John Brantingham: “Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War: This Is the Worst”

Francisco Goya's The Disasters of War: This Is the Worst

My dead stand with me before Goya’s piece,
where a wolf conspires with priests to write down
orders for the poor, suffering behind
them. The poor here starve. They beg. They freeze.
The poor are not forgotten, and that’s the trouble
with people who put on frocks and play
at sanctity. It’s the trouble with the way
wolves wait and watch their desperate struggle.
But my dead whisper to me that he’s wrong.
The trouble is also that we think beasts
walk among us, but they’re ordinary
men who have discovered that if you’re strong,
you can have your way with the weak.
We have to tamp down our own cruelty.

About the Author: John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press) and Kitkitdizzi (Bamboo Dart Press). He lives in Jamestown, New York.

Image Credit: Francisco Goya, “Esto es lo peor! (This is the worst!)” Public Domain

Susan Cossette: “Magadelen with the Smoking Flame”

Magadelen with the Smoking Flame
-after Georges de la Tour


You see the polished skull
settled under my now-empty womb,
the books of scripture on the desk,
the unadorned wooden cross.

You see the leather scourge.
I am the perfect lover of Christ,
correcting myself daily,
now perfect penitent.

You will not see the red welts
on my back or upper thighs,
only remorse in lowered eyes.
Sweet burn, delectable wound.

The oily candle plays its tricks,
slim shafts of light on cave walls.
Peering into shadows,
I pay respect to the power of the dark.

My mind plays tricks on me.
Is it mother, laid out at solstice,
her face plump and purple,
the monsignor saying rosary?

Or something else drawn
out of the dark night of the soul,
longing for light.

About the Author: Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and Moth, The New York Quarterly, ONE ART, As it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Fast Fallen Women (Woodhall Press) and Tuesdays at Curley’s (Yuganta Press).

Image Credit: Georges de La Tour “Magdalene with the Smoking Flame” (1640) Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Joanne Durham: “Homage to Angelica”

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Homage to Angelica


No bloodline connects me  

to English gentry,  

but she is my foremother, too,

this woman adorned in flowing gown,
  

rose-woven garlands that sweep into auburn curls. 

Here she is: secluded with her alter-egos

to debate her future. One gently mocks the other,  

the second shows conviction, finger pointed 

toward her passions

as boldly as Moses’s staff 

signaled the Promised Land.  

I sensed her presence

as I donned the required skirt for dinner  

at my women’s college in the ‘60s, supposed  

to earn an MRS degree, or failing that,

to choose  

between secretary, teacher, or nurse. Instead,  

my friends and I sequestered

in the janitor’s closet, moved aside  

brooms and stacked pails, 

to strum guitars and write lyrics exploding

into a world we had yet to imagine.  

I decorated my dorm room 

with Picasso’s Lovers, Bob Dylan’s

haloed hair glowed from the ceiling. 

But ancient women swam in my veins, 

witches who brewed

potions centuries old, healing woes 

no one dared name. Here remains 

the artist who discarded

the coy smile she flashed at her suitors 

and painted herself  

into the right to choose her future.

About the Author: Joanne Durham is the author of To Drink from a Wider Bowl, winner of the 2021 Sinclair Poetry Prize (Evening Street Press, 2022). Her chapbook, On Shifting Shoals, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her poems have or will appear in Poetry East, Third Wednesday, Calyx, Rise-Up ReviewLove in the Time of COVID Chronicles, and numerous other journals. Please visit https://www.joannedurham.com/ for more about her background, publications and awards. 

Image Credit: Angelica Kauffman “Self-Portrait Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting” (1791) Public Domain

John Brantingham: “Joan Miro’s Portrait of Vincent Nubiola”

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Vincent_Nubiola_Miro

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Joan Miro’s Portrait of Vincent Nubiola

Before he started painting, Miro had 
a nervous breakdown, which seems rational
given that this was Spain, and a quiet hell
had cracked open in Europe, his world gone mad,
and what could he do but watch and resist
as Franco and Adolph got together 
to dream up cynical new ways to sneer
at what could be if we would just coexist.
And then Miro started to paint, which seems
more than rational. More than sane. Portrait 
of Vincent Nubiola was an early piece.
Miro catches him in a pipe-smoking daydream,
his elbow resting on a table with fruit,
a tulip, and wine. He’s at the kind of ease

that Miro must have dreamed of. Fields stretch
out beyond him, fields where he will no doubt
return for the day’s work, worrying about
things that matter while Miro will sketch
and paint and find a place where he can stand
against what is coming. He will turn 
toward the surreal, even as Europe’s dictators
call it degenerate, and it is banned.
I imagine the two of them, Miro 
still young, but wise enough to be alarmed
at what is building. Nubiola is
a professor of agriculture who knows
Miro’s genius, a man with training and wisdom.
They sit and talk of the coming hostilities.

“It feels like the end of everything that’s right,”
my imagined Joan says. Vincent replies,
“Every generation feels this. It’s an endless fight.”
And Joan can foresee an endless night
of terror. He thinks of all who will die
and to him it is the end of everything that’s right.
And Vincent remembers stories of knights
in his childhood and King Alfonso’s lies,
and he knows this is an endless fight.
Old men get a sexual thrill at the sight
of young men dying. They get off on cries
of anguish, and maybe it’s the end of right,
but he tells Joan they’ll keep moving despite
the horror of old men’s pornography.
This, Vincent tells Joan, must remain an endless fight
because these old men live for this kind of blight,
but this world was made for Miro’s kind of beauty.
We must keep going to keep everything right.
That is the beauty of our endless fight.

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About the Author: John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College.

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Image Credit: Joan Miro “Portrait of Vincent Nubiola” (1917) Public Domain

Nadia Arioli: On “The Fourteen Daggers” by Kay Sage

(You can view Sage’s painting “The Fourteen Daggers” here)

 

 

On “The Fourteen Daggers” by Kay Sage

All the prosaic thin places you will visit
are before you. The places where reality
shifts a bit to the right like a staircase
or fourteen daggers that fail to kill you.

A movie theater in a foreign city
where you are alone. You sit in front
of the projector directly. A story bounces
around your head. A laundromat,
any time, any place. Things are getting
clean without you.

The tobacco store where the man
with thick glasses coughs a little worse
each year. A gas station with maps
of the Midwest for sale. The state-lines
look menacing. The old ship,
below deck, where buckets cluster
like drippy ulcers.

A smaller place is your mouth after
your first nosebleed. You saw what happened
to your teeth when you smiled for the mirror.
When you were a teenager, you filled your palms
with wet bees for the watery shudder.

The eighth dagger is you.
O my Angelica root,
O my toothy abortion.

I will not say what the other six are.
I can’t even see the last. Perhaps
it is shaped like a gun.

If a third were to see us,
they would know which was you
and which was I.
I am the beginning, you are the middle
and more like a knife.

But perhaps we are in each other’s houses
now, switched like interpreting a dream badly.
The waiting room was the thinnest place.
My breasts are scalloped like fingernails.

 

 

About the Author: Nadia Arioli (nee Wolnisty) is the founder and editor in chief of Thimble Literary Magazine. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spry, SWWIM, Apogee, Penn Review, McNeese Review, Kissing Dynamite, Bateau, Heavy Feather Review, Whale Road Review, SOFTBLOW, and others. They have chapbooks from Cringe-Worthy Poetry Collective, Dancing Girl Press, and a full-length from Spartan.

 

More by Nadia Arioli:

On “I Walk Without Echo” by Kay Sage