Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bernadette McBride Feasts with Frida Kahlo and J. S. Sargent

Bernadette McBride’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies nationally, in the UK, and on Garrison Keillor’s NPR program “The Writer’s Almanac.” A former Poet Laureate of Bucks County, PA, she is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, won second-place in the international Ray Bradbury Writing Award, and was twice a finalist for the Robert Fraser Poetry Award. She is the author of Waiting for the Light to Change (WordTech Editions, 2013) and Food, Wine, and Other Essential Considerations—an Alphabet, forthcoming in September 2014 from Aldrich Press. Visit her blog at

Fruits of the Earth
—Frida Kahlo, 1938

So much raw flesh here, Frida—
how very like you: the prickly pear
a bald head, day-old shave poking
from green skin; one corn cob stripped
of husk, scraped of kernel, its two kin
huddled, waiting. Others gaping
as though scalpeled open and left
to ooze away. The plate is crowded
with bodies who’ve lived their solo
lives, are now arranged, naked,
bulging before a gloomy sky,
the plank table’s eyes staring.

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale
—John Singer Sargent, 1878

Clacking across broken shells, squishing
over the sand, baskets on their hips, bonnets
catching the glint of the day, they
bring the children, these women, teach them

the secrets of the Cancalaises—what to spy
of the sea’s leavings, to gather or give back.
Three generations here bearing custom’s
millennial weight as they cluster between blue

and more blue, ocean’s foam lingering on the shore,
vestige of the channel’s marriage to the Atlantic
—where their men have sailed, crossing
themselves as they head north in search of

a winter’s bounty. For now, the women will relish
the salty softness between the clunkity shells
—grateful to the prevenient mothers who
taught their young to carry baskets to the sea.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Poet Robert Gibbons on Caravaggio, Diego Riviera and Crowded Museums

Robert Gibbons moved to New York City in 2007 in search of his muse—Langston Hughes. He has since been featured in many NYC venues as well as in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. He has performed most recently at the Cornelia Street Café, Church of the Village, Saturn Series, Perch Café, Barnes and Noble, Stark Performances, Otto’s Shrunken Head, Poets on White, Nomad’s Choir, and Taza de Café among other venues. Gibbons has been published in Uphook Press, Three Rooms Press, Brownstone Poets Anthology, Dinner with the Muse, Cartier Street Review, Nomad’s Choir and the Palm Beach Post. He has studied with master poets Cornelius Eady, Marilyn Nelson, Kimiko Hahn, Nathalie Handal, Linda Susan Jackson, Kevin Young, and Kwame Dawes. Three Rooms Press published Close to theTree in 2012.

for Caravaggio
imagine, the suffering servant standing seaside;
his nasal Lombard accent grumbling; his scruffy
frame; his work unearthing the master’s peace;
St. John the Baptist I

creating with his hands; only producing bread
crumbs as he paints; as his angst piracy

imagine, hoping the ship carting pieces of him;
leaving traces in the bowels, snip snatches;
waves of his legacy on canvas, of time; of
history, the bitter taste hungry; tongue- twisting,
turning to see the past, the heart sickness;

imagine, him sinking, taking a lifetime to recover;
to regain, maybe four hundred years, or a century;
knowing the ascension; the martyrdom; the birth;
the death; the bereft; the disruption to his craft;

so he did not inherit gold, but his gold leaf icons;
scions of color, rather mutating browns; fusing
pinks inking in glitter; better time come forth;
this natural beauty ebbing of the ocean’s darkness;
fighting  light; struggling to believe, to see;
unforgiving; enliven this mastery; speaking
inner sanctum;

reaching beyond the grave; beyond silent congregations;
his constitution rescuing from the archaeologist;
the historian; the boring dictates of the academics;
resurrect his spirit, layering time; it is only me
it is only mine.

if I had a mirror and paint myself; exposing myself
then this direction; the wind moves this confidence
my reflection better myself, must I carry a sword
it is not my existence this feeling pittance will not survive.

the testimony against Gertrude Stein

if Schiaparelli and Prada had an impossible conversation,
then it was our wait in the Neue Galerie, so we trump
back to Demarchelier for avocado and crab on the plate;
this memorial day the heat of an overwhelming  crowd,
people pushing for place in compartments and gawking
at the multitudinous, but I rather see Rodin’s Eve
Rodin's Eve
as she shuns the camera, but continues to be slammed
by arms and big backpacks as all my energy focuses
on maintaining  space; keeping a pace with the merry-
go-round of my own interpretation; trying to appreciate,
but the docent’s eyes depreciate me in value, in places
like this, I am here with the nude women in the mirror;
there is so much to see, but there is no clearance; if only
I could travel to Paris and take a camera, maybe an
introduction to Picasso or Toulouse-Lautrec; had my limit-
check with all these vacationers, all this impatience;
left saying had visited, as I sat among the Islamic;
pitying myself felt freer with the name Durer;
the man hidden behind the bed sheets as she admires
herself; as she conspires her vanity; rather acquaint with Urs
Graf and Schongauer, the man with a hat gazing upwards,
so I finished the visitation with an Aachen and departed 
with Raphael just like Tobias.
the liberation of the peon
(for Diego Riviera)

Frida and Diego Riviera
by Frida Kahlo
it has been eighty years since the arrival
of Diego, the crowd is immense with politics;
still intense I smell the burning of the sienna,
like the sugarcane in winter;  it is brown
on canvas; we were all frozen assets;
there are frescoes covered in tarp-concealed
chips;  a way to feel the revolution
approaching, as dark as the ochre;
it was not just the pozzuoli or the almape-
Movado; its vine black-and-cobalt blue,
paints the rhythms of the American worker;
sounds of a pneumatic drill growls;
the agrarian voice of Zapata forms;
behind the mural panels the depression;
pencils in his sketchbook peasant laborers;
with babies on their hips, it is the peon
and the peonage; the scion color mirages;
my vantage points flame the inflames;
the blame blasphemy; look around for the dead, 
see Frida in her poster bed.

