Wears it all -
Dust, shape -
Like an amulet
John Stickney is a poet and writer, newly relocated to Wilmington, NC from Cleveland, Oh.
life still rises
even if we don’t celebrate
or meet together anymore
it’s still all right to share a drink
or talk with grandma at the home
suspended in a box
people softly chatting smiling
and strangers mingling virtually
our friends connecting through the phones
we press our face into the screens
they wear the shock
they wear a mask
let’s celebrate what joy we can
before our time dissolves on earth
before our souls arrive with God
let’s drink to fragrant memories
and vibrant hopeful days
don’t conjure thoughts of coffined graves
or moldy asiago cheese.
instead let’s shine the light of God
let’s storm in spite of Covid-fears
the gates of courage not defeat
in pixelated homes
and solitary prose
Patricia Tiffany Morris
Patricia Tiffany Morris gravitates toward inspirational messages of hope and encourages others to find their inner artist. An eclectic Christian creative with a geeky-tech affinity and a poet with three names, Patricia writes fiction, picture books, and prose, using both sides of her brain. She discovered her love for digital artwork and now creates acrylic and alcohol-ink painting illustrations on her iPad. Patricia Tiffany adores hashtags and Pinterest but finds Twitter quirky. A member of Word Weavers International, ACFW, WFWA, SCBWI, OCW[TI1] , and loads of FB groups, Patricia runs Tiffany Inks Studio.
round of Brie
jug of beer
lift a glass
Judy Oliver: "After retiring from teaching elementary and middle school, I joined a poetry group that was offered by LifeVentures Adventures in Learning; Roy Beckemeyer was the leader. Those weekly writing and critique sessions encouraged me to try different poetic forms."
One stopper, three bottles.
Holding a six year Barbera
Or the blood of Christ?
You tell me, it depends
If it’s the Sabbath
Or a day for sinners.
Seeing as how I can’t remember
Which day turned over the
Horizon, nor where I placed
The two missing stoppers;
I assume it is a weekday
And I am late for work.
Mike Mortensen is a mental health therapist who specializes in trauma and addiction. Grand Prize Winner of the 1st annual Provo-Poetry competition, his work can be found in various journals such as Ink & Nebula, Gasher Journal, and 15 Bytes. His work has also been displayed in a multiple discipline art gallery at the University of Arizona, Tucson for poetry and printmaking. He lives in Southern Utah with his dogs and family.
An Empty Life
There you are standing still waiting for guidance.
Unable to move-only to be seen.
The vessel of faith and hope so close.
Complete your destiny.
With the blessings of the world.
You may endure pain and judgment.
A star or a crucifix.
All things are open.
All options possible.
We must choose.
We must choose well.
To caress with kindness this still and empty vessel.
Sandy Rochelle is an award winning Internationally published poet. Her film, Silent Journey, streaming on Culture Unplugged is dedicated to films of social and spiritual significance @ http://www.cultureunplugged.com/storyteller/Sandy_Rochelle
Looking Hard at What You See
I am going to simplify my life,
wear muted clothes, brown skirts
and white shirts, sensible shoes
a gray hat.
Who wouldn’t want to be that
humble in harmony with those
leaning in to touch another
and experience how supple
an edge can be. How shadow
suggests the rounding out
To be both squared and solid
containing the salt of the earth.
and a vessel to keep oil ready
I don’t need to stand out
in red heels or consider if purple
earrings go with a pink
always the painted lady
running errands in bright sun.
I had my heyday, now
I must blend in
rest, welcome a diffused
light, the illusion of space
with no need to move through it.
To be still,
allow dust to accumulate on lips.
permit myself to float free
of the shelf, the table and become
a pure geometry.
Diana Cole, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has had poems published in numerous journals including Poetry East, Spillway, the Tar River Review, the Cider Press Review, Friends Journal, Verse Daily, The Ekphrastic Review and the Main Street Rag. Her chapbook, Songs By Heart was published in 2018 by Iris Press. She is an editor for The Crosswinds Poetry Journal and a member of Ocean State Poets whose mission is to encourage the reading, writing and sharing of poetry. When she is not writing, Ms. Cole is a stained glass artist.
Three Blocks and a Round
White of pitcher handle and a bottle beside balanced
by rind of a round of cheese below
How do you achieve aesthetics in a row of four?
