Young queen, private barbarian,
her pleasure is a foxhunt. Guards,
Statesmen, be still. In musky trails,
she wants to loosen her hair, to
build to a canter alone
throwing her clothes in
pasture, torso to the beast’s
hot glory, arms around the root
of his terrified kingdom,
eyes set on usurping her.
Tally-Ho. Free love means nothing
but horse alliances,
they’re taking hold in Paris she heard.
Jan Bethany is a part time professor in Houston, Texas.
Learning to Love
Down the bank, frost grapes embrace marigold,
interlace viburnum, as joe-pye weed offers
nectar, where bees abide, here, summer grows
love’s lushness, Virginia creeper climbs pine,
leaves caress with finger-like softness, tendrils
curl like strands of hair,
though tenderness can turn—wild cucumber
smothers sumac, as if love means strangulation,
binding and squeezing another, as if foaming
and frothing, gasping for air,
could ever equate to love, where choke hold
suppresses one’s breath, alters the landscape,
becomes bleak like winter, dramatic like death--
lest we forget, the art of love is letting go.
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She is also author and illustrator of Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children (Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019) and Let's Make Faces! (author-published, 2009). Her work appears in print and online in North American and international journals and anthologies. She is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.
She says, God is bothering me
through you. I feel you
may lead a double life,
one as you and one
as God. It worries me
that I may hurt you.
In the mind of a schizophrenic,
under lambent red hair,
there are two Gods.
Good God, with light and
squiggly moon lines; Evil God,
or asshole as she calls him.
Like I'm raising a child with
a lot of growing up to do,
who died and came back to life.
Back and forth--
gentle, round whispers, then
crude bellow and spit.
This God makes her say:
We are all stars, green
lights, aurora borealis.
That God makes her say:
I think my Mom and I
were supposed to die.
Her white arms hug a dark mane,
mixing charcoal and milk,
a chiaroscuro hellscape.
Good God makes us feel
some ancient déjà vu--
she has said this before.
Evil God wants control,
so he puts everyone
Kevin Blankinship is a professor of Arabic at Brigham Young University. His poetry has been published by Rock Canyon Poets and the Utah Horror Writers Association. He has also written essays for The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Jadaliyya. He lives in Utah with his wife, their two children, and a violent gang of fruit trees.
Frenzy of Exultations
Once, they’ve been separated she'll-still hang on
Naked as a bride longing her bridegroom,
Riding her steed on a furlong marathon,
Who would much rather-now be on his honeymoon;
Frenzy—absent now all that organising;
Exultations-exhibited in his breathing,
She was a brunette, who met all his dreaming,
But in truth a canvas, hot scandalising,
Ah, isn’t an artist’s life much like the poets?
Points of light and dark confronted reignited.
Madness merges in the margins of poems
As-it-does in the prismatic-prisms of paint
Władysław Podkowiński ended own life
His greatest-masterpiece of art they disclaimed.
Unsold—all the art critics now eulogise.
Mark Andrew Heathcote
Mark Andrew Heathcote is from Manchester in the UK, author of In Perpetuity and Back on Earth, two books of poems published by a CTU publishing group ~ Creative Talents Unleashed and in creative charge, direction of two anthologies by the same publisher. He is an adult learning difficulties support worker, who began writing poetry at an early age at school. Mark enjoys spending his leisure time off work reading and writing and spending time gardening.
The Erlkönig and the Schizophrenic Lover
Spinach baked in the oven until black.
She rolled it into fine tissues of paper,
said the vegetable, when smoked
let her see the Fairy King.
The Erlkönig sang to her
in our bedroom, in our hallway.
She echoed this music I could not hear,
tried to match pitch with melody.
She drew dark horses on my willing back
in acrylic paint. Her fingertips deftly swirled
a hooded harbinger in cobalt and indigo.
She said “you’ve never looked more beautiful.”
A pressing throng of visions and voices,
delusions swept with the strength
of a wild stallion. The Erlkönig never loosened
his grip as the two of them rode off together.
Poet's note: "This poem was also inspired by 'Erlkönig,' music by Franz Schubert, about a dark Fairy King who is the grim reaper in Germanic folklore. He rides on a black horse and takes away the dead to the underworld. On viewing the painting, I listened to the song for the first time in many years."
Janette Schafer is a freelance writer, nature photographer, part-time rock singer and full-time banker living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is the artistic director and founder of the Beautiful Cadaver Project Pittsburgh.
