Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #79
[The spectator] wants to join the canvas, not in order to consume it aesthically, but in order to produce it in his turn (to “re-produce” it), to try his hand at a making whose nakedness and clumsiness afford him an incredible (and quite misleading) illusion of facility.
Lines drawn alongside lines as if under lines, lines drawn straight up and down and
across, lines angular, lines drawn helter-skelter, lines defining fields in shades of blue like
an ocean (but not an ocean), in a band of yellow and gold like a sunset (but not a sunset).
Lean in here, viewer, where the way out first seems be through windows or doors, before
they turn into ghostly shapes of ships or just some fog on the glass.
everyone can see
the way it’s been built up
layer upon layer
who knows what to call it?
it is not futility
first sullied canvas
he was hoping to paint out
the lingering stains
as gesture piled on gesture
marks what time does
The eye continually wanders as in a labyrinth, false clues at every turn; first a long time
certain of success, certain you’ve read it, and then right into a wall, the only passage
being under; but the game’s been changed. We know certainly it is not the picture of
farm plots or a surrealist beach, but we cannot decipher it, unlock whatever hidden
meaning might be there. It might just mean what non-meaning itself means, the presence
of absence; and it represents the unrepresented.
I first picked out
that single surface, a canvas
drawn and painted on
flat before my open eyes
no illusions of depth
too many details
to reckon them up in words
no sooner noticed
than forgot, the flood of more
coming on the dancing eye
This is a critic’s nightmare: name the colors and make a catalogue. Start with that
somewhat greenish column lower left, the one with the rouge, strawberry reddish line
drawn through it, with the pasty clouds, scrawled uncertain images at the top, the green
under the pressure of the brush and from the power of the wash fading in and out
faint markings, red and black lines
not depicting anything
at all, a Byzantine art
nothing you discern
like any lines composing
a skeletal view
what we know is how cathedrals
wither under erasure
How miraculous if a word appeared, some fishhook to ensnare the thoughts rushing by.
What if in that yellow band (my favorite of the features, my eye always seeks it out) he’d
written words like El Arroyo de los Baños, and then we’d look for twisting blue canals
banked in sunlit concrete, the sky over the San Joaquin toward the western hills. But
before we’d gone far down that road, the sky would have broken into shards, like dry
leaves, down into blue and red stripes in thick parallels divided by hard lines, the canals
would crack, turn gray, and evaporate. Why, then, you’d really wake up.
the only title
that the painter’s given us
what Ocean Park was
south of Santa Monica
a stretch of beach beyond roof tops
in the studio
some worried lines and angles
from the other side, the back
imagined in a mirror
an artist walks up
lays down a long straight edge
on virgin canvas
then besmirches it with hard lines
pushing paint and charcoal in
search the scratches
for hints of hidden palimpsest
not really older
but illusions of time passing
between the painted layers
Charles Tarlton: "I am a retired professor who has been writing poetry full time since 2010. I am especially addicted to emphasis and have published ekphrastic tanka prose in KYSO Flash, Haibun Today, Atlas Poetic, Contemporary Haibun Online, Review American, Ekphrastic Review, and Fiction International."
You must not cry for night,
a garden of blues and greens,
the fragrant stars, the little melodies
falling silent. You must not weep
for the selvage of dusk, its frame
settling against the window.
This other kind of cotton’s
made to soothe, to sweep and wrap
against your back. Your child’s
hiding within the forbidden grove,
ever restless with her dreams
of horses, her fear of wind.
When I woke cherry leaves
swept the sky, stroking
another nursery into being
with its pastels and white crib.
From a hinge in the sky
strains of Bach rose
and fell. Certain shades
came from cuttings left on the curb.
The same three fates--
Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos--
continued to spin, measure and cut,
sewing shadows to their facings.
Come now to the new place
where the large head waits,
bound and swaddled in flannel.
