You see the women first in this room with its gleaming checkerboard tiles. The singer poised like a renaissance madonna, white collar and bodice lit by angled sunlight flowing through an unseen window. Her right hand caresses a rising phrase as her gaze gathers notes from a slip of music hovering over the curve of her pregnant belly. Intent at her keyboard, face in shadow, the harpsichordist’s head bends as if in prayer. Follow the brushstrokes of yellow ribbon in her hair down to the golden puff of sleeve, her arms distilling sunlight.
Behind the radiant axis of the women, you barely notice the backdrop's paintings, dark windows bringing outer world into inner world:on one side a backdrop of towering elms glowering at dusk, on the other side, a man and crone haggling over desire’s vulgar purchase.
And if it weren’t for the red chair at the centre, the white glimpse of his cuff, you’d almost miss the lute player, his head and broad shoulders like a dark hill against a bright landscape on the harpsichord’s open lid, its tamed harmony of foliage and summer sky. Absorbed, he blends into music, his back to us, audience irrelevant.
Fiona Tinwei Lam
Fiona Tinwei Lam is the Vancouver author of two books of poetry and a children's book. She edited The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems on Facing Cancer (2011), and co-edited Love Me True: Writers on the Ins, Outs, Ups & Downs of Marriage (2018). Her video poems have been screened at festivals locally and internationally. She teaches at SFU Continuing Studies. fionalam.net
Stieglitz Photograph of O’Keeffe’s Hands
Two spheres trace dual plumb lines,
all vertical and shade
that become the backdrop for her hands.
You have to see the drawing and photograph
in proximity, the Hands
now so recognizable it obscures the charcoal.
She says, “He photographed me till I was crazy,”
but nothing matches
her long fingers reaching for spheres
in the pattern of a parallelogram,
the other forefinger
along folds of a curtain, film out of view.
Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO. Her collections include 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); Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014); My Visions Are As Real As Your Movies, Joan of Arc Says to Rudolph Valentino (Dancing Girl Press, 2013); and George Sand’s Haiti (co-winner of Poetry West’s 2012 award). 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. Granted residencies in poetry from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), she is one of eight members of the Boiler House Poets who perform and study at the museum. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
His Red Room
After the ice-palaces of St Petersburg,
his dining room chilled him, so he painted it scarlet,
confined blue to leaves and flowers
on walls and table, to a patch of sky
out of a window in the left-hand corner.
Closer inspection reveals a blue tinge
on his housekeeper’s collar,
counterbalanced by fierce tawny hair.
What are the fruits she arranges
with her long white hands?
Did she understand his blue mood?
Her head is a geisha’s, her body,
another kind of servant’s. From here
you can’t tell where the wallpaper
and tablecloth end, and she begins.
I am led, I do not lead. But by what? Oranges?
We can probably trust Apollinaire
who tells us he put faith in the power
of that sun-charged fruit; a gift,
with cakes and flowers, sent to Picasso
when he lay sick in the Boulevard Raspail.
then a crate, each subsequent New Year.
There they are, lined up on the table edge,
repeated in the colour of the woman’s hair.
He watches from the doorway,
thinks he’s unseen, but she knows he’s there,
chooses what looks like the ripest,
peels it, takes her time, licks juices
from her fingers. Mixing a precise shade of red,
he remembers— it was the smell that led him.
The orchard in Relleu—hot sun on my shoulders and neck on an afternoon
that could have gone either way. There’s nothing cold about this blue sky.
Last oranges on this tree look more like lemons—weathered, pale,
they’re braving it out before blotches of rot, passages of ants and spiders.
Wasps pester. Is that desperate love for the flesh farmers have rejected?
Almonds I’ve sprung from their husks will most likely stay in my rucksack
until way after Christmas. No place for these oranges in my fruit bowl--
a still life more entire on low branches, parched ground.
Pam Thompson is a poet, lecturer, reviewer and writing tutor based in Leicester. Her publications include The Japan Quiz ( Redbeck Press, 2009) and Show Date and Time, (Smith | Doorstop, 2006). Pam has a PhD in Creative Writing and her second collection, Strange Fashion, was recently published by Pindrop Press. email@example.com
The Assumption of the Virgin
Close in, it’s a matter of scattered
Crosshatches, tiny plus marks, plus
A turbaned figure peeking through
A curtain forbiddingly darkened.
