Poetry from Mark Murphy

Old fashioned painting of two men from Western history hundreds of years ago, in capes and furs. They are standing in front of a green drape and instruments including a globe, books, microscopes and musical instruments.
The Ambassadors Holbein

Mark A. Murphy

The Ambassadors

 I am the most melancholy, weary and wearisome ambassador 

in the world. — Jean de Dinteville, 1533

‘O wretched mortals,

open your eyes…’

So pleaded Leonardo,

one time for every day.

*

(XLIX)

Of course, the verdant floral 

curtain

deserves another look,

dominating the backdrop. So we step

into Holbein’s puzzling

oil on oak,

painted in the old Flemish School style.

Not only a full length double portrait,

but a meticulously rendered

still life.

An anamorphic mystery,

and rendezvous with death, or memento mori.

A repository of secrets,

and morality tale

memorialising the two childhood friends

and diplomats,

Jean de Dinteville, on the left,

and Georges de Selve, (Bishop of Lavaur)

on the right, posed

amid the chaotic curios of the day,

showcasing two immaculately conceived globes:

One celestial, shows the mythological

constellations

where Cygnus the swan faces the viewer.

One terrestrial, shows Rome

at the geographical centre of the world.

On the higher shelf, we are witness

to a mare’s nest

of astrological and astronomical instruments,

intellectual/revival objet d’art

represented

by the cylindrical shepherd’s dial, a quadrant,

a torquetum,

and a polyhedral sundial.

All devices, for the revelation

of time and cosmos, and still, we are not sure

of the time of day.

Then, on the shelf below,

worldly concerns: A mathematics book

open at the page on division,

one Lutheran Hymnal, one compass,

one set-square,

one lute with a snapped string

and five bundled flutes,

all clues to the pursuits of man. Lower still,

under the bottom shelf,

a discarded lute in full shadow

turned upside down, another signifier

of the earthly life.

*

Have we missed anything, Hans?

— Of course, we have

missed de Dinteville’s

golden ceremonial scabbard,

and gold medallion

featuring the Arch-angel, St Michael,

‘defender of the church,’ killing

the serpent with his spear.

*

In this arcane panel, heaven and earth vie

for our attention.

Even the Cosmati floor

tiled mosaic

with its geometric motifs and Star

of David, boasts

of its ancestry, placing

the two Renaissance men at the centre

of the cosmos.

Now de Selve’s gloves are off

in the battle

between the faiths. He looks suspiciously

at the painter, almost squinting to see

which way he might fall

in the antagonism between King, Emperor and the Holy See.

*

We might conclude, a religious man,

however defensive

in his long damask robe and cleric’s biretta

(like the closed book

he leans on

with his right elbow)

might well have more secrets than the French

Ambassador to England,

who dares us to guess his thoughts

in his salmon satin shirt,

and expensive silk gown lined with lynx fur;

his outfit for the coronation

of Ann Boleyn. Poor (devout) Catherine

of Aragon, ‘humble

and loyal,’ soon to be divorced.

*

What else will we remember of this

Good Friday portrayal

of two young noblemen, landlord

and churchman,

the last entreaty before the great schism

with Rome

putting a brave face on it?

*

At last, in the top left corner of the painting,

we find the last piece

of the puzzle

half concealed

by the closeted green curtain —

the crucified Christ,

God’s gift

to man, awaiting

all believers

in the one true faith, despite the April freeze.

Essay from Ike Boat

Festival Of Masqueraders In Takoradi – FOMIT, Ghana.

Two young Black men in the foreground carrying a large red, white and blue American flag, dressed in multicolored clothing. Others in similar getup are behind them, on the road in a suburban street.

In the south-western part of the nation, many are the events, activities and programs which are organized to bring about entertainment as well as socio-economic developments. Although, there are several traditional festivals which are celebrated across the length and breadth of the nation. It’s quite obvious the ‘Kundum’ which is connected to the tribe known as ‘Ahanta’ and ‘Nzema’ in the Western Region has lost its consistent patronage by the people of this setting, viz over the past couple of years, probably by virtue of modernity. However, most of the festivals are associated with certain dances, songs and dresses which create an atmosphere of fancy and ecstasy to lots of the people living within this region of the nation.

