Archives for category: Looks Like Me Ekphrastic Poetry Series

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Threshold’s essence
by Vijaya Gowrisankar

As I sit on the threshold, looking outward
Into what the day brings, how nature reacts
A thousand questions rise in my mind, as dreams envelop
Eager to break free of the barriers as they seem
Restless to know what my future holds…where is my sky?

As I sit on the threshold, looking outward
The strong urge to look inside, into my current haven
The security it provides, to walk on the path defined
Live the dreams my elders have seen for me, from my birth
Should I follow their wishes or hear my inner voice?

As I sit on the threshold, looking outward
Given my shy nature, I know I will never share my thoughts
No one will be able to decipher the tides that crash
In moments when I reflect, on the course of my life
I know the answers lie deep in me, waiting to be explored

As I sit on the threshold, looking outward
The pigeons who sit trustingly, within my reach
Calm my edgy mind, show they are content for now
As they munch the grains and enjoy their moments of peace
Also show, they will fly away, when the time comes, to their own sky…

PAINTING by Ilaiyaraaja.

PHOTO: The author.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was an introspective child, always trying to know what my future held. Thinking about how I would reach my dreams. This portrait fits me perfectly, in one of these moods. Surprisingly, I see myself in this portrait.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vijaya Gowrisankar released her first book of poems Inspire in 2014. The book features more than 100 poems on topics such as Nature, Life, Positivity, and Change. She is passionate about writing poems from childhood. Her poems have appeared in various publications.

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A Great Passive Thrust of Creativity (Dream Poem #8)
by Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike

Someone once told me that I look exactly like
Saskia von Ulenbarch. She lived in the 1600s
Rembrandt married and painted her despite snubs
From her family; a sordid tale of money and lust

Few understand as the years advance how it is
Our species relies less upon written and spoken
Language. We must learn to be somehow more
Responsible about what we say, and to whom

Why do we drive the long way around to get home?
I argue with a director over singing with a non-singer
In the catacombs we struggle to meet dreadful quotas
We snap and snarl. Upstairs we make angelic theatre

I go through a daily cycle of work then throw myself
At last, exhausted, in even greater abandon, onstage
Following a visit from a dead friend in a blue sweater
I get deserted in the Bronx at an institutional hotel

There are mirrors in the bathroom stalls; doors don’t close
I’m given a dungeon-like room with a spongy mattress
’40s decor, dusty, tatty, sweet. I unwind on the Hudson
Visit a penthouse with my therapist to see his panorama

Back home in Manhattan, cockroaches besiege my apartment
My sub-letter fills my kitchen with an inch-deep coat of water
The floor becomes an electrified grid; roaches the size of rats
And rats as big as dogs sizzle, scream and die. Silence.

I strain to maintain balance while yearning to be subsumed
Forbidden spoons watch casually from an adjacent room
I swim sideways through a sewer in a death and life struggle
Emerge with a sense of things being—well, not so bad

Gazing through plate-glass windows overlooking a luculent
Forest, I see a homicidal killer posing as a plainclothes cop
His lovemaking bears an uncanny likeness to grooming
Water rituals set me afloat without maritime coordinates

I climb a mountain to seek relief; wind induces astral travel
In the stratosphere, people decide to don their parachutes
In dichromatic grief they wail over the great Julian Beck,
Dressed in a modest burial suit. He holds a single blue rose

A ripe friend in an old age home flirts brazenly with
A buxom nurse. He promises to pay for my pandemic
Dental work. Why has he taken such a prurient interest in
My mouth? He likes what I say and wants to keep it clean

A little girl in an oxygen tent, incontinent, soiled but clad
Richly, apologizes as we lower her fever to clean her up
Who is this child? She looks like Saskia von Ulenbarch
Dead at age 29, manipulating Rembrandt from her grave

I look at the child-Saskia closely. She does look like me
My guides tell me I am being squeezed back into my body
Before I’ve quite returned, I dream of an erstwhile lover
Standing in the doorway laughing, seductive, confident

