12 Photo
Robin Holland RobinHolland@earthlink.net

on hearing Pergolesi, a Friday concerto
Margo Berdeshevsky

Madeline Artenberg
(To Sister Dianna Ortiz, Guatemala,1989)

Sex with Psychos
Bill Kushner

Giottos at Scrovegni
Rob Wright

Petrin Hill (Pt. 6 ii)
Maureen Holm

Death Wedding
Pierre Emmanuel

In Heaven
Michael Graves

Ravi Shankar

The Spiral Maneuver
Mark Nickels

Ravi Shankar

(Diaphanous . . .)
Raphael Moser

When I Was Alive
Alice Notley

on hearing Pergolesi, a Friday concerto
Margo Berdeshevsky

Not yet Easter now but dark,
but dusk, how this nearness of March-soprano
strays exposure, like old light -- layered, and multiple.
This dust of the moon, breaking.

This is magnolia, in the courtyards,
and April, climbing the shoulder of its Stabat Mater
for a better view of joy, after.

This is the slow-hipped walk of winter's late fugue,
and the mimosa's promise.
This, the dust of the Hôtel Dieu
across its island of stone.

Still, a shoulder soft with Saturday's
desire, sips her warmed, day-drowning hour.
Soft, because skies, and copper light,
lost on its own thread.
Soft, because it bends into the Seine
like some redhead on a silken sheet, already
rumpled for her arrival
and His death.
Soft, because He hung by dust
and thread
and promise, and love.

And she mourned with her high voice
and for ever, layered, and multiple, and music, and mother.

©2000 Margo Berdeshevsky
(M. Berdeshevsky is a contributing editor to
Big City Lit(tm). She lives in Paris and Maui.)

Madeline Artenberg

(To Sister Dianna Ortiz, Guatemala,1989)

Imagine being that nun,
the one who got burnt with cigarettes
one hundred eleven times.
Do your eyes trace the path
of a cigarette landing in random
patterns or spelling in blisters
on your skin the word puta?
Do you hold your breath
or release it into the pain?

Your torturers turn minutes
into days as foreplay -
they thrust church candles into you.
Puta en una capucha,
whore in a habit, they spit,
batter you with their flesh.
You feel their organs grow to the size
of the wooden cross on which they nailed Jesus.
Is He testing you
as you testify to your love of Him?

Imagine they now hang you above
a local woman who's been bound;
the one who helped you
in church reading class.
They force into your fists a small machete,
press their hands down on yours to guide
the weapon across the woman's chest.
You've cut off her breasts.

You are shaking – the cut is ragged.

Or would you prefer in this scenario to be
the rapists?
Or their director?
Or the other woman?
Or Jesus?
Or His Father?

Sex with Psychos
Bill Kushner

Sex with psychos is usually pretty good
but it's usually just sex. I don't wanna die
alone. I like to cuddle. I dream in french.
When I dream in french I wear but a beret
& red fishnet stockings. My stockings have
holes. I live in a night light. I am a pervert.
When I die I want people to say it was fucked
when he died. There goes the wind. I piss in
a yellow bathtub. I'm obsessed with men's
noses. It's not a gay thing. It's just a thing.
We're all of us fucking angels in the dark.
Saturday night tricks. Sunday night tricks.
Don't judge me by my nose but by my soul.
The silence of a face until the light hits it
there, just so. 2 sailors awake yawn stretch.
I brace myself against portholes. My life
against steamy portholes. Do I ever think
about the life I live? Well sometimes. I just
wanna sing. So I find ways to sing. I lost
my blue earring. Leaves like planets falling
no sound. I'm the guy in the street running
into people bloodying his nose, you know.
Fear is my shadow. What is the sound of
longing? We do so belong to the night. I
walk among the so dazed, the dying. The
dying, they sing of the sunsets they've seen.
The dying, they sing of all the dusty moons.
The dying, they don't wah wah wanna die
alone. The dying, they write these sad songs
with these so sad lyrics that no one ever sings.
The dying, they're all mad poets, all mad
stir crazy poets, howling with their last breath
for just one more word, just one more poem.
The dying, they always die alone, they always
                  die alone.

Giottos at Scrovegni
Rob Wright

The two,
mother and daughter walked into the chapel,
hand-in-hand, very much in love. Truly,
the only word for it.

