Ulysses S. Grant
Marble is harder than a man:
Marble is softer than a man:
the drape of his cape,
the sympathy of his hand.
Marble is purer than a man:
free of blemish,
A man is merely a man:
careless of missed buttons.
How do you know if a man
is reaching for his sword
or laying it down?
Laura Levenson is a writer and psychotherapist of more than forty years. Her writing has appeared most recently in The Potomac Review, The Maine Review, and Summer Stories [ShantiArts].
After A Man with a Quilted Sleeve
Canonize me, canonize my dog.
A shadow cast,
and in the midst of,
is delicious to a fish.
Of what you know already I am loath to sing
so I am loath to sing,
and not one multitude would I contain.
When nuance is gratuitous,
when I have trouble with my solar sail or can't be
hypnotized, do put me in a room and bring me what
I want and answer truly every question that I think
to ask. The good twin and the equal and the
opposite of unintended consequence, I have a
sleeve that could accommodate a torso and it's
painted Titian blue.
In a past century Heikki Huotari attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower, is now a retired math professor, and has published three chapbooks, one of which won the Gambling The Aisle prize, and one collection, Fractal Idyll (A.P Press). Another collection (from Lynx House) is in press.
Brushstrokes For Alfredo Fuentes Pons
The niños play in the dark, singing mañanitas
or humming. The earth’s colours are young
again in their faces. Because reality obscures,
the Modigliani in you—the face’s contoured
symmetry in Hombre religioso—must belong
to another painter. That face, native
only to dreams, is recognizable—the work
of Fidelio, unreal. These children belong
to Alfredo, the echoes of clouds made into bonnets,
the dog unseeable almost in the bramble,
and the artist, barely in their line of sight,
painting, finally, an invented name.
Gabriel Antonio Reed
Gabriel Antonio Reed is an emerging writer from East Tennessee. (The word emerging is a euphemism forunknown.) He is grateful for this opportunity.
I turn around and around avoiding the challenge to imitate Lot's wife, frozen in time.
I am made of breath and humanity.
Ignoring the distractions and the echos of the Pillar of Salt.
I move forward with the blessings of the here and now.
I am guided by space and freedom and the knowledge
that calls me home.
Sandy Rochelle is an award winning poet-actress and filmmaker. She appeared on Broadway with The Acting Company of Lincoln Center. Publications include: Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press/Formidable Woman, Writing in a Woman's Voice, Connecticut River Review, Visions International, Tuck. http://sandyrochelle.com
(for Tricia Knoll)
Sit Metta for yourself, and you will find them--
the beggar children of your soul, hands outstretched,
so hungry. Won’t you spare them even a crumb?
But no—like a maître d'hôtel shooing away a bum,
you move them along before you can hear their com-
plaints. Why so fearful? Perhaps they’d be half as wretched
with only a kind word. Or you could make them at home.
After all, you already cohabit. You might as well be touched.
Devon Balwit: "Sit in a comfortable posture in a quiet room or any other place providing privacy and relative silence," says the meditation manual. Devon Balwit replies: "As if..."
in shroud robes.
Say not enough snow.
Say tide is rising.
Say we know
what you’ve done--
all over this canvas.
How could you?
Murrey's poems have appeared in many journals such as Prairie Schooner, Poetry East, and Under a Warm Green Linden. He received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry a number of years ago, and his first book manuscript, Bulletproof, selected by Marilyn Nelson, was published in February 2019 by Jacar Press. He is a high school librarian in Urbana, Illinois where he lives with his partner. They have two adult sons. His website is at https://www.matthewmurrey.net/
The Hand Behind the Easel
I created you, my children,
cotton smocks swirling in shadows
like billowing sails blown to edge
of Havana headland
consigned to walk
through dune and dust,
charcoal eyes enticed
by the hand behind the easel
as if with a puff and sweep
of chalky line
I could disperse your floating ghosts
like dandelion clocks
released from time,
allow you to walk from frame,
escape the shameful
sickness of this nation.
Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry and literature since childhood. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in Great Britain and internationally. She is presently editing her work for an anthology and enjoying responding to ekphrastic challenges. Alongside poetry, Kate enjoys art, dance and playing her growing collection of guitars and ukuleles!
Not sun-hats, but scarves, wound tight, choking.
