Friday, March 20, 2015

Warren Meredith Harris Meets Marc Chagall in "The Soul of the City"

Warren Meredith Harris’ collection, The Night Ballerina: A Poem Sequence in Seven Parts, was published by BrickHouse Books in 2012. His poems appear in The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Pembroke Magazine, The Main Street Rag, Ekphrasis, The Penwood Review (UK), The Anglican Theological Review, The Jewish Literary Journal, The Howl, Edgz, Poem, Big River Poetry Review, freefall, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Flaming Arrows  (Ireland), and others. He has held three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, served as editor of a literary magazine, and written verse plays and adaptations, some of which have been performed in Chicago, Virginia, and New York City, including a broadcast on New York City public radio.

Night Life
Marc Chagall, The Cowshed, 1917

A steer's head, 
gigantic, crescent-eyed,
projects through the roof
of a slaughter shed
into the black and heavy blues
of the star-speckled night.

Red spatters an injured horn,
flecks a corner of the eye,
stains the window lintels.

A deep bovine bellow
softens into words:

"I see the butchers
wiping their knives on the grass,
the boy with curly hair who whispers
he will not taste of me—
though I know he will!
I see thousands of the Tsar's boys
beneath the soil,
the Tsar's troops, Russians and Jews,
in shallow pits.
"The butchers are praying
for an end of it there,
by the banks of the Stypa,
that our village be spared. 
They have smeared my blood
on the window frames,
and already the death angel
has passed by!

"The night is alive. 
I see through the darkness
swimmers in the starry river
and drifters on rafts
between the banks
of deep turquoise hedgerows.

"I see hidden
beneath the distant roofs
some who are whispering
over the remnants of their supper
as the little ones sleep,
some laughing
between swills of vodka,
or studying Torah,
or weeping over the Passion,
some praying,
or washing, or sleeping,
or making music or love.

"All is well.  Enjoy this night
and savor the thought of tomorrow,
when I will be for you
the aromatic feast
from the roasting pot."
Marc Chagall, The Soul of the City, 1945

Two Women

White spirit, swirl down
as trailing gown, breasts,
and hair-dark inward eyes.
Disembodied face, breathe on me
breath of the faded synagogue,
the dark, snowy street,
and a dream blue horse and driver.

Umber-haired lover,
press to your warmth
a willing cockerel, so that I,
a lost Janus, can again take brush
and make a Jew crossed,
forsaken until he gazes
on the temple's fiery curtain.


Celebration?  Too soon and hard in the large room with dull orange walls.  At a corner stand bearded men, and one of them signing to skeletal faces outside a window with his index finger up—it's a boy!
Marc Chagall, Birth, 1910
At an inside doorway other men's heads line up like scrolls on temple shelves.  Crimson curtains, deep, dark folds, hide from their male eyes the blotchy-faced,  exhausted mother, still naked and bloody.  An erect midwife displays the son, while a figure — the father — peeks from darkness at the foot of the bed, pulls himself off the floor, and speaks:

"Ah!  What sounds!  What sights!  Maybe a soldier gets used to such things, not ordinary men.  I don't expect Eden.  But this!  Why, Lord?  Birth as scary as death?

"I'd like to have a word or two with Adam.  Such a schmuck!  To throw away the Garden for a woman!  Except for him, I could be right now in the synagogue by golden lamplight studying Torah in peace, making my point to Ezra and Moyshe (the blockheads), while back at home, my new son would be arriving as easy as a loaf of bread from out of the oven — no need for all this sweating and screaming and bleeding — and maybe dying.
"Did I cause this?  I only followed your words, Lord.  I found the joints of her thighs—jewels indeed.  And I got me to the mountain of myrrh.... 

"Ah!  So I'm a schmuck, too!  Now I know what the old men mean when they say, 'A man studies until he is seventy, and dies a fool.'  So be it.  But if I could, I would spend the rest of my days only swimming in the sea of Talmud!" 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Steve Klepetar Plants "Four Trees" with Egon Schiele

Steve Klepetar's work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, including three in 2014. His most recent collection is an e-chapbook, Return of the Bride of Frankenstein, from Kind of a Hurricane Press. Klepetar teaches English literature at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. Read more on his website here.

