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Tell Me a Story 2021


Tell me a Story includes artworks that lead the viewer toward a narrative. Emerge Gallery welcomes and encourages creative writers to connect with a piece of art and create a written work inspired by it. Response writings are published on the gallery website. Join our virtual reading on November 7 to share your work.

Click here to view and purchase work from "Tell Me a Story"

A virtual tour and artists discussion is scheduled for Sunday, October 24, 2021, at 3 PM and a virtual reading is scheduled for Sunday, November 7, 2021, from 3-5 PM where writers may share the work written inspired by the art in Tell Me a Story. Both virtual events will be broadcast live on the Emerge Gallery YouTube channel.

Eighty works of art are included in the exhibition — fifty being exhibited at the gallery in Saugerties, NY, and an additional thirty exhibited exclusively on Beacon, NY, artist Theresa Gooby combines images from a past era with a current day twist. “The tendency to glorify the past so often overlooks all the things we’d rather forget,” explains the artist. “Do the pictures left over from the popular culture of the day tell the whole story or even part of it? It only takes a small change, one slight addition or tweak to an image to alter the conversation.”

Long Branch, NJ, artist Lou Storey’s Strike Out — from his portal series which takes the shape of Judeo-Christian altarpieces — speaks to the subject of war, while Joke Depositry, an addition piece exclusive to, takes a look at humor through the Northern India tradition of Kawad — storytelling through a traveling temple. Woodstock, NY, printmaker Claudia Waruch’s silkscreen The Past Kimono is a written chronicle of the artist’s past. White lettering is printed on a dark background across a hanging 48” x 58” paper kimono. “The suggestion of readable text is significant to the aesthetic of the design,” said the artist. “I have approached these memoirs tongue in cheek, affording a few quotations from each decade of my life.”

Writers may be inspired by the vintage silver gelatin print of Halloween Parade, West Village, NYC, by Joan Barker. The photograph taken in the 1980s is of four gentlemen in drag dressed as flight attendants posing for the camera and a gleeful crowd. Or by Sleepy Hallow, NY, photographer Jeffrey Friedkin’s contemporary view of NYC where a wedding dress hangs from a balcony unnoticed as the city walks by. Writers are asked to submit the work created to Response writing will be published on the gallery website.

Additional artists include Lucinda Abra, Debbie Auer-Breithaupt, Harriet Forman Barrett, Christine Baum, Nanette Reynolds Beachner, Ed Berkise, Kristy Bishop, Arabella Colton, Shelley Davis, Nancy deFlon, Charles Dorr, Barbara Esmark, Stevenson Estime, John Folchi, Debra Friedkin, Andrea Geller, Denise Giardullo, Christine Graf, Susan Griffin, Josepha Gutelius, Annette Jaret, Stevan Jennis, Pam Krimsky, Veronica Lawlor, Ulf Loven, Linda Lynton, Marjorie Magid, Dorothea Marcus, Kate Masters, Elin Menzies, Dennis Moore, Ingrid Nichter, Will Nixon, Jacqueline Oster, Michael Palladino, Susan Phillips, Terry Preisner, Tad Richards, Marilynn Rowley, Rita Sherry, Margaret G. Still, Cindy Sumerano, Pamela Tucker, K Velis Turan, and jd weiss. Tell Me a Story is curated by Emerge Gallery director Robert Langdon.


© Lucinda Abra, Hari Das, Colored pencil, circa 1985

Hari Das

(inspired by Lucinda Abra’s drawing Hari Das)

I found myself in a strange building with very little light. Gray scentless smog filled the environment. Nearby was kinetic mass of people. Mature men in suit and ties, aged women in baggy dresses, grandfathers, with long white beards, black Rasta’s, teenage boys in sports gear drifted aside youthful girls in shorts and t-shirts, young women in lovely dresses, some in hats, some people were naked, all different sizes, different ages, they walked clockwise, slowly, shuffling along, in a sizeable circle, taking no notice of anything other than their endless motion.

They strolled on grimy colorless linoleum that was rutted out from wear. No one spoke or sniffled, coughed, or made any noise at all. Their footsteps were made in dense silence. I uselessly tried to speak to some of them, but they lumbered along without reply.

Hari Das entered an open doorway. The yogi had chosen silence many years ago as a spiritual discipline. As he didn’t speak, he wore a chalkboard around his neck to communicate. His deep quiet and grounded center radiated from his presence.

