Directives To a Great Painter I Mostly Admire
Her dress is suggestive of
nothing. Why bother?
The pink is dingy, the blue almost grey.
Your colours are bleeding me. I hate them
like leeches! I hate them
like bowls of blood in Victorian novels.
Pick a new palette, for God’s sake,
for my sake, for the girl, for the boy
whose thoughts are honey. Put some colour
back in their cheeks. Where are the ripe
red berries at their feet? Have you
never been in love?
The leaves on the trees
should be bright green. I worry
for your eyes and your heart.
What is this moss, this olive, this toad,
all shade and wilted grass, a stone
wall the colour of dried bones?
Fold up the umbrella of your sadness
and hurl it into the sea! This hillside
is no place for an elegy. Paint them
a new story, a new life, use
your fingers if you have to,
claw your way into the light.
Crystal Condakes Karlberg
Crystal Condakes Karlberg: "I'm a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. I recently went back to school to get certified to teach Middle School English. I have had work published in The Prompt; spoKe; Tupelo Quarterly; Mom Egg Review (this poem was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize); Best New Poets 2015."
Sketch for Le Bonheur de Vivre, 1905
So, this is a schematic, a long smear of teal on the left,
soft greens, synthetic blues, glowing golds mixed with
hard mineral pinks filling out the rest of the frame. Later,
this sketch will realize itself into a scene of bathers, serpentine
art nouveau curves lounging on the yellow lawn, the tropical
jungle foliage exploding behind them. But who can describe
the color of happiness? Could it be days like this, clear,
mellow, no fogs of loss creeping in? Days when not much
happens, the October sun coaxing gold from the leaves,
the earth turning one more notch? Let the busy world spin.
Let me sit here as the afternoon ripens. If happiness is a colour,
let it be tactile, tangible, something I can eat with a spoon.
Because all too soon, there will be Death, sitting in the corner,
nursing his cognac. Let me lick up all the sweetness while I can.
This poem is from the author's book, Les Fauves, C&R Press, 2017.
Barbara Crooker is a poetry editor for Italian-Americana, and has published eight full collections and twelve chapbooks. Her latest book is Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017). She has won a number of awards, including the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. A VCCA fellow, she has published widely in such journals as Nimrod, Poet Lore, Rattle, The Green Mountains Review, The Denver Quarterly, and The Beloit Poetry Journal. website: www.barbaracrooker.com
Mary and the Sphinx
Taken over by the holy mission,
bare feet soothed in the warm wind.
Look to the sky, to the star
Eyes upturned in
the pleasure and wonder of purpose.
Nature is shifting:
heart full of nursing, of nurturing
the blessed one, infant in arms.
So fully protected, all
may shed their burdens --
to feed, to nourish, or to sleep.
The morning will come.
Betsy Mars is a Connecticut-born, mostly California-raised poet, educator, and mother two adult children and several animals. Living in Brazil as a child led to a lifelong love of language, travel, and an appreciation for other cultures. Her work has appeared in The Rise Up Review, The California Quarterly, and Antiheroin Chic, among others.
the angry boy
the angry boy with one hand
will cut you up if you're not careful
or just because he feels like it
and don't you look him square
unless you want to fight or fuck
the cogs and screws of pity
just don't move things around here
This poem was first published in Right Hand Pointing, and on the author's blog.
Samara is a Pushcart nominee whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eyedrum Periodically, Anti-Heroin Chic, Eunoia Review, Plum Tree Tavern and others. She has two children, works in marketing and design, and has returned to university to complete her BA in Poetry. More at www.samarawords.com.
Claude Monet, Grainstacks in Bright Sunlight, 1890
Repository. The glow an obeisance,
how straw and its seeds – in gratitude? –
absorb and give light back to itself.
“We have caught the sun,” they exult,
“we’re doing our job, we’re a great
success.” And the haymakers think
they hear a singing but then
tell themselves it’s just the heat,
summer is like that, a noontime buzzing
in the air. They’ve packed the hay well,
stored its goodness for the cows,
winter necessity. Now they flop down
in the near-blue shade, pull out
canteens, gulp the warm water.
Hay at their backs stretches and cracks.
Grace Marie Grafton
This poem was first published in Theodate.
Grace Marie Grafton’s most recent book, Jester, was published by Hip Pocket Press. She is the author of six collections of poetry. Her poems won first prize in the Soul Making contest (PEN women, San Francisco), in the annual Bellingham Review contest, Honorable Mention from Anderbo and Sycamore Review, and have twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poems recently appear in Basalt, Sin Fronteras, The Cortland Review, Canary, CA Quarterly, Askew, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Ambush Review.
