Seascape-Jetty and Beloved Artist,
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Inky indigo cradles froth.
Mood roils where jetty churns.
Oils drape navy within ashen skies.
Waves turn in turquoise and sage.
Beloved artist, tell me,
did pain dampen your interior?
did nonacceptance torture your soul?
During the struggle,
did God Almighty whisper in breadth of light?
we’re not so different, you and I--
when inky indigo cradled froth,
mood roiled where jetty churned,
oils draped navy within ashen skies,
and waves turned in turquoise and sage--
amid the pain,
did you see angels?
Jeannie E. Roberts lives in west-central Wisconsin. She has authored four poetry collections and two children’s books. Her work appears in print and online in North American and international journals and anthologies. She's a coffee drinker, an animal lover, a nature enthusiast, and poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.
after Henry Ossawa Tanner
It’s the wave that I see but don’t hear that cresting crashes
each window pane a notion the sunlight shatters onto rocks
to lap each piling’s circumference into froth and dumbness
upon which a roar errant for its tardiness is solitary reason
the suckling waters deceptive in their imitation of stillness
an audible sunray that slits the looming gale’s cobalt skein
siren in charm and lure the aquatic blues deepen to black
echoed in a pine for feet’s muffled percussion upon planks
that frame both promenade and window and offer escape
in steps counterpointed against wave strike along tan bluff
in the distance a storm too close in my mind for comfort
along creosote-soaked stanchions driven to last a battering
the navy-blue tempest overhead echoed inside my head
black against black to ground the sea’s recession into itself
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Panoplyzine, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His poetry chapbook, Colors the Thorns Draw, was released by Desert Willow Press in August 2018.
after two paintings by Henry Ossawa Tanner (USA), The Banjo Lesson, 1893
and Seascape-Jetty, 1879
the wind out there is wild, son
it gives the sky a churn
the sea too, and our rough shore
they never stop
make of your arms a cradle, son
feel the way I stomp
like the surf at dawn when we wake
and the waves
in time beat on
just your thumb now, an open G
let's rock to a steady strum
let the strings resound as one
while the waves
out there still pound
place fingers on the frets, son
first and second, pointer and ring
move from open to C
for the waves crash
and never do they hush
hush, my son, hear that cadent thrum--
beneath it all, the heart’s tidal turn
a lesson never done
so waves, beat on and sing
beat on beat on . . .
Alan Girling writes poetry mainly, sometimes fiction, non-fiction, or plays. His work has been seen in print, heard on the radio, at live readings, even viewed in shop windows. Such venues include The Ponder Review, Panoply, Hobart, The MacGuffin, Smokelong Quarterly, FreeFall, The Ekphrastic Review and CBC Radio. He is happy to have had poems win or place in four local poetry contests and a play produced for the Walking Fish Festival in Vancouver, B.C.
Rearranged in Strange Light
I want to be in this water
dark as night, cold, alive.
I, of both flesh and water,
ask to land hard
on this stark coast, epidermis
purged by salt and wind, body
leaving grain by grain,
face leveling like a rock.
I ask this raging water
to knock my coils off,
to mutate me, spilling green over
gold, churning me out
sweeping me back without
thought, my carnality
downed by turbulence.
In water I become
water, ebbing from mortal
time, moving in blankness
rearranged in strange light
like that ambiguous shape
at the rocky edge where
the sea turns over its colours
again, where in a thin coat,
a black figure, an artist perhaps,
balances two surfaces of
the water I know
and the rest of water.
Janice Bethany is a part-time professor in Houston who recently placed in a writing competition for Letheon with work forthcoming in 2020. Her work has appeared in the The Ekphrastic Review, Kansas Quarterly, Southern Humanities Review and more.
disappointment, transformed into strength
fueled by inner storms as fierce
as the weather canvas recreates.
Crossing the state to study with Eakins,
Talent respected but not the man.
A dark form on the edge of the
Jetty—is it you, waiting there
to jump off of, out of, our world
into one where you are respected?
I hear the ocean argue with you,
its voice deep,
deep as the crash of waves upon the jetty
deep as the darkness of stormy afternoon sky
deep as the water that sprays up between rocks
as waves crashes onto the jetty.
I hear you argue from your place
on the canvas and behind the brush--
will stormy waters continue
to rage about the rockes, your soul,
or will you in a leap of faith,
leave these shores?
When skies clear, only those
stronger than the waves,
stronger than the bold brush
of the master teacher,
Joan Leotta, born in Pittsburgh herself, plays with words on page and stage. She loves the sea and spends hours walking the beach, looking for shells when she is not writing or performing.
