Judith Returns to Bethulia
Judith is nonplussed and dressed to the hilt: plushly plumed velvet hat, milky white skin draped in loops of gold, neck guarded with inlaid jewels. Her bodice is snug and shoulders bare, sleeves embroidered wrapped in cords, a hint of skirt with pleats blood red.
Judith’s slender fingers wrap cold-forged steel: finely etched, iron guard, blade unclean with pinkish hints from passing through. Her other hand grips General Holofernes’ severed head by umber hair; brows surprised, drooping eyes dimmed, ever silent mouth agape. His unshaven neck was left unguarded, seduced by Judean wine.
Judith returns home to Bethulia besieged—heads held high, all relieved.
James Morehead is Poet Laureate of Dublin, California, host of the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast, and has published several collections of poetry including canvas, portraits of red and gray and The Plague Doctor. James' poem "tethered" was transformed into an award-winning hand drawn animated short film; "gallery" was set to music for baritone and piano, and his poems have appeared in the Ignatian Literary Magazine, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, 2nd Place - Oprelle Oxbow Poetry Contest 2022, Citron Review, Prometheus Dreaming, Cathexis Northwest Press, and other publications.
Morning in a Pine Forest
Fresh off the brush, the pewter-blue
of dawn slips through
a slouch of pine and spruce, reaches out
to touch a broken trunk perused
by a sleuth of bears: a mother
and three cubs. That's the painting. A nature scene
from two of Russia's greatest. Of course,
it's more than that to me. It's a window in which
I lose myself just by looking in . . .
the way the white of mist invests the forest's silhouette,
or how one cub, up on its hindlegs,
seems dumbstruck by the brightening mid-sky,
the thought that day has come again
with nothing to explain it.
Thomas Farr is a poet whose work explores the interstices of nature and spirituality, with a particular interest in haiku sensibilities and wilderness poetry. He appears or is forthcoming in River Heron Review, Aôthen Magazine, Wales Haiku Journal, Kyoto Journal and elsewhere. He tweets [X's] @tfarrpoetry.
Frozen yet unfixed, ice swirls
Around the boat, which cleaves the water
With a stoic prow.
Stoic too, a man stands in the light
(Though it was a starless night)
And in silence, leads the land-bound charge.
The wind sets the tempo;
Rearing horses balance
In a background winter waltz,
But the others are out of view.
The others are but apocrypha.
B.D. Cannon is a student and poet from Massachusetts. He has previously published in the Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge and loves to spend time in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.
If you want to know them, as you have said,
you must look beyond the darting swallows,
through the trellised wisteria curtain,
beyond those pilgrims crossing the drum bridge
in the train of history, whose steep arch
compels them to slow down and acquire
a proper mind for rituals of tea.
There they are, on the far bank of the pond,
the new people of Edo, merchant and
artisan, pleasured by the floating world,
soon to vanish in the tunnel of time.
They are there, deep inside the shrine, the ground
of Shinto, where the plum trees murmur in
meditation and rocks converse with stones.
But what is a drum bridge where no drum beats,
you ask. Then you should know it’s also called
a moon bridge, reflected on still water,
describing the circle of a full moon.
See that reflection as subconscious mind,
and think how little you can know about
anyone from any place from any age,
when half of everyone hides from being known.
And you say you know me so very well.
Wade Cook lives on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The Louisville Review, Broadkill Review, and The Orchards Poetry Journal. He graduated from Dartmouth College, where he studied creative writing with Samuel Pickering, the inspiration for Mr. Keating, the iconoclastic teacher in the film Dead Poets Society. He lived in Japan for a decade, working as an advertising creative supervisor with Dentsu and studying Japanese at Waseda University in Tokyo.
Woman – Ochre
for Willem de Kooning
I’ve watched you two,
my saviours, for 27 years.
And I am no fly on the wall,
oh no . . .
not with these bold
breasts and broad brownish
brushed body parts – I am the
most commanding presence in
the bedroom with the door
closed, notwithstanding the passion
in front of me. I am the secret
centrepiece of the whole house.
