Here, at the table, where Matisse is staring through a red interpretation, I mark the attitude—head bowed, a woman bending to the plate, her hands gesturing toward fruit to serve a straight-backed chair that’s empty. When I eat, alone, it’s imitation. I mimic bending to the plate, like a painting in the painting, in which another, smaller house narrates the repetition. I hardly recognize myself—the one who stood before—tastes, smells, all the textures, silk the red pajamas, the pearls they gave me—my senses like the flower of the courtesans, unfolding. A flight to greater being from small existence. The germ. The rudiment. Now comes the white idea of apron.
Poet, educator and former journalist, Kathleen Hellen is the author of the award-winning collection Umberto’s Night published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento.
Her poems are widely published and have appeared recently or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, The Nation, North American Review, Poetry East, Poetry Daily, the Sewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, Witness, and elsewhere. She has served as senior poetry editor for the Baltimore Review and now sits on the editorial board of Washington Writers’ Publishing House. Twice nominated for the Pushcart, she teaches in Baltimore.
William Never Tells
Harmoniums of laughter follow bellicose
oranges and their flowers' smirking petals.
Organizations and governments miss the mark,
apples skewered into shell casings: a photo
captures the bounty on the head of Mr. Tell.
M. N. O'Brien
M. N. O'Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he received the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in SOFTBLOW, Drunk Monkeys, and Right Hand Pointing, among other journals. He lives in Hudson, New Hampshire and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person.
No one paints loneliness like he does. Those half-clad women by the bed, on
the floor, hunched over, staring out the window, in profile or from behind,
always clean lines, such worshipful light. The gas station in the middle of
nowhere, estranged couples on the bright-lit porch after dark. Even the boats
sail alone. And the diners. The hatted strangers, coming on to a redhead, a
moody blonde, all of them losers, all of them desperate for a second chance.
This morning the sunlight pried open my eyes, flooded our bedroom walls. I
sat alone, in profile on our bed in a pink chemise, knees drawn up, arms
crossed over my calves, staring out the window. Desperate for you. No one
paints loneliness like Edward Hopper paints me, missing you, apologies on
my lips. Come back. Stand below my window. Watch me beg for a second
chance. Downturned mouth, teary eyes, parted knees, open thighs, that famous
shaft of Hopper light a white flag, if only you could see.
Alexis Rhone Fancher
This poem was first published in H_NGM_N.
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s poem, “when I turned fourteen, my mother’s sister took me to lunch
and said:” was chosen by Edward Hirsch for inclusion in The Best American Poetry of 2016.
Find her poems in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Slipstream, Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles,
Hobart, Chiron Review, Quaint, Fjords Review, Broadzine,Cleaver and elsewhere. She’s the
author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen, (Sybaritic Press, 2014) and State of Grace:
The Joshua Elegies, (KYSO Flash Press, 2015). Since 2013 Alexis has been nominated for 7
Pushcart Prizes and 4 Best of the Net Awards. www.alexisrhonefancher.com
Voices in the Hospital Gallery: Musings on Art
“Art’s whatever you choose to frame.”—Fleur Adcock, “Leaving the Tate”
In the spacious, well-lit corridor of a major metropolitan hospital, a line of empty wheelchairs like taxis at an airport, a train of black and silver, press lightly against a white wall. Grids of 2-inch square photos, in 7 x 7 rows, hang above, part of an art project collaboration between medical students and photo-media students. Unintentional juxtaposition.
Images in the grid: stethoscope and lens cap, otoscope head and “help” buzzer button, fragments, the top of a sanitizing liquid dispenser and color-coded chart tabs. Birds eye view of Q-tips and tongue depressors, an MRI stretcher-bed and vials of saline in marked tubes. Four of these prismatic grids with repeating and distinct images, sequences of chromatic variations like slides of stained cells. And yet. Some things defy measurement, defy scientific knowledge, fall away from our grasp and so there are missing squares on the fourth grid, empty spaces above the empty wheelchairs.
