broken walls and narratives

A not so revolutionary blog about feminism, socialism, activism, travel, nature, life, etc.

Archive for the category “writing”

Anna Akhmatova Was Here

Anna Akhmatova was Here

H. Bradford


(Anna Akhmatova was a celebrated Russian poet who was censored during Soviet times.  She was an aristocrat who did not flee the country after the Russian revolution.  While I am from a political tradition on the other side of history, I like her poetry and reflected upon her a little while visiting Tashkent, where she lived during WWII.  Some of the poem’s images come from Bishkek though…)

Anna Akhmatova was here.

She wrote of tractors while beating down tears the for friends and lovers

ploughed under the earth.

Sentimentality is subversive,

so it is best to forget the things that colored the gray cities.

By the time the snow falls, memories will become monuments

to hide in the overgrown wilds of city parks

or to tuck behind the shuttered museum.

These statues must be stored safely out of sight and out of mind,

lest they become unorthodox idols to a high class poetess or the feminine divine.

Anna Akhmotova was here.

Tashkent was a stop in a long migration of mourning

and a hermitage for the heart that would not leave.

As for me, I am just a traveler and only ghosts stay behind.

So, city is empty of tourists and souls in transit.

I am also a little emptier.

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Gray July Days

Gray July Days

H. Bradford


These gray July days,

They feel more like October or November,

when even the birds have somewhere better to be.

These days are thick with quiet, sorrowed anticipation of the cold

and creeping anxiety for stomach flu and Christmas.

Why today must the clouds hang so heavy and gray?

If it as if they are made of tungsten or tin,

and leaden with snow and rain.

Here, winter is always coming.

Midsummer wind and wet is winter’s promise and portent.



An Attachment to Dark Spaces

An Attachment to Dark Spaces

H. Bradford


(A poem that is generically about how feelings, attachment, and rejection can feel a lot like the universe itself.  The poem can be applied to many situations where I have wanted to assert my existence through emotion.)


I won’t make you my surrogate for the universe,

a stand in for its vast, indifferent cold.

You aren’t a stunt double for its absence of God

or the black tide of time that gives and takes,

but mostly takes.

You feel like a universe that stretches outward into yawning space,

becoming so distant it tears itself apart.

But, you won’t be my force of falling apart.

I can do that just fine on my own.

Surely, I adored you…

if only as a metaphor for everything I hate about myself and living

as a gray speck locked in the cruelty of cognizance in time and space.

I wanted you,

if only as a passing addiction to my place in the abyss.

And I wished so much that my existence mattered to you or to the cosmos you came to represent.

The Lesson of the Landscape

The Lesson of the Landscape

H. Bradford


(This is a poem that I wrote on my last trip.  My poems aren’t that great, but sometimes I feel inspired to write them).

Enchantment evaporates with knowledge,

the cure-all for all sorts of infatuations.

It lifts like a fog, sending droplets of fantasy into the heat of the day.

When only a scorched landscape remains, it becomes clear what was a mirage

and that an oasis only presents itself to certain people at certain times…

with certain emotions and certain minds.

But, when the illusion is gone, one can appreciate the ways a desert shifts-

from dunes, scrub, cacti, and Karroo.

What is real, austere and severe.

That is the lesson of the landscape.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

(A photo I took last year in Namibia)

Two Birds

Two Birds

H. Bradford


I remember that merciful boot that crushed the broken bird who struck the hospital window.

I remember those hunched shoulders overlooking the dead chicken, beheaded with a shovel.

A human life exists to bear witness to the death and life in the universe.

Our life is paid with the lives of countless lesser things.

We are stalactites, carefully formed from the suffering of each cow turned hamburger.

Each insect crushed underfoot.

Each mouse ground up with the grain.

Our monuments are graves.

Cities are cemeteries.

Windows are walls.

We eat with our eyes and brains as much as our stomachs and teeth.

Vegans clamber over carnivores like rats in a flood for the moral high ground.

