With De Kooning’s Montauk Highway, 1958
Fire!—everything fighting for air to combust.
Hints of slaughter in the whitish sky
approximating years, oracles, ghosts.
Just a mind: ear of the past still listening
for a man with a grand mustache,
footsteps melting in puddled sand,
his glutted body tanking into black with
raging white froth. Just a thought:
body washed up on beige-gray sand
like an arrowhead, tomahawk,
exposed again to the living’s scrutiny.
Nothing but loafing in the Hamptons
until the axe falls, eh?
There is no highway,
though they elect to call it that,
a faster road banned year after year;
you go single file, broken like a horse
into pastoral patience, raise your glass
to ballooning sea-heaves when you reach
this debris-of-hurricanes place.
A patch chipped away—flames from
underneath?—jewels dug out?
Someone on a beach in white cotton.
Not Gandhi. Not now.
straight on through
to where the lighthouse
beam turns 360 degrees.
Jari Chevalier's poems are forthcoming in Puerto del Sol and Green Mountains Review and have recently appeared in Arcturus, Beloit Poetry Journal, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, Concīs, The Cortland Review, Gulf Coast Online, The Massachusetts Review, and Poetry East, among others. In Fall 2016 her poem won the inaugural poetry contest at Sheila-Na-Gig Online and she was a semi-finalist for the 2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse magazine. In 2014 she received a Merit Award in the Atlanta Review International Poetry competition and was a finalist in the Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in writing and literature from Columbia University and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from CCNY. For more information, please visit http://jarichevalier.com
Benjamin Britten, Turn of the Screw
After Christopher Palmer and Myfanwy Piper
Each variation on the twelve-tone row
turns a a dissonant screw on tonality
so home keys seem unheimlich,
common chords other-worldly,
perfect fourths Diabolus in musica.
Children’s voces angelicae
turn Benedicite’s cross upside down
and Lavender’s Blue’s all too blue.
Their governess is lost in a labyrinth
of scales from faux-Mozart Sonatas,
leading nowhere but dead-ends
while Quint’s sybaritic melisma
is leading us to a gamelan lake
where innocence is drowned
far from C major’s haunted house
and Miles’s sad little song:
Malo: I would rather be
Malo: in an apple tree
Malo: than a naughty boy
Malo: in adversity
Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, lecturer and critic. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He directs the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.
The Zianigo Frescoes
Say that it’s just like life, say that each road
(however long) is finally a dead
end. Here, round every corner, a dead end.
The whole place now, a mouldering dead end.
A beautiful, a glorious dead end,
where once, a thousand years or so ago,
by some collective effort of the will,
each dead end was a start, a whole new world:
familiar changed to unfamiliar;
solid to liquid; waking life to dream;
and sordid, opportunist acts of trade
Art everywhere, stolen or made.
Petty officials, pompous bureaucrats,
rapacious merchants, every minor saint
whose sleight of hand deceived the credulous –
transmuted into art.
So many years
the city state maintained this high-wire act
of the imagination. But one day
gravity intervenes, let in by loss
of confidence, or by its opposite,
by chance or by decrepitude – who knows?
The infinite horizons then retreat.
The street that ends in water is no more
a stepping off, but now a shutting down,
a locking up, a turning in, until
Follow me now – a right
turn from the door… two minutes’ walk will take
us to the water, with no choice but to
turn left some three (four?) dozen paces more
to this peculiar form of the dead end.
The New World
We are not welcome in this bright new world.
Here is a motley wall of coloured backs,
cold-shouldering, huddled, jostling for the view
they’ve paid good money for – not queuing up
as I had thought, to leave behind this dead-
end old world. Then again, perhaps they are.
Perhaps the sole escape is fantasy:
a different, more lurid fantasy;
a stronger, cheaper, baser drug; a Punch
and Judy show, with cartoon violence
substituting for what some might call
the real, with its inherent violence.
But there is always consequence. It seems
they do not know that they are now the show,
and though they turn their backs and put on masks,
evade us in the sodden labyrinth,
they are the show, fated to parody
their opera, their art or – worse – themselves,
for crowds come in their millions to gawp
at the dead end, smell the decay first-hand,
and watch the lot sink into the lagoon.
See – Pulcinella’s now a citizen,
escaped out of that show and into this,
and ready to comport himself just like
a model citizen. What could go wrong?
Pulcinella in Love
Assuming that the mask’s grotesquerie
is worn to hide the beauty underneath,
we’re equal in our joke of ugliness.
But when the mask is moulded to the shape
of true deformity, when the hooked nose
fits snugly in the nasal cavity,
and when no padding is required to make
the hunched back and the wide-distended gut,
democracy sneaks in at the back door,
or anarchy, perhaps. And our outcast –
the butt of every smug comedian’s joke –
is free to grope aristocratic tit.
So confident in her own beauty and
her power, that she cannot comprehend
another might be less well-bred, well-formed,
and still be able to breathe the same air.
But he knows what life feels like, and that it
feels like this yielding, yet resistant, flesh.