By making it about the two
By concentrating on the couple
the tension between the two
Enough to spark the night with neon
over the colour of the beach where they always laid
Created three children
possibility of a fourth just there off to the side
Kyle Laws is based out of Steel City Art Works in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With eight nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Germany. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
I do not want to eat the artist's cheese.
I do not want to drink the artist's wine.
I would consider accepting a glass
of clear water from the copper pitcher
in the plain still life of the plain
still room with its plain still table
if I were allowed to return the pitcher to its
perfect spot and if I were allowed to return
to my place and watch quietly and learn
how it is one moment eternally rests.
Shirley Glubka, whose work has appeared often at The Ekphrastic Review in the past, is a retired psychotherapist, poet, essayist, and novelist. Her most recent chapbook is Reflections Caught Leaping: poetry and related prose. Her latest novel: The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh. Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: http://shirleyglubka.weebly.com
Still Life, Real City
Emptied of pride,
Prosecco, and flowers,
tower over squat rectangles
leading to the round
piazza of perfection
hugging the horizon line
of still life, where table
meets the wall.
In my mind, I have
trekked this path,
past the high and low
to that place of rotund
solace where lovers,
freed from rigid lines
watch fountain, by day
grab a quick espresso, or
in pomeriggio, with appertivi
indulge in a Prosecco,
gifting flowers to fidanzati.
Joan Leotta tells stories on page and stage. Her fascination with art began at an early age and she loves to write and tell about paintings, sculptures and more, Her ekphrastic poems and tales have been presented on these pages, on Visual Verse, at the Ashmoleon Gallery in Oxford England and the Phillips Gallery in Washington DC and others. She, like Morandi spent a lot of time walking among towers, pitchers, rectangles and circular piazzas--Bologna's main piazza is not circular, but that of Sienna is a well-known circle.
The sky is beige and free of blandishments.
Soon, I am off to the Muses --
his bottles and jug on a stage
arranged like tailors’ dummies. On a plaza
in Ferrara — or maybe just a table --
I am seeing cheese and a tub of margarine.
Since lockdown, mystery exudes in rooms
with no loving presence. Bare minimalism.
I’ve tried hard, though I can’t stay here
forever, off again to thoughts of futurism
or long afternoons in front of a mirror:
pushing my lips against the true stillness,
tilting the glass, seeing the floor slide away,
praying for an escape to another dimension.
Patrick Wright has a poetry collection, Full Sight Of Her, forthcoming by Eyewear (2020). He has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and his poems have appeared in several magazines, most recently Agenda, The High Window, and Wasafiri. He is currently working on a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, on the ekphrasis of abstract and monochromatic art, supervised by Jane Yeh and Siobhan Campbell. He teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at the Open University.
chit chat, politics,
parties, anything modern,
space, light, colour,
humble gradients of grey,
shadows on white,
on bottles, boxes
a dull jug, this room,
the pattern, order, the shift,
back and forth, up, left,
harmony in line, in rows,
in shade, tone, brushwork,
right now, with hands, eyes
and brain together,
make art, be
Based in the United Kingdom, Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing flash fiction, short plays and poetry. This year her poems have been published on various ezines including Words for the Wild, Another North and Nine Muses Poetry.
The Poverty of the Affluent
They will never know
the sponsors and investors
the buyers and admirers
that the purest lines contain the widest worlds
emotions fathoms deeper than their sparkling pools.
They will never feel the cool
of limewashed walls
in afternoon heat
the smell of new bread and ewe’s milk cheese
basil in pots on a sunny window sill
hear the peaceful drone of cicadas
above the poolside chatter
and the air conditioning.
They will never know what it is
to feel the pulse of the day in clay
the clean sharp folds of white linen
and the way the light falls
beneath the half-closed shutter
across a floor pattered by a child’s bare feet.
Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, Hedgerow Journal, Visual Verse, ink sweat and tears, Eye to the Telescope, Nightingale & Sparrow, the Drabble, Lucent Dreaming and the Ekphrastic Review. She has a well-stocked blog at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/
The Pecorino in Still Life, 1956 responds to Giorgio Morandi’s Nudge
I’m khaki-topped again, almost camouflaged,
without even a hint of shine
and now you shunt me off to the side
behind this row of uneven
boxes? For all to see? Forever? Really?