Ordinary, in every other way,
the mother held both tickets
between thumb and forefinger,
which no one asked for.

An old man whose skin was settling on his bones
like tallow, waved them on. The sweating stones
slightly slick below the visitor's training shoes.
Venez.               Allez.       Move on.

Hats off!
Someone, sounding old and muddled shouted.
Someone else, in a perfect imitation of a dog, howled.
Laughter.                     Echoes.
Hail Mary, someone whispered, possibly
not wanting to be mocked.
As the crowd pressed up to the first mural

The first to notice was a man at the far end of the chapel,
whose eyes roved backward, like a horse's. Doubtless,
the one who'd shouted commands to piety.
He pointed from the girl up to the painted Gabriella.
Exact. Even the sane could see it.
Hair, nose, not so much a smile
as lips open to something. Not joy.
Just as (someone later had to say)
she'd stepped off of the peeling tempera
and been fleshed.

Watching for a sign, a vacationing priest, swallowed
dryly. A woman, days from the grave, and knowing it, wept
dryly.                   Nothing.             Nothing
but the sound of dripping stone, circling aircraft,
and thirty or forty people breathing.

The mother whispered in the girl's ear.
Her head cricked back and scanned the walls.
A message was telegraphed
across the tourist guides holding flags,
eye-to-eye.          Blind.          No! An idiot.

Christ, someone said, laughing,
as collectively clergy and lay all
snapped back, embarrassed, relieved.

And then
a smell of roses.

Petrin Hill (Pt. 6 ii)
Maureen Holm

6 (ii)

Your wrists lie crook'd beside me,
lover fingers laced as though in prayer.
I silently recite Easter-Week our Father's,
pious daughter in my straight-backed chair.

My glance falls on your angled cheek,
gold stigmatum hoop in your left ear,
precisely hung to hug the lobe, like me,
to embolden love, daring, but discreet.

I watch the incense swirl around your thighs,
devout as my desire, but rendered wanton there . . .

and oh! it mounts in air!
in plumes, in curlicues of somersaulting smoke,
to rub its back along
the vaulted transept ceiling,

to dip and shoulder past the scarlet cloaks,
tip the mitered hats of cardinals,
lift the skirts of stain-glass saints
in martyrs' burnt sienna brown,,
past the staffs of lowly shepherds,
translucent in their homespun green,

all armed and resolute,
all vested with authority,
to guard the round fenestra
of Our Lady's modesty,
Rose Window Rose Window Rose Window,
voluptuous in shards of sculpted luminous,
against all earthly penetration,
but not against the perforation,
the perfidious assault
of the worldly plume in cobalt blue,
the permeating breath
that slips through the delicate defense,
the scalloped garden lattice of petal filligree,
the collar chaste but shimmering
of inlaid glass in bloom,
the flower-bound enclosure
of Our Lady's
Rose Window Rose Window Rose Window.

No, the cobalt smoke pervades
to stroke the face,
to kiss the throat,
the quivering palms and fingers,
the jewel-dimpled elbows,
and still to linger on,
still to lick the lips deflowered,
the smoothly chiseled prism shards,
then part the breasts in stained-glass amethyst,
swirl the captive breath,
and insert the vesper tongue of rapture
deep into the drum desire
of her star sapphire heart,
and oh! she sighs.

Death Wedding (II)
Pierre Emmanuel

Lord, You sought me
in the desert waters of a woman
under the rending myrtles You embraced
the young dead woman awash in tears! And You cried out
moved to greater despair than the light
and laughed into the earth Your fierce heart audible
beating amid the stones

Sire of my grief! You rend my death
but why kill the corpse since what You want
is the blood? And why the emptiness? And why
do You leave to me this victim?

Am I the murderer with hands sullied by night
am I the evil priest of this dead woman

have I broken bread over her and drunk wine
have I shed tears of Your blood over her

did I invent
her body cross of lust in order to nail myself on it
O jealous gods what is my crime?

I loved her
She was once a sword of desperation
between us,
but dead, what further likeness does she bear me
this boulder of oblivion murdered by kisses?

Are they blasphemy
these rites of a pious heart
a fluff of down under the wing of stones
a sun blackened in her hair
a draught of darkness at her lips
a token of autumn in her hand
a blade of grass

But oh
You are not the least deceived by these environs
with their passageways of quiet sleep, and would
that I be naked in battle!

