November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Posts from — April 2012

Ramos y Navar/Interview

Mel Ramos, left to right, Woody Johnson, Eric Murphy, and Gabriel Navar, in Ramos’ studio. Ramos is signing a print that will be on exhibit in the Ramos-Navar exhibition “Pay It Forward”, curated by Johnson & Murphy.


When a student learns

Gabriel Navar Interviews mentor, Mel Ramos

Navar: When did you decide that you wanted to make art your life choice? What artists did you admire as a young artist that inspired you and contributed to your early style(s)? Who (specifically) inspired you most in your early years to become a painter? How did you first determine your initial, personal artistic direction?  

Ramos: I decided I wanted to be a painter when I was in high school after I heard  Wayne Thiebaud give a talk to high school seniors in my class about careers in art. My first big influence was Salvador Dalí, who I discovered when I was 14 after seeing his incredible technical virtuosity with the paintbrush. At first I was a proponent of Abstract Expressionism which was being taught in the art schools at the time. Eventually I realized this was a dead end for me so I decided to paint portraits of my favorite comic book heroes and heroines. The rest is Art History.

Gabe & Mel 1992

Gabe & Mel 1992

Navar: Why did you choose to become a teacher? Was there a specific individual (or individuals) that sparked your interest in teaching?

Ramos: When I decided to make art as a profession I realized I would need a day job to support my activity and knew that teaching art would be the best way to do this.

Navar: As a professor, what was the main thing (advice, message, set of values, etc.) that you wished to instill in your students?

Ramos: The importance of hard work, dedication and clear thinking.

Navar: As an artist working for the most part in California; does West coast painting signify a unique entity? In terms of the contemporary art world, what role does The California School of Painting play? Are “its” unique traditions and values still significant within the contemporary art world? And, why?



Mixed images of the two artists…running in short interview prior to show in Oakland.


Ramos: California does have a distinct identity but I don’t know why. 

Navar: Mel, I clearly recall being in your painting class, sitting in a class critique, and you stating something very positive about my work along the lines of, “Gabe, paint 10 more like these and you will have a great opportunity in the art world.” I took it to heart and have made it one of my main life challenges. I am still pursuing opportunities and am enjoying the journey and the challenges. A question here, Mel, if I may, what was it about my work habits, painting style, etc., as a student of yours over 20 years ago that caused you to see promise in my work and/or career?

Ramos: I was impressed by your PASSION to succeed.

* * *

Editor’s Note:

The Pay It Forward exhibition is scheduled to take place in Oakland at:
406  14th Street.
Curated by Eric Murphy and Woody Johnson
June 1- July 28, 2012
OPENING RECEPTION: June 1 (6:00 PM- 9:00 PM)
Contact:   Eric Murphy, 510-465-8928
For more about the exhibition, see:

April 29, 2012   1 Comment

John Tierney/Artist Interview

 © John Tierney

Formosa Stop, LA | 20″ x 16′ | Oil on canvas


Meet the professor:

At the end of the day,

Art wins 

by Mike Foldes

John Tierney is a British painter whose subjects are most likely to be scenes from places where his three sons live, Los Angeles, New York and Helsinki, than his home in Durham, nearer Edinburgh than London. It’s the light and the way it plays off his subjects, as much as anything, that determines what he paints, with subjects ranging from natural rock formations in the desert, to flamingo-pink buildings under clear blue skies of Los Angeles on a perfect day, to the sun-soaked streets of Brooklyn, if you can imagine that, with neighborhood backdrops of theaters, bridges and streets, in ways that capture both the eye and the imagination. Tierney’s working background includes a long career as a university-level criminology professor whose “retirement” has allowed him to nourish a lifelong interest in art. Not only is he engaged as a painter, he’s an accomplished musician who can jam with the best, and – when in L.A. –  does. When his L.A.-based son Ben asked if we might be interested in featuring his father’s work in Ragazine, it hit a sweet spot – largely because we wanted to know more about this cat who does indeed appear to have nine lives. You can make what you like of the art, as many have with comparisons to David Hockney and Edward Hopper; but in other terms, what he sees and what he paints are as much derivative of his existential approach to “nature vs nurture”.   Read what the professor has to say.


Ragazine: I’m as interested in your career path as where you are today as a painter, so if some of the questions seem to come out of left field, I’ll leave it to you to answer as you like. As an aside, our politics editor Jim Palombo has studied and taught criminology internationally for many years, and has written a couple of books including From Heroin to Heresy and From Criminal to Critic. I just completed a book, Sleeping Dogs – A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. See the connection… So, how did you happen to take the criminology career path, as opposed to studying art and teaching art at the university level?

Tierney: I was born into a working class family in the industrial north west of England. There was no history of further or higher education in my immediate or, indeed, extended family. Everyone had left school at the minimum legal age. When I was a boy this was 15 years. I did, though, show some aptitude for school work and stayed on at school for an extra year, gaining some basic qualifications. The education system reflected the class system: the vast majority of working class kids were ‘selected’ at 11 for the type of secondary school that I attended. These were called secondary moderns and, in fact, around 70% of the population attended these. In general, they prepared pupils for manual jobs. I was quite good at, and enjoyed, art at school and would have liked to have pursued a career in, for instance, commercial art. However, at 16 I received little encouragement for this and believed that I wasn’t talented enough for a career in art. So, when I left school I began an engineering apprenticeship, which involved attending a local college for one day a week. I continued to paint and read about art and artists, but I also developed a keen interest in social and political issues. Sociology seemed to offer an opportunity to explore these things in depth. Thus at 23, and by now a qualified draftsman, I decided to apply to university to study for a degree. Although I didn’t have conventional entrance qualifications, my engineering qualifications (and perhaps enthusiasm) convinced a couple of admissions tutors that I was worth taking on. The rest, as they say, is history. I got my degree, followed by post-graduate qualifications, and entered into, firstly, further, then later on, higher education as a lecturer. By the late 1970s I had developed a particular interest in the sociology of crime and deviance, and this became my specialist field. To me it was inherently interesting and as a field of study appeared to incorporate all of the major sociological debates and issues. I retired from Durham University in 2010 and this provided an opportunity to engage with my painting in a more serious way than previously. Throughout my life as an academic I had continued, on and off, to paint. 

Q) Did you ever paint or draw in another style than the one you’re working in today? Was there ever a time abstract expressionism had an appeal?

A) Over the years I explored a variety of ‘styles’ and techniques (including abstract expressionism!). However, what I am doing now is, I suppose, my ‘default’ mode. 

©John Tierney

Red Car in the Valley of Fire, NV | 12″ x 9″ | Oil on canvas


Q) If you paint from photographs, do you ever manipulate the images, or do you remain pretty much true to the “visual events” you work from?

A) While some painters are reluctant to admit that they use photographs, for me they are the basis of the work I do. It it not my intention, though, to simply reproduce a photographic image. I work on these images. Sometimes this means manipulating them in the simple sense of moving things around, but more importantly, ‘manipulation’ occurs through the use of technique and colour. Looking at my paintings, the viewer is obviously aware that they are seeing a painting and not, say, a textured photograph. Most of my work is based on the urban landscape of Los Angeles and the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park (I’ve visited each on many occasions – one of my sons and his wife live in L.A.). I’m attracted by the light and shade, the architecture of L.A. and the sharp delineation of sky and buildings/mountains. Some of my paintings, though, are of New York and Helsinki – where my two other sons live. Two major influences are Edward Hopper and the earlier, L.A.-based paintings of David Hockney. Edward Hopper said that he was fascinated by the chance events found in nature. I am fascinated by the chance events captured by the camera – in the broadest sense a sort of serendipity. This involves, for example, light, reflections, and the deportment of people. To illustrate, one of my paintings is of the Cobble Hill cinema in Brooklyn, N.Y. I took a photograph of parents and their kids following, I presume, a morning show. Only when I began to draw out the scene on canvas did I notice a girl in a flamboyant red dress, and with one of her arms in an odd position. She became the focal point of the painting. 

Q) Do you spend a lot of time searching for images or scenes to paint, or is choosing your subjects a more casual undertaking, where you engage in customary activities like going to the grocery store and suddenly are taken by what you see?

A) I usually take my camera with me when I’m in the US and out walking, and I’m always on the look out for interesting images. My three sons have also been important sources – they know the kind of stuff that appeals to me. 

Q) I don’t see any paintings of London on your website. Don’t you like painting in shades of  gray, or are these stored somewhere?

A) At the moment none of my paintings are of locations in the U.K. I suppose that one dimension to this is that I visit L.A., New York or Helsinki as an ‘outside’ observer who is fascinated by the differences between these places and, say, London.

Q) Do you have more than one studio, meaning, in L.A., or in London or New York? Where is most of your work (painting) produced?

A) I have one studio and it’s in the UK.

Q) Have you spent considerable time in the museums in London or elsewhere in Europe? Which is your favorite, if one can have a favorite?

A) A ‘considerable’ time would be an exaggeration. However, when in a European (or U.S.,  for that matter) city I do like to include a visit to the major galleries, or a minor one if something has caught my eye. I live some distance from London, so I’m not able to routinely visit the many galleries on offer there. I don’t have a favorite, but when in London I like to visit the usual suspects: The National Gallery, The Tate Modern, Tate Britain and (for its Summer Exhibition) The Royal Academy. One gem I’ve discovered outside of the U.K. is the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland.


John Tierney/Artist


Q) You’ve written at least two books about criminology. Do you still have a desire to write, and if so, is the subject the same? Do you see yourself analyzing art and artists in the same way you drilled down into criminology? Is it environment or DNA that makes men artists? Criminals?

A) To a large extent writing has been put to one side since I retired from the university. I do enjoy writing and have various ideas, though none are in the area of academic criminology. One project, roughly sketched out, is a novel dealing with a crime theme – I quite like the idea of writing in a genre that frees me from any concerns with evidence and footnotes! While I’m happy to respond to questions such as these, it would be presumptuous of me to embark on a project aimed at a serious engagement with art and artists. The last question you’ve included in this section is (to put it mildly) a big and complex one! However, it is an interesting one, so I’ll respond, albeit in broad terms (and I do discuss it in much more detail in my book Criminology: Theory and Context). Basically, you are referring to the long-standing debate about nature vs nurture. Stated simply: does someone become a criminal (or artist, which I’ll return to) because of a genetic predisposition, or as a result of social experiences? It thus lies within a context of debates about the so called causes of crime. To begin with, any reference to the ‘causes’ of crime based upon a simple A causes B model should set the alarm bells ringing. Over the years a steady stream of politicians, journalists, criminal justice personnel and academics have apparently tracked down the causes of crime. As a result we have a bewildering galaxy of causal explanations, taking in bad genes, chromosome deficiencies, deformed personalities, trendy parents, lone parents, trendy lone parents, simple greed, deprivation, blocked opportunities, peer group pressure, status frustration, too little money, too much money and artificial coloring in fish fingers. The corollary of these has been an equally bewildering galaxy of treatment/punishment packages: offenders have been incarcerated in hulks on the River Thames, transported from Britain to Australia, hanged, pelted with eggs in village stocks, tortured in dungeons, given short sharp shocks in detention centers, sterilized, injected with mind-altering drugs, made to face their victims, sent on wagon trains across America and (nowadays especially popular in the U.S. and U.K.) locked up in prison. To illustrate the complexities raised by this debate, you refer to ‘men’ in the question – though I assume you include women. Most crime, especially violent crime, in the U.S. and U.K. (and many other societies) is in the main committed by men. Thus gender – masculinity and femininity –defined as socially constructed understandings of maleness and femaleness, is one of myriad factors that need to be taken into consideration. I’m skeptical of the idea that criminals are predisposed towards criminal behavior because of their genetic makeup. No ‘criminal gene’ has ever been tracked down. As a social scientist I have always been more interested in the social, though I am critical of social (as well as genetic) explanations based upon deterministic causal relationships. Thus the notion of ‘bad’ genes or ‘bad’ environments propelling some individuals into crime seems to me to be far too simplistic. Clearly, the relationship between genetic make-up and social experiences is extremely complex. Furthermore, the concept of social experiences is shorthand for what has to encompass a vast range of social structural factors, social interactions, cultural, political and economic considerations, subjective understandings and creative responses on the part of individuals. People are both shaped by, and help shape the social world. Where and how one is brought up, one’s opportunities in life, how one is treated by others, how one sees oneself and one’s place in society and how one subjectively understands and gives meaning to the social world, etc., etc., all have to go into the mix when attempting to explain criminal, or any other, behavior. And, when focusing on specifically criminal behavior, it is important to note that ‘crime’ covers a huge range of activities. There is a danger of conceptualizing crime simply in terms of so called ‘conventional’ crime, such as burglary and street robbery, and ignoring the significant amount of white-collar and corporate crime that exists. In some ways it is more productive to approach these debates about criminality from the opposite direction, that is, by recognizing that ‘crime’ is a relative, not an absolute concept. No activity is inherently criminal. What is defined as criminal depends upon the criminal law, which varies from one society to another, and in one particular society changes over the years. The fact that nothing is inherently criminal makes any attempt to construct a universal explanation of criminal behavior highly problematic. Similar issues (based on the notion of relativism, rather than absolutism) are raised if we turn to ‘artists’, as referred to in your questions. I’m not at all sure what an artist is. Anyone can call themselves an artist. One thing they do, though, is produce what they consider to be ‘art’. Therefore, I think it is art, not artist, that is most relevant to the debate you have raised: is genetic endowment the key factor explaining an individual’s ability to produce what is defined as ‘good’ art? The problem here is that just as no behavior is inherently criminal, so no piece of artwork is inherently good. Whether or not it gets recognized as such is contingent upon many evolving factors: for instance, taste and expectations vis a vis ‘good’/’legitimate’ art during a particular historical period, social, political and cultural contexts and the nature of a specific audience who have the power to define a piece of work as good. What is defined as good, marketable art varies enormously in terms of type of expertise, technique, materials and intention – think of cubism, abstract art, abstract expression, videos and all sorts of installations, for example. Obviously, an ability to produce accurate representations of things, as conventionally understood, is not a prerequisite for the creation of ‘good’ art – nor should it be. Therefore, if we cannot pin down a specific ability necessary to create good art, then searching for the source of good art in an individual’s genetic make-up is a chimera. If I may, I’d like to make a final point regarding genetics and criminality. During the 1920s and 1930s the eugenics movement achieved a significant following in continental Europe and the United States. Essentially, it was concerned with ‘improving’ the genetic stock, which meant devising ways of preventing those defined as ‘degenerate’, of low intelligence, or otherwise judged as deviant/criminal from having children (through sterilizing them, for example). This mission to ‘purify’ the genetic pool, however, was somewhat sullied by those who during World War 2 took the arguments to their logical conclusion in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Q) Have your interests, including art and music, rubbed off on all of your sons?

A) It’s difficult to say with certainty what has ‘rubbed off’, but my middle son is a social science professor at an American college. All three have dabbled with painting and drawing over the years, though none, so far, has engaged with these seriously. They all, though, have a good eye for photographs. My eldest son, in fact, is a very accomplished photographer and has produced work commercially (he provided the image for one of my books, for instance). 

Q) You’ve gotten a lot of play for the painting you did of the Paul Smith Store in Los Angeles, and his hallmark scarf. How did this experience come about?                                                                                       

A) I gave Paul Smith one of my paintings of his store as a present and he thought that it would provide an interesting image for use on a limited edition silk scarf. My forthcoming exhibition at the store in May is a knock-on effect.

Q) If you had to do over, would you have been an artist first and a criminologist second?

A) I have no regrets about entering into the field of criminology. However, if I could go back and do it over, I’d probably choose art, simply because I would have already experienced the world of criminology and would like to try something different.  


 Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted via e-mail in February and March of 2012.  For more information about John Tierney, including links to his music, visit

April 28, 2012   Comments Off on John Tierney/Artist Interview

3 Artists from Brazil

Priscila De Carvalho

“Off-duty Militias” | 2008 | 24″ x 34″ x 2 1/2″

Acrylic, ink, foamcore, photo collage, sharpie on canvas


Gersony Silva

 Simultaneous Outbreaks |  2010 | 0.64×0.75m – 1 of 4 pieces

   Printed mirror vitrine 


Duda Penteado

Glocallica Series XXIII | 2010 | 100 X 100 CM (39″ X 39″)

Acrylic on canvas


Three “Hot” Brazilian Artists


Priscila De Carvalho, Duda Penteado, and Gersony Silva:


Emerging Global Initiative(s)!

By   Dr. José Rodeiro

 Anyone with a full “art historical” understanding of emergent contemporary Brazilian visual art in both the United States of America and Brazil would instantly affirm that the dominant “stars” (in terms of popularity in the USA) are Vik Muniz, Romero Britto, Priscila De Carvalho, Duda Penteado and Gersony Silva.  Recently, in the USA, these five prominent Brazilian 21st Century transvanguard visual artists are ubiquitously affecting American culture within the context of US Latinization.   What is fascinating (about these five Brazilian artists) is that their art often reflects current urban themes such as over-population, class-segregation, alienation, globalization, the body, self-gratification and individualism. Yet, these urban themes are pursued by each of these Brazilian artists with distinctive character and personality.   For example, all five have a history of large public-works and community projects, while Britto (with his Leger-esque signature-style of thick black lines surrounding pure-hues, connoting tropical delectation) appears less drawn to or affected by Brazil’s recent “national” propensity for cooperative communal artistic endeavors (i.e., articulations and/or interventionist art – both concepts are defined and described in the next paragraph).  Nevertheless, Britto has become a cottage-industry, whose fashionable designs appear everywhere.  On the other-hand (like Vik Muniz), Duda Penteado also generates cooperative public-projects, actions (“Neo-Happenings”), and other civic or group-endeavors; although, he also creates fascinating, lyrical, highly-imaginative imagery, which ingeniously examines Apocalyptic “&/or” prophetic Bosch-like realms in a vibrant Picasso-esque style reminiscent of Belgian CoBrA-master Pierre Alechinsky, as well as Puerto-Rican Neo-Surrealist Epson Espada.

In the early 21st Century, Brazil’s various artistic communities were encouraged to create large-scale Post-Fluxus (“Neo-NeoDada”) Articulations and Interventionist Art works, involving thousands of participants in the formation of the “work.”   Of course, the focus on “art-as-work,” “process,” or “making” over “finished product” is a throwback to the Neo-Marxist “socialist” aesthetic ideas of Harold Rosenberg, Joseph Beuys, and other social action-oriented concerns and methods, which also manifested in Brazil, as a variant of action-art, in the late-1960s and early 1970s as evidenced by urban group-performances orchestrated by Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape and other major Brazilian contemporary masters.  Ideally, these group projects involve large cohorts of people; neighborhoods, districts, “art-communes,” “teams” or “art collectives.”   Ultimately, the Articulations and/or Interventionist Art dream (or “wish”) was to get the entire nation of Brazil (or, ideally an even bigger, or greater democratic “geo-estetica” ambition, aesthetically involving a la Kant “everyone on earth”) engaged in creating one work (or one activity).   For example, Penteado in collaboration with Mario Tapia (Chilean-American) and Dr. Carlos Hernandez (Puerto-Rican American) creating a coast-to-coast national US-art endeavor known as the “WE ARE YOU PROJECT INTERNATIONAL” exhibit, an enormous art movement-esque work of art that simultaneously combined film, visual art, poetry, music, performance-art, socio-political-activism, etc., which had implications throughout both the USA and all of the Americas, drawing in (directly or indirectly) three prominent Brazilian artists: Priscila De Carvalho, Duda Penteado, and Gersony Silva.

In a way, Vik Muniz’s enormous Waste Land garbage-portraits (with images derived from art history), reflect similar Brazilian collectivist artistic-strivings (communally creating a vast Intervention and/or massive public Articulation); although, in the end, the entire work (“series of images”)  is/are (nevertheless) indicative of an individual vision, which is clearly identified as a “work-of-art” created both directly and indirectly by Vik Muniz, by means of his remarkable vision, and a talented crew of assistants, including randomly selected on-site “garbage-pickers.”   Ideally, perhaps, in time, the whole nation of Brazil will do a universal Interventionist piece, presumably during the Brazilian Olympics; or during the Brazilian World Cup, or maybe during some future unforeseen enormous “Carnival.”

Today, the “hottest” Brazilian Artists in the USA that are manifesting profound awareness of the “WE ARE YOU PROJECT INTERNATIONAL’s” emerging global initiative(s) are Priscila De Carvalho, Duda Penteado, and Gersony Silva.  These three highly-gifted masters will be examined “alphabetically” (below)against the background of the We Are You Project International, aptly described throughout this URL:


Priscila De Carvalho

“Settlements” | August, 2010 | Medium:  39″ x 58″ 

Enamel, acrylic, ink, permanent maker, photograph collage on canvas

Priscila De Carvalho

Fresh from her 2011 Museum of Modern Art’s PS-1”Studio Visit” selection, Priscila De Carvalho displayed her art at the Museo del Barrio’s 2011-2012 “Bienal.” Born in Brazil in 1975, De Carvalho attended The City College of San Francisco, as well as UC Berkeley. Additionally, she attended New York City’s Art Students League.

Priscila De Carvalho

As one of the leading lights of Brazilian visual art in the USA, she was awarded the fêted Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, as well as attaining support from Artist in the Market Place at Bronx Museum, Queens Council on The Arts Fund, along with an Aljira Emerge 10 Fellowship. She has held artist-residencies at Jamaica Center for the Arts and Learning, and at Utica, New York’s Sculpture Space.  In recent years, major exhibits of her art abound, including a solo-show at the Jersey City Museum, and other shows at The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Pulse Art Fair in New York, Pinta Art Fair in London (UK), Deutsche Bank and various other respected galleries and museums. Her involvement in the WE ARE YOU PROJECT INTERNATIONAL exhibition (2012-2018) is reflected in her remarkable image titled: Off-Duty Militias (2008, acrylic, pencil, ink, foam, photograph collage on canvas, 24″ x 34″ x 1/2″ (Collection of the artist)).

Via her 2008 image “Off-Duty Militias,” De Carvalho creates a work that combines various media including acrylic, vinyl, permanent marker, pencil, and photo collage. In her imagery, De Carvalho creates fantastic worlds in which colors, forms, and elements of fantasy all meld together.  The work combines the influence of Pop Art, Spanish Informalism, the monumentality of mural painting, and a reverence for architectural forms.  With these varied sources, the artist overlays a complex variety of objects and shapes together, creating a frenetic, turbulent, escalating and heavily laden urban landscape.


Priscila De Carvalho / 3 Artists from Brazil

View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.


She is perhaps most inspired by the ever-expanding and sprawling urban growth in the cities of her native Brazil, particularly the labyrinthine favelas rapidly encircling Rio de Janeiro.  Revealing the sense of a huge population constantly on the move, her works are marked by intense colors and the upward-thrusting  lines of ever-present winding streets and stairways.  When confronting her improvised shanty vedutes, some Anglo-American viewers occasionally invoke Led Zeppelin’s haunting lyrics to Stairway To Heaven.   Importantly, in her piece Off Duty Militias, she was inspired by gang-driven drug-trafficking in the slums of Brazil, as well as the  innate (or inherent) theme(s) of superfluous make-shift fence-building projects, connoting human-separation amid chaotic barriers and watchtowers, which directly relate to the current surge of “rightwing” ethno-racist US-border issues along the Rio Grande and Sonoran Desert.

Beyond the acclaimed exhibits and awards already described above, De Carvalho has also shown in UC Praxis International Art Gallery in New York, Gallery 64 Bis in Paris, France, and in Deutsche Bank, the AIM Program at the Bronx Museum Biennial and at the (S) Files’ “Bienal” of El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY.   Her work has been reviewed by The New York Times (August 2009), Art Aldia International (March 09), Art Nexus (August 2009) and many others publications. Further information on Priscila De Carvalho is available at  and: .


Duda Penteado

Glocallica Series XXX | 2010 | 110 X 130 CM (43″X 53″)

 Acrylic on canvas

Duda Penteado

Duda Penteado’s innovative and revolutionary Glocallica Series affords viewers rich undulating waves of dark Lorca-esque duende, encompassing (in 2012) some of the Brazilian master’s most intriguing imagery to date.  In the Series, his use of hands and feet allude to Oscar Niemeyer’s giant 1985 Memorial to the Americas’s hand sculpture (Sao Paulo, Brazil).

Duda Penteado, The Bird of Revelation Installation. Photo credit: Eric Lehrer

Art historically, Penteado’s emerging Glocallica imagery implicitly alludes to a mere handful of exceptional duende-filled abstract works that were created since 1945  by approximately eight modern masters: Pablo Picasso’s heroic post-War Charnel House Series examining the Jewish Holocaust; Pierre Alechinsky’s Cobra imagery; Franz Kline’s action-paintings; the renowned Ecuadorian painter and sculptor Oswaldo Guayasamín, as well as the New York School Abstract Expressionist artists: Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and William Baziotes.   From these eight modern masters, it is clear that Penteado’s Glocallica Series references Federíco García-Lorca’s theory of the duende (a term best defined in this URL:, which also lurks behind Motherwell’s Elegies to the Spanish Republic, as well as probing Rothko’s two astounding aesthetic ideas: 1). The Sublime in visual art, and 2). The tragio-dramatic in visual art, which pertain to recent Penteado Glocallica works.
Consequently, as an intrepid manifestation of the “here-&-now,” (and, in devotion to Lorca’s duende-present: the “now”) each Glocallica image simultaneously represents what Salvador Dalí characterized as timeless binaries or dichotomous conflict(s) between the legi intimus and the legi promiscuitus; with both boldly battling (in the present) to join the local and the global (the street and the universe), the intimate and the distant.   Hence, Penteado’s Glocallica Series constantly unites in the eternal-present both the “far-flung” and the “very close,” connecting them together with what Martin Luther King called, “The fierce urgency of now.”    Hence,  against the empty-void of today’s dismal and fruitless Neo-Philistine ‘Malthusian-world,’ which appears perpetually caught between constant war(s); pending  global Depression(s); imminent man-made disasters, and unavoidable pandemics, Penteado erects a symbolic large “tree-like” HAND(s) branching, grasping, reaching and struggling.  By means of these heroic hand-images, The Glocallica Series valiantly confronts myriad Neo-Philistine-adversaries, for whom he symbolically raises an emblematic hand to stand like a tree against them.  This emblematic hand has root-like feet and branches resembling fingers.  This anthropomorphized “hand-tree” has humanoid features: feet-roots, branch-arms, branch fingers, and other human characteristics, which brilliantly derive from Oscar Niemeyer’s giant 1985 Memorial to the Americas’s hand sculpture (Sao Paulo, Brazil).  And, through the depiction of that emblematic black/white hand(s), Penteado reveals humanity’s urgent need for greater feeling, emotion, imagination, spirituality, love and redemption.  Throughout The Bible, hands and feet often play significant roles that relate to each of these above-stated aspirations. For example, in The Apocalypse, St. John the Evangelist describes his heartfelt reaction during his first glimpse of the risen Christ, saying:

“I fell at his feet as though I was dead, but he placed his right hand on me and said, ‘Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive – forever and ever – and I hold the keys of death and the dead” (Rev.1-17).


Duda Penteado / 3 Artists from Brazil


Furthermore, due to its firm-grounding in Lorca-esque Duende, The Glocallica Series stands as a viable antidote against contemporary visual-art’s and contemporary life’s mundane daily grind (or present-struggle), Glocallica’s symbolic hand is the tragic-sublime Mark Rothko-esque and Motherwell-esque “heroic-shape” confronting a host of iniquitous villains (i.e., the zealous post-industrialists, the hyper-conceptualists, the fanatic-anarchists, the anti-visceralists/anti-emotive non-humans, anti-art anti-artists, the enemies of human-civilization, the terrorists, the pro-mechanistic techno-militants, the outcomes-obsessed educators and the foes of “true Hegelian-faith,” who attempt to replace ART and SPIRITUALITY with their glib fixation on hyper-media, hyper-technology, gluttonous-capitalism, fanatic false-religiosity and bogus non-faith; or even worse, unwarranted faith in mere science, sybaritic machines, or totalitarianism (especially the current glut of malevolent religio-despots addicted to fatality and their mindless congregations (“the herd”)); as well as all other illicit 21st Century vulgarities and criminal excesses (i.e., a banquet of fiscal greed; transgenic art (bio-art); regurgitated Neo-Dada conceptualizations, and other spurious attacks on primordial and eternal human values).  To all these lugubrious stupidities and evils, The Glocallica Series says, “NO!”  Furtively, all this Glocallican-negativity is actually a positive affirmation of human life, faith, love and art.  Also, most importantly for Penteado, Brazil (itself) is a manifestation (or a constant reminder) of God’s outstretched hands symbolic of what really matters to all people living on the planet Earth: human life, human faith, human love and human art.

Penteado was born in São Paulo in 1968, and studied at FIAM – SP.  Throughout the 1990, he  exhibited in Brazil, then he moved to New York City, where he obtained a position at Muriel Studio in Soho, NYC (NY) as an assistant to Sheila Marbain, the inventor of a new “silk monotype” technique, which was employed by many leading contemporary artists.  Active in both Brazil and the USA as well as in Europe throughout the late-1990s and the early 21st Century, he showed in The Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ; Biennale Internazionale Dell’Arte Contemporanea, Florence, Italy, 2009; Monique Goldstrom Gallery, NYC; The Museum of Art and Origins, Harlem, NYC (NY); BACI-The Brazilian American Cultural Institute, Washington, DC; Museo de Las Americas, Denver, CO; CITYarts 272nd Mural, “Nature is Love on Earth”, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, The St. John’s Recreation Center, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NYC, 2008, 2009; Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY, New Jersey City University, Jersey City, NJ, Kean University, Union, NJ; Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ; Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ; Drew University, Madison, NJ; Middlebury College, Vermont; UFES- Universidade Estadual do Espírito Santo, Vitoria, ES; UNESP-Universidade Estadual Paulista, SP, and SESC – SP.

He was President of the Artist Certification Board, Jersey City, NJ, until 2010. Received awards and recognition from various institutions in the United States, including: Urban Artist Fellowship Award, Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT; Goldman Sachs Student Art Project Grant, Jersey City, NJ (2006, 2007, 2008); Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Claremont, CA; Special Guest for Artistic Achievement & Commitment to YMCA Greater, NY-Youth, NYC; American Graphic Design Award, Interactive Multimedia Installation, NYC; Humanitarian Award from the Hudson County Chapter of the American Conference on Diversity, Jersey City, NJ, and received a Kappa Pi International Honorary Art Fraternity Award, Eta Rho Chapter, New Jersey City University, Jersey City, NJ.  Along with Mario Tapia and Dr. Carlos Hernandez, he has been at the helm of the We Are You Project since 2005.   For more about Penteado art and career explore this URL: .


Gersony Silva

Your wave: The other side | 2008 |  1.80 x 1.50 m

 Object-art / scene – wood, laminated print  blanket styrofoam, mirror, lights 

Gersony Silva

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1973, Gersony Silva lives and works in her native city.  She studied fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts, Sao Paulo, Brazil.   Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, she also attended the Pontifical Catholic University (SP), The University of Sao Paulo, and The Art School of The Museum of Art of Sao Paulo.

She has exhibited extensively in Brazil, Spain, the USA, and other locations that are listed in her Website:  As a child, she bravely faced a debilitating illness, precipitating the onset of possible early paralysis.

