New Ohio Review Issue 10 (Originally printed Fall 2011)

Newohioreview.org is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work.

The Last Speaker of the Language

by Carol Anshaw

Featured image: Fernand Lungren. In the Café c. 1882-1884. The Art Institute of Chicago.

All right. Here we go.

Darlyn teeters high on a swayback wooden ladder she has dragged in from her mother’s garage. From here she can reach around blindly on top of the kitchen cabinets. She has struck pay dirt—a tidy arrangement of small, flat bottles. She doesn’t have to look to know they will all be pints of 5 O’Clock vodka.

She backs down the ladder, finds a grocery bag, goes back up and tosses in every bottle she can reach. Then she moves the ladder further along the way and clears out the bottles above those cabinets. She pours the liquor down the drain in the sink. 5 O’Clock is not for the amateur drinker. When she has the presence of mind, Darlyn’s mother filters it through a Brita, then mixes it with lime juice and ice and ginger ale, her version of a Suffering Bastard. After a while, though, she drops the lime and the niceties and in the end skips even the glass.

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Layover

by Erica Dawson

Featured image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Englishman (William Tom Warrener, 1861–1934) at the Moulin Rouge, 1892. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I’ve half a mind to make a move.

I stayed in Archer City where
I made Larry McMurtry proud
by downing one too many shots
of ice-cold vodka, tumbler-sized,
then yelping all alone to “Sweet
Home, Alabama” while the band
reprised “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,”
packed up, and quit the Legion dance.

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Entropy

by Tracey Knapp

Featured image: Félix Vallotton. Five O’Clock, Intimacies VII (Cinq Heures, Intimités VII), 1898. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All those times I crossed the bridge to see you
and not one lap dance. We haven’t held hands
since that time in the rain forest, chanting Lord
knows what in Sanskrit. I saw my first wild boar there
but even he took off for the brush. Someone always ends
the moment. Another call dropped on your iPhone,
the cosmic forces at work. My dog sighs and stares
at my flip-flop from his pillow. At work, the office
is separated into orderly earth-toned cubes.

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Women’s College

by Kenneth Hart

Feature image: Antoine Watteau. Head of a Man, ca. 1718. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I didn’t think of myself as a sex offender
or as someone whose sex was offensive
until I walked across the campus
of the women’s college. I tried to be
as inconspicuous as possible, looking away
when someone jogged past with a scrunchy holding back her hair
and breasts bouncing just a little beneath a sports bra,
making believe I had some business there
by putting a purposeful stride in my step.
I know I carry the chromosome of hatchet murderers and rapists,
it’s no wonder my hands felt like mallets
at the ends of my arms.
After awhile I sat on a bench
and tried to look at the oval pond,
the trees and manicured shrubbery in front of the study hall,
as passing girls gossiped in the late-January sunlight,
some of them tanned from winter break, or slightly heavier
after a month of their mother’s cooking.
So I got up to leave,
making sure my shoulders looked slumped and unathletic,
a little afraid of myself now,
and massively unaware
that one of them might consider my presence
a welcome relief.


Kenneth Hart teaches writing at New York University, and serves as Poetry Editor for The Florida Review. His poems have recently been published in Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. Hart’s book, Uh Oh Time, was selected by Mark Jarman as winner of the 2007 Anhinga Prize for Poetry.

When It’s That Time for Piranhas

by Michael Derrick Hudson

Featured image: Utagawa Hiroshige. Swallow and Wisteria, mid-1840s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Everything has already blossomed: my neighbor’s wisteria
has gone hog-wild across the ragged frontier of
our mutual fence, the soft green tendrils
of it violating international borders

and breaking treaties. Achtung! So let me tell you about

my neighbor’s wife: she’s delicious! And every morning
I hear all the birds in Fort Wayne, Indiana, go

Yippee-yee! Yippee-yee! Which is how spring jibber-jabbers
while her husband blows the leafy detritus

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Sixteen in Vegas

by Anastasia Selby

Featured image: Edvard Munch. The Girl by the Window, 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s Vegas and I’m sixteen years old. I’ve been playing in the arcade for hours; I’m leaning on the console of Mortal Combat, pushing the quarters my stepdad has given me into the slot one after another, wearing the tips of my thumbs down with their ridged edges. I’m bored as hell and my parents have abandoned me in this wasteland, I can practically see the tumbleweeds and hear western music as I walk across the patterned carpet. I pass all the men and women with their heads almost touching the bright lights of the slot machines, their hands like lobster claws around the levers, as if they’re waiting for the secrets of life to come pouring out when they hit the right combination. The secrets must be what they see on billboards, what they see in magazines. The arcade smells like the sweat of children and sounds like broken glass.