I see their shadowed faces, pinched lips,
hawk noses and black eyes full of woe –
the girls, not the mutt. But the mutt too.
Mama buttoned on yesterday’s gowns
and a cape for little Brunilda
that billows and rips on the brambles –
sinuous as snakes – framing their way.
Even the spindly trunks to their left,
the dim house, the distant town are storm-
smudged and cumbrous. The sisters clinch fists.
No-one chats. No-one giggles or jokes.
No-one airs a sound. Only the wind.
They should be playing jacks and hopscotch
or tag-games of wolf and lambs. I want
to see smiles and lithe limbs, clip orchids
in their hair, hear chants, but I suspect
their stomachs are knotted like ribbons.
At home Mama and baby Marco
share plantains from the grill. Not much else.
There’s no rum left, no churros, just aches.
Later Papa will bring home his strike
placards instead of pay, his hands free
from soil and tobacco stains this year.
The livid slogans and plummeting
graph-lines frighten the girls, as rain spews
and childhood blurs to a sorrel haze.
Helen has been published in several online magazines and supplements including with Corbel Stone Press, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Clear Poetry, Algebra of Owls, Ground Poetry, Your One Phone-call, Open Mouse, Red River Review, Barren Magazine, The Drabble and Sukoon. She lives in both Riyadh and Edinburgh.
Children of Cuba
in sepia, white, and black.
Beneath the surface:
undercurrents, long shadows,
effervescence, and storm clouds.
John P. Tretbar
John P. Tretbar is a retired journalist living in St. Joseph, Missouri with his wife and cat. That makes poetry his #3 passion. He hosts a local poetry klatch and enjoys fostering young talent. He is also a noted musician and actor, with credits from Denver to Chicago.
Children In Sepia
What I remember is brittle and dry
the colour of last year’s fallen leaves
crumbling into earth-
a faint whisper
of summer’s joyous shout
kicked up as dust
with every step
These ghosts of a lost season
like faces caught in old photographs
faded and bodiless
in daylight or darkness
our faces older than our years
so used to hard conclusions
Fists raining down
with a man’s strength
curses worse than blows
eating our hearts
leaving us light and dry
hollow as fallen leaves
like smudges on even
the brightest day
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many online and print journals, and she has an electronic chapbook, “Things I Was Told Not to Think About,” available as a free download from Praxis magazine.
Children of Dis
Not three witches bent over a cauldron,
lost in incantations and the future,
rather, three hollow-eyed waifs on a road
from nowhere to nowhere. They lean against
the wind-swept barrenness of Dis, the mythical
underworld too often found on earth.
These children of dust and poverty--
disadvantaged, discarded, perhaps diseased—
clothed in a billowing silence as loud
as a scream into emptiness.
Each morning, a cranky jalopy
emits three gypsy children on Calle
Juan Hurtado de Mendoza. Disheveled,
they commandeer the steps of Kentucky
Fried Chicken, playing miniature bouncers,
their hands extended palms up. No pesos,
no entrada. They devour mashed potatoes
and biscuits when coins jingle in their fingers.
Or if their simple begging fails, they stretch
themselves across the steps, lie faint.
Disorderly, discontent, dismissed by passersby.
Hunger never far from their minds.
Sandi Stromberg was most recently named a finalist in Public Poetry’s nationwide contest ENOUGH and had work published in the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. She co-edited
Echoes of the Cordillera (ekphrastic poems, Museum of the Big Bend, 2018) and Untameable City: Poems on the Nature of Houston (Mutabilis Press, 2015).
Mother Would Call the Place Godforsaken
These three bundled on the coast of the Atlantic
live above us in an apartment meant for summer rentals,
bayside cheap with windows that leak
so much curtains blow in a wind.
There are nine upstairs--
three sisters, two brothers, parents, grandparents.
We let them have the hot water to bathe first
in the square tub under the skylight.
Nana boils pots of water on the stove for Sister and me.
We like how they knock on the steps above our room
and whisper to us before we go to bed,
the company in the walk to the yellow bus.
Their mother works at the Snow Canning Company
at the airport. I remember seeing how chipped
her nails were from shelling clams as she drove us past
the place our mother refuses to take a job.
Our family has fallen apart, but we are landed--
a two story house across from the beach
where I talk them into living after visiting
their bungalow one street over.