Come down as the birds plummet
from sky to nest. Circle back,
let the green rest, pace yourself
for the hundred years, the fluted edge,
the filigree tears falling
in a fountain from her breast
as she feels it empty.
Post partum, in the nursery,
a little muff of dust accumulates
against a headboard. See to the stain
of milk-spray, the tiny circles
she traces with her finger
as she nurses this new Victor.
Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. Her work has appeared inLitMag, Shenandoah, Zyzzyva, FIELD, and elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. She is a faculty member at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. Visit www.judithskillman.com
But how can a storm be elegant, the contortion of
the visible expanse, incoherent elements clamouring
for release, morning pretending to be a newly birthed
night, night lit up like a funereal morning, didn’t we also
do it awkwardly, dumping darkness into the space
between us, letting the light grind into the ugliness, we
could sit naked on the parapet to see if the rain understands
when the earth says no or trace the immorality of the tempest
to a karmic reduction, a consequence even after it is removed
from its cause, but you stand there, smiling, the universe
reduced to a point on your finger, telling me why the
frenzied sky tries to shred itself so it can become
water, after the penitent water has patiently gathered
itself, day after day, to become the sky.
Rajani Radhakrishnan is from Bangalore, India. Finding time and renewed enthusiasm for poetry after a long career in Financial Applications, she blogs at thotpurge.wordpress.com. Her poems have recently appeared in The Lake, Quiet Letter, Under the Basho and The Cherita.
A Vivid Portrait in Black and White
I see colours whisper names,
ghosts of Henrietta Marie
inside the planks of wood
from sunken ships—murals.
Magenta smiles warp deep
blue, ocean blue where ship’s
bell lays still. Clanging.
Clanging loud cries of men
whose darkened shadows
have been replaced. Finally.
Their fettered souls ascend
through blue sky lesser blue
where anger has been washed
to muted gray.
John C. Mannone
This poem was first published in Rose & Thorn Journal.
John C. Mannone has work in Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Plough, Windhover, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene's Fountain, Poetica Magazine and others. He’s the winner of the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature and the recipient of two Weymouth writing residencies. He has three poetry collections: Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing), nominated for the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; and Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing). He’s been awarded two Joy Margrave Awards for Nonfiction and nominated for several Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other venues. He’s professor of physics near Knoxville, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com
The Robing of the Bride
I will not be the world’s bride.
I will not have their tongues on my pale skin
tracing the path of veins underneath –
they touch without touching,
they feel without feeling.
It only takes an unmasked voice to make them flee.
I would rather be the red bird of prey
and push away the handmaiden with the fashionable hair.
Then, I would snatch the silly lance
the green cormorant has pointing at my crotch.
He makes me laugh
with his pathetic lecherous grin
He must be thinking he’s frightening me.
I would kiss the crying monster
on the top of its head and say,
“Goodbye, my friend –
you were always free.”
They only called it ugly because
they were jealous of its completeness.
And you – I’m looking at you.
Do I make you uneasy
with my bloodied feathers?
Does my wrongness offend you?
Did you think I would cower?
For a second I thought so myself.
I’m still talking to you.
I’m waiting for your answer.
If it’s three times “no,”
then come in.
Anca Rotar is a Romanian-born writer of poetry and fiction. She was driven to writing by her love of stories and verse, as well as by an ever-increasing fascination with mysteries and the unknown. Her biggest complaint is that there are too many interesting things in the world and hardly enough time to discover them all.
Moonlight and Melancholy
In a short time, Bemis grew to hate the painting. He had bought it at one of those art auctions on a cruise ship, and only later did he learn that the auction house was under indictment for peddling forgeries. Carol had told him he was crazy to spend that kind of money on shipboard, where it was impossible to verify anything. They were sitting ducks, didn’t he see that? Now it turned out she had been right, and the painting hadn’t even arrived yet.
