Upon Peering at an Untitled Reverse Glass Painting
Fir trees surround the halls
of the courtyard complex
with reverse-facing rooms, side houses,
and an entrance gate shielded
by a spirit screen of inkstone
engraved with terrain mirroring
the landscape beyond the walls.
Bellflowers are somewhere.
Plum blossoms are somewhere.
Floral motifs decorate red and blue garments.
A pearl necklace adorns a neck
and a headpiece is like a flat crown.
Someone points to the sky.
He says things with confidence.
Her court needs to tend to other matters.
Fog thickens around the terraces.
No page walks through a courtyard.
Moss grows on sculptures in a rock garden
and stone arrangements resemble far-off mountains.
A passerby cups a blossom,
pondering a trek through Huashan.
Lilac wisteria spirals around a monument.
Flute melodies reach the court from a distant chamber.
Tempos sync to phoenix birds
twittering above the Hill of Wang Fu.
Efren Laya Cruzada
Efren Laya Cruzada is a poet who was born in the Philippines and grew up in a small town in South Texas. He studied English and American Literature and Creative Writing at New York University. He is the author of Grand Flood: a poem. His poems have been published in several journals, with work forthcoming in The Tiger Moth Review, The Stardust Review, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal. Currently, he is working on a poetry collection based on his travels throughout Latin America and Asia. His day jobs have included coaching chess, teaching ESL, and writing for blockchain media companies. He now resides in Austin, Texas.
You Dare And Impress
What a pose!
A beauty that glows
Your hands you unfold
Able to power hold
You assert authority
And bury fragility
A voice not to suppress
You dare and impress
A myriad of pearls
You earned with no fears
You uncover stories
True fights not fancies
You rise within an Empire
A tiger’s fur your attire
Your high ranking a pride
Reversing history tide.
Besma Riabi Dziri
Besma Riabi Dziri is a teacher of the English language in high school in Tunis. She was born in Tunis, Tunisia on September 20th, 1966. She graduated from Manouba University of Arts. She has a great passion for creative writing. She writes short stories and fables. Poetry has gripped her very ink and captured her heart and soul. Through her poetry, Besma Riabi Dziri expresses her thoughts which include serving and enlightening Humanity, tolerance of beliefs and the importance of Love, benevolence, forgiveness in the soul’s renewal and growth. She avidly believes in the ability of poetry to transcend our limitations as human beings, beautify and elevate the soul and shine Love and Light into Humanity.
The Qianlong Emperor's Consort
Being Entertained in His Absence
The windows on the universe were closed
behind translucent screens. His senses: eyes
and nostrils, ears and mouth, the hours he dozed,
noted no new kingdoms fall or rise.
Jade and jewels stud the mural walls;
inside and out, extinctions multiply.
The skies are overheated, fire falls
when stars explode, the oceans pale. We try
to kill whole species, not just one by one.
Preserving what is wild is self-defeating.
We mourn the glut of nature, saving none,
but creatures do not mourn our moral bleating.
A sage once dreamt he was a butterfly.
Or was the dream the insect's? Toss the die!
Royal Rhodes is a retired educator who has had a long fascination with the art and history of the Middle Kingdom. He has taught a large number of students from China. His poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, The Lyric, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and a number of other places.
I was spat forth from the mouth of Changbai, the volcano:
my beautiful molten self so red hot
I ate everything in my path.
I leapt off the orb of the sun:
I crept into rowan berries and the goji,
the lychee and the jujubi.
From there to the palette of Zhu Da,
diminutive painter of emperors and empresses;
thence imperially decreed the royal colour
on robes, pennants, standards
such a red as I am!
Piercing the sky with victory and valour
primping the chests and Pom poms
of warriors and court eunuchs alike
billowing in the breeze - oh ecstasy! -
across the mountains of Guangdong.
There will be other colours, of course,
dull lapis lazuli or insipid egg yolk yellow-
but I am the colour of China.
Taste, touch and feel -
I am everywhere.
Lucie is a retired Librarian who is writing in and around Oxfordshire and Sussex; sometimes getting published in the wonderful Ekphrastic Review and other places.
The [A]lternative [W]orldview
for Shaohua Yan
"He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth."