Near fifty years since I in Sceaux,
not knowing Henry Tanner there -
a grave place for a starry son.
I would have honoured him:
mother a slave till underground,
Wesley episcopal, father brand,
and he debated octoroon.
He detailed real rather than type,
his daily frame, as middle name,
a battleground for freedom fought -
from canvassed shades came life and height.
His passage first on seascape rocked,
the horses riding in their rage,
the roar of forties turning bend,
the swell, walls, gulfs topography,
sourced bubbled springs, drops of rain,
oasis cloud or ice-melt stain.
That water of the gully drift,
should visit berg and sailing ship,
moisten lips, xylem, tree of life,
intricacies of massive maze,
the plumbing of a worldly sort,
nature, nurture, experience.
So of Sarah, Ossawa welled and willed,
pattern against the template wield,
some hope in stratified, stultified,
a point of light in layered dark.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales, from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by over a dozen on-line poetry sites, including The Ekphrastic Review, and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader & Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Our faces glow,
Flushed with firelight.
The bonfire blazes warmth for fingers and toes.
Laughter trills chatter like crackle from burning logs.
Beneath the smile heartbreak arises,
A hiss of sea spray fogs that memory.
Sand and seaweed,
Fishermen hurl their weighty spinning rods,
Mullet bait tossed from the shore.
Today the chill wind tugs my hair
And the strong shoulder of love gone.
Skiffs bump the dock.
The jetty reaches far into the gulf.
Patsy Kate Booth
Born in Beaumont, Texas, Patsy Kate migrated to the La Garita mountains of southern Colorado in 1973 where she lived off the grid, taught special education, created an outfitting/guide service with llamas as pack animals and began publishing her poetry and prose. Publications include, Lummox Press, Willow Creek Journal, Sand Hill Review, Amethyst Review, several anthologies including, Why We Boat, and A Walk Along the River. She is currently compiling decades of memoir adventures and endlessly organizing her poetry for publication.
distant forms, unattached, pull away
like a feather drifting unbalanced,
unaware of the difficulty of flight--
following the wind without intention
like a feather drifting unbalanced
into what is not after before--
following the wind without intention,
currented by air carried away
into what is now after before--
molecules alive with their own journeys,
currented by air, carried away,
caught by circumstance by tides
molecules alive with their own journey
turning into the undertow
caught by circumstance, by tides,
by sooner or later--
turning into the undertow,
the unchosen intersection of elements,
the sooner or later
at the crossroads of to come or to go--
the unchosen intersection of elements
unafraid of the difficulty of flight--
at the crossroads of to come or to go
distant forms, unattached, pull away
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blogs, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/, and see more of her work on her website http://kerferoig.com/
Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Seascape-Jetty
Brings to Mind Winslow Homer
My brother, who died a year ago, lived not far
from Homer’s studio at Black Point, Maine.
Seascapes with jetties all have the same look
as the path I hiked behind the painter’s house.
Before it became part of Portland Museum of Art
you could walk right in, door unlocked, sit down
at the table and read his books. For someone who grew
up on the sea, it was like waking up in Van Gogh’s
blue bedroom after a dream. For even the most sacred
of spaces, there is a limit of your endurance of them.
They are so still and quiet your attention wanders.
I left the studio for slippery rocks crashed by waves
as the tide came in. I took off a necklace of tumbled
stones and left it in a crevice of the jetty.
My brother’s wish was to have his ashes scattered
from the breakwater just across the inlet where lobster
boats leave to check their traps buoyed off the coast.
Everyone gathered in a bitter Nor’easter, cast point
closed for safety. They went ahead anyway for a sailor
who’d settled on one of the most dramatic seas found
and same as Homer, only left the protection of jetty
to be swept up into a storm.
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 Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With eight nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Germany. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
Tanner Speaks, 1879
So you think because a man is black--
father preaching to a church of small children,
sad black men & wordless women, his mother
of Virginia slave-stock—so you think
he hasn’t a word to say for himself,
but cap in hand will mutter, ‘Sir’, and bow
& back away with eyes downcast?
Not I, Mister! For I have stood watching
on that jetty where the Delaware sweeps
out into the rolling Atlantic. Sure,
that sight, those sounds will diminish me to
however, not one word that you can say
will ring above the roar of my senses
when I stand here next the jetty; where moaning
fog has closed the cliffs and all before us
is the drag & thrash of water, waves
bursting on these boulders into shards of light:
the blue & turquoise of my palette
melted like wax by light & water—light!