You know you could arrange me on a fancy porcelain platter
and slice me open to release a heady aroma?
Why not take a bite or two to show how irresistible I am?
But who’s going to discern that?
It’s always just the same old muted palette –
beige, grey, pale, powdery.
If only you’d wrap me in parchment or crimson batik,
drape cheese cloth round my curves begging to be torn off
and place me downstage-centre, spot-lit.
No? Even after all these hours of tweaking?
So here I sit, the epitome of Everyday Cheese Wheel
skulking among these familiar utensils
that no-one is ever going to oooh and aaah over.
Have you even forgotten that I’m edible?
The bottles never gurgle with Chianti or Lambrusco
and I’ve just heard the white vase sigh.
It’s desperate for a peony or sunflower.
I dread to imagine what the boxes will have to say
when they emerge from their tight-lipped sulk.
Don’t you reckon it’s the hod though,
that could be redeemed? I do.
Snuggled close to the white vase,
its handle, like a cat’s tail curling
round in ownership, makes it beam.
And possibly those two black bottles
angled together? With hats and coats on
like an ageing couple, they’re heading out
for a stroll round the block, leaving me
on the shelf turning blue.
May mould flourish in your walls with reckless
abandon and may the stench of ammoniated cheese
permeate your monastic quarantine forever.
Helen has been published on several sites such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, Red River Review, Barren Magazine, The Drabble, Sukoon and the Ekphrastic Review. Her instagram page is @chemchemi.hf. She lives in Durham, England.
Monaco springs with vibrant pulse,
spin low tax, grand-prix, roulette wheels,
sum wealth, full fashions for display.
Il Monaco, the monk, as known,
Bologna cell for eremite;
here brush the tranquil of still life,
years spanned as Studiorum stands.
Bottles and boxes, vases, jugs,
as dun baked village on the hill,
San Gimignano and the sky.
The monumental brought to ledge,
all labels gone, letters erased,
glare glass reflections glazed with matt.
Provincial tag, intended slur,
but early buds showed renaissance,
light slowly passing into night,
serial time encapsulate.
So paint the seen and not the scene -
that is the space that needs the art -
as most find time for neither part.
Some private prayer externalised.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 150 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including The Ekphrastic Review, printed journals and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Spare still life
shades of taupe grey
oil on canvas
body no longer that soft white colour
I wanted to give it a clear
night with a full moon
take it up a mountain close by
allow the same light
to fall on its grave
pale bleached grass
I place the moth in my hand
and tell it how sorry I am
her life is ending
shredded sea green wings
frayed. Worked, muted
take it up there to be released.
The day after my sister died
in the time of blue plum.
Ilona Martonfi is an editor, poet, curator, advocate and activist. Author of four poetry books, the most recent collection is Salt Bride (Inanna, 2019). Forthcoming, The Tempest (Inanna, 2021). Writes in journals, anthologies, and six chapbooks. Her poem “Dachau on a Rainy Day” was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. Founder and Curator of Visual Arts Centre Reading Series and Argo Bookshop Reading Series. QWF 2010 Community Award.
Il Monaco (The Monk)
Afternoon light sifts through the bedroom
window facing the street Via Fondazza.
It falls on bottles of wine & blocks of cheese
on the table. There’s nothing special about
them, just every-day non-descript things
from the kitchen. But in Bologna, the wine
and cheeses are exquisite. They will go with
the meal that his sisters (Anna, Dina and
Maria Teresa) are preparing: roast lamb and
un piatto di tagliatelle ready for the robust ragu,
a Bolognese sauce for the delicate egg-pasta.
The Parmigiano Reggiano, ready to be grated,
and an uncorked bottle of ruby red Barbera
is breathing in the rich air. Today he’s not a
At the dinner table, Giorgio and his sisters
discuss art, Natura Morta (Still Life), and the
use of muted whites, grays, and tinges of colour
for jars, bottles and pitchers sitting silent and
humble, not boasting to be admired, somber
with a dull matte appearance—utterly without
pretension—arranged in deceptive simplicity,
yet, it took weeks of obsessive shuffling
to achieve the right composition. They talk
about Mussolini. It was a good thing for Italy
his execution eleven years earlier this month.
