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Writer’s Corner

Members of the UNSRC Society of Writers are invited to submit original work in all literary genres – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essay, memoir and drama – as well as reportage.  Up to three poems, not exceeding a total of five pages in length, may be submitted. Essays, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and news reports should not exceed 800 words. Items should be submitted in a standard font as an attachment to an e-mail. The author’s name and e-mail address should appear in the header of the attachment. Written work may be subject to editorial suggestion. Please submit your work, along with a brief bio and photo, to: unsrcwriters@gmail.com 

Periodically, Writers Corner will also include special guest editions. A call for submissions will be posted, inviting members of the UN Community, affiliated organizations, honorary members and special guests to share their work.

 

 Drawing Colored Words for My Father

By Patricia Lynne Duffy

(excerpt from book, Blue Cats and chartreuse Kittens: how synesthetes color their worlds)

‘Colors hide within everything, including the night.’
-Katherine Vaz, Saudade

As far back as I can remember, letters of the alphabet, numbers and words have been in color.  But I also remember that in my pre-literate days, before I knew how to read or write, each word evoked, in my mind’s eye, its own unique and unchanging colorful design.  Sometimes I drew pictures of the word-designs I ‘saw’ and showed them, as I did all my pictures, to my father.

At that time, my father was home a lot.  First, he took off from work to look after his own father who had fallen into a depression born of old age and illness.  Later, when his father died, my father fell into a depression, himself.  My mother told me that I cheered my father up.  I think our experiments with color helped.

I remember my father sitting in the big, sagging green living room chair, his elbow on its arm, his chin in his hand. I would tug at that hand with my four-year old insistence, bent on asking him questions about my crayons. I needed a color that was not in my crayon box. What could I do? When I was little, I drew a lot of pictures and crayons played a big role in my life. At my insistence, my father let himself be pulled up out of his drab green overstuffed chair and over to my bright, shiny little red table where, every day, I drew all kinds of pictures. The little child’s table was always overflowing with drawing paper and crayons of all different colors, sizes and shapes. ‘But I don’t have pink,’ I told my father, ‘ and I need pink.’ The color pink was important that day. I was drawing a picture of a word – I don’t remember now which word it was – but I remember it had a lot pink in its word-design.
I liked drawing the different word-designs that appeared in my mind’s eye when I heard words spoken. I never thought to tell anyone that these drawings were pictures of words. They were just my ‘designs’. The designs were very consistent, each incorporating a whole array of shapes and colors, like patterns in a kaleidoscope. The word I was drawing that day had a lot of pink in its pattern.
‘If you don’t have pink,’ my father said, ‘maybe you can use your red crayon,’ my father said. ‘And just color very lightly with it so it’s almost like pink.’
“No,’ I said. “I need pink.’
My father looked fatigued. At that time, he didn’t always sleep well at night and often looked tired all day. For a moment, I thought he was going to leave me to go back to his chair in the living room. But I needed help with colors, so I knew he would stay.
‘I need pink, Daddy,’ I said again.
‘Well,’ my father said, ‘Maybe we can make pink with your red crayon and your white crayon.’
‘Make pink?’ I asked.
‘’Yes,’ my father said. “Putting two colors together makes a whole new color.’
‘A whole new color?’ I repeated in wonder. ‘We can make pink?” It sounded magical. My child’s awe held my father there by my little red table and kept him from returning to his gray-green chair. He even proposed we go into the kitchen to do a color experiment, making new crayons with new colors by melting down and recombining the colored crayons in my crayon box.
In the kitchen, sunlight streamed in through the window that looked out on the backyard cherry tree where birds perched and pecked on tiny red cherries. I watched with great excitement as my father grated crayons on my mother’s vegetable grater. Vivid red and white crayon flakes fell from the grater into the pot on the stove as sparrows chirped and shadows from the backyard cherry tree fluttered around us on the walls of the kitchen. My father turned on the stove jet flame, and I watched in wonder as crayon flakes became crayon liquid, which he poured into an empty metal ballpoint pen holder and put into the oven. When it had ‘incubated’ in the oven long enough, he removed it, opened up the pen holder, and, like a chick hatching, a new pink crayon was born – a bit awkward in its shape, but a usable pink crayon, nonetheless.
I was thrilled. I danced in the kitchen sunlight with my new pink crayon.
‘Can we make more colors?’ I asked, wanting my father to stay with me in the sunlit kitchen.
We repeated the experiment, combining different crayon colors to make new colors. Sometimes, while waiting for this or that crayon to bake, I noticed my father looking sad, staring into the depths of something I couldn’t see. But then I tugged at his hand and insisted it was time to ‘see more rainbow colors’ and make more crayons. My father got up and melted a Crayola yellow and an evergreen together to bake a chartruese, then melted a yellow and a red to bake a sunshine orange.
An idea came to me: if we could make such wonderful new colors by melting just two crayons together, imagine the magnificent color we could make if we combined all the different colored crayons. I asked my father if we could make a crayon composed of all the colors in my crayon box.
He hesitated for a moment, and said, ‘Well, we’ll do an experiment. We’ll see what happens,’ . Then he grated and melted together all the rest of my crayons, making multi-colored crayon confetti, which then became swirls of colored liquid in the pot. After pouring this liquid into a pen holder we waited, because, my father said, ‘This one will take longer to bake.’ He went into the living room and sat in his chair.‘Daddy, Daddy, come and see the rainbow colors, come and see the rainbow colors!’ I kept chanting as I ran back and forth between the living room and the kitchen.
After some time, my father let me tug him back to the kitchen stove. He took the penholder out of the oven and opened it; to my amazed disappointment, what hatched was not the one, magnificent ‘rainbow color’ I had expected, but simply a plain black crayon.
‘Daddy why?’ I asked him. ‘Why just black?’
‘ When you put all the different colors together,’ my father said, gently, seeing my disappointment, ‘you get black..’
My child’s mind connected the promising swirls of color turning black to my father’s sadness.
For the rest of the day, I sat at my little red table, furiously coloring with my black crayon, filling drawing paper with black backgrounds on which I drew my brightly colored word designs. Actually, this was how the word-designs appeared in my mind’s eye: luminous, colorful patterns, appearing out of blackness, evoked by the sounds of words.
It took me a very long time to draw the letter ’R’. I tried again and again, but just couldn’t get the hang of it. My father, seeing my frustration, patiently demonstrated and re-demonstrated the way to draw it, but I just couldn’t seem to imitate it. Then one day, staring for a long time at ’R’, I noticed how similar in form it was to ‘P’. The only difference between the two letters was that a slanted line came down from P’s ‘head’. This meant that if I could make a ‘P’, I could make an ‘R’! Excited, I held my breath as I picked up my pencil and made a ‘P’, then drew a slanted line down from its loop. And my theory worked – I had drawn an ‘R’! And unlike the light yellow of ‘P’, its color was orange. I marveled that a yellow letter could become an orange letter just by drawing a line!
‘Daddy, Daddy, come and look, I made ‘R’!’ My father hurried over to my little red table. There amidst the piles of ‘word-design’ drawings and pages of penciled alphabet letters was my ‘R’: a little wobbly-looking, perhaps, with lines that were more crooked than straight, but indisputably, an ‘R’. My father broke into a big smile, and happy for me, happy that his instruction had taken effect, he lifted me onto his shoulders to celebrate the success with a piggy-back ride.
And as we pranced around the little red table, my eyes fell on our home-made black crayon, no longer the disappointing eraser of all colors, but simply their hiding place.

