Remembering Breughel’s Massacre of the Innocents
I should have known it hung there, in Vienna. But home
was the place for warnings of strangeness, of not
taking rides, or candy. With me now
even wieners from butcher shop owners were safe.
Together now we were climbing palatial
marble steps, the guidebook having said
nothing of archways twice
as high as our house, completely studded
with colour, real gold-covered crossbeams,
a ceiling of painted-on seasons of glory: each hair
on each head (as my father would say) so precise
you could see it, assuming you could get close
as the artists had, hanging there day after day
for months, their dangers of falling so far removed
from our journey past sculptures on landings
to canvas in far-off rooms.
I would have stared upward longer but you
were obsessed with the head of Medusa in What’s-
his-name’s hand, my memory not
so needed as saying it’s really all make-believe.
No one could ever have snakes for hair, no one
cut off her head although maybe
he would have, had she been real.
What’s true is I didn’t avoid when I could have
that room with fifteen original Breughels, the first
I had ever seen not in a book.
The Tower of Babel. Peasant Dance. The other
I couldn’t draw you away from, could only
respond: those soldiers lived too far back
to remember, they must have been following orders,
their leaders must have been mean. More
I could have said and still not enough.
So much you already knew of betrayals and still
you returned again and again from rooms of Rembrandt and Reubens,
Cranach’s Adam and Eve and hundreds of Christs on the cross,
you returned to take in details no one could
forget: the mothers pleading, the children
lying in blood, in snow, in a huge commotion of lances,
hooves, dogs, the wails of the children, the mothers
helpless with blood on their laps, on their hands,
their eyes turned back from Heaven.
Erin, no one forgives such things.
Nor do I know why we stayed until closing, hurrying out
with our postcards and parcels into the late May drizzle.
Why I sat on a park bench while you tried finding
pleasure in dancing like pigeons, hiding from me
again and again behind the base of Maria Theresa’s statue,
knowing I knew where you were, insisting
I couldn’t find you, anywhere.
This poem was first published in Ingrid Wendt's book, Moving the House (BOA Editions, 1980).
Ingrid Wendt’s first book, Moving the House, was selected by William Stafford for the New Poets of American Series, published by BOA Editions (1980). Her next three books received the Oregon Book Award (1987), the Yellowglen Award and the Editions prize from WordTech Editions (2003 and 2004). She is co-editor of the anthology In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Arts (1980) and the Oregon poetry anthology From Here We Speak (1993). Her most recent book, Evensong, is available from Truman State University Press (2011). She has taught poetry writing for over thirty years, at all educational levels, most recently as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the University of Freiburg, Germany. She lives in Eugene, Oregon. www.ingridwendt.com
To Wrestle With the Irresistible
Holy Angels Chapel of Saint-Sulpice, Paris
It’s daybreak in the painting that Delacroix took twelve years
to complete. In the foreground, near two immense trees,
Jacob, who is turned away from us, wrestles with the angel,
resolute with his wings. Nearby, on the ground, a heap of clothes
Jacob has cast off for the hand-to-hand agon that’s lasted all night.
To the right, Jacob’s continuous caravan of sheep, shepherds...
gifts for Esau to appease his anger. One horse turns back,
the only one to notice these two, locked in furious embrace.
The angel’s hand, visible on Jacob’s thigh. The other hand,
clasping Jacob’s and raised high in the air. Disappearing
beyond a bend, a faraway woman holds a jar on her head.
We think we hear the angel say Let me go, for day is breaking.
Jacob, straining against him, wounded and taut, will refuse.
Not until you bless me. The imminence of the blessing.
Bonnie Naradzay leads poetry workshops at the Department of Corrections, at a day shelter for homeless people, and at a retirement centre, all in Washington DC. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, JAMA, Anglican Theological Review, Split This Rock, The Ekphrastic Review, The Northern Virginia Review, The Seminary Ridge Review, Pinch, and others. In 2010, she was awarded the New Orleans MFA Program’s Poetry Prize: a month’s stay in Ezra Pound’s daughter’s castle in Dorf Tyrol (northern Italy). She earned an MA from Harvard in 1969, an MFA in poetry from the University of Southern Maine in 2010, and an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College (Annapolis) in 2017.
A Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind
"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." Matthew 15:14
There is a pale square of eggshell white, an empty space where Bruegel used to be.
It has been removed from the museum, just as many statues, books, speakers, and other artworks have been toppled or torn, ripped from the roots, from city squares or libraries or galleries. The patrons of the historical sites of Naples must learn that their education and edification cannot come at the cost of anyone's hurt feelings.