All the same, both are doomed to drown.

When I see a boot and a shovel,

I see our place and our fate,

in the universe.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Sour Milk

Sour Milk

H. Bradford


There are many ways to be white.

Most get thick and fatty.

Some turn to sour milk,

curdled by too much sacrifice

and all the things that didn’t come easily enough.

For them, there is no land of milk and honey.

Even when the gods of privilege produce enough manna to fatten a family,

they’re still sour and full of flies.

The pail is always half-empty.

It always pales in comparison to the handouts given to those less pale.

They ingested the world’s venom until it turned them bitter.

They’re the ones always making a stink!

They can’t even smell their own crippling scent!

They are fit enough to survive,

but unfit to dissent.

(Image from wikipedia,

The Struggle Against Candy Capitalism: A Skit


The Struggle Against Candy Capitalism: A Skit

By H. Bradford


The following is the skit which was used at Marxmas, the socialist alternative to Christmas.  Now, I would not take it to represent a serious piece of political theory.  The skit sought to somehow connect the game Candyland with the struggle against capitalism.  This meant creating socialism within a feudal candy society.  So…the politics aren’t perfect by any means.  Still, I tried to insert some real life issues related to capitalism and real life methods of organizing- even if the setting, tactics, and outcome may be unrealistic.  And, it was rather fun to use the skit to raise some issues related to capitalism.   So, here is the skit in case anyone is curious about it!


The Struggle Against Candy Capitalism

Act I: Introductions

Narrator: Welcome everyone to Marxmas.  Before we begin, we are going to perform a little skit, which is connected to the game that we are playing.  You’ll notice that some of us are dressed up in costumes.  These represent characters from the game Candyland, by Hasbro.  These characters are going to introduce themselves and hopefully explain what Candyland has to do with the struggle against capitalism.

Mr. Mint:   Greetings everyone!  My name is Mr. Mint, but you can call me Comrade Mint.  I’m here with my friends to tell you about the dark side of Candyland.  This is the story that Hasbro doesn’t want you to know.  You might be surprised to find that there are a lot of things that people don’t know about Candyland.  People who play the game only go to the tourist attractions like the Candycane Forest, Gumdrop Mountain, and Candy Castle.  When you play the game, you don’t see the starving gingerbread children on the streets of Kandygrad.  The ones who prostitute themselves for a few chocolate coins.  You don’t see the candy factories and traffic jams on the Bon-Bon Autobahn.  Or, what about the women who can’t go to school in the Sultanate of Sweets?  Has anyone ever wondered why the police don’t bother the white chocolate community?  And while King Kandy lives in his Candy Castle, most of us live in ramshackle gingerbread shacks.

Jolly: I’m Jolly, but all this social injustice doesn’t make me jolly at all.  These problems are so big!  Why, I heard that the glaciers on gumdrop mountain have shrunk 20% just this year!  The entire gumdrop village was flooded and their candy corn crop was ruined.  In the Sultanate of Sweets, there has been extreme desertification as rivers have been diverted to support their Cotton Candy exports.  This year was the hottest year on record in the Dessert Desert. Poverty, sexism, racism, the environment…it’s too much to think about!

Mr. Mint:  That’s why I’m trying to organize the masses with my minty Marxism!

Jolly: Yes, we’re trying to organize our friends into a mass movement of workers and connect all of the social struggles towards the overthrow of candy capitalism.

Mr. Mint:  To be fair, Candy Capitalism isn’t very well developed in Candyland.  It isn’t like the United States or Western Europe  We have some elements of feudalism and our economy is largely based on the export of candy to more developed nations.  We haven’t been able to develop on our own since we were colonized earlier in the century by Hasbro, who entrenched the power of King Kandy’s dynasty and our export economy.  The truth is, due the nature of global capitalism, we will never become an advanced capitalist country.  Our economy will always serve the interests of more advanced economies.

