Kelly Fordon’s poetry, fiction and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in The Florida Review, The Kenyon Review (KRO), Rattle, The Windsor Review and various other journals. Her poetry chapbook, On the Street Where We Live, won the 2011 Standing Rock Chapbook Contest. Her new poetry chapbook, Tell Me When It Starts to Hurt, was published by Kattywompus Press in April 2013. Her short story collection, Garden for the Blind, will be published by Wayne State University Press in April 2015. She works for the Inside Out Literary Arts Project in Detroit where she lives with her husband and children. She received her MFA in fiction writing from Queens University. www.kellyfordon.com
ON THE TRAIN I THOUGHT OF CHAGALL
I saw a long line of cars.
I saw a big white house.
The ground was mottled
and abraded like
the back of a buffalo.
I saw a chicken coop,
a muddy ditch,
the padded cell
of the sky.
I saw a hunting blind,
a telephone polls
yards like ratty bath
No green man.
No benevolent cow.
No villagers whistling and
No multi-colored houses.
No woman waltzing
on the wind, Chagall.
It was the morning after,
the tough rows to hoe,
the scrub brush of babies
and midnight feedings,
Kansas before the witch’s
stockings and the wizard’s
charade. No tree of life,
just my chalky fingers
on the window pane,
just my face pressed
against the glass.
ARISTIDE MAILLOL: THE RIVER
I couldn’t stand my ground. My foot snagged, landed in the mud. The river took me on a wild ride. No branches to save me. I’m sprawled half off the plinth, as if I just fell moments ago.
The truth is this has been coming for years.
I won’t lie. There were moments when I liked the pedestal. But I’d had premonitions: half off, head angled, breasts defying gravity. In puris naturalibus.
I am a rock.
Just a minute ago, I was checking my hair in the mirror, just a minute ago I was gaping at the scale, just a minute ago I was planning to move on, move forward, change track, make something of myself. It was the time right before the flood, the intruder, the runaway car, the diagnosis, the lightning strike.
When I heard the river rushing I didn’t run. What does that say about the pedestal? What does that say about its tenuous allure?
IN THE GALLERY OF VULNERABLE WOMEN
Detroit Institute of Arts
I saw a jewelry box, a pin box, a powder box too. The rouge was made from the crushed bodies of cochineal insects. The pomade laced with lead. The women in the paintings are dead or nearly dead. In The Nightmare the woman suffers sleep paralysis, a small gargoyle perched on her chest. This same thing happened to my daughter just the other day. She was right next to me in the car. We were driving cross-country. She tried to wake up but found she couldn’t move. As we were driving, it started to rain. I am afraid of lightening. We stopped under an overpass. My daughter came to, finally, and looked at me with disdain. When the lightening lit up the sky, I screamed and recalled that lightening killed Amelia. (Not the strike but the fear of it.) There was nothing Celadon could do to save her. While we were waiting, my daughter stared at her unopened Vogue magazine. Two females at liberty, unable to face the deluge, unable to move forward in a car filled with gas, money to spare, destination indeterminate, frozen.
PROCESSION WITH FLAGELLANTS
Gerard ter Borch c. 1636
Snow rife with blood, men in capirotes
march through the night’s muted tunnel.
Note the bloodied, puddled backs, the white
slit-eyed hoods. This brotherhood of the cross dashed
the raveled whip cords against their own backs.
So unlike what happened later.
So unlike the teeming, shrouded vigilantes
who stole their costumes and cast the first
stone, which penetrated each processing soul
EDWARD HOPPER: OFFICE
The secretary has been
decanted into her dress,
The office manager wants
to suck her down like an oyster.
Kids, house, wife. Who cares
about that? But then beyond
the window, swirling leaves
remind him of the first day
he apprehended his wife
crossing the common--
the momentary light--
and her ethereal figure
Interior with a Lady 1901
It’s one thing to
It’s another to enter
freely. The emptiness
leaden, the days
by the window,
and there’s no
nothing to occupy
you. No man.
Only the light
by Eugene Louis Gabriel Isabey 1854
The water seethes, a ship runs ashore, sailors cling to debris, passengers slide down the hill, limp bodies dash the rocks. Inside the house a woman humming, setting her table, the stove erratic yet enticing, the medicine cabinet cordoned off. No jagged rocks for her, no sky either, just a skirt secreting bruises, tattered fingers hectic with grime, mind lashed to the mast.
Hammershoi rendered the back of his wife,
painted the shell instead of the pearl.
A man in a suit with a savage brush.
Each stroke sliced right through her.
She didn’t move, she never complained.
If she’d turned, what would he do?
Maybe it felt like she was already stone.
Her husband’s weapon pointed at her.
She didn’t object, what could she say?
Whether she was pearl or cragged shell,
Did he think he’d captured her essence?
Imagine him still, fingering his blunt.
A nameless woman, a momentary erasure.
Better to disappear than turn to stone.
What could he say that would make it better?
The wall in this case a better truth.
Mother was not a name you could call her.
She had nowhere to run, no one to save her.
She had nowhere to go, no one to save her.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The gleaming pearl wedged in the clutch.
A secret treasure embedded in shell.
Prying it out might have once been an option.
But now when he hummed, she tuned him out.
Every time he spoke, she went la, la, la.
He didn’t seek answers, she didn’t give them.
He painted her, he painted the wall.
Who could begin to explain that agenda?
An ornament without any sunlight.
A lump of coal bared on a bolster.
There is no word for that type of crime.
the only hope, she was on her way out.
My Grandmother invited me to make a Thanksgiving wreath at the senior center. We started with fresh balsam speckled with blue berries. Ferry bells. I didn’t know the name of anything. A woman whose face was stretched like cling wrap over a plate told me to use the lotus pods as my focal point. Once I saw lotus flowers floating in a pond in Shanghai. A man there drew a poem on the ground with a calligraphy brush. He wrote Can you coax your mind from its wandering. The minute he was done, the words disappeared. All around us, people were dancing. They’d hung their purses and their groceries on the branches of trees and someone had brought a boom box. Women danced with women, women danced with men. At “Services for Older Citizens” women wearing twinsets and pearls manipulated their Thanksgiving wreaths. They poked wires through the lotus pods. The instructor cautioned against using fruit as it would rot. Everyone picked out dried flowers instead.
PETITION TO END LEAP INTO THE PAINTING DAY
*Fridays at the Detroit Institute of Arts
I’ve had it with this program.
Last week I was the only person
left in the whole museum:
no other guards on duty,
no gift shop volunteers.
Ellen from the cafeteria
diddling some guy in
The Wedding Dance.
Mikah from accounting
chasing The Lady at her Toilette
around the dressing table.
(That girl is saucy,
I hear he sneaks back
four or five times a shift.)
A 4th grader from Pasteur
got lost in the one with the hunter,
and you know as well as I do,
the hare and the bloodied
pigeons were just the start.
I cordoned off The face of Jesus,
because Gerard says he is
losing his religion. Last week
he had a shouting match with
Pastor Rich. Time and again,
I tell people:
Diego is behind the baby.
Still, everyone gets all up
in the conveyer belts
and no one considers
the hard hats mandatory.
All I’m saying is it’s a
free for all.
Glen Meyers (security)