He’s waited all his life to fondle it.
He’ll sing its praises in his swazzle voice.
He’s going to squeeze, till it gives up its juice.
A rope is all it takes to stay aloft.
No need for angels holding up the cloud
to take the weight of bearded daddy-God,
or levitating Spanish kings and queens,
painted by daddy Giambattista on
the ceiling of some chocolate box chapel.
Now, looking up, the glory seen on high
is a bulbous behind in white homespun.
Now Pulcinella rules, not only in
the worldly city, but in heaven above.
One day, there is no more revenge to take:
not on aristocrats, fathers or gods,
not on all the society, who made
them clowns. Now Pulcinella comatose
with drink assumes the pose of Hyacinth
killed by Apollo’s discus. Now we all
are Pulcinellas, all with the same mask,
same dunce’s cap and same deformity,
all quacking violent inanities.
There is no one to overthrow, no one
to blame for our shortcomings, but ourselves
as we swill and cavort in our new world
and drain all meaning and all beauty from
existence. Unsustainable dead end!
We need a scapegoat, but there’s only us
poor Pulcinellas. One has got to go.
The finger points… with back already slumped,
already bearing this absurd new world’s
guilt, he can only shuffle out of frame
scratching his arse, outcast of the outcasts,
the tragic hero of the comedy.
Mike Farren’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Interpreter's House, The High Window, and Valley Press's Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry. His debut pamphlet, ‘Pierrot and his mother’ was published by Templar Poetry. He publishes under the Ings Poetry imprint and hosts the Rhubarb open mic in Shipley, UK.
Together We Are
Huddled in the clutch of love
so long our bones stand out
by the soft sweet flesh
that was ignited
in the furnace
of our consummation.
Like paper in fire
we flare up
we curl into each other
locked in intimate exclusion
of anyone beyond
our fierce embrace--
where we burn forever
only for ourselves
fused hip to hip,
bone to bone
forged in the crucible
of blind desire.
This poem was written as part of the sex and art ekphrastic Valentine's Day challenge.
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had work published in many on line and print journals, and has an e chapbook “Things I was Told Not to think About” available as a free download from Praxis Magazine online.
Blue River (Rio Chama) – a Word Painting
Stony mesa sprawls
across the land beyond the river;
reclined here for centuries,
an aging painted beauty
burnt sienna and creviced in the sun.
Rough blankets woven of
umber and sepia rubble
stippled sap green with juniper,
higher up with piñon and oak,
drape pleated across her torso.
The blanket parts
at her bony bent knees
to reveal red rock skin
wrinkled and sagging
toward her feet;
the river flows
from between her thighs.
The Río Chama flows constricted
from the seam among hills,
bends and twists upon herself,
merges and separates,
seeks a torturous, then smooth path,
a symphony toward the Río Grande,
the Gulf of Mexico.
Cobalt mirror of sky
with streaks of lapis and pearl
disguises her origins--
vermilion silt from slick rock,
sharp lunar black granules from basalt,
china white glitters from sandstone,
suspended in clear liquor
distilled from cumulous clouds.
Watercolors flow south from Georgia’s brushes
down the serpentine riverbed.
Manganese blue sky,
a wash laid on
behind and above the mesas
with a flat, even brush.
An invisible wind
from hidden lips
at the round earth’s imagined corner.*
Scattered here and there,
with a round, sable point,
daubs of silver,
pearlescent shimmers of cloud
twist and stretch,
sail and thread
their ways across
changing cerulean heavens.
Cottonwoods bury gnarled toes
deep in sand and silt deposited
on the outer bank of a sinuous, rocky curve
where water drags her feet,
slows her race to the Gulf,
part of her gravelly burden.
They drink the Río Chama,
armor the banks against her insistent assault,
these muscular trunks
clothed in graphite gray, furrowed bark,
raise sinewy arms,
paint malachite green shadows
on river’s skin.
Supple silvery wrists and grasping bony fingers
clad in elbow-length viridian gloves.
Gleaming leafy arrowheads
on thin petioles before a downstream breeze,
point now at the river—source of life--
now at the sun—absorb its energy.
Secret in arrowhead-shaped shadows,
a thin gilt brushstroke of cadmium yellow
that will be their autumn raiment.
On inside edge,
embraced by looping curve
of river’s sweep,
lies young, smooth-skinned
sand, swept down-river in glittering bits,
deposited as water slows
its path upon the moving curve,
a simple wash of gritty ochre granules.
She hosts a few equally young trees.
Young and impressionable,
she will lift her sandy skirts,
shake loose twisted rootlets and rounded pebbles,
downstream at the sinuous whim of the ancient river’s
change of direction,
back and forth across the valley
between rocky knees,
but always south toward
Big Bend and the Gulf.