In the city at stake, particularly Takoradi which has continually become the hot-spot of various activities in terms of sport, music and other fields of Arts. In actual fact, one unique festival which has been in existence for about hundred years since its inception by far the oldest club which is known as ‘Anchors’ takes it root or foundation from a suburb in the city known as ‘Amanful’.The call of leadership is termed ‘Officer’ who often is in charge of most duties ranging from the sewing of the fancy dresses to the meeting which comes on weekends. Apparently, there is no age barrier or limit and trend with regard to who is to join whichever club of choice. For this reason, even babies or toddlers are some-times part of the on-the-road movement from one place to another.

Lots of people of all ages and genders in Ghana dressed in yellow, red, blue, white and green outfits on parade.

 In relation to the list of the club name, it includes ‘Tumus, Sunato, Justice, Crench, Millionaires, Holy, Cosmos, Valencia, USA, Sambot, just to mention but a few. More often than not, the masquerader clubs have peoples or friends living abroad and so they make provision of exotic masks, little bells and other attires which bring about certain differences among themselves. Although, some are virtually new ones on the day of events one can see that the number of registered members are few unlike the older clubs. In terms of location, one may think they ought to get offices so as to operate and communicate effectively with peoples of different classes and origins. Come to think of it, is there any club with social media pages?

In recent years, the association and sponsorship by a certain media organization within the Western Region has brought about a fiesta known as ‘West-Side Carnival’ which has made it possible to assemble majority of these masqueraders across the length and breadth of the region. During, this period brass-band of trumpets, percussions and other musical instruments makes it lively as they match from one end of the street to another. This becomes a contest to know which of the clubs has better dancing styles and antics to entertain participant or by-standers of the events .As a matter of fact, there are ‘MCs – Master of Ceremony’ who mention names of the clubs through the microphone via the public address systems displayed at the venue of the event.

Various pictures of people in Ghana in multicolored clothing on parade for this festival.

 In conclusion, on 24th December every year members of the masqueraders clubs get the sewn dresses which prepare them ahead of the Christmas celebration as it coincide with diverse activities they’re being invited to attend as a means to entertain people from all walks of life. Obviously, most of the masqueraders spend times of rehearsals in terms of different kinds of matches on the street coupled with the kind of songs which will suit their performances. Believe it or not, there are times some of the Masqueraders go from house to house in order to play drums to solicit funds for the purpose of managing their clubs. It’s also believed that they operate under the system of Non-governmental that’s why they get donor funding. Suffix it so say, festival of masqueraders in the city of Takoradi at the heart of the Western Region of the nation, Ghana is one cherished and adored festivity which bring people from different regions and all walks of life together. Sometimes, various Masquerader clubs celebrates till the end of year, thus annually.

Large masquerade parade in Ghana with the people in costumes and full-face masks. Spectators in tee shirts crowd on either side to watch.

Written By Ike Boat.

Poetry from Joan Beebe

Joan Beebe and fellow contributor Michael Robinson
Joan Beebe (left) and fellow contributor Michael Robinson

The loving light of our Lord is being sent 

to bring renewed health to you.


You are His people and He wants your healing

And salvation through your prayers and

Confidence in His Holy Works.


We pray God will lighten your burden and

will help you to spread the Word and Love

of God to those who call upon Him.

Poetry from R.S. Mengert

Skeptic

Because you see the skull

glaring back in the mirror

like a traffic light,

you think you see

beneath surfaces.

You see yourself a visionary.

If I try to look

beyond the skull,

you think I’ve missed it.

I look out my office window

and all I see are skulls,

even in the daylight. You

wait until it’s dark,

and miss the gray redundancy 

of funerals while you squint

in the yellow haze

of your cheap electric light.

But that’s your way.

You walk into a churchyard

with your plastic sack

full of straw-men and equations

wrapped around your neck.

You smell dirt,

so you think the air

is made of dirt,

and you leave,

afraid to breathe.

Hildegard von Bingen Consoles a Skeptic

Line the decomposing days up end to end

across the velvet dusk. Burn the brickwork

of the tower, and the spiral stairs

to the finite clouds.