The wheelchairs wait. Not meant as “art” they have become so, they have merged with the images above. This armada for arms, bodies and feet also speaks to what is missing from the photos above. There aren’t any human body parts visible. The next time I come to visit, the wheelchairs are gone. Deployed elsewhere? My view of the exhibit changes. Easier to see the images on the wall, easier to detach from the fact of a hospital. My perception is more simplified and reduced simultaneously, as if I’ve been transported out of the environment. Even though the images speak to medicine, the wheelchairs added an immediacy the grids lack.
How do poets respond to other artist’s work? Where do I put my frame? I always want to be mindful of the context in which I’m viewing.
In this same Sky Gallery, four plexi-glass boxes of eyes, about 30 in each, made by people working, visiting or staying in the hospital. No two alike though each began with the same blank, almond-shaped template. Riveted by eyes, rivets on eyes, a river of eyes. What you see, what they reflect, is from the outside looking in, or inside looking out. Some are literal eyes, with lashes, pupils and irises. The blue-eyed congregate with like-eyed as do the black and brown ones. Some are figurative, imagistic, symbolic. A heart where the pupil is and inside the heart, a book. One eye is decorated with paper leaves for lashes, constellations in the night sky fill what is usually white space, the pupil is a flower. “I always see / the forest” says the I-eye.
In another part of the hospital a sign reads: DO NOT PLACE GURNEYS IN FRONT OF ART. A large, multi-media piece by Dennis Evans hangs next to it. Metal words frame the outside of the 5 x 10 foot piece. Natural Law hangs next to the warning sign. And the laws of nature say that nature abhors a vacuum so gurney attendants looking for a place to stash them must have found the space convenient. Was there a patient on the gurney who needed to rest, to gaze at something other than the white ceiling?
Continuing over the top of the frame, Day, Times Rhythm, The Great Cycle, Nature Opera and Night carry on. Bifurcated canvas of creamy yellow and black further delineate day and night. Though no gurneys currently block the art, clearly one or more have. The second part of this art piece hangs directly opposite it, across the hall, and bears the ravages of being “equipment damaged.” It is missing three of its 5 metal ‘rocks’ which were once outcroppings on the piece that speaks to the balance of nature and science. Now out of balance, it appears as an amputee.
This hospital, one of three in the area with significant collections of: paintings, sculptures, mixed media, crafts: woven, carved, glazed, sewn, stuffed, installed, photographed, made by “professional” artists, patients, doctors, nurses, and staff, is a testament to the need for, and high regard for, voices from both sides of the body/mind. “Is this a museum or a hospital?” a child asks his father. We are standing in an atrium space between surgery clinics. It is airy and spacious. A spiral staircase cascades down four flights from skylight to blue-rock pool.
Touching art is often prohibited here, as in a museum, but in this space, a life-sized horse by Deborah Butterfield, made from recycled, metal scrap, can be petted. He gazes forever out the wall of glass to grass he’ll never graze. We hunger for escape too, hope that what ails us and what heals us can balance, lets us walk out unaided by chair or gurney, lets us reframe our world. As Fleur Adcock said:
…Put what space
you like around the ones you fix on,
and gloat. Art multiplies itself.
Art’s whatever your choose to frame.
Suzanne E. Edison
Suzanne's work appears, among other places, in: her chapbook, The Moth
Eaten World, Finishing Line Press, 2014; Spillway; Crab Creek Review; The
Healing Art of Writing, Vol. 1; The Examined Life Journal; Face to Face:
Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism and Awakening, and www.literarymama.com.
All photographs by the author. All artwork resides in the University of Washington Medical Center Hospital, Seattle, Washington.
During the latter days
of that long trip
the camera ceased to be
an intermediary lens
that simply sensed and seized
any view it pleased.
Gradually it grew into
an organizing tool
choosing and composing,
tidying and trimming,
dividing, defining, refining
shapes and fields,
forms and lines,
patterns and planes,
The camera now devises visual dances,
designs that dwell in graceful domains
found in the four sides of the frame.
eclipsing the frame’s simple squareness,
defying distance by grasping
the universe beyond the peripheries
of flat surfaces,
Offering images of travelless travels
beyond paper corners and gallery walls,
from margins and right angles,
from the dictates and demands
of left and right.
The beauty of shapes.
They first define,
and then unwind.
Carl Lindquist lives in India.
The Ekphrastic Review
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