Mortal by Ivy Alvarez

#Persephone #Demeter #Hades #Zeus #Narcissi #myth #poetry #bookReview #GreekMythology howjournal.com/mortal-by-ivy-…
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@IvyAlvarez

Mortal by Ivy Alvarez
Reviewed by Stephen Page

Demeter is the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture and fecundity. She is often depicted in artwork as carrying corn, shafts of wheat, or the horn of Cornucopia (or a combination). She governs harvestable food for the people and plant life for the earth. The myth goes something like this, depending which version of the myth you read: Demeter bears a daughter named Persephone. When Persephone is a young maiden, Hades, the Greek god of the underworld spies her picking flowers in a field of Narcissi. She is humming to herself and roaming about the field without parental supervision. Hades bursts up from the ground and snatches Persephone, descends back to the underworld with her in his arms, and declares her his wife. Demeter, not knowing what happened to her daughter or where she is, searches the face of the earth for ten days with a torch in her hand. Her search is futile, and she is depressed. During those ten days, her wandering and depression result in negligence of the world’s crops, which wither. On the tenth day, she discovers that it was Hades who abducted her daughter, and that Zeus, the ruler of the gods, had some hand in the plan. Demeter is irate at Zeus, so she lets the crops and the rest of the world’s plant life die; and she promises never to restore fecundity to the earth until her daughter is returned to her. The people on the earth suffer famine, so they no longer pay homage to Zeus. Zeus, an egoist and a clever barterer, strikes a deal between Hades and Demeter-part of the year Persephone will live on earth with Demeter, and part of the year she will reside underground with Hades as his wife (where she is crowned Goddess of the Underworld). Demeter agrees to the deal, but secretly swears that during the months her daughter is underground, the world’s crops and plant life will wither and die; and during the months Persephone is on the earth, the crops and florae will flourish. This myth is ancient Greek reasoning for the seasons.

Ivy Alvarez is obviously well read in Greek mythology. In order to know the Demeter and Persephone myth well, one must know many of the other Greek myths. In Mortal, Alvarez updates the Demeter and Persephone myth in a series of poems. A story unfolds between a contemporary daughter and her mother, who are named Dee and Seph. Alvarez refers to the myth numerous times in the poems, but she takes the liberty of revising the myth in many ways. One of those ways is to have Dee abducted by Hades. As Alvarez’s story progresses throughout the series of poems, Dee and Seph age, and a major theme of the collection links with the title of the book.

In “a memory of corn” the crops that Demeter governs, the seasons, and the underworld are mentioned:

A sky blue with hysteria, roses blowsy and promiscuous, bees fat-bottomed and buzzing-it is a shaking, baking summer. Dee and Seph eat by the reservoir, the firepit coals sing to the meats roasting above them, which hiss and spit at them. Mother and daughter take a corncob each… the corns’ niblets darken in the heat…

In the poem before that one, Seph is born-via cesarean section-and the tale is told from Dee’s point of view:

they had to unzip me
to let the cat
out of the bag
blood bathed my belly
thighs
and baby Seph
I stopped counting stitches
forgave the marring
of my clean envelope…

Soon into the collection, we find the traditional Greek myth reversed:

The abduction of Demeter
This time it is Demeter Hades wants. He
drags her through the garden, throws her to
the ground. It opens like a mouth. Grains scatter
from her hand…
…the wet earth swallows…
…Demeter
Disappears. Persephone falls silent, the
garden grows cold…

Alvarez so aptly implements assonance, alliteration, and internal rhyme into her poems, they are unnoticeable-yet they add musicality to the poetry. Alvarez’s poetic ear is likely innate. Alvarez writes the poems from various viewpoints, which allows the reader an objective omniscience. The wonderful thing about this collection is that even if you are not familiar with Greek mythology, you can appreciate the book for its high-quality poetry, and the story for its narrative arc.

A Web site for Mortal can be found at www.ivyalvarez.com. The book can be purchased from Amazon.com.

Dear Santa Ana

Dear Santa Ana

by Stephen Page

Today I reconnected your telephone-fax one week after I recovered it from the Cattle Thief, and today I spoke with the elderly lady who let her hogs feed free upon your pasture, the eighty-two year old neighbor who begged with palm held out for kindling from your wood. I told her we would speak about the matter later.