Here I am then
in my glory, a big banner of beloved countryside
at impossibility’s highest tower,
unfurled for her!
I am the stronghold of looks
erected on the bare wrath of memory
stony hymn and reverberant tomb
where on Your watch splendid Exodus
she who was the deceased arises
oh delivered
Lord, advance You to the crime!
the soul explosions, the giant
claps from deep beneath,
rush now the profane close whether Tenebrae
or resurrection no matter! and turn
no eye whatever upon that playhouse curtain.

(Transl. (c)1997 Maureen Holm)

In Heaven
Michael Graves

Christ holds Judas
In His arms
And weeps, sobs.

And Judas
Touches Christ's tears
And forgives.

(Prior publ. Rattapallax.)

Ravi Shankar

Having dispatched to the world replicas,
The man in the middle of sundry moods
Rescinded -- was it too late? -- and aimed

At gathering in specks of lapsed hours,
Snippets of behavior that left him feeling
Alone, exiled from grace. No bones.

Each act, once acted, was irrevocable,
Another verse in the Bible of nothingness
Between whose covers his days would run.

(Ravi Shankar is the editor of Drunken Boat,

The Spiral Maneuver
Mark Nickels

[ . . . ]

On the First Sunday after Ascension
the rector (returning the miracle
to the ordinary, which is the birthplace
of miracles) tells of
He who has not died,
but merely changed the mode
of His presence.

A day is an overlay.
For all I know, forms do not die,
but merely change the mode
of their presence. Walking by
Bloomsbury Square,
a rat-crossed corpse near dawn,
a young man is rocking,
slowly. Another, on his knees
in front of him. The standing man
lifts up his shirt, to display
his faun-colored ass. The masks of God
are local, and does this one rhyme
with the fan-vaulted ceiling in the Abbey
by the unknown genius
who worked for Henry Tudor,
only this time by Brancusi?

[ . . . ]

One may light anywhere on the
Spiral, which is time. Holy Saturday
was a good place, when the tabernacle was
empty, and the heart of the matter,
as usual, obscured. I remember
the scent of vinegar for the painted eggs,
what was latent in the sponge
hoisted to His lips. That is the first
overlay. There is a truth to tell, that
the heart of the matter is absent,
and my heart also, another overlay.
I see tokens of love in unlikely places,
but wage war on onlookers. Another
sweaty hominid in silks, it is dangerous
to speculate on my chances for happiness
to my face. The heart attends, gasping,
in an air pocket, and hence the imperative
for poems, for mounting the spiral
to begin, wherever.

[ . . . ]

Time is in transit by my eyes.
Estuaries channel near them, like
deltas shot from the air.
I have worked to change
the mode of my presence,
and to write this poem
merely as a track, a sign
that I was here, to work my deviled face
onto the ceiling of a the cloister
of the frieze at Canterbury,
where Becket entered to become another:
one among six billion in the progress
of a short-lived race still in its youth,
and, like all youths, enchanted
by the poignancy of refusal.
But those spells, and youth, are done.

(Nickels, Cicada, Rattapallax Press, 2000)

Ravi Shankar

Remembering the day we met
I cannot remember our attire
Or on what we so easily spoke,
Any trace remains transformed,
Gone as bulbs, once marigolds
Take shape. Phosphorescent
Along the mattress on the floor,
What exactly didn't we know
About pain? The garden grown
Abundant between us was orb-
Lit in secret. We couldn't share
What ripened with anyone else.

(Diaphanous . . .)
Raphael Moser

Diaphanous material
sighs lengthwise
solemn glass oblong
         Waked triangles
tentative figments
votive measures

Seamless vigil
marks not absence
divines not difference

When I Was Alive
Alice Notley

When I was alive
         I wore a thin dress bare
shoulders the heat
         of the white sun

and my black thin
         dress did envelop me
till I was a shell
         gladly and breeze

ruffled and filled
         against good legs
that translucent fabric and my
         heart transparent

as I walk towards Marion's
         and Helena's as my
skirt fills empties and fills with
         cooling air

(Selected Poems, Talisman House Publishers, Hoboken, NJ, 1993)