Patricia Lynne Duffy is the author of Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: how synesthetes color their worlds (Henry Holt & Company, 2001) and of a chapter, “Synesthesia and Literature” in the Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia (Oxford University Press, 2013). Duffy has written essays and stories, including her award-winning “Dining in French” and has contributed to the anthology, They Only Laughed: Tales of Women on the Move (Europublic Press). For a number of years, Duffy has taught in the United Nations Language and Communications Programme for staff and diplomats at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and also at UN offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and in Haiti. Duffy is also the originator and organizer of the “Authors-for-Literacy” reading series to benefit literacy projects of the UN Staff One Percent for Development Fund.For her original research into the field of synesthesia and efforts to promote literacy, Duffy received the 2009 “Distinguished Alumni Award” from her alma mater, Columbia University, Teachers College.

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ASPECTS OF THE COLOR GREEN

By Naomi Farrell

Green, in paint –the marriage of blue and yellow,
Green in nature–life, fertility, beauty, calm and spiritual feelings,
Green explained by science–With the combination of
chlorophyll, light from the sun, water from the roots of the plant
and carbon dioxide, the green leaves give out oxygen and
support all life on earth, the magic of photosynthesis.
BUT–green sorrel leaves are sour
green grapes are sour
green apples are sour
green eyes–are jealous–the green-eyed monster–so much
pain and turmoil–anger–violence–even murder
BUT WHY? green eyes are beautiful!