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike is a writer, actor, singer, director, activist, and caregiver. Joanie’s writing appears in At the Edge, clockwise.wordpress.com, Daily Jewish Forward, Dissident Voice, International Worker, Maintenant, NYArts, Silver Birch Summer Anthology, The Great Gatsby Anthology, IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, and Womannews. Her most recent play, RelationShifts, was read at Dixon Place and TheaterLab in New York City. Her poetry collection, An Alphabet of Love, is to be published by Barncott Press (London). Joanie is a veteran member of the legendary Living Theater, actor/director with the dada/surrealist theater company DADAnewyork, and co-founder/co-director of Action Racket Theatre. She lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Manchester, New Jersey.

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That’s Me (By the Sea):
Self-Portrait after Chantal Joffe
by Kerfe Roig
That’s my shirt: my beach,
my youth, my uncertainty:
which path leads home?

PAINTING (left): “Vita by the Sea” by Chantal Joffe (2014).

PAINTING (right): Self-portrait by Kerfe Roig inspired by Chantal Joffe’s painting cited above.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After seeing the paintings of Chantal Joffe at The Jewish Museum in New York City, I decided to investigate her work in more depth. The portraits really resonated, and I chose Joffe as the first artist in my “100 Self Portraits” project.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kerfe Roig is currently working on 100 self-portraits inspired by the work of other artists. You can follow the journey on the blog she does with her friend Nina here.

Knoblockvirginals
Young Woman Seated (at the Virginals)
by Jennifer G. Knoblock

Daily I dress and sit, touch these keys,
nimble fingers bent to practice a song,
pray music could come from this desire

to sing out strong. What more could I desire
than to sit corseted, cosseted, pressing keys,
waiting for the world to praise my song?

Beneath silken shell a heart beats in song
while I grow old in daily habit, desire
mounting—to shatter this case and its keys.

(Why do I sit at these keys, bursting with song of desire?)

PAINTING: “A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals,” Attributed to Johannes Vermeer, c. 1670.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author practicing at the keyboard in her Illinois home, 2001.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This sedate-looking painting stirred up many thoughts—about the loneliness of practice, the societal value of a young woman’s “accomplishments” (historically and now), the need to express and share our words/songs, the struggle to make the words come out right and the frustration when reality doesn’t live up to expectation. The formality of the painting and the repetition of key words in my free-writing first draft pushed me toward the tritina form.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Knoblock writes, reads, sings, gardens, and tries to take care of her family. She has published two nonfiction books and one YA novel. Some of her poems have recently been set to music by composer Clayton J. Horath. She shares her poetry at www.gracefulpress.wordpress.com.

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Our last date
by Mercedes Webb-Pullman

I waited hours that day. They passed so slow
until the waiter started stacking chairs
like worn-out hopes. I knew you wouldn’t show.

The people on the street all strolled in pairs
with fingers linked and secrets in their eyes.
I sat alone among them. No one cares.

Alone I listen to the street’s night cries,
the city sounds. Which car, which bus, which train
has taken you, and why no last goodbyes?

Will I recall your touch without this pain,
or understand just why you had to go?
It hurts to learn how love lives on in vain.

I waited hours that day. They passed so slow
like worn-out hopes. I knew you wouldn’t show.

PAINTING: “The Automat” (detail) by Edward Hopper (1927).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author, waiting.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: That was me, the day he stood me up. I waited too long, not wanting to face the truth, even though I knew he wasn’t coming, feeling totally alone in the city. When I first saw this painting I recognized that huge dark emptiness.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 Mercedes Webb-Pullman graduated from IIML Victoria University Wellington with MA in Creative Writing in 2011. Her poems and the odd short story have appeared online and in print, in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, poetryrepairs, Connotations, The Red Room, Silver Birch Press, Otoliths, among others, and in her books. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. Visit her at benchpress.co.nz.

amedeo-modigliani-hanka-zborowska-im-hintergrund-ein-kerzenstander-1919doppelganger
Doppelganger
by Jennifer Lagier

She tilts her head,
gazes through invisible frame,
candlestick visible above one shoulder,
just a hint of brass bed.