Our rent cheaper, the furnishings better,
these are folks Mother doesn’t want us associating
with, but their winter rent pays the mortgage
and we have enough to eat.
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 Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press), and Wildwood (Lummox Press). Ride the Pink Horse is forthcoming in 2019. With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
Free at Last
It is not enough to wait,
to search for signs
and a way to curry favour
It is not enough to stop
remaining, to be finished
with opening and closing
others’ windows and doors--
It is not enough to travel
somewhere, anywhere, to know
how to find the North Star,
to walk well-worn secret paths--
It is not enough to keep
going forward—if always
chains drag behind
shadowing every step
with invisible wings--
heavy, still, unopened--
falling down, and then rising
up at last unburdened
yet strangely hollow--
an outline from the past
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on the blog she does with her friend Nina: https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ and see more of her work on her website: http://kerferoig.com/
search an arid expanse
to slip behind impoverished lips.
Bramble bushes border
like militarized barbed wire--
a wealthy garden containing
These sparse tubers spark
no hope behind black eyes
too dry to cry
before such extravagance.
The pet dog cocks its ear,
hears growls amidst flaps
from billowy cotton,
unaware it is the chorus
preceding its demotion
to four-legged luxury.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Some of his work found a home here, and in other online and print publications such as Burning House Press, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal and Califragile. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com
So rapt they seem as they behold
entombed as though in barren cold
of carving made on poacher's tusk
bestilled in pearled dawn and dusk
so only chosen few would see
the hunger there will always be
when liberty is ripped and torn
-- from flesh where it by grace was born --
and then recast as fear in eyes
that autocrats so dearly prize
in castles built from brutal force
where ocean moat leaves no recourse
to children only free to yearn
for life they have no right to earn.
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Aubade Of Febrero 19, 1949
Do not serenade my soul, niños
tuberculosis comes to us all, I guess.
Watch sun rise over Havana
hear vultures kettle, beaks on drip.
Thank our God you are blessed
with sight, sound, with smell
treasure your smocks, textilera crafted
by Madre’s sweat, her fragile hands.
Live life full in every moment, look
to a future but remain in the now
never overvalue precious chattels, while
embellishing virtues inherent in our land.
Tell your offspring where you were
febrero 19, 1949 at dawn.
Tell them you heard my final utterings
crafted like Rembrandt, like El Greco.
Hear my hues splutter, stammer.
Feel dulcet greys blend with my cobalts.
Touch red seeping from my ailing body.
Listen to my last shrieks of abject pain.
Retreat to your homes, niños
for today will be long, a hot sun
rising above nefarious raptors
seeking to feast on my tattered lungs.
Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions in Europe and North America. His poems have featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He is particularly inspired by ekphrastic challenges.
Niños de la Pobreza Eterna
(an ovillejo after Fidelio Ponce de Leon’s Niños)
In Rembrandt hues they pause before
abject children who can’t escape
this drab landscape--
nor its archives of oppression
Barren famine distends them
into el Greco perspective,
babes suckling on the effects of
coarse nature, this drab landscape—and desperation.
Bill Cushing lived in several states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico before moving to California. After earning an MFA in writing from Goddard College in Vermont, he now teaches at East Los Angeles and Mt. San Antonio colleges. He was named among the Top Ten L. A. Poets in 2017 as well as one of 2018’s “ten poets to watch” by Spectrum Publishing of Los Angeles. Along with writing, teaching, and facilitating a writing group (9 Bridges), he’s been published in Another Chicago Magazine, Brownstone Review, Metaphor, and West Trade Review. He is proud to have seen two of his poems featured here for previous ekphrastic challenges. His book of poems, A Former Life, will be released in June and is available online from Finishing Line Press.
Fairy tales can come true;
it can happen to you
if you get to start
with the food that you need,
and a hope that will feed
body, soul, and heart.
But when grays of your days,
unlike bright cabarets,
dim your eyes with a haze
found in poverty’s maze,
then life becomes more hopeless
every passing day,
as strength drains from your limbs
and you can’t get away.
Though you’re told that you’re worth
every treasure on earth,
you must play your part;
helping others get rich
while you stay in your niche
with a broken heart;
and if you should survive
til you reach twenty-five,
you’ll have children who strive
just to try to survive,
and here is the worst part--
you’ll imitate this art--
if you are among the poorest
from the start.