 

Naomi Farrell is a long-time United Nations Correspondent, reporting for
The Globe & Mail of Canada, Jerusalem Post, UN Observer & International
Report among others. Author of many poems and essays.
Vice-President of UNSRC Society of Writers.

 

“terribly Well”

Excerpt from the memoir by Davidson L. Hepburn.

My favourite early morning rounds consisted of raiding the sapodilla and sugar apple trees for ripe fruits. Oftentimes we would have fruits for breakfast together with Johnny cake, Braziletto, muckle bush and fever grass tea with condensed milk. We also ate grits with avocado, butter made from peanuts and benne (sesame). We would drink from white enamel cups from which glaze could be easily chipped. After much use, the glaze would disappear and we were left with dented tin plates and cups.

One of the tasks that I disliked was cutting sisal (hemp) soaking them in the pond and later stripping them to prepare bales to be sent to Nassau for sale. The sap from the sisal would cause an itch and I would be covered with salty brine from the pond.  In the evenings I would be plagued by the ubiquitous mosquitoes biting me and buzzing in my ear.  Birds known as piddymidick, based on the sounds they made would swoop around swallowing varmints and then releasing them with a loud swishing sound.  Nevertheless, I preferred mosquitoes to the sand flies, whose presence could only be felt by the sting but not seen.  To get rid of them, we would have to make a fire from green branches which would cause a dense smoke that drove the pests away.

Another chore for me was that of toting water very early in the morning to fill up big tubs for boiling hot water to scrape off the hair from slaughtered pigs. The meat would be shared with family and portions cured with salt for making delicious stews with lima beans and okra. Sometimes the meat and conch hanging out in the sun would attract flies that produced maggots. No one seemed to be bothered by that, as the meat was cooked over intense heat to kill any bacteria that may be lurking. In fact nothing was wasted. The intestines and other parts of the slaughtered animal were meticulously cleaned in the salt water for making souse. One of the interesting things to me is that we seldom got ill from eating so many different kinds of meals, but if we did, parents had every sort of remedy from the many natural herbs. In fact, children got daily morning doses of worm medicine, castor oil and bitters and numerous other kinds of elixirs ⎯ all bad-tasting, but effective cures.

My mother was an excellent cook and always prepared delicious meals of peas and grits with tasty stews of mutton or chicken. She never ate pork and to this day, it is not a favourite meat of mine. I used to watch in amazement how deftly my mother used to fan the grits. After grinding the corn, the grits would be put in a fanner made of the ribs of the straw. She would toss the contents into the air a couple of times and, in the end, the husks would appear on the top, the grits in the middle and the corn flour at the bottom. It was certainly an art and young children never ventured to perform that task.

I would always remember another after school chore. We would go to the creeks in the marshes and collect gold shells (the home of a type of mollusk). They were very popular in Nassau for making earrings, bracelets and other native jewellery items. We had to wait for low tide when the shells were “walking”. We would gather them in marmalade jars or soda water bottles. We had to move against the current because the water would get muddy and we would have to wait for it to settle in order to see the shells. We would also bait them with pieces of conch, soldier crab and any other stuff. Sometimes we would be very successful and fill up our jars. We always knew the favourite creeks to go to. At home we would put the shells into fresh water and the mollusk would die emitting the most horrible smell imaginable. We would shake them until they were clean and then put them into the sun to dry. The next step would be to get them to the market in Nassau. Gold shells were quite popular and brought a good price. We also used to collect the cones form the casuarina trees. They were plentiful but not as lucrative as the gold shells. This is one of the ways that youngsters earned money to buy school material and other things.

I remember, very well, two other interesting adventures. All of my grandparents’ children were responsible for preparing evening meals for them. Once, when it was my mother’s turn, she asked me to deliver the meal. Our home was not far away but in order to get there, I would have to pass Ma Sue’s big fig tree, which was in a deep hole, as well as the church’s graveyard. I knew that I could not go by myself, so I asked my older brother to go with me. He was just as scared as I was, so we sat on the wall and ate the food instead. When we went into the house, we answered all of the questions concerning her parents’ condition. She learned the next day that the food never arrived. My mother did not ask any questions, she simply grabbed me by the ear and gave me a sound beating with the famous tamarind switch. I cannot ever remember doing that again. I was more afraid of the beating than the “sperrits.”

