "Disco Inferno." While I agree that this is a time then many Americans are sensitive and upset about this terrible event, I feel that Clear Channel has gone too far. Yes, they control what their own stations play, but I still think it's ridiculous. It's their hypocrisy that made me angry, though.  Today I was watching television, and I saw a commercial for a rock radio station.  The commercial featured ninja-type fighting with messages about the station and its music dubbed over the original audio.  At the end, one of the ninjas said, "Listen, or you'll die."  Yes, that station was a Clear Channel station (106.1 WRDU, in the Raleigh, NC area).  I can hardly see how their commercial was less offensive than James Taylor's "Fire and Rain."  If Clear Channel is going to go all crazy with the censorship in order to protect us, they should at least be consistent and not threaten us in their commercials.

Insecticide (inspired by Kafka)

- for the Grateful Web

There is a place I remember as being the last place I remember. I'll ask you kindly not to judge me too strongly as I recall the details of the onset of my present condition. There were situations there....Living creatures wore the skin of dead ones. I saw things moving in unnatural ways.  Things happening, things deliberately good, things like red traffic lights always being green and hash browns always properly browned on their tops.  Other things extreme and far more to the sinister side of things I felt were near.

How could I justify this life of solitude and self-imposed exile that I was captain of? I couldn't, not in any regular sense. Nor in any irregular sense, try as I did. And so I submitted and let night after night bring with it its gallery of silence and revulsion. I proceeded to be a lone construct, an abstraction such that I required no reaction. No movement whatsoever...ever. I would live a life of eating live, small animals. At first, little bugs that fed on the dead skin by my bedside. Then onto the moths that nested in my old clothes. The walls of my apartment continually receded and shrunk. I admitted, out loud, to the things around me that I was not at all at ease with any of this. This behavior and perception was all new and very different but I accepted it as part of my metamorphosis. The things I wore soon began to wear me and this frightened me to shaking. I rustled my roach-body comfortable. The world looks bizarre, tall and skewed. I remember what it was to be up there in the place of living, but only in the vaguest of ways. It's an itch on my leg. One of them, I can't tell which.

My landlord has given up on any hope of payment from me but I don't think I care about such things any longer. The head on my new body is occupied with thoughts of a very different nature now indeed. My inability to preen my antennae is really wearing me thin. I ate a piece of doormat today. I realize I can't die.