The Camel Girl’s Camel Bemoans His Fate
In 1886, Ella Harper was born with a deformity of the back knee and later twinned with a camel in W. H Harris’s Nickel Plate Circus in Tennessee — she the star, the camel the shadow.
Just as the Ottoman Empire again
loses its independence,
I too lose mine,
arrive here, come to this --
seasick, unquenched hump
flopped over, nostrils clamp-weary.
I stand tethered, legs locked,
atrophic, rot in my own muck.
My moldy foot pads ache.
My coat peels away, soft clumps
fall on cold concrete.
My urine concentrates,
my dung dries.
My stench sickens me.
My heart cracks.
There is no other of my ilk,
no Cheng or Eng to turn the pages
as I moan my sour music
while Ella plays camel, smiles at you,
a sweet Alice in your carnie Wonderland,
clutches 200 a week, grabs an education,
nabs a husband, loses babies — barren
as the desert I belong on.
And they wonder why I bellow,
spit foul brown.
What is not here, fades: sand
underneath my feet, the caravan
I belonged to, the soft blowing
of my naqah on my muzzle,
nuzzling that is understood.
Hearing my name: Jamal: Beauty.
Mikki Aronoff’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Lake, EastLit, Virga, Weaving the Terrain: 100-Word Southwestern Poems, bosque, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Love’s Executive Order and elsewhere. A New Mexico poet, she is also involved in animal advocacy.
Anamorphis: On a Secret Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, West Highland Museum, Scotland
He never ran on issues,
claiming a chromosome shuffle,
but slewed in the colors' auguries,
uncaught by silver curve,
to be amazed
without smoke or mirrors.
For a while nothing
but glitter and black,
flakes the color of cat
cries, (or wine wild eyes?)--
maybe only cold stars,
a stare's delusion
of blueing magnitude.
But palpable is the noise of thronged life,
and the crashing of hot cymbal
so thus, these colors coalesce:
red nerves, a shriek unglued,
three shades of magenta
like a sky lowering
over too much history.
Then emerging parts, bits, of you,
your tiny future: no face yet but
privative months set
forth to snatch perception:
lost March, lost April,
May, and the way cities
rose, brimming burns
bent, parted at your touch.
Splendid the muffled inklings,
the face faking form,
in the church of imagination
until finally the great pretender
himself! colours within colours,
splendid, him, in the hours
when earth's uneven work
hung in balance like a laurel,
the middle of all other
Dorie LaRue teaches at LSU in Shrevport, LA. Her book of poems, Mad Rains, was published in 2014. Her novel, Resurrecting Virgil, won the Omaha Prize for Fiction. Both are available on Amazon.
Reading in the morning light
she looks the part of a peaceful
old woman, every inch of lace
and black taffeta in proper folds,
in proper place, a small book in
her lap, nothing here to cause a
fuss except maybe a few birds
fluttering in an delicate cage
beside her. The thin filigree
bars filtering the early light.
But in the night, the full moon’s
glow will wake her. Aching, she
will rise and dress and read more,
hoping to satisfy hungers she
knows as her own. Her husband will
stir in his sleep choosing not to turn
and hold her. Exotic plants will call
her name. She will discuss with
them the roots of her longing.
Anna Cotton is a writer and retired teacher living in Lakeland, Florida. She has published poems in Miramar and The Avalon Literary Review. She also has a poem forthcoming in Earth's Daughter.
No dogs bark at this hour,
Desolate, an abandoned field burnt by the sun,
Dry shaving curls on a workshop floor long unswept.
Harsher than sawing wood, a motorcycle
Rips along a distant road, popping
Explosions in small packets sputtering
Bits of shrapnel, broken teeth,
Busted rivets, chopped up brittle, pits, tracers, short-lived sparks.
Slowly silence thickens, concrete putty sealing joints and crevices
Of a room deafening to the slightest vibration,
Hardening gradually, spiral candy.
The world is asleep, I am awake.
Passing time heaves, a resting animal.
Dimly, a behemoth of swarming thoughts like fireflies drifts past.
I wait steadfastly, a metal tool seeking the warm grasp of a skillful hand.
