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