Archives for posts with tag: paintings

Red Bandana
by Nancy Wheaton

During the month of March I lost track of the days.
Once I dreamt I was walking the desolate landscape
inside Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.”
Amid the drooping clocks, I explored the mountains with the ants.
In April and May, people were making and donating masks
from scraps of material.
Shopping became a way of acknowledging
that we are creative and kind.
A most touching scene was in Rite Aid,
where an elderly woman waited patiently,
wearing a Grateful Dead mask,
while the gentleman in front of her listened
to an explanation of the possible side effects of Viagra,
as he was a first-time user.
He wore a red bandana as a mask.

PAINTING: “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali (1931).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Wheaton lives and writes on the New England seacoast, which is now barricaded with police tape.  She walks on nearly empty streets through town, exploring new neighborhoods.  Out of stillness, she hears piano pieces being practiced and guitar solos.  She has named two chipmunks “Cheeks” and “Gordy” because they share the droppings from the feeder with the cardinals every day.


We asked the 97 contributors to the Nancy Drew Anthology (Silver Birch Press, October 2016) to send photos featuring the book in their home environments for a series we’re calling “Nancy Drew Around the World.” Author Shahé Mankerian provided this photo taken at The Getty Center in Los Angeles. Shahé contributed the poem “Dear 12-Year-Old Self,” featured below, to the 212-page anthology.

Dear 12-Year-Old Self

Ride your bicycle a lot.
Don’t pick up magazines
in the alley. Don’t call

any of the girls. Samantha
does not exist. Her phone
number belongs to Tyrone.

If you want to talk
to girls, go to the library.
The girl sitting pretzel style

in the Nancy Drew aisle
might be shy, but talk to her.
She will know more

about boys than Samantha
or Tyrone. Carry the books
she checked out to her bike.

Memorize the titles
because your job is to know
Nancy Drew. After you watch

her ride off into the sunset,
run to the checkout desk,
and apply for a library card.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While visiting the Getty Center in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help notice the painting by the French painter Jacques-Louis David. In the portrait, the Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte (Napoléon Bonaparte’s nieces) stare at the viewer blankly as if they are caught reading a secret letter. A clue. Naturally, the painting reminded me of Nancy Drew. More so, it reminded me of the Anthology cover: Nancy Drew’s shadow keeps her company as she sits hunched over a clue. The shadow acts as an extension, Nancy’s body double. Finally, look at Nancy’s stylish gray dress suit, and the depiction of the overextended shadow in obvious black. Now, look at the painting. Notice the colors of the clothing on the Bonaparte sisters? Gray and black. Coincidence?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian School in Pasadena, California, and the co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project. As an educator, he has been honored with the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award, which recognizes teachers for innovation and excellence in arts education. His most recent manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the 2013 Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press, Fall Poetry Book Award, 2013, and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines.

Find the Nancy Drew Anthology at

Stiflers at an Exhibition
by Tom McLaren

On October 8, 2011, a displaced East Coaster walked into the Goodwill in Gallup, New Mexico. Amid the strewn trash, he spotted an abstract painting, reminiscent of one in his high school English textbook next to Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California.”  He saw one which looked like a Julie Mehretu he had seen at the Carnegie International in 2004. Adrenaline rushing, he looked for more. A Jackson Pollack, Silver Over Black White Yellow and Red, One Number, 31, Lucifer, Alchemy, or Sea Change. 3 others.

A misplaced Chicagoan, blonde, 40s, vaping, a high school teacher on the rez, used these paintings as an excuse to hit on him. He offered her one. He rushed the paintings to his wife, rummaging through the women’s clothing. He wanted to buy the lot, but the price tags of $8 – $15 intimidated him. The blonde put one back. He bought all but one of the big paintings and went back that evening for the small ones. He hung them and thought the pain which seeped through the canvas might be mold.

The abstract expressionist extravaganza which is the group of paintings by Richard B. Stifler I bought that day is my prized possession. Stifler was a dabbler in the arts, a Beatnik who read On the Road one too many times, and upon his graduation from psychiatry school took up residence in Gallup, New Mexico. Even though he died two years before I came West, he haunts me. His name pops up, written inside the covers of avant-garde books I buy at Goodwill. One particular vintage Marquis De Sade paperback tome comes to mind.

When I die, donate my Stiflers to the Albuquerque Museum or for display on the walls of UNM Hospital. I lament the lost Stifler—the one I didn’t take that day.

