Basquiat: a Triptych
I saw you at the Barbican in London,
learned your energies in school,
your legacy on a Newsnight special.
But Basquiat, they say you are gone,
and I wonder now if your face is
as those shuffling past your displays,
a new face in each panel,
and a voice in their ear.
Your face and your skulls
by curators, asking
but never on first name terms,
“where art thou, Basquiat?”
Tom Pryce was born in 1993 and read Theology and Religious Studies at The University of Cambridge. He holds an MPhil in Philosophy of Religion, focusing on Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida. His poems have appeared in Notes, the Ars Et Mundus Magazine, and at exhibitions in Cambridge. When not used for poetry, his mouth is usually found shouting at football and/or drinking ale. He can be contacted using @tomprycepoetry or via tomprycepoetry.com
It’s all in front of my eyes
Ishtar, you goddess of war and love
Damn life that stole you too soon.
Your side view, jaw and teeth
Shaped like a temple.
My left eye tracks your every move.
Stare into my eyes that witness life
Adorned in only half rose coloured glasses.
Feel strength like lightening
Explode from my hand.
Ishtar, I tried
With lines and shapes to chisel
Through your armour.
Oh, but your alter ego
Your addiction was craving love elsewhere
And there was no way to break that fucking love
How I failed to keep you safe
Not even Warhol could save you now.
Robyn Greenhouse: A little lost, but looking for direction through writing.
basquiat blue, 1983
and we were never being boring
Pet Shop Boys
the club is crowded
when I see you
across the room
basquiat! I shout
you come towards me
pushing through the people
and take my hand
you have five
more years to live
I have twenty
yesterday you showed me
the painting with all
that blue your colour
basquiat I whispered
that painting will not
die even when
the club is empty
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Her work appears in many diverse places — from the Buddhist Poetry Review to the Origami Poems Project. Her poem ‘The Stag’ won first place honours in College of DuPage’s 2017 Writers Read: Emerging Voices contest. Tricia lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois / in a town called St. Charles / by a river named Fox / with a Poetry Box in her front yard.
Tripping the Triptych
Intimidating slash of shadows and cross-outs,
layer upon layer we want to penetrate,
symbols we want to grasp. From TEMPLE, to KHNUM--
protector of water, fertility, creator,
forming children from earth’s clay—to SIDE VIEW
OF AN OXEN’S JAW TEETH, echoes of Samson and
the Philistines. Massacre with a jawbone. Where
was their protectress, the goddess of fertility,
war, justice, beauty, love? The LEFT EYE searches.
Centuries too late, Khnum abandoned, Basquiat
cries out to her, ISHTAR, ISHTAR, ISHTAR. Does she
answer him in the heroin trance? And is it
his black face we see in the middle? A ladder
giving access to his thoughts, allowing their descent
into a frightful mouth of skeletal teeth? One eye
green, one eye red, electric shock of a fist, flash
of lightening. We rush on to a pale, frightened face
behind black bars, silent mouth, eyes, side-by-side
with the goddess, ISHTAR, ISHTAR. Then in bold red,
SEBEK—god of crocodile power, fertility, war--
invoked to fight the Nile’s inundations,
to annihilate man’s wickedness. Our unending
search for more powerful forces to assuage
our needs, fears, when no sign comes from a host of gods,
goddesses, drugs, to answer our lonely
cries in the wilderness—or Basquiat’s.
Sandi Stromberg is enjoying the ekphrastic challenges presented by The Ekphrastic Review, with one poem appearing in the Joseph Cornell Challenge. She also loves gathering poets’ work into anthologies. She co-edited Echoes of the Cordillera (ekphrastic poems, Museum of the Big Bend, 2018) and Untameable City: Poems on the Nature of Houston (Mutabilis Press, 2015). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, read on PBS during the April 2017 “Voices and Verses,” and published in multiple small journals and anthologies. She has been a juried poet ten times in the Houston Poetry Fest. Her translations of Dutch poetry were published in the United States and Luxembourg.
Scribbles, symbols, and capital letters explode,
where the bold strokes of neo-expressionism
electrify the canvas. Three panels of collage
shout ISHTAR, the contradictory deity of love,
sex, and war. Colour radiates, as repeating
words and images emblazon, provoke thought,
hip-hop with surface rhythm. Brooklyn-born
Basquiat delivered street art to poetic heights,
altered perceptions with his painterly activism
and biblical references--
SIDE VIEW OF AN OXEN’S JAW--
like Samson, with the jawbone of an ass, heaps
upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass I have slain
a thousand men.
