Poetry from John Middlebrook

NEXUS  

 

What has passed shapes the part that remains:           

The sweep hand holds its breath, then clicks,

and the clock breathes again.

 

At day’s end, the sun swells, then drops from its ledge               

waking fields of gems in the darkness overhead.

And dreams return to bed to reprise

the searching voices inside us—        

that elusive yet intimate presence

which prickles our skin or sates it.              

 

Then morning comes—light ascends and floods,

breaking the edges of windows and doors.

There is rust in our tracks from the day before.                                     

 

Each second holds the nub of the next:       

From spirit-sparked dust and cellular mix

life pulses through time, just to lose

its grip on the moment—

before starting anew.

 

 

 

THE SHORE OF IMAGINATION

Inspired by Richard

 

What’s imagined is true—

for as long as it lasts;

it confers with facts

as needed.

 

Even when crayons            

master trees,                                      

clouds can still be green.

And the sun can be blue—

seas empty, or full—

or the sky still blank

or the beach

too red for feet.

                                   

Facts serve to settle  

uncertain beliefs,

but the mind’s eye

knows what it sees.                                                 

 

 

LOOKING THROUGH THE BIG END OF THE TELESCOPE

 

In the mind, the frames of time are inversely sized:

 

Years are captured in snapshots and windows.

Entire summers hang on nimbus clouds

and clothesline rows.

Days and weeks are fields of clover,

countless needles in a forest of pine.

 

While the present is a blur

of collapsing moments,

the endless shaft of a shrinking mine.


My home on the web is www.johnmiddlebrookpoet.com, and here, you can find the details of my publication history. I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I manage a consulting firm focused on non-profit organizationsI have been writing poetry since I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where I also served on the poetry staff of Chicago Review.

Essay from Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson (right) and fellow contributor Joan Beebe

There’s a feeling in the nursing home unlike being on a mental ward; however, the feeling of being alone is present. My one friend can speak very clearly when her daughters come to visit. The rest of the time she sits there crying and her words are unintelligible. If you pass by her she will reach out to you. It’s easy to become indifferent to her. Sitting there with her as she cries and reaches out after her daughter leaves. I had that same kind of feeling on the many mental wards I have been in from 1985 thru 2015. You have lost all the routines of having your family and friends as  they visit and leaves you in the presence of strangers. Strangers that come in all different mindsets and compassion for those they watch.

The day begins with maybe someone washing and dressing you. Some like my friend eats in her room for breakfast she is then put in front of the nurses station. She fiddles with her foot rest trying to free herself. She continues to cry and make this anxious murmur. Sometimes a staff member will come by and hug her for a brief moment or ask her whats wrong? I suppose that feel that they have to do that because  of my presence. She looks at me with wet eyes and runny nose which no one seems notice. I get something for her to wipe her nose. She had pulled her shirt up exposing her breast to wipe her nose. Before I came and sat with her they ignored her, not even asking her if she wanted to be changed. So, she sat there for hours in wet undergarments. Tonight I move my wheelchair on the other-side of her. There was a puddle of urine. This night it was clear to me that she is suffering and stuck in a world that she does not belong.

It was like that for me in those mental wards. The saddest memories   I have is being locked in the bed to restraints and wetting myself when no one came to assist me. Sitting watching her daughters leave say ” I have to go grocery shopping.” Sometimes it’s better to not come and leave and come and leave. I’m sensitive to the coming and goings of those that cared for me doing those times on the psych unit. They had no idea of the kind of day I was having. Someone watching me from six to eight feet away. I was on one on one which is suicide watch because I was remembering all the tragic experiences in my life. Now my friend may be remembering all the good things that she had experienced with her family. You have nothing but time to recall you entire life. “The good, the bad, and the ugly.” Living long enough to understand that this place and these people will be the last relationship, Sleeping in a shared room with a television as you friend. If you don’t watch television then you watch the movies in your mind and people continue to come and go. Now I’m one that come in her life and now is leaving. She told me she would miss me with tears in her eyes, a runny nose and urine on the floor from the thoughts of being left alone in this place. I can envision her sitting in the hall eating her dinner alone with tears and runny nose and nothing but her shirt  to wipe her nose.

She has become my mother in the nearly three weeks. Three walks of roaming the halls and watching everyone from nurses, administers, cleaners and other patients. It occur es to me that many of the patients will will pass away in this place with hospice waiting in the wings. Another stranger as they leave this mortal coil to say goodbye to you. No, I don’t want to say good bye to her. I will think of her for a long time and then she will become a sad memory  but I will always remember those eyes with the tears saying “I love you and thank you!”