The image of umbrage is The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind, a five century old work by the Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. His inspiration was from the gospel of Matthew, when the good Lord warned us about following the dictates of those who didn't know the truth, or weren't even looking for it. The source alone is objectionable to many!
In the painting, assorted men stumble each after one another, grasping and falling on their way. Their eyes are sick or glassy, or not there at all, as if plucked clean by crows, concave sockets, sight hollowed from heads with a cantaloupe baller.
The painting is offensive to people who are blind, or who otherwise identify that way, who might not approve the parallels implied about seeing, the pitfalls of spiritual sightlessness and its insinuated struggles. Peasants and farmers are also furious: this classist assault on the poor and their allies must be erased from memory. Hindus or Jews might be upset by work depicting the New Testament, and the atheists, too, are sick and tired of being force fed life lessons from fairy tale books. Human rights activist groups have asked that all opprobrious religious artwork be removed from the galleries, and curators have their work cut out for them ahead, as forklifts must be brought in to remove countless tons of artefacts from all over the world. All ancient Indian art, all African ritual art, all European Christian art must be tossed onto a bonfire so that aggressions, both micro and intended, can burn in hell. There will surely be some suitably secular moral illustrations from the last two decades that can fill in for the more than ten millennia that human creativity was tainted with faithful delusions.
Some sources report that women are also upset by the piece and have asked to have it destroyed- it looks like the work might have been painted by a man.
In an interview with the Washington Post, the museum director shared her perspective. "At first, we considered replacing this dangerous work with an appropriate painting from the era or from local contemporary talents. This proved difficult as a staggering number of submissions and backroom stock were equally offensive, if not more so. We thought leaving the blank space was a wonderful statement. And when we overheard a patron expressing how moved she was by the empty wall, we decided to leave it blank with nothing to see. With nothing to look at and nothing to see, it's a safe space for everyone."
Lorette C. Luzajic
Lorette C. Luzajic is a visual artist, writer, and editor of The Ekphrastic Review.
1. Introduction to Magritte
I pick Magritte up from the bottom of a star.
He is desolate with lavender.
"Who is it?" he moans, touching my wrist
with his wing. I help him to his feet,
careful of his cedar leg.
Behind his grimace he is smiling.
Like a man drowning in warm water.
2. First Experience—Dawn
We climb through a busted window.
Magritte cuts his arm. Blood drops out
like rusty pennies. A mermaid
standing on wet gravel waves to us.
He doffs his bowler.
The black paraffin that fills his head
This always happens.
"What's in your palm?" he asks.
She opens it.
It's a baby oyster
covered in cobweb.
3. Second Experience—Midmorning
The day's as gray as a century of salmon eggs.
One sun-pocked building catches my attention.
"No," he says. "Under this arch."
We cobble our way through old streets,
pass vegetable merchants, occasional hunchbacks,
daughters yet to be consecrated.
Arriving at the pier I see a sailboat in dead wind.
"That is pathos," Magritte says,
pointing to a barnacle.
4. The Woman
She folds and unfolds her kerchief
folding her eyes in her lap.
Her fingers are long and drawn and thin
like hollow reeds or scabbards.
She is all meekness, all pastel.
We see her at the scaffold
darkening in the air
where the clouds are heaving like minstrels
and the hawks watch as they fly.
Her majesty derives from open clouds
yet she derives from twilight.
We salute her in tandem
and gasp as her voice rises
and rises into our eyes.
That evening, stepping over lengthening shadows,
we are in Toledo where the moon
appears as the white bone of a rose,
where four clouds create the horizon,
where four sounds echo through the trees.
At the curtain of the city
we come across a thin strand of finger
belonging to El Greco.
"Give that to the woman,"
"She has more need of the digit
6. Bedtime Narrative
And on that day, the Creator said to Speech, "What makes your skin flat like the river? I shall give you wounds to perform in your flesh so that you may never be plain to me." And He was pleased with the lesion which He called Silence and touched His lips to the sky. That place, today, is forbidden to birds.
Now the tendon of God is stretched to plain view.
A million onions have been carried to the mirror.
Long birds fly in broken formation.
All is amethyst and milk.
Without warning the white sword
crashes down on orthodoxy.
The sky splits open like Hell's abortion.
A Saracen sun advances on Magritte.
This poem previously appeared in Central Park, Skidrow Penthouse, Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX 2012), and in Against Prompts (Lit Fest Press 2018).
Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at Blue Fifth Review, is the author of Against Prompts, The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and five chapbooks. He has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize. Accelerant, a new full-length collection, is forthcoming from Nixes Mate Books in 2019. https://billyarrow.wordpress.com/
Autumn Leaves, after a Rain
Brilliant, you were,
as if light could be material.
An aura is in the eyes of the beholder.
Who is to argue, to quantify?
Does it’s value diminish, the sooner the setting sun?
Even in daylight, you were powerless to delay the approaching pall.
Raindrops accumulate, unless they batter. Both present
a weight too heavy to bear. A separation, on wings drifting down.
The earth sighs to receive you, the remnant of that aura
absorbed, shape and function meaningless.
No chrysalis here, but are you kin to the monarch,
genetic memory a guarantee of your return, come a new season?
Ken Gierke started writing poetry in his forties, but found new focus when he retired. It also gave him new perspectives, which come out in his poetry, primarily in free verse and haiku. He has been published at The Ekphrastic Review, Vita Brevis, Tuck Magazine, and forthcoming at Eunoia Review. His website: https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/
La Cinquième Saison (on seeing the Magritte exhibition, The Fifth Season, at S.F. MOMA)
When the two men carrying framed paintings pass, they will exchange canvases. Their landscapes will be rearranged; they will emerge as different men; they will be mirror images of each other; they will be Groucho and Harpo Marx; they will walk into parallel universes where worlds do not collide; they will burst into song; they will brawl in the street, their paintings torn and pixilated; they will move from pointillism to surrealism to impressionism to abstract expressionism to a pair of empty frames.
They will never pass; they will tip their hats; they will bow; they will shake hands; they will do a dance around each other; they will toss their paintings into the street and start to wrestle; they will knock each other out of the painting and into another canvas; they will die and be buried in a rose and be reborn in an era that does not appreciate them; they will sell their art to the highest bidder; they will become outsider artists drawing on walls and empty spaces between walls and starry nights on black canvases; they will be hopelessly lost.
They will be redeemed; they will pass each other again and again, their canvases will become LED screens streaming episodes of Babylon Berlin and The Americans; they will fight in World War II and World War III and they will join the Taliban and they will inhabit landscapes they never dreamed of and they will lose each other again and never see that they are behind each other; they have each other’s backs.
Their landscapes will melt into charred bodies that are not their bodies and they will rise like Phoenixes and merge with the boulder.
Today is the day we learn if their eggs hatch.
Dotty LeMieux has published three chapbooks and edited the eclectic journal Turkey Buzzard Review in the equally eclectic West Coast enclave of Bolinas California. She has seen her work in various publications such as Rise Up Review, Painted Bride, The Poeming Pigeon, Tuck, Telephone, and the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, among others. She lives and works as a campaign consultant and attorney in Northern California with her husband and two dogs.
Buy some cool stuff to support The Ekphrastic Review, like these blank or lined notebooks featuring the art of TER founder Lorette C. Luzajic.
The hardback journals are 5x7" with 128 pages. The spirals are softcover, 6x8" with 120 pages and a document pocket.
There are over 20 designs to choose from: click here.
Memory Sickness, in Khmer
One returned to drugs or never left them.
Television as a second act. One loved a woman
Taller than himself and left while she was pregnant.
He has agents, handlers, lifts in his shoes.
He breaks a rib and moves on and on in ceaseless industry.
The leaves turn, the altar of invention wans into parody,
The self lilts ever more inwards. Masks collect as evening
Drapes off the table into the future. Velveteen.
And still we have to speak of her breasts,
Or the one who left citing irreconcilable differences,
Or the one whose wife left him. How his drunkenness bled
Into everything, and everything into night, and night into a feeling
Of familiarity. And you will recognize this sculpture as your own,
All the days in the dirt, the same avoidance of pain
Staring down the gun barrel. Come October you will see all
Suffering as your own and the days will become bleached with light
And your bones will fill with air and you will think:
This photo was just someone trying their best,
Still who is that man who looks
Directly at the camera
If not you
David Joez Villaverde
Editor's note: This poem was written in response to a specific cast photograph by Alex Berliner (USA) from the Interview with a Vampire film premiere in 1994. Click here to view.