Now is the moment to enter into stillness
Deep as cloisters enfolding underground rivers,
Delicate as a tissue by the slightest cough perforated.
Before the smallest particle of noise tears like flint into gossamer darkness,
I will take long draughts, cupping my hands descending as birds into the springs of tranquility.
Gonzalinho da Costa
A shorter version of this poem was originally published at This Dark Matter.
Gonzalinho da Costa—a pen name—teaches at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, Makati City, Philippines. He is a management research and communication consultant. A lover of world literature, he has completed three humanities degrees and writes poetry as a hobby.
Digging Up Dali
Hair dripping from the Tampa weather we plunged
ourselves through to reach the museum, we stood before paintings
so frighteningly large and bright our breath was a rainstorm.
You asked me where I thought Dali began “The Ecumenical Council,”
and I told you it must have been where the self-portrait in the corner
launched his first brushstroke. The octopus was already placed
before my headphones weren’t working, before you offered yours,
nestling them gently around my neck. But I didn’t want to hear the audio tour,
I wanted to feel the skeleton brides on bikes with rocks on their heads,
riding and riding into the abyss.
I wanted to feel around you, too,
to tell you we’d already started a work of art. Everyone, I wanted to say,
has a binge every now and then. Even Dali, with his barely touched
plate of wavy shrimp, his paltry sexual desires.
What would he paint, now, of his exhumation, his possible
tarot-card-reading daughter? Would he ask for her deck, or hide her face
into each melting face or breast? Would his skeletal resurrection
have a mustache, a paintbrush? To be Dali’s daughter, is to eat
from the tidal pools and cliffs of Port Lligat.
And to be near you, is to always find buried things,
cutting through layers of humus and topsoil to curiosity, enlightenment.
To uncover is to find one’s life pulse, the inside of a tooth, perhaps a hair tissue.
To breathe, from the newspaper’s hand-painted faces, to find a daughter
in “Manhattan Skyline, Tarot the Moon.” What would he paint, of a human’s
unfurled DNA, that could curl around and around the moon?
L.E. Goldstein is a native of Florida. She holds an MA from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MFA from Boston University. She is currently studying and working at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her poetry chapbook, The State of the Ship, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2016.
John Bernhard (USA, b. Switzerland). Contemporary. Click for artist website.
I am night and a thousand stars hurtle through my skin, punching through the ether.
I crouch, prehistoric, in the space behind clouds, my volcanic heart attracting lightning sympathetic, interstellar.
My shadow is a supernova cutting a path through the light, slimming ever thinner
until nothing else remains. My insides negative, the darkness turned out,
pepper-black and coal-hard.
Lightning waits for me on the other side of the forest. He’s tall and thin,
pale or blue, holding me in, but this isn’t a cage. These aren’t flowers
I’m pollenating—they’re caves spelunked, mountains cliff-hung,
open seas hard to port, hives honey-brimmed and buzzing places where
I can hide.
Holly Lyn Walrath
This poem was first published along with these images in the book Dreamlike Art and Deviations (Art Pub Books) by John Bernhard.
Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. Her chapbook of words and images, Glimmerglass Girl, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She is a freelance editor and host of The Weird Circular, an e-newsletter for writers containing submission calls and writing prompts. You can find her canoeing the bayou in Seabrook, Texas, on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath, or at www.hlwalrath.com.
John Bernhard is a Swiss American artist, photographer and writer who traveled North America extensively before settling in Houston, Texas in 1980. For more than three decades he has chosen the medium of photography to explore the everyday world from new perspectives, breaking away into different pathways of artistic expression. Bernhard was educated at the EPSIC Technical College in Lausanne and at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs de Geneve in Switzerland. He is the author of nine books, the most recent of which is Dreamlike Art & Deviation. Beginning in 1985 with a solo exhibition at the Houston Center for Photography, Bernhard has had more than 30 solo shows, three museum exhibitions, and many collective exhibitions throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Bernhard’s work has been reviewed in publications such as Communication Arts, Graphis, Photo District New Magazine, The Houston Chronicle, ArtSpeak Magazine, Swiss Review, and has been widely published in such books as Love & Desire by William A. Ewing, (Chronicle Books), Female Contemporary Nude Photography III, (UDYAT), Spain, and Nude Bible, (Tectum Publishers, Belgium).
