Archives for posts with tag: Reflections

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SELF-PORTRAIT AT TEN
by Roxane Beth Johnson

A boarded-up house. Ransacked inside — broken glass and toppled tables, chairs overturned, books shaken for hidden money.

There are mouths in dreams full of gold teeth, chewing bread and meat. The body is hollow as flame and will burn down anything if pointed straight.

A bird flies in through the door, then flutters at the window. Although he is tiny, I am too afraid to help him escape.

I’ve made myself another house. I hum to fill its empty rooms. I fold in like saloon doors closing, then swinging out, keeping out thieves.

SOURCE: “Self-Portrait at Ten” appears in Roxane Beth Johnson‘s collection Jubilee (Anhinga Press, 2006), available at Amazon.com.

IMAGE: “Girl in a Large Hat” by Mary Cassatt (1908).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roxane Beth Johnson earned an MFA from San Francisco State University. She is the author of Jubilee (2006), chosen by Philip Levine for the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry from Anhinga Press, and Black Crow Dress (2013). Of African American and Italian heritage, Johnson has said that her early literary influences were the Bible and church hymns; later influences include the poets Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, and Rainer Maria Rilke. Johnson has won an AWP Prize in Poetry and a Pushcart Prize, 2007. She has received scholarships/fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Cave Canem, The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and San Francisco Arts Commission. Johnson’s work has appeared in the Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Image, Callaloo, Beloit Poetry Journal, ZYZZYVA, Chelsea, and elsewhere.

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SELF-PORTRAIT AT 38
by Jennifer Tonge

Hair still Titian,
but Botticelli’s grip has loosened—

not now Rubenesque,
and probably never;

Ingres approaches,
but Courbet might capture me.

Could I be surreal?
It seems almost likely—

bells in my ears
and fortresses under;

cones have been set on my eyes.
My spring is gone

and summer’s upon me,
rude in its ripening.

I’m espaliered, strung wide and tied,
pinioned, and thus can I fly.

SOURCE: Poetry (May 2005).

IMAGE: “Jo, the Beautiful Irish Girl” by Gustave Courbet (1866).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jennifer Tonge received an MFA from the University of Utah. Tonge’s poetry has been anthologized in Rising Phoenix (2004) and Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English (2000). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Quarterly West, Poetry, Ploughshares, New England Review, and Bellingham Review. The recipient of fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ucross Foundation, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Tonge has taught creative writing at the universities of Utah, Wisconsin, and Texas as well as at Butler University. She has served as poetry editor of Quarterly West, as president of Writers@Work, on the board of City Art, and as associate editor at Dawn Marano and Associates.

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SELF-PORTRAIT
by Adam Zagajewski

Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
with strangers about matters strange to me.
I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.
The fourth has no name.
I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand
the great philosophers–but usually catch just
scraps of their precious thoughts.
I like to take long walks on Paris streets
and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy,
anger, desire; to trace a silver coin
passing from hand to hand as it slowly
loses its round shape (the emperor’s profile is erased).
Beside me trees expressing nothing
but a green, indifferent perfection.
Black birds pace the fields,
waiting patiently like Spanish widows.
I’m no longer young, but someone else is always older.
I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,
and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses
dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.
Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me
and irony suddenly vanishes.
I love gazing at my wife’s face.
Every Sunday I call my father.
Every other week I meet with friends,
thus proving my fidelity.
My country freed itself from one evil. I wish
another liberation would follow.
Could I help in this? I don’t know.
I’m truly not a child of the ocean,
as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,
but a child of air, mint and cello
and not all the ways of the high world
cross paths with the life that–so far–
belongs to me.

MORE: Listen to poet Adam Zagajewski read “Self-Portrait” at youtube.com.

IMAGE: “Reflection (Self-Portrait)” by Lucian Freud (1985).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adam Zagajewski was born in Poland, in 1945, moved to France in 1982, and has taught at universities in the United States, including the University of Houston and the University of Chicago. Zagajewski was considered one of the “Generation of ’68” or “New Wave” writers in Poland — his early work was protest poetry, though he moved away from that emphasis in his later work. His books include the poetry collections Tremor (1985), Canvas (1991), Mysticism for Beginners (1997), and World Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002), and the prose collections Two Cities: On Exile, History and the Imagination (1995) and the 2000 memoir Another Beauty. Zagajewski has won the Prix de la Liberté as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Berliner Kunstleprogramm.

Author photo by Ekko von Schwichow, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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MONET REFUSES THE OPERATION
by Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

SOURCE: “Monet Refuses the Operation” appears in Lisel Mueller’s collection Second Language (Louisiana State University Press, 1996).