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After Rosenkavalier

by Natania Rosenfeld

Featured image: Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes). Lovers Sitting on a Rock; folio 24 (verso) from the Madrid Album ‘B’, 1796–97. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We talked about her,
the Marschallin, only
thirty-two, and her lover,
seventeen, though the singers
were fiftyish, and we ourselves
are approaching there, though our
lives have not reached their
pinnacle. Will we ever
roar with our whole voice
and soul, cry out that way
with all life crying through us,
or will we walk on, obedient
and tired in our traces, as the round
orange sun goes down
across the long, white prairie?

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The Rush of Losing

by Daniel Larkins

Featured image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Moulin Rouge, 1892–1895. The Art Institute of Chicago.

10. The race is over before it ends.

7. Tim leans forward. His blue dress shirt is untucked, unbuttoned, and his stomach shoves the undershirt out of his pants. When he loses it’s like a win, because when he wins he doesn’t want to keep on betting. Losing answers the question, Why continue? When he loses, he likes to think he can parlay that into a victory, persevere to make up for the loss.

All the TVs are muted. In his shoes he can feel the rumble of Holland Tunnel traffic from a couple blocks away. His twin boys are twelve and his fingertips are black. His nails are short and dull. His wife Meg used to have monthly manicures and the designer kitchen she wanted, but no more would she get a stupid room for hanging pots and pans and whatever else she liked to hang from racks and nails.

Tim leans forward. He has a hangnail, and it bleeds and stings, and his left hand balls into a fist on his thigh and his other wraps around a rolled-up Racing Form. It’s a tool, a bat, a weapon.

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Times Pieces

by Susan Morehouse

Feature image: Jean Charles Cazin. October Day 1890-1891. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My husband is walking out the door with an expensive watch, carrying it in the box it came in. “Are you getting it fixed,” I ask.

“I’m going to see what it’s worth at the pawnshop on Main,” he says. “You could just get a Timex,” I say, “if you want to know what time it is.”

“Sure,” he says, “or I have that watch you gave me. It just needs—”

“Batteries,” I say.

“Yeah,” he agrees, “and a band.”

The expensive watch was a gift from a man whose biography he wrote on spec, a book no editor has taken yet, even though Henry, the man behind the success of a major tabloid, implied it was a done deal. That was before the financial collapse. Henry gives these watches to anyone he needs a gift for. He buys them in bulk. Need something for a sheik? Here’s a Millage.

We’re broke.

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On the Strand

by Dave Kim

Feature image: Edgar Degas. Beach at Low Tide (Mouth of the River), 1869. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My mother’s boyfriend was a man named Bang. I never learned his first name. He’d been an officer in the Korean army before coming to the States, and he would yank me out of bed at six-thirty every morning to do jumping jacks. I was a doughy nine-year-old and he was trying to make me leaner and tougher. If I got angry, he would dare me to hit him and stand up for myself, get it out of my system. On Sundays we’d go to his boxing gym to watch the men pound each other to pieces, which terrified me at first and then made me dream of days when I’d be big enough to put on gloves and whomp Bang in the gut. I needed a good ass-kicking, he would tease me in his throaty Korean. Anytime I wanted, I could challenge him. Mom didn’t get involved.

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Home Movie

by Mark Kraushaar

Feature image: Berthe Morisot. Forêt de Compiègne, 1885. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Saxophone, and trombone, trumpet,
trumpet, trumpet. And there’s Roxanne
and Dick, and Betty Mayfield and the Laurie girls.
And there’s George Betts on clarinet.
Of course, it’s so jerky and grainy though,
which is just as it should be,
and here we suddenly actually
are, or, and isn’t that
Malcolm Sproul and Claudia French and isn’t that,
or wouldn’t that be Dick Benck, and there’s
Kit Powell, and Kathy Frey.