This poem was first published in taplit mag, and in the book We Are Procession, Seismograph, by Devon Balwit (Nixes Mates Books).
Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has seven chapbooks and three collections out or forthcoming, among them: We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/Complicated (A collaboration with Canadian artist Lorette C. Luzajic); Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders); and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Aeolian Harp Folio, The Free State Review, Rattle, and more.
Never a Mary
I'm alone in the quietest corner
of the museum, both of Caravaggio's Marys
slumped in their chairs, drugged with something
given them. Their eyes don't even flicker.
In one painting, a black-winged angel
plays a violin, a dirge no doubt, old Joseph
holding the music, while the two women move
deeper into darkness. One of them clutches
the child, yet in her slumber, seems willing
to release him. I want art to be a signpost--
Caravaggio painted both his dead Marys
wearing the same hair, the same skin--
but maybe the artist was enamored more
with his red-haired model than with any
meaning for me. Maybe the guard
asleep in a corner could tell me.
I think of putting on my shoes to see
whether she's breathing. This might be
what it’s like to be the last woman in the hold
of the last spaceship circling the dead earth.
All of the whores and saints, all of the secret
police, long buried. And the child, his eyes
wide open and waiting, knowing
he can't trust me
to catch him if he falls.
Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published by Anhinga Press in 2010. When not shuttling between her three geographic loves--Rome, Tel Aviv, and New York City--she teaches creative writing at The American University of Rome. She holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech and a MBA from Berkeley. More importantly for her poetry, she completed a MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College in January 2009. You can see some more of her work atwww.sarahwetzel.com.
Still Life with Hair, Brush, and Paisley
What could be stiller than frizzy hair
snarled in a brush and juxtaposed
on a rumpled paisley bedspread?
There: all the elements accounted for
since you can’t actually see the oil
in the strands or feel the plastic handle.
You can’t tell if the cloth was stripped
from a nearby window or how cloudy
it is outside that window. You presume
there’s a career in photographing
still lifes but can’t be certain there’s an
ecstatic clientele, one of whom maybe
having already purchased this one and
offering connections to a new gallery
just as the artist begins to grow tired
of arranging random household items
on a contrastingly textured table cloth.
She longs to roam the out-of-doors,
maybe capture falls overflowing
the lip of a granite ledge far from home,
meander back when she wants to,
change subjects abruptly, now focus
on that cloudy sky, now on a neighbor,
his animated arms cradling gladiolas
snipped from his garden. How about
nudes? Her own sepia The Thinker!
Or chronicling the way changing light
changes her own study of water lilies.
She could be reinterpreting the misery
of “wifery,” the serenity of “presence,”
the fate of “creature” in a degrading world.
Or she could simply find a soft seat
in the shade, grab some grapes and trail mix
from her camera case, and imagine what
else she might frame by photographic guile.
D. R. James
This poem was first published at Muddy River Poetry Review.
D. R. James has taught writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, for 33 years and lives and writes in the woods east of Saugatuck. His most recent of seven collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press) and the chapbooks Split-Level and Why War (both Finishing Line Press).
When the West with Evening Glows
Under every step the snow creaks. You tread slowly, so as not to disturb the birds in the trees. The sky is darkening, only a streak of blood remaining on the horizon. The air is still. You pause for a moment, listening. Faintly, from beyond the hillside, comes the sound of horses’ hooves, moving methodically. Driven.
A trio of crows descends, wings beating. They gather in the footsteps before you, foraging for food. You pull your coat tighter around you. Reaching down, you scoop up a handful of snow and push it inside your mouth, smearing it over your cracked lips. Your teeth cry out at the cold, but you withstand the pain, embrace it, feeling somehow that it will steel you for what lies ahead.
Jack Fisher lives in Manchester with his partner and a cat named Lester. He (Jack, not the cat) writes short stories, and has recently completed a novel. He has had work published in Bunbury, Storgy, Spelk Fiction, Avis, Youth Imagination and The Short Story. You can find more about him at jackfisher.org.uk.
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