The Gabon Woman
Worn, withered, of wood, the Gabon woman waits.
Breastless, ungenitaled, perfectly flat, angularly she waits.
With legs disappearing into stone, arms ironed stiff:
eyeless, hairless, a perfectly managed wooden way.
From the side she is unsure, shoulders pointed skywards
asking why? which way? for whose
pleasure and profit?
Refusing to be found, named, said--to be any other way.
Bought, she cannot be owned.
Positioned, she declines to stand upright.
A page turned face down, a rhythm, she only repeats.
Silent, she watches us watch her,
each plane a way of arriving
at the body: in and out of the frame.
Mark Silverberg is the author of the Eric Hoffer award-winning ekphrastic poetry collection, Believing the Line: The Jack Siegel Poems (Breton Books, 2013). His poetry has appeared (or is forthcoming) in The Antigonish Review, The Nashwaak Review and Contemporary Verse 2. He is an Associate Professor of English at Cape Breton University where I specializes in American poetry, visual arts, and artistic collaborations.
At the entrance to the Dayton Art Museum, a tall piece of kinetic art guards the doors. On second thought perhaps it is knighting the stream of comers and goers: a shining, polished stainless steel structure, a perpendicular mast (a square-sided pole) 20 feet or so tall, which includes its divergence into a large wye's reaching arms, and at each of their tops, a shining sword-like, tapering, five-foot triangular piece of metal that juts out from the point of attachment near its thicker square end and cuts empty space, slicing around independently at the prodding of invisible currents.
I can't see the mechanism that holds these rotating blades in place yet allows their movement. Trying to do so, I stand near the sculpture's base craning my neck and farther off gaining some details in the distance but at the same time of course losing others. This crafts-person's trick in achieving balance is obviously beyond my ken. I can imagine the mind and the limbs creating it, though. They're in a well-lit large warehouse-like room playing with materials that became what I see.
Balance seems to be at the centre of this art—maybe it's at the centre of all art. If so, how odd. Some of the most unstable people I know are artists of one sort or another. If this observation is true, then maybe practicing an art based on balance appeals to kinetic artists because they find it hard to achieve balance in their own lives. At any rate, I'm thinking now of their act of creating as performance art, like someone on stage entertaining an audience.
To get my drift, go to youtube and view the video of Miyoko Shida Rigolo's performance. You'll have a hard time thinking it's not a trick of video razzmatazz. What she does is totally based on balance.
She begins by taking what looks like a large goose feather from the bun in her hair and balancing it upon a slightly longer and what looks like a heavier piece of wood or bamboo, though perhaps it's some lighter material. She holds this second piece at its balancing point, then repeats this procedure with increasingly larger pieces of the same material, slowly balancing one after another beneath the one before it, one hand holding the latest balancing point, the other introducing the newer piece of wood. At the end a large mobile of fourteen pieces slowly circle on her balancing hand and finally upon one last erect piece of wood. All the time during composition, at each stage of construction, you can see the wavering nature of the loose balance as well as the entire piece turning. Then she....well, you need to see the quiet climax, the breathtaking beauty in this finished art, which is mobile even throughout its creation.
It's another extension of the mobile idea, which I think must have derived from observing natural phenomena. The leaf or flower on a stem waving as a breeze affects it. The piece of tissue that hangs down tempting prey into deadly range of the angler fish's mouth. The glinting water drops spreading out, sprinkling down onto the ground, creating patterns, dripping from ice as it melts from an eave in bright sunlight several hours during the day. A week of the samaras helicoptering, swirling down from maple trees until gone for another year. The shower of pink crabapple blossoms that I've enjoyed, standing under limbs, immersed in a powerfully rich aroma some springs in my backyard.
The more constant example is the night show of stars, which hold such permanent positions that humans have recognized and named the relationship of stars to one another for millennia. A close study of the night sky stimulates wonder of course, and part of that concerns a perception of our own infinitesimal existence in the grandeur of the cosmos. But also, the wonder about what holds the continuing relationship of the things we observe up there in place. Science suggests gravitational pulls, magnetic attractions and repulsions, orbital forces beyond my knowledge but clear enough to me to prompt comparisons. They remind me of the wires and hidden human devices that hold the pieces of popular mobiles in a stable relationship while allowing their movements to occur.
In this way I end up also thinking about myself. Human beings are held on our own wires and strings, our invisible emotions and thoughts, the DNA patterns that formulate who we are, the inheritances that go back into humanity's prehistoric origins. Are we not to a large extent mobiles ourselves?
