A widow at MOMA is a waltz.
In Marcel Duchamp’s oeuvre
a window is dubbed “Fresh Widow,” ersatz
for the French window’s faux romance.
Rather than olive trees and the blue air,
and shined like shoes before a waltz,
the night air is simply black leather polished
daily by order of the artist. Eros
and c’est la vie were from the ersatz
name Rose Sélavy, the Dadaist’s
alter ego. The frame is blue for that air
we’d have liked. The window was a waltz
for Duchamp, who thought the pun obvious.
And at the grief group one woman did wear
a black leather coat, formal as a waltz,
zipped up. It looked like it came from Saks
Fifth Avenue. And did the old men ever leer,
there. You could say her jacket was ersatz
Duchamp. They’d planned it like artists,
the expensive resort. They had one perfect year.
They’d timed it like a waltz.
It appeared that the famous Dadaist
could sniff out art in the future,
too, each found thing serendipity, ersatz,
suitable for anything else. And how to resist
imagining the typist’s error?
Widows turn to windows and waltzes.
They’re sinister spiders and gullible sports,
the plump suspect a heroine, a whore.
Long since fresh, widows stand in, ersatz,
for punch lines in Hitchcock’s plots.
They fall for the murderer
who knows a widow’s just a waltz
in ¾ time. “The Merry Widow Waltz”
plays in the operetta
with the brand-new widow, sexy, ersatz.
The widow is useful. She’s a corset, a drink, the butt
of dirty jokes. When I was a widow, I didn’t care--
I would play the hobbyhorse, be the thumping waltz.
I was found out—fresh widow, ersatz.
LaWanda Walters is a poet and painter who lives with her husband, fellow poet John Philip Drury, in a hundred-year-old house on the edge of a wooded ravine in Cincinnati. She is the author of a book of poems, Light Is the Odalisque (Press 53, Silver Concho Series, 2016), and has had poems recently published in Poetry and The Georgia Review.
in wood and stone
of earthbound lines
that float the heart,
a landlocked boat
with a sandstone prow
and swooping cypress
dappled with sun
and banded with light
in a cutout frieze
whose free-form runes
it puts the ark
Susan McLean, a retired English professor, is the author of The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife. She lives in Iowa City, but her grandparents lived a short drive away from Kentuck Knob.
On Seeing the Portrait of Juliette Gordon Low by Edward Hughes
I expected you to arrive
on the painted plane in brown or
olive drab, booted and ready
to take on the woods, pitch a tent,
or produce a spyglass. Why then
instead, do I see you painted
in a pink cloud gown, reminiscent
of Swan Lake or the Nutcracker,
your graceful arms ready to round
over your head, and toes,
ready to relevée? Silly me,
to not at once suppose there to
be a hunting knife beneath your
dress, affixed by a garter to
your leg. Silly me, to suppose
the handling of snakes and maps
to be incompatible with
twirling gracefully about the dance floor,
to forget that to be strong is not just to be stout,
especially when the willows
have told us time and time again
to bend is to be strong,
that grace can hold the world like silk.
Tamara Nicholl-Smith is a poet and workshop leader living in Houston, TX. Her poetry has appeared on two Albuquerque city bus panels, one parking meter, various radio shows, a spoken-word techno classical piano fusion album, and in publications, such as: America, Ekstasis, The Examined Life Journal and Kyoto Journal. She recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Thomas (Houston). She likes puns and enjoys her bourbon neat. Find her at tamaranichollsmith.com.
Where has aspiration flown to?
The cold penetrates my sole-worn shoes.
I too am soul-worn. What to make of it?
I know no one left living who hasn’t
already deserted this throbbing world.
The birds have abandoned the sky,
grey with smoke, & there are no more
trees to nest in & the water—where did it
go when the brooks flowed with blood?
It doesn’t ripple over river rock & it’s
silent too. Thrumming silence. Except
for the groan—that rumbling tone that
tremors—a bass drum in my chest.
The cold hurts the bones of my brain.
I tried. I did. & none of it remains.
Cathy Wittmeyer hosts the Word to Action retreat in the Alps and edited the upcoming anthology: Eden is a Backyard: Climate poems from Word to Action from Eupolino Verlag. Her poems explore climate wreckage and human frailty. Her work has appeared in Isele Magazine, Superpresent, Tangled Locks Journal and Book of Matches among others. For more on this engineer/lawyer, mom and poet from Buffalo, NY, see https://cathywittmeyer.com
A Modern Venus of Willendorf
after Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, by Lucian Freud (Britain) 1995
Gorgeous fat stuffed
in a love seat of puce roses --
sponge cake arm,
custard belly with
derrière a round of brie,
thighs buttered, foot
a braided challah --
are the soul alfresco,
the hard things.