David Joez Villaverde is the winner of Black Warrior Review's 2018 poetry contest and his poems in Crab Fat Magazine and L'Éphémère Review are 2018 Best of the Net nominees. He has been recently published or is forthcoming in Yemassee, RHINO Poetry, The Indianapolis Review, Yes Poetry, and Occulum. Visit him at schadenfreudeanslip.com
At the Movies
When the blues threaten to consume me,
when life seems a cruel ruse
and I’m losing every battle and war,
I don’t fill up on booze
or kneel in a church pew.
I meet me at the movies at night.
The sky’s dark, but the theater is darker.
Strangers fuse together inside this womb,
becoming an audience,
seeking salvation together,
clues about our human condition,
or just a good laugh or two.
I love it when the lights die,
cueing our voyage,
the spell cast by motion and colour –
smooth, flowing moves to jittery jump cuts,
restrained, subtle hues to bacchanalian jewels.
Gifted new actors and directors are thrilling.
Veterans I know better than my relatives are wonderful too.
Of course a good script is essential,
but some nights a bad one will do.
When the film’s over
and the credits are rolling,
I thank every name scrolling by
and then thank their muse
for helping me forget me for a few hours.
I’m meeting me at the movies tonight.
Sheila Wellehan's work is recently featured or forthcoming in Forklift, Ohio; Menacing Hedge; San Pedro River Review; Tinderbox Poetry Journal; Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Visit her online at www.sheilawellehan.com.
Coming of Age
I groan under the weight of
Shiny expectations banged out
Smooth edges, sharp fear
singles triples doubles
the tally of uncertainties
I cloth myself in angry gold
Try to cover
Melinda studied English literature in her undergraduate degree and applied language studies in her graduate degree. She teaches first year composition, multi-cultural literature, English grammar, and multi-disciplinary courses at Trinity Western University. She lives in Langley, B.C., Canada with her husband, three sons, and puggle.
The golden one. Over time,
it was recognized as a mythical place.
'El Dorado' only lived in the imagination
of Europeans, giddy with the prospect
of instant wealth picked up by the handful
in a mythical city of gold.
The ‘Guatavita’ one of the ceremonies
of sacrifice conducted by priests.
A new ruler, covered
in mud and gold,
placed on a raft with a great amount
of golden items at his feet:
nose rings, pectorals, diadems, pendants,
bracelets, ear rings…
Thousands gathered at the shore.
At the centre of the lagoon, El Dorado
threw the gold overboard, letting it sink
to the bottom.
There were flutes and pipes,
much singing and dancing.
The indigenous peoples
never attached monetary value
to the shiny metal,
its value symbolic of the brilliance
and constancy of the sun.
Most graves have been looted
by now. Found in the mud at the
bottom of lagoons the highly stylized
works by the master goldsmiths
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of Tangents, a poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the Goodreads monthly competition, a new poetry collection (From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949 : A Child’s Journey) has been published by Aldrich Press in May 2016, and a new collection (Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back) has been published (January 2018) by Kelsay Books.
Like all families, we have many beautiful ornaments. I love my own pendant, so small that it fits in my hand and does not tug on my neck. A bat made of sunshine. I wear it at home and sometimes when we visit others, but not when working with my sisters. Some days, at home, Mother lets us wear one of her many small pendants as a reward for a good day. At family meals, Father might let us wear one of his, even one with many feathers spreading outward—but they tug on my neck. Our brothers always want to wear those and act very solemn and brave when they do, but sometimes they fight over one so father scolds them and puts it away.
We treasure them for their beauty; how they release bright sunlight during the day, deep reds and yellows by the evening firepot, and pure white like the moon when we all share in lesser feasts. Mother says they were created for beauty, to be enjoyed, to brighten our lives, although some also please our gods to favor us with crops, health, and children, and others keep evil smoke from our thoughts. Father says his largest ones protect us from dangerous spirits in the forests; wolves, great cats, and bears who once people but can no longer dwell in the open and enjoy our village live.
We also have a Great Pendant which we only see at home before the Great Feast. It has many fine lines like the delicate weave of a blanket, like the beautiful feathered robes that the rulers, shamen, and prophets wear at the Great Feast. The Great Pendant is always wrapped up again and hidden away before we leave, but when her year comes, our oldest sister will wear it to the Feast, then all the oldest sisters will join the gods to sing and dance before them forever. Then the Great Pendant will be given to our oldest brother for his oldest daughter to wear when her year comes.
