I swaddled you in dreams from birth
of health and happiness,
of honeysuckle days and lightning bug nights,
maybe someday Duke or Yale.
For now, your frame too tiny, too frail
for the massive canvas of colours
that would paint your life.
Cruising and crawling melted
into days of dangling from
paper-thin twigs on wintering trees.
But by the first snowflake of your
seventh year, your boots stood dry
in your closet while you lay in bed
for weeks drenched with fever. Illness
we did not understand robbed you
of school days and playground games,
biking, bowling, parties, and sleepovers
with friends. Poking and prodding, tests and
guesses were your life now, and finally
treatment with promise of snowy boots next winter.
Your sweet childhood was now your Everest,
with every crag and crevice a boulder, every
step an avalanche of fear, the distant peak
poking through greying clouds like
a beckoning finger, your damaged health
a relentless, blustery thunderstorm.
We didn't know the hardest part of climbing
was never reaching the top. Not really.
It was the sides.
It was always the sides.
Shelly Blankman and her husband Jon fill their empty nest in Columbia, Maryland with 4 cat rescues. They have two sons, one in New York and one in Texas. After a stint as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the at Marshall University , she followed a career path in journalism and public relations, but her first love has always been poetry. She has been published previously in The Ekphrastic Review, as well as Visual Verse, Verse-Virtual, Silver Birch Press, Poetry Superhighway, and Praxis Magazine.
Head to the Sky
— after Elizabeth Bishop, “12 O’Clock News”
Vince Gotera is a Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as Editor of the North American Review. Recent poems in The American Journal of Poetry, Star*Line, Parody Poetry Journal, Altered Reality Magazine, Eunoia Review, and Inigo Online Magazine, among others. He blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.
It could be a soup tourrine or a kid’s toy from this distance--
Santa Fe cattle skulls are called art, wiped clean from their primordial ooze
by wind or the torn t-shirt of an artist. Georgia stands on desolate sand,
the dry brushed sky that separates her is filled in with ultramarine,
Cobalt Blue Hue.
She would probably say the painting isn’t about her,
as she loads a brush with Cadmium Scarlet or Indian Yellow,
transforming virgin canvas to iris,
or cala lilies blooming into vulvas--
iridescent wombs filled with colour.
She stands in a photograph taken by Alfred Steiglitz, unable to move.
She’s all celluloid flash and silence, a dust bowl stoic
painting the inside of her body--
what’s beautiful, what holds on to everything and nothing--
red larkspurs and cattle skulls like broken hourglasses turning time into dust.
Robert Walicki's work has appeared in over 40 publications including Vox Populi, Stone Highway Review, The Kentucky Review, Red River Review, and others. A Pushcart and a Best of The Net nominee, Robert currently has two chapbooks published: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press), which was nominated to the 2016 Poet’s House List of Books in NYC.
Each Awaits Its Rising
Peeling paint lifts into landscape,
reeds like a legion of spearheads
splitting still water. Shore fronds lean
to catch a glimpse of themselves
as they expire. Clouds bring together
jagged edges, a clapping before
thunderclaps, a closing of hasps. Bark labia
round into dark lips, trunk
opening a birth canal to light. Close by,
a lone figure considers, perhaps
stepping, perhaps readying for a leap,
each form awaiting
its continued rising, offering itself
to wind and to weather.
Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. She has a chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, forthcoming from dancing girl press (summer 2017). Her recent poems have appeared in numerous print/on-line journals, among them: Oyez, Red Paint Hill, The Ekphrastic Review, Serving House Journal, The Journal of Applied Poetics, Emerge Literary Journal, Timberline Review, Trailhead Magazine VCFA, The Prick of the Spindle, and Permafrost.
Originally from New York City, Robert Bharda has resided in the Northwest U.S. where for the last 35 years he has specialized in vintage photographica as a profession, everything from salt prints to polaroids. His illustrations/artwork have appeared in numerous publications, both in the U.S. and abroad, and are current or recent on covers of Naugatuck River Review, Blue Five NoteBook, Cirque and Rio Grande Review. His portfolios of images have been featured in many others, including anthologies.
The Photos Were Like Paintings
The envelope of clouds had broken and the sun lit upon me. I pressed into the pink plaster wall and sheltered in a strip of shade. The wall was a pleasing pink, a pale rose pink. For an hour I had been inching slowly forward toward the ticket booth. There was still a long line of people in front of me. I was tired of standing. I was hot. I was bored. Only later did I learn I had been pressing against the outer wall of Claude Monet’s house.
