When an Oyster Chokes on its Pearls by Pasithea Chan

photo by Dagmara Dombrovska (unsplash)

When an Oyster Chokes on its Pearls

Everywhere I look, misery walks ahead in long lines labeled by needs. Depending on the level of frustration or violence I know which line it is. If it is one dominated by pleading old men, it’s either one for bread or cooking gas. If it’s one full of sarcastic young people cracking jokes about how low we have fallen, then it’s for coffee. But if it’s one full of bullies brandishing guns on helpless old men or a mother with children to cut through, then it’s for petrol.

My city has awakened the kraken on its shores. Its white and golden sands are now salty with tears and muddied with blood money. Even the asphalt beneath our shoes and tires is taking its last breath under the relentless sun waiting to die out into dust in the endless dark nights. When I walk around, I look at my people’s faces but I see none. Yesterday they had empty eyes, empty of hope and happiness today they have no faces and no eyes. They all look the same. Today my people have fear for eyes, aimlessness for a nose, and haplessness for a mouth. Every day, the hyperinflation comes from underneath them and pulls them under to smother their children’s squeals. We have houses but not homes, hospital buildings but not treatment or medication, schools without teachers or students, and utility companies without services. If you ask any Lebanese, what do we still have, they’ll tell you our political dynasties and their sheep. They are the untouchable sanctities and the red lines no one may cross. But if you ask me, I will tell you we have an oyster that’s being smothered by its own pearl.

See, oysters, make pearls when they are stressed as a coping mechanism. My country, the pearl of the Mediterranean, the oyster of the cradle of civilizations, and the beacon of literacy and culture is choking on its own pearls. What pearls am I talking about? It’s called the pearl of “ridiyna bil ham wil ham ma ridi fina” which literally translates : we have accepted the burden of mishaps but the burden of mishaps has rejected us. In my dialect that means we have exhausted all coping mechanisms to outsmart shortage, corruption, abuse, depletion of resources, explosions, endless wars, looting of our resources, and being treated as insignificant beings beneath what normal citizens deserve. So now, we are drowning and choking on our silence and our anesthetic solutions. The time of reckoning has come for us to pay for hoodwinking on the corrupt and keeping them in power because we fear one another. If you ask me, we are a house not a home, a land not a country because we chose to live by the rule : “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. There is no love for country if there is no love for one another. There is no solidarity if there is no brotherhood because there is no trust. We say with our mouths what we negate with our hands and minds. Before we appoint someone we check what faith he follows, who his political backing is, and how well connected he is with regional countries. We don’t check if he has what it takes to sit, if he has something to bring to the table, and most importantly if he has the credibility and dedication it takes to die for his country if need be.

A few months back, a student from abroad who was doing research on the Lebanese social media’s relation mainly in the diaspora with the success of the Lebanese revolution. I surprised her when I said that there was no revolution, there was a movement, a temporal one, a slight awakening. Today my words are true because revolution requires a change from within to affect change into the outside. It’s like an infection that grows in a host wherein either the host develops immunity and grows stronger or dies spreading the infection to another who might be a healthy carrier. The problem today is my people have lots of words but very few actions. They have lots of reactions but no action plans. Like their politicians, they pass the blame ball like an opening free throw in a football match. We all know how bad things are and why they collapsed. At this stage, I couldn’t care less about who did what or who didn’t. We are sinking, burning crisp, starving and soon we will cease to be a country because all the young and able will leave this land for the old and helpless to be buried. I don’t know how long it will take my people to wake up although I pray that it will be before the place turns into a mass grave.

A sheep can’t herd a herd just as a wolf can only eat the sheep. You don’t have to be a sheep to find greener pastures nor a wolf to herd sheep. You need to be a shepherd to herd sheep, someone who knows when to use the stick and when to just whistle or gesture with his hand. Inside each one of us is a shepherd called common sense and survival instinct. These two instantly help us recognize who can genuinely bring something to the table to fix things to let us have a better grip and hold on the ground that’s slowly breaking into bits beneath our feet. Sadly, we shall all be sheep baa-baaing aimlessly to cameras herded like the sheep we are for the world to pity us and throw us some aid. The diaspora has lots of successful Lebanese strategists, thinkers, and people with integrity and love for this country but the sheep will only see the fears that run inside their mind. My people, worry is an abuse of imagination. It fails to create or solve anything because it destroys chance by petrifying you leaving you to rot while others use you as a stepping stone for more gain and power. Not until you give your backs to one another and forsake entrenched alliances with corrupt oligarchies will you ever find the light or a way off this doomsday train. We are not living in hell; hell is within each one of us because we chose this life by continuously doing things the same crooked ways and continuously choosing the same crooked people.