He sees a solemn surgeon’s fingers
Taking her fading pulse. Palpable
Sadness, but taken down quickly,
As in a diary of sketches. But step back
Three or four paces and you see
A cloud of a body consumed in smoke
In a funnel rising toward heaven.
These are the steps the turbaned head
Had not taken, this is the assumption
That Rembrandt wanted you to make.
David M. Katz
David M. Katz’s books of poems include Stanzas on Oz and Claims of Home, both published by Dos Madres Press. He’s also the author of The Warrior in the Forest, published by House of Keys Press. Poems of his have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The New Criterion, The Hopkins Review, and The Cortland Review. He is currently working on a new poetry collection, tentatively entitled Money. He lives in New York City and recently retired after a 40-year career as a business journalist and editor.
Boris Gourevitz’s Shoe
(Mac McClain, Mexico City, 1953)
…and so we proceed on into 2012,
broke, looking for stars on mountain nights.
When a moon is added, a blessing.
(from the letters of Mac McClain, 1923-2012)
You lived knowing you were lucky,
you and Boris Gourevitz at art school
a few years after shrapnel ripped his leg,
forcing him to wear a four-inch heel
you couldn’t take your eyes off.
It lived with him, on him
and also had its own life
other forms burbled from:
sun-flecked leaves growing at the arch,
fish swimming over toes,
amoebas lurking in the dark
or rising as dustmotes, electric particles,
the heel itself a stack of bones
echoed by dark slashes in the shade.
Rosiness runs through it
from crimson at toe-joints
to garnet under loopy laces
pastel pinks and oranges
In Mexico you dug clay
out of caves, built a wooden wheel,
began to learn ceramics.
Boris sculpted granite
using chisels, refused to use
pneumatic carving tools.
Boris had been Air Force,
you were Infantry.
At war’s end you took a bus to Grasse,
started walking across France,
erupted into poems.
Decades later, house-bound,
you wrote about a bobcat
chasing a red squirrel
near your front porch,
of Joanie’s horse,
of coyote barks and howls
and the White Leghorn chickens
your grandpa raised, 80 years before,
on a California ranch
you considered paradise.
Of how you thought of me
Both lonely, we found
solace in smoke signals,
Every time the moon
I think of you.
Penelope Moffet’s poetry has been published in Natural Bridge, Permafrost, Levure Litteraire, Truthdig, Pearl, Steam Ticket, Wavelength, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and other literary journals. She lives in Southern California. Her second chapbook, It Isn't That They Mean to Kill You, is about to be published by Arroyo Seco Press.
The Ekphrastic Review thanks Jim Harrington for an interview at Six Questions For ...
Check it out here: http://sixquestionsfor.blogspot.com/2018/07/The-Ekphrasti-Review.html
Elegy to Robert Motherwell
Irresistible bulbous black orbs, linked by solid black bands forming a kind of propulsive mothership, collide against a white colonnade, while pockets of tangerine, lime, and grape try not to be obliterated. Rigid bands of Spanish sky and Verna lemon teeter on the edge, uncertain to intervene, more likely to be expelled completely. Leaky engines of malice, the orbs ooze crude oil and snail slime. In the distance, what appear to be amber banners struggle to stay unfurled. What survivors remain bend at the waist as they plod away, hoping to escape the vortex, cradling their young in bare hands.
Alan Humason is a writer in Fort Bragg, CA. He has published short fiction and poetry in such periodicals as Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Third Wednesday, The Longleaf Pine, The Reed, WORK, and 100wordstory.com. He has a BA in English Literature from UC Santa Barbara and is a past winner of the Grand Prize Phelan Award for writing from San Jose State University.
Richard Serra at Gagosian
There are numbers penciled along the edge of a couple of Serra’s steel slabs, all in the same hand. His, presumably. I find myself writing them down, sketching them almost, the distinctive 1s with their long beak--
I do this as if these numbers were the aesthetic objects at hand, skirting around the steel slabs themselves, which in their huge brute presence are just as matter-of-fact, but equipped with less graspable contours. Their bulk and the mute self-evidence of steel overwhelms any angle of approach. I am drawing the numbers for something to say. They are on the edge of a slab that lies flat named Silence (for John Cage). This silence is, it seems, a spreading horizontality in contrast to the upright assertions, the positive vertical presences of Every Which Way, the forest of slabs installed in the main space.