Her mouth gives nothing away.
Flat, parted hair, strong jaw,
long nose, narrow lips,
my doppelganger twin.

The fickle mirror reflects
my squinty, off-kilter eyes,
Modigliani neck, now wrinkled,
the same elongated face.

A forceful woman who
impatiently ploughs through obstacles,
pursues what moves her,
time on earth running out.

I determinedly wade into battle,
lead with my chin,
know death is coming,
won’t give an inch.

PAINTING: “Hanka Zborowska with a Candlestick” by Amedeo Modigliani (1919).

PHOTO: Selfie by the author.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Amedeo Modigliani’s portraits of women bear a strong resemblance to my own facial characteristics as enumerated in my poem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published ten books of poetry and internationally in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. Her latest book, Where We Grew Up, was just issued by FutureCycle Press. She taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review, maintains web sites for Homestead Review, Monterey Poetry Review, Ping Pong Literary Journal, misfit magazine and helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Website: jlagier.net.

Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell del Caso (1874)Paul Fericano at nine years old in SF (circa 1960)
Escaping Criticism
by Paul Fericano

1.

The strange picture of the startled boy
Stepping out of the frame and fleeing the scene

Is torn from a book and thumb-tacked to the wall
Above the bathroom sink next to the mirror

This is you my father says buckling his belt
A warning shot aimed at his second son

The little monkey in a disappearing act
Who climbs out second-story bathroom windows

Shimmies up drainpipes and sits alone on rooftops
Late at night to escape the rage of lovers

Screaming and throwing ashtrays and souvenirs
Against the walls that always talk back

2.

I brush my teeth I comb my hair I stare
At this other me this nexus boy

This doppelganger kid who leaps and bounds
From his world into mine

Unaware perhaps like me of what there is
To see or be on this or any other side

Where fathers say our names and sound
The way all fathers do when they dream

3.

One night I surprise us both
I sneak back in through the window

Like a tiny thief caught in the act
And there he sits on the toilet reading Popular

Mechanics his face so startled by my entrance
That I see the wound of his disappointment

The locked bathroom holds me now
There is nowhere to go but into his line of fire

I take the brown leather blows like daily penance
With time enough to flee again tomorrow

On the other side of all this noise and deception
My mother bangs on the door with small fists

PAINTING: “Escaping Criticism” by Pere Borrell del Caso (1874).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at nine years old in San Francisco (circa 1960).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Paul Fericano
’s poetry and prose have appeared since 1970 in such diverse outlets as The Wormwood Review, Second Coming, Jean’s Journal, Saturday Night Live, Vagabond, The Mas Tequila Review, Mother Jones, Poetry Now, Wine Rings, The Café Review, Paul Krassner’s The Realist, and Krokodil (Moscow), Punch (London) and Charlie Hebdo (Paris). In 1983 his work was honored with both the Ambrose Bierce Prize (San Francisco) and the Prix de Voltaire (Paris) for upholding the traditions of socio-political satire. His latest collection of poems, The Hollywood Catechism (Silver Birch Press, 2015), was nominated for a National Book Award.

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Thymian2
Antagonist
by Jari Thymian

Can you believe –
          that clever witch called
          me a hussy and a charlatan?

Under my turban
          and Victorian dress
          a shy seventeen-year old,

a bookworm who’d never
          thrown my voice from any stage
          up to the high school balcony.

Before opening night, I didn’t know
          how intoxicating to spin drunk,
          to soothsay, to swallow the drug

of hatching heinous schemes to applause.
          The silly romance I tried to foil
          ended in a kiss and a curtain call.

Now, I am trapped on a white page
          void of script by the real witch
          whose lead role hex

lets me command only your brief gaze.

PAINTING: “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” by Karl Bryullov (1830).