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Maritime

by Mark Kraushaar

Feature image: James McNeill Whistler. Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water, 1872. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My wife was nodding, Yes, sure, and, Yes,
and I was thinking of my parents, their sadness
and silence, their every evening’s weeping,
whispery buzz beside the stove.
My wife was nodding, Yes,
and leaning forward when the pastor said, You’re
like two ships passing in the night, and he seemed so
pleased I thought, So one’s a brig-sloop the other a tug?
Or one’s a tanker the other a trawler?
Troop ship and submarine?
Grain barge and gunboat?
I was quiet though.

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Downloading the Meltdown

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: Odilon Redon. And Man Appeared; Questioning the Earth From Which He Emerged and Which Attracted Him, He Made His Way Toward Somber Brightness, plate 8 of 8 from “Les Origines”, 1883. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Rumple of clouds at sunset, low and pink,
Underbelly of heaven in the summer slack, and me

Depressed as a backdoor detective on a case of slow clues.
I’m never lonely as long as I have my own body

To interrogate, my mind with its whips and pincers.
I buckle at the slightest threat; I confess

In the high pure pang of a choirboy singing
At some ceremonious occasion for the faint of heart.

And now the hot night, the moon cool as a bishop
In a boudoir. What you can’t get over,

You must get past. Through a haze of smoke and rum,
What’s left of me squints at the odds and ends.


Elton Glaser, a native of New Orleans, is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Akron. He has published six full-length books of poetry, among them Pelican Tracks (Southern Illinois, 2003) and Here and Hereafter (Arkansas, 2005), winner of the Ohioana Book Award for Poetry.

In the Season of Early Dark

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: Claude Monet. Rocks at Port-Goulphar, Belle-Île, 1886. The Art Institute of Chicago.

1
The wind sassy and half mad,
The clouds knocked up with rain—
Another feral afternoon in the Midwest,
Fall, and the trees like Salome, ready
To ask, when the last leaf drops,
For my unresisting head.

2
I’m going to spring all the little traps
Set by silence
And call it mercy. I’m going to let loose
Every thought caught by its hind legs
And screaming for release.
Out of the jaws and sharp teeth,
The tongue comes, loving
The taste of its own blood, gush of words
Hurt into eloquence.

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A Gift

by Patricia Ann Sanders

Feature image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Passenger in Cabin 54—The Cruise, 1896. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s called the “verbal tip.”

You’re the greatest waitress we’ve ever had. We’re going to ask for you every time we come here. We had such a good time because you were our waitress. Yada yada.

Then they leave, like, three dollars on a thirty-dollar ticket.

Like I was going to call up the electric company and tell them they were the greatest electric company I’d ever had.

When I got divorced, my ex-husband was supposed to give me the Jeep. That’s what we agreed. My plan was to sell it if I couldn’t find a job right away in Phoenix. Instead, he wanted me to have the Acura. He was being generous, because it was a better car, practically new. Except that he never signed the title over to me. So I couldn’t sell it, and I couldn’t drive it, because I couldn’t afford insurance or gas. I was living in a godforsaken studio and buying food for one day at a time, stealing toilet paper from the bathrooms at the mall, with a twenty-three-thousand-dollar car parked under my window.

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Solo in the Skeleton Key

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: After Gerard de Lairesse. Copies after Illustrations of Statues and Paintings (recto); Measurements for a Man’s Skeleton (verso). The Art Institute of Chicago.

Who would plant, in this stony ground, narcissus and love-lies-bleeding?
It’s too late to be young among the primitives. Winter withers the stalks.

The air reeks of it, decay and the odor of innocence gone to seed.
The time for riots and tattoos is over. Who dances the Dazzle now, or the Swerve?

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One Day Your Parents Confess You Have a Twin

by Todd Boss

Feature image: Ugo da Carpi. The Sibyl and a Child Bearing a Torch, 1510-1530. The Art Institute of Chicago.

who was given up for adoption early on, when it was
clear they couldn’t manage him. It was, says your father,
the worst decision they’d ever made. (It’s you and your
parents at the kitchen table. Between you, the steam
from the teapot uncurls in a kind of breathing statuary.)
He was your inverse, your yin: When you went to sleep,
that’s when his terrorizing of everyone would begin.
He went from home to home to group home, and then
to prison, half mad, a drug-addled teen, with your name
tattooed over the veins in both forearms. “That’s when
we moved to Minnesota,” says your mother, but of course
he found you here, at the end of an abbreviated sentence,
and slit your throat while you slept. This was last year.