(Ash in the earth. Ash becomes the earth.)

Burn the sound, the air, the light that burns

within your head, that bursts the skull

apart with pain, with vision. Burn

until the smoke and ashes

red the coming dawn,

then breathe it in

so it becomes your air, your life.

(Ash in the earth. Ash becomes the earth.)

Separate dead ash

from what has died, and remember

that what burns to ash

cannot be burned again,

that what is earth was once of blood and flesh.

Flesh took form from ash

and then consumed itself with fire

of the soul within. Ash

in the earth. Ash

returns to earth.

What has burned returns, and what returns

will rise again.

Three Days After

The city gleamed on the horizon. The sky

was an impenetrable gray. You did not speak.

An angel stood between us – flaming sword,

glimmering gold armor, face concealed in fire

as we tried to face each other standing

on a charcoal-colored slab of rock in the Nevada desert.

Since your burial on Friday, I had prayed

to see you any way I could, but when I closed my eyes

and waited for a vision or a visitation, only darkness.

Now here we were, and I could barely see you past the blaze

of this imposing force, the fire and the terror,

the metallic glare of blade and armor, the blinding sheen.

I longed to touch you, but I could not move

except to tremble, tried to speak to you, to ask you, why

must it be here, like this, why can we not see each other,

why do you not say a word? but an inarticulate dry gasp

was all that left my burning throat. The angel answered

in an ageless, sexless voice as cold as lead:

From this point on, you will not see her anymore

except like this, with me, a wall of fire separating day

from darkness of the living flesh. And if you see her,

you will not recognize her as she is until it is too late

and she has vanished back into the realm of light.

At that he stepped back, pulled up his sword

so I could see you better. You looked at first

much as you always had, your black silk dress,

your shimmering gold scarf – but your face looked empty,

motionless, pale, your eyes as if stitched shut.

The angel came again between us, his fire

eclipsing you completely. He stood silent, blazing. And I

stood back against the gray,

and cursed his brightness.

The Death of Saint Joan

I.

You did not see a win. The voices blazed brighter than the fire that burned you. Then they stopped. You did not see a win, but waived your shimmering sword against the glare of sun, crown, miter. Fire. The black smoke from your burning body fouled the dimming sky before your dying eyes. You did not blink, but watched in front of you the beggar’s cross, two fastened twigs held skyward by a shaking, unseen hand. The fight was over. All the guiding voices, silenced. Men who held the keys to England’s throne and heaven’s gate had signed your writ. You could not have seen a win.

History is written by those fools, the winners. How they’d love to sanitize you, make you sane, prop you up as practical, mainline. Pragmatic farm-girl with a social worker’s sense. Civic minded. Middle-class. You and I know better. You, my beautiful and butch protectress, my warlord of the gallows and the sanitarium, with sharpened blade, with glimmering quixotic drag, screaming at the sun your stubborn creed, your visionary doom. You, who did not see a win, but leapt, soul first, into the fiery arms of darkness, waiting for an unseen light to catch you.

II.

Chain, embers, shadow. Ashes

on the ground.

Soot and bone dust on the ground.

Dried twigs and branches

singed to scattered fragments,

black and brittle on the ground.

Here the heretic of voice and metal

burned in the waning daylight

while collaborator churchmen, stunned,

watched in muffled horror flesh

reclaimed by fire to eternal void.

Now, the silence of the dusk.

A dagger of white stone

stands up out of the heap of cinder

and charred shackles.

A long dagger of breastbone

sharpened by the flames,

flanked with ash in the growing darkness.

Night. All that is left – heart

become bone, become sword.

III.

I will not see tonight. I will not raise a blade

to silence and the moon of black unseeing fire.

I will embrace the ashes. All I know

is dust that stops all speech, the choking silence

of the final flames, the heart that would not burn,

the desecrated ashes scattered in the unclean river.

My voices are the heretic, sealed

in a metal crypt beneath a sanitarium,

the shrinking daylight screamed to silence

by the burning of the keys, the beggar’s cross.

The fight is over. I do not hold a key

behind the black sky in the smoke of silence

and the burning gallows of the body.

I will embrace the ashes on the ground.