Travel vignette from Norman J. Olson

From Miami to Michelangelo

by:  Norman J. Olson

on Thursday, April 20, 2017, Mary noticed a cruise that she was interested in had come down to a very cheap price that we could afford…  so, we booked the cruise and flew the next day to Fort Meyers, Florida (flights to Fort Lauderdale and Miami were full)…  we rented a car in Fort Meyers and drove to Miami (there are often no drop fees in Florida, so a one way rental was like $35, cheaper than the bus!)

anyway, the drive across Alligator Alley was uneventful, the Everglades are lovely from the road, but we did not see any alligators or giant snakes…  when we got to the Miami airport, to turn in the car, I had forgotten to fill the gas tank, so the rental cost an extra $20, but driving in Miami makes me nervous and even so, $55 was pretty cheap anyway so, in travel, often things screw up and we are used to that….

speaking of screw ups, I had booked a hotel in Fort Lauderdale by mistake and only learned when we called from the Miami airport for a shuttle pick up…  fortunately, the online agency and the hotel agreed to cancel the booking and we found another hotel in Miami that was only a few dollars more…  it would have been more expensive to get from Fort Lauderdale to the Miami Cruise port… the hotel was in a very industrial area of Miami near the airport…  the desk clerk directed us to the only restaurant for miles around which was a Wendy’s…  well, of course, we walked the wrong way and so after a good long walk and not seeing any Wendy’s or any other places to eat, we backtracked to the hotel and then I saw the sign for the Wendy’s in the opposite direction…  so I walked there, only to find that the Wendy’s was closed for remodeling…  well, it was an interesting walk, past industrial lots with wild growth of tropical plants and a barbed wire surrounded luxury hotel…  in the dusty Miami afternoon…  so we actually ordered in some food from a Cuban restaurant that had left a flier at the hotel…  the food was amazing and so we had a better dinner and got some exercise too, thanks to not having good information….

I often say, that the hardest thing about travel is getting good information about logistics…  so, the next morning, we took an Uber ($16) to the port to get on our cruise ship…  the driver spoke almost no English…  I think he said he was from Argentina…

the ship was huge and beautiful and the cruise was 16 days from Miami to Civitavecchia (the port for Rome, Italy)…  this was a cruise line we had never used before, and we headed to the buffet to find that the food was even better than expected…  so, we had lunch and then watched as we sailed out of Miami, watching the towers along the coast become hazy and slip below the horizon as a lovely cool breeze came up and we headed out onto the Atlantic…

the crossing took six days…  these huge ships have lots of activities going on for passengers who want to participate, including all kinds of games, trivia contests, etc…  I found a quiet spot on the promenade deck, toward the front of the ship, which was protected from the wind where I could sit and draw and read five floors about the waves crashing and splashing against the sides of the ship…  I reread a wonderful book in preparation for Rome called Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling and got one drawing finished each day…  Mary spent most of the days sitting with me on deck, reading but she also enjoyed the lectures about ports of call and other topics which were available for passengers of an intellectual bent…  we lost an hour each day, so, it seemed like our mornings were very short but the afternoons were lovely with a cool breeze and the waves crashing just below us on the sides of the ship…  we saw a few flying fish but otherwise, no sea life at all although others claimed to have seen whales on one occasion…  every morning I would walk two miles and then spend the rest of the day reading, making art and eating…  some of my favorite things to do…  the ocean was pretty calm except for two days toward the end when the swell picked up and I had to take an extra seasickness pill…  but actually, the big waves crashing on the ship were very cool to see and hear from our sheltered spot on deck 5…  the place where we were sitting was next to the designated smoking area, so we had a lot of nice conversations with the smokers and they seemed to enjoy seeing the drawings as they progressed…

our first port was on Sunday, April 30, the city of Santa Cruz on Tenerife in the Canary Islands…  it was good to be on land for a while and we walked around the city enjoying the market which had a fish market with lots of shrimp and shellfish as well as large ocean fish looking very sad and dead…  then we had a walk up the hill to a lovely park that looks out over the city…  it was Sunday so many of the shops were closed but the market and the park were full of people…  there were tents in the market selling sweet almonds that Mary liked and it was a warm sunny day with children playing and people enjoying the park…  then after another nice sea day, we passed Gibraltar in the early morning and landed at Malaga in Spain…  Malaga which we  have visited before, is famous as the birthplace of Picasso… and home of a Picasso museum…  I did not feel like looking at Picasso paintings, so we walked around the town looking at the many shoppers and the smart shops and looking at the weird old unfinished cathedral where we had some tapas at a sidewalk café on the cathedral square…  then we walked back to the port and found a little tram to take us back to the ship…