IMAGE: Self-Portrait by Claude Monet (1917).

NOTE: French Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) developed the first signs of cataracts in 1914, but waited nine years before undergoing surgery for the condition. Some art critics believe that Monet painted his greatest work while suffering from cataracts, because his obscured vision caused him to see in new ways — a phenomenon that Lisel Mueller explores in her poem “Monet Refuses the Operation.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1924 and immigrated to the U.S. at age 15. She graduated from the University of Evansville (Indiana) in 1944 and has taught at the University of Chicago, Elmhurst College in Illinois, and Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. Mueller currently resides in a retirement community in Chicago.

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GAUGUIN AND BONNARD
by Judy Longley

There is a formula which fits painting perfectly:
many little lies to create a great truth. BONNARD

The first lie that you’re dying, here
where a goddess holds up the sky,
where a young she-goat extends a hot pink tongue,
tastes mango juice dribbling from your chin,
slanted eyes neutral as the dark-skinned woman’s
who shoos her away, wipes your face with a napkin.
The second that this violent chrome-yellow sand
reflects the sun, absorbs the dark repose
of other women, waiting, their gaze constant
as the ocean lapping its way toward France,
the family you left, your goat-eyed daughter,
Bonnard at his easel.

In his garden, Bonnard paints Marthe, his wife,
her body supple, self-absorbed
as the cats weaving between his legs.
Unable to believe he finds mystery
in that bourgeous life you hated, you assume
a familiar guise, place split hoof
on terrace step, one visible leg
curved, graceful below the cantilevered
hip, Bonnard’s face quizzical, cocked
toward your goatish grin
as though one of his animals, half-turned man,
astonished him with speech.

Questions you imposed on a Tahitian paradise,
on the women you wanted to worship,
Bonnard answers with the clear ardor of wine,
the expected loaf complacent as a cat
on a pink-striped cloth. Finally
that below this lawn a river
sweeps this moment away, cattle
grazing on the other bank, while Marthe,
rising from green that threatens to engulf her,
pale skin framed and shaded by palms,
crooks one arm toward you, in her hand a peach.

SOURCE: Poetry (July 1990).

IMAGE (left): “Self-Portrait with the Idol” by Paul Gauguin (1893).

IMAGE (right): Self-Portrait by Pierre Bonnard (1889).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Longley  has published four books of poetry, including A Woman Divided: Poems Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe (2007). Her poems have appeared many publications, including Poetry, Paris Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. She served as poetry editor for Iris: A Journal About Women (University of Virginia) and Tough Times Companion (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities). She lives in Virginia.

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NEW DAY
by Jocelyn Mosman

The clock strikes midnight;
sunrise marks a new day:
a new attempt to make the world right,
another morning to waste away.

The clock strikes noon;
the sun reaches its lofty climax:
aged wisdom approaches too soon,
another afternoon heat does tax.

The clock strikes nine;
the sun sets on hazy skies:
age wrinkles the face of time,
guilt jabs with angry lies.

The clock strikes midnight, I confessed,
as two days, old and new, are laid to rest.

IMAGE: “Japanese Bridge and Water Lillies” by Claude Monet (1899). Clock available at zazzle.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jocelyn Mosman is a student at Mount Holyoke College, majoring in English and Politics. She is an active member of the Northampton Poetry group, the Poetry Society of Texas, and the founder of the West Texas Poets. She has been published in various anthologies and magazines, including Drunk Monkeys, Decanto, and Cum Laude Weekly. She has also published her own poetry book, Soul Music, and her second book, Soul Painting, arrived on July 1, 2014.

Author photo by Nadine’s Photography.

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THE BRIDGE
By Jacque Stukowski

Spanning across the great divide is a bridge that joins you and me

The sign says, “Bridge Out—No Trespassing” but I take the risk anyway

Over loose beams and broken tressels, cautiously rebuilding as I go

The further I am from the safety of my own shoreline,
the more my heart beats

Looking down through broken wood the dark rushing water below,
I can taste the fear so palpable in my mouth I just want to turn back

But I know I must continue my work, using great caution as I patch up these
broken beams

There’s risk if I turn back or move on but I choose to keep bending the nails
and mending the splintered boards of our love

As I finally reach the middle of our bridge
I look up from bended knee and there you are staring back at me

With hammer in hand and on shaky knees I can see,
you that you’ve rebuilt your side and come to join with me

So we join together, there in the middle of our bridge once so broken neither one could cross over

