It’s been a hundred years since those iconic hands
pulled her collar around her chin,
dark eyes staring away from Stieglitz.
When Charlene was twenty-five, she bought
a book of O’Keeffe’s letters,
read them on the flight home from LA,
hoping to learn how to be a woman.
O’Keeffe might have been the same age then
Charlene is now, but Charlene works
in marketing, corporate hands on her butt.
And when her married boss wants to take her
for martinis, she knows she still has to pay rent,
the head of HR is his friend, and even a trailer
in Abiqui is sixty grand.
Sometimes, Charlene wonders where
the new Abiqui might be:
Honduras? one of the Stans--
She bets she could get a stone hut for cheap,
walk the sheep-studded hillsides in search of poems.
But she’s got no Stieglitz, back in New York,
championing her. She’d end up
writing poems in the cold, dark
eyes staring across the empty steppe,
hands frostbite-white against the black
wool blanket she pulls close
around her throat.
Laurel S. Peterson
Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College and her poetry has been published in many literary journals. She has two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (Finishing Line Press) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press). and a full length collection, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? (Futurecycle Press). She has also written a mystery novel, Shadow Notes. She currently serves as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.
Let Me Be
If we juggle the stiffened corpse like this,
who knows what harm we’ll cause? His arms
splay like branches of a withered olive tree.
What fool’s errand is it that we, mourning
Lazarus, are pretending he’s simply asleep?
There we are in the painting, looking back
at the weeping rabbi in disbelief.
Four days Lazarus lay here, unmoving.
Where are the signs he’ll return to this side
of life? His eyes – almost opaque, as if
clouded over. Is he not distraught to leave
the tomb? Even upwind, he stinks. His skin,
like dried petals. He’ll not trust unsure feet
to stand. Clumsy legs. Tongue that stumbles
over speech: thin whirring sounds, like locusts
in the wind. He’s already started his journey,
swaddled in strips now coming undone.
Let me be, he’ll say, and try to climb back in.
Bonnie Naradzay leads poetry workshops at a day shelter for homeless people and at a retirement center. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, JAMA, The Pinch, Innisfree, The Guardian, Seminary Ridge Review, Anglican Theological Review, Split This Rock, Atlanta Review, Delmarva Review, The Ekphrastic Review, and others.
He painted the mother in acid yellow
with her husband and baby the same,
features morphing into more than one face.
The angel wears an Anorak with hood
of stardust and snow. The babe cries
and three seal hunters find them
by the light of the pale winter sun.
In the shack a polar bear, a lynx
and outside a moose bellows for food.
The almost familiar scene, men and gifts:
perfume of whales, fur from seals, fox pelt.
It may come to pass that something bigger
will happen. For now, the little one in Mother’s arms
just wants milk that is too cold to drink.
Jackie Langetieg is retired and lives in Verona Wisconsin and secretly wishes it were Verona Italy. She lives with her son and two kitties. She is a regular contributor to the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, has published poems in small presses such as Bramble, Verse Wisconsin, Wis. Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, and has published two chapbooks and two collections of poetry. She currently is working on a series of stories for a memoir.
On a September Morning
On the first day of my work week,
the Tuesday sun pierced through
the morning fog and lifted spirits
in the bustle of burgeoning light.
It was that time of day when tall
shadows stretch across the sky
scape—buildings cast in mauve
of morning. For a moment, they
reached high into cloudless sky.
But in the next, there was burning
ash—remains of hatred-smoulder
in the street rubble. The air, black
with blood, light hiding in soot.
When will the heavy darkness flee
John C. Mannone
Author’s Notes: My impressions evolved before I even noticed the tiny inscription (near the bottom left of centre) or the figure under the inverted LIGHT (near right of centre), both of which fit well with what was going through my mind. The mood in my response was created by the grayish background and emotion-evoking colours. It wasn’t just the dawn colours of morning’s first light, it was something more morose, especially when combined to what appeared to me as hints of structures, sky scrapers and a city scape, as well as the blue-black drips reminiscent of something very dark and symbolic of blood.
John C. Mannone has work in Artemis, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene's Fountain, and others. He’s a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as Celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three poetry collections, including Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing) forthcoming in 2018. He’s been nominated for Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com
I was in the orchard when the shot was fired. I was holding one handle of the basket, and Mama, the other. Mme. Frennaire’s hands were fixed on the bottom, her cheeks puffed with effort.
Mama’s eyes met mine.
Mme. Frennaire shrieked, and her wrinkled hands fluttered to her mouth. Our basket of apples fell to the ground.
It was a dream. I watch Rachel in the quilts, flapping her arms, gurgling.
In my dream, Mama whispered the words on the Declaration, -- forfeited to His Majesty. Patrick was there, too. He was watching, quiet, until the soldier pulled out a gun and shot him. A trickle of red sidled down his throat. He gasped; his hands flaying upwards and his fingertips – all ten still packed with dirt – pressed against the rupture.