Silva and Rodeiro

Gersony Silva with Dr. José Rodeiro

Intrepidly, as a way to confront her illness, she studied classical dance – as a therapeutic means to strengthen her body.   This shamanic awareness of the therapeutic power of art resides in her spectacular creations as a means of promoting (enhancing) her well-being, and by so doing, also enhancing (like a true shaman) the vigor and vitality of everyone around her.  In the fall of 2011, she participated in various We Are You Project events in Brazil, achieving a friendship with Duda Penteado and other members of the US-based We Are You Project sojourning in Brazil

Ultimately, the highly insightful and provocative imagery of contemporary Brazilian master Gersony Silva represents a stunning, intriguing, and poetic art, which is often self-referential, highly evocative, and frequently focuses on various parts of her body (e.g., knees, feet, elbows, joints, toes, folds, bends, curves and other corporeal components).  She pursues this uncompromising analysis of her body via various “cinematic” sequences of images that rely on unique perspectives, distortions, perceptions, symmetrical mirroring(s), repetitions, manipulation(s) and adaptations.   Her straightforward and monumental abstract designs hint at motion, choreographed movement, and dance.  Yet, as all great artists, she has a well-spring of allusions to art history, which are ingeniously evident throughout her work, proving Pablo Picasso’s maxim that, “Mediocre artists borrow; but, great artists steal!”

Among the contemporary artists that are significant to her, we find Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, Rebecca Horn and Anish Kapoor.  This brief critique will examine each of these art historical allusions, as well as Silva’s unique relationship to Ana Mendieta.   For example, the exquisite and inviting overlays of bending and folding flower-petals in O’Keeffe’s various “Flower” images reemerge in the sensual bends and folds inhabiting Silva’s signature monumental monochromatic dark blue installation-pieces, as well as manifesting in the Brazilian’s assorted conceptual body-oriented photographic series’ figural-elements, which from time to time suggest Alfred Stieglitz’s famous 1930s photographic-analysis (series) of every part of his wife’s (O’Keeffe’s) body.

Also, of equal significance (to Silva) are Bourgeois’s courageous erotically-charged sculptures representing abstracted (organic-surreal) humanoid or mutated genitalia-forms or genitalia-beings, which allude to the Brazilian’s conceptual-photographic manipulations of her own body-parts (e.g., knees, feet, elbows, joints, toes, folds, bends, curves and other components).  The use of light and shadow in Silva’s installations have a direct relationship to the dramatic lighting effects spotlighting captivating performances and installations by Rebecca Horn.  Like Silva, the German-born artist Horn is a master of properly lit astounding performances and installations.  Permeating Silva’s work is a profound concern for color (chromatic hue); shimmering and high-key surface-effects, utilizing design precision (meticulousness); these above-mentioned elite or “classic” qualities are equally pervasive in the works of Anish Kapoor, the Anglo-Indian contemporary sculptor and installation-artist.


Gersony Silva / 3 Artists from Brazil


 Due to Silva’ fascination with her own anatomy, her flesh, and her own distinct physiology, several astute art critics and art historians refer to her as the “Ana Mendieta of Brazil.”   Like the acclaimed Cuban Performance-artist and Body-artist (who died tragically in 1985), Silva’s art documents, (through a variety of more-or-less performance-esque method(s)) the function(s) of each part of her body, which she specifically portrays, circumspectly investigating each organic element as a constituent part of a vital living organism with a unique history and essential life, thereby comprising or deriving from a indispensable being known as “Gersony Silva.”  Via these cinematic documentary series that reflect her sublime self awareness and self actualization, she carefully illuminates and/or describes the way that each aesthetically diagnosed part of her inimitable living organism function(s).

Unlike the hyper-expressionistic oeuvre of Mendieta, Silva’s gorgeous, classical, elegant and “muse-filled” imagery is far less raw, gory, or as agonizing as the extremely chthonic feminist performance pieces that Mendieta’s duende conjured-up.    Despite this one significant difference, both Mendieta and Silva manifest four essential art historical similarities, which are:  1). a general reliance on their own body as the subject of their art, as well as 2). creating works that exude a sublime self-awareness and self actualization, revealing 3).  a shamanic need to create animistic rituals that invoke greater health and well-being for themselves and the world.   Lastly, both artists bravely 4). challenge monotonous and entrenched “merely” Minimalist aesthetic trends in the late-1960s and 1970s, which included such mind-numbing “minimal” artists as Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, etc., etcetera.

Lastly, throughout the USA, in the 21st Century, enclaves of Brazilian artists are working alongside US-Latinos in their collaborative struggle for US civil rights and equality.  For example, in the above critique, three Brazilian artists (Priscila De Carvalho, Duda Penteado and Gersony Silva) are involved directly or indirectly with the We Are You Project International (“WAY Project”).   The best way to define this 21st Century WAY Project initiative in terms of Brazil and all of Latin America would be to recall that twice in 1936 and again in 1943, Joaquin Torres-García (in Montevideo, Uruguay) portrayed America’s Southern Hemisphere utilizing an Antarctic-perspective, as though an anticipated polar-inversion [(anticipated around every 640,000 years)] had transpired.  In fact, he wrote “Polo S” across the top of both drawings, entreating viewers to adopt this “new” South Pole point-of-view.   The We Are You Project endeavors the same drastic reorientation of Latino cultural and artistic values, asking Latino artists throughout the world to rediscover their own culture and to confront (in their art) all the socio-political and economic issues that affect all Latinos.   Hence, “WAY” is a courageous Sisyphean effort to address (via art) the myriad 21st Century opportunities, restrictions, and risks, which all Latinos (i.e. Brazilians) face.


About the author:

Dr. José Rodeiro is Coordinator of Art History, Art Department, New Jersey City University. A deconstruction of his recent painting, “Hips don’t lie,” appeared in Ragazine, Volume 8, Number 2.



April 28, 2012   Comments Off on 3 Artists from Brazil

Xavier Landry/Artist Interview


Éducation | acrylic on canvas  | 40” x 30”  | 2012


Garbage Pail Kids

come of age in Montreal 

 By Michael Foldes

Ragazine: Xavier, thank you for contacting Ragazine about featuring your work, and for agreeing to this interview. We trust our readers will be as intrigued by what you are doing as are we.

Landry in his studio in Montreal.

You’ve done a wonderful job of updating Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Your paintings are poignant commentaries on, and painful reminders of, what contemporary culture is doing to us. Would you say this is an accurate appraisal?

Landry: Definitely. It’s about the creepy nature of men forged by our cultural experience. It is contemporary by the references I use but at large, men have always the same problems and wills.

Q) Your Christophe Colomb image is very disturbing in a direct way (he looks to me like someone who came out of a leaking nuclear power plant); Exode,  La patrouille s’amuse and Manipulation are more frightening in the sense they combine readily identifiable and common imagery with nightmarish qualities. Where do these “dreams” come from?

A) I dream a lot. As many of us, I wish. Some themes are more than others forced to fit with an aesthetic that I want to show, but usually the images just come by themselves. The brain is a bank filled of all kind of souvenirs that make our personal culture. I mix those feelings and personal fantasy with real events or popular behavior. Then in my case, the image left depends on the way the ideas were interpreted. It could be soft but I don’t feel things that way.

Q) Your commentaries on fast food in Hotdog and La passion de Wendy, and ‘fast shopping at big box stores” in La Patrouille s’amuse, get right to the point. Are you a vegetarian? Do you shop at the local grocer’s?

A) I don’t go to McDo or that kind of fast food restos, but I like the way they look. They popped out from an acid trip. That’s a hook that works. Even their food looks like toys. I’m not a vegetarian. I eat vegeterians.

Fuckoshima! |  acrylic on canvas | 2011

Q) I am totally amused by the title of your painting, Fuckoshima!, but obviously it’s nothing to laugh at when an event scares the crap out of you. You appear able to turn anything, including censorship, into biting satire. How long have you been painting in this mode?

A) I prefer to show things different as they are. I imagine the marriage of Kate and William as a total mess with a negative issue. As far as I can remember I do it that way since college.

Q) Did you draw much as a child? I noticed the pack of crayons being thrown from the helicopter in Liberation figurative. Why crayons and not sticks of dynamite?

A) When I was a child there were color crayons everywhere. Some uses bombs, some don’t. I use crayons and brushes and I bet I could blow up myself with it. It’s a painting about the destruction of abstract by figurative art. Figurative has the advantage of weapons; intention, meaning, story telling, etc… That makes culture.

Q) What prompted Le Roi? Does this reflect your personal belief, or lack of it, or what the church often seems to have become?

A) It’s more about the shaken baby syndrome than a religious critique, but what about those child molestor priests?

Q) Xavier, where are you living now? Do you have a live/work studio space?

A) I live and work in a semi-industrial neighborhood in Montreal. It’s a nice and quiet place. It is also pretty funny because it’s situated between a metal shop and a high class commercial street. There are skunks and racoons everywhere that share our barbecues, and finally, there is the absurdity to have one of the biggest art gallery for next door neighbor and get f***king cold in winter nights. It’s really cool. Plenty of artists around here. But they will pull down the entire neighboorhood to build luxurious condos.

Q)  Did your work receive positive support while you were studying at University of Quebec, Montreal?

A) When I was at Université du Québec à Montréal, I was on an exploration path. I knew art was the only solution but I had to try some techniques. At first I did paintings because I already did some since I was a child. But teachers told me that I was doing illustration. Figurative is not welcome in Montreal. Then I did some almost life size sculptures of whitetrash characters and finished my BFA that way, which was much more appreciated.

Q) Who would you say had the most influence on you becoming an artist, or in expressing yourself as you do?

A) My father who is a graphic designer, my uncle who was a painter and maybe Garbage Pail Kids trading cards.

Q) I can see you merging Goya, Bosch, Bacon and Freud. Any favorite artists, living or dead?

A) I took back the brushes a few years ago after seeing the work of those in the famous American lowbrow magazines. By now I can’t say I have favorite. It depends on many factors but I like it figurative for sure.

Q) Is your favored medium acrylic? oil?

A)Acrylic. I have no patience for oil. Especially for cleaning brushes. Some think “I work with oil because the result is slick,” but I don’t.


Xavier Landry/Artist


Q) How much of your indelicate worldview was shaped by your being a French Canadian growing up in a disputed ‘territory’?

A) Hum… I didn’t see the time when the anglophones and the francophones was fighting and living in distinct neighboorhoods. Nowadays there are relics of it. The rich buildings and English university are on the Mount-Royal and the working class public French factories surrounded it. But now English-speaking students are poor, too, so we all mix in the slums. I’m influenced by what is surrounding me so since I evolve in the “bad” sides of town, my inputs are prostitutes, drugs, drunken guy that crap in public at 10 am etc… I could paint the portrait of an old rich English lady suffering of many neurosis and it won’t be better.

Q) I am familiar with the catacombs in Paris, but not the catacombs in Montreal. What is the provenance of the show you are in that began in March?

A) The Katacombes is an alternative cooperative bar downtown. We were a dozen local painters to interpret the novels of Patrick Sénécal, a horror writer. He is a kind of Stepen King in Quebec. It last only one day. We had fun!

Q) I am still intrigued about what kind of childhood you had that you are meticulous enough to paint visions that are so disarming. What were – or are – your parents’ professions? They seem to have imparted to you a strong social conscience that one might say makes you an activist painter for your social commentary.

A) My mom is in the death industry and my dad is retired. He was a graphic designer. I played a lot with his markers when I was a kid. That’s where the visions come from. I’m not calling myself an activist. I’m just a cynical guy.

Q) What kinds of things do you enjoy doing when you’re not painting? Do you work in other visual media?

A) I really love cooking! Really! I try to make everything myself. I almost get sick by eating my own bacon and cheese. There’s some things I’m better at. I don’t do other visual art seriously. I did a few stupid drawings and some crazy teddybears for children.

Q) What do you think of the Occupy Movement that has spread from the States to many other parts of the world?

A) Some occupied with intelligence and some not. Some homeless people that were already occupying the park were kicked out by well-equipped activists that have bank accounts. Just nonsense.

Q) What do you think of the Occupy Canada Movement that is starting in the States, much the same way that the Occupy Iraq and Occupy Afghanistan movements started? I think they call it the Keystone Pipeline, because it’s the keystone to the U.S. controlling all of North America.

A) I don’t know. Here the movement is dead. I think it’s a fashion. Utopia or civil war, I don’t know.

Q) I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and work with us. Good luck to you for a most promising career!

A) It was a pleasure.


Editor’s note:

The interview above was conducted via e-mail from January 2012 through April 2012. 


April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Xavier Landry/Artist Interview

Beth Couture/Fiction

Betty Sederquist photo,

The Tramp and Lydia

By Beth Couture

You go into the woods, and what are you thinking will happen? The man is there, everyone’s seen him, and what do you think is going to happen when you walk up to him, offer your hand and say “I’m Lydia”? You ‘re not a stupid girl, not naïve, though sometimes you act that way. Your parents have warned you, as parents do, but of course you never listen to them. They tell you about that other girl. You can’t remember her name. The one who was raped in the woods years ago. They had to put her away or something after she walked out of the woods with her legs torn up and bleeding, her hair a mess of twigs and dirt. They said she didn’t talk for weeks after, and they put her on medication. She didn’t come back to school after that. She walked into the woods after school, and when she walked out again, she was bleeding between her legs. Dark red blood like the period you haven’t gotten yet, but it wasn’t her period.

All the teachers tell you not to go in there. “Don’t go any farther than the tree,” they say. “Stay where we can see you.” They remind you of the girl, say it could happen to you, that you should be careful. It happened right here—the same place you’re in now. She isn’t real, though. You don’t even know what she looked like.

And you are eleven years old, your body changing, your mind struggling to catch up to it. You’ve started feeling wet between the legs, started noticing it happening more and more often, and your face gets warm, flushed. It’s like you have a fever but it only happens when you think about certain things, when you watch Michael Levin running in gym class, when you wake up from dreams with your hand pressed against your stomach, creeping down. So what do you think is going to happen when you go into the woods with the tramp, where he is sitting with his dog in his tent, waiting for the storm? Really, Lydia. This is what your parents were talking about. And the other girls don’t believe you’ll do it. They stand near the tree and giggle, their braces flashing, and they wish they were you. They wish they had the guts to walk through the brush, the dry grass scratching their bare legs, toward the tramp and his tent. “I’m Lydia,” you say, and you hold out your hand.

He doesn’t smell like you think he will. You’re expecting body smells—unwashed hair, sweat, mud, dog. He lives in a tent in the woods. But instead, when you get close to him, you smell cologne, something almost like flowers. Like the lavender sachets your mother keeps in all the dresser drawers. There’s something else too. Leather? And maybe citrus. Lemon. You’re not sure. It’s faint. You breathe in deeply. He looks at you, doesn’t offer his hand. “You shouldn’t be here,” he says. “Your teacher’ll have a fit.”

“Why are you here?” you ask him, putting your hand on your hip and tilting your head a bit. Your mother always says you’re trying to look “sassy” when you do this. “Don’t you have somewhere to go?” And he looks at you. He’s not rolling his eyes, but you feel like he is, like he’s mocking you. “Well?” you say, shifting so that you’re standing straight again, looking at him dead on.

But he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t say a word. His dog, a big black thing, comes up and sniffs your hand, then butts his head against it. You don’t want your hand to smell like dog, but you scratch his ears and he shifts slightly, leans against your leg. “Sweet dog,” you say. Suddenly you’re imagining yourself touching the tramp’s head, your fingers under his cap, tangled in the dark brown hair that peeks out from it. You imagine it’s soft, slightly oily, like it would leave your fingers shiny. You know the tramp wouldn’t let you pet him like you’re petting his dog, but that’s what you want to do. You imagine what the inside of his cap smells like, the damp wool pressed against his hair. Your little brother is three, and his hair smells sweet and a little sweaty all the time, kind of like an animal. You imagine this is what the tramp’s hair smells like.