Jolly: All of this is a sticky situation to be sure!  We can build our small movement in Candyland, but unless we unite with the workers of the United States, European Union, and the rest of the world, our efforts will be for naught.

Mr. Mint: But, we’ve managed to recruit quite a few candy comrades…like Princess Lolly, Grandma Nut, Gloppy, Plumpy, and even some of you in the audience!

Lolly: My name is Lolly.  I was born in the Sultanate of Sweets, but the U.S. invaded our country and overthrow our democratically elected leader and installed the tyrannical Sultan Syrup from the Saccharine Satrap.  My parents fled with me to Lollyland when I was just a baby to escape the war.  I joined Mr. Mint’s movement because wars like the one in the Sultanate of Sweets serve the interest of candy capitalism.  Ever since Sultan Syrup took power, the people have become poor. Our economy is devoted to growing cotton candy and foreign companies own all of our rock candy mines.  We were once a beacon of culture, with a vast trade network along the Ribbon Candy Road.  Before the invasion, women used to attend university, work, and vote.  Now, they must stay inside.  As a feminist and anti-war activist, I know that Candy capitalism has got to go!

Jolly: I was also born in the Sultanate of Sweets and used to be an environmental scientist.  After Sultan Syrup took power, he began killing atheists and leftists like myself.  I don’t want to hurt anyone!  I love people!  I don’t eat meat or even candy…since that candybalism!  But anyone who stands up for candy rights in my country is arrested!  And both the Democratic Party and Republican Party supported the invasion and have given weapons to the Sultan.  This is why I have to take a stand!

Queen Frostine:  

My name is Queen Frostine.  I live in Sweetbearia.  I was put under house arrest in my Icing Castle when I tried to convince King Kandy to give more rights to the people of Candyland.   Since King Kandy took power, Candyland expanded its empire to the Ice Cream Sea.   This expansion resulted in war and genocide against the sweet fairies and nonpar-elves of Sweetberia.  To subdue these indigenous people, King Kandy made an alliance with Kandy Kahn, a warlord whose territory extended into the southern portions of Sweetbearia.  Since then, the land has been ruthlessly plundered in the interest of obtaining gummibear pelts to sell abroad.  The sweetbears have also been killed for their honey.  Why, last year, General Custard killed over 1000 sweetbears and 500 sweet fairies!

The Ice Cream Sea used to team with fish, but now all of the Swedish fish have gone extinct.  The Sweetbearians can no longer subside on gummi bears and swedish fish, so many have either starved or gone to live in the crowded cities of Candygrad, Confection City, Saint Sweets, and Choklabad.   I am a Queen, so I don’t know how I feel about this.  But, living under house arrest has opened my eyes to the world.  More needs to be done than the charity and volunteerism I was doing before.

I’ve even secretly allowed some organizers to seek refuge in my icing castle, including Mr. Mint and Jolly when the sweet secret police were after them.

Grandma Nut:  I’m Grandma Nut, but you can call me Hazel.  I live part time in Kandygrad in a small apartment, but spend the weekend and summers at my peanut brittle dacha in the nut filled forests of Candyland.  I need to collect nuts so I can sell them in Kandygrad.  I don’t have a pension or social security, so I am forced to work in my old age.  Nut isn’t even my real last name.  My real name is Hazel Bopple.  I can’t afford to treat my bipolar disorder, so Hasbro labelled me a nut.  I’m not a nut!  I just need socialized health care and social security benefits!  You’d be a little nutty too if you were spending your golden years in grinding poverty!  I joined Mr. Mint’s movement because old age should not be a time of fear, poverty, and pain!  Now, I’m a real militant granny.  I think that we should overthrow King Kandy, seize his castle and all of the churches and estates, and turn them into housing for the poor.  We’ll use the treasury to fund social programs and take control of the economy so that we can develop other industries rather than rely on candy exports!