Consubstantial

I was eating one clear night on the hood of my ’83 Buick the Body and Blood of Christ. Not some bowdlerized symbol, mind you, I mean the fleshy substance of the soul in all its agonizing glory, body of unending matter, and of spirit without start or end, and of time collapsed into eternal light beneath the steely moonlight of December in Las Vegas, frozen night pierced with light that poured through stippled punctures in the fabric of the dark. I had not planned it. I only wished to drown the garish noise left from the day. I needed a drink. I drank the wine I found, and that was all. All that is seen and unseen, maker of all that is seen and unseen, burned and trickled down my throat; throat, soul, and self-transformed into the Mother of Creation’s womb as that dark penetrated me, consubstantial with the flesh and fire she bears, Buick rusting and ephemeral beneath the weight of earthbound flesh. I saw that the food was good, the wine as sweet as blood, as thick and effervescent with the heat of life.

When I got back, I found the only one awake, beyond her recent death, the dying light of her apartment burning through the pre-dawn dark, sitting up in what was once her deathbed, golden scarf around her neck, drinking brandy-and-espresso as she waved me in. I told her everything and took a drink. She told me, what you saw is what you’re drinking now, no more or less, and what I drank before your birth, before my own. The wrinkles on her face looked chiseled and eternal. You do not know what you have drunk, she said, but you will die from it with gratitude. Tell anyone you want, but it will only sound like silence of the dark. I tried to ask her what she meant, but all that came out was the shimmering dark music of eternal silence as she slipped back into her celestial night.

Alone and drunk, I stepped back out into the growing dawn and climbed into the shadow of my Buick, a symphony of darkness on my trembling lips.

I completed my MFA in poetry at Syracuse University. My poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Gargoyle, Pensive, SurVision, Maintenant, Zymbol, Poetry is Dead, ABZ, Fjords, San Pedro River Review, Four Chambers, Snail Mail Review, Enizagam, and The Café Review. I teach creative writing at Scottsdale Community College.  

Poetry from Mahbub

Author Mahbub, South Asian man with brown hair and reading glasses, wearing a white collared shirt.
Mahbub

My Childhood Butterflies

The colors of the butterflies

Still now after many years I can see on my fingers

The loving butterflies, the sweet butterflies

Still now flying on the eyes in the morning or afternoon

Every now and then

The garden smiles on 

My childhood attention glows with such lights

Tinged in the life’s color

Bleed with the experiences in every ups and downs

But the sweetness of the glow

Never allows ringing the bell ‘Out’.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
16/11/2019

Resurrection

The leaves of the lemon tree fall down

It’s just before the winter though not encircled with mist

Travelling on the wheel of time

Makes them leave and a chance for the new

The yellow dry leaves scattered on the ground

The green new beams on the morning sun

One by one it covers the braches

It mixes with the blue to the sky

What a matching color of the earthly bound

The yellow bids adieu

And the green starts

Even thousands of years later.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
16/11/2019

Poetry from Patricia Doyne

DROP-KICKING  2020  INTO  HISTORY

                        Starting over.

                        Starting fresh,

                        as if the slate was clean,

                        all baggage safely stowed,

                        no bridges burnt.

                        The meme is a baby,

                        eyes wide with hope,

                        heart filled with confidence and ignorance

                        in equal measure.

                        2020 was a soap opera of catastrophe.

                        Wildfires. Hurricanes,

                        Worldwide pandemic,

                        the U.S. leading in infections and deaths.

                        A president partly impeached.

                        An economy mostly derailed.

                        Election results rejected by the loser.

                        who sicced his lawyers on the courts,

                        and discussed a military coup.

                        Opened prisons instead, for droves of cronies.

                        We would like to leave all traces of 2020 behind.

                        But we bring into 2021 the cause of it all:

                        ourselves.

                        Our society, with its huge rich/poor split.

                        Our tendency to say, “Me first.

                        Too bad about you.”

                        Our leaders, who magnify what is in our hearts.

                        The New Year Baby is young and fresh.

                        But history allows no “do-overs.”

                        We can’t return to “Start.”

                        We pick up where we left off—

                        and perhaps this time choose the right direction

                        before we start walking.

                        We wade through trash of our own making.