It was a bright stream that slid down his neck; a red that matched the crimson of the fallen apples. Thomas broke free from my arms, ploughing into the soldier, his small hands curled into fists, running till he reached the fence. Then, with sunburned knuckles, Thomas grabbed the Declaration and yanked till it ripped free. Patrick collapsed and I screamed.
Only a dream.
“Mama! Patrick!” Where are they?
The Shepherd curled next to my bed stands up, his tail wagging, watching me.
I press upwards, holding my Rachel. I stand upright and walk, dragging my toes against the floorboards. The Shepherd presses close, whimpering. I don’t know why he is in the house. He belongs in the barn, with the chickens and the cows.
Rachel is getting heavy when I step into the kitchen. Mama’s curtains are dancing in the breeze, like always, and the apple trees outside are full of fruit. But there is no Mama. Or Patrick.
A fly descends from the rafters. It circles around Rachel.
The Shepherd snaps at the air and I watch the fly buzz upwards, only to back-track and perch himself on the basket by the window.
I recognize the basket of apples Mama calls “The Keepers.” The apples she keeps for us, untouched by rot and worms.
The apple smell is ripe, blending into the warmth of the room. Sunlight stretches across Rachel’s lashes and she is asleep now, draped over my shoulder.
My stomach grumbles. I reach down, eager to take a bite.
In that minute, I remember: I survived the fever. Everything else must be a dream.
I pull out a perfect apple from the stack; red, smooth. I raise it to my lips and stare at the apple space I created.
In the darkest corner, a squiggle of white inches forward, thin and round, and followed by another white, and another.
I turn my apple over. I see a crevice of rot, and from the softest brown center, a skinny maggot pushes out, free.
I open my fingers and my apple drops back into the basket of Keepers. The fly darts up, humming its protest. It circles once, then zig-zags out the open window, towards the blue sky.
Kristin Leonard is a mother and an educator that divides her time between Maine and Arizona. She holds an M.A. in English, Literature, from Northern Arizona University and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Southern Maine. Her academic and creative work have appeared in The Explicator, The Journal of South Texas English Studies, Atlantic Online, Icons Literary Journal, Hopes and Dreams for Our Future, and is upcoming in Borrowed Solace.
Short Strokes, White Cottages
Short brush strokes help define Van Gogh,
the feeling of choppiness in a stirred up sea,
a winter look, what preceded the storm in his head
day after day, not that he didn’t paint longer flowing
swaths, the lime wash on the cottages and the thatch
on roofs, but what do you look at?
Same as what Mother looked at when she stared
across the sound, something further out, something
she thought she wanted, but couldn’t see,
so her paintings were always in a turmoil
of dark blues and grays. I know she never saw
a Van Gogh, was not taking her lead from him,
but from the second floor of the white house
with black shutters, a reverse of the clerical garb
in the priest’s studio where she painted
with other women of town. She knew what lay
under the formality, knew of his Philadelphia lover.
He knew the short strokes as seizures in her brain.
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.
scribbled on a too blue sky
and nothing safe
but these houses leaning
into the storm
declaring their innocence
with white walls thick enough
to mute the loudest howl
to block the needling
sting of rain
and protect us
from lightning strikes
swift and unforgiving
as the wrath of a forgotten God
whose cross is broken
on the roof
of this house without windows
meant to let him in
Mary McCarthy: "I have always been a writer, but spent most of my working life as a Registered Nurse. I've had work appear in many print and online journals, including 3Elements Review, Califragile and Earth's Daughters. I have an electronic chapbook , Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis Magazine Online."
After Three White Cottages in Saintes-Maries, by Van Gogh
It’s the kind of title that appears only
to describe, yet just two of them
are white. They seem as native
to this landscape as the spiky grass,
the church conspicuous against
the sea-blue sky, cross tilting
on a roof of whitewashed thatch.
One good storm could bring it down.
Though the church is called a cottage,
no one lives there. The other cottage,
squat and sturdy, sports a spar,
a splinter rising from the roof,
mast without a jib. Wood supports
that could have been a boat
cast purple shadows on the wall.
Except for its window, the third house
resembles nothing so much as a hayrick.
All three buildings face away from the sea,
but everything about them speaks of it,
the blue-lined window, red door,
this village rooted on a berm.
Bright as a box of crayons, the sky
and land vibrate with light. Is it
evening or full day? The houses
sail each night through skies
of phosphorescent sparks, nary
a husk of moon to mark the way.
Robbi Nester frequently writes Ekphrastic poetry. She is the author of four books of poetry, including an Ekphrastic chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), and three collections of poetry: A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014), Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017), and a forthcoming book, Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag), which is available for advance sale from the publisher at http://mainstreetragbookstore.com/product/narrow-bridge-robbi-nester/. She is also the editor of two anthologies: The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an Ekphrastic e-book, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees--celebrating the photography of Beth Moon, accessible athttp://www.poemeleon.org/over-the-moon-birds-beasts-and. Her poetry, reviews, articles, and essays have appeared widely in journals, anthologies, and other publications.
The Artist Dreams His Childhood Back
Nothing settled under him, no ground he knew.
