her body is an undulation.
her body is
a new translation
of the tide
with our prettiest
this one slurping milk
behind the wet market,
this one yanking braids
loose beneath the fish tank,
her body is thick with light and orange
seeping into the vernacular;
sea rhymes with men
such that wife rhymes with lose
the lines of your face
in favour of salt--
losing means you touched me
against the local shore,
touching means i swam through you
starting with the roll of tongue.
her body is a non-horizon
and soon nothing will ever come through. no
names may be kept, for there are only
motions. no woman may find herself dry.
there is only a gaze, and an emptiness within
it. there is only the need
to be filled.
Elise Ofilada is a student at Ateneo Senior High School, and Editor-in-Chief of its publication, Pugad Literary Folio. She was a fellow for Creative Writing in Artswork 2016, and her work has appeared online, as well as local anthologies. Her work may be found at leonaeqsue.tumblr.com. She lives in the Philippines.
Still Ugly Inside
I sit writing in the treasure room, puffing my cheeks, ready to exhale my seminal work. The room is flooded with water and my keyboard is on fire. I see you at the edge of the cliff with your lyre in your hand. Your eyes gaze resolutely downward. The wind blows through your loosened hair. The sea lashes below and the seagulls coo violently behind. Your bosom glows with the riot of your passion. You leap into the abyss…I scream myself awake in the middle of the night.
I remember how you used to fill every room that you have entered; how you would suck all the oxygen out. I remember how you invented the love song at age ten. I remember your Aragon, your musk and your black cumin. I remember your restless flame, your unruly ruminative lines. I remember how you slept with a dagger under your pillow every night when I was away. I remember how afraid you were to lose your mind. I remember how you fought life and won.
You come to me with a riddle:
There is a female creature who hides in her womb unborn children, and
although the infants are voiceless they cry out across the waves of the
sea and over the whole earth to whomever they wish and people who are
not present and even deaf people can hear them. The female creature is a
letter and the infants she carries are the letters of the alphabet: although
voiceless they can speak to those far away, to whomever they wish
whereas if someone happens to be standing right next to the reader he will
You, the self-willed daughter of Pegasus, wrote yourself into history. You were the muse that muses longed for. How I wished to be one of your scribbles.
You put yourself to sleep in my arms as we sit in the elephant garden. We were madly, clumsily, brutally, agonizingly, shamelessly, childishly in love with each other. I should add hopelessly, because we never had a chance. I was not equipped to carry your love in me. Not yet a man, but no longer a boy, I had nothing to offer but foolish pride. I was given beauty, but still felt ugly inside. I kept one eye always opened while you beautifully slumbered in love. I let you practice the art of our love all by yourself. I heard that you said:
I wish I were eloquent now! Sorrow checks my art and all my genius is
halted by my grief.
My old power for poetry will not come at my call;
My plectrum is sorrowing and silent, sorrow has hushed my lyre.
Daughters of the island of Lesbos, children married and soon to be wed
[ …] Phaon has stolen everything that once was pleasing to you,
Phaon, alas, I came close to calling him mine.
Bring him back; your singer too will return.
He gives power to my genius: he takes it away.
You finally lose control over the complications of your myth. You beat your chest, you tear your hair and you wail and wail. You say “Unheard I mourn, unknown I sigh; unfriended live, unpitied die.” Quite the opposite, my dear. You leap into water, and I leap into fire.
Hakim Bishara is a writer and an artist based in NYC. His latest work is a play titled It’s Only Through Your Thoughts that I Can Remember Who I Am.
Quotes from Sappho: First, from Antiphanes’ play Sappho (fourth century B.C). Source: Kock, Theodorus. Commicorum Atticorum Fragmentafr. Leipzig: Lipsiae B.G. Teubneri, 1880-88. P 196. Second, Sappho’s words in Ovid’s Heroides 15. Source: Greene, Ellen. Re-Reading Sappho: Reception and Transmission. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. P 85.
A Background Job
They had evacuated the paintings during the War. She did not know where they put them. Almost a month after the evacuation, she had received a call. They wanted her to give a tour.
‘But there are no paintings.’ she had said. ‘A tour of what?’
‘Of the paintings that are not there.’
And so she started giving tours of the empty museum. The walls were bare. In some places, they were peeling. The lighting still worked. It mostly cast shadows off of piping, and the occasional fire extinguisher. She did not remember dates or names, just colours, shapes. Sometimes the people on the tour would complain. ‘But who drew what was once here?’ They would say, and she would just shrug. ‘Would it matter what I told you?’ She said. ‘There’s nothing there.’
She particularly enjoyed remembering a nude reclining on the bed with her arm stretched out.