the next day was Cartagena, Spain…   there are Roman ruins in Cartagena including an excavated bathhouse and a Roman theater…  you could see the crumbling stone tiers of the theater in curves up the hill, the old tan stones looking warm in the sun and you could feel the thousands of years of wear and weather that these stone seats had seen since Roman times…  the next stop was an overnight at Barcelona…  we bought passes for two days on the hop on hop off,  sightseeing bus so we had a lovely tour up the mountainside and all around the town including the famous soccer stadium which had Messi’s photo prominently displayed…  we spent time in the shopping district where we saw a building designed by famous son Antoni Gaudi as well as his famous cathedral…  we walked around the cathedral and went into the crypt, which is a large chapel where a mass was underway and where we could see Gaudi’s tomb…  it seems to me that Gaudi’s distinct organic style while groundbreaking and novel has not had a great influence on the contemporary architecture that I see in cities I visit… but the cathedral is impressive and it is interesting to see twentieth/twenty first century builders trying to put the kind of care into a building that was required by the technological limitations of the pre industrial ages…

after Barcelona, we stopped for a day at Villifranche sur Mer which is near Nice, France…  Villifranche is a tiny town built on a steep hillside going up from the sea…  it was a rainy day and we were only there for a few hours…  it took a long time for the tenders to get the people ashore because the ocean was wavy and the tenders were bouncing around…  so we just walked up the hill a bit and along the waterfront…  we stopped in a lovely café and Mary had a coffee while a thunderstorm passed over with torrential rain, thunder and lightning…  it was lovely sitting in the little café looking out over the harbor through the rain and to see the huge ship at anchor at the entrance to the bay…

the next day we stopped at Livorno, Italy…  it was a warm sunny day, Sunday, and a street market was going on for about a mile across the center of the town…  we walked around enjoying the local people and looking at the wares on offer…  we stopped as usual, at sidewalk cafes and enjoyed the warm day and the cool breeze off the ocean…

then we arrived at Civitavecchia… we got off the ship on a free shuttle bus that took us to the town and then found a two euro bus to the train station where we each got six euro tickets to Rome’s San Pietro station…  the countryside of rolling hills and farms was very green and pretty…  I had found a hotel for $59 per night a short walk from Saint Peter’s Basilica… and since according to the map it was only one mile from the station, I decided we could walk even with our three small, carryon size suitcases…  well, it was a hot walk as we got there right during the sunny part of the afternoon…  but we made it with only about two blocks worth of wrong turns and the hotel was in a perfect location near the Castle Saint Angelo on the Via Vitelleschi… that evening, we walked around and tried one of the local sidewalk cafes…  the food in Rome was terrific…  everything seemed to be made of fresh ingredients and was delicately seasoned to perfection…  we had two Caprese salads with the best tomatoes I think I have ever tasted along with delicious mozzarella and basil with a touch of rich olive oil and husky balsamic vinegar… I, who never drink, even ordered a glass of Chianti with my meals and thoroughly enjoyed the heavy tartness contrasted with the delicious food…

in Miami once I was sure we would get on the ship, I had bought tickets for the Vatican Museums on line…  there is a huge line, several blocks long every day to get into the Vatican Museums but if you buy a ticket online for $16 and pay an extra $4, you get a set time to enter and do not have to wait in line…  we had been to the Vatican Museums and the Sistene Chapel in 1972 and at that time, you could just walk in and wonder around the museums with no lines…  anyway, the modern world is a bit more crowded…

the first part of the Vatican Museum is their vast collection of Roman Statuary…  I was very excited to see two of my favorite ancient works, the Belvedere torso and the Laocoon… the torso is still as magnificent as I remembered and somehow, in the mob scene in this museum, we missed the Laocoon…  I did not realize until we were out and this part of the museums was so crowded, we could not have gotten back in I thought, so we went on to the things I wanted to see most anyway, the frescos of Raphael in the Papal apartments, especially The School of Athens which has always been one of my favorite works by this amazing painter…  and the Sistine Chapel…

there was a long line through a long ornate renaissance hallway to get to the Raphael frescos but once in the room, the frescos are easily seen above the heads of the crowd, so even if the room was full of people, one could still see the paintings…  and the crowds moving through stayed to the side of the room so if you went to the middle, you could stand and look to your hearts content…  which we did… I love love love  the absolute virtuosity of the painting…  that this young man (he died at age 37) could accomplish so much in his short life just amazes me…  anyway, The School of Athens and the other Raphael frescos did not disappoint…  then moving on, we got in a narrower line that went down and up stairs and through a series of narrow hallways crowded with people moving forward in a packed mob…  until we walked into a wide open space and there was Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling towering over our heads…  the chapel is large but was full of people…  here again, the guides kept the people who wanted to stop in the middle while those who wanted to keep moving stayed near the walls…  so I could stand and look until my feet finally gave out…  there are some benches on the side and we managed to get to one of those, so could stay a bit longer looking lovingly at every inch as we could see it from the floor…  this artwork was painted over four years, mostly by Michelangelo’s own  hand as he stood on a cantilevered scaffold of his own design, reaching over his head to paint…  he was a young man in his early thirties but still, I can only imagine the pain in arms shoulder back and legs of day after day of that pose…  and how he kept everything so it would look just so from sixty five feet away is amazing…

