The light is Pisco brandy
aged in an oak barrel
on the backstreets of Bellavista.
A flute of champagne
fizzes on a mosaic tile.
She perches on a Fornasetti
stool in the Summer Bar,
her long legs crossed
waiting for hora del coctel.
Her hair is unruly red,
curled like the paths
that lead to secret portholes,
A gift – lapis lazuli necklace
nestles against her breasts.
Her tremulous face
eyebrows arched, lips pursed
as if ready to sing a Sonato
to the gilded mountains,
while he remains silent
like an hidalgo on a coat of arms.
Poet's note: La Chascona means wild-haired woman in Spanish. It is also the name of the house Pablo Neruda built for his lover Matilde Urrutia.
Jane Salmons is a teacher living and working in Stourbridge in England. She is currently studying an MA in Creative Writing and has had poems published in various online magazines including ‘Ink, Sweat and Tears’ and ‘Algebra of Owls’. Aside from writing poetry, in her precious free time she enjoys photography and creating handmade photomontage collage.
Unfurling Pieter Breugel's The Triumph of Death
Now I see! it is a scroll being wound to the right
into the maw of time. Humanity vanishes
as flamboyant and noisy as ever, and as surprised
as ever, mouths shaped into fleshy Os
of astonishment. Who? me? There must be a mistake!
Bonier others look on, grinning in delight,
for which their teeth alone seem to suffice.
In the next panel, the one you cannot see
yet, the skies are blue, the animals
have returned to reclaim the land. Even the horse,
rawboned and beaten, that pulled death's cart
has fattened up. It looks up from the grass
and shakes its noble head as if to dispel
the last remnants of a foul dream.
But for now, it's a party! Everyone has come
bringing their instruments, the big bells
trumpets strings timpani and something
that looks like a tambourine, or is that a cartwheel?
Far off, the sea boils and fire falls
from the air. And crosses everywhere! Sign beneath
which Netherlander and Aztec alike perished.
On the left, a young disconsolate (or aging
philosopher — it's hard to tell) stares
into his hand or what is left of it.
He sees the future dawn without his kind
and knows it's right, they've made a hash of things.
And nothing, nothing to be done but wait
until the final turn grinds him to dust.
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.
In the Annunciation, I see Gabriel as suitor:
features of Florentine youth,
curls of a dandy, a lily to present
to the beauty. He is on one knee.
The young woman, non-plussed,
never expects such impetuousness
from someone she remembers
from the crush near the Duomo.
The miracle is her hand
holding her place over
the open Tanach. Tapered fingers,
sensuous, extension of draped,
transparent veil, pedestal.
Near her, architecture of stone
remembered from the Palazzo Vecchio.
In the background, Tuscan hill flora.
Downstairs, in the Restoration Studio,
I remove five centuries of grit, oxidized pigment.
X-rays show which strokes licked the apprentice’s brush,
which the master’s.
I add cerulean to her robe,
carnelian to his.
Reconfigure a shadow.
Mike Ross teaches courses in poetry writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville. His first book of poems, Small Engine Repair, was published in 2015. He is working on a second book of poems.
Chez Le Père Lathuille
It’s lunchtime on a sunny day in early October, when Claire, a wealthy widow with a stern
demeanor, sits at a table on an expensive Paris restaurant patio with her grown son, Henri.
An eager young man with a crooked black neck tie, Henri leans in,
places his left arm on the back of his mother’s chair, as eye to eye he draws her near.
Henri’s fingers wrap the stem of his half-filled glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc,
almost gold in the sunlight, as he begins pleading his case…
Claire listens to Henri’s calculated appeal, poised, and regal, in her hat with the sweeping black feather,
matching her black hair.
Does Claire’s stern expression conceal her belief that Henri seems sincere?
Sun and lush foliage frame the measure of their every word, and every gesture.
Jacques, a sidelined stoic, ready perhaps, even anxious to serve, stands just within earshot,
a thin man with a receding hairline, and a complex, small gold pitcher in hand.