Where he had entered was beaming light, shining brightly in the room, cutting through the dim, but none of the semi-transparent people turned to look. The ambient light disappeared as he shut the door behind him, leaving only the ashy murkiness.

With a wave of his fingers, he motioned for me to follow him after writing a short explanation on his board, “These people suicided.”

As I wondered why we were there, he opened another door into another smaller room, this one made of cement block. A single bare light bulb hung haphazardly from the ceiling. The floor was the same scratched and worn flooring. A sparse wood table and two aluminum chairs were in the middle of the space. Shockingly, there was my daughter’s father, Victor, sitting inside. His head rested on the table. His long arms covered his face. Looking up, he appeared quite forlorn. He was slowly disappearing, his beautiful bronzed skin already a thin and translucent.

Babaji motioned for me to enter the room, and then he left us, shutting the door behind him.

Victor’s brown eyes were filled with dismay.

“I’m dead.”

With a sense of resignation, I sat down at the opposite chair. My hand reached out as a comfort. For that brief moment, we touched for the first time in such a long time. His arm was as cold as marble. Looking up at me, he explained in painstaking detail how the last days of his life had ended.

Victor had been staying at a halfway house for the suicidal. There were weekends off for good behavior as long as he hid his true anguish from the staff.

Instead, he had made friends with them all. Told jokes to the nurses and therapists. Went along with the program, pretending to be in recovery. He was going to live his life right. Get clean and embrace life.

Sharing cigarettes with the part-time staff on the porch in the late afternoons and early evenings, he extolled on his mother’s virtues. They all knew that he had been faithfully going to her house for several weekends of good behavior leave to help with chores. He had taken the time attending to a few things for himself as well.

While he was lying to everyone else, Victor was busy making plans. He bought a shotgun and a set of large drapery rods. He tossed the rods themselves in a garbage can in the alley, one garbage receptacle form the halfway house but kept the box.

Determined, he hid the weapon in the overgrown bushes until everyone was asleep. Thereafter, while the residents and staff slumbered, he silently toiled along. The muzzle was too long, so with measured accuracy he tirelessly sawed off the end of it. During the nights, alone in his room at the suicide recovery house, he severed at his reality with American resolve.

Finally satisfied with his labors, he was even more chatty and upbeat, telling personal antidotes with the staff, sharing his future hopes and dreams in group sessions, talking cheerfully about the fourth step of the drug free program with the therapists, passing his urine tests with flying colors, and working the system he had learned so well from past years. Victor told everyone and anyone how much he was looking forward to the coming weekend. He was going home to help his mother hang new drapes.

The day arrived. Victor left early carrying his resolve. The temperature was already in the 80’s. Cool as a cucumber, despite the heavy overcoat he wore in the summer air, he even stopped to smoke a cigarette with a staff member on the porch. With the box of the loaded sawed-off shotgun nestled safely under his arm, he took the bus and then crossed over Jefferson Avenue to stroll into Belle Isle Park.

Once there, he walked around for hours on the nine hundred eighty-two acres. Soundmen were hauling amplifiers onto the Remick Band Shell as he walked past, wandering towards the water’s edge. Musicians had pulled up in their two vans full of equipment and instruments for the jazz concert scheduled later that day. Several canoes slid by as the man in the overcoat leaned over, collecting rocks along the shoreline.

While families were setting up picnics, throwing Frisbees, and barbecuing, sailboats from the Yacht club were pulling in and out of multiple docks. People threw pennies in the fountain and hoped their wishes would come true. Others swam in the Detroit River or lazily lounged on beach towels along the riverfront. A solitary man continued collecting large and medium-sized rocks.

When his overcoat pockets were overflowing, and there was no more room for even one more stone, he trudged in the oppressive heat back to the MacArthur Bridge, stopping midway between arches nine and ten. Victor figured that if anyone on either end of the long walkway noticed what he was up to, it would take a long few minutes to interfere. The long straight perspective back to the mainland reassured him; it was as though he was looking into eternity. He took his time, watching cloud formations float by as he rested against the hot steel railings. He opened the cardboard, placing one finger on the trigger as encouragement. A few cars drove by, but no one paid much mind to the man standing on the bridge leaning over the railing. Though he looked like he might be was holding something, the cars were moving too quickly, the people in them too distracted for anyone to notice the shotgun.