A bathroom is bricking up alongside my matera, my plant-enclosed muse room, my idea room, the place where my desk is, the place where gauchos once stopped to take mate in front of the fire and nap-dream meat, the place where I will never again reluctantly leave to piss my daily coffee intake, the place that will soon be my self-enclosed patrón office, the place where I will administer your affairs.

Yesterday I drove to the neighboring town Lobos, to meet and interview a gaucho for potentially filling the role of capataz, but the man who stepped down from the train with his woman had only one eye, losing the other to a horse kick, and his wife a nurse mind you, with five kids. We drank coffee, spoke, and when the woman smiled falsely, I knew. I smiled, shook their hands, paid for their train tickets, and honestly hoped they would not again disembark nor call.

Last week I put new locks on your gates, and all twenty-five hundred acres of you exhaled as if you had been holding your breath for a very long time.

Today I walked the wood near my new home, my new office, my no longer weekend escape from smog and noise of the city, my no longer escape from teaching and students, my no longer muse room. I sat on a log to contemplate the sapid scent of eucalypti. I zipped up my polar-fleece vest, my leather jacket, donned my rancher gloves and noticed a pileated woodpecker scrutinizing me.

Today I chased away rabbit hunters from lot number eight.

*Originally published on Extracts and later included in “A Ranch Bordering the Salty River,” which is published by Finishing Line Press.

#epistolary #poetry #epistolaryPoem #epistolaryPoetry #ranching #StephenPage #Extracts #FinishingLinePress #aRanchBorderingTheSaltyRiver

“Another Week Begins” by Stephen Page

madswirl logo black background

Another Week Begins

By Stephen Page

When Jonathan turns off the highway the mud

in the road is a foot deep.  He clicks his vehicle

into 4-wheel drive and creeps forward in first gear

so not to slide into one of the ditches.  The white gates

of his ranch are open, El Misionero standing next

them.  He rolls his window down and sighs.  The air

smells green.  Green.  Green.

He drives to his office and talks with his capataz,

then they climb in the ranch pickup to go see a calf

cadaver.  It was born early that morning with a curled-

neck deformity, and unable to reach its mother’s tit

or the water trough, it just stumbled around awhile and fell

on its side.  The gauchos had skinned it and the vultures picked

it mostly clean, the eyes plucked out, the tongue sliced in half,

bits of intestine lying next to the spine, the heart and lungs mush

under the gristly ribs.

They drive to the Yellow House casco to see a pony cadaver.

Apparently, last night it leaped the fence around the

swimming pool and fell in the water. It lay on its side

on the grass where the yardkeeper placed it, its legs

stiff in the curled positions of swimming, yellow froth

tubed out of its nostrils.  It was only three-weeks old.

Jonathan goes for a long walk, alone—he admires

the greening grass, the knee-high wheat, the sprouting corn,

the blooming chamomile, the calves and ponies leaping about

pastures spotted white with egrets.

He hears bees buzzing, mockingbirds singing—

and he keeps walking, walking; walking

past the pastures, past the Wood,

until he enters a fallow field.

As he approaches a small marsh

a flock of black ibis lift

and cloud away.

*this poem first published on madswirl

http://madswirl.com/poetry/2018/02/another-week-begins/

Editor’s note:

Like any week, we walk through cadavers to stand free. – mh clay

on Mad Swirl Another Week Begins

I wanted to title this “Monday, Monday,” but that sounded so familiar as to have already been used.

“Bridges Made From Junk”

Bridges Made From Junk

a short story by Stephen Page

brookln bridge under constructionAs the glass and metal doors slide open, Jonathan Burns steps outside into the cool October air. Crisp brown leaves scrape across the sidewalk. He rolls up a sheaf of poems, sticks it in his jacket pocket, takes out a pack of cigarettes, lights on, inhales deeply then lifts his face to the sun and feels the nicotine rush wash over his body. First cigarette he has had in weeks. He takes another drag, exhales, and watches the smoke tunnel out of his mouth. When the doors close behind him, he walks down the drive and out the front gates, finds the nearest bar, and orders a beer.

Jonathan is walking down a cobblestone street. Choral music emanates from one of the many churches that line the street. Bells are calling people to prayer. Holy men, their faces dark in the shadows of hooded robes, stand within pointed window frames. Jonathan looks inside one of the churches and notices the ribbed, Gothic-style vault. The masonry is smooth and gray and smells freshly built. He goes in, steals the sacrificial wine, and runs outside into the blaring sun.