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I Love Your Sunhat

by Patricia Foster

Feature image: Jules Pascin. Hermine David, 1907. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I didn’t know what to do with my breakfast tray. I’d gone through the line, had just spooned scrambled eggs onto my brisk white plate when I noticed two of the tables were already full and I’d have to sit alone. Alone. I’d only been at this artists’ colony for fourteen hours, but inevitably the old thought seeped in, “I’ll never be asked to sit with the popular group.” Now I stared not at the writers and artists dawdling over sectioned grapefruit and blueberry pancakes, but at the shiny surface of the coffee urn.

Nonsense! I nodded to my distorted reflection. What could really be wrong with eating your eggs alone at 7:30 in the morning at a table for eight? I’d eaten alone many times in the last ten years at my home in Iowa. And I was way too mature—too old, I didn’t dare say—for these sudden fits of inadequacy. I shifted my gaze to the window where light shimmered above the crepe myrtle, where, in the distance, horses grazed and cows lumbered across the driveway. As I turned to pick up a glass of orange juice, I heard a trill of laughter from one of the tables and all my newfound certainty slipped again: sitting alone was a curse.

Any normal person would have assumed that being “new” to the group, you should give yourself a few days to acclimate, to get to know people, to talk to the tall, gregarious composer dressed in plaid shirts and khaki shorts and the small, clever woman with red hair who spoke so softly. Any normal person would have plunged into small talk, would have laughed when others laughed. Instead, anxiety charged through my body, wreaking havoc with my girlish hopes for friendship while an abject loneliness loomed above the coffee cups. What would I do? How would I survive?

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Elegance

by Fleda Brown

Feature image: After Luca Cambiaso. Sibyl in the Clouds, after 1570. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I thought I had hold of something elegant, a luminescent glow
on the lake, a flicker’s flash of headdress high on the tree.

I thought I heard a conversation from over water, someone saying
laissez faire, or Toulouse Lautrec, but it was only guys fishing,
a mishearing that came to me like a ray of light through stained glass,
a shimmer like a fine line of Milton’s, or a landscape by Monet,
applied in layers.

What I wanted was something privately
apprehended, something slowly and privately understood:
elite, yes, I admit it.

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Spring Cleaning

by Laura McCullough

Feature image: Vasily Kandinsky. Houses at Murnau, 1909. The Art Institute of Chicago.

When we moved the couch
we found the pumpkin,
the tiny one we’d picked that day in the run-up to Halloween
with the kids at the apple-picking farm.
It was small to begin with, smaller than an apple,
and now it is desiccated
though not as much as you might imagine;
it’s top-sunken, and wrinkled, the bottom flatter
but the whole of it soft
as if it might be full of rot or even of crème,
as if you might pry it open
along one of the long wrinkles or fissures,
that autumn orange color gone pale,
and out might come some wonderful and unexpected thing.

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The Truest Thing

by Emily Nagin

Feature image: Martin Johnson Heade. York Harbor, Coast of Maine, 1877. The Art Institute of Chicago.

In January, Nancy burst out laughing during the Shapiro funeral. She started laughing during a eulogy, though the eulogy itself was not funny. It was about deer hunting. The man giving it was stocky, red-cheeked, and blond, his buzz cut so close that from a distance, he looked bald. He spoke directly into the lectern, as if it had asked him to recall his father’s life. From her spot at the back of the chapel, all Nancy could see was the top of his head.

Her coworker, Lenny Faberman, sat across the aisle from her. Out of the corner of her eye, Nancy could see him fidgeting with his cufflinks. Last week, Lenny had caught Nancy crying while she embalmed an old woman. He’d stood in the basement doorway for a full minute, then said, “Did you know her?”

Nancy sniffed and wiped her eyes on her upper arm. She shook her head.

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Traverse City

by George Bilgere

Feature image: Odilon Redon. Still Life with Flowers, 1905. The Art Institute of Chicago.

On my way to the conference in Traverse City
I drive by the toy lake where my family came
for summer getaways from steamy St. Louis.

