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.
Clothed Artist and Model
He is leaning away from her, but only to gather himself for further motion, pulling his body back like a slingshot. In this return—which will never take place—he’s about to push off his left foot, to glide back to her. His gaze intently marks her body, but she, too, is going nowhere, encased in an open robe of plaster.
He seems unaware of his own frame, his sad-seeming slouch, his mess of clothes, his slack, crooked chin. In his concentration, he sees all of her, none of himself. With respect to her body, he is omniscient.
She is leaning back, luxuriant, letting his omniscience occur. Whether this is a matter of adoration or lust or mere monetary transaction is unclear. You can assume she’s been paid to be his model, a nude figure to be covered in plaster-of-paris. Their intimacy is undefined by language or voice, for they are forever silent.
Who are they? What is their story? There are some clues, small details you might consider. Yet these clues are merely things that inform and heighten your subjectivity—any conclusions you make are offshoots of you, the viewer, and your cosmos.
The male gaze captured in a museum. Pornography as art. Or is it art as pornography? The female as object to be consumed, to be owned, to be casted in thick, gooey plaster. Iris, retina, lens. Rod and cone. Neuron and synapse. Image written into memory.
A work of art of a work of art as it’s being made. Process as product, cast of a casting. How ironic: in its completion, the work is of something forever incomplete. Perhaps this is a metaphor of our lives, how we’re always making ourselves but never really finishing. Our corpus. We concentrate. We try. But in the end we change very little.
The zen of sculpture, the forever-frozen moment, the sad and lovely truth of the body—which is the truth of our lives, really—laid bare. The body after it has passed the apex of youth, when cells begin to die away more quickly than they are replaced. The brutal, slothful erosion of time. But these two, they are forever—as long as the museum curators take proper care of them.
They are several feet away from one another, and in this space there is loneliness, even though they are intimates and we are intimate with them, in this dark room in a museum in the center of Denver, a bustling, dusty town. The nude: a counterpoint to striptease? The light and dark in the room, the tilting poses of model and artist. Adam and Eve without The Apple or The Garden. Or Eve and Yahweh, Him sculpting her from a single rib, the apple yet to be painted red.
His boots, the chair, his pants, all trashed. Her luxuriant robe of plaster. She is cold, her nipples erect. Her mons shaved clean. Her long auburn hair is bobby-pinned into a bun. He must feel some sensuality in all this, artistic vision be damned. His hands hang limp and in his eyes there is not the brilliant flash of desire or creativity, the twin (and perhaps related) lightning bolts of lust and inspiration.
This is a messy business, draping plaster on a woman’s body. Worse than spackling a wall before you paint it. Though both are a kind of work. Maybe all art is merely this: work, mess, desire, the loss of self that goes both ways—seer and seen.
You see and then you know what you want to know about them, which is perhaps what you want to know about yourself.
Not their stories—artist and model, for who could ever know the trajectories and vectors of their hearts?—but yours. The heart you know but often fail to recognize. The one true story that floats like a cloud in your brain, but you never take the time to figure out the denouement. When you’re open, when you allow yourself, art sometimes does that for you. Art shows you your truth, as austere and cold as the empty corners of the museum itself.
A shard of knowing, and sometimes, a certainty. Nakedness, sure, but what do you see? The self and making and want laid bare against the grind of time.
Michael Henry: "I’m co-founder and Executive Director of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, an independent literary center located in downtown Denver. My poetry and nonfiction have appeared in places such as 5280 Magazine, Georgetown Review, Threepenny Review, Pleiades, and The Writer, and I’ve published two books of poetry, No Stranger Than My Own and Active Gods."
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