What the Moon Believes
Man Ray’s La Marquise Casati gazes
outward on the wall facing the windows
she seeks the sea
insect eyes double exposure
distinctions of eyelashes and pupils blurred
the pallor of her skin against the void behind
so much like the moon
lost in its own push and pull
perhaps she wishes the ocean
would wash her make her holy
ravish her until she’s no longer lonely
she wishes the earth would overwhelm her
drag her downward with its gravity
crush her until she’s no longer lonely
like the boy who sits on the shore
clutching a kitten limp and lifeless
his hands tremble like water
unaware of the cruelty
driven by his love for the soft sweet thing
Kari Ann Ebert
Kari Ann Ebert’s poetry has appeared in literary journals including cahoodaloodaling, The Broadkill Review and Gargoyle, as well as the anthology Aurora. She also writes short fiction and is currently editing her first novel. She was selected by Delaware Division of the Arts to attend the 2016 Seashore Writers Retreat and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. She lives in Delaware where she enjoys being a part of a vibrant tribe of writers. She has two grown children who write and are active in the dramatic arts.
Venus for Sale
Venus of Willendorf, artist unknown (Austria) 28,000 to 25,000 BC.
Stone chipped away until all that is left is what is needed.
Pendulous acorns of desire, a belly button to bring the eye down.
No feet, no hands, no resistance.
Rows tightly binding the head down. No mouth, no eyes.
And fits all in the palm of your hand. Convenient to carry,
perfect shape for pleasuring.
Venus de Milo, sculpture by Alexandros of Antioch, (Antioch). 130-100 BC.
We’ve streamlined your desire without taking away
anything important! Everything the right
proportion to please. Satin skin (we’ve polished to neutrality),
tunic just waiting to be tugged free.
That hole under her right breast? Not a flaw!
When removing her arms to better accommodate
your lust, (she was only offering an apple anyway)
we filled in that hole by her heart.
Venus di Medici, by Cleomenes(?) (Greece). 100 BC.
Such sweet buttocks, like winter peaches!
And if you prefer the object whole, then here’s your girl.
The arms are placed to tease, skin shining like dew.
Stripped of paint and cloth,
without the choice of blonde hair and red lips
we’ve brought you that much closer to the ideal.
Imagine the most amazing, beautiful treasure in the world.
Imagine the most divine, unattainable, perfect
ambrosial aspect of sensation.
Now she’s yours to take home.
The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli (Italy). c. 1486.
White as lucky stones, soft
and long haired. That hair that has so much to give
it reaches out on its own. Another organ. Another limb.
Tugging your eyes toward her.
And the breasts. Gifted.
Cups of milk just poured. Icicles on a hot day.
They look straight at you, unlike her eyes.
But, oh dear Lord, that hair you can hold on to.
The Toilette of Venus, by Francois Boucher (France). 1751.
Here we give her to you domesticated, no strings attached.
Just place her anywhere and see her glow;
her skin is polished to match your table and lamp!
No upkeep either because she comes
with her own putti, those nameless babies,
and a plethora of shiny baubles to keep her busy.
In fact, we carry this one in multiple versions if you’d like two.
Birth of Venus, by Alexandre Cabanel (France). 1862.
Perhaps this is what you were looking for all along.
You crave the first moment of desire
when it rises and fills until it explodes
This flesh of pink and white marzipan
rising fresh from the sea. A vanilla latte
leaning out just for you. Demurely shaded gaze
hidden behind the triangle
of arm opened, breasts of snowy down turned out
like handles hovering over hair like glistening
taffy, spread out beneath, a shiny wrapper
Venus Rising from the Sea, by Gustav Moreau (France). 1866.
Yearning for that heavy hand? Do you want to feel
how hard she can hit? She will let you love her
if you worship her. Do you ache to give and not receive?
You can’t give enough for her to ever look at you.
This one is costly, but so worth it. Unlike you –
you will never be enough.
Venus Verticordia, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. (Italy) c.1868.
Still not satisfied? Need a challenge?
This turner of hearts will reel you in.
You get the hair. You get the breast staring right at you.
You get the spear to the heart. Love without fear of loving.
Love without fear. Lips like blood-stained honeysuckle.
Take her apple, she’s giving it to you.
Follow that dart down and you’ll end up amid the roses.
Credit cards accepted.
The Birth of Venus (1 of 6), by Odilon Redon (France). 1912.
They’re selling fast, but
I have a few left. Here you can have her in a dream.