A strangeness awkward in its courage, a beast
ungainly made, his own familiar, turned and
ran from him. The vast unseen was seen,
a blinding. He was not a man he recognized.
He collapsed beneath the dense insistence
—eternal, near, specific, known—as if
a battered seawall weakened and gave way
before the very nature of the sea it held.
Afterward, solidified, returning to the past,
he saw a final shadowed thing climb out.
It stumbled at his feet, secretive and makeshift—
a thing he could not capture. Gone were his
few answers to every question asked. Unsung,
the thing had cried. Unsung. Simplicity arrived
with morning. He walked the village street and,
laughing, found a few thatched cottages to paint.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, the author of three poetry collections and two novels. Her most recent book is The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh: a novel (Blade of Grass Press, 2017). Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: https://shirleyglubka.weebly.com
This could be where my great-grandparents lived.
Small, windowless cottage, the roof line hanging down,
a bit unsteady.
Add a few lackluster chickens, dust,
rocks, a scratch of mud.
Take away lush green, leave
behind dirt, a dingy brown under cobalt sky.
Replace French words with Yiddish.
Call it Kovno or Vilna, call it Czernowitz,
the Pale of Settlement.
Add the scent of hunger, the smell of snow,
sketch in a touch of desperation,
the shape of desolation.
Call it 1908, paint the wind of shadows,
of danger, of night about to fall.
Valerie Bacharach’s poetry has appeared in several publications including Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Quarterly, US 1 Worksheets, The Tishman Review, Topology Magazine, Poetica, VerseWrights, and Voices from the Attic. She is a member of Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic workshops and conducts weekly poetry workshops for the women at Power House and CeCe’s Place, halfway houses for women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Her first chapbook, Fireweed, will be published in 2018 by Main Street Rag. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Read the Van Gogh ekphrastic challenge results on the following dates:
Thank you everyone who participated!
Siqueiros' Birth of Facism and Rivera's Arrival of Cortez
Maia Elsner is a graduate student from Britain, with Mexican and Polish heritage, whose writing focuses on migration and diaspora.
Dying to be Grace
I trace her profile
with the cursor
on my desktop,
in silver tones.
I follow this line of beauty
for no real reason--
a trail along a hillside;
dark clouds drift
above a marble cliff--
her lips with slightest part,
somewhere in the dark of
the line of her neck--
down to the valley
of her breasts,
where fevered thoughts
come to rest
dark clouds gather
above a marble cliff--
a lift and fall,
a ripping through proofs
to thunderous applause
and all this drowning
of her face.
to be grace.
M. Riley is a poet and library director. His poems have appeared in many anthologies over the past few years. His most recent poems have been included in Dos Gatos Press 100 Word Anthology, Weaving the Terrain, and forthcoming Mutabilis Press, Enchantment of the Ordinary (2018).
Eye to socket,
flesh before hollow.
Faces ultimately naked and mute.
On one finely brunette head,
On the other
only the faint marks
memory once made.
One might eye the future
as it stands above.
One might see the past
as it rises up
Both must remember
Baruch November’s collection of poems entitled Dry Nectars of Plenty won BigCityLit’s chapbook contest in 2003. His poems and short fiction have been featured in Lumina, Paterson Literary Review, New Myths, The Forward, and the Jewish Journal. He teaches literature and writing courses at Touro College and lives in Washington Heights, New York.
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Jean L. Kreiling
Stuart A. Kurtz
Tanmoy Das Lala
Fiona Tinwei Lam
John R. Lee
Clarissa Mae de Leon
David Ross Linklater
Gregory E. Lucas
Lorette C. Luzajic
M. L. Lyons
Ariel S. Maloney
John C. Mannone
Diane G. Martin
Mary C. McCarthy
Megan Denese Mealor
Patrick G. Metoyer
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Stacy Boe Miller
Mark J. Mitchell
Sharon Fish Mooney
Thomas R. Moore
Diane V. Mulligan
Mark A. Murphy
S. Jagathsimhan Nair
Heather M. Nelson
James B. Nicola
Bruce W. Niedt
Kim Patrice Nunez
M. N. O'Brien
Pravat Kumar Padhy
Andrew K. Peterson
Laurel S. Peterson
Daniel J. Pizappi
Melissa Reeser Poulin
Rhonda C. Poynter
Marcia J. Pradzinski
Anita S. Pulier
Molly Nelson Regan
Amie E. Reilly
J. Stephen Rhodes
Ralph La Rosa
Mary Kay Rummell
Mary Harris Russell
Janet St. John
Lisa St. John
Kelly R. Samuels
Christy Sheffield Sanford
Pamela Joyce Shapiro
Courtney O'Banion Smith
Janice D. Soderling
Helen Leslie Sokolsky
David Allen Sullivan
Kim Cope Tait
Mary Stebbins Taitt
Mary Ellen Talley
Liza Nash Taylor
Memye Curtis Tucker
Janine Pommy Vega
Sue Brannan Walker
Martin Willitts Jr
William Carlos Williams
Morgan Grayce Willow
Shannon Connor Winward
William Butler Yeats
Abigail Ardelle Zammit
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