Mr. Mint:  That sounds like a great idea!  The Kandygrad Council of Workers, or the Kandygrad Soviet if you will, fully supports this!  But, we’ll meet with some opposition to be sure!


Narrator: Meanwhile at King Kandy’s castle….

King Kandy: I am King Kandy, ruler of Candyland.  I hear the plight of my people.  I never really wanted to be king.  But, what am I to do?  Tsar Candybar will not even take my job!  Hasbro has given me arms and soldiers, but the people are talking about revolution!   I have many allies, like Sultan Syrup, Neopolitan Bonapart, General Custard, and Kandy Kahn.  But, I am afraid I must turn to my most ruthless ally of all: Lord Licorice!

Lord Licorice:  I must admit, I was surprised to be summoned from Licorice Castle in my long neglected anise flavored kingdom.  From where I stand, it seems that there is unrest in Kandygrad, Sweetberia, and the Sultanate of Sweets.  You should extinguish the threat posed by Queen Frostine so you can maintain access to the Ice Cream sea.  The ports must remain open so trade can continue and we can receive our arms and supplies from Hasbro.  If the Queen is reticent, she should be assassinated and governance of the Sweetbearia should be given to her younger brother, the Duke of Swirl.

Narrator:  Within the game, there will be now be three rounds of trivia, pictionary, or “hodgepodge”.  The color that your team lands on the board determines your category.  One team will represent the rebels from Kandygrad, the industrial center of Candyland.  The other team will represent the rebels in Sweetbearia, a frontier in the process of being colonized.  Finally, one team will represent King Kandy and his allies.   If the King’s Team wins, Queen Frostine will have to leave her team and join the King.  If other teams win or there is a tie, there is no change.  The Queen’s team may take a non-costumed player from another team to keep things even.


Act Two: The Abduction of the Queen

Narrator:  Despite the valiant efforts of the rebels of Candyland to organize, they could not prevent the Queen from being abducted.  The king sent General Custard to arrest her while she was napping.  With the Queen taken, control of her small kingdom fell to her brother, the Duke of Swirl.  The Duke of Swirl is a loyal friend to King Kandy.  The Queen was taken to Castle to speak to the King and his collaborators.

Lord Licorice:  The Queen cannot be trusted, but we can keep her as a prisoner for now.  She may have valuable information about the rebels of Candyland.  My licorice bat spies inform me that she was harboring some of these rebels in her own castle.

Queen Frostine: I will never tell you anything!” (spits towards Lord Licorice).  You monster!  Licorice doesn’t even taste good!

Lord Licorice: I don’t think you’ve ever properly tried it if that’s your opinion.  Every child loves black licorice especially.  But, your opinion is inconsequential.  Your feminine brain cannot comprehend the complexities of the political situation at hand.  You’ve been blinded by your emotions and picked the wrong side.  You should thank us for saving you from their dungeons later.

Queen Frostine:  You are sexist and terrible! (kicks his leg)

Lord Licorice: Don’t make me strike you with my licorice whip! The rebels would take over your icing castle and turn it into an orphanage for gingerbread children.  Then, they would take you to the gingerbread forest and execute you with all of your family, but not before taking all of your pretty things…your dresses, mirrors, make up…and degrading you.  They hate beauty.  They hate refinement.

Queen Frostine: (Sobs)

Lord Licorice:  Perhaps she will speak when she’s spent some time in the dungeon.

King Kandy:  Our enemy is more formidable than we think.

Lord Licorice: Ad lib based upon results of game.   For now, Sweetbearia is secure.  We should turn our attention to Kandygrad.  It is clear that the agitator Mr. Mint is behind the recent strikes there.  We must arrest him and his cohorts.  We can exile him to the prisons of Sweetbearia, where he can freeze to death.  Now that it is under the control of the Duke of Swirl, is won’t be a haven to runaway rebels.

Narrator:  There will be three rounds of the game.  If Mr. Mint’s team is not winning at the end of the round, he will have to switch teams to Sweetbearia, where he will go to the Peppermint Prison.