The bane of my existence was my turn to “break in” a young colt. My brothers before me had to do it as well. When my turn came i panicked. The task was to ride the horse into the sea with only a halter over his nose. There was no bit in his mouth or rein for control. To make matters worse, I had to ride a barebacked animal into the water and walk him around until he got a bit tired. My father, afterwards, would slap the horse on the rear end and he would begin to gallop at full speed along the shore. I was bouncing up and down. I believe that my hollering caused him to slow down and enabled me to jump from his back, very sore to say the least. I never had a great love for horses. He reared up and kicked me in the chest. I guess that my chest would have been smashed were it not for the fact that I was too far away to get the full force of the kick.

Another was to accompany my father on a raft to search for conchs, which normally were plentiful along the beach. My dad would carry a crude water glass. Once we found the bed I had to jump in and dive to get the conch. I did not know how to dive or swim. I was an utter failure on those outings. My father was not very understanding and I believe that these were the factors that caused my oldest brother and sister to leave home at an early age.

School was my haven. At the age of eleven years I was made a monitor and supervised classes in spelling, math (rudimentary) and reading. I was nver good at math. On the other hand, I received many prizes for English, history and reading from the British inspectors who came to the island to test students. I remember winning a dancing toy for spelling the word “Popocatepetl” I spelled it according to the sound. I added an “a” between the “t” and the “l” but received the prize anyway. I later learned that it is the name of a volcano in Mexico.

 

Dr. Davidson L. Hepburn of the Bahamas is a distinguished member of the international community, well known at New York UN Headquarters as Ambassador to the Bahamas for 10 years as well as in Paris at the headquarters of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one of the lead agencies mandated to promote a Culture of Peace. His many diplomatic roles included over a decade of service as the Permanent Representative of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas to the United Nations and most recently two years as President of the UNESCO General Conference from 2009-2011.

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Queen of the Night

For Ana Selman

By Elizabeth Lara

Not like
other flowers
I rise
from my bed
as the sky
fades to black

My roots
grip the mud
below the pond’s
dark surface
I vibrate
like a
tuning fork
Petal
by petal
I unfold

until my crown
stands high
around
my sun-gold
center and I
bless the night –
Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
Praise the Lord!

Aurora

I woke up this morning
in the cool cradle
of tropical mists

and said to myself,
today I will write
a poem, and rain

burst from the clouds,
the streets gave birth
to lakes and streams,

hibiscus lifted
newborn eyes to drink
the falling drops.

With their broad green
hands, the palm trees
embraced the day.

Gemology

I dreamed my life a diamond, full faceted and far
from its mother mine. Around it I closed my fist,
warm palm against cold stone, lodestar
dreaming the life a diamond sees, full faceted and far.
How lucky to be a sister to the sun, no simple feldspar
under the cutter’s tool, but fiery face of xenocryst.
I dreamed my life was a diamond. Full faceted. Far
from the mother mantle around it. Warming in my fist.

Pensée

If war
Blows through your life
Take in your hand the weapons
Abandoned in the killing fields
Hammer them into bells

 

Elizabeth Lara holds a Masters Degree in teaching English as a Second Language from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has worked in the United States and overseas as a language teacher and as an editor for the United Nations. Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals (print and online), including The Mom Egg Review; Edna; Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words; Truck; The Vine Leaves Literary Journal; Ex Tempore; and The Wide Shore: A Journal of Global Women’s Poetry. In 2011 she was awarded a residency at the Millay Colony in Austerlitz, NY. She has read her work at festivals and conferences in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, and at numerous venues in New York, Washington, D.C., and Greenfield, Massachusetts.

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Gli inganni della notte

By Marco Pizzorno

Nell’illusione della notte,
i rumori del silenzio urlano alla luna il trionfo della battaglia nell’ ascesa del buio
ad invadere i colori.
Ma tra le mani del primo mattino, la Pace , con i primi raggi, respinge i demoni e
sbiadisce gli inganni della notte.
Prendendo per la mano un nuovo giorno ed insegnargli la libertà tra le dita strette
della speranza

Deceptions of the night

During the illusion of the night,
The sounds of silence howl to the moon the triumph of the battle when at
sunrise darkness falls and invades colour.
But in the hands of early morning, Peace, with the first rays, repels demons and
washes out the deceptions of the night.
Taking a new day by the hand and teaching it freedom through the narrow
intertwined fingers of hope.

 

Le Parole sono come fiori

Le parole sono come fiori in un campo ,
alcuni sono colti, altri lasciati al silenzio degli occhi per essere ascoltati solo dal cuore.

Words are like flowers

Words are like flowers in a field,
some are gathered, others left to the silence of the eye to be heard only by the heart.