Black I may be, but I can hear the hiss
& rush & lash of sea, the same salt sea
my fathers crossed in chains below
the foetid decks.
This brush, these oils speak louder in my ears
than oceans, drown your voice to the abyss.
And more than that—for I can see the ocean
with my own dark eyes, frame it with my white-
soled palms, ebony African fingers
that hold these oils, this brush.
So let me speak
in darkest hues shot through with truth’s hot light.
And for God’s sake
hold your tongue.
A published novelist between 1984 and 1996 in North America, Australasia, the UK, Netherlands and Sweden (pen-name Elizabeth Gibson), Lizzie Ballagher is now writing poetry rather than fiction. Her work has been featured in a variety of magazines and webzines, including The Ekphrastic Review. She blogs at https://www.lizzieballagherpoetry.wordpress.com/.
To Henry Ossawa Tanner Regarding Seascape-Jetty
Your brush enlightened sounds the roar
of rage against resistant shore
where harbour must be engineered
to still the waters being steered
so those asea can come ashore
as equals -- neither less nor more --
with blood in common though unique
to follow course by art you seek
that wills one's authenticity
by skills -- not by ethnicity --
respecting and yet not enslaved
to path behind that pain has paved
for those who now are free to yearn
for joy they have a right to earn.
Portly Bard: Old man.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Sea-Jetty, 1879, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the Only African-American Enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1879-1885.
One night his easel was carried out into the middle of Broad Street and, though not painfully crucified, he was firmly tied to it and left there.
—Joseph Pennell, The Adventures of an Illustrator
The cloud-river sky, absorbed with itself, is speeding along on its own.
A ship nearing the horizon has somewhere to get to, and sails on.
But, in the middle distance, a ribbon of shallower water, sunlit
by early or late rays, turns chrysoprase green for the artist’s eye,
and where obdurate land and driven sea confront each other
in a cataclysm of spume, something is exploding open--
like light about to be prism-split, like a crystal revealing
its secret geometries, like the seed-pod of his own universe.
Judy Kronenfeld’s most recent books of poetry are Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017) and Shimmer (WordTech, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Connotation Press, Natural Bridge, New Ohio Review, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in two dozen anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and an Associate Editor of the online poetry journal, Poemeleon.
Three Blacks in Dark Blue
What if I die and wake in the dark
like a body lain flat in a boat,
aimlessly roaming oceans of space?
Years beyond our blue-green swirl of life,
Miranda’s tinny whining mantle
of ice, the haunted lagoons of Saturn,
exhalations of Neptune’s grave blue,
it’s glowing cold like a ghost of Earth.
What if the dead are just clouds of dust,
souls in multiple no longer bodied,
drifting in the serum god knows what,
unable to hear the popping static,
whistling pink, interstellar darkness,
crashing red, sounds like drums, helium,
insects, dread. I fear when we are dead
we are less moons drifting from their suns
than lithe thought in a river of gloom,
matter so dark it cannot be seen.
What if death has no starting point and
we are always in its river, stuck.
What if even now I’m here and there
at once: in my body on this Earth
but also sailing dark into dark,
black into shimmering bands of night.
Sometimes on this Earth I catch myself
falling through my fingertips.
I know we may die and then be done,
but what if we go on and on, nothing
in our wake or in our way, just now
opening like a mouth lacking sound,
the matte-black centre pulling us in
a million years from what might have been.
This poem is from the author's recently completed manuscript of ekphrastic poems, Light, Earth, and Blue: Poems After the Paintings of Mark Rothko.
Caley O’Dwyer is a poet, painter, psychotherapist, and teacher living in Los Angeles. His poems appear in American Poetry Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Ekphrasis, and numerous other venues, including the Tate Modern Museum in London (as part of the 2008 Mark Rothko Retrospective). He is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and a recipient of a Helene Wurlitzer grant for poetry. His first poetry collection, Full Nova, was published by Orchises Press (2001).
Dalí’s Minotaur stands on his plinth like he’s posing on the red carpet – all teeth and tits and toes. He has one hand on a cocked hip and the other’s at a right angle to its dead-straight arm. His mouth’s open and a tongues lolls out of his big, square head. All sculptures are rigid, just as all paintings are still. However, Dalí’s Minotaur isn’t just set in bronze. He’s fixed in that unnatural stance. The pose of modernity’s fashion and ideals.