Sit back with whatever you choose to smoke
and get comfortable. Let her into your soul –
she’ll be there waiting. You know you want
to follow her back through to the other side
before birth, to when we all mingled in smoky, hazy flesh
and copper-tinted haze. When you and she were one.
Taste the salt on your tongue.
Uncertainty of the Poet, by Giorgio de Chirico (Italy). 1913.
I know your type.
The suffering monk hardened but cool,
hot in all the wrong places at all the wrong times.
You don’t want to take off your hair shirt to come
into the bed. Leave your worries.
Put your soul on the last train and pick your fruit.
No need to wash.
Venus Restored, by Man Ray (USA). 1936.
You liked that one? I’ve got another.
We saved this one from the war. Just the right colour
to go with anything. These are so hard to keep;
I know you’ll want one too. We have quite a few replicas
if you’d like to tell your friends.
Processed for your pleasure until all that is left is what is needed.
Pert apricots of desire, a belly button to bring the eye in.
No feet, no hands, resistance subdued.
Rows tightly binding the flesh in. No mouth, no eyes.
Just imagine what you could do with this one.
Short on cash? We even carry this in postcard size.
Everyone wants her; why not get one too?
Venus of the Rags, by Michelangelo Pistoletto (Italy). 1967.
You really are a tough customer. I don’t understand.
I’ve given you desire, heaven and plain hot sex.
You can pick from priceless to postcard. Versions
of Venus are stacked here in the finest variety since Eve
first ate the apple. Here I give her to you in one of the more unpopular
poses. Perhaps you are looking for her existential pain.
Take her then. She bothers me. Junk in the corner.
I’ll give you this one for nothing; I’ve got a few.
Don’t mind the cracks. Or the rags. It’s all junk. They don’t matter.
Death of Venus, by Roger Reutimann (USA). 2010.
We’re closing. You’ve wasted my time.
This is all I have left. It’s not worth anything, but
I don’t think you have enough to buy it. Buy
a Ferrari instead. You won’t get anything out of her;
she’s dead. She’s got nothing to give you, and you
won’t get any response from her bones.
That pose? I’ve seen it done better for centuries.
This one’s lost her touch. She doesn’t know how
to earn her keep. Red like the blood she’ll
suck from you if you let her. Really, it will take all you have
to walk out of here with her. Take her, then.
I don’t expect to understand. I just try
to find the right fit.
If you want to lie with death,
I’ll sell you her coffin.
Editor's note: Follow segment titles to their links to see all of the Venus artworks referenced.
Tanya Pilumeli is a writing instructor and poet living on the shore of Lake Erie. She has published and won awards in various places including Tipton Review, Blue Collar Review and Blaze Vox. When not helping out with their Italian restaurant, she loves travelling the world with her husband and three teenagers.
On the Death of Chatterton
Morning in the gallery,
sunlight floods the atrium.
A harried dad ushers twins
with fuchsia pink ruck-sacks
to the shop. Pre-Raphaelites first?
a woman asks her friend.
A clatter of school kids descends.
Strange, I find myself alone
in front of Chatterton again:
right arm limp, face gaunt,
neck livid; a phial of poison
and torn papers strewn across
the garret floor. Christ-like,
his pose, the hush are the closest
I get to church. Dust-motes float
a memory through my heart –
another lost poet, beautiful, young;
I cup my hands to catch her,
find her gone.
Jane Salmons lives in Stourbridge in the UK. Currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing, she has had poems published in The Ekphrastic Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake, Algebra of Owls and other webzines and journals.
Jackson Pollock, 1950,
oil, enamel, and aluminum on canvas:
221 x 299.7 cm (87 x 118 in)
framed canvas grained
pave of parking lot
igneous rock flood tide
streaked dribbled down
--the ghost of Pollock
playing about the edges
I fell into the lavender
the gritty mist I glimpse
the not quite paradigm
Leland James is the author of seven books of poetry and two books on creative writing and poetry craft. He has published over 200 poems in journals and magazines worldwide; also a number of short stories, including The Lyric, Form Quarterly, Rattle, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, HQ The Haiku Quarterly, The American Cowboy; The London Reader, and London Magazine. He was the winner of The UK’s prestigious Aesthetica Creative Writing Award. He has won or received honors in many other competitions, both in the USA and Europe. Leland has been featured in Ted Koozer’s American Life in Poetry and was recently nominated for a Push Cart Prize. www.lelandjamespoet.com
The Soul of the Rose
Russet hair laced with sable strands
drawn to a knot intricate
as the pink-kissed rose she fingers
Heady scent quickens heart
infuses her empty hand
pressed hard against garden wall
with longing for touch and its return
dreamed of behind wilted eyelids
This rose knows no thorns, boasts
only layers of silken lips
that unfold till blossom is plucked
then pressed between unstained pages
in a book thick and musty
like the mist that coaxed
then cloaked his ship at dawn
Nancy K. Jentsch
Nancy K. Jentsch has taught German and Spanish for over 35 years at Northern Kentucky University. She has published scholarly articles, short fiction and poetry in journals such as Journal of Kentucky Studies, Eclectica, Aurorean, and Blinders. Her chapbook, Authorized Visitors, has been published by Cherry Grove Collections, an imprint of WordTech Communications (2017). Seven of her ekphrastic poems appear in the collaborative chapbook Frame and Mount the Sky (2017). Her Facebook writer’s page is https://www.facebook.com/NancyJentschPoet/.