My country is an oyster choking on its own pearls because it closed up on itself thinking tomorrow is still there, a window for doing things differently even though we know we will never do them differently. We are the dead, not the martyrs of August four nor the Tlayle because they are now free to roam and see the truth living right next to the darkness, we choose to sink in. It’s hard not to feel sorry for ourselves in such a scenario but self-pity is all we have been doing for the past 20 years or so. Wake up! The Civil War ended in 1990 and it was a minor war compared to the major war we have within a war on ourselves to cleanse ourselves from blood money, corruption, and the endless lies we keep telling the world about how we’ve changed!!



Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Pasithea Chan

4 poems by Pasithea Chan : Daily Revelations, Empty Words, Skylark of the Dark, Aloof

Daily Revelations

Deprived of affection and a sense of belonging
one retires to a sanctuary of isolation.
Arraigned by the acute pain of rejection
the walls become his or her world.
Indicted with selfishness and antisocial behavior
sleep is the best defense and life sentence.
Levied with incessant worries about tomorrow
sense falls to numbness like a baby lulled to sleep.
Yearning for warmth and the need to be heard
one contemplates talking to inanimate objects.
Reprehended for vocalizing one’s outlook
of the world, silence becomes the decorum.
Encapsulated with grief, mobility
is running errands for survival only.
Vilified for one’s depressive state
smiles are just an anti wrinkle cream.
Engrossed with sadness from one’s state
causes palpitation with the slightest change.
Larking with dark thoughts of an early exit
becomes one’s favorite pass-time.
Adjourned from engaging in sweet nothings
estranges one around so many happy faces.
Truncated moments of free expression
becomes the only method of communication.
Incapacitated with anger and denial
one falters to bitterness and dismay.
Obliterated from the lives of close ones
confines one to being minuscule.
Neap tide for once is just a moment of rebellion
against reality’s gravity pulling one down.
Susceptibility to darkness is a daily revelation
only experienced by ones who face mishaps alone.

Author’s Notes:
Genre: Acrostic Couplet spelling “Daily Revelations”.
This piece is centralized around: depression, loneliness, hurt, and emotional demise.

Empty Words

I’ve been drunk all my life
on disappointment’s wine,
A wine I poured in a glass
of empty words,
I fine with smiles empty of words.

I don’t know what’s worse:
drinking from that glass
or drowning the burning
sensation without words.
All I know is that it hurts.

See disappointment comes
in bottles of all sizes
from empty promises
to fill in the blanks
and even life size pranks.

Many times, I receive these bottles
as parting gifts
in baskets of what ifs-
often laced with fibs;
I undo with no thank you
tearing the note: only for you.

I used to drink to forget
But now I do to remember that:
Empty words can’t
hold promises just as smiles
empty words into spaces
I never thought I had.

So yes I graduated
from being a chronic drunkard
to social drinking as I shifted
from disappointment to sadcasm
filtered with realism.

I have my drink with time’s
lemony twist in a clear glass
of empty words empty of words.
There’s nothing worse
than being lied to for a curse.

Author’s Notes:

There’s quite a difference between empty words and smiles empty of words. It’s like the chasm between what’s been said and what’s been left unsaid. Those who care and are deep can realize how strikingly different are shades of pains from these two aspects of life. People are deviant creatures in their lying mechanisms, their resilience, and endeavors to keep up with their lies. I find their efforts fascinating.

Skylark of the Dark

Words trickle down my mind
playing sentiment’s broken chord
Like a child I slide down
its rails, who says I’m too old
to hope for the best to unfold?

Trouble is my staircase
I live for its thrill, what a race?
I hide my face in the shadows
but expose my back to its lashes.
After all, what are clothes for?

Sometimes dreams tumble
down with a thud and dribble
my memories like a pain so cruel
from a candle that’s lost its kindle.
Never mind, that I can handle!

I turn my tears like a pillow
fluffed for a better tomorrow
but there’s no escape from today.
Like a pendulum I continue to sway.
I am a bell that tolls all the way.

My heart is a harp with a crack
made to cut chords with a knack
My days walk me like a plank
straight into a bad prank!
I’m not perfect so cut me some slack!

Now my spine is arched
like a stairway larked
with sorrow and hatred.
I am the skylark of the dark-
with a quill for a bill and blood for ink!