And all those supposedly stationary things that we assume are landmarks? The human eye can catch only a limited range of motion. We don't see the tree's slow movement, the erosion of a sandstone crag, or witness very well the hummingbird's flapping wings. If a movement is too slow or too fast, we miss it. Perception also depends on the nature of the moving object's substance and colour. Our eyes have help. Scientists have extended our ability to perceive the otherwise invisible, but we don't have to spend thousands for very complicated machine help. More simply, an album of photographs that show how we looked down through the years back to childhood can shock us and prompt nostalgia. Doesn't it also suggest those hidden wires that connect us all?
Making any kind of art employs magic. So does the viewers' appreciation of a piece of art. This kind of rapture lasts for the period during which a creation engages us, when we respond emotionally and intellectually to it. So here I am just outside the Art Museum's front doors, a George Rickey mobile, Two Lines Oblique, prodding me to circle around it in my mind, following the artist's impulses, judgments, and skill, levitating in my imagination at the artist's stimulation.
Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, studied English literature, then taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folk dances. Five Star Mysteries published his novel Old Town, and his poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies.
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
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.
What He Sees
is your body
layered like a set
of nesting dolls
each one diminished
less and less complete
the smallest at the center
closest to whole
an armless headless torso
the body’s core
rising from the shell
of a pelvis
that rises from the cradle
of your sex
both offered and
given the lead
magnified and closer
than any other fragment
daring us to notice
what is missing-
the hands, the face
This poem was written as part of the surprise ekphrastic challenge on Magritte's paintings.
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had many publications in journals, including Earth's Daughters, Caketrain, and The Evening Street Review, among others. She has only recently discovered the vibrant poetry communities on the internet, where there is so much to explore and enjoy.
Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne
Apollo finally wearies of his lunging rush
at Daphne, whose slender fingertips even now
are changing into sprigs of laurel.
Why does she always have to run so fast?
And to have all her creamy skin covered
by that crust of bark, that always burns him up.
He’d just like to ask her out, so they might
sit together on his back porch in the twilight
and hold hands, or maybe a little more.
And Daphne, sometimes she’d like to turn on him
and dare the gorgeous fool: all right, let’s do it!
Right on the museum floor!
Just to let herself go a little
would be such a relief
after all these strenuous centuries.
She’s seen all the patrician women,
soi disant, stalking and turning
in slacks and sunglasses,
inspecting her with an envy that’s a little smug,
divining her marble beauty did nothing for her.
And all the gasping men, what good were they?
At last she’d just like a home to go to
where she could water the geraniums on the windowsill
and watch her neighbours in the street below.
Yes, she has to admit that the pose
she’s held for so long has been superb
and she’s glad to have had the job,
but finally any cramped apartment would do,
somewhere she could cook some fagioli-- wiping her hands
on a mildewed dishtowel, swatting at flies,
one kid hanging to her sweaty thigh,
and cheesy disco on the radio-- while she waits
for her husband the truck driver to finally come home.
Charles M. Boyer
Charles M. Boyer’s novel, History’s Child, was chosen by Mary Gaitskill as the winner of the AWP Award Series in the Novel and was published by New Issues Press in 2016. He also published poems and short stories in such places Abraxas, Literal Latte, The Larcom Review, The Atlanta Review, and other literary magazines. He received a grant for writing from the Wisconsin Arts Board and a Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. Charles Boyer graduated from Beloit College with a junior year at Harris-Manchester College, Oxford, and has an M.A. in fiction writing from the University of New Hampshire. He teaches English and Humanities at Montserrat College of Art and lives with his family near Boston.
Baldassare Forestiere tunneled under
to sculpt the earth into subterranean baths,
gardens and grottos— one hundred chambers
excavated with hand tools, picks, a shovel
and sometimes a mule to move bigger rocks.
Thrown out of olive groves by his father,
he traveled with the idea of growing citrus.
A new arrival, he bought hardpan, rocky land
that could never prosper in a valley
perennially burned by summer sun,
soil-cracked by drought, fog-swamped
in winter. He survived by levelling
other farmers’ tracts and grafting fruit trees.
To escape the heat, he went underground,
one scoop of dirt at a time, dreaming
of catacomb passages, a cool alcove,
a snug bedroom, a garden view lit with skylights.
In a cavern, eight—twelve—metres below,
he would grow wonder trees,
one citrus bearing eight kinds of fruit.
He would treat some woman, wife,
to cedrons, navel oranges, Valencias,
tangerines, grapefruits, and sweet lemons,
while she bathed in his hand-carved tub.