the whole thing was cleaned a few years ago and with all the varnish and candle wax of five hundred years removed, the bright colors of the draperies and the delicate chiaroscuro of the nude figures absolutely glow in a riot of purples, pale greens and orange…  it is an amazing, beautiful and now, colorful work of art, complex and full of surprises (like the weird figure of Boaz near the beginning of the work for example) and well deserving of its fame…  it seemed large enough and rich enough to reward the pilgrimage of all of us crowded on the floor with our heads craned back…  whatever country, culture or belief system we might have come from…  in spite of the crowds and the misery of the trek through the crowds to get to the Sistine Chapel, I encourage you to spend a day there and make an effort to see it…  to those of us who make art, this is the bar and it has been set very high indeed by the surly, suspicious and difficult young man with the broken nose and the obnoxious family who lived and worked with and in spite of the Pope in Rome all those years ago…

we then went into the picture gallery where there was no crowd and which contains three wonderful masterpieces of painting by Raphael, as well as Caravaggio’s amazing Entombment and as an added bonus Leonardo da Vinci’s unfinished painting of St. Jerome…  wonderful paintings that I have loved all my life…

the next day we went and saw the famous Coliseum and the ruins of the forum of Ancient Rome which was a short subway ride from our hotel… then we walked up the hill behind the Coliseum to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli to see Michelangelo’s statue of Moses…  here, there was no crowd and no entrance fee…  you just walk into the church and the statue is right there…  words fail me in describing these works of Michelangelo…  I just love to look at these things, the finely carved details of flesh and folded draperies…  how lucky I am to get to see these things…  the next day, the subways were on strike, but we took the local bus to see the Pantheon, the only major building that is still more or less intact from Roman times…  the inside of this building with sumptuous marble decoration and the famous dome leaves me only imaging the grandeur of the ancient city when Rome was the capital of the Mediterranean world…  it must truly have been glorious…  also, as a student of High Renaissance art, the Pantheon is special to me because it contains the tomb of Raphael…  this is truly a momento mori…  in spite of his amazing life and his astonishing talent to make beautiful paintings, Raphael ended up a handful of bones and dust in a marble box in a magnificent Roman building repurposed as a Catholic church with a dust covered, butt ugly statue over his crypt… surrounded by people taking pictures with their smart phones and sending texts…

the next morning, we were on an Alitalia 777 flying over the Atlantic at 38000 feet on our way from FCO to JFK…  we got a flight from New York to MSP and after about 20 hours of travel time made it home Friday evening at about 11pm…  I noticed this morning that our bleeding hearts and apple trees are in full bloom and it is green and glorious May in Minnesota…  what a trip…

Poetry from Joan Beebe

Joan Beebe (left) and fellow contributor Michael Robinson

I hear a sigh in the distance and suddenly
Realize it had come from me.
My dreams are of long ago when
Life was simpler and most days
Happiness surrounded me.
My sighs keep on and my dreams
Become a source of comfort.
I am whispering into the night
When there is no one to hear me.
I whisper my dreams into the darkness.

 

Loneliness

I am lonely and afraid —
My thoughts travel back to
A time of togetherness with
My birth family.
The house was always filled
With friends, relatives and neighbors.
Mom in the kitchen preparing supper and
Dad in his favorite stuffed chair smoking
His special pipe and listening to me play
The piano.
The days were filled with the warmth and
Love that one could always sense.
There never seemed that life had to
Rush by —  life was just there.
My emotions are difficult with which to deal.
Though I have a small family of my own,
I long for those by-gone days of yesteryear.

Poetry from Ricky Garni

THE RULES OF BEAUTY (1924)

 

  1. Rise early and make your bed; scream that you’ve made your bed.
  2. Eat a hearty breakfast in the dark. Outside, with possums. Inside, with Elwin.
  3. Exercise while watching the horses run fast and free on the highway – oh, so very fast.
  4. No alcohol on our lips but you may let it trickle down your nape or small or onto your feet.
  5. Smoking is detrimental so don’t do it unless you look cool doing it wearing a chapeau of some kind or something somewhat flammable
  6. Get outdoors. Ride in one of those miniature cars that go 4 MPH, for an hour. Call home and say “Please pick me up” and explain that you are 4 miles away in that direction, there.
  7. Eat a light lunch based upon the idea of airiness and then fly to Spain and have a siesta with a matador.
  8. Early to bed. If you dream of arcades, wonder why and laugh. If you don’t, wonder why and laugh.
  9. Answer a phone call in your sleep. It’s Elwin. Tell him you love him very much, it is he who you love. Ask him over for breakfast in the morning. Early. Toast, sweet butter-oos.

 

VICTORY LAP

 

One year I celebrated my birthday with a coconut donut.