PHOTO: The author in 2015 wearing a turban. Photo by Greg Fischer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I found this painting of woman with a turban, I instantly felt the weight of the turban I wore for the senior class play in high school over 40 years ago. Being on stage with an audience was a rush I’d never experienced before. I had so much fun being someone else totally different — loud, brash, drunk, and dastardly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jari Thymian’s poetry has appeared in both print and online publications including tinywords, FRiGG, Skylark, Cattails, KYSO Flash, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Bamboo Hut. She has poems anthologized in the Stories of Music from Timbre Press and in 2015 Haiku from Modern Haiku.

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Letting Go
by Michele Hyatt-Blankman

I was different from the start.
My head was too big.
She’ll never live, mom was told.
I did.
She’ll never walk or talk, mom was told.
I did.
But I wore my pain.
They called me pumpkin head.
They called me an alien,
like the ones you see in old movies.
They tapped me on my head in class.
No one saw. No one believed me.
No one will want me, I thought.
But someone did.
My husband, My soulmate.
He didn’t care, he said.
But I carried the pain.
I was told I’d have no children.
But I did. Two healthy sons.
But I carried the pain.
The pain of a pumpkin head.

And then I saw myself.
In a simple, sweet painting
at the MoMA.
I didn’t laugh at her.
I didn’t judge her.
I didn’t touch her head.
And surrounding me were people.
Including children.
They weren’t laughing. Or pointing.
They asked their parents about her.
They smiled at her beauty.

And I did, too.

IMAGE: The author at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City during 2013.  She is standing in front of the painting “Untitled” by Japanese artist Yoshitoma Nara (2000).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 1953, I was born with hydrocephalus. I was shunted when I was three. All my life I have had an enlarged head, but much more disproportionate to my body when I was young. As a result, throughout school I was mercilessly bullied and teased. A couple of years ago, my husband and I visited my son in New York City, where he works for Houghton-Mifflin. We went with him to the MoMA, where he called my attention to a big portrait, “Untitled,” by Yoshitomo Nara. We laughed and I posed in front of it. I felt at that moment I had gone full-circle…some 59 years later. This poem is based on the moment of seeing the portrait of a life I have since outgrown.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele Hyatt-Blankman began writing stories and poetry from a very early age, beginning a lifelong interest in both. She expanded her interests to journalism at Marshall University, where she was a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Following years in public relations and copy editing, she now spends time at home with her husband Jon, a retired school teacher, trying to keep  her four cats out of trouble. She is also a proud mom of two sons — Richard, 31, and Joshua, 29, who live in  New York and Texas, respectively.

mona lisaMona Lisa_Jeannie E Roberts_2015
Mona Lisa
by Jeannie E. Roberts

sometimes she sits like Mona
practiced in her pose―
quietly
abiding

with arms
in gentle fold
slight smile
as silent welcome

a pleasant
postured air
calmly
dispassionate

decorum
in a chair
she’s availed herself
an image

set in prim repose
modified
homogenized
not recognized―

who knows where love
may lead you
down open roads
or halls

where landscapes change
and rearrange
like paintings hung
on walls―

who knows why
old ways flourish
why rebirth touches few
where veils hang

in closed refrain
in lieu of larger views―
she sits like Mona Lisa
practiced in her pose
quietly
abiding
when biased eyes
behold

PAINTING: “La Gioconda,” aka Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci (early 1500s), Musée du Louvre, Paris.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author posing like the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Bruce Pecor.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem considers the marginalized human being and demonstrates how the need for acceptance can result in adaptive behaviors and conformity. The minimization of humans based upon race, beliefs, gender, appearance, education, and other factors is an age-old issue. Even today, especially in smaller communities, backlash and shunning is evident for the outspoken person, the person perceived as being different, or the individual considered a threat to the standards of the norm.¶ The “Mona Lisa” was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance period. This cultural movement influenced European intellectual life; it impacted art, music, science, politics, religion, literature, and philosophy. Humanism played an important role during this early modern period; it encompassed an intellectual, philosophical, and ethical stance, embracing the progress and the value of all human beings and their individual and collective human freedoms.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring rural setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Her second book of poetry, Beyond Bulrush, a full-length collection, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press in 2015. She is also the author of Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book. She draws, paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Learn more about Jeannie at www.jrcreative.biz.