It seems silly and terribly sad, almost unbelievable, that someday men from mountains across the Great River will arrive and take away all our ornaments. They’ll kill or enslave many fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers; spread demons who will destroy our minds and bodies; make us sacrifice to their gods; and tear down our temples, villages, and homes—all because they have an unquenchable thirst for these lovely pieces. But that is what our prophets tell us at the Great Feast, so it must be true. They say our oldest sisters will help protect us in the meantime, but that someday, our Final Year will come.
A Proverb of Wealth: D’oh-Raymese of Tolima
Don’t put all your faith in gold,
Raising all your hopes on earth.
Meekness is the stronger hold;
Folly’s glitter has no worth.
Sewing kindness brings you joy
Lots of true wealth to employ,
Teaching love, be its envoy,
And you’ll have much more than gold.
Ken Gosse prefers writing light verse with traditional metre and rhyme filled with whimsy and humour. First published in The First Literary Review–East in November 2016, his poems are also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, The Ekphrastic Review, and others. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years, usually with a herd of cats and dogs underfoot.
to protect a sacred torso en oro
pre-hispanic goldsmith's good-luck gato
pancaked by rival speculative metallurgist
taken home taxidermised en oro
to shield his sacred torso
on battlefield of commodity futures
in a return to mineral wealth
melted down into weapons
with sharp edges and in bars
behind which self-made man
always finds himself
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His work has been featured in many online and print publications, and has been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com
A Dead Tolima Woman Speaks
to Her Shaman Husband
Time shuts its door, keeps us
from knowing the future, the future
from knowing us. Only after passing
can I see the ghost-coloured men
who will assault Tolima, dig
through the dust of our children’s
children’s children. They will find
many treasures, but not the truth.
Your gold breastplate, born of the sun,
will wink at them. Here lies
a leader, a man of power, they
will think, just as I did when the glint
off your chest first pierced my heart.
A warrior, they will say, never
understanding our people prefer
making music to bearing arms
or that the power in your hands
was healing. What will they think
of me? Nothing. Like countless
women before me, I leave the world,
and history will speak not a word.
Alarie’s latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
Tolima Hymn (The Breastplate Song)
Beneath your breast we hear the drum
that sounds the dance we must become.
Shaman, your powers we behold
enduring in the precious gold
now passed to you through those before
to celebrate forevermore.
You are the eyes that stalk the night.
You are the wings of sacred flight.
You are the hands of healing touch.
You are the hope your talons clutch.
You are the strength of rooted tree.
You are the course of rain to sea.
You are the ear through which we hear
the love transcending all we fear.
You are these seven signs you wear --
our future you were born to bear.
Author's Note: Sometimes the beauty of art is believing in it.
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment
Tolima-Region Gold Breastplate
Bunny ears! The lustrous breastplate
so like my once-children wrapped
in costumery, buckets tipped over
their heads for legionnaires helmets,
lifting from spell-thick water
on stuffed mermaid tails, fabric-
winged eagles testing wingspan,
fearsome tigers, wide eyed, teeth
bared, with the pleasure of scaring.
You scared me! I reassure the snarl
of them, eager to keep away
the truer terror, their lower lips
pooching and quivering, the dark
storm-clouds of thwarted plot
threatening from their eyes.
Devon Balwit's ekphrastic poems have appeared here as well as in The Light Ekphrastic, The Front Porch, Long Exposure, The Wild Word, Counterclock, Cordite, and Rattle among others. For more about her work, see her website: https://pelapdx.wixsite.com/devonbalwitpoet
It matters what burnishes the solid spread
or where the design cuts and curls on chest.
I splay my hands at any vulnerability
certain that wings cover my breasts.
Spear pierces above what nourishes child.
Pectorals take the brunt of thrust
so I no longer lift more weight than my own
appease doctors sure no woman boasts
muscle that hard. I lower expectations
bow to the bottom of the golden plate
touch what curls across the gut
as if protecting the not-yet-born.
But first they have to pass the fury
of my throat.
Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press), and Wildwood (Lummox Press). Ride the Pink Horse is forthcoming from Spartan Press. With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
A golden, first century breastplate --
mythic protection in battle. Mortals
have sought aegis from the gods
since time began, it seems.
When my youngest was three,
he wore an Incredible Hulk T-shirt
every day for a year, certain his kinship
with the angry green goliath
could transmogrify a toddler
to a Titan older kids would fear.
I hope the Columbian warrior
with a flying deity on his chest
found more success than my guileless,
doomed boy, whose brother and sister
held him down and made him smell
the lint in their belly buttons.
Bio: Sarah Russell’s poetry has been published in Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, Psaltery and Lyre, Ekphrastic Review and many other journals and anthologies. She is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee and blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.