Alongside her poetry book Apocryphal (San Francisco Press), Anna Evas is published in a variety of literary journals, including The Ekphrastic Review. A recording pianist, she is an award-winning composer of concert level, contemporary classical music.
Peace Embracing Plenty
It’s not petit putti fighting on a celestial ceiling. Nor chubby babies in a round-the-crib romp. It’s Peace in Person in romantic embrace with Plenty, both curly-headed and pink but of different minds. Peace seems heavy, full-bottomed, mounting the charge. Plenty seems startled, dreamy, young—unaware of the promise of his cornucopia—horn overflowing with apples, figs, wild herbs. Peace looks away, to the inevitable, columns collapsing around her—flaccid. Thus, the worry in Plenty’s eye.
Mike Lewis-Beck writes from Iowa City, where he gardens in the summer and cooks in the winter. He has pieces in American Journal of Poetry, Apalachee Review, Aromatica Poetica, Black Bough, Columba, Cortland Review, Chariton Review, Ekphrastic Review, Guesthouse, Heavy Feather Review,, Inquisitive Eater, Pennine Platform, Seminary Ridge Review, Southword, and Wapsipinicon Almanac, among other venues. He has two books of poems, Rural Routes, and Shorter and Sweeter, published by Alexandria Quarterly Press.
After Chagall’s Paris Through the Window
Paris is askew. The Eiffel Tower extends beyond the painting. It’s glossed in a white light that emanates from a nearby pyramid. How can that be?—it’s not Egypt, not Mexico. A parachutist glides through a stormy sky. Where will it land in this city of steeples and narrow streets? Perhaps those are mountains in the shape of pyramids and the parachutist could glide, I suppose, to a mountain side. By his window, sits a two-sided Chagall, on one side a blue face cries pink tears, his other side, pale. He hints at the interior to his apartment: an empty chair; flowers arranged in a burnished pot, his window open to a dusky gold. On the window-sill, on its haunches, squats a cat. The cat’s face is similar to Chagall’s—big ears, sad eyes, sharp nose. Chagall plants himself nearby with claws instead of hands. The window must let in a breeze; electricity must charge the air. Chagall and his cat watch the sky. Greens. Pinks. Blues. Their ears perked up, a parachute falling from the sky; they must hear its flutter. And what is it about those two dark pedestrians? Who could they be, that man and women painted flat black? Although, she has a small swab of blue and the man a thin blue walking stick that doesn’t touch the ground, doesn’t support anything. Together they float in the dreamy space. Lower left, is an up-side down train. Does it chug backwards toward Vitebsk? A dark blue volcano blows pink smoke. Turned one way Paris is a lively sky, while in another turn there are nightmares, pogroms, longing, and a war that will soon shatter the world.
Bill Caldwell and his husband enjoy life in Asheville N.C. Bill is a retired nurse and marriage and family therapist. He says he’s not a dessert person until he spies a scope of ice cream. He walks his dog Stella in the nearby mountains, tends his compost pile, plays in his yard planting plants and moving rocks. His poems have been heard on KAXE radio, and published in Artemis, Kakalak, and The Smokies Review.
“Climate activists throw mashed potatoes at Monet work in Germany.”
What a sight for visitors when
Protesters, wearing their message or
Orange caution vests, pushed aside
Monet’s garden, his haystacks
For their cause. They want us to know:
It must be so!
With boilerplate shouts, lectures,
Mashed potatoes, glue, red paint
They’ve come to save us.
Last Generation they’re called
And maybe that’s true – rage,
Madness is prelude to the end
But even as we’re leaving,
Streets blackening from the sun,
Buildings challenged by coastal water,
Monet’s garden and haystacks will
Dance on dying eyes.
William V. Ray
William V. Ray is a retired English teacher who has also been a textbook editor, freelance writer, and, of late, a café owner. His published work includes textbooks as well as poetry and poetic prose. He is the editor of the online journal The Courtship of Winds <www.thecourtshipofwinds.org>. He lives outside Boston, Massachusetts. For more detail, please visit his page at LinkedIn: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/williamvray>
The Mystery of Seafoam
Every summer two men meet at an old beach bar twenty miles south of Lewes, Delaware. The bar sits at the end of an unmarked gravel road overlooking the steel gray Atlantic Ocean. It is decorated in the style of a Greek taverna: whitewashed walls, bistro tables, an orange awning that billows in the wind. The tile floor is embedded with tesserae and coquina in the shape of a mermaid. In earlier times the men approached one another with firm handshakes and a warm embrace. These days they nod, balance their canes against the wall, and ease gingerly into their seats.