He is sitting cross-legged on a tapestry rug, smoking hashish from a water pipe, listening to Jimi Hendrix play If 6 was 9. Jimi wears a multicolored silk shirt and strangles notes from his white Stratocaster within the confines of a black-light poster that hangs upon a wall. The poster melts, swirls, and transforms into a gilt-framed painting. It is Rembrandt’s Self-portrait c. 1667. The paint is glistening. A bowling trophy sits on a table below the Rembrandt. A woman wearing a minute array of transparent veils glides into the room. Her skin is the color of lightly creamed coffee. She is sable-haired, has sweeping cheekbones, wears small jeweled rings, and has thin gold chains adorning her wrists, waist, and ankles. She is carrying a cardboard shoe box. Jonathan wants to reach out and touch her, to place his cheek against the mouth of her belly. She sits in a chair behind the table, pushes the bowling trophy aside, sets the shoe box upon the table, and slowly lifts the lid. From inside the box, she carefully extracts a note pad, a pencil, and a stack of cards. She methodically positions them equally apart in front of her. She sets the empty box near her nude feet. One at a time, she turns over each card, examines it front to back, then stacks it face down into a new pile. When she has gone through the entire deck, she lifts the pencil and writes something in the note pad. She looks up at him. Her eyes are crystal yellow.

Jonathan is in a red-draped room. An early jazz song sung in French begins to play. All around him are women in various stages of undress, and men wearing Nazi uniforms stand near the women. They are all talking, laughing, drinking champagne and smoking cigarettes. A white-gloves hand offers Jonathan an enormous bottle of Dom Pérignon ‘38 and he pours himself a glass. As he sips, the cool bubbles burst inside his nose, releasing small drops of chilled, fragrant air. He peers over the rim of his glass. The harem girl is still at the table in front of him, as are the Rembrandt above her, the bowling trophy near her, the cards, the note pad, the pencil, the rectangular box at her feet. She gazes into his eyes and begins to shuffle the cards.

The jukebox against the wall of the soda shop blasts American pop tunes. Girls in tight sweaters, poodle skirts, bobbysocks, and saddle shoes dance with boys that have their hair slicked back and packs of cigarettes rolled up in their T-shirt sleeves. One of the boys, an old friend of Jonathan who looks exactly the same as he had in high school, hands him an open pint of bourbon that smells like paint thinner. The harem girl is staring intently at him, and she begins to flip the cards face up and lay them out in neat vertical rows.

Jonathan and the harem girl are sitting together at the back of a dark, smoke-filled bar. Musicians on a low stage in the corner play bluesy jazz music with complicated be-bop riffs. Jonathan is squeezing the girl’s thigh. She is cradling the empty shoe box in one arm and pressing a breast into his ribs. They are sipping scotch. A man wearing a long black leather jacket walks up to their table and deposits a small packet of tinfoil. Jonathan pays the man, opens the packet, and puts the brown clump onto a spoon. It is the same color as the girl’s skin. He adds a few drops of water from a dripping ice cube, lights two matches, puts the flame under the spoon, allows the brown liquid to boil, and extracts it into a syringe. While the girl squeezes his biceps with one hand, he inserts the needle into a vein. She releases her hand. He jerks once and the girl drops the box, opens his shirt and frantically runs her fingers through his chest hair. His eyes flip closed. He floats with the girl to a small room in the back of the bar and drifts onto a bed. She removes his clothes, then, swaying to the music, slowly slips off her veils. She lies next to him and pulls him towards her so that his backbone is embedded in her warm spot and his shoulder blades upon her stomach. She turns his head, sets his cheek upon her breasts, wraps her legs around him, and places the soles of her feet upon his flaccid penis. She begins to hum. Her body smells of jasmine and salt. He falls asleep rocked in her arms.

Through the glass of a cracked-paint window frame is a view of the Brooklyn Bridge under construction. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D plays on a gramophone on the floor. Jonathan sits comfortably in an old brown chair, the only item of furniture in the flat, and stares at a wet spot on the hardwood floor. he has not changed his clothes nor shaven for a week. Roaches crawl on the walls. He is at peace.

Punk rock music is blaring. Jonathan is screaming. The ground is shaking and the ceiling of a dank basement is falling in chunks upon him. In front of him, the Rembrandt is hanging upside-down, the bowling trophy is smashed, the cards are scattered on the floor, and the girl is gone. Someone is lying in the box.