In the myth the Minotaur is the child of Pasiphaë - the Queen of Crete - and the Cretan bull. He lives at the center of the labyrinth, the impenetrable maze built by Daedalus and Icarus under the orders of Pasiphaë’s husband, King Minos. The monster is regarded as abnormal, a deviation from nature’s way. Its story is one of the best known in Greek mythology. And for many the Minotaur is the archetypal Greek monster, the pinnacle of ugliness just as Athens was the pinnacle of a harmonious society. The myth is a tale of normality triumphing over weirdness, of the heroic status quo slaying the deviant. But instead of a hero killing the monster, Dalí’s Minotaur has adopted the pose of normality. The mythological beast was slain. Dalí’s beast was castrated, stripped of its uniqueness, and made to walk the catwalk.
The function of myth is to relate a people’s values and ways within a social context. Art has played a similar role throughout history. Ancient Greece, particularly the Athenians, valued harmony and concord above all else. It can be said that its monsters are representations of discord. Heroes like Theseus ensured that balance was maintained, that harmony held sway. When he went into the labyrinth and killed the Minotaur he acted as an agent of normality. Dalí’s Minotaur was created in 1981, a year into “the Greed Decade.” Brett Easton Ellis would write about the conformism that defined the age in American Psycho. Patrick Bateman, its protagonist, sums up the time’s ugliness when he says “I want to fit in.” Minotaur adopts the pose of that decade but wears it like someone else’s skin. It’s not the monster’s natural form. But he has had it forced on him, so he conforms to normality’s values.
The lines of Minotaur’s muscles look misshapen and knotted, as if they were kneaded into shape rather than sculpted. Dalí angled that cocked hip too far for it to be sincere. And he juxtaposed these signifiers of banal sexiness with genuine madness. A lobster crawls from Minotaur’s belly. A drawer juts from his chest and another sticks out from his ankle like a fractured bone. Gaping holes in his thighs hold a goblet and a perfume bottle and a golden key hangs from its kneecap. Drawers and keys and perfume bottles are normal, everyday objects. But here they serve to highlight the normal, everyday madness of our expectations. The Minotaur should not be made to pose like a photographer’s model. But it is what is expected today, even of monsters.
Expectations are dangerous and “should” is a bad word. It’s a byword for disappointment, a dissatisfaction with oneself or the world or both. Minotaur is a sculpture of that disappointment and its implications. For centuries art was dedicated to conveying the emotions of mankind and its world through beauty. Even the portraits of suffering were painted to be beautiful. The Renaissance’s pietas depict grief and death and pain through exquisite fineness. Dalí inverted that mission with Minotaur. By taking the standard of beauty and forcing one of ugliness’s definitions into its shape, he revealed that “beauty” is neither intrinsically worthwhile nor a reasonable expectation. Its tropes are not what make something beautiful. These things are ballgowns and tuxedos and abs and asses - signs of wealth, beauty, satisfaction, and perfection. They are not one-size-fits-all. And yet they have become expectations and standards.
Standards aren’t just made of the clothes we wear and shows we watch and drugs we take. They’re made of our desires, dreams, fears, values - the elements of normality. Standards exist foremost as ideas. Like the Minotaur, the one and only place they definitely exist is in our minds. They have little bearing on reality, and belong to what Lenny Bruce called “what should be, a terrible lie that someone gave to the people long ago.” He said that “truth is what is. And what should be is a fantasy.” The Minotaur only exists in our fantasy. Dalí’s Minotaur is real.
Ideas may not be tangible but they are as real as any city. They have the power to shape societies and ages. Dalí was a man of many ideas. His art impacted all manifestations of modern culture – art, music, film, fashion. Like all artists he stole from the sources around him. Minotaur melds myth and fashion into a sculpture of ordinary madness. Its lines, that seem so bizarre and freakish and cracked, trace the frame of the 21st century. This is an age, like all before it, that squeezes itself into an idea that doesn’t fit. In centuries gone by religions and empires tailored that idea. Today it is pop culture and fashion that have sculpted our images. Both our inner and outer reflections.
Minotaur salutes the viewer with his cocked hip and wears our expectations’ uniform. It emphasizes the beast’s grotesqueness, clings to his angles and lumps, bends him out of shape. Dalí dreamt up this beast from the normality that fills our high and low cultures. Minotaur is still a monster. But he’s wearing hot-pants.
James Fleming is a teacher and writer, based in the Czech Republic. He has opinions and writes them down.
Vermeer in Boston
I’d waited decades
To see that knowing glance, forever paused
That letter being permanently written
And that ermine-edged yellow morning jacket.