                        But we can stride briskly.

                        And no one said we couldn’t whistle.

                        Copyright 12/2020    Patricia Doyne

LET  FREEDOM  RING!

                        Like all voyages,

                        the Titanic took to the sea with an all-hands drill.

                        Picture the captain saying,

                        “These life jackets are for emergencies.

                        This is how you put them on.

                        But, of course, wearing them is optional.

                        Let everyone use their own judgement.

                        In paratrooper training, here’s the enlightened instructor:

                        “When you jump, this is how to open your parachute.

                        But they are cumbersome. 

                        Some say wearing heavy packs is bad for your back.

                        So you are free to wear one or not.”

                        One of the most dreaded diseases is leprosy.

                        A colony of lepers was once quarantined on Molokai.

                        Do you suppose Father Damien told his flock,

                        “Hawaii is a state, now.

                        You all enjoy First Amendment freedoms,

                        such as Freedom of Assembly

                        So you don’t have to stay here.

                        Feel free to fly to other islands, or to the mainland;

                        get together with your family and friends;

                        have a wild night at the bar.  Enjoy!”

                        When motorcycle helmets were made mandatory,

                        not all states saw the need.

                        Iowa, for example, felt helmets should be an individual choice.

                        Like covering your mouth when you cough.

                        Or wearing masks during a pandemic.

                        And then there’s the freeway.

                        Cop stops you, says,

                        “Do you know how fast you were going?

                        Well, that’s okay: 70 is just a suggestion,

                        not meant to restrict your driving style.

                        Guy like you wants to get on the open road and fly!

                        I understand.

                        But you might want to get your tail-light fixed.”

                        On city streets,  too, just use good sense

                        Say you oversleep, you’re running late.

                        It makes sense to speed up, blow a stop sign or two.

                        Reject the oppression of red lights.

                        Just do what you gotta do.

                        Another thing!  All those gun control fascists?

                        Haven’t they heard about the Second Amendment?

                        You can keep a rifle or a military arsenal—

                        it’s no one else’s business

                        You shouldn’t need a shrink’s permission.

                        If schools aren’t safe from crazy kids,

                        arm teachers. Custodians. Yard duty. The lunch lady.

                        Don’t limit constitutional rights.

                        So, people!

                        Let’s hear it for freedom!

                        No one should be forced to consider commonweal.

                        Force is a tool of repression,

                        an arm of the Socialist State.

                        Ask the kids forced to get kindergarten shots.

                        Did they choose to get stuck with a needle?

                        What’s the deal here?

                        Isn’t this America?

                         Copyright 12/2020    Patricia Doyne

Poetry from John Culp

Messenger

    Said when to time
                      this moment stand
      I step to stone
                          from the sand

   A challenge met admit to All
          A hill to climb as if to Stall

  But with this honest path I take
  Let Quiet mirror waters make

  In faith I ask   as if Loves Rest
In hopes to hear from Love’s Best

Temple mine    My Sun My Sky

 Warm myself   Breathe in then Sigh

I’m not made to weather  
                              within Earth’s Storm!

As seasons Pass this may Transform.

  Here.     A garden, sun morning Lifts

  Brush Palm to flower  passage Drifts

Empty my Heart   to be Refilled

  Smell the soils   where Life is tilled.

As tears well up   on Letting Go

    These eyes drift                         with feet to slow 
Then glides within from away
       An insect Bird a path to Lay
Through my ether pats the Air
To flutter up a spiral Stair.

Tilts and teeters  Velvet Fan
   Takes a flora near my hand

Face to face,  I fear great Grace
   That all my Baggage may Replace

To Walk the Talk  that I have Lent
  To fill my Sails that once were Spent.

To take attention off of me
    I see its flower as if a Tree.

But its eyes to mine Do not Relent
So with this Bird a message Sent.

      “Imagined or real this time I steal 
             So you can learn again to feel

        But Don’t Look Down
                                Don’t Look Down

        Raise your eyes
                               Reverse your frown

        The tears will come
                                   as they may
        And wet the soils
                                We’re made that way.”

     This sturdy insect, I feel its Strong Legs climb my finger. 
                  It took the Sun                   But did not linger