The dry grass smells like baked bread in the sun. The mountains have snow, also pine, and sagebrush. Clouds purple the ground in shadow, and sage brushes my arm. Does the moment stop thoughts? I remember walking through Idaho and Eastern Oregon, or even in the low chaparral at the base of Mt. Diablo in childhood, seeing or smelling distant snow and the moment could stop thoughts. The sun hurts my eyes, and the soil is gritty and rhythmic to walk on. I remember walking through sage brush, and the gristly scratch of nettle, and trying to make my thoughts stop. The openness of the land and the beauty of distant snow, the sun on my back. I remember walking through a farm in Idaho and watching lightening clouds gather over the foothills, hearing crickets, and then the thunder came and crickets stopped. The rain started, and the smell of dry sandy soil and wet sage. I remember the rain on my face, and the coolness of rain soothed the mosquito bites covering my legs and arms. I worked with horses in Idaho, clicking my tongue and offering rewards for wanted behaviour. I remember the smell of horses, horse cookies, soaked beet pulp, bean soup from a can for me, the sound of rain on the barn roof and the flies even seemed to get still and listen. The horses breathed and stomped. I remember walking through sage brush leading a horse, the flick of his tail, the heavy saddle groaning like an old house. I remember how my thoughts could stop and rise by the power of longing, and how much I looked for that feeling in dry open places.
Outside this window is a Lowry.
Thick white sky, painted around
stiff terracotta chimney pots:
not quite straight/ smoke can’t
travel in a line/ people relate
to imperfect things, anyhow.
Stick men trapped in tableau
of oil and turpentine; a mass
of layers and fixings; my viscous
realisation of you. Elucidation
in snow and gloom; in bright
white pain; or grey confusion.
Noxious candyfloss urban scene;
a city with black lungs;
factories puffing dirty smokers’
breath into claustrophobic panorama.
You, flattered with colour;
naïve; matchstick unstruck.
This window does not complicate.
It caught you in a grid:
You wouldn’t recognise yourself.
Still, I see so much of myself,
in what I’ve made of you.
Amy Louise Wyatt
Amy Louise Wyatt is a lecturer, poet and artist from Bangor, N.I. She has had work published in a range of literary journals and magazines. Amy has read her poetry on The BBC Arts Show and at festivals throughout Ireland . She is the editor of The Bangor Literary Journal and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2018. amylouisewyatt.com
Rock and snow my prison cell
Stranded in the midst of beauty
Blue waves and sky no consolation
Thoughts of rescue from this desolation
Now as distant as a passing ship,
With its snapping sails
A faint syncopation
Against the murmur of swans
Taunting me from afar
The freedom of their aerial maneuvers
Bringing only profound sadness
Each passing day
The spark of hope dimmer
Ken Gierke was forty before he found the need to write poetry, but even then he was pressed for the time needed to focus. Retirement has given him that, as well as a different perspective on life, which has come out in his poetry, primarily in haiku and free form verse. More of his work can be found athttps://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/
I Know Doisneau
"Perhaps my life is nothing but an image of this kind; perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring, doomed to try and learn what I simply should recognize, learning a mere fraction of what I have forgotten."
• André Breton
Sorting through forgotten journals and papers, I discovered an old agenda with the theme: Robert Doisneau photos. I was familiar with many of the photos; had probably internalized and smuggled them as mental images across into France. Although they certainly intrigued, I never consciously used the photos of Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï, Lartique or Kertész as a guiding force, template, or road map. Nonetheless, they did help me sort out some essential, febrile, magical elements of Paris.
Something I barely addressed in my wander memoirs: Paris Scratch and NY Sin Phoney in Face Flat Minor is the issue of influence. In brief, the 2 companion books feature 365 [written] snapshots noted while wandering through NYC and Paris. The idea: pen replaces camera, reality confronts preconception. In that time, the pen was probably as much an aesthetic choice as one of economics – writing was cheaper but also required a different optical orientation – less about composition, more about narrative. I would see a woman on the street and instantly invent her story. [The photo is, after all, NOT a static, frozen instant captured. It is instead a portal, the poster for the intimate movie projected on the screen inside one’s skull.] The written snapshots are corollaries to the photo snapshots; a necessary collaboration between story, image and memory.
A spooky realization occurred during this office cleaning-purge. As I flipped through the agenda, I noticed 3 Doisneau photos in particular – they seemed familiar as if he’d first read my snapshots and then went out to illustrate them with his photos. That’s probably just silly, distorted narcissism because, of course, it was more likely the reverse; he had taken them years, 40 or so, prior to my snapshots.