The colours of the burned and burning
Turn, and curl, and undulate; I yearn
To run, merge with them, and learn too late
The rippling fury of the rearing steed
Flaring at the silent blare of milky light.
No colt, no geld, un-tame desire
The wet, hot globe of the eye
And gnashing palisade of teeth…
How rough-smooth, rough-smooth the rub
Of hair on skin; meat thick, coarse, velveteen,
And the nightmare-rolling dream, the sleek
And softly bowing question-mark of cream –
A gentleness with tidal sinew charged
Recoiling power by the query calmed.
Laurence Thompson is a writer from Merseyside. His short stories, poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in Burning House Press, Minor Literature(s), Paraphilia Magazine, Liverpool: Look Closer, and Bido Lito!, and he has an upcoming poem in Subterranean Blue Poetry. He is the co-writer of the experimental film Saddenly Now and the multi-award-winning biopic of Wilfred Owen, The Burying Party. In 2018 he was nominated for best screenplay at the London Film Awards.
When the gate drops
when the storm takes you
so high and far
all your ordinary days
shrink to insignificance
while the stars spin out
of their orbits
and you break free of gravity
rising like a new sun
spinning in the glory
of your own
your heat expanding
until your farthest atoms
brush up against
the rim of the universe
where time and matter
took their first steps
out of the great nothing-
and you can only hold on
to your wild exaltation
even though this isn’t
your first time
and like the bull rider
you know the end will find you
thrown to the dust
torn flesh and broken bones
hard payment for that brief
Mary McCarthy is a former Registered Nurse (though you can’t be a former nurse any more than a former mother) avid reader, and life long lover of words and visual art. Her work has been included in many online and print journals, and her e chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, is available as a free download from Praxis magazine.
Dark Horse as Metaphor for My Missed Lover
I don’t say how our unavowed
journey scared us. Our bodies were glossy.
We gripped cast off hopes distinct and curved
as muscles, breakable as bones, between us.
Some connections cannot be shaken off.
I loved the way he took me
when and where I didn’t know
until my voice faded to froth.
Breath bubbled at the back of our collective throat.
His barred teeth,
a sieve for warm saliva,
glinted in moonlight.
His eyes were shallow craters
like mother’s untouchable teacups.
He was incapable of my lamenting language;
knowing only the urgency of arms at his neck,
the greedy flames of pale thighs surrounding him,
the gross magnitude of love suspended,
the buoyancy of lust before drowning exhaustion.
I can’t recall where or why we went, but I was blurry
and beautiful in sheer slips of darkness. Something unlike blood
coursed through him. He was a buzz of instinct and sinew;
frenzy for some secret ripening fruit resting in the distance.
Our hair was woven by sticky wind.
They don’t tell you that even a void has volume.
Everything opened up or converged
like existing a cave,
like reaching into an expressive mouth.
Grip and gumption were my only gifts.
Even closed eyes were lured by the changing
shapes of light’s promise. I could slow nothing
with heavy hands or whipping hair. When rain arrives
I still seek his seething eyes through the trees;
desire the smallness of being carried.
Jennifer Edwards, MS, CC-SLP
Jennifer Edwards is a Pushcart Prize (XLIV) nominated poet with work previously published or forthcoming in The Poet's Touchstone, Ekphrastic Review, and Portrait of New England. She is a speech therapist in schools and nursing homes and busy with her amazing family in Concord, NH. She's on Instagram as Jenedwards8 and Twitter @Jennife00420145.
The Fury of Lust
My skin melts into the black
fire. Soaring upward into the night sky
he takes me.
That’s why I said no to lesser
beings until I could have
the stallion and the storm.
Zeus, roaring his want, my thighs and buttocks
quivering in response, my blood
mercury—now liquid, now burbling
like a poisonous brook.
There was naught before, there will
be naught beyond.
I give myself over to ecstasy,
to the lover who takes all,
to the fury of lust.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of Tangents, a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the now defunct Goodreads monthly competition. Recent poetry collections: From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949: A Child’s Journey and Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back.
Hidden in Frenzy
Zeus has returned to make up
for lost time, cloaking himself
in a steed dark as onyx.
He coaxes his rider to climb;
she wraps pale arms around his neck,
and with eyes closed, she begins
riding her mount. Rubenesque legs
fix her vulva tightly against
and along the ridge of his spine.
she shivers as his hooves rise
high into the wind; his mane
dances like black bunting, binding
through and around fiery hair;
his mouth frothing in fervor.