One of those big, fat, sloppy, heavy, oily ones that they

don’t make anymore. I miss them terribly. But I must admit,

I  take great pride every time I outlive something wonderful

like a big fat donut. Or a flower. For example: the yellow

rose petals that covered you as you slept in the bathtub.

I had just turned 20.

 

 

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL

 

Perhaps when we asked our parents about eternity our parents pointed to something vague. They might have pointed to a tree. Or a plate of figs. Or they might have pointed to our real parents.

 

GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGLASSES

 

We all laughed when Joseph came to school

one Monday morning wearing glasses.

 

We didn’t have to wear glasses,

so why did Joseph?

 

By recess, Joseph, generally gregarious,

was the laughing stock of the second grade,

what, with his glasses and all,

etc.

 

For those who still remember, we hope that

Joseph will forgives us. What we did was ghastly

and grotesque. Since that day, we have grown

and are now quite gorgeous in our glorious hearts.

 

This essay was completed in order to ascertain

the functionality of the G key on the typewriter.

 

C+

 

TRISTAN

 

Tristan chose to sit on a bench for his first book

in a simple and dignified pose with a salmon-colored frame.

Even though he looks at the camera in a formal fashion

over the years the creases in the book suggest the appearance

of a poet holding a long chain or hula hoop

 

Tristan is a poet of danger and fun. Time is imposing this judgment

upon him, and I thank time for that: a gift to a long ago Romanian

whose mirth was rumored to be obscure.

 

TRIUMPH

 

My feelings about you are different every time I think about you.

Just like my feelings about Dirty Harry, Chubby Checker, and Douglas

Sirk’s MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION.

 

Or almost any obsession available that is truly magnificent.

Two that come to mind right away: Chubby Checker, and Dirty Harry.

 

Ricky Garni grew up in Florida and Maine, was educated at Exeter and Duke, and has lived off and on in the Triangle since 1977. Over the years he has worked as a teacher, wine merchant, studio musician, composer and graphic designer. He began writing poetry in 1978.

Essay from Jaylan Salah

Sharp Objects: Redefining Post-sexual Bliss

By Jaylan Salah

Even 40 years later, Laura Mulvey’s “Male Gaze” theory on the voyeuristic pleasure of cinema is still valid and applicable. In 2018, television audiences and feminist critics alike were treated to one gem of a miniseries titled “Sharp Objects”. Originally a book by Gillian Flynn and recently an HBO mini-series directed by Québécois filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, “Sharp Objects” takes an anti-heroine and puts her back in the heart of where all her trauma started; her small hometown Wind Gap in Missouri where women are still viewed as town sluts or doting mothers, men brawl and charge at women in the disguise of false machismo, wealthy tycoons rule the fates of others and demand the welfare of lower class families. In short; Wind Gap is Hell and it is only complicated by our protagonist’s own baggage of family abuse and sexual assault.

Camille Preaker is your next anti-heroine; not the way Angelina Jolie played it in “Salt” or Helen Mirren glamorized it in “Prime Suspect”. Preaker is a mess. Sometimes you wonder how she manages to hold on to dear life with a dozen of problems; alcoholism, casual sex, self-harm and emotional trajectories are examples of personal bullets she tries to curb at every turn. Preaker is not how Sophie Gilbert from “The Atlantic” wants to see female journalists depicted on-screen. She drinks on the job, sleeps with possible sources and barely takes notes. Gilbert describes that as being “far from reality” and compares Preaker to a much more composed female journalist character as seen in a Showtime documentary. In other words, Gilbert plays the same mistake male reviewers have been associating with female characters that simply do not fall into line. She’s unlikeable! She’s unprofessional! She’s a bad feminist influence! It all falls into the “trope” which –despite capturing the inadequacies in the past era of creating female character clichés– placed nonlinear female characters side-by-side in fear that they might be a trope (hint: throwing every quirky female character down the Manic Pixie Dream Girl abyss without proper analysis of the character or even the creative medium from which she emerged).

Camille Preaker is one of the least sexualized female characters on-screen. She is rarely seen without clothes on and when it happens; it is meant as a tool of provocation rather than arousal. What makes it the more compelling is casting a stellar actress such as Amy Adams who has shown her sexual, seductive side successfully in more than one film to portray a non-sexualized character who is completely covered in self-inflicted scars. Preaker is an angry female that would make John Cassavetes’s Mabel Longhetti proud. She displays the same vulgar, unethical alcoholism that the likes of Don Draper in “Mad Men”, Dean Winchester in “Supernatural” and Hank Moody in “Californication” boast as if it is a character trait rather than an addiction that requires immediate intervention.