Yet I found myself, ridiculously,
In the exhibition by accident
Travelled half the world here
For another reason entirely
And stood, clammy palmed and weary
My thoughts haywire, clinging
To another imagined room a mere walk away
Where a team of specialists
Pored over our son
Whose opened chest
Was spread like a canvas
For the surgeons to splatter and daub
And create another version
Of his deformed and failing heart:
And while all this was happening
I met her painted gaze, unflinching,
Wondering, even then, what she’d been writing
(and to whom, and why).
She’d raised her eyes, unblinking
Poised and faintly mocking
Too intelligent, I couldn’t help thinking,
For twenty-first century positivity.
Instead, her Mona Lisa almost-smile
Stayed with me almost all the while
I waited for the phone call
I didn’t feel alone.
And when they’d finished
Eleven long hours later
Applied the appropriate solutions
Brushed away the bloody residue
Hung up their paintbrushes,
"Your son is in recovery."
Still later, on the long flight home,
Juggling pills and international time differences
Her enigmatic expression flew with me
Long after the shadows around her faded
With her writing box and ink-wells,
Her slim stilled quill pen,
The satin ribbons shining in her hair
And the round of her wrist bone
All this slipped away –
Until I saw it later
In a catalogue.
And in one moment
I was back in Boston with her,
Author's note: Written after waiting for our son’s open-heart surgery in Boston Children’s Hospital, November 2015. Coincidentally, the nearby Museum of Arts was holding an exhibition on the painters of the Dutch Republic, which included Vermeer’s A Lady Writing.
This poem was shortlisted in the Booranga Literary Prizes 2019. It was published in fourWthirty, anthology of selected entries (Booranga Writers’ Centre, November 2019).
Denise O’Hagan is an editor by trade. Born in Italy, she lived in the UK before emigrating to Australia. With a background in commercial book publishing, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015. She is Poetry Editor for Australia and New Zealand for The Blue Nib and her poetry is published widely, including in New Reader Magazine, Other Terrain Journal and Scarlet Leaf Review. She won First Prize in the Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition (2019), was highly commended in the Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize (2018) and the Scribes Writers Literary Award (2019), and short-listed in the Robert Graves Poetry Prize (2018). Website: https://denise-ohagan.com/
Self-Portrait with Black Background
I carry the world on my back,
a cup and flask to drink, bread
that will not weight me.
I carry the clear Finnish light
to save its summer flame.
I dispose of what I can until
the face is plainly empty, till
I behold the road, its fork,
the small steps tread.
I set cornerstones to anchor
paint to more than earth, even if
at times it is myself.
I remove details like brush
cleared from the spruce forest.
Study my face as if stranger--
cleft of chin, salmon cheeks,
cloudberry lips, pale skin.
like the infinite winter night.
At the edge of Helsinki Harbor,
I set down the world. I rinse
my visage in the Baltic Sea.
Sharon Tracey is a writer and editor and author of the poetry collection, What I Remember Most Is Everything (All Caps Publishing, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Egg Mom Review, Tule Review, Common Ground Review, The Ekphrastic Review, several anthologies and elsewhere.
For Cornflowers to Sing
Blue must be stolen.
There must be purple
plums, cherries, telling us
blue insists on the flower.
The silence of the jar
must be the centre
which grows the painting,
detonates the seasons.
For cornflowers to sing
each line must scar
There must be light
and the idea of a window.
In each fold of creamy linen,
crouching under the table.
For cornflowers to sing
they must be fallen.
White grave of the table.
This poem was inspired by Brett Whiteley's Still Life With Cornflowers. The image above is a placeholder. Click here to see the painting.
Susan Fealy: "I am a Melbourne-based poet and clinical psychologist whose love for the visual arts sometimes finds shape in ekphrastic poems. My poems have been published widely in Australian journals and anthologies, appearing in Best Australian Poems in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2017. Others have appeared in the United States, Sweden and India. My first collection Flute of Milk (University of Western Australia Press, 2017) won the Wesley Michel Wright Prize and shortlisted for two other literary awards. In 2017 presented on Ekphrastic poetry (one of an international panel) at Poetry on the Move, Annual Conference of the International Poetry Studies Institute, University of Canberra."
Caravaggio’s Jigsaw: The Burial of Santa Lucia
I see it again now, worn thin by time.
My neat saw will carve my painting
to a thousand pieces.