Ken Gosse prefers writing short, rhymed verse with traditional metre. Usually filled with whimsy and humour, this subject forgoes both. First published in FLR–East in November 2016, he is also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, Home Planet News Online, and others. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.
They were wrapped like nuns
but too young for nuns,
or perhaps like babies
but too old for babies.
Shrouded in sepia
for their picture
with the dog,
a black dog
a hang dog
the Black Dog
to engulf them all.
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Vagabond Press, Light Journal and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and on Facebook.
las expresiónes de tristeza y perdición
A holy trinity of ghosts
of children haunt the hillside
looking for Fulgencio Batista.
Their gowns flow in winds
of despair, crosses painted
by the light of their prayers.
Their gaunt eyes full of dark
hunger, looking for justice.
John C. Mannone
John C. Mannone has work in Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Peacock Journal, Baltimore Review, Windhover and others. He won the Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as the contest’s celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His third collection is Flux Lines (Celtic Cat, 2018). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. he’s a retired physics professor living in east Tennessee. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com
Gold light washed over monochrome
makes the clouds over Moll’s Gap look holy.
And the way the man in the white jumper listens
to the fellow turned to him suggests they’re friends
with each other and with the ground they stand on.
All around them graves dug over centuries,
monks and nuns and the five thousand from the first famine year,
whose remains, hastily buried, sometimes still bloom
in winter’s heavings, so the mowers must take special care.
In this frame of holy clouds and fringe of grass along the bottom,
they could be standing on the further hill
caught in an idle moment at the end of trenching a row
or on the pier, watching the holiday boats.
I imagine they carry the place with them in sleep.
I imagine them not imagining
a single story about the dead whose space they tend,
how they leave that to the tourists replete with maps and phones.
How these men stick to trimming grass and hacking back the fuchsia
when it threatens to engulf some family plot,
and gather the inadvertent trash left by the curious--
leave rain and sun and wind to do the rest.
Each evening they leave the dead in peace
and settle in, for Dublin, My Fair City or RTE, or a book
left open on its spine beside the bed. But they return again each morning,
speaking a word to this or that inhabitant, as if returning home.
Miriam O'Neal is the author of We Start With What We're Given (Kelsay Press, 2018). Her poems and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Blackbird Review, Lily Poetry Review, Ragazine, River Heron Review, and elsewhere. She is a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee, was a Finalist in the Brian Turner Poetry Prize in 2016 and the Princemere Poetry Prize in 2018 and also translates Italian poetry. She earned her MFA at Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in Plymouth, MA with her husband and dog.
“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee?
I lay my hand on my mouth.” Job 40:4
From the ship’s stern, I hear God’s undulating voice,
See Him in all his majesty and power, in all His creative force, in all His manifold presence
As He stretches out his hand to gather the waters in a heap
To send them forth, willing them to stand fast, to heed their boundaries.
The dark blue waters
Spraying, crescendoing, cresting,
Foaming, frothing, billowing,
A reminder that a moment is as fragile as a bubble released from its wand,
That man washes away
Even as he builds fleets to navigate the turbulence and to manifest his own worth.
Yet the waters like crystals,
Inviting Leviathan to play there.
Dolphins to cavort,
Man to meditate on The Almighty’s sea-sculpted caves
To consider His wonders,
The deep to proclaim His glory,
His intent to judge the world.
But man, nestled in his hubris, heeds not Nature’s counsel
Until the waters increase and the light alters and
The winds lay siege to his certainty.
Jo Taylor, a retired English teacher from Georgia, enjoys writing poetry whose main themes are family, faith, and place. "Revelation" was inspired by a Baltic cruise, by Hurricane Irma, by scripture, and by a closer look at the American landscape artist, Winslow Homer, particularly his Perils of the Sea, 1881.