The tiny cottages on the shore are still there.
There is the white sand where I played with my sisters
and learned how to swim from a teenaged lifeguard
whose beauty put my child’s mind in confusion.

My mother sat at a card table with her friends,
smoking and playing gin rummy. Weekends,
my father flew up from the mystery
of his job and his life without us.
My father dead now, my mother dead,
along with the friends she played cards with.

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Journal

by George Bilgere

Feature image: Paul Sérusier. The Beach of Les Grands Sables at Le Pouldu, 1890. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Now we’re on this tourist island and I am going to rent a golf cart.

That would be a good way, a very good way, to start a novel.
But this is not a novel, it’s my life.
It must be written down so that later, when I’m old,
barely able to walk around whatever fearful place
I finally end up in, I’ll look in my journal

and there will be my writing,
my own hand, bolder and darker than the trembling scrawl
age has dealt me. I will stand at the window
looking at the new kinds of cars—mostly Chinese, I’m guessing—
zooming past in a world I no longer get on any level.

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Royalty

by George Bilgere

Feature image: Odilon Redon. The Beacon, 1883, reworked c. 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

So this young couple, overweight
and seriously tattooed, comes into the café,
and each of them is actually wearing a baby
in one of those tummy-papoose things,
and they have two enormous dogs
designed to kill elk and wolves,
not sit under the table at a coffee shop,
and as I watch them smile at their babies
which are now screaming bloody murder
while the great slobbering mastiffs
begin earnestly licking their own privates,
something terrible happens to me:
it’s like The Manchurian Candidate,
when Lawrence Harvey suddenly realizes
the reason he’s been acting so strangely
is because he’s been brainwashed by Soviet agents:

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The Usual Way

by Sydney Lea

Feature image: Odilon Redon. Ophelia, 1906. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Our bus streaks bullet-fast by the soaring Crowne Plaza Hotel
and the sundry Hartford insurance companies’ towers
where millions of dollars are made and lost,
for all I know, in an hour.

I don’t care. I’m searching for something else as I cross
Connecticut for New York City to greet my daughter’s
newborn twins. We should think of a child

as constituting the highest form that spirit can know,
and I’m headed south to witness such spirit, twofold!
Still I’m petty, comparing myself to the mannerless
couple—young and loud—

who bellow laughter from a seat behind me, perhaps at the latest
YouTube clip. What can their futures hold?
But what, after all, of my own?

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Fuchsprellen

by Rob McClure Smith

Featured image: Edouard Jean Vuillard. The Artist’s Mother Playing Checkers, c. 1890–91. The Art Institute of Chicago.

vulpes vult fraudem, foemina laudem—Publius Syrus, Fragments

It is claim’d that these little Pamphlettes which have passed from me formerly have got me some little Credit and Esteem amongst all of the Female Sex who delight in or be desirous of good Accomplishments. But there being so much time elaps’d since the last came forth methinks I hear some of you say “I wish dear Mr. Wooley would present some new Instruction.” To say the truth, I have been importun’d by divers of my Friends and Acquaintance to do so. To which end being very desirous still to serve you, I offer this Fuchsprellen, which I assure you worthy for the very precious things you will find there.

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Slip

by Jeffrey Harrison

Feature image: Charles Émile Jacque. Seated Boy, n.d. The Art Institute of Chicago.

If I call my son by my daughter’s name
or vice versa; or if I call one of them
by the dog’s name, or the other way around—
all of which I have been known to do—
it’s funny, and only means I’m spaced out.

But when, while talking on my cell phone,
I walked past my new African-American colleague
and distractedly said hi, using the name
of another black colleague, it was stupendously
unfunny. It felt like I’d been punched

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Commuter Buddhist

by Jeffrey Harrison

Feature image: Alfred Stieglitz. Car 2F-77-77, 1935. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I’m learning to be a Buddhist in my car,
listening to a book on tape. One problem
is that, before I’ve gotten very far,

my mind gradually becomes aware
that it has stopped listening, straying from
the task of becoming a Buddhist in my car.

I’m also worried that listening will impair
my driving, as the package label cautions,
but I haven’t noticed that, at least so far.