They raise their glasses, nod with approval.
A perfect balance is essential to enjoy life
more fully in art, in food, and even politics.
John C. Mannone
John C. Mannone has poems appearing in North Dakota Quarterly, Le Menteur, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, 2020 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, and others. His poetry won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest (2020). He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His latest collection, Flux Lines: The Intersection of Science, Love, and Poetry, is forthcoming from Linnet’s Wings Press (2020). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A retired physics professor, he lives near Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Blocks and the Jug and the Bottles Dance
It had taken days to choose them.
The subtlety of their form.
Their tones, the textures.
How they would reflect the morning sun.
It had taken hours to arrange them.
The composition of the group.
In front, behind, alongside.
How they would complement each other.
It had taken minutes to draw them.
The finessing of the lines.
Horizon with perspective.
How their shapes etiolated my cartoon.
It took me aeons to paint them.
The colours, hues, shadows, the dark.
Took me forever to sell it.
Many flies have feathers out there.
Yet it took death for recognition.
Lung cancer won its battle. The blocks
and the jug and the bottles dance
beyond Bologna, beyond my tomb.
Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. Of late, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges. In 2019, he was a Featured Writer of the Federation of Writers Scotland.
We are lined up for our shapes
and colours. We weren’t asked, but told,
forced to stand here like women
punished for obeying what we are, for complicity
in madness, not capable of speech, though we say much.
We’re given chalk to eat. And dust. And one hour that goes on forever.
Stand there, he says, the man, who only
yesterday fed his argument with life
a few tubes of oil. Stand there and dance lonely
until the light changes.
We are tired of dancing and thirsty for yellow
or even a touch of blue.
Instead we're given stormlight, a dress
made of shadows, old blocks of stone.
We pray the light changes quickly.
We pray it will be over soon.
Lenny DellaRocca is founder and co-publisher of South Florida Poetry Journal. He has four collections of poetry. His has a poem forthcoming in Mom Egg Review. Other poems have appeared in various literary magazines since 1980. He lives in Delray beach, FL where he wears a mask.
I pour two glasses of wine and
wish I had made the time to stomp
grapes with you.
I nibble at herbs in olive oil and
remember when you begged me
to start a garden.
The apartment was too small, I had said.
Fresh rosemary now sprouts from
the kitchen’s windowsill. I use it when
following your recipes––you were a
better chef than I will ever be.
Niko Malouf: "As a teenager living in Los Angeles, I enjoy writing about the things that surround me, stimulate me, the events of my adolescence as well as the happenings of the world. I hope to share my experiences and perspective with others and inspire them to do the same."
Sky Over Bologna
"...if we could see all wavelengths simultaneously
there would be so much light that we couldn't
see anything. Or rather we would see every-
thing and nothing simultaneously. The excess
of light would leave everything in a senseless
the poet contemplating light and physics
"What interests me most is expressing what's in
nature, in the visible world, that is."
In the brash collision of clouds
over the Porta Ravegnana,
the summer sky
was ignited by sheet lightning...
To Maria Theresa, Anna and Dina
Morandi, sitting under awnings
in the arcade
as they waited for the rain to come,
the sky's sharp contrast was unlike their brother,
Giorgio, a quiet man, and shy, his art created
with unexpressed emotion,
his paint pigment
filled with so much light his Natura morta
is more subtle than the storm, painted in colours
of unbleached linen and silk,
a memory of textiles
rationed when art was a component
of fascist society, a strange lifeless bubble
without tones of grey to white,
when storm threatened the Adriatic
in the girls' memory of a trip made to the beaches
before winter came.