In brick planters, pear trees would thrive,
pomegranates, almonds, mulberries,
palm dates, persimmons, and strawberries,
red grapes and green, rosemary, myrtle--
his fish pond stocked with fish caught
in the San Joaquin River, his own brand
of wine hand-pressed, Sangre di Christo--
All of this did come to pass, his villa, after
forty years of burrowing, but the woman
did not want to play Persephone;
she would only have him above ground.
She could not see the charm
of his spliced trees, the sweet globes
of fruit glowing in sun shafts
of his cavernous honeycomb.
He hand-scraped dirt, dredged scrabble,
strained his back with wheelbarrow loads
to remake the lower world into his own image.
He stayed alone. Ten acres of an ant colony,
piazzas in deep vaults, meetings halls,
a space for a restaurant and dancing--
he imagined a peopled resort,
where others could see in the braced ceilings
and clay-tiled patios who Baldassare Forestiere
was, a man with little money, who sculpted
himself and propagated a wonder tree
still growing a bounty seventy years after his death.
I have walked down into the earth,
descended into Forestiere’s gardens,
imagining his evenings, reading,
in his small bedroom, alone and buried
(for he did like to read), sitting next to
the starlit skylight to tune the radio,
lifting a tired arm to put a strawberry in his mouth.
Maybe I’ll go to the sky,
Sabato said after his wife left
and he tired of swimming
in wine bottles. He walked
the railway lines to gather cast-off
rebar, rods he webbed
into steel latticework of spindles
and steeples, scalloped cones,
and ribbed tetrahedrons.
He climbed higher daily,
yearly. Like a boy pulling himself
up, level after level of a rocketship
jungle-gym in an abandoned park,
he climbed inside his airy cages.
He knitted gridiron, wrapping spines
in wire mesh, troweling on cement,
embellishing with shells, florid china teacups,
blue willow plates, toy cars, mirrors,
cobalt shards of Milk of Magnesia,
7-Up bottles and porcelain figures.
After three decades, his funky lace towers
did reach clouds. Thirty meters up,
he intertwined needletops
with arched bridges, more narrow
than the width of his foot.
He traversed his scaffold without hand rails,
grown used to misted views of Watts.
He invited all to visit Nuestro Pueblo,
and neighbours came to trace pottery chunks
in the walls and roofless doorways,
to look up, to feel it all with their hands.
Sabato Rodia embedded himself into all crevices
of his lifework. Earthquakes and riots
could not pull it down. I have put my hand
on his walls, seen the patchwork curios.
What if I used my one life
to construct these stony geometries
with only hands and thrown-out scraps?
Keep faith, Sabato, despite the neighbourhood
gawking and talking, in the beauty
of delightful dream spires.
Reinaldo Rios’ OVNI scouts film shaky,
homemade movies, tracking aliens
through a snarl of vines and plantains
in night yards of Lajas, where a woman
believes she was abducted into the surgical room
of a spaceship, returning to Earth with scrambled intestines.
The rainforests of El Yunque hide secret labs
where the U.S. military examines extraterrestrials
and creates genetic mutants that sometimes escape.
In an island of alien invasions, Roberto’s vision
began with ink doodles on lunchtime napkins,
sent as love missives to his novia de escuela superior.
He wrote his contract to her on tissue wisps
ink-carved with flying saucer designs of the home
he would one day put her in; she crumpled his banners
of love and ran, as women do, when placed upon an altar
that portends a man’s nebulous inner journey. He studied
industrial arts and fine arts—tending his love wound--
taught, saved, borrowed, retired, still intent on crafting
his napkin blueprints into a hillside glory
where he could sit, gazing down into traffic--
the centre of his own universe.
My headlights just two more dots in the light stream
wending homeward, by Juana Díaz, along the south coast,
where near the sea, the highway cuts through Peñoncillo,
I see the flying saucer, touched down on a green hill.
In cosmic dusk, seen in satellite shots,
the Caribbean archipelago is a lit constellation,
with Puerto Rico so electrified that the island
is perfectly outlined, glistening in space.
One blue star in its cluster is Roberto’s three-tier saucer,
constructed of panels of shining blue float glass,
coloured landing lights around the base, flashing silver domes.
That Blue Nun blue of Marc Chagall’s stained glass, lighting
up the hill, dazzling the sea behind it—
slowing the tired motorists.
For forty years he planned and built for seven,
raiding the auto-junkers and dollar stores,
crafting each element of the exterior and interior--
hundreds of cheap silver ashtrays welded on the top tower;
blue, red, yellow plastic salad bowls
capping the bright running lights.
Inside, floating furniture is fastened to walls,
a table built from a chromed exhaust manifold
and auto glass. His paintings of planets
and one weeping rose. Roberto Sánchez Rivera
sits outside on the cool upper deck of his saucer.