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts has authored four poetry collections, including The Wingspan of Things, a poetry chapbook (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony, a full-length poetry collection (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush, a full-length poetry collection (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013). In January of 2019, her second children's book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, was released by Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, Inc. She is also the author and illustrator of Let's Make Faces! (author-published, 2009). She is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs.
Crown of Basquiat: A Triptych
Beneath words of Welsh, Dutch, Icelandic,
could be Akrikaans, and Cornish is a drawing
of a pig. No matter the language for sacred sow,
it matters in the land of Basquiat’s father’s
birth, matters to the captain of the military
envoy ordered to destroy every native boar
after an outbreak and replace them with pigs
from the heartland of America not used to
heat and hurricanes and hills of Hispaniola.
He knocks on the door of a convent with rifle
in hand and tells the nuns he has to kill
the hardy natives in their pen. And of all
he’s done, it’s the one thing he regrets
in his military career.
Banksy, anonymous London street artist,
puts a crown on every car of a Ferris wheel
he paints outside the Barbican Centre for
a major retrospective of Basquiat’s work,
a place keen to clean any graffiti from its walls.
As many sourcebooks as paintings in show,
as many photographs as jazz references
that become the crown that become the image
on the wheel together with the artist welcomed
by the police. Basquiat came up in a New York
with bigger problems than graffiti and bloomed
on buildings abandoned with no money to raze,
sold color photocopied postcards of his work
on the street, one to Andy Warhol.
One of his postcards got in the hands of Ishtar,
Egyptian goddess of fertility and war, then
DYNASTIES of violence appeared on canvas.
The Book of Judges jawbone of an ass that slayed
a thousand men became on one panel SIDE VIEW
OF AN OXEN’S JAW and on another NO OTHER
F---ING SKULL BONES centered by LINE,
SHAPE, TEXTURE, the fertility of war that began
with Boer in Africa, continued to First, to Second,
to Korea, to Vietnam, to Persian Gulf, to another
century, back to a figure in black on a dominant
blue background, artist as Griot, wandering poet,
musician, historian, storyteller, street performer,
and social commentator in one.
a place keen to clean any graffiti from its walls:
an excerpt from the caption under the Banksy
painting on the wall outside the Barbican.
Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press), and Wildwood (Lummox Press). Ride the Pink Horse is forthcoming from Spartan Press in 2019. With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
Ishtar is on the subway.
Her face is repeated
Through layers of torn posters.
Her talking heads are chanting
Sex and war through sacred boom-boxes.
She reigns in New York City,
From uptown lofts, to the
Downtown candy store.
Ishtar’s smiling faces sometimes
Float through the turquoise
Haze. Her teeth are chattering ticket stubs.
They spell out a new code.
You see it in layers of dead flyers,
Pez wrappers and graffiti covered trains.
A manual from the underground
To slay the Philistines.
Ishtar gifts you the city in
A paintbox. You draw black lines
That define the barriers between
Uptown commerce and downtown
Creativity. And then, so effortlessly,
You reveal the anatomy of the city,
With a brush-stroke and a cloud
Of weed smoke.
Ishtar shows you colours
Through New York city rain.
Taxis queue in yellow exodus,
Carrying you from gallery to gallery.
In your paint splattered Armani.
You shift from the downbeat of mutant
Discos to loft apartment parties.
On the boom for real.
Ishtar is on the A train.
She reigns in New York City.
She’s an art dealer,
She’s a bag lady,
She’s a stripper on Times Square.
Her repeating heads are
Layered on tiled walls.
She is chanting sex and war.
Ishtar is drawing you a map,
An escape route from the underground.
You can see her eyes everywhere
Through the layers of torn posters.
She is tracing the veins of the city,
From uptown lofts, to the
Downtown candy store.
On a mainline to your skull.
Colin Gardiner lives and works in Coventry, United Kingdom. He writes short stories and poetry. He is currently studying an MA at the University of Leicester.
Ishtar Versus Captain America
Love is a Babylonian battlefield
dominated by a blindingly beautiful goddess.
Impotent and sterile, industrial capitalists
don their righteous masks, enter the arena.
