Ethel Rohan

“The Unread Card"

This poem by Hal Sirowitz reads short and plain. It is also powerful. Sirowitz uses something as simple as the exchange of a Father’s Day card to illuminate the fraught dynamics between father and child.

The father, usually given to exerting his power, unwittingly reveals his misgivings and failings: He questions whether or not his child has read the card’s greeting, which hails him as “the best father in the world.”

This poem vibrates with the pain and disappointment of empty words and gestures. There’s the implication here that an “unpardonable sin” has been committed. Sirowitz’s brilliant stroke is allowing readers infer whether the culprit is the father or the child, or indeed the world-at-large.

“At The Grave”

In “At The Grave”, Davide Trame skillfully re-sees and re-shows the everyday with great humanity and compassion. There’s a fluidity to the language and images here, a circular feel that also underscores the interconnectedness of life and death.

In such “silent joy” moments as the contrast of the “fist of a blood-red rose saying—here I am, to the light-grey granite” this poem juxtaposes life and death and asks “what does it mean to be here, alive, and there, dead?”

How genius, how tender, to recognize that life is as much a mystery as death, and to pinpoint that just that flicker of awareness, the feeling alive and here and bowing to those dead and “there,” is profound.

“Magnum Opus”

For all its talk of high art, and deliciously decadent prose, Kevin Dickinson’s “Magnus Opus” centers on the base. Much like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” children’s fable, this is a clever tale about cuckolds and sheepish, shallow natures.

The work asks: What is art? For Imortél, it was something sacred “a virgin birth, from nothing, catalyzed by the assiduous application of [his] paintbrush as well as his soul.” Art was something interactive and alive that became more real to Imort─Śl than “real” itself.

For the auctioneer and his tuxedo-clad sidekick, art was nothing more than opportunity, a scam. For many of the auction bidders, and in particular the couple who “looked like they fell off a yacht,” art was to be coveted, only desirable when lauded by critics and sought after by their peers.

This work left me “on a wooden stool in the corner” asking myself what does art mean? When considering art, am I ever shallow, guilty of being swayed by the critics and my peers? Do I think for myself? Strive to be as genuine as I can as often as I can? I’m always grateful when art gives me pause, and makes me think and feel. That is Kevin Dickinson’s triumph here.

“Raking Leaves”

This piece by Steve Prusky is framed within National Football League scores, bookending a story about history, competition, masculinity, and power struggles, this time between father and son.

The work zooms in from its wide lens opening to the intense scene between father and son, both competing to best remove the tag from a new rake and clear-up garden leaves. Clearly, there’s much more at stake. The father’s near-death fall elicits both fear and confusion in his son, his “first encounter with not knowing what happens next.”

Yet his father’s recovery proves equally problematic: “What criteria tipped the scale of choice he live or die? What brought his blank glare back to me? Me—the son that hated him just before with a child’s harmless, as yet uncultivated anger.”

This story’s close is honest and poignant: “ … and spot the ground that saved him when I was eight. That bit of earth is my monument no other’s eyes knew father’s eyes like mine.” and delivers a satisfying end to this vivid and lush work.

- Ethel Rohan

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