“Milk” and Other Poems, by Lorette C. Luzajic


after Agnes Martin

1. It is how I was able to find you, in layers.

2. Arsenic, antimony: under pure night, poison.

3. Tall tales, spinning. White lies, unravelling.

4. I dreamed of prairie summers, of seven swans lost to the sea in the blinding light of fields of wheat.

5. Salt cellars, silver spoons, pale round pebbles. Your little altars on white glass.

6. You were all teeth: your tongue a mystery behind those marmoreal pearly gates.

7. Heart laid bare. Our unrequited search for simplicity, honesty, milk.

The Broken Column

“My painting carries with it the message of pain.”
Frida Kahlo

A tale of two Fridas, one with heart rooted in Mexico, hands and head like wild birds: expansive and free.  

One Frida, chained by pain and accident and broken bones, cursed before birth to crutches, a wheelchair, and the small bed in the room upstairs.

She watches the garden from up in the window of her studio, how her husband, Diego, keeps touching her sister’s arm with his grubby paws. Those hands that have turned rubble to mural, changed the very fate of the nation, but can’t resist the sweetness of unbroken female flesh.

The other Frida often paints the heart, not with flowers or cute little wings or holy flames, but veins and valves and ventricles, pumping fast and hard, fighting for life the way she always has.

after Violets, by Pauline Powell Burns (USA) 1890

The brightest star in the state, wrote one critic of her music. Young, gifted, and black. Great granddaughter of a Jefferson slave, and her grandmother belonged to someone else. Still a tender teen, Pauline was performing piano, exhibiting her paintings. Champagne and oysters, watery nasturtiums. Tuberculosis erased it all by forty. Only a few small canvases remain, and nothing of her music. Still, for a spark, she was seen and heard. Her beautiful photograph a ghost of history. She is dissolving to dust, a sprig of fading violets. 

for Edmonia Lewis, whose Ojibwe name was Wildfire

"M. Edmonia Lewis is a Black girl sent by subscription to Italy having displayed great talents as a sculptor." inscription on Edmonia Lewis’s passport application, 1865

Minnehaha, in marble. Molded by wildfire, by long dark fingers. She carved and cut, coaxed life from granite so skillfully that Michelangelo would marvel.  She brought Shakespeare’s Queen of Egypt to life, three thousand pounds of alabaster, ruler of Africa, white as snow. The artist, a mere woman, and red and black as earth. The massive statue was stuffed into storage, later purchased by a dandy gambler. He wanted a gravestone for his racehorse, Cleopatra.

“The land of liberty had no room for a colored sculptor,” said Edmonia, gone to Rome. She studied and worked, softening stone, igniting bone. The Italians saw her fire.

The Americans lynched her before she got away, leaving her for dead in an Ohio field. They charged her for poisoning two boys at school, dragging her into court the same way they dragged women to the pyre some centuries before. She was acquitted, then charged for stealing paints and plaster, but her hands were still clean.

Forever Free, an 1867 statue, her victory, a monument to abolition. Her proclamation of emancipation.

Lorette C. Luzajic is a Toronto based writer who studied journalism but loves poetry and small fictions. Her work has been published widely and internationally, and nominated several times each for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She recently won first place in a flash fiction contest at MacQueen’s Quinterly. Her work has been translated into Urdu. Her most recent book Pretty Time Machine is a collection of ekphrastic prose poems. Lorette is also the editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal devoted to writing inspired by art. She is also an award-winning visual artist whose collage paintings have been collected in over 25 countries. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca

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