See Robert Gibbons read at the Brecht Forum, 2009

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Poet Jim Lewis Encounters Andrew Wyeth "In the Evening"

Jim Lewis is a poet, musician, and nurse practitioner. His poetry and music reflect the difficulty and joy of human interactions and often draw inspiration from his decades of experience in healthcare. When he is not writing, composing, or diagnosing, he is often on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near his home in Northern California. His work has appeared in Spark! A Creative Anthology, Vol I, and will appear in anthologies by Red Dashboard and Arachne Press later this year. Says Lewis, “I love reading and my children are all avid readers, as are my grandchildren, especially the two in the photo.” The following poem was inspired by the discovery of Andrew Wyeth's "Helga" paintings.

andrew in the evening
Braids, 1979, by Andrew Wyeth

her place:
evening is hard he said
moving between this world
and the other
guarding my words
tending with such care
the fences i have built
to make this little place
in our lives
i weary of the deception
but no solutions come
conscience urges me
to give you up
pull the curtain
cover the inspiration you are
and paint my kitchen window
or the pastor's children
but then
something of me would die –
On Her Knees, 1977, by Andrew Wyeth

he paused and noticed
she was quietly arranging
her hair and her collar
smiling at the familiar monologue
knowing he would return
that she would give him
what she could give
no fear and no regret
paint what your heart sees
she said simply
i will be here

his place:
evening is hard he said
stopping to kiss her hello
and sample the stew that simmered
like his passion for beauty
i am driven to create
and some days it just doesn't work
the colors are wrong
the light in the waves
mocks me and eludes me
maybe i should paint the kitchen window
or the pastor's children –

he paused and noticed
she was quietly arranging
the plates at table
knowing he would never quit
until he got it right
she would continue to give him
all she could give
no recrimination
no looking back
paint what your heart sees
she said simply
i will be here

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poet Steve Klepetar Explores Van Gogh's Houses

Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared in such journals as Glass, Stirring, Red River 
Review, Snakeskin, Black Market Lit and many others.  Several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.  His most recent collections include Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013), My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press, 2013) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (forthcoming from Kind of a Hurricane Press). Klepetar teaches English literature at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. Read more on his website here

The White House at Night, 1890

Black Cat Women

After Van Gogh, The White House at Night, 1890

Black cat women on a village street, strolling
their great hips rolling, like they've forgotten
last night when they leaped lean on jagged fences
screeching with toms in the yellow moonlight.

Wakened to a feathery, tropical town, yellow-green
parrot hot, jasmine smelly with sun bouncing white
off red-roofed stucco walls, they meander baking
stones.  Their green eyes ache, squinting in blades

of light.  Today, squeezed tight into blue-green
bodices, ink black skirts, kerchiefs cover silky
wild hair tamed in tight coils, knot-topped on heads
swaying slightly up leering yellow stairs, lurching

the high street ablaze with spiky trees, stabbing
traps of shrub and neon-bright bush.  This life a day
light dream, nothing but glinting interlude before
sun sets, and black cats yowl in the colorless cool.

House With Blue Roof
House with Blue Roof, 1890

"Are there minds and interiors
of homes more important than
anything that has been expressed
by painting?  I am inclined to think so."
                                                   Van Gogh

Problem of color, of blue
and streaks of white like the bone
beneath. Of dark green and pale
translucent green, liquid
as the eyes of cats.

Inside, the rooms are dark and cool.
Wood and wicker chairs, the floors    
rubbed bare.  On the table, fruit

and wine, flowers, cheese and bread. 
Come, take the knife, cut yourself
a thick slice, sip the fragrant wine,
rough and new as what you drink at home.

Getting Calm
Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Remy, 1889-90

"I must not think of all that - I must
make things, even if it's only studies
of cabbages and salad, to get calm..."
                                                  Van Gogh

The vestibule arches calm and solid,
ceiling space of Romanesque vaults,
brass ponderous as quiet afternoon. 

Through open doors green day stabs
across the dried blood asylum floor,
a little rectangle of world.

This hallway is my mind, calm as arches
hunched to hold fingerprints
of sun.  Inside I count my breaths,

heavy and even, my pulse
splashing as I tally shadows,
black-stroke strong.


Madmen calm sometimes, creating quiet
spaces between wild emotions of eye,
effort seldom seen.  I must not think

of screaming faces in the Cyprus trees,
heaving lines of earth, grass and hill. 
Crows rise like black checks of misery

to the seeping ink of night sky.  Corn 
burns, a fire of gold, but I must make
myself calm, painting salad in my quiet
room, finding design in veins of lettuce
leaf, true colors at the blend
of carrot, onion, chard.


Tonight calmness will pervade
my dreams, gray rain on dark fields.
Mud sucks at my boots, blue

mountains seem to rise, like heaving
backs of earth.  I walk through wet
crops, peasant-faced, the weasel

of Saint-Remy.  I walk calmly
in the mode of love, offering what
I can: sweet young green of almond

bursting blossoms white as wedding
veils, rough-barked trunks of trees,
uneasy calm between the crows and storm.