J. W. von Goethe
1. Book Time
“Voila! … Now, this discourse – 1421: The Year China Discovered America (G. Menzies) – is Le Portal to the [A]lternative [W]orldview—id est, contrary to the (in)famous Christopher Columbus, The Explorer, grand narrative,” I ensure that I’m amply audible to her eardrums, so she knows ‘tis Book Time for me, “ … the Chinese were the original inventors of: paper making (105CE) AND type printing (960–1279 CE) AND gunpowder (1100 CE) AND compass (2nd century BCE–1st century CE) AND mechanical clock (715 CE) AND tea production (2,737 BCE) AND silk (4,000 BCE) AND umbrella (300 CE) AND iron smelting (1050–256 BCE) AND earthquake detector/seismograph (132 CE) AND rocket (228 CE) AND kite (muyuan: wooden kite) (1,000BCE) AND seed drill (1,500 BCE) AND paper money (9th century CE) AND acupuncture (300s BCE) AND … .” But, I don’t read this chronological account out loud, ‘cause I don’t need to, ‘cause she’s CHINESE – she knows her [H]istory! … “Now, that’sNews! This definitely calls for the Grand/Meta-Narratives—especially, the ones floating around in the West (under the canopy of Modernism)—to be revisited! … [Re]visited in the manner of a Deconstruction of the Civilisation – exempli gratia, in the Post-Modernist / Post-Structuralist context!” The philosopher in me is provoked, but I keep the agitation(s) from treading onto the tongue.
2. Rhetorical Questions
“Hmm. So, how come the Arabs (the Bedouins) still had to use the animal hides to document their folklores and poetry and songs back then (6th–7th century CE)? Hmm. And would the conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) by the Turks—by Sultan Mehmet II (The Fetih/Gazi) (1453 CE)—even have been possible without the gun powder/guns/cannons, in the first place? Hmm. And what of the Islamic Renaissance – with the Al-Mu’tazilites et alia (8th–9th century CE) – and the European Renaissance – with the Medici Family et alia (15th century CE) – would these historical epochs even have materialised without the Chinese Factor? Hmm.” I can see/hear/smell/touch these – and multifaceted other – rhetorical questions ricocheting off each other inside my thalamus now; but, I spare my grey matter the immaterial labour.
As I contemplate braving the idea of turning a dozen+ more pages over to sort the assist of the said scholar with the hunt for the theses to the aforesaid hodgepodge in my walnut shaped mind: enveloped in the Chinese-red nighty, wearing my favourite Eau de Toilette (Floral Aquatic Cool Water – Davidoff), 2-3 wine glasses of La Rosa down; she relays a signal to me with her cat eyes: (put the book away // screw the cap back on the pen // switch the table lamp off) ‘tis Bedtime!
. Postmodernism/Poststructuralism: An Intellectual Movement that rejects the objectivism/determinism/rationalism of the (European) Modernity, or the so-called Age of Enlightenment (18th–19th century CE), i.e., ‘one frame fits all the portraits.’ The movement professes relativism/pluralism/subjectivity as opposed to the ideology of the ‘universal truth,’ or ‘universal meaning,’ or ‘universal language,’ or ‘universal human nature,’ et cetera, i.e., there’re multiple truths/realities and meanings, and that every culture and language is valid in its own (unique) way.
. Al-Mu’tazilites (The Separated): A Philosophical/Theological School of Thought—proponents of: 1) ‘something comes from something’ metaphysics, 2) atomism (following the classical Greek tradition), 3) speculative theology, 4) man’s free will, 5) power of human intelligence and reasoning, et cetera. Some of the significant figures of the Movement included: Al-Kindi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Ishaq, Al-Mahamali, Al-Asturlabiyya, et alia – who were also the key members of the Graeco-Arabic Translation Project.
. The House of Medici: The Family is also known as: 1) The Godfathers of the (European) Renaissance, and 2) Makers of Popes, Queens, and Artists. They are also famous for funding the inventions of the piano and opera, and being the Patrons of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Machiavelli, Galileo, et alia.