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Queenie

by Jeff W. Bens

Feature image: Johann Christian Reinhart. Lying Goat, from Die Zweite Thierfolge, 1800. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Dr. Frank Shire had never been down to Athlone before, hadn’t been back to Ireland to see the Kennelly brothers in the decade since he’d finished his fellowship at the University College of Animal Surgery, had seen them just the one time when they’d visited New York. The only American at the Fisherman’s Rest, the only American in all of Athlone for all he knew at that time of year, November, in the wet cold, driven straight to their father’s fisherman’s hotel by the Kennellys before he’d even had a chance to eat breakfast after the all-night flight to Shannon from JFK.

“She may be dying,” is all Robbie K said.

His brother Michael added, “She may be dead.”

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A Mile In

by Julie Hanson

Feature image: Claude Lorrain. View of Delphi with a Procession, 1673. The Art Institute of Chicago.

The snow had been with us for awhile
and was dingy and not well lit.
But the sun promised to come out.
The light fog lifting
against the skinny tree trunks
and the grounded limbs they’d lost
and the thick, half-detached vines
would lift off,
dissolved, by the end of our walk.
We’d taken the footbridge
across the creek and followed the bend
away from traffic and toward the west ridge.
We’d gone a mile in,
to where usually I begin to listen to
our progress in the twigs and gravel of the path,
and past this, and past my own
periodic reminders to the dog
to the short, uncomplicated songs
of winter birds. And there,
near the spill of rocks in the creek
where the fog was still passing through branches
and a little farther and to the right
where a stretch of tall grasses
received a wide gift
of sunlight and several cows,
the air that stood still
between the trees and shimmered
over the grasses filled with sound—
a big voice moving through
a hundred thousand habitats—
and it said, “Attention in this area.
The following is a regular monthly
test of the Outdoor Warning System . . .”
It spoke from the west first,
sounding closer than it could be.
And it spoke from the southeast next.
“This is a test,” it said, “only a . . .
“This is a test . . . ” it began again
from somewhere else.
The dog returned to me, cowering.
I’d wondered before
without much curiosity,
where were those speakers housed,
were they towered, did they revolve?
Ordinarily heard in the yard
while I stood pinning laundry to the line,
the broadcast soon plunged and sank
into the noise of passing cars
and blown and rolling garbage cans
and faded like the little ringing
that emanates from construction sites.
But here, it seemed full minutes long
before my breath was back again in my chest,
and my dog’s breath,
steady and rough, was back in hers,
when the voice had left the air
between the trees, as had the fog.
At last a bird sounded from a twig.
At last a squirrel came down
and sent the dog. And then,
made up of other sounds
I could not have singled out,
a normalcy rolled in.
Infinitesimal bits is all it was
—quick beaks breaking up the peat,
the slow collision of a leaf landing, scooting
half an inch along a big flat rock,
a splat of excrement in white,
a flinch, a flap, a flick. But as it came it felt
to be a counter-vigilance. Or like
the sound of consciousness. The is.


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Pretending to be Asleep

by Angie Mazakis

Feature image: Jean François Millet. Sleeping Peasant, c. 1865. The Art Institute of Chicago.

is like knowing exactly what you
are saying to me, but nodding,
yes, what else? anyway, as though,
I have never heard what you are saying before.

I have to purify from my appearance
appraisal and purpose,
my face distilled to stillness.
I have to guess when to genuinely tremble,
never having seen myself in sleep,
moving aimlessly beneath
awareness— I wager one
hand from the sheets,
toward nothing.
How does one believably breathe?

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Owen and Paul

by Angie Mazakis

Feature image: Sir John Everett Millais. Study for the Head of the Rescuing Lover in Escape of the Heretic, 1857. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s any two strangers’ conversation.
The proportions of the tall one’s face
make him look like an Owen.
The other one, easily a Paul.
Owen makes a face, a gesture—
his forced half-smile squints one eye,
as he barely shrugs in a way that falsely
means tentative, in a way that pejoratively
leans and says, I’ll give you that much,
a gesture which says entirely,
You know, it’s like this. Maybe I’m wrong,
but it’s something to think about.
The maybe I’m wrong suggested by some
softening of his eyes that kept him from
a face that said, nice try or dubious—
something he had to lose.