The photos seemed so familiar that I went through Paris Scratch and found, indeed, 3 snapshots that seemed to match the photos suspiciously well. Immediately familiar as if I had somehow failed to leave my Paris apartment une journée and simply, lazily described the photos as if I had experienced them on the streets. I assure you this is not what happened; they are not evidence of fake memories.
But how to explain it? Had the photos drawn me magnetically, like cursor on a computer screen or the plastic heart-shaped Ouija Board planchette engraved with the words “Mystic Hand” to locations where the citoyens of Paris reenacted the photos for me? Indeed, maybe the photos had served as the impetuous, adventurous soul who grabs me by the hand, draws me from my abode, to deliver me ideomotorically to not-quite chance encounters – the heart as GPS – in the under-traversed Paris backstreets of Breton’s Nadja, creating an instant of enchanting mystery to undermine everyday routines, persuading us beyond the limits of waking logic. As Breton noted in Nadja: “Le coeur humain, beau comme un sismographe.” The human heart is a built-in seismograph, measuring the movement of the earth under our feet – round midnight. Here I write down what reads much like descriptions of the 3 Doisneau photos.
The mystery is not unlike that of the Ouija Board: It’s not about connecting to a spirit world, but how we move, negotiate the mental map without realizing we’re moving in any discernible direction. The ideomotor response is a mental representation, a thought that brings about a seemingly reflexive reaction, beyond awareness.
I live deeply ensconced in art always. So when I photograph an artwork, for instance, that piece becomes mine; I am sometimes reflected in the image projected off the framed glass, allowing me to enter the work. But I have yet to learn how to back out graciously.
bart plantenga is the author of the novel Beer Mystic, the short story collection Wiggling Wishbone, the novella Spermatagonia: The Isle of Man & the wander memoirs: Paris Scratch and NY Sin Phoney in Face Flat Minor. His books Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World & Yodel in HiFi plus the CD Rough Guide to Yodel have created the misunderstanding that he is one of the world’s foremost yodel experts. He recently finished the Amsterdam-Brooklyn novel Radio Activity Kills. He is also a DJ & has produced Wreck This Mess, in NYC, Paris & now Amsterdam since 1986. He lives in Amsterdam.
Moving Through Rooms in the British Museum
The broken oversized white marble bodies
stripped from their pediment, of their bright paint,
of their privileged position on top of the Parthenon
on top of the Acropolis, spared the Athens smog
and Ottoman gunpowder, lounge on top of pedestals
like gods and goddesses, their time-amputated limbs
crammed artistically into this windowless room
in the British Museum, their finely carved fleshy
weighty arms and thighs, their muscular abdomens,
the occasional hint of drapey clothing, bright white,
arms or legs posed in perfect balance,
reclining or standing with plain metal assistance,
they’ve lost even their names and have been given
the lordly title of opportunistic elegant Elgin
and his conveniently loose interpretation
of the Sultan’s firman, they miss their sun,
that dazzling Greek light, their athletic
and artistic festivals, their wars and other fun.
And in another room, the stylized Egyptians
with their impossibly wide shoulders
and narrow waists, their androgynous faces,
their lost desert world in profile and felines
they can’t seem to do without – such a winning
human weakness – even in the next world,
their cold pharaonic hearts in canopic jars,
their mummies under golden protection.
In the next not-too-large room a flat black stone –
granodiorite – standing upright draws attention.
The predictable boastful formality of officialdom –
recording yet another child king granting
gifts and tax exemptions to the priesthood,
the priests promising various things in return,
new statues, festivals, temple adornments –
painstakingly decreed in three languages
in white, a child’s correct chalkboard:
hieroglyphs, demotic, Greek. We read
the small scholarly museum label
and nod, as one, at the Rosetta Stone
which all of us have heard of
but whose meaning we take for granted
because none of us can understand it.
Daniel Goodwin is an award-winning poet and novelist. His second novel, The Art of Being Lewis, is forthcoming with Cormorant Books.
The Little Girl in the Painting
She looks right at you. She had looked at him
with frank impatience, eyes dark with defiance,
and chances that she’d sit still long were slim,
but girl and painter formed a brief alliance,
and he caught lightning dressed in dainty boots,
a white-clad doll with her own doll in hand--
though something stingy in her grin refutes
her docile slouch. What fee did she demand?
A piece of chocolate cake? A game of tag?
An outing to the beach, or to the zoo?
Her concentration seems about to flag
as one toe kicks the other, and you too
can see what Sargent saw—those boots disclosing
the fee she’d like to charge him: no more posing.