He has placed a plaster alien there that raises a hand
to point at the horizon, like our Ponce de Leon
statues in pueblo plazas. I see Roberto
in his boxer shorts with a bucket of iced medallas.
He’s not moping over Stella, that high school beauty,
or staring forlornly out at some far exoplanet
revolving around a stellar corpse.
He is in the moon glow of tonight’s dance,
where he met someone and handed her a napkin
twirled into a rose. He thinks of adding more woomp
to his saucer, maybe a gyromotor, a liquid hydrogen
something, a magneto plasmico engine, a clutch.
He’ll scoop one fist of earth, bend one rod of rebar at a time,
grab one handful of stars; he will add order to chaos
and funnel himself into his creation. He amazes
us with his vessel, zooming to celestial lift-off,
before some other cabrones colonize space.
Loretta Collins Klobah
Loretta Collins Klobah is a professor of Caribbean Literature and creative writing at the University of Puerto Rico. Her poetry collection The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman (Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 2011) received the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize in Caribbean Literature in the category of poetry and was short listed for the 2012 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection in the Forward poetry prize series. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Best American Poetry 2016, BIM, Caribbean Beat Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, The Caribbean Review of Books, Poui: The Cave Hill Literary Annual, Susumba’s Book Bag, Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters, WomanSpeak, TriQuarterly Review, Quarterly West, Black Warrior Review, The Missouri Review, The Antioch Review, Cimarron Review and Poet Lore.
Inspired by a statue I found lying in long grass on the clifftop of a Greek Island.
From the rock-ribbed kingdom deep below our world,
breathless stone, enduring and preserving time,
drawn whence whispering voices court Persephone
to the open precincts where our chant is hurled
round the sanctuary and out across the brine.
Sculpted to a girl, elegantly arrayed:
votive handmaid, on Apollo's holy ground.
Deep below, a pale featureless block to haunt;
now red-lipped and radiant in light's arcade,
where the flowers of Kore's joy abound.
Once Apollo offered loveliness his lyre,
hopeful of her promise; now this seer-priestess
lays upon you, statue, tribute of my craft:
Song which lights the future, leaping words of fire,
hallowed hands which feel, and understanding, bless.
Many seasons here, shall you at peace abide -
harmonious haven, though the tribes make war;
hear the laughter, priest's intonement, canticles,
see the rhythmic rituals and distant tide;
'till at last, slaughterous barbarians pour,
cast you down and out beyond our city walls
girdle of this high unvanquishable place.
Broken out from sanctuary's curving arms,
there, where sky-bright cliff to wine-dark water falls
leaps from heaven's heat to cooler liquid's grace,
to Uranus will you turn a marble face.
Look! a girl, one far-seen summer day will stand
at your feet, recumbent in the wild grass;
know not who you are, gaze on the faded stone.
She'll not tell her find, only with gentle hand
touch, and bid human farewell before you pass,
solvent, integrating with the mother earth
loosing to the wind your memory of fame:
Sky-engendered purity and cult divine
soon absolved beneath the blue-height's lofty mirth,
Gaia takes the artist's form, the statue's name.
Pent Persephone, this maiden-stone reclaim.
Ruth Asch is a poet in rare moments when tranquility and inspiration co-incide. She is also the mother of four and sometimes a teacher. Her first book of poems 'Reflections' was published in 2009, and poems since in many journals on and off line such as Inkspill, Meditteranean Poetry, The Bamboo Hut, Poetry Repairs, Poetry Atlas and The Literary Yard.
a tanka, untitled
words grow muted
and hearing diminished –
I begin to tiptoe
along the lonely curve
of inner silence
This poem was written as part of the 20 Poem Challenge.
Mary Kendall lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her current work and publications can be found on her writing blog, A Poet in Time (www.apoetintime.com). She is the author of a chapbook, Erasing the Doubt (2015) and co-author of A Giving Garden (2009).
I can hear him in the kitchen
pouring a drink
as if he lived here and
knew where all the good glasses were kept.
I must have dozed off between
my phone alight
with the primal request
and his key slipping into the lock.
I can't imagine why he comes here when she,
lithe and flexible and organized and
waits for him at home.
This poem was written as part of the 20 Poem Challenge.
Kelly Nickerson, Lifelong dreamer and blue-collar worker. Graduate of Office Administration at NSCC and Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting, also at NSCC. Damaged by heartbreak and heart failure. Dog person. Has learned to make soap, (one batch), paint (one picture). Amateur genealogist with an interest in DNA. Drives a big old modified Jeep. Loves Patron Silver and 40 Creek Whiskey, hates Jagermeister.
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