His body was found some minutes after the fatal shot that blew off the left side of his head. The rocks, intended to weigh him down as he tumbled over into the river, were of no use at all. He had anticipated that he would fall downward, over the railing into the deep water, but instead, his body simply slumped over as his knees buckled at the moment of the bullet’s impact. However, that was the only piece of his plan that didn’t work out perfectly. The gravity of the situation was just beginning to materialize.

Sitting at the card table, wringing his stone cold hands, he said I would be notified, as our child was next of kin. He told me he preferred cremation to burial.

Gesturing around the room, he said, “ I thought this would be better. But it looks like I will be having time now to sort things out.”

Babaji opened the door and motioned that our time was over.

I pushed aside the disturbing dream as a busy day progressed. I was attacking a long spider web, dust rag in hand when I received the late afternoon call from Detroit City Morgue informing me that Victor had died and asked what our daughter would like to do with the body, as next of kin.

© Lucinda Abra

© Debbie Auer-Breithaupt, Hygeia, Acrylic on canvas, 11" x 14", 2021

Epione’s Daughter in “Babe Alone”

(inspired by Debbie Auer-Breithaupt’s painting “Hygeia”)

Mom told me not to play with snakes

Fear of God in her voice, tickling my ears

The words never scared me, like they did her

I hid the snake I found under a rock

Mom had me sleeping on pills and pillows

Hole in the Bushes, my dreams gave me to the forest

The stone lay under my head, when I awoke

I discovered the snake dancing in a circle

Mom stayed in houses at night

Moonlight showed me colors, impossible for the day time

The grass got up to dance, twisting like my newfound companion

I shed with the snake my past without it

Mom lived out her days for tomorrow

Heaven was taught to her by a distance, and a hurting

The smaller she made her heart, the less without the sickness she’d known

I followed the snake into a future uncertain

Mom kept her thoughts to herself

What I had heard through a day, would collect in my ear, until

The darkness of my soul, all that I didn’t know, slithered out

I played with the snake on a girl’s arms, going in circles

Mom knew pain was not fun

Our twin bodies wrestled, pulling eyes we crossed apart, weaving

The fate of healthy girls, taken so, so taken

We loved each other like lights strung up over man’s one true ornament

Mom lost her girl twice

Wandering the forest, trying with all her might to keep alert, hope waning

The one she thought she knew, the one she never could, both never to return

Two snakes were eventually caught, cut open, each with a half

All the while lies whispered

Speaking “your daughter lives”

Saying “I am your daughter

This is my husband, the snake”

© Jakob Perez

© Kristy Bishop, Kristy En Plein-Air, Oil on panel, 8" x 10", 2020

Balancing Act – A Fine Line Between Reality and Imagination

(inspired by Kristy Bishop’s painting Kristy En Plein-Air)

The sun reflected on the water like a million diamonds as we entered the road leading to our camp on Cross Lake in northern Maine. Even the luxurious ride of a new Cadillac could not prevent motion sickness on the one hour trip from our homestead. “Stop” I would shout to my mother and into the ditch went my breakfast on that long lonely road.

That and blood suckers near the shore seemed to be the worst of it for a young kid. Did I mention the wharf? It was narrow and wobbled each time as I ventured onto it.

All was well with me, the young artist as my mom and grandmother called me. They were inside that day. My Dad sat on the landing of the staircase leading to the front door of the cabin.

I conquered going close to the end of the wharf. Generally, I looked for pearls in the open shells among rocks in the water. That day I was soaking up the beauty of nature as I viewed the buoyant blue water leading up to the gorgeous green trees on the opposite shore. The cumulus clouds appeared endless as my eyes moved upward.

Kah Splash! Suddenly I found myself struggling in deep water. I bobbed up and down gasping for breathe. My feet could not touch the stony bottom; yet, my lashing limbs finally connected with the wood of the wharf and I made my way to dry land.

As I cried, I could hear my Dad laughing. How could this be? He did not try to save me? My ever watchful maternal grandmother was not in sight.

Sometimes, artists paint to resolve current or past issues. This was the case during 2020, the lonely time of the pandemic. In the painting, “Kristy En-Plein Air,” I put my adult self on a wide and sturdy wharf to capture the beauty around me in paint. An imaginary apparition of my beloved “Grammy” stands at a distance with her watchful eyes.