A million solvers will feel the fury of
the russet featureless echoing vault,
still sounding its chorus of desolation,
while below, spotlit as was my trademarked pride,
the hulking workmen dig the grave, growling.
This will be easier, the white light on the swathed arse,
shoulders of hard muscle heave, while the pale body
lies or floats, throat cut for her faith, waiting in the void.
No challenge to match the pieces here
for lonely souls and families fearing conversation.
Snugly, the arms, faces, staffs and robes
will fit each other; the tumbled, broken mournful crowd
re-forming, re-assembling. Just as I intended.
Kate Rigby is a part-time poet and part-time historian, living in Manchester and luxuriously dividing her time between researching for the National Trust, creating displays in a historic library, and reading (and less frequently writing) poetry for her own pleasure. Kate has had poems published in journals such as Antiphon, Scrittura, Cannon’s Mouth and this month she appears in an anthology of Manchester poets writing about Peterloo.
Lecture on Ekphrastic Poetry (NYC 2017)
An unpromising room in an unpromising city
library, a jumble of lost umbrellas, the serenity prayer
taped across a crack in the wall, one corner torn free.
The slide projector’s brilliant blank square
fills with Breughel’s peasants at their galumphing round,
while the poet reads aloud Williams’ “The Dance,”
then Marianne Moore’s Flemish tapestry, “envy worn down
by obsession,” Charity riding sidesaddle
on an elephant. Walcott on Watteau. Milosz and Hopper.
Donne’s spooky “Witchcraft by a Picture” paired
with a portrait of Rembrandt’s young wife, Saskia,
graced by a circlet of flowers in her hair.
How strange, when the lights came on,
to see we were still sitting in that shabby room.
Aaron Fischer spent 30+ years in technology and trade journalism and as an online editor at a news and public-policy website. His poems have appeared in Adelaide Poetry Review, After Happy Hour, American Journal of Poetry, Briar Cliff Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Crosswinds Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and Tishman Review. He has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, as well as for Best Poetry 2019. His chapbook, Black Stars of Blood: The Weegee Poems was published in 2018 by Main Street Rag.
Madam Tachlitzky Mourns Her Husband
She keeps her Cashmere shawl wrapped
round her shoulders day and night,
breathes the smell of mountain pine,
snow and goat, father’s willow workshop,
mother’s roti and most of all him.
Addicted to flu-strength pills,
she sits confined in her room,
moping and sighing. Her eyes,
once lit up with joy, now feel like weights
pulling her down, heavy with tears, framed
by falling grey waves. Her mind
spins. She can’t wrap herself up
enough. Where is the promise
of warmth? She fingers the heft and weave,
knots and folds, the sometimes fibrous beast
of their marriage, claw marks, rips,
darns and then that final tug
unravelling. Ruby woo
tints her lips and cheeks this afternoon,
at least she’s made an effort today,
but she won’t don her bangles
or bindi again. No more
silk sarees. No jasmine wreaths.
His Indian parakeet whistles,
waits in silence, but no one replies.
Helen has been published on several online sites such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, Red River Review, Barren Magazine, The Drabble and Sukoon. She loves reading The Ekphrastic Review and now lives in England after many years in the Middle East.
(after Edward Hopper and Hart Crane)
Like her, we make our tentative calculations
Based on the wireless weather forecasts;
Rain on the window, bullets from tommy-guns
Fired in some vintage gangster movie.
For we can still feel the threads of family,
Of home, the drone of telegraph lines
Across the prairie and the trail of tears,
The wall clock ticks, the radiator hums
Through emptied caverns of bus stations
Close to midnight, this fugitive goumada
Sweetens her fifth espresso
And clocks the headlights in the lot.
Like her, we finger what’s left of the wad
To delay the doom of the inevitable burn -
The hammer’s click, the barrel’s swivel,
Crow calls through falling leaves,
The slice of a spade in soil.
And yet the quiet stillness of the automat,
The swirl of undissolved cream
Suspends, for now, the weight of Omertá,
Grief that comes with a game called vendetta.
Like her, who fidgets with her spoon,
Framed by the surge of a dark window
A highway of lamps leading away
We prepare to change one alias for next,
On a pulp novel quest through the wilderness.
Bob Beagrie is a poet from Middlesbrough and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Teesside University. He has published nine collections of poetry, most recently Leasungspell (Smokestack Books 2016), Remnants (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press 2019), and This Game of Strangers (Wyrd Harvest Press 2017), his tenth collection Civil Insolencies is due out from Smokestack Books in December 2019.
The Ekphrastic Review
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