Giorgio did not like travel,
and escaped the heat in mountains south of Bologna
until he returned to his studio on the Via Fondazza
to work alone -- Il Monaco -- The Monk --
identity as he created empty city squares --
Scuola Metafisica -- with their sense of stillness,
the nostalgia of the infinite
hidden in light and shadow,
mysterious, melancholy and poignant, perhaps,
as the death of his younger brother, "architecturally"
like the smaller medieval tower,
to the Porta Ravegnana, and leaning closer, in time,
to the taller tower, Asinelli, although both Towers were still
and silent beyond the arcade,
the only visible movement
in the sky, the churning clouds out of reach
and imagined in Giorgio Marandi's art, ghosts
permeating his landscapes,
dream-like and eerie.
ii. Still Life
The main purpose of a telescope is to gather light,
so the deliberate use of pale colours by Morandi
creates inward-looking paintings
sensitive to the objects
portrayed, the artist's eye an objective lens
focused on an interior image, as when a bucket
of afternoon sun
is emptied on a high, arched window
in Morandi's studio, and its profusion is steadied
by a pitcher, a bowl, three jars and three bricks
on an olive-grey shelf
braced by a wall, its paint colour
a pigment called pale dove's wing. The pitcher
& the bowl are a signal of spiritual innocence,
the three bricks
(one ecru, two skin-tone buff)
are made with colours of the Italian earth,
sun-dried symbols to build a visible definition
of house walls -- the outside --
where the pitcher, if filled with holy water,
could be poured in the bowl to baptize new life
with the colours of day and night,
one jar in white,
and two in black, jars where colour and movement
are hidden in a potential created by the vessels
contained in the painting,
the possiblity of jarring
in Morandi's Natura morta, the vases and bottles
created with an invisible essence, objects arranged
in a unifying atmospheric haze,
light coming to life
on a winter night when the moon is metaphysical
and full, a ripe canvas in the sky over Bologna
where nature hides colour,
like a hat, wearing a lunar halo.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Her book, When Dreams
Were Poems, 2020, has ekphrastic poems, one a still life with a bowl-shaped
soup tureen painted by an artist who served moon soup as a child, reading
fairy tales where pumpkins become coaches for Cinderella, and the household
cook makes pumpkin soup in the French countryside. Listed with ten Ekphrastic
Fantasics, she finds art an inspiration where still life is animated by its artist.
This girl in a glass house is putting finishing touches on the bombardier nose section of a B-17F navy bomber, Long Beach, Calif. She's one of many capable women workers in the Douglas Aircraft Company plant. Better known as the "Flying Fortress," the B-17F is a later model of the B-17 which distinguished itself in action in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a long range, high altitude heavy bomber, with a crew of seven to nine men, and with armament sufficient to defend itself on daylight missions. Photo provide to US govt by S. Washburn, her grandson. photo: 1942. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
the glass ball turrets sit in lines in the factory
and the woman in the red uniform with the soft makeup
welds pieces of metal to the glittering glass orbs and wishes
to burst out of her body fly to the ceiling watch the turrets
sitting calmly waiting like eggs for market in rows and rows and rows
her head emerges from the globe of glass the B-17
she is casting, she is doing her part in manicured nails and
diamond ring, doing her part for her kids and for her country
and the man who will cocoon in the naked belly of the B-17
because she doesn’t want him to be alone because who does really
not even the navy men on the dock they don’t want to be alone
especially not the navy men who are waiting on the dock
for one last fuck before they line up in rows to die and die and die
she is going to the dock after the nightshift, after the nightshift
she is going to the daycare, to the nightcare and after the nightcare
she is going to the dock the boys there are warm and alive
and they don’t insist that because there wasn’t a body to bury
the telegram was sent by mistake, they don’t ask when daddy’s coming home
she is rosie in red uniform rivets and all fingers nimbled on the flying fortress
the B-17 and sometimes when her flaps of skin catch in the rivet gun
they bleed and she likes it, she likes to have evidence of being alive
that’s why the woman presses her thumbprint to the glass on each B-17
and imprints herself on the desperate men on the dock so eager
wet and panting to show her they are alive too at least alive for now
and she peeks her head beyond the glass of the B-17 flying fortress
because she needs to emerge she can emerge not like her husband he’s not coming back
she knows that someone will die when the turret shatters
over germany and her fingerprint will unthread and shatter to pieces too
someone will die little pieces in germany
or maybe japan where scraps of men float to the surface
god there are so many places to die
shards of glass trickle from the sky
pieces of soldier are falling from the sky
Alli Hartley-Kong is a historian, museum educator, poet and playwright from northern New Jersey. Her poems have appeared in Stylus and The Human Touch Journal.
Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
I think it’s the audacity, the insouciant composure.
Christ’s martyrdom appropriated.