When I was a baby, I traced the designs on her dress with my right index finger. She made my mother promise that she would get art lessons for me at a young age and she left Mom an inheritance to be sure of it in 1958. My mother studied the paintings that her cousins created in the early 1920’s. No one in my family imagined that I would not be called “an artist!”

© Kristy Bishop

© Christine Baum, Clawfoot Tub, Oil on paper, 11" x 10", 2018

Haiku Response to Clawfoot Tub, by Christine Baum:

no longer feeling

like an ugly duckling

after my bubble bath

© Sari Grandstaff

© Shelley Davis, Joy Theater Marquee, Acrylic on canvas, 14" x 11", 2021


(inspired by Shelley Davis’ painting Joy Theater Marquee)

A senior at my school said he could help me get to the U.S. It was my dream to study molecular physics at an American University, to help discover the glue that holds us all together within the play of molecules. But then he slid the amount due for my legal papers through his teeth, $15,000 US dollars. That’s 160,350,000 in Uzbekistani Som. He might as well have wanted a slice of the moon. I didn’t have that much money. Did anyone?

As we each sipped a thick Turkish coffee at our second meeting, he readily offered a solution to my woe. He pushed aside his thick hair from his forehead with a flick of his wrist. I hoped he was somehow a shaman with a power to send me to my goal. His words magically erased my heartbreak. All I had to do was work it off when I arrived. Easy, right?

I flew into the John F. Kennedy airport, escorted by two men from my country. They ushered me through customs and took my passport. The men explained this was the law to give my papers to the new employer. When I struggled against the strong hand that gripped too tight against my arm, afraid to enter the rear of a cargo van, nervous as a flushed quail, it took no minutes for them to shove me in. One locked his arms around me, more potent than rope, while the other gave me an injection. I fell into a deep slumber, which will last perpetually.

Both the proton and the electron, if left alone, will exist infinitely, because there is nothing lighter in mass for either of them to degenerate into. And now I am more lightweight than a feather and wholly insolated, both in spirit and mind, despite whatever degradations are performed upon my physical sheath.

I will never escape from this tiny room, where I lay, as docile as rubber. Radioactive now, atoms spin out of control as I passively exist, an antiparticle with zero charge. The weight of debt is all that remains of who I once was, human. Still, I turn my head and look through the road dusted pane glass window.

Across the street, there is a theater marquee that reads, “Joy.” Joyee. The word that starts out so buoyant, doesn’t it? An offering of the breath of life, only to end with a locked jaw and a silent scream.

© Lucinda Abra

Joy Theater Marquee

he named it JOY, for the abundant happiness, he hoped for his patrons, the unassuming little theater built with love and care, he chose yellow paint, for building and marquee, the shade of delight and sunshine, built it in 1920, to lift his neighborhood towards Joyous life, leaving behind, the last two years, George was the nicest guy, using hard earned savings to share his Joy, movies abundant, shown to all ages and affordable, Joy was always present, for many decades, passing through different hands, Joy, always open and giving

© Michelle DeCicco

Joy Theater Marquee, 2021

after Shelly Davis

Joy! Oh, I’ll buy that ticket

anytime—matinee or midnight.

Joy! The marquee announces

in big, bright, bold, yellow letters.

And what I aim to buy

as I'm standing waiting under

this sign that promises

so much is a return

to the Golden Age of a one-house

theater with a baroque proscenium,

viable stage for a post-extravaganza,

movie in CinemaScope or VistaVision,

and so long there’ll be an Intermission

for concessions or relief. Most of all

this vintage sign promises a harkening

back to quiet, no-cell viewing.

Joy! Bring on the red-clad ushers

with no-nonsense flashlights like Hopper.

Joy! The newsreels, cartoons, serials,

the coming attractions without commercials.

© Patrick Hammer, Jr.

© Nancy deFlon, Hanging In There, Digital photograph, 7" x 5", 2021

Hang In There (Inspired by Nancy deFlon’s photograph, “Hang In There”)

they propped me for demise, encouraging my roots to lift away, from life giving earth, Why? I deserve to progress onward with life, in my home, I began this life, a seed, carried by lake and wind, placed gently on the shore, pulled into earth from a light shower and rooted well, over years grew stronger and taller, blooming in Springs and,sleeping with the chill of Winters, sharing my life with others, sad things have occurred to me as of late, broken roots, striving to dig deeper, other roots hanging onto dry earth, that has been worn down all around me, hanging on for life dear, not yet complete, not ready to give up and die, I refuse to fall over and become, something to be stepped over, Hanging On To Live!