“He’s been with me for three years now,” the tramp says, and smiles a little, for the first time since you’ve been here.

“What’s his name?” you ask, and the dog grumbles a little, pushes his head against your hand. You scratch harder.

“You give something a name…” the tramp says and shrugs.

“And what?” you ask.

“And it hurts more when you lose it,” he says.

Your name is Lydia. Your parents named you for your aunt, a woman you never met. She was your mother’s sister, and she died of breast cancer when you were two years old. She lived in Spain, and your parents planned to take you to visit her when you were older, but they never got the chance. You wonder about her, imagining her as beautiful and slightly crazy, up all hours in bars and cafes listening to longhaired men playing the guitar. You imagine her as an artist, a painter, a cigarette in her hand and a bottle of wine on the table next to her as she worked on huge canvases, the paint under her fingernails and in her spiky blonde hair. Aunt Lydia wasn’t a painter. Your parents tell you she went to college for art history and that she had loved Goya, but that she never painted. She worked in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, writing artists’ biographies. It doesn’t matter what your parents tell you. You imagine your aunt laughing in a crowded bar, throwing her head back, a man next to her with his arm around her waist. He kisses her shoulder, cups the inside of her thigh in his large palm. You imagine them in bed in the morning, light falling across her bare stomach, his legs and arms and back.

When you asked your parents why they named you after her, this woman you don’t know and now can never know, your mother got tears in her eyes and looked at you like you were insensitive, like you knew you were hurting her and you didn’t care. “She was my sister, Lydia,” she said, “and she died at a very young age. Too young.” You don’t understand why this would make her someone to name your daughter after, it just doesn’t make sense to you, but you nodded like you understood. You stole all of the pictures of your aunt from the photo albums your parents keep in the oak cabinet in the living room and keep them hidden under your mattress. At night you bring them out, run your fingertips over her face and hair, imagine what it would be like to touch her, who the last person was who held her hand or smelled her breath. You never met your aunt, and so you know you don’t love her. You know you can’t love someone you never met, someone you spoke to on the phone only four or five times in your life. What you feel for your Aunt Lydia isn’t love, only sadness—like somehow your life would have changed forever if you had met her, and you don’t know why.

And this is what you feel when you’re standing there looking at the tramp, hoping he will touch you on the arm or at least shake your hand. You know if he touches you, you will be changed into something completely different. You don’t know why you feel this—it doesn’t even make sense when you try to think about it—but you feel it in your stomach, in your chest. You’re having a hard time breathing next to him. “I think you should name him,” you say, focusing your attention on the dog, like that’s where it’s been the entire time. “Everything needs a name.”

He smiles at this, and you hope he’ll reach out to you, even to pat you on the back like your father does when he isn’t sure what to say to you. If the tramp doesn’t touch you before you have to leave him, you aren’t sure what you’ll do. But he doesn’t touch you. He does smile, a real one this time, and you take this as a good sign. He is warming up to you.

“So what do you think I should name him?” he asks you, gesturing toward the dog. “He seems to like you, by the way.”

“Almost all animals do,” you say, and you feel proud when you say it. “I’m going to be a vet.”

“That’s a good profession,” the tramp says.

You look down at the dog. Its eyes are closed and it makes soft, wet smacking sounds with its mouth. “Name him George,” you say.

“Why George?” the tramp asks, and again you feel like he’s mocking you, like he expects you to say it’s after a cartoon character or something stupid like that.

“ ‘George’ means ‘farmer,’ “ you say. “He looks like a farm dog. I like to know where names come from.”

“And what does your name mean?” the tramp asks, and he’s not really smiling anymore. He’s looking at you intently, his head cocked just slightly to the side like he’s really listening to you. No one has ever looked at you like that.

“Noble,” you say, and you try to hold his eyes with yours. You move toward him, and he backs away. Just barely. If you weren’t watching him so closely you wouldn’t know it, but you can see him take just a small step, a half-step, really, backward. You’re making him nervous. They’d kill you if they knew you were here, if they knew you were in the woods talking to this man, but he’s the one who’s afraid. Of you. You, Lydia, in your brashness and sassiness scare this man so much he’s trying to get away from you. And you feel powerful. And something else. The lower part of your belly aches and your face is hot. Your legs are shaking, the muscles tense. You hope he can’t see them quivering. He’s still looking at you. The dog has moved away from you and is now next to the tramp, and there’s nothing to do with your hands so you fold your arms over your chest.

“Well, noble Lydia, you should probably get going. Don’t you think? They’ll probably send out the search party soon.” He smiles, nervously laughs a little.

You look at your watch, the pink Hello Kitty one your best friend Claire got you for your birthday this year. “Recess isn’t over for another fifteen minutes,” you say. “My teacher won’t look for me until then.”

“Why do you want to be here anyway?” the tramp asks you. He is starting to sound impatient, even annoyed. “Shouldn’t you be playing with your friends — jumping rope or chasing boys, or whatever you girls do? There’s nothing for you here.”

But there is, and you think he knows it too, but you can’t say it because you don’t know how to put words to it. You wouldn’t even be able to talk about it if someone asked you. It’s just there, like the ache in your belly, the way your armpits are beginning to sweat.  You feel a drop running down your side and rub your t-shirt against it. You’re both standing there looking at each other, and you know you’re supposed to say something back to him but you don’t know what to say. You move your tongue around inside your mouth, like you are searching for words behind your teeth.

“There was a girl,” you say, and then you stop. The tramp looks at you and nods slowly, waiting for you to continue. You clear your throat. “She went into these woods and something happened to her.”

“What?” The tramp looks nervous. He’s backed away from you even more, and his hands are in his pockets. The dog leans against him almost protectively.

And you aren’t sure what to say. You, Lydia, who walked into this, who brought it up, even, are nervous too now. When your teacher Mrs. Johns says the word “rape,” she says it in hushed tones, and you and your friends never say it. “You know,” you say, and now you’re having a hard time looking at him. “There was a man.”

“He hurt her?” the tramp asks, and you nod. “Did he kill her?”

“No,” you say.

“Oh,” the tramp says. “Okay.”

“It was a long time ago,” you say, and you look at his face again. He’s staring at you. His eyes are pale green, the color of new leaves, and there are wrinkles in the corners of them. He looks like he could be your dad’s age, maybe a little younger. His face is kind.

“Lydia, you need to leave,” he says gently. “You’ll get us both in trouble if you don’t.”

“I wouldn’t get you in trouble,” you say, but you know this isn’t true. You wouldn’t mean to, you’re not that kind of girl, but he would get in trouble no matter what you said, even if you tried to keep it from happening. You wonder if that other girl meant to get the man in trouble, and you think she probably didn’t.  The tramp hasn’t stopped looking at you, and you stare back at him, trying to feel powerful again.

“My aunt was named Lydia too,” you say. “She lived in Spain and had tons of boyfriends. Beautiful Spanish men who kissed her neck and told her she was sexy. She had so many men in love with her.”

“Good for her,” he says, coming toward you. “But you have to go now.”

“Have you ever been someone’s boyfriend?” you ask him.

“Yes,” he says, and stops about three feet from you. The dog lies down outside the tent.

“I don’t have a boyfriend yet,” you say. Your entire body is damp with sweat. You can feel it on your legs, between them. And the other wetness. You wipe your forehead with your palm.

“No?” the tramp asks, smiling a little. You shake your head. “I’m sure it’ll happen,” he says. “You’ve got time.”

“My dad says he won’t let me have a boyfriend until I’m sixteen,” you say, “but he can’t stop me, really.”

“Sixteen is a good age for boyfriends,” he says.

You’re standing there, Lydia, and all you can think of is his hand on your arm, your shoulder. You imagine him touching your neck, the way you imagine your aunt’s boyfriends touching hers, and you shiver a little. He isn’t even very good looking, but you can smell him and he smells clean.

“I want you to touch me,” you say, and even as you say it you can’t believe you are so brave. Your friends would never believe it either, not even Claire, and you know you won’t tell them. Your voice doesn’t even shake when you say it.

“No,” he says. Just like that. His eyes don’t leave yours, and he doesn’t say anything else.

“I don’t mean in a dirty way,” you say.

“I don’t care how you mean it,” he says. “It’s time to go, Lydia.”

“I’m not leaving,” you say. You sound like a grown woman, cold and controlled. Strong.

“You have to,” he says. “Why are you doing this?”

You don’t know why you’re doing it. You don’t know why your voice is so hard, why your legs have stopped shaking and your belly is warm now, why you feel like you could do anything and get away with it. But you aren’t going to stop.

“I’m not leaving until you touch me,” you say. “On my neck. And if you don’t do it, I’ll tell everyone you tried to rape me.” The word sounds horrible coming out of your mouth, like something heavy and dead.

“That’s disgusting,” he says.

“Maybe, but I’ll still do it,” you say.

“Lydia, I’m not touching you,” he says. “You can say whatever you want, but I’m not doing it.”

“Just on the neck? I just want you to put your hand on my neck.” It isn’t a big deal, you think. Just a few seconds is all you want.

“No,” he says. “Get out of here right now.” You don’t move, even though he’s coming toward you angrily, even though he really could hurt you if he wanted to. Your feet are firm on the ground. You’re standing less than a foot apart, and you have to crane your neck to look into his face. The dog has gotten up from its spot near the tent and is standing next to the tramp with the fur on its back raised. “I mean it,” the tramp says.

And suddenly you hear your friends calling you. It’s faint, but it’s getting louder. The tramp hears it too, and you see the panic on his face. You look at your watch, and see that it’s time to go back inside. Past time. They must be worried. You hope they haven’t told Mrs. Johns on you yet, and you think about what you’ll do to them if they have.

“Touch my neck,” you say. “Do it, and I’ll leave. I promise.”

“That’s all you want?” the tramp asks, and you can tell he doesn’t really believe you. He thinks there must be a catch.

“Yes,” you say. “That’s all I want.” You tilt your head to the right, offering your neck to him. “Just touch it.” Your body is shaking again and the air feels cold on your damp skin. The tramp looks at you, his face pale and angry. You can tell you are the most disgusting thing he has ever seen, but you smile at him. “Touch it,” you say again. He reaches out a single finger. “With your whole hand,” you say. He stops for a minute and exhales harshly. His breath smells like spearmint.

“As soon as I do this, you better leave,” the tramp says. “I mean it.”

“I will,” you say softly, trying to sound gentle, “I promise.”

His hand shakes as he reaches it toward you, and then he is touching your neck. So softly your skin can barely feel it, but you feel it with your whole body. His hand is warm. You press against it, make a soft humming sound with your mouth. You can feel your eyes starting to tear. Please, you say silently. Please. And then it’s over. He has pulled away and is walking back toward the tent. “Go,” he says. He doesn’t look at you.

You go. What else is there to do but go? You’ve gotten what you wanted. He has touched you, and while you don’t feel changed now, you know you will. You’re certain you will. You know later, in your room alone, you will feel the change that has taken place in you. Your body will feel different. You will feel it in your chest, in your lungs. Between your legs and on your tiny breasts, in your mouth and throat. When you’re lying in bed you will feel it, this difference in you. You won’t be able to tell anyone when you see them, but they will feel it too. You know this. You are different now, Lydia, and you will feel it. You must.


About the author:

Beth Couture’s work can be found in a number of journals and anthologies, including Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, The Yalobusha Review, The Southeast Review, and Thirty Under Thirty from Starcherone Books. She received her PhD from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2010 and currently teaches composition at Bloomsburg University.




Nadja Asghar illustration



April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Beth Couture/Fiction

Hanne H7L/Artist Interview

H7L Illusion Series©2012 Hanne

Silence  |  2012


The H7L Effect

Interview with Mike Foldes

Hanne H7L, was born in Denmark and came to the United States in early adulthood. She attended and received a double-major Bachelor of Arts degree in Art and History of Art from University of California, Berkeley, and also earned a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from University of California, San Diego. She has exhibited widely in galleries in the US and Europe, and she is represented in numerous private collections, including The Henry Buhl Collection in New York City, as well as the collections of the Museum of Modern Art.

Her artist’s books include: “The Onion Universe,” “Palm Reading,” “Some People Fit In Everywhere And Some Do Not,” “Criminal Conversation between Søren Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Andersen and Henry Matisse,” and “I Am Half Wolf And Half Labrador.”

Q) So, Hanne, how long have you been in New York?

A) For quite a while, long enough to feel home here.

Q) And where are you from?

A) Denmark.

Q) Were you a war child, like our friend Helene (Gaillet)?

A) In Denmark everything is always pleasant, people will probably say “What war?”



Q) How did you happen to choose Roger Vitrac’s quotation for the introduction to your website?

A) The quote I wrote in my website by Roger Vitrac appealed to me.The mad man could perhaps be an artist, the werewolf, my wolfman. If you came to my studio you will see wolfmen 3D and 2D all over. My wolfman idea came from my first dog. He was half wolf and half Labrador. For two years I nearly only used him in my art and I still use him. I created an installation “Who Is The Monster?” where that question was raised as the audience entered the gallery.  I have answers in French, Danish and English, as the installation started in Paris and went to Copenhagen and New York, where people mostly answered, “I know I am a monster, but there are good and bad monsters.”

I like also that Roger Vitrac was a surrealist; he also wrote a play The Werewolf (Le Loup-Garou, 1939, situated in a mental hospital).

Q) So, could one say that your artistry is rooted in surrealism?

A) First of all I think my art reflects my Scandinavian upbringing, which was full of mythology and fairytales. In Denmark and Norway I was involved with pharmacy. My first real introduction to art was when I decided to study History of Art at University of California in Berkeley and it was early medieval art and Matisse there, that evoked my interest as an artist. My first solo exhibition, which consisted of paintings and prints, was “The perfection of Imperfection” where I was told there was a feeling of “Joie de Vivre” in the gallery. Later on I was influenced by Eleanor Antin, Yoko Ono and Allan Kaprow (by their work and by knowing them) in my installations, performances and audience participatory performances where I  used many different media. Other influences have been Dubuffet, Dufy, perhaps a little surrealism (see

I am also very much influenced by the environment where I live. In California I got into making art of handmade paper and onion skins and trees; in the Hamptons I started painting on potato sacks which became coffee sacks moving to Manhattan. Being into ecology and being a partner in a publishing company ( producing wallet-size maps of plastic, I started making collages of the expired maps. My best friend in Manhattan was inventing computer systems and was very much into photography 2D, 3D and video, he managed slowly to get me somewhat up to date in some of the modern technology.

Q)  Your work these days appears to be principally focused on digital photography. What photographers or painters have you most been influenced by? And, was that influence by reputation, seeing their work in galleries, or by knowing them? 

A) It was the collector Henry Buhl who got me started into Photography. I had made a plaster cast of my Hand and the fingers were by then broken in pieces. I told Henry that I was using hands in my art and he said, but is it photography. It quick became photography and I created  Hanne’s Broken Hand, Series I to IV”, which is now among others in the Buhl’s Collection and in the collection of a hand surgeon in Italy.

It was with my Star Series that I started using digital photography. I have always been interested in trying new materials and media in my art and there are so much interesting new inventions I feel like trying.

In my latest work I take mostly three digital photographs in layers, a Series I call Illusion. I started of using Photoshop(tm) for the Illusion Series, but now it has become iPad art.


From the Star Series I


Q) What do you mean, “iPad art”? Because you’re making on an iPad?

A) I started off creating my Illusion series, where I place three or more photos in layers on the top of each other in Photoshop. Lately I have been using my IPad instead of photoshop to create the certain transparency there (that) is necessary to be able to see what I want to see. Transparency is very apropo, as nearly everything is transparent in our lives in 2012.