Preaker is no Veronica Mars or Buffy or Rory Gilmore. She embodies the ultimate feminist fantasy of having an unlikeable woman grace the screen and reach…nothing. Even her crusade against her dominant, abusive mother –played to perfection by Patricia Clarkson– led to nothing but a rather harrowing discovery in which we -as viewers- are left in mid-sentence, unable to expect what might come ahead.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée creates an ominous presence of Camille’s suffering; his angles, his tracking shots of Camille driving through the dead Wind Gap scenery. His gaze unrelentingly shows her at her most vulnerable, non-sexual self, even throughout her most sexually traumatizing memories (i.e. her gang rape). One of the most notable moments of the series involves how Vallée flips the Gaze by paying homage by creating an anti-traditional post-sexual bliss scene.

Post-sexual bliss scenes pose a recurrent theme in movies. It is usually a justification to show a naked -or semi-naked woman without having a key plot moment that involves nudity. Take “Entrapment – 1999” where a sexually undesirable man (69-year-old Sean Connery) is caressing the body of a much younger, sexually appealing woman (30-year-old Catherine Zeta Jones) draped suggestively under the sheets. Male fans’ reviews back then show how the box-office sensational, testosterone-pleaser was an unapologetic, successful malefest. At least that’s what Joe Chamberlain on Google Groups think,

“This may sound a bit sexist, but here goes. As far as I know, the main audience for an action movie is young males. So it seems perfectly reasonable to me to cast a young, very attractive actress in the leading role.”

The scene where a fully clothed Connery caresses the body of an actress young enough to be his granddaughter, throws back a shade on the infamous scene from James Bond’s Goldfinger where a much younger, much sexier Sean Connery is seen caressing the naked, gold-painted body of a typical blond (dead) Bond casual fling. In the now iconic sexist/sexy scene, the dead girl dies after being painted completely in gold, the main protagonist -Bond- simply caresses her strategically placed naked dead body. And audiences are not supposed to mourn or feel bad for the hot girl whom they just met a few minutes ago but to revel in the immaculate beauty of a gold-plated naked female corpse.

In “Sharp Objects” Preaker is fully clothed, while Richard –Camille’s object of affection throughout the series and the Kansas detective who investigates the grim murder cases– is lying seductively naked on the bed. As Preaker caresses his naked body, desire apparent in her voice, viewers are greeted with a naked object who has a voice and a say in what is being done to him. With women, though, the camera treatment begs to differ. In “Goldfinger” that would be impossible since the naked object is a dead girl, while in “Entrapment” Sean Connery caresses the naked body of Ms. Jones who pretends to be asleep. In both cases, the male psyche and subconscious are being lured into the movie theater to see a semi-naked silent female object being fondled by fully functioning male protagonist.

In her refusal to be seen, Camille Preaker strips the gaze off its power to hold an object within its focus. Instead, the focus is on Richard’s naked body, on whom her Gaze lingers with longing lust, and on which the camera lingers as well, allowing audiences to feast on male nudity for as long as the scene lasts.

Author Gillian Flynn with actress Amy Adams at the ATX Film Festival

Any photographer worth their accolades can write essays on the vulnerable nature of the nude object. And now, for the first time in probably a decade of TV shows where sexuality is a key element in the main plot, men become vulnerable and nude while women remain fully clothed, in charge and changing the sexual power curve, at least physically.

 

Poetry from Allison Grayhurst

The Journey Continued in Four Parts

Part One – The Step

Allison Grayhurst

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

(barren metallic fields,

a harvest ready to haul, infested,

lock-jaw stagnation)

Never Holy

You asked for a light

at the end of the tunnel

and was told

there is no light at the end

because you are the light

guiding your escape.

You are the living fresh-water fountain

you seek, the high rock in the ocean.

Then you were told there is no tunnel,

no distance between the dark and light.

There is pain and loyalty to that pain

and false hopes that claim us

like a deceitful friend plotting betrayal.

You were told to be glad at daybreak, when the battle

ensues. Against the rain, don’t have any secrets,

even let your own death be revealed.

You were told never stop longing for the clarity

of your spirit, give no one up to the slaughter,

eat only what does not scream or thrash.

If there is a high wall, climb.

If a steep incline, find a rope, tie a rope

and edge your way gently down.

You were told to make bread, give a loaf away

and you might never go hungry.

And even if you do go hungry, then hunger

is the season you are called to endure.

You asked for light at the end of the tunnel

and was told

six more days, then seven – open sail –

eventually the wind will wake, spare you

the cause of your consuming dread.

****

(Four Heads of Evil Within and Without –

Resentment; Bitterness; Self-pity; Self-aggrandizement)

Revival

Be still, in the hostile landscape, be still,

find provision, refuse the fear.

Firmly self-sufficient, valuing your

success measured by fulfilment of God’s commands

and the sweet exchange of eternal experiences.

Is there anything to regret? No,

there is only what must be given up

– self-pity – the grotesque body

that grew beside your own, grew because

of your suffering, a deformity that

grew to help you carry the weight of that suffering,

a deformity that held a place for your secret pride.

But now, unbound, you must mercy-kill it,

release and dissolve its surface layers and under-layers.