Uninterested in a game tethered to emotion,
they will take your wealth.
If not your wealth, your power.
If you have neither—your life.
Only a eunuch, or stock-market-sexual,
has the balls to turn Ishtar down.
Basquiat being neither, grabs her fiery hips,
begins to paint the toothy faces
and punk phrases exploding like firework orgasms
behind his closed, ecstatic eyes.
As is the pattern, Ishtar grows weary
with the show of self-important confidence
contracted from her intense touch.
The Caribbean creator’s gaze wanders.
His palate embraces a ménage of new muses.
Slighted in sepia tones, Ishtar fumes.
Her revenge—an open, unprotected door
for the wolves on Wall Street to enter
with IPO opiates
and cult-status positioning.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His work has been featured in many online and print publications, and has been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com
change and stay the same
that’s just how it is,
those who lead and those who follow
but it doesn’t have to be,
not for me,
I don’t need that
same old shit
so shake a pillar
and perhaps another,
alter the tone
with the flavour of youthful nectar
replenish the energy
with urban philosophy,
use chaos to get to order
and time is short.
Henry is a writer and art lover based in Somerset in the UK who writes fiction and poetry. He has a PhD in creative writing and runs a writing support group for people with mental health issues. His work can be seen in Writers’ Forum, Potato Soup Journal, FridayFlashFiction, thedrabble, Entropy, and Spillwords Press, amongst other places.
Layer Upon Layer
Motherfucking skullbone! (My head
before Basquiat) Ishtar / Inanna
thieving culture from Enkidu,
[the apple in the garden?]
or slinking to harass Ereshkigal
deep in the underworld
& Sobek, the great impregnator,
crocodile-god of copulation,
lord of semen, who takes women
from their husbands according
to his heart's fancy, Khanum
after Khanum, to mother dynasties,
& the artist, glaring through terror
& speed’s wide eye, spittle-teeth
& oxen-jawed, nostrils like moon-
craters, the great egomaniac,
shape-shifter & super-hero,
clutching fistfuls of lightning bolts
[line, shape, texture—all bleeding]
heir to a lineage passed down the millennia,
snake & ladder, layer upon layer,
yet still sui-generis, self-replicating--
Columbia, Columbia, Columbia!
Devon Balwit resonates at Basquiat's frequency.
Raised in downtown Brooklyn
mother Puerto Rican
coupled with Haitian
a dichotomy of confusion
as Ishtar beats her drum
her mesmerising undertones
addictive urban metronome
and Art begins her dance
weak at first
a tribal curse
graffiti set to melody
rhythm free from slavery
coded hip-hop melody
scrawling print and litany
symbols from anatomy
stencilled on the walls
pillars strong as oxen jaw
a mural in a metaphor
Samson breaking temple doors
paint conflicting peace and war
chalk defining syllables
paint eroding numerals
spattered skulls in aerosol
Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry and literature since childhood. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in Great Britain and internationally. She is presently editing her work for an anthology and enjoying responding to ekphrastic challenges. Alongside poetry, Kate enjoys art, dance and playing her growing collection of guitars and ukuleles!
Yours is an altarpiece
for the church of broken things-
fragments of forgotten gods,
their bodies dismembered,
that no one knows
how to reassemble
and breathe back
into a still familiar world,
full of violence
without elegance or grace.
These walls are lined
with crude hieroglyphs-
jumbled and confused,
written and overwritten
like the layers
of a crazy palimpsest
no one wants to read.
Here the faces of saints
glare and gnash their teeth
ready to grind our bones
and spit them back to us,
useless and used up
like the world they will
down to the broken
and bloody end.
waiting to receive
its true believers.
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had work appearing in many print and online journals, and has an electronic chapbook, ”Things I Was Told Not to Think About” available as a free download from Praxis Magazine online.
Jenene Ravesloot has written five books of poetry. She has published in The Ekphrastic Review,
The Ekphrastic Challenge, After Hours Press, Sad Girl Review, DuPage Valley Review, the Caravel
Literary Arts Journal, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Packingtown Review, The Miscreant,
Exact Change Only, THIS Literary Magazine, and other online journals, print journals, chapbooks,
and anthologies. Jenene is a member of The Poets' Club of Chicago, the Illinois State Poetry Society, and Poets & Patrons. She has received two Pushcart Prize nominations in 2018.
The Ekphrastic Review
Join us on Facebook: