First Winter in Kopjes, South Africa
—after Edward Hopper
A man at his desk ignores his secretary standing
next to him by the cabinet. White light frames
the woman’s black hair and eyes, heavy with
makeup. She wears pump heels, the navy dress
molded to the swelling curves of her body. Hopper’s
angle bears down on the scene the way she looks
down on papers fallen to the floor. A window’s open
with shade and cord swinging. The letter in the typewriter
unfinished, folders on the man’s desk in disarray.
Rigid in concentration and pale as his suit and tie, the man
stares at the letter gripped in his hands. How late is it?
Will they leave together for her walk-up in the city
or go their separate ways. He home on the L
to family in the suburbs, she to one room, a breeze
from the fire escape disturbing diary pages and ashes
of cigarette butts, smeared with dark lipstick.
–after Edward Hopper
The lovely woman slumps against the chair rail
of the theatre’s hall, apart from the others
at the motion picture, those cinema devotees,
sitting in plush seats, captured by the screen’s allure,
by the new, the modern, in what they called art
houses, a name for many places In that art
capital of the world, of Hopper’s world. Is this woman
whose face rests against her hand an usherette,
or Josephine, the painter’s wife, nursing some insult
from her dismissive husband. Some shush hissed
in her ear after an innocent observation of the unreeling
story. For Edward who, when seeing his first play
as a child, came home to make his own model theatre,
to be distracted while watching would be quite tiresome.
And for Jo, well, she was paying for daring to be
his companion, his model, muse
and the person he, at times could not stand,
but also could not stand to be without.
Diana Pinckney, Charlotte, NC, is the author of 5 collections of poetry, the latest titled, The Beast and The Innocent. She has been awarded the 2010 Ekphrasis Prize from the journal of that name, Atlanta Review’s 2012 International Prize, and Press 53’s 2018 Prime Number Prize among other awards. Her work has been published widely in printed and online journals.
In the beginning the Earth was flat and infinite.
People ran away from the gods, built cities and burned them down,
translated their sighs into the cracks on the sidewalks
and asked whether or not the trees had a sense of humor.
Now we don’t really follow the forests to the end of the joke,
nor the ice to the mouth of the nearest river,
but maples carry water to all the secret nooks and crannies of the sun,
and pine needles diligently scratch the back of the air,
an animal difficult to awaken.
Ivan Peledov lives in Colorado. He loves to travel and to forget the places he has visited. He has been published in Eunoia Review, Lost and Found Times, Red Fez, Illuminations and other magazines.
The air is sharp with the sound of Chinese, sweet with Spanish,
like a good sauce, and everyone is going home,
but not really; home on the bus to small apartments
but not home home, not Guangzhou or Saltillo,
Chongquing or Cartagena.
At 6:00 o’clock on a winter evening
we’re all diaspora, all a little homesick.
If you weren’t on the bus, you missed
the Chinese father and his toddler
who boarded at the day-care stop
with Italian takeout in a clamshell,
its good, garlicky smell
available for everyone to share.
You missed the way he lifted her
onto the quickly vacated bench seat
and the way her dark eyes
stared at our human faces.
John Palen has led a dual life in journalism and poetry. He worked as a reporter and editor on daily newspapers in the Midwest and taught journalism at the university level. He earned a PhD in American Studies at Michigan State University. His first publication as a poet appeared in 1969. Mayapple Press brought out his third full-length collection, Distant Music, in 2017. He lives in retirement on the Grand Prairie of Illinois.
I’ve been watching Netflix Christmas movies all day.
Now it’s 4:51 in the early evening and both eyes are
worn through like a child’s socks after summer.
I look out my window and can’t see the house next door.
It’s no surprise that I can’t muster the motivation to leave this house
or even bring myself to get out of bed for more than a snack or the bathroom.
Every day is a challenge of stretching money, to make plans, to stay busy.
Occupy the mind, the body, the minutes so I don’t stare off
at painted walls wondering if my phone will ring in three minutes or three days.
Wondering if you have eaten today or taken a shower.
Wondering if you are hearing those voices or if they are quiet today.
Wondering if today is the day you will finally get help and we can be together again.
Aimee Nicole is a queer poet currently residing in Rhode Island. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Roger Williams University and has been published by the Red Booth Review, Psychic Meatloaf, Petrichor Review, Dying Dahlia Review and Balloons Lit Journal, among others. On the weekends she is an avid roller derby spectator.
Far back it is, the beginning
in its ruined stillness.
I cannot say, with words, the line
around the calm of it, the invented calm.
The children came later, eyed and curving faces.
They want a story: a cycle and a resolution.
What they want is a game, a token,
an hour with winning, rules and spaces.
But my story is a bag that sags and pulls
through the light the lost and worst.
The walls that opened, the fires that fell
and made the shape of flowers.
Words in a dusk that floated without meaning,
shapeless. We were pale, out among the small.
The little black nocturnal things who fear,
who tear the dark with running and burrowing.
My lost and tilt-eye house is filled
with the fire’s jumping noise and color.
The raven flies off with its sounds altered by
its bird voice, the different size of its understanding.
The black wings of the bombs took less
than the love of breakage, knowing and abstract.
Eyes with joy in the burning, or turned away.
In the following calm, the wilderness of calm,
And the new light of forgiveness,
a hill of light, a tide.
The light is the bear that chases you.
It determines where you run.
I tell my children something old: Rome full of farlight,
gone so something better could come. I lie.
Or how the universe came in a Big Bang,
making a sky of magical waves
that released like rain the blackness,
the heavy weight of being nothing.
I lie again.
I show them my hand that is heavy with Now
and not the remembering.
My hand full of Here, in its weighted cloud.
The calm of it: the palpable, imagined calm.
Around my exile is a line of green.
I had not quite reached it when the cold
came, the white sun dropping,
low and lower, its arctic stone.
I walked the space of banishment.
There was falling and shouting, then belief.
Silence that repeats and hardens
the leaf and the lost green sound.
In memory how they ache,
the old and vanished scents opening
my hands that were deft in their heat,
holding the long beans, the easy, ordinary loves.
Patricia Nelson works with the “Activist” poets in Northern California. Her most recent book, Out of the Underworld, is due out this year from Poetic Matrix Press.
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