Mahana No Atua
(Day of the Gods)
by Paul Gauguin, 1894
Mahana No Atua by Paul Gauguin, 1894

the day of the god, she
lowers her feet into terrible

waters, bleeds her
stream, red silk over sand

pink as melon flesh, war
as her sun-stained

head tilted, hair disappearing
in black swoops beyond

her shoulders
and back
to broken rainbow

haunting water's surface,
playing deep

of her eyes, mysterious
as dreams of sleeping children

curled up
into themselves,
naked at her naked side.

The Artist Marcella, 1910
by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner    

The Artist Marcella

broods on
a blue chaise longue
in yellow and blue striped dress
ignoring the fat white
cat curled

on her pale knees. And now she's
angles in blue with tea things
on a silver tray, shaft of cigarette plugged

in scarlet lips. See

Erna with Cigarette, 1915
by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner  
her hands, so strangely
bent, one stroking the other, to soothe
or perhaps
keep time with a drumbeat

that syncopates her mind as she glances
away from
her worried guest. Flocks
of starlings float before her eyes, little

of some nostalgia she has flung
into the street where a naked woman
across a horse gouging circles with its bright red mane.

Four Trees
After the painting by Egon Schiele, 1917

Four oaks on a mountain plain,
three with
crowns of orange gold
Four Trees by Egon Schiele, 1917
as sun sinks toward a jagged peak.
One is nearly bare,
its few leaves
clinging, rags on emaciated limbs.
Striations of sky appear
gaps, thick bands of white, gray,
and brown, with few traces
blazing red, a hectic color in this
slowly fading light. No grass,
these great, deep rooted things
which grip this hard, high
waiting in windless air for night
to rise just beyond the dying

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Poet David P. Miller on Paintings by Van Dyck and Rembrandt

David P. Miller’s chapbook The Afterimages was published in 2014 by Červená Barva Press. His poems have appeared in print in Meat for TeaStone Soup Presents Fresh Broth, Ibbetson Street, Stone’s Throw, and the 2014 Bagel Bards Anthology, and online in Muddy River Poetry ReviewWilderness House Literary ReviewOddball Magazine, and the Boston and Beyond Poetry Blog.  His “micro-chapbooks” are available from the Origami Poems Project website. Miller is a librarian at Curry College in Milton, Mass.

Van Dyck’s First Saint Jerome

An elderly workingman models the saint.
Old man, though his hair as it scraggles
from the part at his crown has much black.
His beard grays drooping in two
points toward his bare chest.
Aging, this guilder-shy citizen:
Saint Jerome with the arms of a stonecutter.
Van Dyck, Saint Jerome1618 - 1620

The saint’s nakedness is shielded by drapery,
crimson, that drifts from his right thigh
across the left knee, and pauses,
unsupported in air before circling
his lower back. If he stands it will drop
to the ground at the feet of the model.
His leathered torso abject.

Saint Jerome spreads open a scroll
on which nothing is written. Looks down
at this empty strip, ignores us
who face his toughened, dignified frame
with bare hints of fold or sag.

His lion sleeps at his right, pussycat
face curled into its paws.
Pale lemon dawn behind
mountains, deep distant beyond
the grove where the saint wrinkles his forehead.
The unwritten poised on his lap.

And the cherub. Plump, smooth-bodied,
of course, but spared the superfluous fat
of those tedious babies with wings. Its look
imperturbed, absolved of routine
goggle-eyed adoration. Blessed
instead with a mind. One hand rests
quietly on the stonecutter’s shoulder. A quill
in the other. Its brown eyes focus
intention toward us. It watches us stare
at this near nude, forgotten old man,
suspended in thought before writing
as his angel awaits with the pen.
Rembrandt: The artist in His Studio

Rembrandt, The Artist in His Studio, 1628
Pale daffodil light swathes
this canvas the height
of a man. Afternoon settles
across the painter’s work.
Dark dorsal side of stretcher,
roughened wood-stock easel
all Rembrandt gives us to see.
The artist in floppy black hat,
cobalt robe, grasping mahl stick
and brush, retreated upstage,
his back at the shadowed wall.