Together with renewed hope, we stand there in the silence

Reveling in each other new effort to do the hard work and repair
Knowing now and forevermore, that our bridge needs constant and frequent care

But it takes us both,
Meeting here in the middle or it will undoubtedly crumble and fall

So we walk hand in hand, crossing over to the other side

Reunited once again, crossing that chasm that was once so deep and wide

IMAGE: “The Bridge,” photograph by Jacque Stukowski

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jacque Stukowski‘s blog God[isms] is her personal space to vent and share stories of growth through life’s ups and downs living with BP and ADHD. It’s a place where her writing and photos collide with spirituality, a dash of 12 steps, and a sprinkle of the daily trials of being a Christian wife, mother of two boys, and a full-time graphic designer. She frequently uses metaphors and symbolism to connect the reader to real life things in nature to convey the message she’s writing about. Her poem “Grey (doesn’t always) Matter” appeared in the Silver Birch Press May Poetry Anthology (2014).

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BEHIND THE DRAPES
by Roz Levine

Every Saturday night
As a middle school kid
I tucked my ugly self
Between two layers
Of living room drapes
Peeked from the window
Watched romance unfold
As beautiful Rosalie
With her beautiful blonde hair
Placed her arms around the neck
Of her beautiful blonde boyfriend
They pressed one beautiful body
Against the perfect symmetry
Of another beautiful body
Kissed and kissed and kissed
While I stared from behind drapes
Wondered if anyone, anywhere
Would love me like that.

IMAGE: “The French Window at Nice” by Henri Matisse (1919).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roz Levine is a Los Angeles poet who has written poems since the age of eight. After retiring several years ago, writing became her number-one passion. Words have helped her navigate cancer and helped her maintain her sanity in a not-so-sane world. Her work has been published in various venues, including On The Bus, Forever in Love, Deliver Me, The Sun, Pulse, Cultural Weekly, and Poetry Superhighway.

Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

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HALVED SANITY
by Sheikha A.

It is France in my head;

I hear the madman by the bridge
percolating the stillness of night
with a quivering on his enfeebled lips,
a language puerile as he sings
his chanson of the departed ages,
a day not too old, a week nubile,
as the months roll on like weeds
in a sprightly pond of lotus-greens.

I hear the echoes cradling the bridge,
the lost anchors of a time ill spent,
the madman’s voice a lust for life,
like a nightbird that sings her story
to the moon – he sings for flight.

Harmony is settled deep in the lungs
of the night’s coquetry, clouds release
their scents across the sleeping river
resting into the charms of an unknown
prophecy;

it is France in all of my senses,

the music of the madman consummates
the transience surrounding me, I know
by the letters I write on walls, there is
a gondola to take me across, two hundred
days closer to the edge of the river’s bend.

Without tarrying, I rush to the moon
before the days treble ahead further,
the madman’s voice strong, I write
about the ravines of voids I’ve hiked,
across terrains of solitude I’ve traipsed,
before the days expire on my untold story;

halved of the time bold in its fleeing,
I write about the madman – robbed
of death, deserted by life.

IMAGE: “Ile de France, Paris” by Pont Neuf Paris Art. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Everyone goes through a midlife-crisis moment once in their lives at least. In my case, I feel I may have already visited the syndrome quite a few times. Sometimes there is no reasoning to writing poetry, just a whimsy muse that must release in the form of ink on paper. My creative processes are likewise – no reasoning, just writing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheikha A. currently lives in Karachi, Pakistan, after moving from the United Arab Emirates — and she believes the transition has definitely stimulated a different tunnel of thought. With publication credits in magazines such as Red Fez, American Diversity Report, Open Road Review, Mad Swirl, Danse Macabre du Jour, Rose Red Review, The Penmen Review, among many others, as well as several anthologies, she has also authored a poetry collection entitled Spaced, published by Hammer and Anvil Books. She edits poetry for eFiction India.

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HALF WAY
by Adrian Manning

half way
half way through, half way gone
where did it go? what happened
while I was not paying attention
people have gone, memories remain
memories have gone, people remain
half way from the brink
half way to the brink
half way from sanity
half way from insanity
half full, half empty
half way
it’s gone, it’s still to come

IMAGE: “Waterloo Bridge, London” by Claude Monet (1903).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adrian Manning hails from Leicester, England, where he writes poems and is editor of Concrete Meat Press. His poetry appears in the Silver Birch Press Bukowski Anthology (August 2014) and the Silver Birch Press Noir Poetry Anthology (December 2014).