The Swaddling Clothes
In this, she is no exception: Mother Mary
swaddles her newborn boy, to help the child
recall the opiate confines of the womb
and so give in, again, to primal sleep
untroubled by any man or beast or fire.
In the same way, she wraps herself in red--
simple cloths run through with exquisite threads
of her own sundered flesh. Her fingertips,
hesitant, entwine above her belly,
soft and swollen still with his absence.
She turns away her face, her visitors
left unnoticed. Let them believe the child
came from something purer than themselves,
she prays. Let them see a holy apparition
in his slumber. She keeps her eyes on him,
vigilant: In this, Mother Mary is no exception.
One rustle and she’ll scoop the child up,
return him to her breast before he wakes
with whimpering cries of naive indignation
at the snow-white sham of swaddling clothes.
Andrea L. Hackbarth
To bring a child into this
breaks a man,
leaves him laid out
to the mercy of the sand,
wears a woman down
until her vigilance is undone
like a soft, broken chair.
Even the sky loses
its stars. Even the smoke
of a meagre fire seeks
the thinnest line of escape.
Every fleeing parent and child
makes a holy family
in this darkness where
the present hones its blades,
where the future comes
like a hammer for nails.
Ask the night Will I live
to see them grow up?
Will the ones I love
die in peace? It will
answer you like a sphinx.
Poor family. Poor child
born to such barren chance,
saviour of nothing, so far.
May you get across
the border; may the night
go easy on you. Your life
is one of many small lights.
This poem was written in response to the surprise ekphrastic Christmas challenge.
Matthew Murrey: "My poems have appeared in various journals such as Tar River Poetry, Poetry East, and Rattle. I received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry a number of years ago, and my first book manuscript is seeking a publisher. I am a high school librarian in Urbana, Illinois where I live with my partner. We have two sons who live in the Pacific Northwest. My website is https://matthewmurrey.weebly.com/"
Nativity Pendant, Ethiopia
it's not what a lot of people in the west are used to, but we all interpret these things on a local level, it's just that between the spread of pop culture and the ascendancy of western art for the last several hundred years, ethnic perspectives like these were not valued, were not featured except in museums and on christmas shows as a zoomed in and cut-away example that appears for an instant and just as quickly vanishes again with little or no mention made as to what the image was even of, or who made it, or where it'd come from...and yet looking on it now, being able to gaze as long as one wants, it's beautiful in that it does not presuppose itself to be holy...these are holy beings who aren't of the clouds above, but are of the same earth we belong to, and if only for this, their faces are lovely to behold with child and mother as we've seen countless times before, but different because in their eyes is a familiarity almost like family, and on the left christ runs the devil through with a spear that might as well be a string, the line of his love making him seem like a goodly brother putting down a wicked one...and then back to the mother where it's appropriate to say all things begin, but not where anything ends, for all eyes are on her as she looks right back at us and through to whoever is next and on and on and on for as long as it takes to hold her child close to her that he may never have to take that long walk up that hill...
This poem was written as part of the surprise ekphrastic Christmas challenge.
Garth Ferrante is a complete unknown who teaches, writes, and makes games out of challenging his own creativity. He writes because he loves to, because he finds meaning and purpose in it, because if he didn’t, life would be lifeless.
Despite his reputation as a remover of obstacles, Ganesha clutches lotus flower, tasty pastry and scepter, chubby body entombed within block of granite. His eight arms are cramped as he enfolds bare-breasted stone women. It’s all he can do to clutch staff and sceptre. Phallic trunk curled, stone eyes stare toward museum tourists, possibly heaven. Gawky boys pass and point, awkward in adolescence, trapped between child and man, betrayed by their own grotesque bodies.
Jennifer Lagier has published thirteen books, taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review, helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium readings. Newest books: Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Harbingers (Blue Light Press), Camille Abroad (FutureCycle Press). Forthcoming publications: Like a B Movie and Camille Mobilizes, (FutureCycle Press, 2018). Website: jlagier.net
Franz Marc: The Large Blue Horses (1911)
A trinity of wild horses,
heads curled down in devotion,
contemplate their wholeness,
their power, their shared cloud
of warm breath. They have
Day canters by, and they exult
in the wind, running east along the rise, then turning
and heading elsewhere
as though tugged by invisible reins, propelled
by sure purpose.
The sun pauses on the horizon
as they trade colors with the mountains,
shedding red chestnut for nightfall blue.
Bellies full of sweet grass, they pay
homage to stillness.
Watching, we feel our breathing slow.
This poem was first published in I-70 Review.
Alarie’s latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
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