© Michelle DeCicco

© Charles Dorr, Button Up, Collage, 10" x 10", 2021

About That Button

(inspired by Charles Dorr’s collage Button Up)

I have a story to tell. And it’s about a button.

My job as an insurance adjuster for art, antiques and collectibles sometimes brings me all over the world. I get on a plane, investigate the loss, make a report and fly back home. Most of the time, though, I work from my desk at the office.

One day, an unusual claim came into my office regarding a lost or stolen button. I had never had a claim for a button before, so I immediately opened the file to learn more about it.

The Museum of Zippers, Snaps and Buttons is located in a suburban mall near Helena, Montana. The museum doesn’t get many visitors these days, which is probably why they let their guard down and became lax in their security procedures.

Last week they discovered that a very rare and priceless button was missing from its display case. It was one of three buttons that had been part of Mark Twain’s overcoat - the middle button, which experts consider to be more valuable than any other button in any collection in the world. Twain wore this overcoat through three long and cold winters in Hartford, Connecticut, as he wrote some of his most famous stories.

In 1875 while strolling through town, a stray arrow came flying out of the sky heading straight for Twain’s back. Fortunately for him, at the last moment he turned around and the arrow struck the middle button of his overcoat and safely bounced away. His life had been saved by the button, which was now cracked but still in one piece, since it was made of sturdy whale bone which was popular in the day. Twain wanted to honor the button in his next book which was initially titled “The Adventures of Huckleberry Button”. His publisher balked at that and insisted that he change the boy’s last name.

The Twain Button, as it had come to be known, resided in the Mark Twain Boyhood Home until 1968, when it was donated to The Museum of Zippers, Snaps and Buttons. There it became the focal point of the museum, outshining all the other notions and sewing articles on display. All those who visited the museum specifically came to see the button, bypassing the museum’s other artifacts. So naturally, the museum directors assigned a very high value to this button, and filed an insurance claim for $1.75 million. An astounding amount of money for a button.

So at the first chance I got, I hopped a plane and flew to Helena to see The Museum of Zippers, Snaps and Buttons.

Upon entering the museum, I was greeted by the museum director and her nine year old daughter, Maggie. Mrs. Billings was cordial to me as I introduced myself as the insurance adjuster for the issue of the missing button. I told her I wanted to get more information so that we could close the case.

“What else is there to know?” asked Mrs. Billings. “The button is gone, that’s all. When will the claim be paid?”

“It’s not that simple, I’m afraid,” I said. “A claim for this amount of money needs to be examined closely. I need to find evidence that the button has been stolen or lost by some nefarious means. I’m sure you understand.”

“Understand?… yes. Like it?.. no,” Mrs. Billings retorted. She was becoming annoyed by me, and also by her daughter fidgeting by her side. So with a fake smile that belied her displeasure she said, “Maggie, go play with your dolls in the other room. Okay sweetie?” The daughter may have taken a moment too long, for Mrs. Billings then said, “Now Maggie! Skidoodle!”

Maggie ran off as Mrs. Billings walked me to the display case that had once housed the Twain Button. “It was there, and now it’s not,” she curtly explained as she pointed to the case. “That’s proof enough that it isn’t there.”

I knew I was wasting my breath trying to explain the workings of an insurance investigation. Either she just didn’t understand what I was saying, or she was pretending to not understand. I thought I should be quiet for a while. “May I look around, Mrs. Billings?” I asked as I looked at the other displays. “Perhaps there’s some clue as to where it went and how.”

“Yes, yes of course.” Then as the door to the museum opened, Mrs. Billings took leave of me to greet the new visitors. Thankfully, I was left alone to begin my investigation.

However, this “investigation” was merely a way to look busy, for I had no intention of approving the claim. But I didn’t want to tell this to Mrs. Billings just yet. So I poked around looking at the other displays, pretending to examine them for clues.

From the other room, the daughter Maggie could be heard talking to her dolls. It sounded like the sweet, imaginative play that children do, especially with dolls. The door was open, so I peeked in just to say '“Hi". That brought an angry retort from Mrs. Billings. “Don’t bother the child!” she barked.