*phrase from John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 7
Janet Ruth is an emeritus research ornithologist, living in New Mexico. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world. She has recent poems in Bird’s Thumb, Santa Fe Literary Review, two volumes of Poets Speak Anthology—HERS and WATER, and Weaving the Terrain: 100-Word Southwestern Poems. Janet and her husband have sought out and photographed New Mexico locations that Georgia O'Keeffe painted to experience for themselves the magic they hold.
Therefore, behold, the days are coming,
declares the LORD,
when this place will be called
the Valley of Slaughter…
What about now,
this bright light born to darkness
dead in the alley,
for the sins of his father?
this wide eyed marvel of a child,
did anybody love him?
An imaginative boy, someone
said, just on his
way to play basketball.
The sacrifice of Isaac
without the happy ending.
Mama in her new car,
before he’s even buried.
Dad’s face, as hard and mean a face as
there has ever been.
What about now? Does
And where to, from here?
The black bodies are piling up,
on the altar of our
Lorette C. Luzajic
This poem was first published in the author's ekphrastic poetry collection, Aspartame.
Lorette C. Luzajic is the founding editor of The Ekphrastic Review. She is a Toronto, Canada based visual artist who shows regularly at home and further afield. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.
Drawing in Bolsena, or Writing
If we take the length
and multiply it by this,
the rectangle, like so.
Not a circle, no, but here it is.
And, too, the scrubbing out,
the dirty eraser.
And then these
random thoughts, numbers,
like the floaters across the eye’s surface
or the contractor’s sonnet.
This part of the mind opens
and the hand works, moves across the paper
the color of wet sand, the canvas, the space.
Something like automatic writing,
that parlor trick. Here, this, and the downward
slant, trailing off, and the swish
of bell-shaped skirt, tilt of table. Hush.
And over here, nothing.
Kelly R. Samuels
Kelly R. Samuels lives and works as an adjunct English instructor near what some term the “west coast of Wisconsin.” Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net, and appeared online at apt, Off the Coast, Burningword and The Summerset Review.
A Fist Curled, A Folded Wing
Jennifer Bradpiece was born and raised in the multifaceted muse, Los Angeles, where she still resides. She remains active in the Los Angeles writing and art scene, often collaborating with multi-media artists on projects. Her poetry has been published in various anthologies, journals, and online zines, including Redactions, Degenerate Literature, and The Common Ground Review. She has poetry forthcoming in Black Napkin, Nowhere Poetry, and NeosAlexandria: The Dark Ones Anthology among others. In 2016, her manuscript, Lullabies for End Times, was acknowledged as one the final ten favorites in the Paper Nautilus Debut Serious Chapbook Contest.
My father would use the salty brine from the olive jar as salad dressing, pouring it until a little pool formed at the bottom of his bowl, lettuce leaves ever so slightly swirling, like the dream I had last night where a snail circled softly around a pile of salt, but it did not melt, just climbed higher, and when I called to him to look he walked away, jangling the keys that dangled from the balloon-shaped leather keychain he used to hang on a hook by the front door of the army base house we lived in when I was four, where once I saw a real snail on our wide concrete sidewalk and crouched down low beneath the hot Oklahoma sun and watched it drag its slime across the shadow of my hair while my father started up the Volkswagon, his cigarette smoke swirling patiently from the window.
Amie E. Reilly
Amie E. Reilly is an adjunct professor in the English department at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and ten-year-old son. Her most recent work can be found at Fiction Advocate, The New Engagement, The Evansville Review, and Entropy. She also blogs at https://theshapeofme.blog/.
There Would Be Feathers
My eyes are still the same. Dove gray, the right one
slightly wider so it looks like my patience is depleted.
Face Kabuki white, layers of powder obscuring pock
marks, moles, imperfection, tears. Porcelain doll lips
painted scarlet, brushstrokes that slur when you’ve
had too many Kir Royales.
My chin resting imperiously on a black boa. I
knew at five there would be feathers. Hundreds of
feathers cut from the wings of forgotten swans.
I’m sweating in the rented dress, cinched tight
at the waist. I try to hide my hands, bending
them away from you. Later, when I kick
my toes above my curls the men in the last row
will grunt like pigs, stupid with desire.
We are two freaks in the Paris night. Dwarf and whore.
Voyeur and fly trap. Impervious to name calling or
the dull vagaries of life: the unwashed cup, the
stocking that needs mending, the pain in twice scarred
thighs. People gaze at us a beat too long, re-arranging
pieces in their minds, but the puzzle refuses to fit. If
you’d finished the portrait, chosen a proper background
instead of dirty cardboard, they’d take me for
royalty. No mirror please. No promises or whispers
of false adoration. You knew the chrysalis would have
to burn, the butterfly damaged, wings dazed with fire.
Beth Sherman has an MFA in creative writing from Queens College, where she teaches in the English department. Her fiction has been published in Portland Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Blue Lyra Review, SandyRiver Review, Gloom Cupboard, Delmarva Review, Panoplyzine, Sinkhole, and
Sou’wester. Her poetry has been published in Lime Hawk, Gyroscope, Rust + Moth and Silver Birch Press. She is also a Pushcart nominee and has written five mystery novels.
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