‘Her stomach protrudes slightly. There is a great deal of shade near the pubic regions. Her legs are tucked together, partly covered by a white sheet which is pleated and folded many times. There are slippers on the floor. One of them is open, turned to the viewer — the other is on its side, with its back to us. By the bed, are soft fabrics. They are mostly brown and a dull red.’
She would talk endlessly about the background. She forgot the figure completely, describing every bit of cloth she could remember. She knew how many tiles were used to build perspective, and that the furthermost one on the left was slightly smaller than the rest.
It reminded her of the life drawing sessions she would attend as a student. She would quickly sketch out the body. She saw it as a ‘thing.’ How quickly bodies became things when you looked at them for long enough. They floated.
After making a rough outline, she would focus on the walls. Other people called it background but for her that was it. She loved the peeling paint. The roughness of wood. The dustiness of concrete.
This short story was inspired by the evacuation of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg Russia during WWII. The painting shown is an editorial selection, and was not the prompt for this story.
Omer Friedlander was born in Jerusalem. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bastille, Litro Online, The Airgonaut, Notes, eyot, Eunoia Review and The Dial. His artwork was published on the front cover of the poetry collection And There Were Other Matters by Chagit Kahan. He is currently studying English Literature at the University of Cambridge.
are not symbols.
Do not attach meaning.
Bowler hats and gentlemen
may fall on the page
in this frame. The words
do not mean the thing.
Magritte is a mark only.
All that attaches to it
is irrelevant. It does not help.
A birdcage is not a rib cage.
This poem was written in response to the surprise ekphrastic challenge on Rene Magritte.
Paul Brookes was, and is a shop assistant, after employment as a security guard, postman, admin. assistant, lecturer, poetry performer, with "Rats for Love", his work included in "Rats for Love: The Book", Bristol Broadsides, 1990. First chapbook "The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley", (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). Recently published in Blazevox, Nixes Mate, Live Nude Poems, The Bezine, The Bees Are Dead and others. "The Headpoke and Firewedding" (Alien Buddha Press, 2017) illustrated chapbook, "A World Where" (Nixes Mate Press, 2017) "The Spermbot Blues" (OpPRESS, 2017).
Jacob and the Angel
He knows he has done wrong
and this is judgment:
the massive figure hits him
in the jaw –
bare shoulder –
solar plexus –
winded, he staggers back
– the wall rejects him steadily –
and raising his hands to shield himself
tries to summon courage –
the salt grit in his blink and swallow
all he can muster. It thwacks him again –
he howls his answer No!
(which is no answer)
and his shadowy antagonist
– the sound of endless rockfall –
pummels him into the night.
But Jacob has his vision
blistered with sin as it is
and wills himself to wrestle
this dark god. They blunder
into each other; muscles bulge
and heat steams over them –
they’re brothers fighting
for their birth; survival’s
jugular struggle (moon blinks
at the scene’s punched cavities).
It’s only when the sun’s slim
glimmer ushers change that
his angel holds him. Jacob
and his great sustaining angel –
captured as one sculpture
in the dawn’s soft rain.
Sarah Law is a poet and tutor living in London, UK. She has published five poetry collections, the latest of which, Ink’s Wish, was shortlisted for the East Anglian Book Awards in 2014. She’s interested in artistic representations of angels, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @DrSarahLaw
De Kooning’s Woman With a Bicycle
She is the tittering click of heels
and gossip. Unstable as a bauble’s swing.
Her soft perfumed sway unsettling
She is full of chartreuse sentiments,
bringing in the evening mail with full coverage.
Slyer than a nettle’s sting, she knows the art
of a prying glance, the way a woman has
with news rife with innuendoes.
She is the slap of recognition, the smart
red conversational twist, engorged
with spite. She is sex self-dilated,
dominating an entire landscape,
legs askew for anyone’s delight.
Her breasts are all the soft machinery
of motherhood gone to waste. Her mind,
a boxed heirloom awaiting use,
its meaning rattled into place.
Her eyes, the colours of tumbled
quartz --milky, prone to tears.
Her mouth is freshly shredded with
the hard gleam of ivories loosely strung
She is a woman made
and then made undone.
M. L. Lyons
M. L. Lyons co-edited Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press, 2015). Lyons collaborated with Miye Bishop on a poem based dance as part of Bellingham Dance Repertory's Phrasings in Word + Dance Festival. Her poetry and fiction has been widely published and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Most recently, she was a recipient of a Hedgebrook Vortext scholarship.