Mexico, and life-beyond, she had her own calvaries.
Polio. Traffic wounds. Pierced womb. Amputation.
But no Santa Teresa. Flesh and politics pressed close.
Rivera always, but Trotsky and La Baker.
Her own visited self of a half-hundred portraits.
Staring. Defiant. The certainty bred of pain.
You can do the symbolism.
The hummingbird spent of luck and good fortune.
The Poe black cat with warning stare.
The spider monkey all fidget and chance.
Her body mocks supplication, even the white robe.
The neck vaunts its necklace crown of thorns, a splatter of blood.
The bunched hair wears butterfly clips, the dragonfly hovers.
The moustache refuses depilation, maquillage.
The eyes repudiate your might-be sympathy.
The eyebrows double-arch in black, a bold frown of challenge.
What to make of those jungle leaves, green, yellow?
Exotica, the plant growths of an inner self?
Magic-real, surreal, does not quite fit the bill.
It’s Frida’s sense of alien presence, her own.
A force of being held from outside herself, displacement.
Sumptuous, exact, the un-bodied body.
A. Robert Lee
This poem first appeared in Imaginarium: Sightings, Galleries, Sightlines.
A. Robert Lee was Professor in the English department at Nihon University Tokyo, 1997-2011. British-born, he previously taught at the University of Kent, UK. His creative work includes Japan Textures: Sight and Word, with Mark Gresham (2007), Tokyo Commute: Japanese Customs and Way of Life Viewed from the Odakyu Line (2011), and the collections Ars Geographica: Maps and Compasses (2012), Portrait and Landscape: Further Geographies (2013), Imaginarium: Sightings, Galleries, Sightlines (2013), Off Course: Roundabouts and Deviations (2016), Passsword: A Book of Locks and Keys (2016), Written Eye: Visuals/Verse (2017), Alunizaje/Lunar Landings, with Blas Miras (2019), Writer Directory: A Book of Encounters (2019) and Suspicious Circumstances. What? (2020). Among his academic publications are Multicultural American Literature: Comparative Black, Native, Latino/a and Asian American Fictions (2003), which won the American Book Award in 2004, Modern American Counter Writing: Beats Outriders, Ethnics (2010) and The Beats: Authorships, Legacies (2019). Currently he lives in Murcia, Spain.
Field of View
I am a stretched canvas. My mother’s
yearning background color. Dress dusty
pink the color of my first ballet slippers,
hair putting up a fight. Thin black belt around
my nickel of a waist, it takes me years
to become a body. Walking even longer.
The field is everything to me. The way sunlight
wakes up the colours, the way the hint
of a road slices space into before
and after, the way home keeps moving
away. Collapsing onto the grass,
oblivious to how it can stain you,
mark you as a child. When do we start
seeing the world as wider than we can
hold? I paint myself away from the edges
of the picture, on another coast, different
weather. I paint the story of my mother
and what she wanted. I remember when
she gazed on me, and when she gazed not
on me. I carry hollowness into the rain.
Nancy Murphy is a Los Angeles based writer and performer. Previous poetry publications include: Stoneboat Literary Journal, Sheila-Na-Gig, glassworks, The Baltimore Review, Eclipse, The South Carolina Review, Altadena Poetry Anthology and others. She studied writing at UCLA Extension Writers Program and Beyond Baroque, and with various private teachers and workshops including the Napa Valley Writers Conference. Originally from the East Coast, Nancy has a B.A. in American Studies from Union College, Schenectady, NY. More at website www.nancymurphywriter.com
Because I never learned the names of birds
I practiced saying “cormorant” with my sons
reading Ping to them at bedtime. We tasted
the name, three syllables stretching into pre
historic wings, flapping inside our mouths.
Mother owned field glasses to view
warblers, woodpeckers, waxwings
until winter when cardinals collected
in flocks on pine trees. She knew the
names of birds—chickadees, swallows,
meadowlarks, owls, orioles—these she
loved with tender heart saved just for them
as well as for wrens, doves, swans, geese,
a colony of gulls... anything that flew.