Tolima-Region Gold Breastplate, Colombia, 1 B.C. to 700 A.D. (Middle Period)
“They removed all of the heir’s clothing, smeared him with sticky earth, and sprinkled him
with gold dust. Thus he embarked on the raft completely enrobed in this metal.”
Juan Rodríguez Freyle, 1636
Carapace of the one body
Two-pronged body of spine
The sight that fills
The sight that sweeps out
The chitinous shell
The three-pronged mind
Gold dusted body
rinsed of its sun
I am thorax. I am armour.
I am emptied in
to holes in the eye-souls of gods
Body of plate, arachnid tines
The inverse body of crustacean skin
Creatrix of insect body
Three-winged body of sky
The sight that structures
The sight that declines
Myth of the one body
Gold dusted body of shine
Ferral Willcox is a U.S. born poet and musician currently living in Pokhara, Nepal. Ferral's work can be found in Per Contra, Peacock Journal, concis, Rat's Ass Review, and elsewhere. Ferral's work was featured in the Q-Street venue of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and she is a regular contributor to the Plath Poetry Project.
one ferocious angel
might be enough
all wings and teeth
and eyes wide open
no mouth to smile or curse
or swallow you whole
no soft hands reaching
out to pull you in
no bleeding heart no tears
no thorns and roses
just this hard bright sheet
of beaten gold
without shadow or reflection
as the desert sun
all her edges
sharp enough to cut
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had work published in many print and on line journals, and has an electronic chapbook, “Things I Was Told Not To Think About,” available as a free download from Praxis Magazine.
No Cover for the Heart
Smiling out at us
the chief's gold protection
he is sovereign.
But I note, the wings, arms,
smiling face would not
reach his heart--his wealth
does not stand between
him and his people.
Midas at the Doctor
"Open wide, your majesty."
Wooden tongue depressor
touches the royal mouth.
Doctor drops it
just in time
to prevent the gold enveloping
his hand and more.
Doctor leaves and moody Midas
picks up a golden knife and
carves the oval into his own
likeness, spreading out wings
so he can fly above his curse,
giving him self legs to outrun the curse
hoping that he can will the curse
upon this totem and
return to the joy of human touch.
Joan Leotta is a writer and story performer who lives and works by the beach in North Carolina. Her first collection of poems is out for Finishing Line press--Languid Lusciousness with Lemon
Imagine what it was like for the new chieftain of the Muisca the day he must plunge into the sacred Lake as the people watched. The sun rose early, and he prayed for courage. His people needed protection from tribes in the mountains. Elders appeared with bowls of gold dust and feathers from the sacred eagle. A healing gel was rubbed on his back and chest and then on his arms and neck. They started to brush and dust him, and he slowly changed, gilded into a man of dazzling beauty, almost surreal. His body was dusted in sunlight and brilliant gold. His face was last to be covered. The shaman gave him a drink of herbs and mushrooms, and he started taking long, deep breaths as he slipped into another world only he could enter.
The head shaman performed rituals learned from the ancestors. Pan-pipes and drums began. The different flutes seemed to speak to the stars, the birds, the winds and together they walked from the hut to the lake. All of the Muisca were there, standing around the water. The water gently lapped at the banks, and people began to hum. No words were needed. No words could express what they felt when they first saw him appear--the Golden One, the El Dorado, their new chieftain. He had gone to bed as an ordinary man, but now he appeared to be a creature that could have had wings. On his chest lay a beautiful breastplate of gold that had been pounded so thin, its feathered edges might take flight. He walked to the raft and was paddled to the centre of Lake Guatavita. Everyone began to sing a song to the skies, a song to the sun, a song to the gods that gifted them this land. The Golden One stood alone ready to take the sacred plunge. In his hands were precious gems that he held up to the sun, and he murmured some words only the sun could hear. He suddenly threw open his arms and flung the jewels into the middle of the Lake and then, with one deep breath, he plunged into the cold water. The people became silent. The music stopped. In the deep lake, the man was transformed. The gold dust had washed into the lake, but his heart had changed. He would be the fierce protector of his people, their guardian, their leader, their link with those that could fly to the heavens and speak to the sun. He emerged and gasped for air, now ready to lead his people.
birth & rebirth
this precious air
shows the way
Mary Kendall lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of two books of poetry and has had many poems published in journals. For the past two years, she has focused on Japanese short-form poetry in English, particularly haiku, senryu and tanka.
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