When it did, he unwrapped it and took a good, hard look. It was a painting of a clown sitting on a bull’s back, right up behind the horns. The clown had a sad face and was looking off to his right, as if listening for something. The bull had lowered its head slightly and was staring straight ahead at the viewer, looking like it was about to charge. Its horns flared out and up, one of them traversing a large, round moon the painter had hung in the corner of the painting. The whole thing was washed in blue, to suggest moonlight.
Bemis remembered reading the identifying label on the ship a fraction of a second before looking at the painting itself, and being charmed by its name, “Moonlight and Melancholy.” Even then, he thought it predisposed him to like the painting. But what did that matter? What mattered was whether you could live with it on your wall, and as he stared at the bull with its sad voyager in the bright moonlight that seemed beyond question. The label had a red dot on it, which meant that a bid had already come in. It was for forty-seven hundred dollars, the auction agent told him when he asked. He would have to do better than that. Carol was not there. She had left after lunch with the snorkeling party in a zodiac that zoomed off into the distance and then disappeared. She wasn’t interested in second-rate art, as she called it. She wanted to see the coral and tropical fish the area was so famous for. Bemis felt exactly the opposite way. He didn’t care if he never saw what was under the sea.
At the auction, the agent told him all about the artist, whose work was beginning to turn up in museums in the States and Europe. It usually sold for a lot more than forty-seven hundred dollars. The agent had papers to show that. Bemis put a bid in for forty-seven fifty, figuring that someone else would better that and he’d be off the hook. But no one bid any higher, and when Carol came back she told him he was a sap, and when he showed her the painting she just stared at him. He could tell she was trying not to say anything hurtful.
Bemis had been so excited about the painting, but now it seemed a dead thing, now that he had it home. It had no light, it was blue, and mottled, like fish skin. He wondered if it was even the same painting he had seen aboard the ship. He propped it on the hall table, turned toward the wall, and only then did he see the sticker on the back that said “Studio 23,” and the phone number. He dialed it, and a woman who identified herself as Brenda answered on the other end.
“How can I help you?” she asked, in a beguiling voice.
“I have a painting,” Bemis began. “I think it’s yours. It has a sticker on the back that says Studio 23.”
“Could you describe the painting to me?” the woman asked, and when Bemis did she said, “Oh yes. Moonlight and Melancholy. A fine work by”—and here she mentioned the artist whose name Bemis already knew. “Is there a problem?”
“I’m not sure,” Bemis said. “I bought it on a cruise ship. I think it may be a forgery.” He could hear a crackling sound on the line when he said the word “forgery.” It sounded like the signal might be fading. “Oh no, sir,” the woman said when she came back. “Studio 23 stands behind all of its paintings one hundred percent.”
“What is Studio 23, anyway?” Bemis asked.
“We are a clearing house for fine reproduction oil paintings,” she answered, reeling off the words with practiced fluency. “Our artists copy only the best of what is licensed for copying. If you like, I can put a brochure in the mail to you.”
“What about”—and here Bemis mentioned the artist’s name. “Did he paint this or not?”
“Oh yes, of course. The original,” the woman answered.
Bemis felt like an idiot as he asked, “The original? This is not the original?”
“Oh no,” the woman said, her voice deepening with what sounded like genuine compassion. “I hope no one misrepresented Studio 23 to you. We handle fine reproduction oil paintings.”
No one had said a damn thing about Studio 23, Bemis wanted to tell her. He never heard of it until he turned the painting over at home and saw the sticker. And even the sticker didn’t say anything about reproduction oil paintings or licensed copies. Just “Studio 23” and the phone number.
“Sir,” Brenda was saying. “Sir?”
“Yes,” Bemis managed to say. He felt groggy and half-drowned.
“Sir, I want to assure you that you are in possession of a first-rate work of art. Hardly anyone owns an original, you know. Almost everything you see is a copy. If you’d just let me send you our brochure.”