Q) What are some of the more memorable experiences you’ve had since living in New York?

H7L's GigiA)
When I first came to the East Coast I rented a small house in Amagansett by the Ocean. That in itself was a memorable experience, but the arrival of  a stray wolf-dog there who suddenly decided he belonged to me changed my life and he became an important protagonist in my art. I created an installation “Who is the Monster?” which was shown in Paris, Copenhagen and New York City. He became 2D, 3D, 2D in the Wolfman, which I still use to sign or mark my work. Later, living in NYC, another stray dog came into my Life; again, she decided she belonged to me. She was silkie, had been mistreated, and I was asked if I could take her in for a short time to calm her down, as she was biting. Now I have a 5 pound Yorkie, the most beautiful, calm, healthy, intelligent, considerate dog one can imagine, and she is always by my side. These three dogs means more to me than anything else in my life. It is a fantastic experience when a dog suddenly decides it belongs to you and will do anything to please you.

Q) How have things changed since you moved here, and would say for better or for worse?

A) When I arrived here I was very excited about my change of Life from Pharmacy to Art. I thought I should just create art for the rest of my life. I realize to be an artist (there) are many tough jobs: you have to create the art, promote it, and sell it. I have had quite a few exhibitions, worked especially with two galleries (both deceased, now), but the big breakthrough as an artist is tough to achieve. I think if you don’t have the right connections you have to have a lot of luck.

Q) Who working in the art world today do you admire most? Or, should I say, who would you most like to collaborate with?

A)  I admire Yoko Ono a lot and find we have a lot in common in our art.



Q) And what about photographers? Anyone past or present whom you especially would like to have known or worked with?

A) My main thing is installations,  I work nearly in all media and one of them is photography.  It would have been interesting to have known Man Ray and Julia Margaret Cameron.

Q) How has your attitude towards art and photography changed over the years? Has it become more personal? Are you finding it more or less a means of communication and expression?

A) I used to mostly use photography as documentation but now I mostly use it as a mean of communication and expression in my art. 

Q) Given freedom of choice, where would want your next show to be, and what kind of work would you exhibit?

A) I would love to have a retrospective at Louisiana Museum In Humlebaek in Denmark.


 Editor’s notes:

This interview was conducted via e-mail between January and March 2012.

The illustration at the top of the post is from H7L’s New Illusion Series Inspired by “The Artist,” which won five Academy Awards including best picture, best actor, best director, music score and costume design. The Series features Jean DuJardin, Berenice bejo and Uggie the dog.

See more of H7L’s work at:


April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Hanne H7L/Artist Interview

Alexis Paige/Creative Nonfiction

Winner, New Millennium Writings Nonfiction prize, 2013.


White River  |  Randolph, Vermont


The Geography of Consolation

 By Alexis Paige

Fall, 2011, Central Vermont (after returning from a writing conference in Texas):

I want to sit with coffee, but the dogs press their noses into my legs and dance around me like a maypole. Teeth un-brushed and slimy, no bra, salt crystals in my tear ducts, ah hell, and I shoulder into my coat, hook up my babies, and shoo them through the doorway.  I can’t live here forever, I think, rounding the corner and onto the little stone bridge that passes over the Third Branch of the White River. Too white, too smothering. A polite way to think I am bigger than this place. A larger self like a balloon tethered to and floating above the whiny one suggests I acknowledge that I am my own problem — restless, unsatisfied, wherever I go there I am. And each time I am forced to learn this — San Francisco, Houston, Asheville, now here — it is like revelation, so I’m not as smart as I think.

* * *

The author reads an excerpt from the story,

“The Geography of Consolation” 


* * *

We cross the bridge and the laundr-o-mat parking lot, where a woman wearing spandex and fitness bands high on her fat arms hides behind a crossover-SUV with her two blonde labs, past the Chandler Cultural Center, the library cast in Greek Revival; see, this is a nice place, the balloon head coos, and I start to come around to her way. I cast my writer’s line into my town and look around for little tugs, nibbles of insight. The multi-congregational red brick church that “saves” town drunks and addicts pulls me first toward the sandwich board propped out front, the board that offends and tantalizes with its Bazooka-Joe brimstone wisdom (I always admire it for its pithy fear-mongering and cobbling of old and new): today the sign reads, “A Lifeboat Does No Good If the Drowning Man Does Not Climb In.”

Bravo, I think as I bend down with my grocery bag. It’s not until crossing back over the stone bridge when I notice how far the river has shifted its course; the backhoes flatten a beach that was just a spit a few weeks ago before Hurricane Irene.  The riverbed is changed too — streaked with muddy lines like great claw marks, and I remember the force of the water that day, like a train roaring through town.  We watched it from our little third floor dining room, as it toppled its banks, marching forward, as it swelled over Prince Street and into the fields of Queen Anne’s Lace behind our shed, and all the way down Park Street where the ball fields were sponges, and then past the fields into the little trailer park where people watched the horror of selection — rolled up carpets, lawn mowers, oil tanks, decks and railings, old card tables and hanging plants plucked like fruit into the water, along with their houses.

Late Winter, 2012:

When I first returned from Austin, I was only flirting with the idea of being an asshole (and not even consciously so) — flirting with locating an external fix for my dogged ennui; the location of the fix would be found perhaps in another Vermont town, in another city altogether, in a prestigious MFA program, in a new job — one with manageable hours, a real salary, benefits, and frequent and vocal admiration.  I was certain of the power of this next fix, and so goes the chronic delusion: I am always just one “if only” away from my dream life. The solution must lie elsewhere and outside of me; this is the mirage I have always believed in — whether by training or tendency.  My ennui, my disease, my wanderlust, in whatever lexicon, is a cumulative condition, for which I would like to thank the following: Chicago; Phoenix; Yorba Linda, California; Nashua, New Hampshire; Austin, Texas; Danvers, Nahant, Boston, and Marblehead, Massachusetts; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Durham, New Hampshire; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Kittery, Maine; Hot Springs, North Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; Exeter, New Hampshire; Ogunquit, Maine; San Francisco; Westerly, Rhode Island; Houston, Texas; and Randolph, Vermont. These are all of the places that have shaped me. Every place I have lived or quasi-lived seems to grow rather than to quench the mirage; this is what I mean by cumulative. Still, there’s a simpler explanation: I had a peripatetic childhood and parents who sought adventure. It was all I knew — this bopping around — and I mastered the routine: make new friends, meet new people, charm them, stay for a few years, and then when the boredom and stillness creep in, move the fuck on. I learned how to start over, how to start new life after new life; I just never learned how to live the ones I already had.


My therapist now says that my dysmorphic self-esteem is to blame for my dependable drifting; she says I need to build up my adult self-esteem in order to deal with my childhood pain. I need to deal with this pain in order to release it, because otherwise I continue to carry it around with me like a rock in my stomach.

“It’s the black box,” I tell her, “you know the one they find in the wreckage of plane crashes.”

“I’ve never heard it put that way,” she says. I am pleased with my metaphor but feel no clearer about this release process, nor any more esteemed, nor any less crummy, in fact. And this is a problem I have encountered before: when my rhetorical defenses are up, there’s no getting to the messy work that needs to be done. I am mostly incapable of accessing my feelings during therapy. (What was it that Freud said about the Irish?) It’s not that I am stoic, mind you. It’s just that if you see me cry, and I don’t like you or trust you, I might have to deck you. It’s also that I am such a stylist, such a quibbler over process and the shaping and naming of things. I can’t get past the therapist having diagnosed me as a “love addict,” within the first 20 minutes of meeting; I can’t get past “Trixie,” which is the name of the couples’ therapist recommended for my husband and me. This is her first name: “Trixie.” Her number’s been on our fridge for weeks, and I am working up the maturity to call.

“Practically speaking, how does this process work?” I ask my therapist, meaning the exorcism of childhood pain. Do I lie on the floor? Do I close my eyes? Is there a swinging pocket watch? It seems so new-aged, so fuzzy and fatuous, and I am quite sure that role play will be involved. My memories are tangible, I can tell her about those, I think. I can talk about childhood items: the items hold the memories for me —my Mickey Mouse ears circa 1981, my navy-blue San Diego Zoo sweatshirt that makes me think of sea and taffy, the lobster my dad brought home from Boston when we were still living in Phoenix, and his plane got in too late to boil it for dinner. How he left the lobster in the fridge, and I got up first the following morning to find this prehistoric red-black wonder shuffling around on the top rack of the refrigerator. It was before my brother Josh was born, so I must have been a little under 5 years-old. Mom says that by the time she woke up that morning the lobster had been named, had been left a small bowl of Cheerios, and I was sitting on the kitchen floor talking to the crustacean as it clicked sluggishly across our linoleum. I could also talk about  the TWA pin-on airplane wings given to me in the same era; I was six by then, but these are all tokens of formative experiences — the lobster, the sweatshirt, the ears, and the airplane wings I wore on my windbreaker the first time I saw snow.


No one prepared me for the boredom that stretches between these intervals. Sure, I still have these swelling-of-the-chest moments, probably more than I deserve or appreciate, but there are weeks and months in between when you have to make copies of analytical reports for your technical writing class, when you have to attend soul-crushing staff meetings with agenda items that include “Salad Brigade,” when you have to do laundry and clip your toenails. Full disclosure: Keith does the laundry in our house, mainly because he folds every item as if it will be placed neatly into an Army footlocker. He often does the dishes, too. See how little I have to complain about? How much I have to be grateful for? In these intervals when the banal routine seems never-ending, I am inconsolable, adrift, and probably more vulnerable to the myth of what my friend Bianca calls “the bigger, better deal.” So it’s official now, and I am calling it: I am an asshole, six months into a deep existential crisis.

I suppose I need to talk to you about the poetry conference in Austin this past fall. A collision occurred, and I encountered some unexpected weather. I see now how vulnerable I was, in this interval of reaching for my next branch: I was gut-deep in the second draft of a memoir about my alcoholism recovery that I had been receiving encouraging feedback for, I was maybe next in line for a full-time assistant professorship at the college where I have been killing myself as a tutor and adjunct instructor for four years, and I felt I was getting close — if not to my big break — then at least to a smaller and deserved break-through, professionally and creatively. I sat in on a writing workshop that I was not assigned to (I was hungry to soak up as much as possible!), and the workshop leader, a beefy poet (“corn fed,” my husband would call him later, with derision) began to read from Mark Jarman’s poem “Ground Swell.” He was attractive, though not my usual type: he wore a digital watch, running shoes, a white cotton polo and khakis. He was clean-cut and smiley and spoke so you knew he was an intellectual right off. I had never heard the poem before, but I loved it, how romantic and nostalgic it was, and I loved how this man was reading it, as if there were nothing more important in that moment than to be climbing inside the magic summer other-world created by the poem. Toward the last few lines, the poet’s voice began to crack; he read Jarman’s words haltingly then: “Yes, I can write about a lot of things / Besides the summer that I turned sixteen. / But that’s my ground swell. I must start / Where things began to happen and I knew it” (lines 50-53). I raised my head and was alarmed to see the poet welling up — alarmed because weeping in public was not part of my childhood training, but also touched. I was touched at his vulnerability — his ability to go there so authentically among strangers. It made all of us open up more, and these are the moments that enliven workshops and classroom discussions, these are the risks that quicken intimacy, and frankly, remind us we are alive. “There isn’t time for politeness,” he said later about giving ourselves and other people “passes” in our writing, and what I think he was talking about was the danger of the writer putting the social contract ahead of truth.

During the break, I went up and sat with him — asked him something about meta-consciousness and the essay — but somehow we started talking about addiction and mother issues. I had barely just met the guy, and here I was confessing alcoholism, drunken promiscuity, naked ambition, and maybe even a beginning crush. The conversation did not stop all weekend. We sat opposite one another during a group dinner, talking excitedly and heatedly about teaching, politics, and writing.  In my nervous excitement, I ate too many chicken wings, and the proof of my sublimated anxiety was captured in a photograph from that night, with me smiling next to a Flintstone’s tower of bones that were polished clean and piled up on a paper plate. Later, during cocktail hour, he pulled me aside to ask how I managed being around so much drinking, and then we exchanged notes about the various antidepressants we had tried.

The conversation continued after the conference over email, first casually and on the pretext of exchanging work, and then it became predictably flirtier — in text messages and on the phone. Our connection was electric; it crackled with the intensity set by a thousand sparks of recognition: both writers, romantics, New Englanders, baseball fans, lovers of hip-hop music, and cop shows. Around this time, in mid-October, I confessed to my husband that I thought I had a “writer crush” on this guy; I suppose I said this to tell on myself, or to convince myself that a writer crush was as far as it went, or to contain the thing. Keith said only, “Don’t get too emotionally attached to this guy.” But it was already too late: The emails consumed me, excited me, fed some part of myself that I had perhaps put aside. By Christmas, we had gone too far, and we knew this because we kept trying to cut off contact. Right before Xmas break I got an email from him at work. It said: “A friendship is not something I can manage at this point. I’m sorry.” I went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet in my pants and cried. I had cried at work maybe once before, during my first year of teaching, when I had lost my cool in front of a mutinous research writing class.  I must be having a nervous breakdown I thought as I rubbed a coarse paper towel under my eyelids to soak up the streaking mascara. I didn’t understand what was happening to me or my marriage, what I had allowed to happen, what I couldn’t seem to stop. I loved my husband, he was my best friend, the best kisser I had ever known, and quite simply, he was a solid human being with whom I loved spending time. We like each other’s “aroundness,” we always say. So, why wasn’t my own life enough? Was it my ego that needed this other contact? My writerly ambition? My restlessness? My appetite? No matter, I had to let it go.

My higher self would like this fixation on the external to end, to be able to sit in a room and experience peace, stillness. On some level, I know it’s an inside job — to quiet or manage the restlessness. I know that sometimes we are the only ones to sit ourselves down and talk ourselves into the right conclusions. I know this because I have been here before, as particular as this psychic location feels. More precisely, I’ve been somewhere like here. It feels particular because I am different than I was — a wife now, a teacher, a survivor of depression and panic, a survivor of two months in jail, an accountable human being, a humbled spiritualist — or so I thought. What’s different this time is that I am not drinking. I’ve been sober six years and know better, or should. I don’t get to play dumb anymore about my behavior, my motives, or my consequences.

There are so many things no one tells you: this is the persistent truth of growing up. This is a truth that has welled up in me for years, especially in years of transition and turmoil. For example, the fact that you will start to get hormonal acne in your 30s, that you will continue to feel like a horny teenager, that you will hate everywhere you live and hate yourself even more for it, that a master’s degree doesn’t mean shit, that it’s perfectly ordinary for a 36-year-old professional woman to be scrapping for $37,000 a year, that you won’t have time to consider imploding social programs and their future implications (and for this you will hate yourself too). They don’t tell you that you might cry in the bathroom at work, have self-loathing problems, that balancing one’s intestinal flora and fauna is a full-time job, or that the biological clock is perhaps a cultural myth, an impulse that is visited upon well-adjusted others, for whom the desire to make babies is part of the uncomplicated order of things — grammar school, cheerleading, frat parties, job with health insurance, husband, babies…

They don’t prepare you for your fantasies about other men and other cities, even as you love your own. They don’t tell you that the fantasies will feel at once electric and horrifying, that the million little punches will land. They don’t tell you that you will flirt with another man, that you will take it too far on email, that you might kiss in an elevator and then not know where to put the kissing. It doesn’t fit in your life, and yet you did it. You cannot rewrite it. But they do tell you, they do; it’s just you weren’t listening because it seemed too cliché to apply, because you thought yourself too special to be susceptible to such banality.


