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Other notable works by V. Ulea and Heidi Blake.
GIRL WITH A FLUTE
Girl with a Flute – Johannes Vermeer c.1666-67
Colors from a romantic evening
sweet darkness below the lid
and corrugated wrapper trapping
tropic scents in a chocolate box
You speak to me of this and I speak of truths
one word caught in my teeth between verdigris
shadow and white fire blister of light
that burns the surface of this agéd oak
I hear you ask me over and over
did I really sit before Vermeer’s bright stare
did I peer lips gently parted
down the barrel of his camera obscura
no pearls as such
flat dabs of white and
parallel impossible lines
dribbled on conical chinoiserie
you say this would not appear to be
from the brush of Johannes Vermeer
my double flute so mutely appraised
in deepest shade and thus…
it speaks little of love or suggestion
the context uncertain whilst I
gaze directly without story
from behind the artist’s thin green glaze
THE GUITAR PLAYER
The Guitar Player – Johannes Vermeer c.1672
You wish for those books to my left
neglected muddied into a corner
beneath my frozen chord
Red stained leaves leather stiff and worm bored
you could not know that my A string
was a little flat like my mood
The redness of my eyes was
diluted in his death green shadow
my flirtatious smile was grit
ground between my teeth
I was closeted with my bedspring
ringlet curls around pearls painted
over a gray smear to crown
familiar cat trimmed yellow mantle
I tried to contemplate music’s sweetness
a divertimento for love
to counter the sour dust
of those three books you crave
for their seventeenth century words
history in pages dry as walled-in bones
pages marked by parched fingers of priests
ink and starch inhaled by countless nostrils
I wonder would you be so keen
if you knew their contents were
so indigestible with religion
bible and catechism
to keep us ladies morally guided
and therefore by default
less diverted by drifts of thought
provided by a bolder tone
from this guitar vogue instrument of love
ELLE’S HOBBIES WERE…
Chess church and sex
the latter not beginning
with a ch was
and logically still is
plain family words
and burning cheeks
stone silent serious
as a white rook
or black bishop
with his slot face
on stormy days
and days of cider
in the sun
and all the western
granite sky days
ELLE’S COMPETITIVE NATURE
Both her breasts and her brain
were too big for her body
and between the three
a small angel’s face
one soft-beating beacon
would accompany me
for a walk talk along
our Sussex seafront
I was for conservative
and she was labour back then
when Tony Benn and such men
thought they had something to say
Elle strong willed yet brittle
as the chalk face of Beachy
Head with its buried fossils
Elle terrified of
having to smile
for doing well
scared as hell of failure
or a church white wedding
and thank you Nostradamus
for her fear that one more
Kennedy might step
into presidential boots
to fulfill your prophecy of doom
Elle afraid of pregnancy
of the ultimate act
of dying or giving birth
and when we stopped to pay
as often we did
to play mini-golf by the sea
I had to ask if she
could mask a state of calm
each time she promised this time
she would and for five or six holes
it was good
small steps of success until…
by the sixth or seventh
a hook scuff slice or
double missed putt
when joy tumbled
quick as broken chains
to a howl of frustration
I watched her club rotate
slow motion against a
memory of a bone tool
spinning to drive the
start of a space odyssey
a smile born
of earth’s own
brushed the ridges
of her shoulders
in the warmer season
with more skin to show
than summer fabric
than her laugh
shock waves thrummed
through the green patch
beneath our deck chairs
deepest sag of canvas
we harbored secrets
louder her shapeliness sang
than tennis balls
or sweated cries
and stretched limbs
on the courts before us
of the tennis club
we were never sure
if you knew your power
when the lights went on
in your grass eyes
were offered as gates
to hold back your pink tongue
when you snatched grass
like hair torn from a scalp
to thrust it deep
into the trousers
of a chosen one
Graham Burchell was born in Canterbury, England. He is the winner of the 2005 Chapter One Promotions Poetry Competition and Winner of the 2006 Hazel Street Productions Poetry Contest. He is nominated for a 2006 Pushcart Prize. His first poetry collection ‘From The Right Side of the Pond’ will be published by Sun Rising Press in 2007. He is editor of the online poetry journal, Words-Myth, and now writes full-time from his home in Houston, Texas.
Loneliness knows one single sound,
But it tries to squeeze a choir from it.
when what goes around comes around.
And it’s all night on the air – that lilt.
It’s only you who are lonelier than loneliness.