Locked in rapture, his rearing stance
reflecting their orgiastic
frenzy as god and mortal meld
while in the darkness behind them,
Hera hides and, meticulous
as ever, plots her revenge.
Raised in New York, Bill Cushing lived in numerous states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Returning to college later in life, he was called the “blue collar poet” by his peers at the University of Central Florida, then earned an MFA in writing from Goddard College. He now resides in Glendale, California. “Music isn’t about standing still and being safe,” his homage to Miles Davis, was originally published in the award-winning Stories of Music and later nominated for both a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize. His poems have been in anthologies and literary journals both in print and online.
When not teaching or writing, Bill facilitates a writing workshop and performs with a musician on a project called “Notes and Letters.” His book, A Former Life, was recently released by Finishing Line Press and is available on Amazon.
if earth was round it would be infinite day and we would burn to death and nothing could live
witchlike burn this when you see it im smog mad
my mistake was spelling A P O C A L Y P S E
born spelled nude as fuel tapwater you cant tell the difference between
an autopsy table a canvas and
all smeared on
rabid & cuddling & mad
incense it like painted from patchouli oil
smells static darkless
atar atar atar purify
thats what they used to say when exulting lady pyromancy
sati sati sati
some men just want to watch the world burn
& its consciousness stretches out on & on & on &
on & on & on & on & on & on & on &
in scarlet sky it reads A…
you know the fire forever speaks
tho no one else will speak it when were gone
& i only speak for myself that i went until i fell off
Justin Goodman received his B.A. in Literature from SUNY Purchase. His writing—published, among other places, in Cleaver Magazine, TwoCities Review, and Prairie Schooner—is accessible from justindgoodman.com. His chapbook, The True Final Apocalypse, is forthcoming from Local Gems.
Podkowinski brought a knife on the 37th day and slashed his Frenzy on display
in death now Wladyslaw are you
the woman or the river of paint
wild hair the angels ride
perhaps you are a new canvas
naked and waiting
to begin again
perhaps i am the horse
Paul Koniecki lives and writes in Dallas, Texas. He was once chosen for the John Ashbery Home School Residency. His poems appear in Richard Bailey’s movie, One of the Rough. He is the Associate Editor of Thimble Literary Journal.
to that kingdom you
created in the clouds,
vast archipelagos, whole continents
in the stratosphere, sky
scarce wide enough
vistas of vistas unfolding
in that bright unfolding air.
a glass or two
that I might soon
quit here and
Grove Koger is the author of When the Going Was Good: A Guide to the 99 Best Narratives of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure and Assistant Editor of Art Patron Magazine and Deus Loci: The Lawrence Durrell Journal. He blogs at https://worldenoughblog.wordpress.com.
To the bodies
who know no future.
It cleaves me in half.
I will ride these waves
like my life knows green
is the sharpest colour.
Like our friends
There is the moon
on the coldest day
I am bare and
busted in the back.
This is my night, mare.
I will hold tight.
Take me to your blackness.
The soul is charred
and there is no chariot waiting.
Colleen June Glatzel
Colleen June Glatzel is based in Waukesha, WI. She’s the author of Hey, Joey Journal. Her poetry has been published in Blue Heron Review, Pochino Press, WORDPEACE, Tipton Poetry Journal, Bramble and Synaeresis, among other publications. When Colleen’s not writing, she is painting, studying numerology, doing impressions, or dealing antiques.
I am Zeus of the darkness
red of eye
rabid with lust
she is no Godiva
her raving red mane cares not
to cover her body
weaves itself into mine
our madness contagious
desire shivers through me
I transform to couple
once swan bull satyr
a shower of gold
now raven-black stallion
oh joyous derangement
galloping from darkness
into blinding light
no longer virginal
bonds broken she is
Sandi Stromberg happily accepts The Ekphrastic Review’s biweekly challenges and the opportunity to live intensely with a piece of art and sometimes its creator, then respond. It provides real food for the soul, and at times, the ego also profits. She has been a magazine feature writer and editor, translator, poet, teacher of writing, and almost anything to do with words.
If this were nothing but dream and paint--
It is dream and it is paint
as we sometimes believe all soul-things are
but not only dream
and not only paint
that thrusts the human onto the wild black beast of terror
the beast itself in terror
to drive through churning chaos
on the way to ecstasy
erotic in the depths of the unknown
the soul of terror
and the soul of peace
red core invisible inside pure night
inside pure light
as all soul-things are
as we, the tiny elements of all, might be.