Bust of a Woman
Pose with bread on your head
like a hat and a balancing act
of a man and a maid beside
the toilet and a bin for laundry
and a pen. Stare out beyond
the framed air while ants
race up your face, parade
near your ear and on the
rising road of your lip. While
monkey-like men dance
on your collar necklace
and the harvest rests
on your neck in a scarf
of corn, husked and tied
from behind. No discourse
here but balance and oddity
merged on a bust waiting
to be noticed and understood.
Maureen Sherbondy’s latest poetry book is Belongings. She teaches English at ACC in Graham, NC.
The Estate of Ideas
(after Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends at the MoMA, on until September 17)
Clean out the attic and the garage and find obsessions
with accumulation, our historical romance novels called
Collecting and Discarding. Rip the pages, erase, and smear
ink black palm presses and fingertip licks on the places
we clothe and disrobe from. There is never enough; there
is always too much. If Manet reflected the trappings
of modern society and Rothko trembled in the reverb
shell-shock of post-war disillusionment, Rauschenberg
is unique in his connection to consumerism and postmodern
culture. He is environmentalist, idea man, repurposed social
media star, and collector all in one. This week on American
Hoarders, we inhale the stink of trash heaps and exhale
sequined spray paint like cologne or perfume on the shores
of any ocean you can’t swim beneath or live near.
The problems with accumulation are everywhere. Even trying
to erase a masterpiece is erased from this collection. Footprints,
like the prayer in your preacher landlord’s dense rock garden
out in front of a pink house renovated from a disco. This is before
Jeff Koons drives cars out there in suburbia and finds reflecting balls
of inspiration. The prayer of heel-toe prints in sand is a reminder
to the garbage men on Wednesdays to please take our worries
away. They’re hell on our sciatica. God used to deliver things
way back then. Now we just hope the universe comes and takes
them all away.
What's embedded beneath the relationship of things?
The untitled double Rauschenberg recalls exposed
blue point paper. We only waited 1,000 years to circle back
to hieroglyphics. Just ask your next social network
connection to get creative with emojis. They’re photos
of drawings someone else created with no one particular
in mind (with everyone they ever loved in mind). Jasper Johns
is here. And there’s Cy rolling in the hay. No one escapes
the memory of negatives. A yard sale means next year’s
millionaires found a shoebox packed with discards.
Mother of God! A road map that blotted out the sun?
The shadows alone would reassemble armageddon.
Against this backdrop of backgrips and spine bumps
collapsing after everything is over, the lily white secrets
we didn't keep are misremembered. Jasper and I
swapped Ideas until no one could think of the word
You can appreciate the lovers you stole from
and still move toward something else
Every road trip you ever took was predicted
by Bob’s tire print-- a painting of America
retracing Jackson Pollock’s footfalls. Empty
the dumpsters of shards from glasses, the booze
bottles and perfume atomizers cast down
in frustration, and suffering is in the past.
We’ve all heard of tongues and inhales,
last drops and stale fabric scents, but who
can handle the blood and neglect and empty
graves required to mix in with scattered
telephone wires to create an impermanent
crucifiction with everything you need to look at
on your newsfeed today?
The pressing desire, or Pollock throwing streams
of paint against the landscape. And then Bob
pressing against the sacred skin of black
in a symphony of junk cars
One Christmas my mother begged
for a framed print of Klimt without
a mistress. We remember his love;
forget his soaked-through infidelities.
The air conditioner repair service
didn’t perform preventative maintenance
this year and in the basement there are
sodden lovers turned on their side
and swimming. That same print:
An untitled gold painting warped
in its wooden frame. My stepfather’s
Illusions after he swore off drinking.
Find the Poland Springs water bottles
scattered inside his upstairs studio
repurposed into thin plastic vodka
livers. He sipped and lied until the day
he broke and lay there-- his variations
on a theme by Gustav at the bottom
of the landing. He left a clump of blood
and hair. The helicopter delivered rotor
surges that the fan ducts and air registers
seeped and swelled for before the hospital
and the morgue. We weep at breaking
and contain keepsakes of art history
in dusty storage down deep at the lowest
part of throat and stomach and silence.
A recycle bin is the contemporary portrait
of everyone you meet.
Short Circuit and the words predict Basquiat--
more Bob as sideshow fortune teller at the edges
of a ghost town. Short Circuit, as flags and dots
and rotting photos of Americans we hold car sales
to commemorate. For the commercial breaks,
don't decorate a dance, make something we can
dance through, like curtains disguised at sheets
flipped and swooped on top of a bed the two of us
lurk and creep near. Every mattress we hang
on walls is part warning and part testimony
in an excruciating rape trial. Exhibit A should explain
Degas to jurors, looming madness from retelling
the stories of those around you, like with Interior
from 1868 and 1869. In a mirror, which every
painting and collage evolves to, the parentheticals
switch to bold and disfigured exteriors. Watch out
for your record collection: Are you the needles now,
an absentminded melody you hum and measure
breaths to, or the music circle twists contain?