Brightness knifes into Jonathan’s eyes. The walls are white. Blaringly white. He is lying inert, face-down with his cheek on the cool white fabric of the floor. He pukes and lies there with his nose and cheek in the putrid, lumpy vomit. His throat is burning, his mouth feels sticky, he can feel bile clogged in his nasal passages. His intestines feel wrapped around his stomach and are moving up toward a point at the back of his throat. He pukes again. Attempting to rise, he finds it impossible to move his arms. The room begins to spin. He screams and a blonde, blue-eyed, beautifully pale woman wearing a white gown is standing over him.

this story first published on amphibi.us:

amphibi.us header

#121—the autumn print issue is here! With Stephen Page

hedgerow: a journal of small poems

the autumn print issue is now out! available to purchase at the link below—

hedgerow #121, the autumn print issue, 2017

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the current issue features work by over 70 poets & artists; with beautiful examples of haibun, cherita, haiku sequence, yotsumono, rengay, rengay art, haiga, and more. always grateful to contributors & readers alike, without your continued support this publication would not be thriving! please note—the subm. deadline for the upcoming winter print issue is 30th november.

 

with love & kindness,

Caroline Skanne,
founding editor

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haiku and senryu by Stephen Page on the zen space

haiku and senryu by Stephen Page on the zen space

Stephen Page

in a vacant lot
among broken red bricks
shaded sparrows sing

:

mocking bird calls
from a thick evergreen bush –
a sparrow steers clear

:

the car almost empty –
the boy slouched across from me
spitting out rap tunes

:

sunday evening –
so long
between trains

:

sitting on a train
wishing I could smoke –
the horrendous smells

Read those and other poems by select writers here:

https://thezenspace.wordpress.com/experience/summer-2017-showcase/

The Legend Of The Wood

The Legend Of The Wood

Published on Excavating the Underground

We all have our stories to tell.

The weak and the strong, the rich

And the poor, the old and the young.

Which story do you have to tell, and

From which point-of-view do you wish to person?

Losing water from the beauty of river bank

The One appears in a world

Of blindness traversed by feeling

The leaves on the corn plants and following

The rows, then stumbling through the bean plants,

And wading through the wheat.

The shore beats me to the Salty River

And spills its angled plots of produce

Into the muck of eoned knowledge.

I race like a cloud to see everything

And forget that I am only dissipating.

She waits under the sheet of night,

Upon the bank of the river,

Lying among the reeds,

Naked, wet with sweat, asleep,

Fingernails combing her pubes,

My name upon her lips, the tip

Of her tongue tapping the ‘t’

After the serpent hiss of ‘s’,

The shudder releasing her dream.

Her name is Legend of the Wood

The Lady of the Violets;

Her name, soon to be forgotten.

By Stephen Page

Martin Fierro by José Hernandez

North of Oxford

Martin Fierro - Jose Hernandez
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Review by Stephen Page
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In order to delve deeper into the gaucho mind, as research for my poem project, I read José Hernandez’s Martin Fierro.  I have been told by many people that the fictional character Martín Fierro is a model for gauchos.  Argentine children are required to memorize the first part of the poem in grade school, and most everyone in Argentina sees Fierro as a kind of Robin Hood (though I see him as more of a Jesse James or a Billy the Kid).  To help you begin to understand, I translated the first part of the poem for you.  It is in the Criollo vernacular, so it required a lot of reference work.  The epic poem is a novel in verse, with character development and a thick plot. It is over 2,000 lines long, set mostly in six-line stanzas, the 2nd , 3

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Book Review by Garrett Dennert on Orson’s Pubishing – A Ranch Bordering the Salty River by Stephen Page

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

North of Oxford

a poetry notebook covr

Reviewed by Stephen Page

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As I am browsing around a bookstore, I pick up Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, because another writer recommended the book to me.  It is simplistically written. It is geared for high-school or freshmen-college students (but, I am sure that is Oliver’s intent). The first couple of chapters are short and low-attention spanning, but by chapter 7 they expand and deepen.  There are some important points made in the book, even in the first six chapters:

Everyone knows that poets are born and not made in school.  This is also true of painters, sculptors, musicians.,  something that is essential can’t be taught; it can only be given, or earned, or formulated in a manner too mysterious . . . still, painters, sculptors (poets) and musicians require a lively acquaintance with the history of their particular field and with past as well as current theories and…

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