It is always in a state of perpetual decay, supporting.

Release the poltergeist apparition,

re-distribute your cells, align

without its sickly features haunting and its whisperings

that lead to madness, whispering

“This suffering is yours. How amazing you are to carry it!”

and “No one will love you if you don’t carry it.”

Be loved in your joy and crazy impulses,

your sinews riveting creative overflow.

Be bouncing, impossible, wrenched from its illusion,

off your leash, off your rocker.

Discover dignity under the high trees,

by the rapids, skipping stones,

stepping on the slippery rocks,

stepping closer to the thrashing contours,

closer yet to its elemental song.

***

 

 

(Awaiting Impact)

Calling In

If you see the daybreak

but cannot walk out of the cave,

if you are still feasting on small beetles and cave-moss

instead of apples and mushrooms, how far really

does your sight go? Far, winning yourself

a legacy but not far enough to be more than

a story told.

How do you collect the emptiness and make a stone,

a salvation, carved with a celestial roof and sturdy ground?

Beg for movement – ask to drink from the cup today –

to perch on the hillside, walk down

the hillside and greet the blessing

like an open-hearted child, running

full speed into your arms.

Take more than symbols, signs, tarot and spells.

Lick the forehead of love, taste the salt

on your tongue, gently covering folds and creases.

Stay in the glory, tangible, building, connecting.

The deck is clear. Hatch the egg.

Search the upper rooms,

carry your bed to the second floor, welcome in

the seductive sweetness, invite it to climb your steps.

First, shedding its secrets, single in its carnal commitment.

Then, feeding your body with its gravity and resolve.

Part Two – Going Back to Let Go

***

(learning the lesson of Lot’s wife)

Their bed, Your body

Rocking under the blade,

not touching, almost touching but not.

Walking into the savage yard, where

decaying soulless wanderers

crowd the space and drink misery instead of water.

Passing through the yard,

closing the gate, never to return.

It is a dark enchantment – behind you, bolted,

enclosed. No price high enough could steady

their ravenous hunger, no sacrifice given to save them

was ever even noticed.

They will keep wandering

in the dead-zone where no mercy

can reach them.

That garden is a place where connection

to God has been willfully severed, where souls

have dissolved into wisps of ghostly fever, ungraspable,

doomed to the storeroom, to the torment tangibly pouring out

of guilt, shame, and outrage born from self pity.

Pity them, then move on.

They are full of secrets, unwashed undergarments

and dusty overcoats, cramped with illness.

Your hands cannot be a shield,

their shadowy substance will seep through your pores.

All that can be done is to

hold hands with Jesus,

commit to run with Jesus. Make this choice,

and watch the swallows circle their nests,

watch the leveling sun

as all good possibilities expand.

And you, reborn by this choice,

having shed yourself of their torment,

can rub yourself with lavender,

manifest your eternal potential,

stepping into the wave, becoming the wave

at one with such power,

all directions in rhythm, forward.

***

(see with both eyes)

When Dust Covers the Sacred

Time is hard on the dream.

The dream, once sharp bold lines

becomes an untidy room – clothes behind

the bed, food crumbs hidden in corners.

For this exchange there is maturity,

the binding up of existence with the inexplicable,

the terrible and the flaccid.

The dangerous duty, the succubus of worry

and then the bitter beast that grows a head beside

your own…in youth, it is easy to imagine the

chaos cleaned, ordered like the many houses of heaven,

but after the fruit has long ago been picked

and there is nothing left to eat, your body changes

to find fuel in air like the baleen whales,

sucking in, filtering out, tiny nourishment,

trying to maintain fat stores, energy

for movement and a steadier type of strength

that only needs the air for answers,

breaking down the barriers of the dream,

letting in influences once firmly barred, letting down

the unsolved puzzles, picking up a housecoat and

relaxing.

The dream then becomes everything – tasks,

small gestures of love, like hugging your grown children,

feeding hazelnuts to squirrels

or watching your lover dance, carefree.

The dream is a small thing,

creeps up behind you like an unexpected neck rub,

cultivates in increments, holds its best power

when unattended, yielding to the unconscious flow,

crushing the big-dream-treasure into an edible form.

***

Sink the Cup

(the more love given,

the more meaning received)

Ignited, set afloat upon a great ocean.

And although the life below the surface is foreign

it is drawn from the one source, and not-so-foreign

at the core.

Speak up upon that burning boat-pyre, drain your cup,

release your shock and anger into a spoken-aloud prayer.

They will come, the angels of the sea –

humpbacks, octopi, porpoises and silver bright fish –

from the dimensional platforms of subcutaneous depths

they will rise with conviction, intimate

as the heat that encroaches and the flames reaching,

determined to transform your flesh into ash.

Leap into their fins and tentacle arms.

They too are sacred and able to offer deliverance.