Saad Ali (b. 1980 C.E. in Okara, Pakistan) has been brought up and educated in the United Kingdom and Pakistan. He is a poet-philosopher and literary translator. His new collection of poems is titled Owl Of Pines: Sunyata (AuthorHouse, 2021). He is a regular contributor to The Ekphrastic Review. His work has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology. Some of his influences include: Vyasa, Homer, Ovid, Attar, Rumi, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, and Tagore. He enjoys learning different languages, travelling by train, and exploring cities/towns on foot. To learn further about his work, please visit www.saadalipoetry.com, or www.facebook.com/owlofpines.
Come to Us, Come to Us
Come to us, come to us,
our empress beckons you forth.
Shout to us, shout to us!
What news brings you from the North?
Tell us this story,
what is it you know?
Your brave tales of glory,
none more filled with woe.
The bard starts to laugh!
A victory song!
Bring our carafes!
We're here, we belong!
You needed success,
my empress, we brought it.
We'd bring nothing less,
you've said it, we've fought it.
Please, celebrate, all!
Today is so joyous!
No need for more brawls.
No one can destroy us.
Relax, my brave soldiers.
Lay down to rest.
No more weight on your shoulders.
From you, we are blessed.
Maeson Roucoulet (they/them) currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and is originally from Connecticut. They've been writing poetry since around the fourth grade, and were published in The Ram Page. Maeson is now interested in creative writing, literature, and music.
Composition in Green
The empress calls her court the Qing — 清 — qīng --
compounded splash of 'water,' block of 'green'
yet not just one but all the shades of spring
signify together Pure. Bright. Clean.
'Green is from blue and green is more than blue.'
From inky depth flows life into the sheaves
each year edenic. Troops scythe pale bamboo
among blue hills, green ponds, black leaves.
Thus she knows herself immortal: all is one
blurred coluor swimming in the sleepy grass
blooming at edges. Belly-up the sun
pours half-light mediate through glass.
Katy Borobia is a recent graduate of Hillsdale College. She studied Mandarin Chinese for four years. Her poems and prose have been published by Ekstasis, Glass Mountain, and several others. After trying her hand at service, horticulture, 4-H education, and editing, Katy still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up.
The Qing Dynasty
As the youngest,
one must earn her respect.
I dance and twirl
trying to win mother over.
A facial heatwave
when I make the connection:
My siblings before me
received life on gold platters.
Their smug stares
burning holes in my backside
I know she reads minds.
Ellen Canarelli is a lifelong artist and writer who resides in Cassville, New York, where there are more cows than people. She spends all winter skiing, something she'd loved doing with her family since she was a very little girl. In the summer, she spends her days running for miles, soaking up the sun.
Cheerful noise fills the area
dancing, laughing, and joy
As I sit on my throne
and look from afar
I appreciate nature's beauty–
the trees swaying “hello”
and the wispy smells
from the garden
Today is a day of celebration
As they continue
to laugh and dance
I sit on my throne
Tyler Carr is a writer from Middletown, New York. She enjoys journaling and photography during her free time.
The Purity Shines
The purity shines
hiding the hostility
reds and blues
draw the eye
away from the pain
hides their face
behind the glass
ignoring the blood spilled
mixing with the paint
Mo Flanagan is an author out of Boylston, Massachusetts. They enjoy reading prose and poetry.
Who can shade upside down?
Not one from the comfort of a death-
rattle recliner or from boots tied
to a gallows rope. Not one from
the other side of the equator.
Reverse engineering. Deconstruction.
The first is the first and the last
shall be last (in a non-Biblical
manner). Facial hair. Beards. Brows.
Lashes. Darks and blacks. Smirks.
Crooked lines of nostrils. Crowns
and caps. Clothes. Outer layers
wait on belts and swords. Shameless
hubris of cheeks lie tidy before the already
shadowed hands brush their spears.
Todd Sukany, a Pushcart nominee, lives in Pleasant Hope, Missouri, with his wife of over 40 years. His work recently appears in The Christian Century and Fireflies’ Light. A native of Michigan, Sukany stays busy running, playing music, and caring for three rescue dogs and three cats.