I didn’t intend to bother her, but I realized that I should not have ventured into the private space of the museum. I apologized and then made one last turn to say goodbye to the girl, and she waved to me with her doll in hand .

That’s when I noticed the button.

Maggie’s doll was dressed in a gingham skirt with a white cotton blouse. There was a torn piece of material hanging loosely off the blouse, and it appeared to me that it had been crudely sewn together, as if by a child. And what’s more, right in the middle of the blouse was a cracked button. I would have bet right then and there that it was made of whale bone and had saved the life of America’s greatest satirist.

I don’t know if Mrs. Billings was pleased to have recovered the famous button, or if she was bitterly disappointed that she wasn’t going to collect the insurance money. Because as I left, she still had that fake smile that belied her displeasure.

Case solved.

© John Manno

© Charles Dorr, IN Focus, mixed media, 10" x 10", 2021

Inspired by IN focus, by Charles Dorr

There was a young man from Parnassus

Who simply adored his field glasses.

He burnished them lightly

And focused them tightly

On legs, breasts and round little –

As we were walking one morning

I gave him a sound and stern warning

“Focus those things, sir,”

Away from my chest, sir

Or risk a swift knee to the –

Growin’ his travels improved him,

So distant it finally removed him.

Along mountain passes

He focused his glasses

‘til a Nubian Ibex be-hooved him

© Jean Hartley Sidden

© Bobbi Esmark, Pulse, Oil on canvas, 48" x 48", 2019

Open Carry (inspired by her painting Pulsei)

The classroom door is open.

Sweaters, yellow, red and blue

Form a color wheel of children,


on the bright blue story-time rug.

Strobe lights flash. Open–

toed stilletos and leopard brogues

move in rhythm.

The dance line surges forward.

A young man calls over his shoulder,

"Save the last dance for me."

Two aisle seats are open.

Rows of glowing profiles

reflect exploding colors off the screen.

Fingers filled with popcorn, others

holding only someone’s hand

in the darkness.

The ancient ark is open.

Singers chant the Saturday Sh’ma in dove gray suits.

Ancient Ancient Ancient Ancient

Holy Holy Holy Holy

In the temple voices rise,

and then they fall.

Men in dark ties open

meetings called to order

at polished boardroom tables.

They set their sights

on politicians.

Deemed essential, gun shops open.

Record-breaking sales report across the land.

In the boardroom,

celebratory rounds

of whiskey shots.

© Bobbi Esmark

© Stevenson Estime, White Bread, Acrylic, marker and paper on wood, 48" x 48", 2021

A haiku response to “White Bread, 2021” by Stevenson Estime

a pat of butter

and a spoonful of sugar

makes Jack feel saucy

© Sari Grandstaff

© John Folchi, The Call, Oil on canvas, 30" x 36", 2021

© Jeffrey Friedkin, Hung Out to Dry, Photography on metal, 24" x 16", 2017

© Dorothea Marcus, Man With Cross, Cienfuegos, Cuba, Photography, 16" x 20", 2019

Inspired by “The Call,” by John Folchi; “Hung Out to Dry,” by Jeffry Friedkin; and “Man With Cross, Cinefuegos, Cuba,” by Dorothea Marcus

I was the only one who made the shot as the illusion door was still in motion.

As promised we’ve arrived at the Trompe l’oeil structure, the door barn red and the accidental guardian stationed just as described.

Some folks in the group sketched some took selfies, but not me…

I’ll always carry a high powered mounted lens and now, I had successfully recorded a yellow car (perhaps a taxi) just before the illusion door shut closed. Maybe it was just a shadow, but that was before the HP shows us a guy wearing a grey hoodie and clearly waving a vintage wedding dress still on it’s own hanger.

I’ll swear it today that tomorrow I’ll be feeling that same motion of the illusion door slowly closing.

© Joan Reinmuth

© Harriet Forman Barrett, Generations of the Masks We Wear, Acrylic on canvas, 11.75" x 11.75", 2019

We Were Masked Women Long Before the Plague

(inspired by Harriet Forman Barrett’s painting Generations of the Masks We Wear)

In my family, we have been masked women since before the Mistick Krewes of Mardi Gras dazzled New Orleans at the Old French Opera House. Their kings of the ball wore crowns and ruled their subjects, as my great-great grandmother learned in a backroom. She was a seamstress for a king with a royal appetite for cinnamon-colored girls, and before she could even scream he gagged her with a makeshift mask, fashioned from sackcloth. He had an edict: cover her face and pretend she’s your alabaster goddess, then cover up the baby with gossamer veils and send her off in a basket.