 

 … Per tutto il fiato della vita

Ad ogni uomo che chiude gli occhi come se fossero mani in preghiera cercando sollievo dalle pene della vita ,
Pace a Te.
Per ogni passo perso nei sentieri della solitudine,
Per le incertezze vive nel grembo gravido di ogni giorno,
Per la terra fertile di umiliazioni
Per gli inganni nascosti sui sorrisi degli amici e dei tuoi nemici.
Pace a Te.
Per le tasche orfane di ricchezze,
Per le parole senza fiato tenute strette nelle mani,
Per i dolori letti dagli occhi e nascosti dal cuore ,
Pace a Te Uomo,
Per le sofferenze che respirerai per tutto il fiato della vita.

…For all the breath of life.

To every man who closes his eyes as if they were hands in prayer seeking relief from the pains of life,
Peace to You.
For each step lost in the paths of solitude,
For the uncertainties living in the womb of everyday
For the land fertile with humiliation
For the deceptions hidden in the smiles of friends and enemies.
Peace to You.
For pockets destitute of wealth
For breathless words tightly grasped in the hands,
For sorrows read in the eyes and hidden from the heart,
Peace to You Man,
for the sufferings that You will breathe for all the breath of your life.

 

Nei sospiri della Libertà

…Non chiesi mai all’orizzonte di avvicinarsi ai miei occhi,
ma di nascondermi i desideri, perchè prima o poi li sarei andati a prendere.

In the sighs of Freedom

I never asked the horizon to come close to my  eyes,
but to hide desires from me, because sooner or later I would have gone to find them.

 

Marco Pizzorno’s lives near Naples, Italy. He is an an International Humanitarian Law Instructor for civilians and the armed forces. He is 1st Assistant to the Counsel of the International Criminal Court, a member of the BAR International Criminal Court ICCBA and has served for 15 years as a Commissioned Officer with the Military Red Cross. He is also journalist and has worked extensively through out his life as a Human Rights Activist.

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Willow

By Hashi Roberts

How can we think of grace
without considering the willow?
With oriental beauty it speaks to us,
arching its limbs to softly touch the earth
in brush strokes, patterning the light
with sun and shade.

Have you made it your home,
even for a day, an hour, a minute?
A first herald of spring to watch for,
with its pale yellow shoots.
Under its branches the silvery green leaves
fill in to fall softly as quiet, airy rooms.

Can you not imbue your buildings
with such grace,
with space for air and subtlety,
writ with an artistic brush
to settle your soul
in the arms of beauty?

 

Cambodia

On arriving in this ancient kingdom
with its sacred and blood-stained past,
a rainbow brightens along the river –
God has left His calling card,
promise of things to come.

That first day, while shopping,
with a friend who befriended every vendor,
a statue of the Buddha called me back
to the Russian Market, when halfway home.
My friend carried it in her arms, sacredly, blissfully.
In his beatific way he blessed us:
A shop on the street has turned into a shrine.
Honoring the anniversary of his uncle’s death,
the proprietor invites us to join the gathering.
We had merely asked to see the murals
of the Buddha painted on the shop’s back wall.
Inside we find nearly 30 elderly Buddhist nuns
praying, meditating, chatting. On seeing us bow,
joy multiplies – glimpses of ecstatic faces,
with and without teeth, childlike hearts, gentle eyes,
unstained looks from lives lived simply.
With each we speak the language of smiles
and find ourselves ringed round by love.
Back at the hotel, I enter the room to find
that in the mirrored alcove stands

the Buddha my husband has just bought –
his marble hand outstretched
in the mudra of peace.

 

Harbinger

See this new age come striding
towards our world
as a young, tender-hearted woman,
in swirling golden robes,
bearing in her hands
a vibrant gift –
not a dove to course a flooded world
in search of dry land,
but this time a rose.
See her peering over the rim of dawn
with a young mother’s love,
stooping to shelter in her sorrowing arms
her threatened children –
the shy red deer, the grizzled monkey faces,
the rainforest peoples,
those homeless and endangered around the globe,
in war and fiery conflict,
the young ones hiding under the bed,
the old with wrinkled eyes of loss,
the sickened families who’ve given up all hope.
To these and all the suffering ones
she brings the dream of a fresh beginning.
O world,
she is striding towards you
with the vibrant gift
of a rose of peace.
Will you accept her gift?
Will you be so brave and good?
Will you?