Forget the land and land creatures

with air pocket lungs and the need for direct sunlight.

These water creatures will work magic

and make you one with their own, so when the fire arrives

it will have no sovereignty over

your plumped-up water-bearing body.

Go under, down inside a world without fire,

take your cup, where the weight and pressure

of the depths is enough justice to bear.

Get close to the Earth’s centre, find a soft place at the bottom.

Remember to love everything that goes by –

the eyeless and the ugly, those that creep and those that glow.

Here your cup will be unnecessary,

but even so, here, it will remain always full.

Part Three – Why Not?

***

(The Poet is not there to save you

The Poet is you)

Why not?

Why not

a sphere,

a monstrous breakthrough

breaking through the sphere

creating a gale, a flash, uncovering

a raging realm of heaven before

unknown?

Why not the mountain

that was both shield and finish line

dissolved into the flossy ocean-sand

particles, sinking, dispersing over the vast

salt-saturated floor?

Why not love strong as a flock of geese

blazing a dark pattern over blue, or love

like a cave, deep underground where a ready-made

meal is found?

Why not the backbone

that was believed as backbone

a chunky armour removed,

and the hand coming in, pliant and warm,

finding skin and muscles rounded, pushing

into true intimacy?

Why not the heart a fish

with a coin in its mouth?

The warrior, now a mother and still

the same?

Why not a steady supply of nourishment,

everything found when needed, everything given

when asked?

Why not the gathered yarn, the knitted

sweaters?

Why not

the person on the bus sitting

in a suffering madness, just his eyes

looking down, teaching you

the unburnished treasure within

– compassion –

seasoned, for you, the world and all?

***

(a miracle witnessed)

Not a Dream

It will seem like a dream,

blanketing your shackles in light

until they vanish like a passing breath of

wind.

You will walk

and the iron gate will be unlocked and open.

At the intersection

you will know it is not a dream,

but a beautiful reckoning, a reconciliation

between reality and ideals.

What you value and keep,

and what you hand over

will equal in authority.

You will be escorted onto the path

in spite of practical obstacles.

In spite of the guarded prison cell,

your freedom will arrive,

gloriously and easefully.

You will get dressed and follow.

This is not a dream. There will be no blood spilt

to ensure your release. It will feel like a dream.

What you commit to will be your lead and your tether.

The shadow of tormented suffering will

be waved away by the angel’s magnificent hand.

The way will be cleared

and tomorrow

you will be rejoicing, opened,

remaining open.

Part Four – Coming Home

***

(kenneled in four sterile walls,

dig until your roots are exposed, weeping)

Forgiveness is Freedom

You open the door

knowing that light is mercy

and mercy is light.

Piece-by-piece has shifted

to the whole, split off

from attachment to personal sin,

from ego encased around your karma

that holds you pressed to it, believing in it,

living inside its loop like an unquestioned tradition.

You open the door and let go

of your individual inheritance

to know a flow between

yourself and heaven, without ritual

as catalyst, only God’s love

as completion, only

Jesus’s gift of utter anarchy.

Letting go of repetitive spiritual duties

that chip away at the rock because the song is sung

“There is no rock!” It has vanished, the burden

of blood and ancestry removed:

forgiveness in the depths,

freedom at the starting line.

***

 

(Interval of agony, elapsed)

The Answer

We must be a potion

mixed. Alone we have

potency and purpose still,

but combined is the breakthrough

explosion, the cry of light that

will grind heaven into sparkling

dust we can bathe our bodies in.

Let’s bathe, hand in hand, limb over limb,

relax in shimmering warm waters.

The guilt that was yours,

guilt for feeling responsible for choices

that were not yours, exorcise it,

burn that haunted palace down and construct

a new hut where we can live and make

a clean home in, pure from ghosts

and the blood bonds of false ownership.

I see you alive and blazing,

your chained foot unchained

and the sun warming your back.

I see you with two hands working their strength,

kneading this sick world with your voice

so strong it will spawn revelations, shape

spiritual fires, ladders from lightning bolts, splitting

the wheat from the chaff.

Be honoured you were chosen for this task.

How could you record it if you didn’t live it,

if you didn’t suck in the last

of its shame and suffering threshold,

choke on its dry and brittle pieces of bone?

So suck it in, take it into your bleeding esophagus,

then watch it dissolve, its frayed and familiar howling

vanished into a new-found brightness.

We must climb the high wall together.

Us, as one, or not at all.

That is the commitment of our marriage

– spit and gore, glory and bond –

Eccentric dancers, fierce creators,

our shoulders as swords slicing the pie,

casting off this second mortality,

together, breaking the wind in two,

being born in the space between, landed.

© Allison Grayhurst 2019

Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Five times nominated for “Best of the Net”, 2015/2017/2018, she has over 1200 poems published in over 475 international journals and anthologies. She has 21 published books of poetry, six collections and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She is a vegan. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com