My great grandmother, when she was old enough to brush away the gossamer, made a mask of emeralds and plumes and snuck off to a ball. The mask hid so many truths she kept it for years, even after a smitten princeling tucked her away in an urban castle. When he came home she would paint herself with blue eyes and scarlet lips, let down golden hair that wasn’t really hers, wear a mask that knew nothing about loneliness.

My grandmother grew up when times were hard again. She ran away and joined a troop of mimes, never having to speak of history. In a whiteface mask and charcoal lips she would tell a story of rape and deception through gestures, leaps and silent howls.

My mother was born backstage, playing a dutiful child. One day she put on a golden mask and it became her guardian, bestowing her with a façade of rapture. Her life stories were those of a heroine: discoveries of treasure chests, adventures on antipodal shores, secret meetings debriefing presidents.

Who was my mother behind her mask of stories? A scourge I wished to clean away. I became a physician’s assistant, wearing masks that protected me from germs and shielded my patients from my legacy, long before we all learned that the world is deadly. Now I hide my soul behind fabrications that suit the mood: manic sunflowers or starry nights, dominatrix leather or virginal lace, lucky charms or zombie skulls.

If you were to take off your mask and I were to take off mine, we just might kiss. Then I could give you all the phantasmagorical tales you’ve ever wanted, all the deceptions you’ve ever needed, and you still wouldn’t know me.

© Jan Alexander

© Harriet Forman Barrett, Fertile Passings, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2021

Fertile Passings (inspired by Harriet Forman Barrett’s painting Fertile Passings)

I am known by many names, from ancient times to present day, I lie in a gilded catacomb, yet open to all of nature, in the heavens, with my energies surrounding Earth, nurturing it and all existing within, my forces forever moving forever changing

© Michelle DeCicco

WorldWombWoman (inspired by Harriet Forman Barret’s painting Fertile Passings)

She is holding me and holding you

With teaming ocean, turquoise blue.

Her womb of life fresh as the dew

Quiet green, loud crimson too.

Heavy breast to nourish us

With goldenrod and hush of dusk.

She's praying now and deeply hums

The sweet lavender, lilac and plum.

Ochre, red and purple cloak

Teal, azul and silver smoke.

From her crown, tethered to source,

Leaping salmon, dripping moss.

A blush of gold upon her cheek,

And all life's creatures underneath.

Her story is right at the start

Inhale her image in the art

Of goddess, painter, birthing one

In herself our place called Home.

© Maura McMahon

© Debra Friedkin, The Hobo Dreams Worlds, Mixed media collage, 10" x 6", 2018

The Hobo Dreams Worlds, 2018

after Debra Friedkin

It was here on the tracks it happened,

somewhere between Saugerties and

Albany. I fell somewhere outside

an industrial town but I was dressed

for a more hipper spot. Red.

I was in weird red boots, red

socks, red hand gloves. My pants

and top not red but tattered.

I was feeling blue. Something hard

hit me. I didn’t see stars but

other worlds in miniature filled

with monkeys, men, other wildlife.

Orbs circling above phone wires,

smoke stacks, followed by blue

butterflies rising from my fingers,

fluttering over me in air. A pigeon

balanced on a small circus bike.

Under other worlds blossoming,

beneath a faint newsprint sky.

Pigeon said to me: shouldn’t have

taken pills proffered by that stranger.

© Patrick Hammer, Jr.

© Andrea Geller, Immersion III, Oil on wood panel, 14" x 11', 2021

Immersion lll (inspired by Immersion III by Andrea Geller)

a day to myself without guilt, early summer warmth focused, on my well being today, with sun’s rays tucked around me, ribbon clouds floating above, warm enough for a resting swim, the water ripples with a slight wind, a new meditation to float away with.

a day to myself with peace in my heart, water shimmers with blues of sky, as I glide through cool water, my body responds feeling weightless, closing my eyes, I bring my focus to sounds around me, water’s light movement, cardinal’s song in distance, and feel water as my support, total immersive relaxation.

© Michelle DeCicco