Everywhere there are subtle reminiscences
about the power of Jasper's dreams of flags
And the bird held the pillow
like what's heavier, a pound of retreat,
an ounce of prevention, or the regret
of feathers after nightmares?
There are noises we tie to nooses
in canyons, and only Bob projects movies
on the floor so the docents won't let you
step in, or on, and through to the next thing
and the next thing after. Films share
sheens of floorboards and they mouth
soundlessly, Remember? Don’t go.
Please don’t ever forget me.
There's a fire bell in the middle
in warning of the emergencies
we neglect and ignore. Everything
Bob stole and reflected on later--
the street signs and debris-- ask
and beg forgiveness. But can you
steal something that has already been
abandoned? How about the lovers
you haven’t left yet? Shore yourself
up at the next exit sign and be careful
to verify you’re no longer following
people you don’t believe in
Kurt Cole Eidsvig
Kurt Cole Eidsvig been published in journals like Slipstream, Hanging Loose, Borderlands, Main Street Rag and The Southeast Review. A former featured columnist for Big Red and Shiny, his work has earned awards from the Warhol Foundation / Creative Capital, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the South Boston Literary Gazette, and The University of Montana. A visual artist as well as a poet, Kurt has taught courses in Writing, Art, and Art History at UMASS Boston, The University of Montana, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He maintains a website at www.EidsvigArt.com.
Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance
They look as if they were
characters of a Beckett play
stuck in some no man’s land
between one of those places
where people are buried up
to their necks in refuse or worse,
and another, where all the dwellings
have been burned out and partially
rebuilt, then abandoned once
the will to go on flagged and couldn’t
be revived. The ill-fitting suits
they wear convey a message:
we’re here at the wake for the food
and drink and we’ll gladly sneak
out behind the seen-better-days
cottages for a snog with a lass
or maybe dance a jig if music
should happen in between toasts
for the dearly departed,:“May he go
in peace and always have the wind at
his back.” None of them do bereavement
or real joy either, but they will take
a drink, if offered, maybe two or
three and then, whatever chaos ensues
will make what remains of the night
a memorable one. They have no clue
what any of this means or whether
they are in it for the long haul or just
passing through. It’s a long walk
from where they are now to wherever
it is they are going.
Alan Catlin has been publishing for parts of five decades. His work derives from many interests from Art, music and literature to the bars he lived and worked in. His many full length books and chapbooks include the ekphrastic collection "Effects of Sunlight on Fog" from Bright Hill Press and, more recently from Future Cycle Press, "American Odyssey" largely derived from photos by Mary Ellen Mark and photos by photographers killed in Vietnam. Forthcoming is "Wild Beauty", also largely ekphrastic, from Future Cycle Press. His chapbook, "Blue Velvet" (poems inspired by movies) won the 2017 Slipstream Chapbook Award.
Brash Shocking Beastly Use of Colour
The eyes of Greta and Amelie stare
from seated portraits by Matisse
French minions did accept wife Amelie’s
plumed in fashion’s most egregious statement
with wild feathers burying her forehead
after Gertrude Stein and family paid Matisse
thus spurring Parisians to come and take a look
His Amelie backed by streaks of green yellow
pink red blue purple smudges
tilts her face above demure-held fan
curved colours smudged below her chin and held
in black-gloved hand
Dob of yellow on her nose even some above her lip
set the artworld afire and embarrassed Amelie
Her gaze reflected hours of posing and was her hair
in real life that deep dark red
Did he bring goblets of water
or remove her weighty hat after those dark colours
were outlined in black
Above Greta Moll’s straight-on student face
there’s a fan of upswept brown hair above her broach
Did she find the three ten-hour stints of posing tedious
Her teacher changed colors of the garments several times
blouse from lavender to green until his eye found harmony
although Greta thought he made her arms too plump
Matisse said they balanced out
which she accepted later
Some still disagree to whom she left her portrait
when wartime fled her into Wales
The Nazis never did take the painting
London has Greta but grandchildren want her back
War has more than corpses.
Somber eyes announce confusion
amid the gist of museum logic
Even Matisse said his wife of course was really
One by one additions multiply
hide divide bold brushstrokes as the oils dry
Mary Ellen Talley
Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have recently been published in Peacock Journal and Kaleidoscope as well as in the anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Mary Ellen worked for many years with words and children as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in Seattle public schools.
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