If this were nothing--
but this and all soul-things
leap wildly through
and clutch the neck of the unlikely rapturous thing: existence.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist and a writer in love with language, no matter the genre. The ekphrastic form has captured her heart and mind in recent years, along with the art of erasure. Shirley's latest poetry collection is Burst Thought Shall Show Its Root: erasure poetry. Her latest novel: The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh. She lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. http://shirleyglubka.weebly.com
Wild white eye, rolling, mouth foaming,
rearing, hooves flailing
to escape this dark, this evil cloud
enfolding all goodness.
Memory of war,
the stench of death,
bodies torn, bleeding,
sounds of cannon flash and whistle,
flank piercing shrapnel.
And she, naked, auburn hair streaming
in the darkness
called by the pounding hooves,
the roar, the panic.
She lies along your back,
clings to your mane
her warmth comforting reassuring,
together outrunning this darkness
Rennie writes poetry, flash fiction, short stories and reviews. You can find his poetry on his ello site at: https://ello.co/bigren
My Mother Descends into Depression
A naked woman braces
to stay on a feral black horse.
Her skin reflects the lit vault above them.
Suspended in deepening darkness,
their struggle tugs them down.
Her golden waves of long hair
snarl into its knotted mane.
Eyes sealed in terror,
arms slung around its muscled neck,
her bent knees press its flanks.
Its nostrils flair, legs flail
to ascend, escape the pitch abyss.
They’re aimed toward the light,
but she’s slipping to one side.
I want to believe she’ll hang on,
its heart won’t explode, or lungs
collapse, the black maul
won’t envelop them.
I want to believe they’ll reach
the radiance, that silky cradle.
Karen George, author of five chapbooks, and two poetry collections from Dos Madres Press, Swim Your Way Back (2014) and A Map and One Year (2018), has appeared or is forthcoming in South Dakota Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Adirondack Review, Louisville Review, and Naugatuck River Review. She reviews poetry and interviews poets at Poetry Matters: http://readwritepoetry.blogspot.com/, and is co-founder and fiction editor of the online journal, Waypoints: http://www.waypointsmag.com/. Visit her website at: https://karenlgeorge.blogspot.com/.
From the moment he saw her, his heart was in a frenzy.
The young artist, Wladyslaw Podkowinski, had not intended to fall in love when he visited a summer palace in his native city of Warsaw in 1893. In actual fact, his mind was on other matters: although he’d worked as an illustrator for the Tygodnik Ilustrowany magazine from 1886, his vision had changed in 1889 when he’d visited Paris and come face to face with a selection of works by Monet and the other up and coming ‘impressionists’ who were making a name for themselves as a bunch of renegades who eschewed the rigid and restrictive confines of the Salon de Paris. As he’d viewed Van Gogh’s swirling masterpiece, ‘The Starry Night’, he’d known that he too wanted to pour all his emotion into a maelstrom of colour and texture. The idea filled his mind so that, for the next few years, he thought of little else but creating a painting like this.
Ewa Kotarbińska had such a profound affect on him that she almost displaced his desire to paint: almost, but not quite. Blessed with pleasing curves and long dark hair that was confined to a lady-like chignon, she was the most beautiful creature the twenty-seven-year old youth had ever seen. The more he gazed on her from afar, the more his longing for her swirled into his need to put brush to canvas. He had been entertaining dreams of earning his living with a paintbrush ever since his visit to Paris and now he finally had the inspiration he needed for the work that he hoped would become his masterpiece.
Too gauche to know how to express his feelings to her, Podkowinski worshipped his goddess from a distance, producing so many preparatory sketches that he could have filled an exhibition with those alone. Meanwhile, Ewa was totally unaware of her young swain’s affections. At twenty-three, she was still zealously chaperoned by her widowed mother and aunt, who were anxious that she should make a good marriage. In fact, the decision to summer here at Wilanów had been made with the sole purpose of finding her a husband – ideally, an older man with the right connections and enough money to compensate for the lack of dowry.
Podkowinski was obviously not the kind of man Ewa’s mother had in mind: he had neither money nor the requisite background. What he did have, however, was talent. Growing up in Warsaw, he’d visited the Wilanów Palace on countless occasions before this one and had always admired the equestrian portrait of Count Stanislas Potocki by Jacques-Louis David; this became his inspiration for the painting he now visualised, with Ewa taking the role usually adopted by kings or generals, riding a horse, perfectly in tune with the powerful beast. It would be a symbolic representation of the way she had harnessed his heart and now drove him into a frenzy with her presence.