 

Butterfly

Have you asked the butterfly
why she dances
on the wings of the wind?
What is the cadence of her dance?
Who plays the music that moves her?
After her long, dark night of the soul,
When she awoke to wings, was she grateful?
Would you be?
If you spent your time on earth
inching along the tender spears of grass,
nibbling the green skins of leaves,
would you not be astounded by the sky?
By your place in the wind?
By feasting with the flowers
on their nectar?
When she travels
with all her kin to Mexico,
on wings as light as light,
with the map singing in her veins,
does she not show courage?
Or does she simply put one wing-beat
in front of the other?
Can you not also find that courage,
let your spirit leap into the sky
and follow after,
committing to the Love that moves
the wind, the clouds, the sky?
That plays the music for your dance?

Hashi Roberts retired from UNICEF after 33 years of service, particularly in the areas of
publications and administration. She continues working on literary projects and enjoys
helping her husband as a floral designer in their shop, The Garland of Divinity’s Love, in
Queens.

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EXTENDED

a haibun

By Mary Ellen Rooney

I am with a young woman falconer on a spring afternoon in West Virginia.  Her name is Kyra.  She is about twenty-five years old, beautiful, slender, and athletic.  She carries her Harris Hawk on the fist.  Large wet snowflakes swirl about the farmland just beyond the woods.  She releases the bird, and it follows us as we walk into the open field.

She stuffs some baby chick meat into the fist of my own glove.  “Stand sideways with your arm out and he will come down,” she says.  “Be sure your arm is well extended.  First rule; never put your arm in front of your face.”  I do as she says.  I stand sideways in the light falling snow.  Soon a graceful winged being is headed my way.  Its wingspan seems huge.  Its talons land on my glove and the wings that moments before had seemed gigantic, fold with utter grace and silence.  The bird is light and begins to eat the food.  It is my first landing, and I know wherever it takes me, I will follow this creature that is wild and free.  I am bonded to the animal that will always remain true to its own way.  I have falcon blood in me.

snowmelt
releasing the sound
of water

Mary Ellen is a journalist and writer of many forms, including haiku.  She is also a licensed falconer. Many recent publications have in included memoir on the ancient art of falconry.  She worked on the UNESCO project that declared falconry to be an intangible cultural heritage  Publications include: New York Times, Print Magazine, Newsday Sunday Magazine, East Hampton Star, and the North American Falconers Journal as well as California Hawking. Her essays have appeared in Woman’s Voices for Change and Capra Press.  She has worked as a consultant for the UN in Central Asia and the Soros Foundation.

 

UN Colleagues and Friends Tribute: Vijaya Catherine Claxton (9 Dec 1947 to 23 Dec 2009)

An excerpt from Vijaya: An Indomitable Spirit by Nilima Silver, Programme Coordinator of Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations; and UN staff member

Vijaya was born Catherine Grace Claxton on 9 December 1947 in Atlanta, Georgia, into the military family of Edward Wesley and Grace Catherine Claxton, joining her older brother, Keith. She spent much of her childhood in tropical climes such as the Philippines and the Caribbean, and eventually attended high school in Grand Forks, North Dakota, when her father was stationed there.

In 1973, after attending a concert by the spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy and being inspired by the deeply contemplative atmosphere, she became a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre.

In 1983, Sri Chinmoy gave Catherine the spiritual name Vijaya, which means “victory,” and against any and all odds, Vijaya’s life was splendidly victorious in so many remarkable ways. Indeed, Vijaya was untiringly courageous in conquering all obstacles, be it in acting as public defender for United Nations staff, or swimming across the English Channel, or serving as the main envoy of the Peace Meditation at the United Nations.

Vijaya joined the UN in 1974, serving as Legal Liaison on Visa Matters between the United Nations Personnel Office and the United States Mission to the United Nations, and also recruiting Tour Guides for the United Nations Tour Guide Unit. From 1981 to 1990 she was married to Henry Withers, who also worked at the UN. In 1989 she began serving as Coordinator of the UN Panel of Counsel, a position which she held until her retirement on 30 June 2009.

For over two decades, in her role as Coordinator, Panel of Counsel, Vijaya served as public defender for UN staff in the UN’s internal justice system. She oversaw thousands of cases, guiding and supporting staff with her wide-ranging legal knowledge, energy, concern and compassion. It was her sincere dream to see the reform of the UN’s internal justice system, and with her unique experience and insight, she was one of the most enthusiastic in spearheading the effort. Indeed, Vijaya’s contract was extended three times beyond her official UN retirement age to enable her to continue as part of the team working to reform the justice system. It was only when the new system took effect on 1 July 2009 that Vijaya retired after over 35 years at the UN — again, with the satisfaction of a job well done that few would have had the vision and energy to complete.