Otherwise, you wouldn’t let it in,
And cherish it as your greatest bonus
Not meant to be split between
You and mankind. That’s how lonely you are,
And only your floorboards know more about it.
There are always two of you, and so far
You are a perfect fit. Even God
Presided on the same premises
Of loneliness He couldn’t avoid.
And now it teaches its lesson
When the moon tries on asteroids.
The distance between the earth and the moon
Is like that between you and your closest neighbor.
Say something to see you’re doomed
To not getting feedback. The biggest favor
Of the echoing space – that would hardly care –
Is the receipt of your voice sent God knows where.
A woman in the empty house.
The shore is silent. Through the open window
The smell of mermaids trapped in seaweed’s spreading.
Behind her – emptiness. Before her – silence.
On the horizon flocks of airy fish
Float clockwise, circulating around the Earth
To keep it on its orbit day and night.
The woman sleeps. Her eyes are open wide.
She notices all movements in the depths,
She sees the ocean cultivating morrows
From wreckage of all hopes and disbeliefs,
She sees her shore extended like a desert,
Her sunken house stuck on coral reefs.
She seeks the answers. But she only sleeps.
Didn’t God tell you not to eat
From that particular tree?
You didn’t listen – it looked so sweet!
But now you know the trick.
I was that very forbidden fruit.
Attracted to all that’s odd,
You’ve done what you shouldn’t.
I’ve done what I should.
And now I stream in your blood.
V. Ulea is a bilingual Russian-English poet, writer, scholar and film director. She has published eleven books of poetry, prose and literary theory. Her works have appeared in various periodicals both American and European, including The Literary Review, Princeton Arts Review, and RE:AL. She teaches in the Department of Slavic Languages at the University of Pennsylvania.
Late summer’s come; these days are strange,
but hours still melt to honeyed rays
until, once shoed in by the rain,
we draw within to sit and play
the ukulele through the afternoon.
We joke I am becoming you:
this music in my hands is new
besides, I like the Floyd – it’s true –
and now I watch test matches too,
(it isn’t only you I notice).
And in the evening we play poker:
flops and rivers, things you spoke of;
laying down our pairs, jack kickers;
bowling swingers, googlies, flippers,
although we know the end is due.
I would have thought you’ll think it through,
as I store cups and bowls and spoons
and things to send me down from you.
I’ll wait and know that you’ll wait too,
for a lifetime or an afternoon,
till I pack it all up as you stand and you say
you’ll tell me stories as you play
your songs of hope on that four-stringed thing
(of grace, and all the things we’ve made
like sonorous love in summer hay).
At the end of the month, I must go on my way.
Jostled on the escalator,
falling through the crowds,
slicing like a bolt from the blue
through the folds of their oblivion;
hating them for not revealing you.
Scowling at the jaded,
the crazed, the ill-prepared;
the Tuesday drunks,
the fawning sloanes,
the fat, the mute, the scared.
I sprawled into the day with ire.
This morning was spent
planning my revenge;
forcing it through my head:
willing your falling dreams dead
and scarred amongst the ashes of mine,
craving the taste of loved-blood,
undone and writhing
in the passage of time.
And then, mid-day,
you made me real again,
with an alphabet of some small hope
on the screen of my phone,
casting light into space
where I languished alone.
And there was peace
in the evening,
moving towards you
on the heaving tube,
bathed in the glow of its tunnels,
washed in the sea of the busker’s music:
rushing on the ground
at the hand of a man
with wandering eyes, like you.
Fingers, which were once silver banded,
(this would never happen now)
fiddled and strummed at the latest fad,
and you thought we did not see you shaking.
Perhaps true of others, in their blind indifference,
but I saw every flicker of your body
as you jaunted through your day to day
and sometimes jilted my incision.
Thoughts, with all their whirl and flurry,
were written on your face, at times,
which bent and swayed in the colours of the wind,
giving tone and shadow to my years here.
I thought I read you like a book,
and saw my notions in your eyes;
I thought I found the piece that joined us
in all the desperate folly of searching.
Oh, my failed and foolish ways,
my doomed and drowning heart,
seeking its silver bells and cockle shells
within the turgid folds of rhyme and reason.
Heidi Blake is a writer, a student journalist and an undergraduate in English and Politics at the University of York (UK). She has published poetry, prose and non-fiction articles and is the editor of Nouse, the student newspaper at the University of York. Heidi was born in Rochester, Kent in 1986 and was brought up in London.