Too angry to believe, too distraught to perceive
I fell into depression’s peeve like a sheave
threaded with disbelief with a broken greave
until I tore my sleeve on sorrows that won’t leave.
I banked on time for solace but all it did was cleave
grief from hope for things I can’t forgive or reprieve.

And as the fires swallowed my cries
I opened my eyes to face life’s lies.
I closed my heart and gave up tries for a prize:
to accept failures without whys and be wise
to break ties and move in smaller gyres
to avoid fires and flat tires caused by familiar mires.

We trust those we love like a hand fits a glove
perceive them like a dove, hold them like a trove
but they break us like a foxglove that cuts with love
and hurts that shove us down until we cough
the very blood of that love as waters that buff
purpose’s rough luff away from joy like a bluff. Too cold to find warmth, too aloof to belong
I stand with indifference to face loss with acceptance.
Too broken to be pieced up, too lost to be found
I sit down with aimlessness and wander in endlessness.
Too drunk on despair, too angry to be kind or fair
I talk bold and look old yet refuse to be told who to hold.
Aloof is proof that love and passion can too go in a poof
even for love that’s over the roof, nothing’s bulletproof!

Author’s Notes:
Fear of anchoring, belonging, trusting, and letting go is the result of broken relationships and betrayal. This is a fear that haunts through all one holds dear and wants to endear. It is a chain that remands a heart into seclusion, a mind into isolation, a soul into desolation, and a life into destruction.

Inspired by: Blood Wedding – Lorca 1932
To be silent and consumed by fire is the worst punishment on earth, of those we inflict on ourselves. What use was pride to me, not seeing you, and you alone, lying there night after night? None at all! It served to stoke the flames higher! Because one thinks time is a cure, and the walls will shut things out, and it’s not true, it’s not true. When flames reach the heart, they can’t be quenched!

Poem by Pasithea Chan : Bruise of Ruse (inspired by Beth Hart)

Bruise of Ruse

I handed him the shears
to cut my heart in fears.

With an “I” that disappeared
to live within ribs that never opened
I bid “love” to a soul maddened
with control out of a sudden.
He became the “you”that destroyed
everything I ever dreamed.

He gave me a bruise
hidden from all eyes
beneath clothes and tears.
If scanners could scan souls
mine would be a bunch of holes
you’d only see on a sieve.

He planted years
of lies like spears
protecting a lifetime of ruse
knowing I’d fight and refuse
to let go cause I hate to lose.

Till this day I feel that bruise
blacken from a past of abuse.
It’s hard to find sacrifice a misuse
of care; and love just a ruse
to give one a bruise and blues.

Inspired by Beth Hart's Baddest Blues , link on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDdVhbaPog0

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Pasithea Chan

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Pasithea Chan

with Pasithea Chan:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Pasithea: My first experience in writing came out of grief and disbelief when my country’s prime minister Mr Rafic Harriri was assassinated. At that time I was in second year law school. I remember being in class when recording my civil law lecture when the window frame fell over and around me after the glass bursted from the power of the explosion. I remember running out of class to the open to looking up to the sky with rubble dropping into my eyes and my hair with the smell of burnt flesh and fire. It took me two weeks to process the shock and writing was my only release. Later, came travel for work in the Arab Gulf countries and the far East. After meeting my maternal side of the family who are Pinay-Hispanic, and enjoying exploring the Philippines, I found inspiration in the colorful cultural dances and the exotic beauty of the place. Combined with my love for schools of art esp open impressionism, I began to write religiously as a way to take a break from legal and academic writing.

Q2: Who are some of your biggest influences today?

Pasithea: From the contemporary writers? No one but from the old times Gibran Khalil Gibran, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rumi, Ibn Arabi, and Al-Motannabi. I like the power of rebellion for social justice, the clarity of mysticism and asceticism. For me intellectualism and impressionism are key to carrying a writer from a paper unto the hearts of his readers. A writer is someone who can mentally imprint on you.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art? Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?

Pasithea: I grew up(if you consider mental and physical aspect) between Lebanon, Philippines, and Turkey(dad was Turkish Lebanese). Almost every place I’ve been to added to my plume’s quiver. For example Singapore added modernism, Bahrain easy going tones, Turkey intricacy etc. Sometimes a thing as simple as a pattern on a persian carpet being weaved right in front of you makes long to draw what you see in writing. When I write, I always choose open spaces especially when I travel. I choose spots where I can get to be in the background of the local rhythm where I can observe people and listen to life’s melody flow amongst the people I am learning about.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Pasithea: I used to think it’s just my #didactic poems but after realizing  my love for history and mythology,  I believe it’s my historical fiction pieces which I weave into them contemporary political current events. I mention Elissar’s Star Sapphire, Cedar’s Box, Cedars’ Morrighan Crow, and Elissar’s Tears. 