Towards the end of her UN career, Vijaya invested much time and energy in obtaining certification as a mediator from Cornell University, with additional courses at Columbia University, for a second career. She had already started mediating in the New York Civil Courts in lower Manhattan, was serving on several Boards of Directors of mediation organizations, and had received an offer to work in the UN’s newly created Mediation Division as an on-call mediator/ombudsman after her retirement. Over the years, because of her commitment to truth and her unprecedented concern for each of her clients, Vijaya earned the respect and trust of countless UN staff.

In addition, for over 20 years, Vijaya was President of the United Nations SRC Film Society. She organized many film showings with question-and-answer panel discussions, often in conjunction with the UN Department of Public Information. At one point she orchestrated the technical renovation of the UN Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, raising thousands of dollars from film studios and other sources. She was also Vice-President and then President of the United Nations SRC Society of Writers, and helped edit the Reflections magazine. She served on the nominating committee of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council. In every endeavour, her energy and capacity were extraordinary.

Amidst all this UN activity Vijaya threw her heart and soul into training for and preparing to swim across the English Channel, all the time maintaining her demanding work schedule.

After seven years, she finally succeeded on her fourth try, on 8 September 2007, a few months before her 60th birthday. Afterwards, Vijaya would wryly note that because it took her so many attempts, she attained the distinction of being the oldest American woman ever to have accomplished this feat. Her heroism won her the Gertrude Ederle Award from the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, named after the first woman to swim the Channel, for the most meritorious swim of the year by a woman, as well as the Cape Storm Award 2007 for the longest solo swim of 2007.

Vijaya was an artist as well, for years studying Chinese painting and also receiving lessons from art teachers at the UN. She painted quite a few portraits of UN colleagues over the years. Her portrait of President Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa Maximovna, was on display at the memorial for Raisa Maximovna held at the UN in 1999 and again when President Gorbachev came to visit Sri Chinmoy in Queens in October 2006. At one point, the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation commissioned Vijaya to design its logo.

Just as she approached life with phenomenal strength and fortitude, even so Vijaya courageously battled illness for several months, always looking forward with dynamism and hope. Vijaya was extremely grateful for the tremendous outpouring of concern and support from UN colleagues, family and friends during her hospital stays. There was a steady stream of doctors, nurses, case managers, technicians, transport workers and others, coming to thank her and wish her well, calling her their princess, and saying how inspired they were by her resolute determination. Many said that very few had ever thanked them for their service.

No matter what the circumstances, Vijaya’s appreciation and concern for others always came forward. We can be sure that Vijaya is now taking a well-deserved rest in a realm fit for a tireless truth-warrior who fought valiantly for both divinity and humanity on earth.

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GEORGE G. DICKERSON, Jr. (1933-2015)

George Dickerson was a poet and an actor.  His poetry was published in The New Yorker magazine, Mademoiselle, and elsewhere.  He reviewed poetry and fiction for Time magazine and The New York Times Book Review section.   The winner of numerous literary prizes, George gave poetry readings with the Beat Poets at the Gaslight Café and later at the New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, and Shakespeare and Company in  Paris.  George’s short stories appeared in the Best American Short Stories of 1963 and the Best American Short Stories of 1966 and in Penthouse.  His plays were performed in Hollywood and Off Broadway in New York.

As an actor he appeared in such films as Blue Velvet and in a continuing role on television’s Hill Street Blues.  He worked for the U.N. as Head of Press and Publications for UNRWA.  During the 1975-1976 Lebanese civil war, he was briefly kidnapped and held hostage, the gunmen killing the two men captured with him. In addition to the UNSRC Society of Writers, George was a member of the Dramatist’s Guild of America, the Authors Guild, the Academy of American Poets and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

Down Tunbury Road

Down Tunbury Road
I met an old man
With hair in his ears
Whose task it was
To sharpen the brambles.
His fingers were scarred,
But he seemed content,
For raspberries grew
From the blood of his hands.

Down Tunbury Road
I encountered a man
With a rime-crusted beard
Whose job it was
To swing the great tongue
Of the bell of the sea.
And he seemed content
To rub salt from his hands
To flavor his meat.

Down Tunbury Road
You may find a man
Who stays up all night
To weave words for a cloth
To dust off the stars.
It doesn’t pay much,
But they say he’s content
To have poems in his hands
To polish the moon.

If you happen to wander
Down Tunbury Road,
We’ll sit here together
And share a few suds
In Tunbury Pub;
For once you start out
Down Tunbury Road,
You can never go back
To Shrewsbury Town.