We are in class, and I’ve broken the students up into discussion groups about Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, and I feel myself distracted, staring off. I should tell them about this stuff — the stuff I am staring off about — that you don’t stop pining, you don’t stop yearning and longing and being tormented by doubt just because you have direct deposit pay checks. We are talking about themes in literature, and I chose the book because I love the coming-of-age themes and the portraiture in it. The portrait of Christopher Johnson McCandless is interesting, complex, full, and in rural Vermont, any text that combines Alaskan adventure, hunting, and flouting government regulations is a win. Chris McCandless, the 23-year-old about whom Krakauer wrote so searingly in 1996, is a timeless figure, a young man driven by his iconoclastic desires, a young man who embodies Joseph Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey. Some of my students think him brave, some think him stupid, and others get hung up on details:

“I don’t understand why he burned his money in the desert,” Marc says.

“It was a symbolic gesture,” I say, “What do you think it symbolizes?”

“But then he goes to work at McDonald’s a little later; he coulda just saved that money, like a hundred and something bucks.”

Some of my students understand the desire and hunger of McCandless, the impulse toward “great adventure,” and some of them don’t.

“Only hippies don’t wear socks,” Molly calls out from the back row.

In a chapter epigraph, Krakauer leads with a Thoreau excerpt, from Walden, one that McCandless himself had treasured:

No man ever followed his genius till it misled him. Though the result were bodily weakness, yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be regretted, for these were a life in conformity to higher principles. If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal, — that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality… The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.

(qtd. in Krakauer 47)

Perhaps you have it or you don’t have it — that kind of longing.  And maybe some of my students have already been bitten, but it occurs to me this is really what I should teach them — that we never stop living the full catastrophe.

The crisis sneaks up on me as I am sitting on the couch, grading papers. It is a deep, gnawing boredom; it is perhaps the restlessness, irritability, and discontent that are the three Horsemen of alcoholism. I sigh and change the channel or get up to fix a snack I am not hungry for. It is something else, this hunger. That’s what never goes away completely, and no one ever tells you this. They set you up with the myth: first comes love, then comes marriage… No one talks about what comes in the ellipses, how to manage it, how to navigate the cruel, cold geography of one’s own desires. But what would they say? There is no map for steering in deep water, and you have to go it alone anyhow.

I fantasize about babies, the University of Iowa, about typewriters in a Paris flat with the composite sketch of a man I have created, about some other life, a life that would postpone my having to face this void within. The fantasies are fictionalized, factionalized — parts that can exist only in the neat compartments outside of your actual life. The fantasies don’t play out in Nashua, NH, or Randolph, VT; these places are too real. He has no face, the way men in dreams don’t, but you know he is beautiful and divine, and you wake up feeling the pocket of bliss of a thousand perfect hits. But it’s not real, and your life feels only realer. You and your husband go on not talking about babies until you become so exasperated that you take a different tack — bringing it up incessantly — like a coprolalic  mommy-wannabee, whose only language is not foul, but the language of pregnancy, nascence, birth. You are swollen with your desire. But which one of your desires is real?

Late March, 2012

It’s been a dark winter, even if short. The river still remembers, the lines in the riverbed are intractable, and we can still see the great tangle of trees from our dining room — a bramble the size of a Gulliver’s fist — where a few saplings and maples were ripped from the shoreline and slammed into one of the mighty oaks that still stands tall from its banks.  The roads are better. Old Camp Brook Road, which was impassable through November, is now open, but it is changed — parts of the road are patched with fill, parts of it fall off precariously into what is now more river than brook. There is no spring in Vermont, only mud season, a season I never knew before I lived here, and the road hazards this March are mostly the typical stuff — ruts and great fields of sucking mud.  All is not well after Irene, but my college’s volunteer club is going to help rebuild a town on the Outer banks of North Carolina over spring break this week, a sign that there is something to give, and Vermonters seem to be moving along in their own stubborn, dogged way. After all, what other choice is there but to persist? To shut up and get back to work — there is wisdom in that, maybe not style, but wisdom, and something real — like gutting the animal and then putting it on the fire.

It’s been a dark winter for me, too, but Keith is still here and his love is just as furious as it ever was, and the dogs wag their tails with just the same urgency they ever did, and these are no small gestures. Spring is early, too, temperatures in the 60s, 70s, even 80s, in March! A collective relief descends over the North Country once spring breaks: Hallelujah, we survived another winter! I just got back from a walk with the dogs, and the teenagers outside the house that belongs on an episode of Hoarders are sprawled on the porch in booty shorts and t-shirts. They are chattier than usual, and I stop so they can pet the dogs. Jazzy sits down on the sidewalk, as if to say, this is a good spot. The cliché of remembering where you come from springs to mind, but aren’t we all trying to forget? Remembering how I got here; this is what I am after, why it is that I came here in the first place. It is warm, I am loved, and even these scrappy kids wear the kind of refreshingly un-ironic hope that only rural teenagers know how to wear anymore.  This has to be good enough.

I hadn’t been back on the town’s recreation path until today, when I took the dogs through what used to be a nicely-wooded, tidy trail with a Frisbee golf course. The path runs parallel to, and in some spots, hugs right up against the Third Branch of the White River that runs below our dining room window, the river we watched swell that late August day. It’s been almost seven months since the storm, and I am simply aghast at the destruction, at my own lack of recognition, my own lack of comprehension. It is as if I have awakened from a coma right here on this path, to find myself surveying a strange land — a sandy, tree-strewn moonscape. It feels familiar, only in so far as I can see my house and the orientation to it and to town are familiar. Where have I been? I mutter, shaking my head. The wreckage has been all around me, yet somehow I have failed to take its full measure.

The dogs are frisky, alert, marking like crazy. The marking is both a reconnoitering and claiming of our territory — foreign smells, unwelcome invaders, all get pissed on. I had heard the footbridge over the river that leads back to our street was impacted, but when I reach it, I am stunned. I don’t know what kind of damage I imagined (the blows seem somehow more tolerable when you are actively taking them), but there is a washed out gully in front of it, 30 feet deep and wide. The bridge itself is boarded up, which seems unnecessary given the moat that now separates us from it. Even the old wading beach is gone, which was once a rather nice sprawl of sand, with huge, rounded sunbathing boulders that looked to have been there since the glaciers deposited them. In its place a high bluff slopes vertically to the river’s edge. I will have to take the long way back home and by our old apartment, where we were living the summer of our wedding. Once close to our old place, Jazzy skips toward it, and I have to tell her we don’t live there anymore.

In my addiction recovery circles, there’s a theory that we’re all looking for a sort of geographic cure, that is, the change in the landscape that will give us a break from ourselves. This is the trap of the “bigger, better deal”; we are so focused on getting to the next place, but once we arrive, we are still lost. It is a false respite. But the truth is the geography is always changing — inside and out — whether from dramatic events or to a geological beat, and if we are not paying attention, we could miss everything. We could wake up in a strange land, strangers to ourselves. Vermont is a loose constellation of disparate, yet oddly connected, deeply rooted and dependent towns.  The wreckage in the early aftermath could be appreciated only from a helicopter, and from the trickling-in of stories overheard at the coffee shop, the post office, and the dump, we were able to stitch together a narrative aerial view. I imagine we will continue to take in the story of the storm for some time, that the versions will change, that some will disagree on the versions, but it is the versions we tell ourselves that matter.

These are the things I don’t tell my students, these are the things I don’t tell my coworkers, my parents, my in-laws, my friends, and yet this is the only real stuff I know — the truth I am groping for in this life. “We should insist while there is still time,” Jack Gilbert says in his poem “Tear It Down”(line 16).  He says of his hometown, “Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh. / Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound / of raccoon tongues licking the inside walls / of the garbage tub is more than the stir / of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not / enough. We die and are put into the earth forever. / We should insist while there is still time” (Gilbert 10-16). The mucky bits are the bits we spare others (but really we spare ourselves). When people ask, “How are you?” we don’t say, “Why, I am sifting through the devastation brought on by my emotional affair, thank you for asking.” Politeness, discomfort, and the social contract prevent it.

No one told me how rich and complex marriage would be, how unprepared I would be, how utterly pants-torn-off, rocked-by-life I would be, but what would they have said? “Marriage is a discipline,” I remember a friend telling me, and I think, Life is. There’s a discipline to tuning in and to liking my own life, I muse as I remember your hard, hungry mouth on me last night, and I am happy enough to be home.


Works Cited:

Gilbert, Jack. The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992. New York: Knopf, 2000. Print.

Jarman, Mark. “Ground Swell.” Academy of American Poets. 1 Feb. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2012. <>.

Krakauer, Jon. Into The Wild. New York : Anchor Books, 1997. Print.

Photos of the White River,  during and the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, September 2011, courtesy of Alexis Paige.


About the author:

Alexis Paige’s poetry has appeared in Transfer Magazine & 14 Hills SFSU Review. Creative nonfiction publications include the personal essay “Life After Jail,” which appeared in Seven Days: Vermont’s Independent Voice and a book review of Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, which appeared in Prison Legal News. Alexis was twice named a top-ten finalist of Glamour Magazine’s annual essay contest. She received an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a B.A. from the University of New Hampshire, and she begins an MFA in Creative Nonfiction this summer. She teaches, toils, and lives in Central Vermont with her husband and their two large dogs.

April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Alexis Paige/Creative Nonfiction

Mark Levy/Casual Observer

Senior Discounts

by Mark Levy

In general, it’s not particularly pleasant to get older. One often loses his health, his hearing, and his hair. It becomes more difficult to get up from a chair, tie one’s shoelaces, and move quickly. Sometimes it becomes difficult to move at all, now that I think of it. One’s memory for people, places, things, and family member names also fades with age.

In Henry IV, William Shakespeare referred to an ill wind which blows no man to good. You may know the more modern aphorism, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” And so it is with age.

Depending on your age, you may qualify for all sorts of discounts that younger folks can’t obtain. This is a valuable advantage for people who look their age or older.

Senior customers are defined as those over 65 in places like Boston Market, Hardee’s, Taco Bell, and Alaska Airlines, which saves you 10% on flights to places you may not wish to visit most of the year.

But you don’t have to wait until you’re 65 for a discount at places that classify people as seniors when they reach their 62nd birthday. These businesses include Amtrak, Greyhound, Marriott hotels, and Bally Total Fitness, where you save $100 on a membership if you promise not to break a bone on their exercise equipment. White Castle will sell you 100 hamburgers for the price of only 90, which is quite a bargain if you still have your teeth. And the National Park Service will sell you a lifetime pass for only $10 believing, I guess, a lifetime deal isn’t going to amount to much at your age.

Some places choose the age of 60 to separate young people from the rest of us. For example, at Ben & Jerry’s you can get 10% off your ice cream sundae. Hyatt Hotels can save you up to 50% on their rooms. And Applebee’s gives you 15% off your check. That’s like the restaurant has decided to pay your tip. Mrs. Fields is happy to break off 10% of the price for her cookies. Great Clips and Super Cuts give small discounts to 60-year-olds who want a haircut. That may be because there’s so little hair to cut once you acquire snow on the roof.

Discounts abound for people as young as 55 years old, too. Jack in the Box gives those younger seniors a whopping 20% off the final bill. Maybe I shouldn’t have said, “whopping.” But speaking of Burger King, you have to be 60 years old before you get a 10% discount there. At 55, though, KFC will throw in a free small drink – not literally, of course – with any meal.

“How about 50 year olds,” I can hear you ask, now that I’m on a roll. There is something for everyone once you hit the half century mark, you’ll be happy to learn. Krispy Kreme, for example, honors your age, if not your waistline, with a 10% discount for everything it sells. Kmart takes 20% off its items. Steak ‘n Shake is good for 10% off on Mondays and Tuesdays. SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa both slice $3 off one-day tickets. As long as it’s Tuesday, the Plant Shed nursery will trim 10% off your bill, too.

I’ll share a secret with you. I’ve been visiting many of these fine establishments for a few years now, even before I reached my present advanced age. The discounts are rarely advertised. You have to ask for them. I approach the person behind the counter – and he or she is usually a teenager – and I say in a quaky voice, “Do you have a discount for seniors?” I’m well past the age of embarrassment to ask for it, which is yet one more advantage of maturity. If a discount exists, the counter kid tells me what it is.

Sadly, no one has ever asked for proof that I’m 50 or 60 or even 65. I believe that’s because, to a teenager, everyone over 30 looks ancient. And it just wouldn’t be polite to question the honesty of a person as old as his grandmother.

When my father turned 74, he told everyone he was 75. “You see,” he confided to me, “people respect me more at that age.”

Now I’m thinking that, like me, he had other intentions when he devised his plan.


About the author:

Mark Levy is an attorney with the Binghamton-based law firm of Hinman Howard and Kattell. He is a contributing editor to Ragazine.CC (Feeding the Starving Artist/Casual Observer), and an occasional contributor to NPR, where his comments can be heard some Saturdays at noon.

April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Mark Levy/Casual Observer

Wrecking Ball/Music Review

Wrecking Ball

Thoughts on the new

Bruce Springsteen Album

By Jeff Katz

I’m always amazed at Bruce Springsteen’s audience. When The Boss kills ’em during a live performance, the crowd sings along at nearly every step, even when it comes to his newest songs. That was recently true when Magic came out, a little less so for Working on a Dream.  So, will the acolytes be belting out tunes from Wrecking Ball?

I have my doubts. Overall, the newest Bruce is passable. The songs simply aren’t as instantly memorable as those on Working on a Dream, the most similar album in Springsteen’s canon.  Some are sing-songy in a folksy way. Take “Shackled and Drawn” for instance. It’s a hokey little ditty that’ll stay with you, but the music undermines the heavy message.

That purposeful heaviness is the drawback. Much has been made that this album is the flip side of Nebraska, a highly produced brother to the stark 1982 classic. Different sound, same message, a hard look at present day economic misery. I don’t see it that way. Nebraska had, and still has, the fierce pain of the morning after a night drinking grain alcohol, when your brain feels like it’s walking down an echoey hallway, and you can’t stand the agony that, in some ways, feels far away, but is close by, hammering away.

What made Nebraska powerful were the intensely personal character studies that became universal in the telling. Pick any track – “State Trooper,”  “Mansion on the Hill” – they hit hard. On Wrecking Ball, the grand sweeping terms, the overblown metaphors, suffer by their earnestness. By pushing meaning more, the songs mean so much less. John Lennon’s “Power to the People” comes to mind, a fine musical effort that doesn’t evoke any true emotional reaction. It’s sloganeering with guitars.  Compare Bruce’s new “Death to My Hometown” to  his old “My Hometown” on Born in the USA and tell me which one feels more real, more painful.

I’m ambivalent about the onslaught of aural effects. For a record that tries hard to make its voice heard, nearly all the lyrics are made distant by the mechanical sound. “We Take Care of Our Own,” the lead track, borrows a riff from The Carpenters’ “Hurting Each Other.” That ends up being all I hear. (Funny influences abound lately. “Outlaw Pete,” from Working on a Dream, lifted from Kiss’  “I Was Made for Loving You.”  What is spinning on Bruce’s personal jukebox these days?) Even guitarist Tom Morello, a most welcome guest, has a hard time bursting out of the mix, and if you’ve heard Morello play, especially when he plays Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” the man jumps out of the song and grabs you by the throat.

When the songs aren’t of the dense, wall of sound, variety, they fall back into Seeger sessions mode.  I thought (or maybe hoped) that that sound was a one-off novelty. Seems I was wrong.  It’s an affectation that grows old fast.  Making an appearance is “Land of Hope and Dreams,” a first time studio track, recorded initially as part of the circa 2000 E Street Reunion and released on Live in New York City the following year.  An old chestnut as part of an album of contemporary commentary? It undermines the endeavor. “Rocky Ground” is a hot mess of overwrought soul and rap.