“No, thank you,” Bemis said, because he didn’t want to be rude, and then he hung up. He had a lot to think about. In the meantime, he was not going to look at the painting. There were so many things he didn’t care if he never saw again, things riding out into oblivion away from his caring. Here was another. Only, he thought perhaps if he left the painting on the hall table, where no one would disturb it, turned toward the wall, he might see the Studio 23 sticker with the phone number whenever he passed, and hear Brenda’s beautiful voice saying, “No one owns an original, sir. Everything is a copy.”
Michele Stepto lives in Connecticut, where she has taught literature and writing at Yale University for many years. In the summers, she teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont. Her stories have appeared in NatureWriting, Mirror Dance Fantasy and Lacuna Journal. She is the translator, along with her son Gabriel, of Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World.
Editor's Note: This image was chosen by the editor to illustrate the story. The inspiration for the writer's story was an imaginary painting, not this one.
Brush Made from Baby Wolf Hair
This is a traditional Chinese pen, an artifact
Combining a wolf’s wildness with a baby’s
Innocence. It is soft but strong enough to
Write dark history in rice fields, or draw
Black pictures on ricepaper. All in black
And white. Unlike the feather from a swan
That can fly up from an alphabetic epic
Yes, it is a colourless feeling the painter
Or the writer gets, from his inky strokes
Yuan Changming, nine-time Pushcart and two-time Best of the Net nominee, published monographs on translation before moving out of China. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver; credits include seven chapbooks (including Dark Phantasms ), Best of the Best Canadian Poetry: 10th Anniv. Ed., BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1319 across 40 countries.
David Huddle teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English and in the Rainier Writing Workshop. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in The American Scholar, Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Poetry, Shenandoah, Agni, Plume, The Hollins Critic, and The Georgia Review. His most recent books are Dream Sender, a poetry collection, and My Immaculate Assassin, a novel. With Meighan Sharp, Huddle has co-authored a book of poems, Effusive Greetings to Friends, forthcoming from Groundhog Poetry Press in the fall of 2017, and his new novel, Hazel, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2018.
What do I care for the company of men,
I, who would sentence them all
to hard labour, death, for the price of a fuck?
Now I hear you making your excuses,
you leave nothing out, except the price
of hope, as if hope could save you
from God’s opprobrium. Shame me
with your godless words, I am a girl alone,
a girl without God, a girl without a mate.
I have inured myself against love,
against men, and I’m too exhausted to pose.
Leave me be. Leave me be. Leave me be.
"But my darling," says Tolouse, "I will love you,
my black stockinged girl, as if you were all mine,
as if our love was always meant to be."
Mark A. Murphy
Mark A. Murphy’s first full length collection, Night-watch Man & Muse, was published in 2013 by Salmon Poetry, Eire.
High Noon, 1949
A woman alone in a doorway, her sheer
robe parted. A shrug would drop it to her feet.
The loose gown is mirrored by the window above
where curtains sway half open and a yellow
shade is half way down. We wonder if the woman
looks for the one coming or watches someone
leave. Like her saltbox house, she’s caught
between whites and grays, the Cape Cod scene
stilled except for the red flare of foundation and chimney.
What has happened before she gave her beauty
to a sun that bathes her features, golds
the fair hair. Shadows play on the half-naked body.
In this moment when morning becomes afternoon,
when the hero steps into the street to meet his fate,
a woman moves into the light. Behind her darkness waits.
Diana Pinckney is the winner of the 2010 Ekphrasis Prize and Atlanta Review’s 2012 International Poetry Prize. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize 5 times. Cream City Review, Crucible and Persimmon Tree are among the journals that have given her awards. Published in RHINO, Cave Wall, Arroyo, Green Mountains Review, Tar River Poetry, The Pedestal Magazine, Nine Mile Magazine, Still Point Arts Quarterly, & other journals and anthologies, Pinckney has five books of poetry, including 2015’s The Beast and The Innocent.
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