I had long craved a pilgrimage to Monet’s gardens at Giverny. I was an American student in France in ‘74 when first I floated in his murals of water lilies that fill the walls of L’Orangerie in Paris. I had gone back through the years for other plunges into those water garden panoramas of no horizon, those planes of purple, blue, and green paint, the reflections of unseen trees on the surface of the pond. But I had never made the trek to Giverny.
This time in Paris, in 2016, I was with my husband, David. A warm day in May beckoned us out of the city. I would finally weave my traveler’s dream of the gardens. But I was to be let down. We had not accounted for the three-day weekend in France and the crowds of fellow visitors who, like us, had judged the day as perfect for a visit to the magic of Giverny.
Monet’s gardens—the home of the water lily pond—had begun as a simple idea: “. . . I should like to grow some flowers in order to be able to paint in bad weather as well,” he wrote his agent in 1883 not long after moving to Giverny. The gardens became his obsession, his muse. He lavished great chunks of time on plotting and planning. The pond, dug in 1893, was tended by a gardener whose only job was to maintain the lilies as Monet desired them, to remove dried leaves, fight the water rats who ate the bulbs.
Monet worked and reworked the gardens to reach the reality of his vision. Then he translated that vision using paint and canvas. Often dissatisfied, he destroyed hundreds of paintings. Is this not the crux of the artist’s challenge? For vision to survive execution?
The crowds of our fellow visitors at the entrance carried over into the gardens. David and I shuffled along within clots of people following the roped paths between flower beds. Keep moving. Avoid bumping other bodies. Try not to step on someone’s foot. Try not to step into someone else’s photograph (impossible!). I was always in the way of others or was ungraciously pissed off because they were in my way.
I saw, yes, the pale blue forget-me-nots below tulips of cabernet red, the frilly blooms of lavender iris amid blades of green leaves, the clumps of Persian red pansies with yellow centers. Yes, I took in the heavy drape of purple wisteria hanging from the pond’s Japanese bridge, reflections of encircling willow trees, the unbloomed buds of the water lilies. But for me the gardens were fragmented and shattered by the crowds. It was as if I were seeing the broken shards of a stained glass window.
We took the train back to Paris. The realm I had sought remained undreamed.
Back home in Seattle I glanced at David’s computer screen one evening as he edited his photos from Giverny. I was instantly snagged.
David had searched every scene for the best shot. He had reached beyond the jostle of bodies and slipped past the oppression I had felt. David has the artist’s eye and he had been in the garden of an artist. He had captured Monet’s carefully crafted layers of flowers, apple trees, pink house, and green hills. His framing, his edits nipped and cut most of the people. In his long shot of the pond the eye is pulled toward the dark green rounds of lily leaves, the surface reflections of trees, clouds, and sky, the oranges and reds of azaleas around the edges. The mind barely registers the people in coats of yellow, blue, brown, and red that speckle gaps in the foliage.
David’s photos were like paintings. In them I found the Giverny I had craved.
Nancy L. Penrose is a writer based in Seattle. Her essays have been published in Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee Literary Review; 1966: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction; Drash: Northwest Mosaic; the collections of Travelers’ Tales; and the anthology Burning Bright: Passager Celebrates 21 Years. Details may be found at www.plumerose.net.
He tries taxidermy animals first,
but the wires
that shape their batting
make a poor substitute,
for bones, not all armatures artful.
Better are road kill,
dead but inexplicably whole, able
to partner blooms
without shame, skeletons as graceful
as stamen and anther.
The animals seem stunned
by their exposed joints, as naked
as Adam and Eve
before God’s surgical gaze.
The artist chooses
not to return to them
any colour, finding
in their hinges decoration enough.
Embarrassed by lack,
they cede the focus
to their rooted cousins,
by stem, leaf, and bloom.
Devon Balwit is a writer and teacher from Portland, OR. She has two chapbooks forthcoming--'how the blessed travel' from Maverick Duck Press and 'Forms Most Marvelous' from dancing girl press. Her recent work has found many homes, among them: Oyez, The Cincinnati Review, Red Paint Hill, Timberline Review, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Trailhead Review, and Oracle.