Death has permeated The E Street Scene these last years. Organist Danny Federici was hailed in song with “The Last Carnival.” Bruce’s longtime pal Terry Magovern was paid tribute to in “Terry’s Song.” Now Clarence Clemons is gone, The Big Man has left the stage. And what do we get? We are given two appearances of his sax, including a very weak, limited solo on “Land of Hope and Dreams.” In the accompanying booklet there’s an excerpt from Springsteen’s eulogy to his late band mate, but that’s it. Far be it for me to know what’s in the heart of a grieving comrade in arms, but it feels strange that Clarence casts so small a shadow.

Do I like Wrecking Ball? Sure, but without any real commitment. Will I be singing along with Bruce when I see him live in April? You bet I will.

About the reviewer:

Jeff Katz is Ragazine‘s music editor. You can read more about him, and catch his web page addresses on the “About Us” page.

April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Wrecking Ball/Music Review

Earth, Wind & Fire/Politics

Earth, Wind and Fire –

What the G-20 must consider …

By Jim Palombo
Politics Editor

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 
from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

 * * *

In September of 2009, as a journalist, I was involved with the G-20 Summit in Pittsburg, PA – the last time the Summit was held in the U.S. In relationship to this, I wrote an article for Ragazine (see Ragazine archives) which was later translated and published in the Italian political journal, Acque & Terre.  The purpose of noting both my G-20 attendance and the translation of the article is of particular importance to this piece. In terms of the former, I am currently in Mexico City and it is in Los Cabos, Mexico, where the next G-20 Summit will take place. I may or may not attend the meetings in June, but as it is so close at hand, one can imagine that this proximity along with what is occurring in terms of press coverage, etc. conjures up images for me of my previous G-20 participation. In terms of the latter, as I was reviewing my article in Acque & Terre I once again noticed that it appeared in the mix with several other interesting pieces which were on the very important topics of food and water shortages and the growing problems tied to “war economies.”

With these points in mind, I decided to offer an article that referenced those pieces, including one more “outside reference” (outside of the Acque & Terre journal), generally reviewing them in the context of earth (food and water), wind (air) and fire (war economies.)  In this sense,  I themed the article in the imagery of those three, age-old elements as it not only seemed a clever fit, but also spoke to the notion that the concerns highlighted, as age-tested as any,  should still hold priority at the upcoming G-20 summit. Said another way, although the issues related to the financial crisis gripping a significant portion of the world will dominate the G-20 concerns, the problems related to food, water, air and war should be, for both developing and developed nations, a top priority as well in the gathering of global players.

In terms of my bringing certain considerations from these other articles to your attention, that is, as the mere organizer of information, I certainly must give credit to the words/thoughts of the individuals who put them forth: Evgeny Gokhberg,  Giorio Brandolini, David Suzuki and Howar Talabany. I offer a tip of the hat to each of them, and I hope that I effectively capture their perspectives in my general review. Of course, the hope is that you will find the review/organization of the considerations worthwhile and provocative. And as always, you are invited to offer comment accordingly. This is especially so in that the matters at issue are relative to our planet – which unfortunately is at risk at the hand of our own doing.



In his article printed in Acque & Terre, “Fresh water markets: global challenges versus national practices – searching for efficient solutions,” Evgeny Gokhberg presents data on the ever increasing demand of fresh water, a resource that while being one where shortages, scarcities and stresses  continue to increase, one we nonetheless utterly depend on.  Citing concerns related to management challenges he raises considerations like: Given the scarcity of the resource, how should it be allocated and can that allocation be best managed by the public or private sector?  Given that most of the water is used in agricultural endeavors, what are the most efficient irrigation and portable-water processes? How can we best insure that the available water source is pollution free, especially as its viability for commercial use also continues to develop?  In this light, and mentioning the politically exploitative possibilities attached to water and water rights, he also offers information on the most effective water management practices in place in the world, referencing Australia as one of the top countries in that context.  Of course, this brings into play a number of political and economic (ideological) concerns, which in a sense set the frame for public policy possibilities. In short, his article points to the many diverse considerations that must be entertained in order to get better policies in place that will affect water conservation and availability across the globe.

In a similar vein, and certainly correlated to the concerns tied to fresh water, George Brandolini, presented his Acque & Terre piece on “World food security.” Brandolini discusses the growing problems related to food, particularly as population growth continues and as food availability becomes an important bartering chip in the context of geopolitical struggles. His reference to the over one billion people living in the developing world as being “food insecure” is of staggering imagery. And the fact that  child malnutrition and the physical and mental ailments that ensue are approaching catastrophic proportion only add to the dire picture.

Brandolini notes that while market conditions can shape food availability for people/countries with money to spend (although even with capital, this is not as fluid as the “supply and demand” axiom might represent) there are critical areas for meeting the needs of the poor. This demands attention to developing countries, especially in the context of: protecting the natural resources (like water) on which agriculture depends; understanding the value of agricultural research, including the pros and cons of biotechnology and the use of better agronomic policy; and ensuring that distribution of resources and income are both equitable and secure.  On this point, Brandolini makes it clear that the armed conflicts experienced in many of the poorer countries diminish the possibilities of security, disrupting farming networks and food distribution while also dislocating populations. Acknowledging the difficulties, Brandolini nonetheless encourages that the policy exchanges between developing and developed countries (i.e., an important consideration for G-20 members) can help in attaining a food-secure as well as environmentally sustainable world.



Although not included in the Acque & Terre publication, the “wind” reference provided the opportunity to at least mention one of the most accomplished, air-environmental advocates, David Suzuki, in this discussion. In his compelling lectures across the globe, Suzuki implores us all to recognize that “we are air – and air is us” and that “whatever we do to air we do to ourselves.” In addressing the 11th Annual Commonwealth gathering in Canada in March 2008, he presented the notion that we have been essentially using the air as a “garbage can”, polluting it in a seemingly mindless end of ways. His imagery of the baby in a stroller, breathing in the air at the same level as the exhaust fumes from our vehicles, amid the claim of our being intelligent creatures, sharply drove this point home.

In casting air in the realm of a sacred element, Suzuki reminds us that to protect soil, water, food supplies, as well as the millions of breaths we all need, we must protect the air. There is simply no way around this fact. In this context, it is not difficult to realize that he makes his case for all of the countries, developed and otherwise, to put into place the policies by which to make this concern the top priority. For him then, the G-20 in Los Cabos represents the opportunity to focus on developing and implementing related policies accordingly, especially as he puts it, “if not the air – then what?”



Turning back to the articles in Acque & Terre, the piece by Howar Talabany, “Globalization, war economy and economic development in the Kurdistan region of Iraq” provides the most important elements in terms of considering the troubling growth of “war economies.”  Although admitting that the complete definition of this type system has yet to be captured, Talabany offers that they generally develop from what could be considered less developed, state-run, command economies, that due to both internal and external conflict, find themselves immersed in conditions of war. (It is hard to escape the thought that at least to some extent, the U.S., perhaps at the command of its own state mandates of capitalism, might be caught in the definitional light as well.)

In the context of these war conditions, Talabany points out that the economies in this situation find it more difficult to provide the day-to-day necessities to people, that illicit or informal economies then tend to flourish, which in fact then take on a corrupt life of their own, restricting the flow of both national and international products, while creating chaos in both the political and social sectors. Talabany offers these considerations in the midst of what had happened in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, although the parallel of the circumstance is as clear in other countries as well.

For Talabany, the solutions to this perilous situation lie in both preventing the situations from developing, and if not possible, then in what he terms post-war reconstruction. In terms of the former, this would demand constant attention to international diplomacy pointed at peaceful negotiations. Talabany makes it clear that along with other issues, this is often difficult as the war process itself seems to legitimize key players who often emerge as the “new” leadership, whether or not it is actually a legitimate claim. In the case of the latter, the “post-war” period is often difficult to arrive at/delineate, especially given that opposing factions might find it difficult to totally agree to any peace-like decisions, particularly if they are brokered by outside (i.e., NATO or UN) forces. Said another way, no one can be sure when reconstruction can actually begin, or what will come from what is left in the post-war rubble. Nonetheless, in whatever stage, and no matter the chaos of international involvement and regulation inherent in doing so, Talabany points to the notion that globalization in and of itself should demand that international attention/assistance be garnered in sorting through the “war economies” problems at hand.  For him, there is no other way that the concerns can be better understood, and hopefully better dealt with as the future of so many people/societies lie in the balance.


It would seem clear that the concerns referenced above continue to demand very serious attention. In this light, perhaps they are of a unifying nature, bringing together the nations of the world over problems that are truly of a global nature. Yet, this “sense” is certainly not anything new – we have recognized for quite some time that what we have done/and continue to do for the sake of progress has left damaging effects in the wake. But perhaps things are getting better, perhaps as the world players become more concerned in acquiring market shares than in acquiring territory, essentially becoming less reliant on the outcomes of conventional conflicts and war, we will reach toward better policies and more effective practices, ones that can make “the market” a more clean and vibrant place.

I, along with my fellow writers, certainly hope this is the case. Yet, and perhaps as a caveat, I must call attention to my own “G-20 in retrospect” article presented in Acque & Terre in 2010. In this context, I will note now as I did then that there remains a struggle over who will have the major control of the market – an unfortunate, tension-producing ingredient in the market-share pie. In this sense, there will remain issues tied to the differing growth models put forth by predominantly the U.S. and China. Make no mistake about it, these growth models are different, each one implying a different political perspective and approach to the considerations tied to both social and economic development.  In this sense, collaboration between the two powers (as well as with the others), even on issues as pressing as food, water, air and war, may well be as hard in coming in Los Cabos as they were in Pittsburg.  Said another way, with the differing business models at the table, “business as usual” may be more the overall theme of the upcoming G-20 than most of us would hope.


Editor’s notes:

Acque & Terre as well as the articles referenced from the 2010 April/May edition are at:

For more on David Suzuki visit his website at:

Ragazine Archives:


April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Earth, Wind & Fire/Politics

Monique Gagnon German/Poetry

30 Days in a Row

All my significant ex-boyfriends show up.

They want to Tango, they want to Two-step,

they want to play tourist; watch me implode

and I’m so busy driving at horizons

to the airport, weddings, the doctors’ and work

that I am just a shifting gear, a 3rd party observer

in the clockwork of this month.


         Today driving north on I-15

         a Native American man in a cowboy hat

         stared at me at a stop light

         while I sang with the radio

         “Tonight, tonight, tonight…”

         When I caught him, he smiled.


I tell one, I do not feel…

In Love, he cuts me off, sometimes

you have to give something up.

So I bring him to the zoo at his request

which seems tight, claustrophobic,

an exhibit of sorts. He snaps

pictures economically;

only the ones nearest extinction

and one shot of me when I am not looking.


         Yesterday driving down 163

         I saw a dwarf or a midget

         vomiting in the breakdown lane

         ridding himself of curds of brown stuff.

         He wore a softball uniform

         unbuttoned to the beltline.

         I keep wondering if his team won.


Of course, the gorillas make the cut

into the lens for nostalgia or for having been caught.

They draw a constant crowd of admirers,

animated murmurers who point and say,

So much like us! as they slide along

the cultured path, the plexiglass wall.


         In the last 30 days

         I’ve seen two cop cars and one ambulance

         tethered together twice:

         Once heading south on Route 5

         Once northwest on the 101.

         First aid kits for road rage, narcolepsy, or wanderlust?


But the sea lions are more demonstrative

of something I trust:

2 swim-dancing like lovers completely immersed,

1 in the shallows by himself, sleeping it off.

And I know where I am standing only once

when a young boy turns to me

to share a thought then sees who I am

and says, You’re not my… and darts off.


         Both times I kept driving

         but never reached the site

         where pieces lay visible

         picking up luminescent rays of light

         from the moon, the stars, the passing cars

         or their drivers.


I am near the Bengal tiger

and his eyes are closed to the diurnal sun.

In the corner of his cage nearest us

there is a spider and a web

indistinguishable from each other

until the wind picks up speed,

tears through one.


         I looked hard

         for the wreckage not to see blood

         but to see bent steel sculpted

         into something resembling art,

         shards of glass morphed, frozen

         into diamonds in the rough.

         to see a version of love that is

         just a life on course;

         temporary animal, temporary cage,

         lunging forward despite the bars.


Serial Gravity

I want to tell the experts

I know what sucked

the dead birds from sky

spat them

thud thud thud thud thud

black applause,

I want to tell

them how I made

the Earth speed up

towards those birds

like a hand to catch,

to squeeze, to collide.


I want to tell the experts

how I do it, shoot dead fish

to shorelines in bullets of ice,

how I get so full sometimes,

so sick of the noise and fumes

I must hurl clouds and winds

Armageddon style.


I want to make them

understand magnetism,

mortality and fate,

how they are always


but they are slow to learn,

I have watched them,

seen the signs.


Even when I’m

compelled to do otherwise

I can’t stop myself,

I churn the waters,

split the sky,

stoke the lightning,

yank them


by the eyes,

remind them

to be reminded

of the limits

of time.



You’d think

every object


they way

light strikes,


off edges,



to time’s intent

but it is good

for things

to appear

other than

they are,

not just

to foreshadow

the inevitable


that will

morph to

cautionary tales

in hindsight

but to

remind us

what’s possible,

how light

is certain

in every shadow

how light is


at the edge,



the air,

all things

and you,


you depth,

height, width,

making you


so solid

you might

actually forget

your soft spots,

your human

skin, your


roots: your


your fear,

your loves,

your regrets.


About the poet:

Monique Gagnon German holds a B.A. in English Lit. from Northeastern University and a M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. She has lived all over the US and worked as a Technical Writer and Tech. Pubs. Manager for a decade before taking time off to start a family. She is the happily married wife of an active duty Marine and the mother of two youngsters and many poems. Her poetry has appeared in the anthology, “e, the Emily Dickinson Award Anthology Best Poems of 2001,” and journals such as Ellipsis, California Quarterly, Kalliope, High Grade, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Calyx, The Ledge, and Rosebud.  Her poetry appears in current issues of Assissi and The Sierra Nevada Review.  Upcoming her poetry will appear in Tampa Review, Xenith, and Canary.

April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Monique Gagnon German/Poetry

Barbara Sue Mink Spalding/Poetry

A Sonnet on Death or Murder

If you kill and kill and kill again, like in war, or battle or just murder,

No one really cares at all, no one is really around to care.

You get the satisfaction of the blood and gore, and plunder.

But, really, and I’ve heard it said, there is really no one who cares.

Cain caught, and killed Able, the first one: a good lie and his parents would never know.

But they did know. Yet Cain said they did not care at all.

They just sent him away forever and Oh,

He never did come back—If they were appalled

He would later claim “They did not say.”

Did they ever find Able? Cain left him for, and he was, dead.

It’s like today.

I’ve heard it said–

“I killed them, you see.

They meant nothing to me.”


The Sadness of His Birthday

At Mastro’s that night:

Lobster bisque, a bloody mary.

Winter ended, though.



The cherry blossoms popped

Open; the first one

Of April. The saturated

Pink meaning winter was now done.


The sparrow and robin returned

On choppy flight.

Trilling  their songs at 2 a.m.

When it still seemed like night.


Earth teems and billows

When new shivers.

Old lives raise their

Hoary heads and quiver.


About the poet:

Barbara Sue Mink Spalding lives in Orange County, California. Her poetry has appeared in Carcinogenic Poetry; she can be reached through facebook at



April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Barbara Sue Mink Spalding/Poetry

George Moore/Poetry

On a Good Day

I’d rather be reading
St Vincent Millay than a bad
Ashbery poem, maybe Blake
rather than Rimbaud.
I wonder if the struggle is still there
in the wings.  In
pajamas, the heart
molten in youth, now breaking
out in signs of old age.

But not enough to rhyme.
Some corpse, the poets in their brief
kindnesses have not uncovered,
the mannerisms of the birds,
their true identities,
the theosophic
liberties not yet named.