The day after my mother-in-law’s funeral
we collected all the paintings
from her studio and damp basement,
the thank you card from Irving Berlin,
her sketchbook for The Birdland murals
displayed for sixteen days
at the Smithsonian (now
owned by a private collector)
crated them for shipping to California
where we stacked them in rented storage
That’s when I imagined
of all the art
at the Uffizi, the Getty, the Kamakura
And now, I can’t get the image
out of my mind:
dried paint chipping,
the spread of mold pockmarks,
velour paper edges fraying, canvas rips, a gradual
flaking into sand, then dust sifting down
to be layered over by debris
of another generation
always the shifting sand
like a dust storm
This poem first appeared in Luanne Castle's book, Doll God (Aldrich Press, 2015.)
Luanne Castle's Kin Types (Finishing Line Press), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award. Her first poetry collection, Doll God, winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was published by Aldrich Press. A Pushcart nominee, she studied at the University of California, Riverside (PhD); Western Michigan University (MFA); and Stanford University. Her writing has appeared in Copper Nickel, TAB, The American Journal of Poetry, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Verse Daily, Broad Street, Lunch Ticket, Grist, River Teeth, and other journals.
flower of Neptune
daughter of mother of pearl
for the birth
Laura Levenson is a writer and psychotherapist of more than forty years. Her writing has appeared most recently in The Potomac Review, The Maine Review, and Summer Stories [ShantiArts].
Francesca Woodman Speaks from MacDowell Colony, 1980
I used to reside indoors, materialize
from the flaking wall, all
the paint of lead, plaster
in pieces, scattered. No fire
in the fireplace. Shard of
so thin, so tall.
A stand of them, the one
manifesting me. Not cut
and used for heat
but, rather, to reach
with – my wrists sheathed
in bark. A new kind of
emergence. That one
girl turning into a tree
as form of escape, that
tree with the untoothed leaf
so unlike these and yet moving
in the same direction – toward
This poem was inspired by Woodman's photograph, Untitled, MacDowell Colony, 1980. Click here to view it.
Francesca Woodman Speaks from New York, 1980
I am trying on being
the wire for the foxglove – that
ladder of petal that recalls
gowns not worn anymore.
Hearty stemmed, this flower
really doesn’t need me. But
sun – morning in the garden
boxed in by walls, of which
I am familiar and a chance
to. What jaundiced threat
and the blurriness of the aura –
that cloudy state I captured
in other years and in other places –
but no matter. For now, now,
and this cup that fits
over my finger outside
of the frame.
Kelly R. Samuels
This poem was inspired by Untitled, New York. Click here and scroll to last photo with foxgloves to view.
Kelly R. Samuels is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She is the author of Words Some of Us Rarely Use (Unsolicited Press) and Zeena / Zenobia Speaks (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Salt Hill, The Carolina Quarterly, Sweet Tree Review, Menacing Hedge, Heron Tree, and SWWIM. She lives in the upper Midwest. Find her here:www.krsamuels.com
after Robert Ryman, in memory
You were already gone
in monochrome scaffolds
where time is texture
and vision apprehends vision
in the flash before form finds a name.
Here there’s no room for a self to sift through.
These minute strips of white--
glacial in the right light and mind--
dislodge from the cling of language.
At the frame’s edge thought stops
on a gray splotch: an imagined origin.
This poem was written about an Untitled Robert Ryman painting in particular. You can see it here.
Joseph Massey is the author of A New Silence (Shearsman Books, 2019), Illocality (Wave Books, 2015), and a trilogy grounded in the landscape of coastal Humboldt County, California: Areas of Fog (Shearsman Books, 2009), At the Point (Shearsman Books, 2011), and To Keep Time (Omnidawn, 2014). He lives in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.
The Ghost of Me
“they pass and repass through the air”
I saw the painting mounted on the wall
of the Museo de Bellas Artes
in dusty Sevilla. I could not miss
three female figures, conspiring in shawl.
Dusk settling, crowd gathered for the ball,
a spotlight illuminates the dresses.
Faces held close. What neck tingling is this?
Strong kholled eyes smile, tugging loose the caul
that had enveloped me. A protective
layer of my own making. A strong wish
to hide, face pressed against the windowpane.
Shaking bones need hope, even tentative.
Creeping illness makes paint and thoughts bluish,
that I would like to begin again.
Constance Bourg lives in the Flemish part of Belgium, where she volunteers at a local social food market. She has studied creative writing with the Open University in the UK whilst living in Ireland, and that is where she found her love for writing in the English language. Now living by the North Sea in Belgium, she likes to take things easy because she’s chronically ill with ME/CFS.
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