Gradually, the work began to take shape. After secretly watching Ewa for months and observing every detail of her face, Podkowinski had sufficient preliminary oil sketches and charcoal studies to be able to retire to the shared studio he was renting and throw himself wholeheartedly into creating his masterpiece. He rejected the traditional method of setting horse and rider against a realistic background, choosing instead to divide his canvas into light and dark to represent the duality of his love for Ewa. The horse should be rearing, he decided, to symbolize the wild, untameable nature of passion. He wasn’t sure at this stage whether the horse was himself or his frenzied desire, but it must be a black horse, he decided now: one that would blend in with the swirling, dark background; and the rider should be naked, to express raw need and passion. Initially, he painted Ewa as she was: a brunette with rippling locks; then, bowing to pressure from a fellow artist who was a staunch follower of the English artist Millais, he transformed her into a redhead, realizing that the dark hair had been lost against the horse’s ebony coat.
Little by little, he added more detail. The frenetic nature of the horse was expressed through its open mouth – teeth bared and tongue hanging out – and its wild rolling eyes. Next, he added dilated nostrils and flecks of foam escaping from the horse’s mouth, reminiscent of the nights he’d recently spent with assorted prostitutes. He’d initially sought them out on the backstreets of Warsaw merely to use as life models, needing to capture the lines of the female form and celebrate naked feminine flesh. The girls in question had made it clear that they didn’t care what he did, as long as he paid them afterwards; but after spending hours gazing at their dimpled nudity, it would have seemed churlish not to take them to his bed to warm them up. As each body lay beneath him, he imagined he was making love to Ewa; and after a few glasses of wine, all the girls had her face anyway. Then, he had been the rider; now he showed a different balance of power as Ewa clasped the horse’s neck with her eyes closed as if in ecstasy and her unbound hair flowed upwards to mingle with the horse’s mane. Would she understand the significance? he wondered. Would she realize that he was hinting at their own physical union, of bodies flowing together in mutual need and passion?
Rejecting the full colour palette, he worked in blacks, browns and greys for the darker, right hand side of the painting, swirling the horse’s hind legs and tail into the accompanying darkness that was Ewa’s ignorance of him. His one hope now was to invite her to see the finished painting once he mounted his exhibition; consequently, he illuminated the upper left corner, focussing the viewers’ attention on the clear figure of the woman, on her pale, naked flesh and contrasting fiery hair.
He painted feverishly, little realising that his tiredness and fatigue were symptoms of something far more serious than unrequited love. After two months of painting through the night, foregoing sleep and eating very little, Podkowinski collapsed in his studio with his masterpiece still unfinished. The lung disease he had ignored for years, despite doctors’ warnings, had finally caught up with him and he knew he had not long to live: a few years at most.
Refusing to give up on either his painting or his beloved, he completed Frenzy of Exultations’ from his bed. It had already been promised to the Zachęta gallery in Warsaw for its exhibition which would be opening on 18 March 1894 and he knew he could not afford to miss the deadline.
He had been so caught up in capturing the height of erotic ecstasy he felt whenever he thought of Ewa that he had not paused to think of the public’s response. The combination of sexual fantasy and female dominance created an atmosphere of scandal and sensation, so that on the first day alone of the exhibition a thousand people came to stare at the painting. By the end of the month, it had been viewed by twelve thousand.
Aware that he had little time left, Podkowinski demanded the staggering price of 10,000 rubles for the painting. It had made the gallery 350 rubles in its first month, but that was not enough to warrant such a ludicrous sum: instead, he was offered 3,000 rubles, which he declined. Ewa was yet to attend the exhibition (she had been visiting relatives for six weeks) and he wanted to show her that he could support them both with his art. Since he had never formally met her or her mother, he issued a tasteful, dignified invitation for Madam Kotarbińska and her family to attend the exhibition before it closed at the end of April, adding that he thought Miss Ewa in particular would be pleasantly surprised by one of the paintings.
Ewa’s family had been absent from Warsaw when the scandal originally broke. Now back in the family residence, they were beginning to hear whispers of the decadent and sacrilegious painting that was still drawing shocked and scandalized crowds – even if only to condemn and criticise. The whole city was talking about it: it would be social suicide to choose not to go.
On the afternoon of the twenty-second of April 1894, thirty-five days after the exhibition’s opening, Ewa finally walked through the doors of the Zachęta gallery with her family and her fiancé. Podkowinski’s heart fluttered as he saw her enter: he had been dreaming of this moment ever since he began his masterpiece. Surely no woman could fail to be impressed by a man who had poured out his heart and soul in a painting that encapsulated her beauty?