I’ve seen it all from your bare
nakedness to your hungry
consumption of one another, as if
no one else existed, or no one else
was watching. . .
those moments you tried to
forget me. But you never could, could
you? Those transient peaks of passion
you found in each other could never
match the thrill of the bumpy ride
from Tucson to Cliff after
withdrawing me from my academic
prison. Thank you. What did
I inspire in you two? What did you
inspire in me? Quietly, the creator
admires what you did. The goal
is not to study as the pompous
academics arrogantly proclaim
while most objects of purported
study are parked in storage bins
absorbing darkness. The goal
is not for masses to wander
by chewing gum and listening
to ear buds while making snap
decisions about what is good and
what is not. On no. . . the goal
is to love . . .to see. . .to feel . .
to worship . . .to come skin-to-skin
and soul-to-soul . . .
to find true intimacy.
I was born again by your physical
love. We became the threesome,
the menage a trois,
making violent, unrelenting love
like the bold, broad, and powerful
strokes from where we all
began – the friction of creativity,
the swapping of familiar fluids
like paint dripping off the palette
and onto the canvas.
You saw me naked just as I
saw your bare, sweaty, entwined,
bodies, and heard your panting
and screaming as you erupted . . .
like when you eagerly hurried
down the museum steps,
with Woman Concealed,
feeling the pinnacle of passion
as you burst into
the cold Tucson morning.
Author's Note: In November of 1985, the William de Kooning painting Woman-Ochre was stolen from the University of Arizona Museum of Art by a couple, a man and woman visiting the museum at opening time. The painting was found in 2017 after death of the surviving spouse of a New Mexico couple. The painting was hanging in their bedroom, behind the door, visible only from inside the bedroom when the door was closed.
Ronald Zack is an attorney and nurse practitioner in Tucson, Arizona. He was raised in Detroit and now lives and works in Arizona. He is currently studying poetry in the MFA in Creative Writing program at the Mississippi University for Women.
Death and the Miser
The present flees in increments
departing in wispy steps,
increasing its pace.
The potential for more
lessens in the verity of diminishing days.
We guard our gold and won’t leave,
though we are always leaving,
cannot believe that what we see before us
will exist no more
as we rely on the tactile, the tangible.
Hoarders of possibilities
accumulate remnants of mortality in boxes,
mistaken worth vainly secured and guarded.
But the locks are rusting and the keys won’t fit
and the guards wither
as shadows stalk stealthily and wink slyly,
hosts of conclusions
watching us from the sidelines,
at the periphery of our vision.
And no churl or pinchfist can bag breath
and save its moments,
and no pleading to angels arrests the finality
of what we cannot hold.
Karen Herceg writes poetry, prose, essays, interviews, and reviews and also works as a mentor and editor. She was raised in New York and graduated from Columbia University’s Writing Program. Her work appears internationally in many publications. Karen is a reviewer for Pedestal Magazine. She interviewed Alan Alda for Writer’s Digest. She was the featured guest for the “Meet the Poet” series sponsored by the Forum for Cultural Engagement and the US State Department. Her work has been translated into Russian. Karen's second book of poetry, Out From Calaboose, was released in 2017. She has lived in France since 2019. Her website is www.karencorinneherceg.com.
Henry Moore's King and Queen in Dumfries
They sit rooted in rocks,
here forever like two fossilized trees,
their heads broken stumps
their eyes pierced holes.
In other places they might frame a circle
of high rise buildings, docksides, part of the sea.
Here they see only the sky,
at this moment a circle of pale cobalt blue,
a wisp of white
but when dawn breaks, yellows and oranges,
that palest of blues
jostle together in that silent orb of bronze.
Imagine the changes that happen here:
the black of storms, the grey of a misty day.
In winter, rain dripping like tears,
etching the bronze with rivulets of turquoise
staining their feet and the rocks below.
In winter they must be blinded by snow
their eyes filled, a glassy white,
their heads crowned or haloed
their laps a sheet of ice, their clasped hands frozen.
At night they sit together, never sleep
but contemplate their kingdom,
a sliver of moon, the stars.
Rosemarie Barr likes sculptures because, as a ceramic artist, she makes them herself, but on a small scale with a certain amount of humour. Her recent poetry is in The Wild World and Last Stanza Poetry Journal. She lives in Wales and is a member of Penfro Poets.
A widow at MOMA is a waltz.
In Marcel Duchamp’s oeuvre
a window is dubbed “Fresh Widow,” ersatz
for the French window’s faux romance.
Rather than olive trees and the blue air,
and shined like shoes before a waltz,
the night air is simply black leather polished
daily by order of the artist. Eros
and c’est la vie were from the ersatz
name Rose Sélavy, the Dadaist’s
alter ego. The frame is blue for that air
we’d have liked. The window was a waltz
for Duchamp, who thought the pun obvious.
And at the grief group one woman did wear
a black leather coat, formal as a waltz,
zipped up. It looked like it came from Saks
Fifth Avenue. And did the old men ever leer,
there. You could say her jacket was ersatz
Duchamp. They’d planned it like artists,
the expensive resort. They had one perfect year.
They’d timed it like a waltz.
It appeared that the famous Dadaist
could sniff out art in the future,
too, each found thing serendipity, ersatz,
suitable for anything else. And how to resist
imagining the typist’s error?
Widows turn to windows and waltzes.
They’re sinister spiders and gullible sports,
the plump suspect a heroine, a whore.
Long since fresh, widows stand in, ersatz,
for punch lines in Hitchcock’s plots.
They fall for the murderer
who knows a widow’s just a waltz
in ¾ time. “The Merry Widow Waltz”
plays in the operetta
with the brand-new widow, sexy, ersatz.
The widow is useful. She’s a corset, a drink, the butt
of dirty jokes. When I was a widow, I didn’t care--
I would play the hobbyhorse, be the thumping waltz.
I was found out—fresh widow, ersatz.
LaWanda Walters is a poet and painter who lives with her husband, fellow poet John Philip Drury, in a hundred-year-old house on the edge of a wooded ravine in Cincinnati. She is the author of a book of poems, Light Is the Odalisque (Press 53, Silver Concho Series, 2016), and has had poems recently published in Poetry and The Georgia Review.
in wood and stone
of earthbound lines
that float the heart,
a landlocked boat
with a sandstone prow
and swooping cypress
dappled with sun
and banded with light
in a cutout frieze
whose free-form runes
it puts the ark
Susan McLean, a retired English professor, is the author of The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife. She lives in Iowa City, but her grandparents lived a short drive away from Kentuck Knob.
On Seeing the Portrait of Juliette Gordon Low by Edward Hughes
I expected you to arrive
on the painted plane in brown or
olive drab, booted and ready
to take on the woods, pitch a tent,
or produce a spyglass. Why then
instead, do I see you painted
in a pink cloud gown, reminiscent
of Swan Lake or the Nutcracker,
your graceful arms ready to round
over your head, and toes,
ready to relevée? Silly me,
to not at once suppose there to
be a hunting knife beneath your
dress, affixed by a garter to
your leg. Silly me, to suppose
the handling of snakes and maps
to be incompatible with
twirling gracefully about the dance floor,
to forget that to be strong is not just to be stout,
especially when the willows
have told us time and time again
to bend is to be strong,
that grace can hold the world like silk.
Tamara Nicholl-Smith is a poet and workshop leader living in Houston, TX. Her poetry has appeared on two Albuquerque city bus panels, one parking meter, various radio shows, a spoken-word techno classical piano fusion album, and in publications, such as: America, Ekstasis, The Examined Life Journal and Kyoto Journal. She recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Thomas (Houston). She likes puns and enjoys her bourbon neat. Find her at tamaranichollsmith.com.
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