In a setting of bare whitewashed
cracked plaster walls,
wide floor- and door-boards,
a painting turned with its back to us
is irradiated. The painter,
Rembrandt’s approximate double,
posed to resemble a painter,
turns black dot eyes,
featureless features,
on this luminous thing in his studio.

We see no afternoon window.
The artist is dressed for the act
but holds no palette. Rembrandt has dwarfed
this little painter, withdrawn
with youthful dough-face
into the shadows, away
from the tripedal creature
of canvas and wood, of itself
blazing the studio. Perhaps
it is blank. All in
potential. Uncreated,

Monday, February 2, 2015

Satch Dobrey Presents the Stuff of Dreams

Satch Dobrey earned a BA in English from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and an MA in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis. His poetry appears in the September 2012 and the March 2014 issues of Bluestem, the literary quarterly of Eastern Illinois University, and the spring 2014 edition of Rampike (Ontario, Canada), and is forthcoming in Glossolopolis (Seattle). His fiction is forthcoming in Tribe magazine (Plymouth, England). Dobrey works as a librarian and resides with his wife in Southern Illinois on the bluffs of the Mississippi River.

Joseph Cornell, Toward the Blue 
Peninsula (For Emily Dickinson), 1953

Stuff of Dreams
A retrospective in dusky collage     
at the Peabody Essex Museum,
shadows sunk twixt noon and midnight mirage,

reviewers cry romance ad nauseam.
So, had Emily a romantic boat,
her Blue Peninsula’s carpe diem?

Would those far away dreams remain afloat,
recessed in blue behind a whitewashed grate?
There is nobody home to cast a vote,

for this invalid box stares straight
at the visitor peering to the void
as the artist looks for his poet mate.

She flew away to an idea place,
her perch a shrine without a lonely face.

The Cane Men

The Cane Men dance
surrounded by grooves,
arms and canes as figure trance,
pivoting on submerged feet,
they swivel between dark and light,
keeping the beat with their cane arms
Cane Dance. Mixed Media on Paper
© Dennis Ringering
aloft, afloat, in air, water, stage left,
in concert, legs akimbo about to circle
to the other side, these rock characters
feint and glide.

Cane Men dance swing
arm in arm, jubilant in their age,
the motion picture of their time.
Spirit encased in rock engaged,
celebratory throwing of canes,
to the soaring songs of birds held
on the wind ledge of the valley.
For all to see, for all to hear,
the harvest dance of light,
skip and glee.

The old men with canes
in their arms rotate front to back,
holding high a perched bird, balanced
on the stick with wings as folded hands,
eyes matching the floating clouds
reflected in the Great River above,
twirling as they high step, two step,
three step to the drums from the cities
of the plain, birdmen who talk in symbols
dance with canes.

Shaman with a cane wand
moves through rock as water
through the valley of thunder.
Dancing for the rain clouds to step 
out of the everlasting dream,
to reveal the source of joy in nature,
the spring of the naked river flowing
past Lookout Point. The spirits tell us
to make waves of passing, carve in rock,
sing and dance.

Pandzoavits. Mixed Media on Paper
© Dennis Ringering
Strong Medicine

Sky People peck
into electric rock, tapping
their flight from the inside out,
as the winter wind cools their spirit
lines on the stone sand of Beartooth Mountain.
Tuku Dika, the Sheep-Eater,
faces the sun before submerging
into the hot springs of Wind River,
crushing the red cast of iron ore
in cedar smut.

Ground People growl
as a grimace appears face down,
echoes along the tree line,
before the image is ground up
by the grizzly spectrum inside the rock.
To cure his people, catch invisible
arrows, the Shoshone shaman
rises from the cedar smoke,
journeys to the House of Power, waits,
cloaked in blankets.

Water people lure
their victims into the lake
with large ghost hands, moving between
rattlesnake worlds of lost souls, leaving
their bite marks on strangely shaped rocks at night.
Clear mind, bowels, this Rorschach trance
welcomes the nynymbi to lead through
an impassable crack in the stone,
to confront the pandzoavits’
demon tempest.

Little people teach
manners below the vous-soir,
ripples that spawn from hypnotic
prayer, where the vault of knowledge
is wedged between animal and human.
Phantasm shape shifters, terror
visions, alone, wolf-dog and man
gain wisdom and power to make
their bodies dense as stone,
minds prismatic.