When Jacques notices Henri’s half-filled glass, he dares not interrupt Henri’s plea.
Instead, he waits like a statue, intrigued by Claire, her straight posture, and serious face.
Jacques keeps his hand in his pocket, taking notes with his eyes as he tunes in with envy
to Henri’s attempt to persuade his mother…
Tired legs, and feet that ache, Jacques laments his poor lot in life through an old
script about how he blew the chance to own the restaurant he serves.
Though beyond his ability to explain, Jacques knows from experience, false steps cripple,
ill-timed words wound, and all deeds feed the deeds that follow…
He fears his approach to the table might cast a shadow on Claire’s attention, and jinx Henri.
So, he keeps his distance, and the well-positioned widow ignores him.
But what the Far East calls karma, or science calls The Butterfly Effect, Jacques’ doctor
in nineteenth century France, views as a few of his crazy ideas.
Never one to act with haste, Claire motions for the check and buys time to decide…
As they leave, she suggests they continue their talk next week in a nearby café.
Perhaps, as they exit through the patio, Henri decides to free his thoughts of her,
until they meet again…
Obsessed with the vision of Henri’s half-empty glass, Jacques’ fidget becomes a nervous
pace, his thoughts race back and forth in time with his feet.
For the rest of his shift, Jacques broods and berates himself.
If he’d offered to refill Henri’s glass, what might Claire have decided, as Henri sipped?
Would he ever know? Could he ever know? Maybe his encounter with Henri and Claire, embeds
a new syllable or two in Jacques’ familiar script.
Michele Harvey’s poems have appeared in several literary publications including: Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Progenitor, Copper Nickel and The Litchfield Review. Her sonnet, “Dinosaur Ridge,” is the focal point for a permanent art in public places display at the Jefferson County Government Center railway station in Golden, Colorado. Michele Harvey is the author of Poetry for Living an Inspired Life.
Mariposa, why do you flirt with Death?
You make a good couple, I freely admit it --
he with his yellow bones and steely scythe,
you dressed in yellow and orange and lots of
funereal black. Perpetual Día de Muertos!
But one day he’ll play the death card
on you, you know. Perhaps you should
worry a bit. Reconsider. Meanwhile, enjoy
your denim-and-polka-dot daydreams,
your blushing-pink and acid-green world.
Oh, what the hell! Do the danse macabre --
click your castanets while he rattles his bones!
The shadow of Death hangs over us all anyway.
Besides, even a skeleton has dignity.
Even a dead butterfly is still beautiful.
Bill Waters is a well-published writer of short poetry and compressed prose. He also runs the Poetry in Public Places Project, a Facebook / real-world group interested in creating and promoting poetry in public spaces to increase the richness of everyday living. Bill lives in Pennington, New Jersey, U.S.A., with his wonderful wife and their two amazing cats.
See more artworks from Lorette C. Luzajic, editor of The Ekphrastic Review, here.
Four Apologies to Ecce Homo: A Glosa
The paint absorbed into the damp
I started it, then I went on holiday
I was only trying to do a good thing
Return it to its former glory
-- Cecilia Gimenez
I started at your crown, Lord.
Then my brush dabbed at your brow.
Cecilia, you said. My eyes. My eyes.
And I listened, your gaze too distant,
I made it right. When the newsmen
Asked me, I explained. There I was,
In the afternoon. There was no one else.
But you are not an easy canvas.
I’m sure you understand, Lord.
The paint absorbed into the damp
Let me explain, Lord.
Garcia spoke to me from these walls,
Even today, he speaks
His voice even louder
Still. I hear him, Lord.
Like my children, I delivered you
In a hot mess of earth and pigment
I lost my way
When I touched the face
I started it, then I went on holiday
Behold, I took you in my aged hands,
Flaking and faded, we were
Worn thin and pale.
My knees buckled as I stood
Exhausted, slacks wet with paint.
My Lord. White static of years,
No one else
Would run her thumb
Along our temple
I was only trying to do a good thing.
Christ, your face has never
Looked more alive!