Jean L. Kreiling
Jean L. Kreiling is the author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014); her work has won the Able Muse Write Prize, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters Sonnet Contest, and three New England Poetry Club prizes, among other honours. In her day job, she teaches music history at Bridgewater State University, and contributes articles on music and poetry to academic journals.
The soft heaviness of a woman is
the exceptional darkness
inside a round blue cup.
It’s so strange. Black folds into
her skirt, shadowed back,
Maybe it’s not a map at all,
just liquid geologic patterns
cut with spiderweb cracks.
The brass rivets hold the upholstery
to the wood and she holds the room
like an egg cup atlas.
Casey Elizabeth Newbegin
Casey Elizabeth Newbegin lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY, where she works in art restoration. She has a BA in English from Lewis & Clark College and an MS in Information Studies from UT Austin. She is the author of the chapbook Northern California Lightning Series and her work has previously appeared in Off the Coast, Windfall, Plainsongs, and The Sandy River Review.
Joseph Stella Painting Brooklyn Bridge
In his first painting of it,
lines of force slant this way, then slant that,
flickering a cacophony of blue and white
above a blossom of blood;
while the spine articulates--
in tiny, elegant detail--
the sequenced towers.
Passing this frisson futurisme
in subsequent pictures,
Stella settled to a symmetry
a quintessential modernisme
that became the way he crossed
this bridge every subsequent time
he came to its soaring contradictions--
medieval gothic are its massive piers
and yet the machined-aged cables of steel,
the taut song of its wiring mechanique,
is what lifts our spirits, transports us,
as we walk the interior passage,
unique to this suspension,
a path that makes our walking seem
a transit towards an altar,
an altar that turns out to be
the City of Brooklyn,
a place worthy of worship in its way,
but cruel, ungraspable.
“Only the dead know Brooklyn,”
sayeth the gospel of Thomas Wolfe.
Joseph Stanton is a professor of art history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has published many books of ekphrastic poetry, with a new one scheduled in 2019. His work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry, Harvard Review, Image, New York Quarterly, and more. Over 500 of his poems have appeared in journals and anthologies. His awards include the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award, the Ekphrasis Prize, the James Vaughan Poetry Award, the Ka Palapala Pookela Award for Excellence in Literature, and the Cades Award for Literature. Ekphrastic poetry was one of the central concerns of his doctoral research at New York University, and he conducts ekphrastic writing workshops in New York and Honolulu.
A Renaissance Altarpiece
Uccello painted them: a family bound
together to a tree-trunk post, staring
with horror down as flames leap up from
foot to calf to knee. Four horsemen on
the right display the flag of Rome. Across
from them, with faces glistening in the flame-
light, stand the helmeted guards who
trussed this family up and set them blazing.
Two boys, both red-heads, share their parents’
fate, while in the background—fields, a leafy
apple tree, farm houses, and a church.
The sky behind a neighbor castle town
is black. The merchant and his pregnant wife
and boys were damned for what they did to
desecrate the host. “Religion,” I once
told a Catholic friend, “makes good people better,
bad people worse.” Another panel illustrates
their crime. They cooked it in a pan until
it bled. The blood of Christ spilled out and ran
across the floor, and when it dribbled
underneath the door, they were exposed.
Have you ever fallen from the second
story window of a dream—the broken
glass, the silent floating scream? You’d think
at least the child in her womb could be
redeemed. Why would a Jewish merchant
be so hostile to the host? Why in
Urbino was this credited? What calculus
of feeling can elucidate this art, unless
it charts a program to annihilate
a race. Aghast, the baffled victims
stare at lizard flames that leap and leap.
This poem first appeared in Archives of the Air (Salmon Poetry, 2015)
John Morgan has published six books of poetry and a collections of essays. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and many other magazines. He has won the Discovery Award of the New York Poetry Center, and his Collected Poems, 1965-2018 will be coming out next year from Salmon Poetry. Morgan divides his time between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Bellingham, Washington. For more information visit his website: johnmorganpoet.com
The Great Executioner
His gleaming hand
grips, by the hair,
a head. Its eyes closed
in divine rest.
He looks past it,
clutching his sword,
its sharpened blade cloaked
has his task
and little else.
Secured by coiled rope,
is roughly pieced together.
On his head, a cap
of twisted white fabric.
The job may be done,
but the work remains
There is a body to dispose of,
bloodied scraps of clothing to sell,
a sword and hands to clean.
This poem is from the author's chapbook, Moon Garden at the Met.
Tiffany Babb is a New York based poet. She is interested in the varied relationships between image and text. You can find more of her work atwww.tiffanybabb.com
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