Artist, Leslie Marcus: Karen Lewis, Ojai Arts Commissioner, writes of Marcus’ technique, “This deft brushwork, and ease and fluidity of painting, and pushing for color, is never more evident that in Marcus’ series of small female figures and portraits painted directly from life.” Marcus was awarded First Place: “Best of Show” at the Juried Group Show, Art in the Park, Ojai, California, 2004. Visit her work at Fine Art America.
(After a painting by Edward Hopper)
Pierrot and his cigarette are out of place.
Hanging from rouged lips,
the Gauloise remains forever unlit,
white and pure like the greasepaint
that masks his flesh.
He is afraid watchers think him unmanly.
His eyes burn inside red diamonds.
the ruff around his neck is stained with sweat
and street dust. His hairless skull
is painted too. He ignores his woe to drink.
A thick palette of rouge and lipstick cannot hide
his woman’s age although she thinks it does, a little.
She knows his needs; knows he likes her helpless
on her knees in the blue night. Sometimes, he pulls her
by the hair, presses her mouth against him.
He will pay her in fists pulled from pockets
of trousers he never removes.
His two companions, black beret, white epaulets,
do not wish to finish the wine and go home.
Their wives are fat, their children hungry and dirty.
The companions speak the patois of the street;
share coarse stories, and women.
Their laughter is a lie.
A fourth carafe of Chablis sits half-empty
on the table, a fifth will come.
Children laugh at this clown;
Nannies toss coins at his feet; Dogs growl and nip.
No one knows his dreams are suffused with night
— the greasepaint hides it all.
His woman waits in silence to his right.
Later, he will force her
to the hard floor, her mouth a slash of red.
This thought, perhaps, makes him grin.
She has blackened the gray from her hair,
its angular cut frames raw cheekbones.
A last pair of earrings sparkle from her lobes.
Her arms are white, thick; her breasts
heave from a green bodice.
The tilt of her chin begs an answer
a clown can never give.
JP Reese has placed creative nonfiction and a review with Connotation Press, fiction with The Smoking Poet, and poetry with Silkworms Ink, The Pinch, Forces, Used Furniture Review, and Connotation Press. She has flash fiction in Eclectic Flash. Reese is a poetry editor for this — a literary webzine. She teaches at a small college in Texas.
Sheldon Lee Compton
Coming By It Honest
Marley learned to shoot from his dad, a high marksman. Oil like tears of joy and rags handled as delicately as a dove’s wing. Banana clips and beer cans and the ring of shots, small snaps of thunder across the ridge, the only conversation.
The hand that took his, fingers curved one over the other, an easy squeeze on the trigger, was his hand, was his future, shaky already at midday.
A part of him was a part of Marley. Many parts. Blue eyes, large upper lip. Temper, anxiety. A tendency to self-medicate in the Irish tradition. Parts of him stayed on after the high marksman died, all those inherited physical traits seen by the world. And the others, hidden away.
The legacy was the shot, though. Not his thick lip or his temper. To have a marksman’s eye you started with milk jugs and moved up to soup cans and then a dozen eggs scattered on the hillside. He could leave when he hit all the eggs, eighty feet out, without a miss.
But they never left right away. They always kept drinking after practice. A pint and a six pack, sharing tosses, two to one, with the pint and then splitting the six pack. On those evenings, Marley felt connected to the high marksman by more than just blood.
Twin sets of blue eyes shining skyward in the moonlight, the anger behind them held back with drink and some common ground, sparkling then in the softness of that blue, the color of summer, of innocence. At peace then, without thunder or the darkened skies of an approaching storm. Peace, for a time.
Sheldon Lee Compton’s fiction and poetry have appeared in several journals including most recently Bluestem Magazine, Emprise Review, Pank and elsewhere. He work was also recently included in the story collection Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories from Contemporary Appalachia. He survives in Eastern Kentucky and writes and such at www.bentcountry.blogspot.com.
C E Chaffin
In a blue dream Young Werther
removed his suicidal ache
with platinum tweezers
like a splinter from his eye.