Because I learned the names of poets,
I owned books, read Shelley, Dickinson,
Poe. I knew nothing about tertials, nests,
wingtips, hatching, or migration. Mother said
birds have light but strong skeletons and a
four-chambered heart. I said Harper Lee wrote
about mockingbirds, they never hurt anybody,
that it’s a sin to kill one. I greeted Mother, “Hail
to thee blithe spirit!” as she peered into trees.
That’s Percy Shelley speaking to a skylark.
Wallace Stevens said there’s thirteen ways to look
at a blackbird. But I knew none. Not even one.
I have, since Mother died, become absorbed with birds.
Ping was a little yellow duck, the last to return, and
almost devoured. These days I pronounce “cor-mor-ant”
slowly, like a prayer, the same way I say “sand-hill-crane”
“chick-a-dee” “car-di-nal” as I offer the names of birds
like little poems like pieces of bread to my mother.
Sandra Frye is a retired English teacher who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Sandra has been writing poetry and stories since the age of ten. After teaching for thirty years and raising four sons, she can finally focus her energy on creative writing. She has written two books and is currently working on a third. She is also working on her first book of poetry, Leaving Lessons. Her first book, African Dreams: A Memoir of Service and Salvation, is about teaching English with the Peace Corps in Malawi, East Africa, from 1969 to 1971. The second book, Fatherless: A Memoir of Acceptance and Forgiveness, is about growing up in the midwest as a child of divorced parents in the 1950s.
Dark Ladies & Other Avatars: Poems by Joan Roberta Ryan
3: A Taos Press, Denver CO, 2017, 97 pages, $24
The child of a painter and a photographer, I grew up in art museums and art galleries. I learned about the secrets of the body from crafted nudes, both two-and three-dimensional. An only child, I used to spend hours telling myself stories about the color plates in the art books on our shelves and as I drew my own. In her collection, Dark Ladies & Other Avatars, Joan Roberta Ryan reveals a similar sensibility.
The first section of her book is dedicated to ekphrastic work, explorations of Cranach, Titian, DaVinci, Caravaggio, De Hooch, and De La Tour. Ryan deftly weaves research with attentive looking in her treatments of these paintings. This section allows her the most reach with her rich vocabulary. Children “nimble” their way. Weavers don’t just used coloured thread, but strands of “Tyrian purple, / crimson kermes, blue woad, saffron, madder.” Abandoned wives cook “lamb printanier and blanquette de veau.” Some poems, like "Viola Revisited" and "Links to Lena" come with their own lists of words down the left-hand margin, in the former, seemingly a gloss on each line (abstemious / prig / elusive / aberrant) and in the latter a prompt for each stanza (rose of Sharon / gamine / inklings). In this section, along with mythical women, religious and secular, Ryan depicts artists and their models, and the wives of better-known characters, such as Rip Van Winkel and Prince Charming. Her female figures reveal complexities of ambition and desire.
The second section moves into darker territory, and yet for all that, remains buoyant. Ryan’s poems explore mental illness and physical decline. In the poem "To the Voices," the speaker asks, “Who are you—and why do you haunt / my sister, forbidding her to walk through the park / on Sunday, eat red berries or repeat what you say?” In the poem "My Father’s Hands," about a father stricken with Guillain-Barré, the speaker observes hands “suddenly as blind to touch as if / encased in leather mitts, indifferent / to command as a dozing cat, hitting / too hard, too slow—bereft of feel.” In Pentimento, she describes how her elderly mother, stricken with dementia, is losing her words: “larkspur, columbine, asters, / foxgloves, all withered to lovely flowers—” These poems trace our inheritance from family members—memories, keepsakes (many of questionable provenance), physical qualities like hair colour, and even ashes. The relationships that Ryan documents are complicated but serve, somewhat guilt-inducingly, as fuel for her work.
“To whom,” she asks in "Close Kept," “would I reveal / her secrets, dear reader, but you?”
The final section brings us closer to the poetic speaker herself—her relationship to her body, her sexuality, the landscape within which she moves, and her family—husband, children, and grandchildren. These poems are suffused with sensuality, as in "Barcelona," where the Cava-tipsy focus of the poem “blushed her way / back from the damas and / handed him under the table / a small damp ball / of black silk.” In "Past Meridian," she describes the transition of youthful desire to an older flame: “every oenophile knows, / raisins make a fine rich wine.”