Like redwoods the stillness of these is full and tense with latent power. But their surfaces are busy—on one, dribble trails of some liquid run sideways from the edge so that I can tell its orientation was once 90 degrees otherwise. But it’s hard to imagine the colossal object uprooting or moving. What would it sound like, slamming onto its side? Can a thud be sharp? A suddenness that’s dull with weight but keen with the zing of steel. Dull and sharp are the two poles we use when seeking to articulate bodily pain: a crude linguistic scale made necessary by the difficulty of giving voice to brute feeling.
The slabs are incontrovertible, majestic, and my body is small. In Through it is ushered narrowly between two especially enormous slabs whose rectangular uprightness has been toppled on its side, landing lengthwise and becoming cavernous. There are three of these, with a smaller crack between the second two—not for bodies. The sound comes again when I imagine it closing in—a sharp thud and a perfect airless embrace.
And there is another sound—less sharp but not round, either—that’s happening on the surface of the steel: a rogue noise that belies the total, austere clarity of the sculptural objects. A faint buzzing and tinkling of small life that gets louder as I get closer up, and discover the delinquency of rust in all of its tangential, penumbral glory. The chalky yellow of smeared pollen; clusters like stuff on a beach rock that cakes off with your finger, or iron filings; bubbly lacquer-black blotches spreading like sores. From further back, these small infestations present as a rash of colour—orange-magentas, bright and fleshy, and dusty plum blues—that insist, from within these mute bodies, upon the nuances of joy.
There is one small, square, windowless room containing no objects, just black rectangles painted alternately across the upper or lower half of each wall. Here is a different kind of flattening, and a discolouration, as if the room were acting as a cave of forms. But I am moved by how the upper rectangles of black paint bulge subtly at their lower edges where they meet the white of the wall, the way blue-tacked child drawings do when the paint has dried. And the smell of the paint is dense, almost peaty. Sound from the street is amplified fiercely in this small room, and the atmosphere becomes circus-like when the jingle of an ice-cream van echoes around inside its arena of checkered black & white.
Jonelle Mannion is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, BOMB Magazineand Art Monthly Australia among others.
The Merry Drinker
Ruddy cheeked, boozy with tattered vest
and barely balanced glass of genever gin,
he extends a shaky hand to say:
“Since you’ve bought my last drink,
I’ll tell you of places I’ve been,
the Amsterdam whores I’ve known,
the Spaniards I’ve killed
as a soldier of Orange,
with blunderbuss and sword.”
He’s into the tavern from wintry cold,
staggering along snow-fringed canals,
seeking alms from passersby,
scraps of food tossed out for dogs.
Wall-eyed and thin,
he lives for his next drink,
hoping to sleep it off inside,
not on the cobblestone streets,
puking up blood in the gutter,
possessed by demons and ghosts
of comrades long since gone.
This poem first appeared in Yolo Crow.
Charles Halsted is a retired academic physician at the University of California Davis who has been writing poetry for several years.
The Child's Bath
A woman washing her daughter’s feet
in a porcelain bowl, shown
from your high angle,
forgive my slowness.
My waddle is all thumbs, my memory,
a steer’s rib cage
upturned, bleaching in a meadow.
When you first appeared
on the overhead
in Mr. McCloud’s class,
I confess my mind was on
that girl sitting in the back row
whose name I can’t recall,
but whose face now seems imprinted
along the same synapses
you course through.
Do some ducklings not recognize
Perhaps that’s why, here
before your original
at the Art Institute of Chicago,
I’m finally struck
by how I can’t see
the woman’s eyes or her daughter’s,
that I have to look down,
as they do, to the hand
cupping the toes dipped in water.
So much of you
is that drab striped dress, itself
a canvas for holding
the child. The rug, pitcher, bureau
there only to hint
this was a real room once,
before it became a tender gaze
held by a room
with no door for me to enter.
Jason Gebhardt’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the The Southern Review, Poet Lore, Iron Horse Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The William and Mary Review. His chapbook Good Housekeeping was a semifinalist in the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition and won the 2016 Cathy Smith Bowers Prize. He is the recipient of multiple Artist Fellowships awarded by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He studies with Sandra Beasley, Stanley Plumly, and Elizabeth Rees.
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