You are awake again. A beast
Of wide eyes. They might be
Right. You are an animal
Of awful flesh. Like me.
And when my body cracks and peels
Restore it, Lord.
Return it to its former glory.
Karin Wraley Barbee
A native of Ohio, Karin Wraley Barbee currently teaches at Siena Heights University. She lives with her husband and two children in Tecumseh, Michigan. Her work has appeared in Natural Bridge, Swerve, Fjords Review, Columbia Review, Fiction Southeast, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Diagram, Whiskey Island, Found Poetry Review, and Sugar House Review. More work is forthcoming in Packingtown Review.
“Red Faun,” (actually a satyr) sculpture in red marble
from the 2nd Century, restored in the 18th Century ,
speaking when on loan to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
in Kansas City, Missouri.
Carpe diem! Drink, laugh, kiss,
fondle! Pleasure’s too brief,
eternity’s too long without it!
Imagine me here in a New World
unknown when I followed Dionysus.
Those were the days!
I roved through the vineyards,
frisked after nymphs in the meadows.
I had the great Hadrian’s ear
or rather he had mine, for wine
is a fine relaxer of tongues.
The Emperor needed a friend.
Poor man, surrounded
by ignoramuses who disdained
his love of art. How gladly we
shared our passion for beauty.
What? You can’t believe
I appreciate more than carnal
pleasures? You forget I play
the flute, my tool of seduction.
My music soothed the emperor.
Alas, I foresaw Hadrian’s end –
just not my own. Somehow found
myself buried in rubble,
My glory days lost, I dreamed
of the past. But oh my thirst
for wine and seduction!
How I yearned for 1500 years
to again feel the thrill of warm
hands on my torso. Delicious.
How awkward when my chest
traveled to the Vatican alone.
Soon my face also felt the sun.
Too brief! Now my collected
parts reside inside forever.
Cold as marble, I warmed myself
with memories until healed
by the skilled hands of Cavaceppi.
More than restored, he brought
muscles, sinews, and flesh to life
in ways not understood
by my creators. My prowess wasted
among the red-dressed, celibate
idiots of Rome. They labeled me
a faun! Guess I can’t expect them
to know their own haunches
from those of a goat. But bless
them. I raise my handful of grapes
in gratitude to be a satyr.
Even as I stand before you
in perpetual indoor winter.
I give thanks to be handsome
and whole once more.
Alarie’s latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
Model in the Artist's Studio, 1928
This model is zaftig, even hefty by today’s standards,
fleshy thighs, round belly, ample curves. Bottom
heavy as a ripe pear. But she is bien dans sa peau,
doesn’t go to Weight Watchers, had a café crème
this morning, broke her croissant into small pieces,
dabbed it with confiture d’abricot, little bits
of sun. She took pleasure in the moment.
So when Dufy posed her, arms behind
her head, solid hips jutting right, there she
was, delectable as an oyster, ready to be
consumed. And here we are in our imperfect
flesh, the dimpled arms, the parts that jiggle,
the great softening, as we succumb to gravity,
our last lover. So let’s raise our arms above
our heads, let the world see the pudding bowl
our bellies have become. These hips have carried
babies, these thighs have walked many miles. This
is it; it’s not going to get any better. So let’s stand
in the cool light of this blue room naked as the day
we were born. Let’s tip our breasts to the sun,
and love our unairbrushed surgically unaltered
exquisite bodies for what they are:
the houses that we live in.
This poem was first published in Barbara Crooker's book, Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017).
Barbara Crooker is the author of eight books of poetry; Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017) is the most recent. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and she has received 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. Her website is www.barbaracrooker.com
Letter from Frida to Chavela
It’s half past three.
The garden is soaked in a pool
of blue light. I can’t sleep.
This morning I looked again
at the photographs you sent.
Do you remember cariño
the night we spent on the Zocalo?
We busked with the mariachas
swigged tequila straight from the bottle
smoked Padilla cigars.
You swaggered with the best
of the boys, warmed the brown earth
with your gravel laugh,
wore a man’s suit beneath your jorango
(how we howled!)
a pistol slung low on your hip.