In short, spending time with Ryan’s work is like luxuriating on a bench before a beloved canvas, pouring over a treasured photo-album, or like being a guest in someone else’s well-appointed home. You continue your day glad to be human.
Devon Balwit sets her hand to the plough in the Pacific Northwest. Her poems and reviews can be found here in The Ekphrastic Review as well as in The Worcester Review, The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Rattle, Apt (long form issue), Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, Poetry South, saltfront, and Grist among others. Please visit her website at: https://pelapdx.wixsite.com/devonbalwitpoet
Clyfford Still’s PH-401 (1957)
To no longer be beholden to any side
in the painting’s argument of falling reds
and jagged black, yellows and greys
like smashed birds barely extirpated
from the canvas – how traumatised existence
has appeared to me. How I long
to be the framing wall, or the mind
of some enlightened viewer floating away
like a kind of bird, abandoning duality.
Cyril Wong is a poet and fictionist in Singapore. His latest book of poems is Infinity Diary, published by Seagull Books.
Henry Ford Hospital, by Frida Kahlo (Mexico) 1932
Henry Ford Hospital
outside my window the city goes to sleep
husbands and wives turn their lights out
and let the day go
but like the peach to its pit
my flesh still clings
let me hold you
you’re cold as fresh clay
burrowed into yourself
dry to the bone
moments ago you filled me with life
a market of raisins prunes mangos broccoli
you grew and grew
nails on your fingers and toes
a heart b
then a clank under the kitchen table
hit me like a breeze whipping by
taking everything with it
I held the little cashew to my lips
he left a faint taste of licorice
bitter until the end
my body failed
carve out the rest of me
this body is a snail
take the shell away
reveal me bare
Hannah Wagner is a resident of Salem, Massachusetts. She graduated from Salem State University. She is also an actor and can be seen in many productions across the North Shore. Her work has been featured in The Broke Bohemian, Mass Poetry's Poem of the Moment, Door is a Jar, Soundings East, Twyckenham Notes, Still Point Quarterly, Incessant Pipe, Sweet A Literary Confection and others.
Paul Cezanne’s The Turn in the Road
There are houses
at a close distance.
They are a town,
wedges at angles.
Their fronts and doors
conjure paths and roads.
the vegetables, many-
fingered touches: dot-leaves
mass into shape around
branches and towards
dying ones. Trunks curve
and straighten to earth.
Grasses comb the bank of the
road toward fences & mounds;
in the road: one step on the straight
and I am drawn
into the town.
Retired children’s librarian Alan Bern’s three poetry books: No no the saddest and Waterwalking in Berkeley, Fithian Press; greater distance, Lines & Faces, his fine press and publishing company with artist and printer Robert Woods, linesandfaces.com. Alan is a writer and photographer who has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and has won awards for both his poems and stories: runner up for The Raw Art Review's The John H. Kim Memorial Short Fiction Prize for his story; won a medal from SouthWest Writers for his story 'The Return of the Very Fierce Wolf of Gubbio to Assisi, 1943 CE [and now, 2013 CE].' Alan was also a finalist in the NCWN’s 2019 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, and he won the Littoral Press Poetry Prize in 2015. Alan performs with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES: dance & poetry fit to the space and with musicians from Composing Together, composingtogether.org.
Mother With Two Children, 1917, by Egon Schiele
Once in Tulln, I ran from my father
to live on alchemy, fish bones,
and the sweet blue Danube.
two boys rode by on a goat cart
laughing outside my window.
At sunset my three models came to me:
a mother and her children
from over the mountain.
I posed them flesh against flesh
the baby’s tiny hands outstretched.
The mother tucked my money
into her apron
her face warm under my thumbs.
The children fell asleep
while I painted in the shadows
my brain a cold planet
lit with spectral fire.
This poem first appeared in Ekphrasis.
Erica Goss served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA from 2013-2016. In 2019, she won the Zocalo Poetry Prize. She is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award, Wild Place, and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets. Recent work appears in Lake Effect, Atticus Review, Contrary, Convergence, Spillway, Cider Press Review, Eclectica, The Tishman Review, Tinderbox, The Red Wheelbarrow, and Main Street Rag, among others. Erica is the editor of Sticks & Stones, a bi-monthly poetry newsletter. Please visit her at www.ericagoss.com.
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