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Hans Janitschek

(1934-2008)

By Anji Janitschek

Everyone who had the good fortune to know Hans would surely agree that he was an extraordinary man who has left his unique mark on everything he did during his colourful and multi-faceted life.  His boundless energy, great joy of life and unwavering enthusiasm were ever present in everything he was involved in ⎯and he was an inspiration to a great many people whom he encountered along the way.
It would be impossible to sum up everything that Hans did throughout his life, but here are some of the highlights: Hans Janitschek was born on November 6, 1934, in Vienna, Austria.
In 1959 he married Friedl, and their daughter Anji was born in 1961 in Vienna and their son Stefan in 1964 in New York.
He first came to the United States in 1953 as a Fulbright scholar at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. On his return to Austria he become Staff Correspondent of United Press and in 1957 he joined Reuters as Senior Editor.  He subsequently became Foreign Editor of Austria’s largest daily newspaper, Kurier in 1959, and in 1964 he joined the Austrian Foreign Service and returned to the U.S. to serve as Director of the Austrian Information Service in New York.

      Back in Austria in 1966, he was appointed Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Austrian Socialist Party, Bruno Kreisky.
In 1969, Hans was elected Secretary General of the Socialist International, based in London.  In this role he made his mark on the international political scene as a champion of the independence movement in Bangladesh and as an outspoken supporter of President Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government in Chile. He was actively involved in the return to democracy of Greece, Portugal and Spain. He strongly opposed Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule in India and played a significant role in the release from prison of opposition leader George Fernandes. He supported B.P. Koirala’s freedom fight in Nepal and was instrumental in his return from exile.
In 1977, at the invitation of the Secretary-General, Hans joined the United Nations as a consultant and served in the fields of Public Information, the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Palestine, Human Rights and Population for over ten years.
During his time at the United Nations, he become involved in the Bulgarian artist, Mihail’s, Cast the Sleeping Elephant project for which he gained the full support of the United Nations as well as the Governments of Kenya, Namibia and Nepal.

He was President of the United Nations Society of Writers for many years, where he created the Award of Excellence, which was presented to many outstanding international public figures.  He was also President of the Earth Society and served as Trustee of Friends World College, New York, where he created the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Peace Award, which he presented to President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Bruno Kreisky, Oscar Arias and Willy Brandt, among others.

On his retirement from the United Nations, Hans returned to journalistic roots as the U.S. correspondent for the Kronenzeitung, where in addition to reporting on current  political affairs, he wrote his weekly column ‘New York, New York’.  At the same time he also contributed frequent news reports for the Austrian Radio station Krone Hit.

Most recently he had worked with iCastNews.com as news anchor and host of a daily news program broadcast over the Internet from the United Nations.

Hans is the author of several political biographies including that of Mario Soares, President of Portugal, Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as a biography of the publisher of the Kronenzeitung, Hans Dichand.  He co-authored the autobiography of Kurt Waldheim, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and former President of Austria.
He also published more than a dozen books ranging from volumes of poetry to political treatises, and an autobiography of his good friend Guntram Weissenberger, the property developer.

His final publishing project was a book by Mikhail depicting the story of the Cast the Sleeping Elephant project.

Hans served as President of the Austrians Abroad Committee, where he played a fundamental role in gaining Austrians living abroad the right to vote.

On 1 June, 2005, Hans Janitschek was awarded the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria.

IN ARTHUR’S COURT by Hans Janitschek

Arthur Miller was famous for many reasons (and still is).  Of course, everybody knows of his marriage to Marilyn Monroe and its tragic ending. The older generation will recall him as one of the heroes of the McCarthy era, when he stood up in the Fifties against defamation and slander of many of his colleagues in the art world.

But for most people in the world he was the voice of America after World War II, drawing pictures in his plays of an ingenious, but deeply troubled nation and especially in “Death of a Salesman”.

Like Norman Mailer, who also accepted the Award of Excellence of our Society, he spoke and wrote a language that everyone could understand, even in translation.  His courage in spelling out the pitfalls of capitalism, his advocacy of human rights and peace made him a symbol for some of the principles the United Nations were created for.

When he addressed a joint conference of our Society and the American Pen Club on “Writers behind Bars” in 1990 he challenged the two most powerful men of the day, Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev, to acknowledge the right and duty of writers and poets to move freely between the political trenches in the global battle for domination of the world.  “We can do more for peace and justice in freedom than in prison, because if we are victims we become combattants ourselves”.

A few months before his death at a memorial service for his Austrian wife I asked him what future he saw for mankind. “More of the past”, he replied sadly.  “No hope, after all what you and others did?”  “Oh yes, “ he said with a tired smile, “it could be worse!”

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