The place attracts an older crowd seeking to escape throngs of summer tourists who bend their arms for selfies and loom over glowing screens like hungry praying mantises. The service is bright, the drinks are cold, and no one is recording or photographing anything. For these reasons, the men meet here to talk over the Happening.
It was some sixty years ago on a strand of beach not far from the bar. Twelve years old they were then, throwing a frisbee and wrestling in the water while their mothers kept loose watch from the deck of a rented bungalow. Pausing to lay down on their towels, the boys see an erratic line of iridescent discs strewn with seaweed and tiny shells. They were scales, weren’t they?
Following the trail, they find a mermaid lying face up in the shallow fan of a distant sandbar: sea kelp mane, yellow eyes, arms akimbo, angry mouth gaping air for water. The mottled tail thrashes back and forth as it tries to propel itself toward the ocean. The tide must have receded quickly that night.
The mermaid is longer than the boys are tall. Still, they manage to gather it up by the torso and tail, mindful to not snap any scales or bruise the soft, translucent belly. Transporting the writhing creature back into the ocean is arduous, requiring concentration, rhythm of step and breath. They move as one body, wild and vulnerable. The smell, do you remember the smell? Salt, and cinnamon. And so strong. Sharp fins, cut me right here.
Standing thigh-deep in eddies of ocean, the boys ease the mermaid into the water, watching it twist and roll until it recognizes home within cascades of waves that carry it out to sea: their rescue, engulfed in the mystery of seafoam. The moment seems to last forever and end with the breeze. Did it happen? We were so young.
One man is an emeritus professor of classics; the other, a retired priest who still receives bedside confessions. They meet at the old beach bar to speak the story aloud, pulling the mermaid from the penumbral shadow of time. They have kept their pact through the decades, protecting one another from incredulity, laughter, ridicule.
Momentarily, their conversation turns to the present. A wife is ill, a sister lives in Florida, a son has a new job, a nephew is taking to drawing dinosaurs. Eventually, they return to the story they share, though it drifts further every year, impossible to capture, like the horizon. All that remains is memory, and mystery: tiny rows of opaline demi-circles around their ankles and thighs that increase with each passing year.
The men sip their beers, looking out at the unknowable, elusive place where sea meets sky. The professor shakes his head; the priest’s eyes brim with watery longing. Through the years and thrum of daily life, beyond the joys and sorrows, they remain certain of only one thing: there has been nothing, nothing like it, since.
Cheryl Sadowski writes primarily about art, books, landscape, and nature. She is particularly drawn to time, memory, patterns in nature, and the ineffable veil between our world and others. Her writing has appeared in After the Art, Vita Poetica, About Place Journal, and other publications. She returned to school in her fifties to complete a Master's in Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University. cherylsadowski.com.
We are thrilled about this upcoming workshop with Ekphrastic editor Kate Copeland, on fashion in art and the writing world.
We also have a wine and art night with mermaids, and a whirlwind tour of Frida's world. Join us! Sign up below.
Dress You Up, Zoom Workshop with Kate Copeland
Join us on Zoom on Saturday, March 9 from 10 am to noon eastern standard time, for a survey and discussion about fashion and its underlying subtexts and meanings that make their way into our poetry and stories.
Ekphrastic editor Kate Copeland will take us on a fashionable tour of art and clothing, with time to write our own artistic exploration of appearances. Weaving through personal and cultural meanings we attach to clothing, Kate will touch on poetry, research, linguistics, and Anne Sexton's iconic red reading dress.
Lorette will show us a brief survey of fashion in art history.
Virginia Woolf would sign off her invitation with "bring no clothes," but we invite you to dress up or bring your favourite garment, to inspire your own poem or story.
The Mermaid Muses: writing with sea sirens in art history
Join us for a deep sea dive into the story of mermaids in the visual arts. We will look at a variety of mermaid art and use it to inspire our own nostalgia, fantasy, and mythology.
Thursday, March 14 from 6 to 8 pm.
A wine and art write night! Bring your favourite wine (or a cup of tea) and we will relax together, look at amazing art, and get some ideas down for our poetry and stories.
Frida's World: Mexico's Art Story
Join us to explore the incredible story of Mexico's art history. It will be a whirlwind tour through time. Frida Kahlo was passionate about pre-Columbian artefacts and her husband was considered the master artist of Mexico. The couple were surrounded by art stars and brilliant creatives. Of course, Frida became the most beloved artist and icon. We will look at a wide variety of visual art through time. This session will focus on looking at and talking about visual art rather than on writing exercises, but writers will find a wealth of inspiration to be mined for their poetry and stories later.
The Ekphrastic Review
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