PHOTO: A Stifler painting from the author’s collection.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’m not sure of the value of my Stiflers, but I spend a lot of time in art galleries — especially contemporary art galleries — around the world. The only thing that separates them from many prized exhibition pieces are the size, say 28″x28″ or 8″ x 14.” I’m a big fan of abstract art because the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. I have talked to physician’s assistants who have worked with Stifler, and I found an old news clipping about the birth of his first child. One physician’s assistant told me he was inspIred by Navajo blankets. To me, Stifler is the Blake in his garden of the fringeland surrounding Navajo Reservation.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom McLaren is originally from Pittsburgh, but has traveled extensively and lived for a few years in East Asia, where he was a professor of literature and oratory. He has written a few unpublished dramatic works, and his work has appeared in such publications as Word River Literary Review, Gallup Journey, Flipside, and Martial Arts Training. In addition to writing and presenting at academic conferences, his hobbies are judo, aikido, and jujutsu, EDM and Goa Psytrance, and trips to Las Vegas.

PHOTO: The author at a museum in 2010.

isadora by genthe
by Dorothy Swoope

I imagined I
was Isadora —
dancing barefoot
on a lush summer lawn,
fragrant flowers
woven through
my flowing hair —
lithe and light,
a loosened, bright

IMAGE: “Isadora,” portrait of dancer Isadora Duncan by Arnold Genthe (1926).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was inspired to write this piece through the Silver Birch Press prompt “My Imaginary Skill”  I spent hours imagining I was Isadora Duncan and would dance and swirl aimlessly in my own world around the house in winter or out on our front lawn in summer, thoroughly entranced with myself!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dorothy Swoope is an award-winning poet and long-time resident of the South Coast, New South Wales, in Australia. Her writings have been published in newspapers, anthologies, and literary magazines in Australia and the USA. A collection of poems, The touch of a word, was published in 2000. Inspiration is everywhere.

Skill in Need
by Jacalyn Carley

I imagine
working night’s whetstone, honing
somnambulant pleasures —
falling asleep.

I imagine
dropping anchor in night’s harbor,
quieting unruly passengers in the brain —
waking up eight hours later.

IMAGE: “Ladder to the Moon” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1958)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by the prompt, pure and simple, thinking it might be possible to make poetry from restless sleep, to squeeze an iota of text from the sweats and doubts, the flotsam and jetsam, of bad nights.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jacalyn Carley is a writer, teacher, and former choreographer who lives in Berlin, Germany. She is On-site Director for Sarah Lawrence College’s Summer Arts in Berlin program, and has had poems published in Borders, Silver Birch Press, Painters, and She has authored four books (all only available in German translation) and is working on a full-length collection of poems about the nude.

by Ruth Bavetta
Alice Neel, 1980, oil on canvas

Eighty you are, Alice, planted
in a blue-striped chair, more naked
than nude. In one hand you hold a brush
like a baton, as if conducting your life,
in the other, a rag for wiping out mistakes.

Your breasts, like mine, droop
over an abdomen poured like a land slump
onto plump thighs. Pizza, pregnancies,
peanut butter, whiskey, long sweet afternoons
in the studio instead of in the gym.

Turkey neck, jowls, marriage, divorce,
paint under the fingernails. I see myself
with the same downturned mouth,
the same skeptical stare and wonder
how we got our bodies through it all.

You used to say an empty chair by the window
would be your only self portrait. Save
that chair for me, Alice. I’m drawing close.
Tell me how to come ashore.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My MFA is in Painting, so ekphrastic poetry is a natural for me. I wrote this after visiting a small Alice Neel retrospective a few years ago. It appears in my book, Fugitive Pigments, which is centered on art.

PAINTING: “Self-Portrait” by Alice Neel (1980).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at home in a striped chair.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Bavetta’s poems have been published in Rhino, Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, North American Review, Spillway, Hanging Loose, Poetry East, and Poetry New Zealand, among many others, and are included in four anthologies. She has published two books, Embers on the Stairs (FutureCycle Press) and Fugitive Pigment (Moon Tide Press). Two more books, No Longer at this Address (Tebot Bach) and Flour, Water, Salt (FutureCycle Press) are forthcoming. She loves the light on November afternoons, the smell of the ocean, a warm back to curl against in bed. She hates pretense, fundamentalism, and sauerkraut.

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


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


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


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).