Act Three: The Battle of Sweetberia


The workers of Kandygrad are restless.  Many of the soldiers are tired in fighting in the endless wars to expand the boundaries of Candyland.  The rebels have been working hard to organize.  But, King Kandy has some powerful allies.  He went to his ally, Tsar Kandybar, who lent him several hundred of his best trained secret police, known as the Cocoprichniki.  The Cocoprichniki managed to capture Mr. Mint and several other revolutionaries.  These rebels have been sent to Peppermint Prison in Sweetbearia, where they must do hard labor, such as crushing rock candy all day long.

Grandma Nut:  It seems that no matter how hard we try, we can’t win!  We’ve lost Comrade Mint.  We’ve lost our support from Queen Frostine.  I fear that I am growing too old and won’t live to see change in my lifetime.  What will we do?

Jolly: We can’t let Comrade Mint freeze in a prison!

Lolly:  Don’t despair, I have an idea!  I am a Princess.  Maybe I can pretend to join King Kandy and befriend his advisor, Lord Licorice.  Then, I can help Queen Frostine escape.

Grandma Nut:  That sounds dangerous!

Jolly: How do we even know she is on our side.  She was a queen after all!

Lolly: She helped out Mr. Mint and others in time of need.  Anyway, she could be in danger.  Women have to stick together!  (Lolly defects to King Kandy’s Team after giving her teammates a hug)


Lord Licorice is looking over a document with King Kandy.  They ad lib some strategy and Lord Licorice suggests torturing Queen Frostine.  They are interrupted by a knock on their door.  They let Princess Lolly into the room, who curtsies before King Kandy.

Lolly: My name is Princess Lolly, the adopted step-niece of the Sultan of the Syrupy Satrap

King Kandy: Ah yes, what can I do for you my dear?

Lolly: I was sent here to offer the Sultan’s support in subjugating rebellious subjects.

Lord Licorice: I don’t think she should be immediately trusted.  We know little of the sultan’s family.  And, why would they send a solidarity female to your court?

Lolly:  Oh, I didn’t travel alone.  I was joined by the coconut eunuch Mr. Mounds and black licorice cat!  Together, we crossed the Dessert Desert by caramel camels.

Lord Licorice: Everyone from the Sultanate of Sweets speaks in rhymes and alliterations.  Since you are doing neither, it is simply impossible to trust you.  We should throw her in the dungeon with Queen Frostine.

Lolly: But if you throw me in the dungeon, you won’t get to see the special song and dance I composed in honor of the king!  (ad lib a song and dance for the king)

King Kandy:  She seems harmless enough.


Narrator:  Meanwhile, while Lolly tries to convince Lord Licorice and King Kandy that she can be trusted.  Mr. Mint languishes in the Peppermint Prison.  He begins writing a letter to his comrades.

Mr. Mint: Reading as he writes

“Dear comrades, don’t lose heart.  Even if I am shivering in a Sweetbearian prison, I will continue writing.  I will organize the prisoners and try to break free.  The prison is not far from Frostine’s Icing Castle, where her younger brother has been tasked with securing the port and ending the Sweatbearian resistance.  We can storm the castle and assassinate the Duke of Swirl.   I am told that the castle is a warehouse for weapons sent from Hasbro.  There is an arsenal of atomic fireballs, warhead sour candy, and pop rocks.  We can arm the prisoners and the Sweetbearians.  I am told that the sweet bears are tired of being killed for their honey and would be attacked if given support.”

Narrator:  There will be three rounds.  If the resistance teams are ahead in points at the end of the rounds, the plot to free the prisoners and take the port will succeed.  If not, Mr. Mint will be captured by King Kandy.