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/poet/artist?

Pasithea: In 2019, when the Lebanese revolution happened, I felt it was a place for artists and a time to show one’s true heart by inspiring my people to be better. I wrote Truth’s Volcano a double lingo Acrostic. It was a poem half in Arabic and acrostic and half in english also Acrostic.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Pasithea: I love to do gardening, travel, make perfumes, cook, listen to music, and take long walks.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Pasithea: Currently I am a contributor here on feversoftgemind and uglywriters. I haven’t been pushing a lot of work since I am finishing my master’s graduation thesis in business law.

Q8: One of your favorite lines from writing or favorite art pieces?

Pasithea: I like Kagaya's digital art pieces and Thomas Cole's series of portraits called "Course of an Empire" from the Hudson River School of painting. As well as Leonid Afremov.   
(c) Leonid Afremov
Arcadian Empire

A brush carved on the Hudson River
honed romanticism on its bristles.
Dipped in ideal rustic beauty; paints
a paradise lost in an industrial revolution.

Glorified in emotional trees
standing freely to defy norms
of enlightenment and aristocrats.
With clear skies and vast greens
Thomas expresses beauty’s notions.

A fresh morning in spring or summer
shifts a river further down as a crag
and boulder witness a peak fork
from a distance beyond.

Much of the wilderness
disappears into settled lands.
Plowed fields peer with lawns
unto newly built boats,
shepherds herding sheep,
and dancing settlers.

His individualism shows
as an old man sketches
geometrical problems
with sticks.

On a bluff by the river
a megalithic temple hides
beneath sacrificial fumes.
Ideally this fits pre-urban Greece.

The Arcadian Empire signifies
humanity and nature at peace.
A notion portrayed in activities
that relate safety for nature and its inhabitants

As far as poems I love Francis William Bourdillon's: 

"The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Pasithea: Believe it or not, sometimes you meet people online via websites like allpoetry who teach you technique through contests and prompts. Her name was Sylvia. She ran several contests and taught me from shadow sonnets to cinquains, to constanza, to rondeau, you name it.

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Pasithea Chan



Poem by Pasithea Chan : “A Stone that Hits Home”

(c) Pasithea Chan
A Stone that Hits Home 

Even white noise can give you a migraine
when your world stands still with pain.
Fight is a light that can blight a heart with plight
like a sunrise drabbed into a sunset with fright.
Bereft bonds feint hearts until they faint.
You can’t plant your feet where you can’t wait;
just as you can’t lean on paint or enliven a brick.
The trick is not to stick with what won’t stick.
Life's stories are muddy quarries where worries 
cloud those under and shroud with their thunder
bereft memories like lightening hailing pain for rain. 
They make you seek shelter and wait for things to get better
They let you stay but in the end you pay.
They toil and soil you until you play 
parts that deafen you to words that slay
your heart before your ears or mind can hit replay.
Everything and everyone are nothing and no one
when you lose heart and part with who you were.
Sometimes the start is the end because a part
of what happened to you becomes all of you yet apart.
Sometimes where you are summarizes how you are:
A busy street in the alleys of defeat.
A flustered pleat torn in an unsuccessful feat.
From someone to no one to everyone.
After all, we are all victims of tole bells that toll:
To fall is a call: to stand tall or lose it all for a goal
Life is a game, so let’s play paying for our stay.
We all gotta pay,  sometimes by staying away.
The pain is the same even when all you gain
 is a chance to do it all over again like a stain
 that won’t go; it drives you insane with its inane 
dance tapping to  condition your brain with bane.
You look the same, but you are never the same.
You wonder why right goes left right with what’s left.
or why chances and hopes are tropes; or you can accept that there’s nothing left
to be missed when home is where you were left.
 Time to run, what a pun! Age is time’s theft
in a time where loved ones leave one bereft.
Alone is a stone that hits home, a home alone, 
with windows made of plumes not stone 
with paper panes filled with words not broken bone
that sing like birds do every sunrise, only to be gone
when the sun sets as I set in stone I am on my own.

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Pasithea Chan