Birds who fell dead
from the Baghdad skies
from murderous concussions
from aerial attacks. Not St Edna¹s
hope for the planet.
somehow a little cartoonish,
a reversals into mirrors,
the absolute bettered by one.


Chart of the Elements

Erotomania, the effect
of hankering, of harboring
the gynecomania, hunger,
lechery, impetration
and pining, perverse sensate
satyriasis, thirst, velleity
that urges, lust prone,
wishes, feigns to wish for,
yearns and chooses, longing
beyond and before, libido
bound, hopeful, of animus
and amorous, the ardency
of appetite, aspiration,
carnal conflagration,
fancy, favor and conatus
for the truth, cupidity,
conjugal and erotic, flamed
to hot blood, to fits of
worship, adoration and
aphrodisia, and all for
this heat of momentary
crave, covet of the fruit,
feverish anticipation
before prayer for more
to sustain this volition,
sexual and spiritual,
suddenly that pure fervor
for what is only, after all,
animal, human.



The boy fists
like father fists,
but in the crib,

crib-side, fingers
curled into a stone,
small as wisdom

of hard knocks
as yet unknown,
smaller claw

that cannot climb
so fists at worlds,
sends out a sign

father now
favors, sings drunk,
shows the neighbors

the small gem
aimed at enemies.
Then off to war,

offed in war,
the father’s fist
unopened, home.

The boy finds
fingers, or time
balled in a knot.


About the poet:

George Moore’s fourth collection, Children’s Drawings of the Universe, will be published by Salmon Press in 2012. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, Northwest Review, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. His poetry and essays appear in Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal and Iceland.  He is twice nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Web and Best of the Net awards, and was a finalist for The Rhysling Poetry Prize, and the Wolfson Poetry Prize.  Moore is on the faculty of the University of Colorado, Boulder. His website is:

April 28, 2012   Comments Off on George Moore/Poetry

Carol Sanford/Creative Nonfiction

Wildlife One-Upmanship

 By Carol Sanford

 I HEAR THE RUMBLE OF Warren’s old truck behind me.  Should I stand still, suggesting I’m open to a chat, or keep walking to the mailbox, wave, and watch him pass?  We aren’t comfortable neighbors; we manage to come across each other every couple of months.  Undecided, I step to the side of our shared two-track and mince my steps.

The letter in my hand is addressed to a realtor who wants to sell our cabin for us — our only home for over a decade. It’s been a sad decision for two people who love the hills, trees, river, animals, birds, wildflowers. The air itself. Glenn and I both grew up in the country, became teachers, and lived in the small towns where we taught. Two years before we retired, we found thisbeautiful acreage on the river and began to build a modest cabin for our permanent home.  When we moved in, we volunteered to work on community projects and tried hard to become better acquainted with neighbors and people in town. We met with disappointment.  Our most meaningful relationships are still with the township supervisor, the librarian and our mailman.

Warren moved in next door five years after we came, about the time we realized — slow learners that we are — we would always be seen as outsiders in the community. Warren, who keeps his hair long and wears hippie clothes, hung out in California in the ‘70s but spent boyhood three miles down the road.  He’s local; we aren’t.  We like Warren, but the exchanges between us remain meager. We don’t know how he views us as neighbors or as people.  Are we interlopers in his corner of the earth?  It’s clear that he loves his place. Maybe he can’t believe we cherish the land too.  Do we appear arrogant when we don’t dump oil on the ground or throw old tires in the ditch?  Does he resent our efforts to protect the river?  Do we somehow represent big cities whose industries traditionally rob rural areas of valuable resources and leave behind the enduring mess? Are we presumptuous to believe we know what’s best for the environment?  Even though we were teachers, is part of the problem that we were fortunate enough to go to college—something we don’t mention but which is probably obvious?

Glenn and I want to know Warren better but haven’t broken through the wall that keeps us here and Warren over there.  And, you might say, we feel burned out from the struggle for acceptance.  Besides the letter in my hand, there’s the fact that we’ve recently bought a house in a town where we have children, a grandchild, good doctors and a hospital, amenities not available here.  Still, we don’t want to go.

* * * * * * * * *

Warren cuts the engine, takes his time rolling down the window:  “Howdy.”

“Hey, Warren.”  We have two safe topics between us.  In the summer we talk gardens, the rest of the time it’s wildlife, my favorite.  I’m the one who to starts the conversations.  “Have you seen the turkeys lately?”

“Seen a few.  They’ve been sleepin’ in trees along the river by my place.”  Pause.

“What’s happened to the huge flocks wandering through?”  I do wonder.  After my first sighting of a male fanning like a peacock, I understood why Ben Franklin nominated them for national bird.  A big tom displayed for me, or so it seemed, while his harem pecked at shelled corn we’d spread on the ground.

“Great horned owls,” Warren answers.  “There’s a pair raisin’ young in a big beech in my yard.  They picked off a few.  I’ve seen the piles of bones. Same thing last year.  Turkeys get scared.  They know.”

“Wow.”  It’s what I can think of to say.  I step closer to the truck.  “We often hear the owl at night…”

“Ever hear the babies?  When they’re learnin’ to call, they sound yippy.  Like coyotes.”

“Really.” We hear coyotes after dark.  It’s a stretch to think owlets make that maniacal noise.  Winter nights we’ve stood in the driveway to listen to shrill, clipped barking coming from all directions.  We call it coyote conversation.  We can’t be confusing that with baby owls.  Maybe the owlets practice during the day?

“Seen the osprey along the river?” Warren wants to know.

Osprey?  Now I’m incredulous.  An osprey certainly would be noticeable.  We know birds.  We canoe the river and watch belted kingfishers, cedar wax wings, wood ducks, buffleheads, common mergansers — the females looking bizarre with their topknots wet after a dive.  We take indentification books along.  I say, no, we haven’t seen an osprey.

“There’s one nestin’ on a light pole at the elementary school.” What! I make a mental note to check it out next time we’re in town.

“We’ve seen several pileated woodpeckers,” I offer.

Warren nods; he probably thinks they’re a nuisance.  I want to tell about the pair that danced, as if choreographed, around a scrub oak, but while I’ve got the floor I move on to Glenn’s experience with a mink in the woodpile.  It came out, stood at his feet, looked up then meandered to the river.  No fear.  I give Warren the short version.  He listens carefully then mentions that three mink travel the river, one along the bank by his place in the morning, another at night.  I take it the third one is ours.  How on earth does he distinguish?  I don’t think he’s putting me on.

And yes, he sees the river otter.  Glenn spotted it once, on its back kicking up river, that joyous little look on its face.  The neighborhood fox?  Warren says it lives on the far side of the river, crosses over on a downed tree’s limb no thicker than your calf.

So I play my trump card.  “A bobcat ran along the river bank by our cabin about a month ago.” (Heading toward Warren’s.)  All his life Glenn had hoped to see a bobcat, and that day as he sat on the deck reading he just happened to look up.  No time to call for me; it was gone.

Sure enough, Warren knows about the bobcat, and he’s found footprints of a black bear.  Now we’re into the big stuff.  He uncrooks an index finger from its spot on the steering wheel, points south.  “A badger used to live near Smith’s barn,” he says.  “I seen its holes.  You know how badgers make holes?  Put their heads in and paw dirt out like nobody’s business.”  He chuckles.

I’m out of my depth.  Badgers around here?  I can’t quite picture one — I’m conjuring up a wolverine, but I’m still thinking bear.  We’ve noticed some heavily scratched trees on our property.  We wouldn’t shoot a bear, or anything; Glenn’s .22 stays in the closet.  Unloaded. We hate to hear the year-round gunshots of deer poachers, but we understand if it’s about hunger, and sometimes it is.  A bear in the area?  We’d love to get a glimpse.

“I used to hunt predators for Smith,” Warren says.  “Put out a deer carcass to attract ‘em.  Next day I’d go see if I could shoot some, and the deer’d be gone.  I’d go in the barn and there’d be the carcass up in the loft.”

He has me.  I’m spooked.

“Mountain lion,” he says.

I swallow.  “Mountain lion?”

“Cougar.  Some places they call ‘em pumas.  Nothin’ else could’ve took that deer up in that loft.”  A long pause.  “Well, gotta get into town.”  He starts the engine, says, “See ya.”

“See you, Warren.”

I step back.  The truck moves off at a crawl.  At the row of mailboxes, he turns left toward town.  I stand a minute, then another, and do an about-face to the cabin.  I’m practically running.  I can’t wait to tell Glenn all the news.

* * * * * * * * * *

My husband is less excitable — more analytical — than I am, but wildlife stories thrill him almost as much as sightings. I repeat every tidbit Warren has fed me, and Glenn is as surprised as I am to hear about the probable mountain lion and black bear.  When I ask him if he thinks Warren exaggerates, his gut feeling, like mine, is no; one thing Warren isn’t, is fake.

“He’s authentic,” I say.  “But transmission oil dumped on the ground…”  I stop.  We’ve said it many times before.

“I think what bothers me just as much is the beautiful maples he cut down.  Why would anybody do that?”  Glenn goes out the patio door and sits in one of the chairs we keep on the deck.  I follow.  This is where we’ve spent hours watching birds, chipmunks, squirrels clowning at the feeder, deer crossing the river, the great blue heron posed one-legged as it waits for unsuspecting fish.

“We’re tree huggers,” I kid.  “Maybe Warren doesn’t get why we think big trees are wonderful.”

“True.  And they’re his trees.  It’s not our business. I know that.”

“Well, he sure has a gift,” I say.  “I can’t figure out how he sees so much.  How did he happen to be looking just as the fox crossed on the limb of that tree?  When it comes to nature, he’s a natural.”  We laugh.

“He’s aware of his surroundings,” Glenn says.  “Observation and logic.  He probably saw the fox on the far side of the river several times and figured it had a den there. He probably went over to look.  Since he’s also seen it on this side, it had to be crossing on something.  So he watched and waited.”

“He’s got to be one patient guy.  Maybe he’s lucky too.”

“Did I tell you he has spinach up?”  No segue there, and it takes me a second to follow.

“What?  Warren has spinach up?  I just put ours in yesterday!”

The naming of Warren’s attributes, as we see them, feels good.  A relief.  Glenn says, “You know, I’ve been thinking.  Maybe we should ask him if he wants to power-wash the cabin.”

“Excellent idea.”  I am thrilled.  The cabin is layered with two years’ worth of dust and pollen, and re-staining the deck is the only work project I see myself up to this summer.  We both need to do less.  When we built the cabin, we went to bed every night exhausted and got up every morning exhilarated, ready to nail joists, square 2x4s, manhandle wallboard.  High energy isn’t forever.

Then I remember the letter in my pocket and explain that I didn’t get to the mailbox before Warren came along.  But I know there’s more to why I didn’t mail it.  Even though we’d heard an occasional wildlife story from Warren before, somehow, today, he’d fashioned a bridge.  He openly shared something he holds dear, something we hold dear, stories of nature, of animals right here on this spot of earth and water.  They weren’t simply entertaining tales; they were—in the telling and the hearing, even in the one-upmanship of our conversation—an acknowledgement of common ground.  A welcome mat.

“I don’t think we should sell,” I say firmly.

“Really?” Glenn says.  And the joy in that word tells me he hates to part with the cabin even more than I do.  It is hard to imagine not being able to come here — no canoeing, no August afternoons of deep quiet, no soft animal sounds or river smell in the night, no evenings when the stars are so bright they feel personal…

“We’re not ready,” I say.  “Here’s what I think.”  I often know when my husband has arrived at a thought I’m about to present, and this is one of those times.  I go on. “The house doesn’t need anything that can’t wait.  We can move there as soon as we’re up to it then come here on weekends.  Come anytime.  Spend summers here.”

“Our cake and the frosting too?” he jokes.  “When we’re ready to move, we could see if Warren would keep an eye on the cabin when we’re not here.”

We phone Warren once we hear his truck on the two-track, back from town.  He says he’ll come now to look at the power-washing job.  When he walks over, Wolf, his dog, arrives first.  Mongrel tail waving, he zips right up to Glenn; they’ve met in the woods on occasion.  As the two men talk price, Glenn rubs Wolf’s neck and ears.  Warren says he can borrow the equipment he’ll need to power-wash the cabin and will do it whenever we want. Glenn says, “This spring, summer, do it when you have time.”

I’ve made iced tea for the three of us and hand Warren a glass.  He says thanks and he’ll bring me some spinach in a few days.  He’s standing by one of our scratched-up oaks off  the deck.  He turns and looks the tree up and down, runs his free hand across the bark.  He studies it further and then weighs in:  “Might be a bear that did this.”


About the author:

Carol Sanford is a retired English teacher who enjoyed teaching high school and at colleges including Central Michigan University.  Her best writing occurs in the loft of a cabin she and her husband built next to a charming little river.  Her poetry has appeared over the years in small press magazines, and her creative nonfiction can be found in the journal Creative Nonfiction‘s special issues A View from the Divide, and Healing; and the M.S.U. press publication Peninsula: Essays and Memoirs from Michigan.  She is at work on a book of short stories and an essay about attending country school.

April 28, 2012   1 Comment

Kathleen Keogh/Poetry


I couldn’t wrap my head around

her belly, bulging and white.


The fact of its being was as foreign

as an uncharted moon,


That growth,

that lump swelling inside her

striated skin, a slight creature

thickly cocooned, life

seen through the rosy lens of amniotic fluid.


I couldn’t imagine its—his—coming-done,

his slippery, sucking emergence.


And the first time I saw him, I still

didn’t understand —

head an overripe tomato,

body wrinkled as a damp bulb.


When she held him out for me, the fear

of those clutching fingers and curling toes

shook my arms,

his ruddy skin creased like

tissue paper or an onion’s peel.

How easily he might tear, I thought.


He settled against my chest,

and the striking terror of his soft coddled

body tumbling from me—


but he didn’t,

his puckered face turned inward,

his small limbs creaking in new use,

his body, a waterlogged rose,

weighted with life, opening.



after Summer Evening, by Edward Hopper 

tense, she leans against the white porch,

candied-pink bathing suit

bright in the unforgiving fluorescence.

her feet turn inward, away from the boy—

seated, his leg raised in her direction, one hand

bent against his chest:

resting mindlessly, or perhaps clutching

his heart. his head tilts toward her

in stilted meditation.

His mouth, its slacken lips.


darkness treads on the stark lit scene,

skulking along the edge of the porch like

an abandoned dog, almost slipping

into the cut-out spaces between rigid

limbs. Half of the girl’s face is pared like pale

stone by the sharp light. Her eyes, the windows

of vacant hotels, crude and dark,

gaze emptily downward;

already she is disinclined to listen,

before his mouth has fully torqued

the words he will never say —


or perhaps there is nothing to say,

perhaps the glaring light,

the stagnant darkness,

the taut inconsequence of a summer’s night

hold all that will never be.




fifteen years and even now it hurts to shower.

I feel the spray of water and think of him,


how the darkness of the lake slid over

his body as weightless as sky, how his limbs

floated, four pale eels,

his hair — the way I used to smooth it back —

twisting like ink,

spilled. spilling. a body splayed,



(standing here, in the shower stall,

I see how my body has changed

and I remember where his hands

had been in slimmer days)


and how his chest must have tightened,

his throat clenched,

I think of how he could have wanted such a death,


how he was six miles away

with stones tucked in his pockets,

the absolute weight of a life too heavy,


and I remember where I had been —

at home, asleep while he was sinking.


About the poet: 

Kathleen Keogh is a sophomore at Binghamton University, studying English and Creative Writing. She has won numerous poetry awards from Adelphi University and is currently a poetry editor at Binghamton’s undergraduate literary journal, Ellipsis.




Valerie Brown, Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms, Washington, D.C. 2012; Valerie Brown photo


April 28, 2012   Comments Off on Kathleen Keogh/Poetry