Diego sends his love, by the way.
Wonders when you’ll visit us next?
He’s a new fresco on the go.
I haven’t been painting much.
My dear doctor says
I’m to have a bone graft next month.
My thirtieth operation, you know.
Do you remember cariño
how we clutched our bellies with laughter,
rolled like armadillos across the flagstones
at Coyoacan, our art our armour
against my broken body, your years of loss?
What you never knew
is that as the sun rose
I swept a vine of Mexican Flame
through your hair, breathed lover’s words
into the kiss point of your neck.
Mi rareza, hurry back.
Jane Salmons is a teacher living and working in Stourbridge in England. She is currently studying an MA in Creative Writing and has had poems published in various online magazines including Ink, Sweat and Tears, and Algebra of Owls. Aside from writing poetry, in her precious free time she enjoys photography and creating handmade photomontage collage.
Malevich, Kazimir. The Black Square.
Malevich’s Red Square was ours.
But you didn’t care for beautiful things.
The Black Square is hardly aesthetic. It is deeply conceptual. I was surprised to happen upon it in an almost empty room one day, walking through the General Staff building. The painting was hung next to a couple of Kandinsky’s works. I knew the Russian Museum had a large collection of his work, but I hadn't realized the Hermitage had a few pieces too. The Russian Museum has many of Malevich’s famous colour paintings: his geometric, faceless peasants, simple fields with red horses running across them, train-like, and the Red Square.
I remember the Red Square more than I remember the Black Square. But I like the red one less. The Red Square is like the blander sister: same shape, same size, same two-dimensional surface, but somehow flatter. That wasn’t my first impression of it.
The first time I saw that painting was on Valentines Day in 2015 and it felt important. It felt significant that an obscure red shape was what my then-boyfriend and I happened upon as we walked through the galleries. We were holding hands. He was wearing a dark green sweater I’d gotten him for Christmas. I was wearing a three-quarter sleeve grey dress I’d bought that morning. The Red Square was hung towards the end of the gallery. I pulled on his hand to signal a shift in our slow walk-through. We stopped in front of the painting. I took a picture.
I didn’t know what it meant, but I pretended to get it. He didn’t know what it meant, and he told me so. It was red, avant-garde, and the picture we photographed on Valentine’s day. That was enough then.
But what does it say about a memory, a memory full of sensual, aesthetic, and emotional pleasure, if it is attached to de-aestheticized art?
What has always been interesting to me about the Black Square is that at the original exhibit, Malevich famously hung the painting in the corner referred to as the krasniy ugol. In Modern Russian, krasniy means “red,” but the word used to have the connotation of “beautiful.” It was the place in a room in which a Orthodox icon was commonly placed.
There is something important for me in the relationship of the two squares, red and black. In hindsight, maybe I should have known that the subconscious association of that painting as a symbol of our love was an eerie foreshadowing. Won't red turn to black, and won't love leave?
Did I need to cover myself in the satin of colour to fall into the blackness and know something? To emerge from that blackness and be able to handle the silence? Is that what Malevich did?
Silence. I read that white represents the very limit of the expressible, the silence beyond language and blackness beyond the image. So then, is silence the border of emptiness? Is the way to be, the way to keep making sense, to furiously continue going forward to wherever we all seem to be rushing to? And when we come to that end, is the goal simply to be still? Is that what we should do with the black squares in our souls, paint them over with more white?
Maybe then, at the highest and lowest moments, the only appropriate thing to do is to be quiet. Quiet alone? Quiet with someone?
To be quiet and not alone. To listen to the vibration of one’s soul. And maybe when we get that close to the edge of all that we are the only logical next step is to embrace that this is the very edge or to hope that this is the edge of God, not the edge of life.
Have I been baptized in black? Have I learned my lessons yet? I don't know, but I will stand still on the edges of silence, looking into the blackness of the square, and continue to fall through nothingness into God.
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Alisa Goz now lives in New York, NY, where she recently graduated from The King's College with a B.A. in Media, Culture, and the Arts.
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