I'll hold a parasol above your head,
though my palms sweat blood on the handle,
fingers close to breaking with the strain,
the long hours. I'll present you with a
scroll, lacquered tube to hold it, hung with
braided tassels. The scroll will say I love you,
calligraphed a thousand times in sumi ink.
I'll have my dancers dance for you in
soft leather slippers, embroidered cloaks,
gold-threaded caps with scarlet pom poms.
Their beards will be clipped for the
occasion, waxed to a point a yard beneath
the chin, scented with the sweetest mountain
flowers: harebells, pennyroyal, peony.
My jesters will impress you, tugging jokes
from their throats like knotted scarves:
endless hilarity, enough to make you helpless.
They'll cease at my command, but I'll bide
my time, waiting till you turn to me with
wonder, gratitude, and love. Look what he
can do, you'll say, this besotted man,
devoted bearer of the parasol: he commands
the sun, and everything beneath.
I'll take your face in my aching hands,
kiss your pale, shadow-cool forehead,
my triumph tinged with sadness:
we both know in our hearts I'll regret it,
except in that moment when I had it all.
Paul McDonald taught at the University of Wolverhampton for twenty five years, where he ran the Creative Writing Programme before taking early retirement in 2019. He is the author of 20 books to date, which includes fiction, poetry and scholarship. His most recent poetry collection is 60 Poems (Greenwich Exchange Publishing, 2023)
Was This Richard Scarry’s Inspiration?
Was this 1800s Qing Court scene
Richard Scarry’s inspiration for
his ultra detailed portrayals of
modern homes, schools,
even plain air pictures?
Or perhaps he traveled through
time and saw for himself that
Empress holding court
her jester, her advisor, her garden
and the lands beyond? Perhaps
he’s the one who painted it?
If there are symbols here
among these elements
my old eyes, my mind, both
flummoxed and distracted
by so much detail, leaps from
place to place in the painting.
Scarry was a favourite of
my laser-focused daughter
who easily moved among
Scarry’s many points of interest
cataloguing , organizing
all in her logical mind.
My son and I put Scarry aside
preferring pictures with
Here, I note the Empress is smiling
from under the arbor, and that she
is robed in red silks of happiness.
Perhaps her smile is aimed
at the entertainer—is he swallowing a snake
or sword or juggling for her?
The others are so serious—maybe they will smile
in the next picture, released from sober
countenance only after the Empress smiles?
My safest point of reference,
if this were my only picture
of the court, would be,
are the two birds in the far-left corner
gliding above, maintaining
a good distance
from all of this human interaction
while gracing the sky with
their gentle presence.
I think my son would
also have liked them best.
Scarry drew his
equally busy scenes for children
to give them a safe view of
the busy adult world all around them.
I wonder how many Chinese children
“read” about the court using this painting?
I wonder how many of them, like my son
and I were tired by these views and
wished the painting and
real life was simpler?
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales of food, family, strong women. Internationally published as an essayist, poet, short story writer, and novelist, she’s a two-time Pushcart nominee, twice Best of the Net nominee, and a 2022 runner-up in Robert Frost Competition. Her essays, poems, CNF, and fiction appear in Impspired, Ekphrastic Review, Verse Visual, Verse Virtual, Gargoyle, Silver Birch, Yellow Mama, Mystery Tribune, Ovunquesiamo, Synkroniciti, MacQueen’s Quinterly, SoFLoPoJo, and many others in US, UK, Australia, Germany, and more. Her poetry chapbooks are Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, (Finishing Line) and Feathers on Stone, (Main Street Rag).
On a mild spring
and Chinese elm
trees gently sway
in a light breeze
while a rust-coloured
Adorned in red
embroidered in gold
and silver threads,
on a hand-carved
where she holds
court with artisans.
Like a victorious
soldier, I hold the red
banner behind her.
Wei, a musician,
plays the erhu for her
until the last
of daylight pale.
Dr. Jim Brosnan
A Pushcart nominee, Dr. Jim Brosnan is the author of Nameless Roads (2019) and Driving Long Distance (forthcoming 2024). His poems have appeared in the Aurorean (US), Crossways Literary Magazine (Ireland), Eunoia Review (Singapore), Nine Muses (Wales), Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), Strand (India), The Madrigal (Ireland), and Voices of the Poppies (United Kingdom). He holds the rank of full professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI.