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.

moreelse painting1SBPpicture
I Confide in Paulus Moreelse’s “Portrait of a Young Lady” About My Divorce
by Jennifer Finstrom

At the Art Institute, I always visit Gallery 237
first, gaze at the red-haired young woman
across four centuries. She is younger than I am,
looks nothing like me, but we have formed a kinship.
The curators know few details of her life beyond
this moment, assume from the opulence
of her jewelry, the pearls and enamel, the lace
and ribbons and gems, that she was a part of the Court
of Orange-Nassau. We commune together
in silence, and I can imagine any sort of story
for her. In 2002, I wrote a poem called “Girl
in an Imaginary Painting,” and reading it now,
I am astonished at what it knew about my life.
Paintings know as much as poems, and I
continue to admire the frilled ruff, heavy brooch,
and black and red puffed sleeves: this is all armor,
something she must have one day come to know.

PAINTING: “Portrait of a Young Lady” by Paulus Moreelse (c. 1620), Art Institute of Chicago.

PHOTOGRAPH: Recent photo of the author with some of her own favorite accessories.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Over the past several years, I’ve become fascinated with the unnamed young woman in Paulus Moreelse’s “Portrait of a Young Lady.” I’ve written about her before, and I’m sure I will again. The reason for our bond is almost certainly the detailed opulence of her dress and accessories and how they seem to both hide and protect the person within.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Finstrom teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates writing groups at DePaul University. She is the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine, and recent publications include Escape Into LifeExtract(s), NEAT, and YEW Journal. For Silver Birch Press, she has work appearing in the  The Great Gatsby Anthology  and Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and forthcoming in the Alice in Wonderland Anthology. 

Micanopy Palms
by Mary Bast

Sequoias drummed a riff
across the miles
through swaying chants
of cornfields, psalms of snow,

to sea, flat cool-
white sand, jazzed
waves, the syrinx song
of oystercatchers.

Edward Hopper days:
palm trees etched
on turquoise sky, a painting
lonelier than death.

To halt the salty
appetite of blue
I think of
risqué words,

of robin’s eggs
and Bessie Smith
no one to tell
your troubles to.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For most of my adult life I swore I’d never live in Florida, picturing the hot sun, flat vistas, and sinkholes. California’s Sequoia National Forest was the rich and redolent landscape of my dreams. Then life happened, gradually taking me from the West Coast to the midwest and eventually to north central Florida. I’ve come to love the terrain and wildlife that inspired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, but wrote this poem when I first arrived, still grieving the losses that brought me here.

IMAGE: “Micanopy Palms” (Micanopy, Florida), painting by Mary Bast.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Bast writes poetry, found poetry, and creative nonfiction. Her poetry chapbook Eeek Love and two found poetry collections – Unmuzzled, Unfettered and Toward the River – are available at A Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest finalist, Mary’s work has been published in Bacopa Literary Review, Blue Monday Review, Connotation Press, right hand pointing, Shaking Like a Mountain, Six Minute Magazine, Slow Trains, The Found Poetry Review, The Writing Disorder, Pea River Journal, and Poetry WTF!? She’s also an Enneagram coach, author of seven nonfiction books, and painter of landscapes, waterscapes, and animal portraits.

by Jeff Burt

I wait silently on the promise of my son’s return.
At times I pushed too hard,
pushed him away when pulling in,
pushed him into a well when my pail
of words drowned rather than drew him out.
He was the voice at the bottom, an echo
that children hear and parents don’t.

To a Roman, waiting meant being mute
for a long time, not like the trumpet
of the voice capped for an interlude
but a horn never played, down at the side,
silent in the way a crippled man’s legs
sit in a wheelchair, or a memory
frozen by senility cannot find its way
down the tongue and off the lips.

It has been years since my voice was broken.
I wait for him to know if it has recovered. I wait.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While Lawrence Ferlinghetti [in his poem “I am waiting”] finds ways to throw in waiting for the proverbial kitchen sink, my mind is much less diminished. I can only work on a slender thing. “To A Roman” has its genesis in silencing a child by saying too much and watching him withdraw. Parents have sound bites they repeat like tics as a child grows older, seeming harmless tics, yet they help drive the child away.

IMAGE: “Silence” by Odilon Redon (1900).

Jeff Burt Photo TF

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff Burt has work published or forthcoming in Eclectica, Typehouse, Storm Cellar, Windfall, and The Cortland Review. He won the 2011 SuRaa short fiction award.