Many of the haiku and other poems in Short Verses & Other Curses were written as a therapeutic balm in response to my cancer. I don’t know why or how I survived all that nonsense but I suspect writing the poems helped at least a little.
Recent events make it seem to me that my country is suffering such a life-threatening and cancerous disease so I was naturally drawn to some of the poems I wrote for the collection. To some degree they helped again, if only as a temporary distraction from present reality.
I doubt if these poems have any healing power potent enough for all the ills sickening my nation; however, it is out of love and desperation that I shall share them with you now.
For the next day or so, please feel free to download the collection. If any of the poems move you in any way, I ask that you share your thoughts here in the comment section. If you have any other poetry that you believe will help relieve a troubled soul, I ask that you also share those with us as well.
You may download the collection by clicking on its book cover.
Only the me within me
That of me without me
Investigate me like an animal
like a dog
with two-tone vision
black or white
You see him
you see me
what you see
only the me within me
BOOK | FICTION | THRILLER
HANDS OF EVIL
by Melissa Barker-Simpson
RATING: ★ ★ ★
It seems that in this supposed enlightened day and age in which we live that there wouldn’t be, at least there certainly shouldn’t be, so much preventable human tragedy happening as frequently as it does. On any given day at any given time you can turn on or click to any given news outlet and find tragedy in the form of human disregard toward other humans, a disregard which so frequently takes the form of hate and abuse and murder. It’s just so sad. In the States we are going through a horrible and tragic convulsion of unarmed black boys and men being gunned downed by our well-armed and very powerful and legally well-protected protectors of the state. Right alongside that, we’ve been having a steady stream of high-profile reporting of an equally egregious and tragic crime; a crime most often committed inexplicably by a husband or a boyfriend or a date; a crime seemingly endemic to society and without a cure in sight; a crime of abuse and sexual assault toward women.
And it this challenging and heartbreaking topic of abuse and sexual assault toward women that author Melissa Barker-Simpson takes on with her novel, Hands of Evil.
Overall, this story was a mostly enjoyable read, especially in the context of how it brings to light strong women who have gained and earned their strength through their own tragic travails and survival of abuse. Grace, whom I regard as the story’s protagonist (though it seems Barker-Simpson touts JJ, a stoic and manly former military special forces operator and now civilian close protection officer as the lead, as indicated by both her submission for this exercise, as well as her synopsis on the book’s back cover), sets a fine example of a strong female character, which is definitely needed in times such as now.
However, as far as being a thriller, it simply isn’t. I list it as a thriller only because that is how it was pitched to me and that is how it appears to be as written in the book’s back cover synopsis. However, other than at the beginning and the ending, and a brief moment or two spattered throughout, there isn’t much mystery or suspense, let alone thrills. The killer, for whose crimes the story is named, is not developed and his role in the story comes to a predictable conclusion long before the book ends. To me, the killer seems more to be an afterthought. The real bad guy of the story, and a character the author did a good job of developing, is Grace’s former husband. It is he who adds what little suspense and mystery there is to the story.
What this story really is is a romance novel. And, while I’m no romance novel expert, Barker-Simpson does a very good job at illustrating all the contortions and misgivings and joy and sadness that human relationships of love and hate and envy and sex entail. JJ, who has his own scars as a result of abuse, abuse inflicted not to him but to someone he loves, and Grace, who is in the middle of her own recovery from abuse, are drawn together by the actions of the killer (apparently his primary and what seems to be sole purpose in the story) and must find a way to overcome all the challenges before them for their relationship to have a chance. Now, as someone who came into the story expecting a thriller, one romance (which included not one but two sex scenes for those of you who like reading those) would have been more than enough; however, we also are given the lesser developed relationship pangs and pains of two secondary characters.
As it is, I suppose a major take-away from this review is: if you’re looking for a thriller this isn’t it; if you’re looking for a romance novel, it just may be it. And even though the story is not what I expected or hoped it to be, it succeeds most in what it needs to be, and that is as an example of a contemporary female author writing about and paying tribute to strong, contemporary women by showing them surviving and thriving in an environment often hostile and dangerous toward their very existence. An environment that is very real and very present to far too many women throughout this often petulant and perplexing planet of ours. And that example set by Melissa Barker-Simpson and her character Grace, without a doubt, is what needs to be taken away mostly from this review.
Yes, as a nation, we love our freedom.
I love my freedom.
Freedom is so completely fundamental to the essence of who we are, of who I am, that I cannot even begin to imagine living in a country where I couldn’t speak my mind, or where I couldn’t dress the way I wanted to dress, or where I couldn’t love whomever I wanted to love regardless of his or her race, religion, sex, gender, height, blood type, shoe size, whatever, or where I couldn’t worship the God(s) I wanted to worship.
I simply cannot imagine living a life without the freedom to live exactly as who I want to be, not as just who I am born to be.
If tolerating the non-violent, First Amendment-sanctioned views and expressions of the Westboro Baptist Church, or the KKK, or the Nation of Islam, or any other hate group is the price we have to pay for our uncompromised freedom, then it must be paid.
It’s worth every penny.
There are higher prices to pay.
People around the world are paying them on a daily basis.
Shahbaz Bhatti just paid the highest price anyone could pay.
Shahbaz Bhatti was the only Christian minister of parliament in Pakistan.
He recently was assasinated by muslim extremists because of his faith.
Muslim extremists hate freedom even more than Westboro Baptist Church extremists do.
As far as I know, no Westboro Baptist Church extremist has murdered over his or her extremist views.
They have stayed with the boundaries that our Rule of Law has set.
As messy and distasteful as the Rule of Law sometimes is, Americans should be ever so thankful to live in a country that abides by it.
Many countries don’t.
Pakistan is trying to but it’s a difficult and dangerous struggle for them.
MP Bhatti lost his life over this struggle.
He was a very courageous man.
He knew that his life was in constant danger because of his beliefs.
He testifies as such in this video.
It is a very powerful testimony of faith and courage.
Shahbaz Bhatti did not shy away from the struggle for freedom.
He embraced it.
He embraced it because he understood how rare and valuable freedom is.
He was even willing to pay the ultimate price for it.
And sadly, he ultimately did.