Act Four:The Race for Candy Castle

Narrator:  Mr. Mint successfully organized the prisoners of Sweetbearia, who attacked the guards while they were working.  Some of the workers were made to chop wood.  Others hammered rock candy.  A few others were sent with guards into the woods to trap gummi bears and hunt for provisions for the prison.  Although the prisoners were weak with hunger, disease, and exposure, they managed to kill the guards with their hammers and axes and take the prison.  Once they were outfitted with the guards warm clothes and weapons, they feasted on some of the food stores and waited for nightfall.

At nightfall, the prisoners marched to Icing Castle and killed the Duke of Swirl in his bed.  The few guards in the castle were easily dispatched and the ragtag prisoner militia, under the leadership of Mr. Mint, managed to secure the weapons.  Some of the guards, including the Nutcracker, were tired of fighting on the frontier and joined the side of the rebels.  This was a decisive victory for the rebels which would help them to block the port and return control of the land to the Sweatbearians.  They fled for the woods before General Custard returned from his campaign to subdue a rebellion of sugar fairies.  For now, if Hasbro sends more supplies or personnel, they would be surprised to find the port no longer under King Candy’s control.  With this task done, Mr. Mint decided he would return to Kandygrad to rejoin his comrades.  Honeybear took command of the dissatisfied guards and Sweetbearian rebels.

Meanwhile, Lolly was never able to convince Lord Licorice that she could be trusted.  But, she had a plan B.  This plan was to plant a bomb within Candy Castle, which she kept hidden in her billowy yellow dress.  While Lord Licorice and King Kandy were sleeping, she planted a bomb near a cell where Queen Frostine was kept.  This blew a hole in the wall of the castle and allowed Queen Frostine and Lolly to escape together.  Their goal was to return to Kandygrad and rejoin the rebels.

(United, the rebels (who are on two teams) embrace and ad lib a celebration of their victories).

Jolly: Lolly and Mr. Mint are true heroes!

Lolly: Now that we are united, I think the women of Candyland should lead a march on Candy Castle and demand the King Candy step down!

Grandma Nut: Hurray!  But what if he sends troops to Kandygrad on the gingerbread railroad?

Mr. Mint:  The railroad workers will have to go on strike!

Queen Frostine:  Yes, we should demand a new government.  One that is independent of Hasbro.  But, if the King steps down, there is the chance that Lord Licorice could rule!

Mr. Mint:  Jolly and I will continue trying to organize the workers. If we shut down the economy, King Candy will be forced to abdicate and the country will be ungovernable even if Lord Licorice or Tsar Candybar took his place.  If we put political and economic pressure on them, they will have to forfeit power!

Narrator:  The final rounds will be a competition to try to get more points that the King’s team.  At the end, depending upon when the teams are tired of playing, it will be announced who has won.  (This may be acted out with pretend fencing or fighting. Then, the teams can decide their fate.  1). Execution.  2.) Exile  3.) Invitation to share in the new society and restorative justice.)

Finale:  The Breaking of the Pinata

Candy Capitalism will be symbolically crushed with the breaking of a pinata.

Narrator:  A new society will be built in Candyland.  The struggle is not over.  The people of the Sultanate of Sweets must organize themselves.  Hasbro looms large and is already trying to build a counter revolutionary army based in the Sultanate of Sweets and Khanate of Candy.  This is why revolution must be spread to all lands.  For now, the people of Candyland will try to dismantle sexism, ageism, racism, heterosexism, and all the other isms that kept everyone divided for so long.  They will try to build a more just society.  They will try to build political democracy, but also democracy in the workplace. But, the story is never over.  The struggle continues!

Everyone sings the Internationale


Arise, you prisoners of starvation!

Arise, you wretched of the earth!

For justice thunders condemnation:

A better world’s in birth!

No more tradition’s chains shall bind us;

Arise, you slaves, no more in thrall!

The earth shall rise on new foundations:

We have been nought, we shall be all!

 ‘Tis the final conflict;

 Let each stand in his place.

 The International working class

 Shall be the human race!

 ‘Tis the final conflict;

 Let each stand in his place.

 The International working class

 Shall be the human race!

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