When he examined its fibers
in the harsh light
his melancholy was abated
by the discipline of science.
In a blue dream Jesus
was digitalized in mosaics
through the halls of old Byzantium
(was he really an alien?)
when astronauts were heard babbling
arcane lingo back to Houston
which alerted the suits
who named it “space sickness”
and alien contact was quickly
forgotten – Po’ Jesus.
In a blue dream
my love washed up on sand,
limp as a dispirited iris.
In venerating the blue-veined
shadows of her eyes
I recalled television light
from high apartment windows
and how we walked beneath them
on Ocean Boulevard.
How many are the drowned!
How many hung up in kelp
as in an abalone diver seized with panic,
producing more entanglement
by frenzied disentanglement –
finally the bug-eyed refusal
to open one’s mouth until
the blissful, lung-filling surrender.
There are worse ways to go than
those are pearls that were his eyes.
CE Chaffin edited The Melic Review for eight years prior to its hiatus. Widely published, he has been the featured poet in over twenty magazines. His latest work, Unexpected Light: Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008, was published by Diminuendo Press, 2009.
Pamela Johnson Parker
In Ictu Oculi
“Sorrow is my own yard.”
William Carlos Williams, “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime”
My irises are blue,
Last November when weather was balmy,
Unexpected, sabres slashed up through
A scrim of gold gingko leaves; in early
milky with cataracts; still
December the last iris unfurled
Its frills, sinuous scallops bisected
Central from ciliary—blue ink pearled
I should have seen
From your fountain pen, blue lines crisscrossing
Your atlas, blue veins traversing your wrist.
An unseasonal gift that Christmas morning:
the cyanotic nails, looked
Blossom on the white wicker tray—the vase
That held the last iris was delicate,
A milky blue. “There’ll be more,” you said, “next
closely at your hands,
Spring. We’ll have iris for years and years.” Blades
Of green slice through the earth this autumn,
Your ashes in winter’s bedded gardens.
not what they held.
(for Harvey, 1964-2010)
Pamela Johnson Parker’s works have appeared in Poets / Artists, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, OCHO, and Six Sentences. She is also the featured poet in the April 2009 Broadsided series of poetry and art. Her chapbooks are A Walk Through the Memory Palace, selected by Dinty Moore as the winner of the chapbook contest sponsored by qarrtsiluni, and Other Four-Letter Words (Finishing Line Press).
The Blues Are Running
The water churns here at the confluence of sound and sea. I walk past the fisherman and their four-wheel drives pocking the point. From a distance, they seem charcoal smudges: a log, a boat’s broken hull, a beached seal or other detritus tossed carelessly upon the shore by a rogue wave. Closer, details emerge. Rods stuck in sand, lines tight, silver filaments set to garrote the unsuspecting. Have you ever noticed how fishing lines, when taut, sing when the world spins away from the sun? The men smile at me when I peek into their white buckets filled with bluefish, silver scales reflecting sky. But when I look up into their wind-carved faces, I see you, waiting for the big one.
Daddy, the blues are running…
Cormorants squawk and dive bomb into the writhing waves. Pelicans gather, skimming low to the surface. The men reel in fast, rods and arms quivering. I sit at the dune’s base, back pack snuggled in the sand at my feet. I withdraw the box. Made of wood, I know steel lines the inside even though I haven’t opened the lid. I wait. The sun taints the fish-covered beach in blood. The men load their buckets, their trucks, and leave behind deep treads leading away.
The sun melts into the sea, shimmering like molten lava. The box feels lighter somehow. At water’s edge, salty drops kiss my cheeks. The lid comes off easily. The wind wisps the dust and instinctively I reach but it’s gone, it’s gone, you’re gone, and I reach inside, your fire-polished ash so fine in my hand, so much finer than the sand under my feet yet as timeless, and I toss the first handful into air. The wind shifts, wafts the essence of you over the surf… daddy, oh daddy… the blues are running, the blues are running, and the waves will carry you, carry you, so you will be one with them… oh daddy, you’re running with those blues…