A Tour through Washington’s Holocaust Museum
My God, I thought I’d seen the worst of it--
shorn scalps and leathered limbs left mangled in
a bed of bough, ashen stone—a fire pit.
What must have been a beech-wood ark was locked
and lit aflame, spewing smoke in great white
bluffs. The crimson dusk. Victims trapped inside,
alive. And beyond that stunning photograph,
hard artifacts, culled from slums and slaughter
grounds, now span these three museum floors.
I press forward, wading through empty pairs
of infant shoes and curly locks of hair,
mug shots, portraits of Eishishok folk ascending
up a tower, toward a light of Olam Haba.
Individuals—a single life began
as a precious mouth, puckered for her mother’s
breast, and expired when her lips turned grey and cold,
fissured, schlepped out to pile like kindling in
a killing field. Selfsame individuals.
Our crowd descends the low-lit middle floor
to the model Auschwitz Crematorium.
And you’d thought you’d seen the worst of it.
Some thousand Jews hop off the cattle car
and file glumly past the plaster guards,
descend the stairwell to a bleached-white floor
where tattered schloks and bare hides plop, where mothers
shush and nudge their kinder down another
concrete ark. Are they ghosts? Can they hear the
bustle under shower heads, the patter
of the thousand feet that fell before? The steel
hatch locks. Pellets drop. White wisps sizzle out
the vent to rising shrills and searing flesh
and wilting kinder buried under mounds.
A million pleas have rung these walls and still
you stand there, deaf and dumb-struck, looking down.
John Scott Dewey
John Scott Dewey is a husband, father, fiction writer, poet, and middle school English teacher living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He received his MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. His fiction has been recently featured in Fjords Review, The Delmarva Review, and The Wilderness House Literary Review.
(For Tsewang Paljor and the other lost members of the expedition)
Perhaps there are places we are not
meant to go despite the allure of the
untouched and untamed. Are all indulgences
rightfully ours? Wasn’t Lot’s wife proof
that we’re not always at liberty to see?
I’m sure you didn’t mean to end
your life as a landmark. Since ‘96,
your green Koflach boots a warning
to others: Everest takes, whether you are
willing to give, or not. In an alcove
made of limestone, climbers use you
as a gauge. How much farther to the summit--
how much closer to God?
Carol McMahon is a teacher and poet who has been published in various journals (Prodigal, IthacaLit, Unlost Journal, The Wild Word, Blue Collar Review) and has a chapbook, On Any Given Day, published by FootHills Press. McMahon received an MFA in Poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop in Washington State and when not teaching, reading or writing can be found out trail-running or on the water rowing.
Women old colonists
auslander manifesto for an unadulterated
space – companions in family history, too mature & silent to administer cartes de
visite & left hanging cryptically, algebraically, among other mash-ups & ruins
but, still, warum allein?
the others from the Holborn gathering have come & are very pretty today / sleep
becomes hard with the doctrines of gullies & glades exposed –
at least have faith in this catalogue entry, a long winded
way to ensure you are participated at, a testament to mild applause /
every frayed cloth, blotchy forearm (heightened
senses) expressed in mock woodgrain, the myth of symmetry
underlying the repose of men / true charity is never holding country accountable
for temperaments vanquished… besides which, the banquet was spoiled by
the Gambier brothel story though in this age the feeling is more than mutual / oh
turns off too frequently / it is hard to distinguish what is
patience in all this, patience losing measure by the season, is there even
lustre in these experiences (advising cloves for teeth care, lips pursed will work
here, make up for it with posture) / a season, an idea, united under abstractions
felt – physiques are matter, trust to the depiction,
single painting can be guilty / hands folding & unfolding in the fug of March,
voices of arts patrons ferment on inconceivable
neighbours’ enthusiasm – more pressing is pastoral as a Prussian delineation now,
familiarity endangered, contested vistas changed
upon looking / childless men guessing at circuits, roundabout achievements in al-
most engineering, them & us improvisers in terrain, intimacy, ‘local or
universal’, relent to pose with compassion this eve / record of fitted smiles, a collage
/ time to do this, swapping a face for a face, time to exist here remaining within token
hierarchy / good-natured habitude leads to over-reliance on species memory to dis-
Barnaby Smith is a journalist, editor, poet and musician based in northern New South Wales, Australia. He can be found online at www.seededelsewhere.com
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