Untitled (Purple Petunia)
"Nothing is less real than realism... details are confusing. It is only by selection,
by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things."
The petunia is beheaded, fills the canvas edge
to edge. Interlacing pear-shaped petals kaleidoscope
around three, or maybe four, small pale blue dots
that demarcate a centre. The colour is the plum of those
taken from the icebox (so sweet and so cold). A plum
for tasting where it lies sprawling on a rumpled
sheet. I know the psychobabble of O'Keeffe's flowers,
how hearing it at first in college, I was angry, so
I looked away. It seemed a nasty thing to do, interpreting
a woman's close attention to a thing equal to
pubescent navel gazing. For years, I couldn't see
amidst the rumors, the sexy callas, O'Keeffe's defiant
wrinkled arms. Before all that, there was this plum
petunia, plucked and given all her thought, alone
in its asking, look. Surrounding noises curtained off,
it becomes an open face, a cup of sweetness over-ripe
just some moments from decay. Spackle speculation
over top, it sloughs it off, continuing to be nothing
other than only what it is.
Jen Stewart Fueston
Jen Stewart Fueston lives in Longmont, Colorado. Her work has appeared recently in Ruminate, Mom Egg Review and Pilgrimage, and is forthcoming in The Windhover, Whale Road Review, and others. Her first chapbook, Visitations, was published in 2015. She has taught writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, as well as internationally in Hungary, Turkey, and Lithuania. You can find her online at www.jenstewartfueston.com and on twitter @jenniferfueston
The Laws of Perspective
Every painting comes from far away (many fail to reach us), yet
we only receive a painting fully if we are looking in the direction
from which it has come.
In those days, the stricken
were brought on stretchers to a place where
the overland roads of the Empire
met, intersected, ran on.
There the afflicted were lowered to the shoulder--
eased as they could be, kissed, if they could be--
and left in the hope that a healer might come
from afar who would not look away.
The painting, too, has come from afar:
a girl-child visited by an angel, both figures
bowed to the arc of a narrative so time-worn
you’d swear you knew it in the womb:
two perfected gestures met on the wooden panel--
the virgin’s crossed arms, the angel’s bent knee--
transfixed, in gold light,
in the instant before it will be too late.
When Fra Angelico’s miracle finds you,
the age of faith will be well in your past. You’ll be
at your own crossroads peering, as warned,
in the wrong direction. Even so,
the moment will shimmer. Your gaze will be fixed
on the virgin / the angel / the receding archways
of a century unschooled in the laws of perspective:
a world still blinking at the two-dimensional.
Of course, yours is a modern vision--
a shrewd eye, a single cocked eyebrow. Still,
you’ll recognize this as a crossroads. You’ll lean in
as if to stop the disaster—a young girl crushed
by the wheels of acquiescence. Or you’ll watch,
amazed, as the oils thicken and suddenly,
piercingly, there are three: a child,
a messenger angel, a Child.
Or none of the above. You’ll stand there,
stricken, on the brink of your age and its failure
to save you. You: cradled in your own crossed arms
in the arched entryway of a cold museum gallery
while, from afar, they come bearing down upon you,
the four unfurled dimensions come to crush you.
Come to crush us all. And this is the moment
foretold: you look away.
Marjorie Stelmach has published five collections of poetry, most recently Falter (Cascade). Her work has recently appeared in the American Literary Review, Boulevard, Florida Review, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Image, New Letters,Tampa Review and others. She is the recipient of the 2016 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from The Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives in St. Louis, MO.