I catch my eye just beginning to imitate
the gesture, try it out, here in this coffee shop.
Maybe I’ll start wearing this look after saying things like,
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the city rock ‘n’ roll was built on.
Or after anything ending in most people don’t know that.

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Antonioni at Nineteen

by Jeffrey Harrison

Feature image: Adriaen van de Velde. Pastoral Landscape with Ruins, 1664. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I saw Antonioni’s The Passenger in September or October 1976, at the beginning of my freshman year at Columbia. It was the first “art house film” I ever saw, well before I’d heard that term. I was from Cincinnati, where apparently they didn’t have such things. I had just turned nineteen, or was about  to. I was taking a writing class with Kenneth Koch, discovering Frank O’Hara and Rimbaud, and doing everything I could to peel or dissolve the suburban Midwestern scales from my eyes. In that pursuit, this movie was as important as the LSD I would drop for the first time a few weeks later. Not that it was hallucinatory—just the opposite, in fact . . . though in both cases, perhaps, it was “the visuals” that I liked best.

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Death, Cashews, and “No Country for Old Men”

by George Bilgere

Feature image: John Clerk of Eldin. Sheriff Hall, n.d. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I saw No Country for Old Men (Academy Award winner,  2008) ten times  on the big screen at close to twenty bucks a pop (including popcorn by the bushel and cola by the quart). If that ain’t obsession, to paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones’s oracular Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, it’ll do till the obsession gits here.

When the movie left the theaters I bought the DVD and raised my madness to a new level by slipping the disk into my stereo and listening to it. Cormac McCarthy’s dialogue, as adapted to the screen by the Coen brothers, has an understated lyricism and humor, thrillingly true to the laconic rhythms of the southwest (I lived in Oklahoma for a few years and I know my laconic rhythms). In fact, the soundtrack is one of the film’s most striking features, which is odd, given that there is no music whatsoever. Just the pitch-perfect dialogue and the silence of the plains, where the smallest sounds—the squeaking of a hinge, the unscrewing of a light bulb—acquire an ominous eloquence.

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On Lubitsch’s “Angel”

By Lloyd Schwartz

Feature image: P. Roberts. Allum Bay, c. 1794. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s probably hard to remember, but there once was a time when Hollywood took for granted from its audience a certain level of cultural knowledge. I mean high culture. Art. Literature. Classical music. My favorite example of this assumption occurs in a 1937 romantic comedy-drama called Angel, a generally overlooked film by the great German-born director Ernst Lubitsch, still admired for his inimitable “touch” in such stylish masterpieces as The Merry Widow, Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka (“Garbo laughs!”), and The Shop Around the Corner. His earlier Lady Windermere’s Fan, based on Oscar Wilde’s play but without any of Wilde’s dialogue (just as my nominee for the greatest Shakespeare movie, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, hasn’t a line of Macbeth), might be the most sophisticated silent film ever made.

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Acting the Truth

by Linda Bamber

Feature image: Circle of Giuseppe Cesari, called Il Cavalier d’Arpino. Angel Playing a Flute, 1580. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Angels

Beautiful slim girls dressed in gauzy white, hands touching, dancing around an invisible Maypole. High voices singing. The girls themselves are not to blame for their performance of perfect white womanhood; but what a handy excuse for all kinds of racist bullshit.

Cut to a man in the audience, watching. He has been gifted with every gene there is for male beauty, but by this point in Long Night’s Journey Into Day (2001) his expressionless face looks nothing short of criminally stupid. He is one of the Boer policemen who murdered four anti-apartheid activists in the rural town of Cradock, South Africa. Then he poured gasoline on their bodies and burned them. We have come to know two of the dead men’s wives pretty well. They are thoughtful, intelligent, sober and articulate; their suffering is unmistakable and intense.

Long Night’s Journey Into Day is a documentary about the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa. As an early inter-title explains, those who committed crimes under apartheid (mostly white) wanted amnesty when it ended. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established  as a compromise, offering the perpetrators amnesty in exchange for the truth. Shockingly, eighty percent of those requesting amnesty were black. Where were the whites? Eric Taylor, the handsome Boer policeman, can at least be commended for cooperating with the process. But the wives of the “Cradock 4” opposed his request, and their lawyer caught him in a meaningful lie, so in his case amnesty was denied.

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