The Noble Dowager
(for Kenneth Rexroth)
Everything is ornament for her
brocades and lavish swirls are the formal dress
of a seated Empress along with her courtiers
and palace guards in their plumage.
Vivid Autumn colors that shame the trees and sky,
The extravagance of each costume is a temple unto itself.
I realize Lady you are the pure light of heaven
though from a distance to a man
whose crops are dust and who watches
his family starve all this grandeur and pomp,
these most intricate patterns are not beautiful
but are a fire raging through his country and
Daniel Brown has recently published at age 72 his first collection Family Portraits in Verse and Other Illustrated Poems through Epigraph Books, Rhinebeck, NY. He has most recently been published in Jerry Jazz Musician and Chronogram Magazine and was included in Arts Mid-Hudson 2023 gallery presentation Poets Respond To Art in Poughkeepsie, NY.
The Emperor of the Moon
Since antiquity, there have been many emperors.
The emperor of the moon is the most mystical.
Riding bareback above clouds like a lost explorer
Galloping towards white stars, he grew critical
Looking for his bride; oh, where art thou my - Juliet?
I have remained faithful during my ceaseless searching
But your distance has always remained the same, I regret.
There are too many stars twinkling that are pretending-
To be in keeping with my carnal desires, but those,
Those stars were never in his thoughts, never his tempting.
The emperor of the moon was now predisposed
To idly hiding or occasionally peeping
Rather than dashing across the skies, he hid in the dark
Rather than crying, oh, where art thou my - Juliet?
He sent his people to look; he sent a meadowlark
Men did shout, and the meadowlark sang the alphabet.
His men returned to their quarters each evening solemn
The meadowlark flew and flew, singing in the heavens
The emperor felt abandoned and in the doldrums
As each morning, it sang and was lit incandescent.
Why on earth does it sing so triumphant and happy?
And while his back was turned, he felt a glowing warmth.
And his men came running; here is your bride and aptly
She arrives behind your throne brightly and adorned.
The emperor gasped at her radiance of gold
In all his endless days of looking, he couldn't find her
Until she found him in a story that is often retold
A few centuries later - about how he found her?
Mark Andrew Heathcote
Mark Andrew Heathcote is an adult learning difficulties support worker. He has poems published in journals, magazines, and anthologies online and in print. He resides in the UK and is from Manchester. Mark is the author of In Perpetuity and Back on Earth, two books of poems published by Creative Talents Unleashed.
Whom Shall I Blame or Groom?
I’m cleaned, prepped, reversed, glistening. Lying in greedy-hungry, heavily scented, oiled-soiled palms like stolen gold coins, ready to play. In beds or casinos. My disrespect is not sanctioned by Gods. So, whom shall I blame for breakage, confusion, pain-leaving, bloody stain? Or whom shall I groom for luck, rethinking, piety, improved-swapped mentality? Or whom shall I groom in wonderous faith? Humans? Animals? Animals may not seek mirrors, glass, or gold. And the mean don’t see them; they just destroy. And court jesters are punished, ridiculed, never to be set free. Roads are blocked. Passages gloated. Brains are lard-clogged. I hang my coat on the stand. Throw open the tight, molding windows. Watch the queen on the throne. Watch the hungry men drool and prepare for antics. Watch nature mingle with my thoughts, my fears, my smiles, and my promises, like nervous pregnant mothers, human or animal, just before delivery. Whom shall I blame, and whom shall I groom?
Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP, is a two-time Pushcart Prize-nominated Indian American author-academic. Her third poetry collection, What’s wrong with us Kali women? (Kelsay, 2021) was nominated by Cyril Dabydeen as the best poetry book, 2021 for British Ars Notoria, and is mandatory reading in a multicultural society course at Utrecht University. Her just released novel, drenched thoughts is also prescribed in the same course and university. Anita is the editor of the Newsletter, Poetry Virginia Society and secretary of the Montgomery Chapter, Maryland Writers Association. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC. Anita is the daughter of Sahitya Akademi award-winning Indian novelist, Late Dr. Chaman Nahal, and educationist Late Dr. Sudarshna Nahal. www.anitanahal.com