Just before he knew he was sick, my father took me to a dinner theatre in a barn to see the Christian Blackwood Brothers do Elvis. The roast beast was blander than British, and the horseradish ran out before I got into queue, but the gospel according to Elvis raised the rafters.
I'd never had a thing for this velvet-throated bird: his pout was pretty but I never was convinced by all those sequins and spangles. Just didn't feel his soul in all of that. Turned out, that was true, sort of. The pomade and the girls and the bright lights had their allure, but they say all the King really wanted to do was sing about the King. When he did, all that was missing came together. His heart in his voice. All night, just him and his band, after all the hordes had long gone home.
A woman in the powder room mirror at intermission was fixing her lobster-purple lipstick. She had Indian eyes but her hair was so pale you could see through it. She was talking to a friend in a cubicle that I could only see by her pointy toed boots and the jeans around her ankles. The disembodied voice from the toilet was saying something about Elvis, about how he once saw Stalin in the clouds, before the despot turned into Jesus.
"And the good Lord said, Elvis, behold I come to you as living water," she was saying, and I could almost feel the rush of the rapture in the air as the toilet flushed. The sound was like a waterfall in Eden within the small stalled walls.
After my father closed his eyes for the last time, I came across the brochure for that barn show where we'd been while sorting through some baskets. I pictured the bales of hay we rolled past on our way on that blue and shiny day. The river tumbling under the clouds was a black ribbon between sky and earth, like the innards of a cassette tape slinging south through fields and branches. In my memory, I could hear Elvis lowing sweetly from those clouds, saw Daddy ascending through the pick-up truck to run towards him.
Lorette C. Luzajic
Lorette C. Luzajic is a visual artist whose work has been shown at home in Toronto, in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Chicago, Edinburgh, Belfast, Brisbane, Tunis, Merida, and beyond. She studied for a B.A. in journalism, and has published hundreds of poems, stories, and prose. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review.
Beyond the Curtain
absorbed in the rhythm
she pulls her comb
down reaches up
pulls down and smoothes
the red/gold of her hair
she wants to speak to sing
to the movement of her hand
as she lifts and brings it slowly
down through the rich silk
but someone might hear
stretch one hand
from beyond the curtains
and touch her shoulder
she longs for that touch
wants him there beside her
but cannot ask
Joanna M. Weston
Married; has one cat, multiple spiders, raccoons, a herd of deer, and two derelict hen-houses. Her middle-reader, Frame and The McGuire, published by Tradewind Books 2015; and poetry, A Bedroom of Searchlights, published by Inanna Publications, 2016. Other books listed at her blog:
Open sesame. Her canvas summons
me from her easel to come hither.
Opening to awe, as a studio window
opens to light -- yet conjures the yard’s
back side. Outside/inside -- side-by-
side. Below the painting’s midriff,
another window – burnt sun. A vine
sprouts through tigress hue. Hither/
thither, furtive marigold plays hide/
show through steel-blue sheen. Grey
branches scribble apricot dreams,
grow long on linseed oil. Three black
birds lounge on a semblance of a limb.
The frowzy pair on the right need
preening. Perhaps, they’ve fought
to a draw, failing to charm the third,
a victor’s mate, who bows her head.
Perhaps, she lures with self-absorption,
or hears a suitor say, not worth the fray,
and turns away to treat herself to aphids.
Nearby, a white conga line, libertine as
an Argentine tango. One crow takes me
to task, can’t birds aspire without a peanut
gallery? Perhaps, this klatch limns avian
equality. Perhaps, the fiery window isn’t
desire, and wanton gazes draw away.
But if glances swoop into the amber
hold; or wings entwine in white cord –
bound by the life-line of the painter’s
palm? Long ago, these beguiled travelers
happed upon this emblazoned tree; alit
at this twiggy haunt for ripe berries and
fraternity; nestled, birthed young, swapped
caws of close calls with hawks. I peer –
recall tangerine – a mute fourth, clipt talon.
Theodore Eisenberg: "By way of background -- I am married, with four children and six grandchildren. I retired from the practice of labour law in 2014 to write every day. I had been managing partner for almost ten years, which gave me the opportunity to learn something of how the world works.
My poems have appeared in The Listening Eye, Midstream, Jewish Literary Magazine, The Aurorean, Podium, Poetica, Thema, Rattle, Halfway Down the Stairs, Slipstream Press, Crosswinds Press, Lighthouse Literary Journal, Main Street Rag, concis, Philadelphia Stories and The Ragged Sky Anthology. My chapbook, This, was published by Finishing Line Press in March, 2017."
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