Mesmerised by the vision of his goddess in front of him, he stood transfixed as she approached with her family, completely unaware that the man whose arm she held was not her father or her uncle but a rival for her affection. A formal introduction was made by the director of the gallery, who was ecstatic that Count Żółtowski had deigned to visit his exhibition with this local family.
“Mr Podkowinski, Sir,” her mother began in cultured tones, “it was an honour to receive your invitation. May I present my daughter, Ewa, and my sister, Madam Brzezinski.” She paused, enjoying the sensation of the next words. “And the Count Żółtowski, who is to marry my daughter.”
The Count clicked his heels together respectfully whilst Podkowinski stood aghast. No! his mind protested. Ewa could not marry this man who looked old enough to be her father! The Count was at least fifty and there was nothing at all romantic in his appearance. Besides, and now his fevered brain slowly began to think logically, once Ewa saw her portrait, she would realize Podkowinski’s feelings for her and know that her destiny was to be his and his alone.
Slowly, he led the way to the wall at the far end of the gallery where Frenzy of Exultations was, as usual, surrounded by murmuring crowds. The Kotarbińska party gazed eagerly at the canvas, then Ewa let out a horrified cry. Meanwhile, the Count pressed his lips together tightly, his face suddenly as pale as his fiancée’s flesh tones in the painting before them. Madam Kotarbińska regarded the painter coldly.
“How dare you, Sir!” she said at last, the epithet dripping with disdain. “You have brought dishonour upon my entire family!”
Ewa was sobbing quietly now. The shock of seeing her own face superimposed upon a completely naked body was too much for her. She would never be able to live this down. Never.
Podkowinski was amazed at the collective reaction: he had expected praise and adulation, not disapprobation. Whilst he struggled to find the words that would somehow salvage the situation, Count Żółtowski turned on his heel and stalked away.
“You will be hearing from our family lawyers!” Madam Kotarbińska burst out as she watched her daughter’s future leave the gallery. Inwardly, she was seething. Although she knew that her daughter had most definitely never posed for any painter at all, let alone a depraved dauber such as this, the rest of Warsaw would assume that Ewa had modelled for the man – and perhaps worse. There would have to be some sort of official disclaimer – in the right newspapers, naturally – to make it clear to society as a whole that this painting was fraudulent; but she doubted that the Count would want to be associated with the scandal.
As Ewa continued to sob, Podkowinski offered an apology. “Your pardon, Madam. This was not meant to offend: I thought to flatter your daughter by capturing her beauty for posterity.”
Had Ewa’s father still been living, Madam Kotarbińska was certain that he would have challenged this degenerate womaniser to a duel. Still, there would be financial repercussions: she would see to that. Grabbing her distraught daughter and startled sister, she swept out of the gallery.
Podkowinski drank heavily that night. Unable to understand why Ewa had rejected him, he decided that if he couldn’t gaze on her naked form, then no one else should either. Early next morning, he placed a knife in his pocket and carried it to the exhibition, where he viciously slashed Ewa’s face and body, desecrating his masterpiece just as Ewa herself had destroyed his hope. It was the thirty-sixth day of the exhibition.
By the time the gallery director realised what he had done, it was too late: the same crowds who had eagerly flocked to see the titillating spectacle of a beautiful, naked woman astride a phallically symbolic horse, gasped in delighted horror at the ruined painting, interpreting the violent destruction as some form of sado-masochism. Meanwhile, in the corner of the room, a paralytic Podkowinski sat and laughed bitterly, cursing God for creating women. He died shortly afterwards, and there was speculation that it was suicide, instigated by his lover’s cruel rejection of him in favour of Count Żółtowski.
No matter how strenuously Madam Kotarbińska denied the rumours, a frenzy of scandal surrounded the painting for years to come.
Jane Andrews has been inspired to write about art ever since she visited a Carel Weight exhibition on a school trip when she was fifteen and was struck by his painting The Death of Lucretia. Scribbling away busily, she was spotted by an art critic who later visited her school to interview her about her thoughts on art and how it was taught in secondary schools at the time (the early 1980s). The interview was published alongside a copy of her critical response to the painting in The Illuminated Experience, a magazine which focused specifically on art criticism. She is the author of nine novels and numerous short stories, and teaches English full time in a Birmingham academy. Her short story "Frenzy" imagines the backstory behind Podkowinski’s famous painting.
The Ekphrastic Review
Find a writer, artist, or poem, etc. by searching here: