Inkphrastica: The Biology of Courage by Mark Blickley (Words) Katya Shubova (Photography)

My name is Jull Soares and I am a bastard. This is not a particular opinion that I, or anyone else that I’m aware of, has placed on me. It is objective truth. My mother was an unlicensed sex worker and neither she or I have any inkling of who fathered me, although a couple of gringos are among the suspects.

There is nothing more painful than longing for things that never were. Many of my friends grew up with fathers and when I was young, I was very jealous. However, based on what I’ve witnessed in films and in real life, it doesn’t seem that I missed out on much. If you are loved—it doesn’t matter by whom or how many—you’ll be fine as long as you feel worthy of being loved.

I am old now, but I do not think that I fear death. Sometimes I get upset that while I am rotting in the dirt others will be drinking beer and dancing, or lying on a beach with closed eyes, caressed by the sun. My love of history has been an enormous help in smothering my panic of not being alive.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve adored hearing city elders tell stories about Cartagena. How my ancestors fought and killed the Spanish invader Juan de la Cosa when he tried to steal a 132 pound golden porcupine from our Sinu temple. And how we citizens repelled an attack of the English Armada that included George Washington’s half brother Lawrence. Or when the great North American female matador, Patricia McCormick, one of the finest bullfighters of her time, slew a bull at the beloved Circo Teatro. Streaked in blood, she knelt by the animal she just killed and stroked its head while screaming out, “I love this brave bull!”

I can accept and enjoy that all these events took place without my being alive to witness them, so why should I regret events I will be unable to experience after I die? I have come to believe that when we die, we return to wherever we were the year before our birth. As I was born in 1959, I will simply return to whatever I was doing in 1958 and that’s where I will be for eternity. There seems to be very few second chances in life and I suspect the same will be true in death.

I like lying on this ledge, becoming part of this glorious mural. I feel as if I’m a horizontal recruiter enlisting pedestrians to take some time outs during the day and not to fear exposing themself in public. Often kids, mostly teenagers, come over and tease me that I look dead when they shake or kick me into awakening. I can appreciate their concern or forgive their mockery, but I don’t like it when they pee in a wine bottle and try to force me to drink. Or pour it over me while I sleep.

Sleeping in public can give you interesting insights into human nature. It’s been my experience that the good are pretty evenly matched with the bad, although it does tip a bit more in favour of the positive. Many people think I’m just a homeless misfit and don’t realize I’m actually giving them a chance to join me in creating a temporary public family. Compassion and cruelty is what I frequently dream about while I sleep on this beautiful ledge, and is what I often wake up to.

Since I was a child, I’ve always hated shoes. Most men like to appear tough. If a person really wants to be tough it must start with their feet. Our ancestors probably went tens of thousands of years travelling in their bare feet—tough, grizzled, calloused—but not indifferent. Growing up without family except for my mother, I don’t think of being shoeless as a sign of poverty. I am walking in the footsteps of my ancestors where each step I take is headed in the direction of a family reunion. The soles of my naked feet scrape along the same paths where the souls of my forebears once walked. Please forgive my clumsy attempt at poetic wordplay, but it is a holy trail.

A human head should always be cradled. That is why I always carry a pillow in my pouch. A good pillow allows you to dream in colour. My pillow is very old and even when I wash it has a distinctly peculiar smell to it. That’s because of the many beautiful dreams and disturbing nightmares burrowed inside it. My sweat and tears puddle into the stains of my life. A kind European visitor once told me I should consider my pillow as a work of textile art. I’m not sure what that means, but I like how it sounds.

It is a pillow almost as old as me. My mother made it for me when I was still “shitting yellow” as she used to like to say in her colourful way of labelling me a baby. Each day I ensconce myself into this bright yellow mural, beneath a stunning young woman with legs spread, as if birthing me onto this ledge.

Freedom is isolation. Slavery is the obliteration of isolation. I abhor flophouses, government housing and charitable hostels. Once you lose your ability to desire isolation, you become a slave. Creativity can only flourish in silence and solitude. If I was in some kind of forced shelter do you think I would be writing in this notebook and accompanying these words with images torn from magazines, newspapers and catalogues? The European woman who told me my pillow was textile art also said that I have a collagist mentality when I showed her a few of my notebooks.

Do not pity me as homeless. Celebrate me as one who possesses the special gift of being able to live alone. Sometimes I am forced to enter the dark doors of slavery, but I maintain the wherewithal to escape back into freedom and return to this colourful ledge.

And so here I lay, precariously balanced between moments of exaltation and the fear of being disturbed. In between those two points lies the secret to a healthy and productive life. Boredom is not having nothing to do, but feeling like nothing is worth doing. No one volunteers to experience life. We don’t have a choice. That is why anyone who completes this journey without taking short cuts is heroic.

Can you spare a few pesos in support of a pilgrim’s progress?

Thank you.

May you be spared a life of inertia in motion.

Mark Blickley, from New York, is a widely published author of fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Scholarship Award for Drama. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center and author of Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press), Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground (Moira Books). In his 2018 video, Widow’s Peek: The Kiss of Death, was selected to the International Experimental Film Festival in Bilbao, Spain, was an Audie Award Finalist for his contribution to the original audio book, Nonetheless We Persisted, and co-curated the Urban Dialogues art exhibition, Tributaries: Encontro de Rios, in Lisbon, Portugal. His most recent book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams by Clare Songbirds Publishing House.

Katya Shubova is a photographer and former competitive gymnast who grew up in Ukrainian Odessa. Her true passion is dance and she travels internationally to perform tango. Although identifying as a dancer, for the past few years she has studied improvisational performance and sketch comedy at New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade. She stars in the upcoming short film, Hunger Pains, directed by Iorgo Papoutsas for Wabi Sabi Productions.

Inkphrastica: Wood on Water by Andy N (Words) Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Wood on Water
(by Andy N)

Over the edge of the cliff
I can see twirling
around in the sea
like a panic-stricken monster
A piece of wood
Swaying across the waves
Desperately trying to keep itself afloat
Underneath the fading Autumn sun
Etching out tension
Next to the nearby pier
Almost like it was a shipwreck
Now frozen in a watery suspension
Like it had been pulled up
From the bottom of the ocean,
Building a makeshift bridge
Upright against the wind
Salt crusting the mood
Curling just a little too close to my heart
Changing the colour of the sky
Instead of a hazy blue
To a stark blood red orange in panic.

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: A Tower of Bees Hit by Forces Beyond Their Control (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: We Crackle in Flame by Deborah Edgeley (Words) Mark Sheeky (Watercolour)

We Crackle In Flame
(by Deborah Edgeley)

We stand on sky roots
hair tickles
wood-smoke air

Our conscious lies in wind splayed crunch
dazed earth
fallen
cinder fingers

We crackle in flame
in the same shade of glow

Barrel chested wind gusts ruffle
lost branches hidden
in the field that was

Golden Flesh Networks
mirror Orb For All
We are the same shade of glow

Falling
leaves
like
ghosts
of
swooping
swallows’
silhouettes
suspended
then
burn

Dig down to hell
Carve greed from our flesh

We crackle in flame
in the same shade of glow

Smear earth on cheek
disguising tears conjured
for
what
was

Mark Sheeky’s Watercolour: The Chimney Sweeper 2 (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: Beneath The Tree by Nicola Hulme (Words) Mark Sheeky (Watercolour)

Beneath The Tree
(by Nicola Hulme)

Beneath the tree I climbed as a child
daisies grew, bright and wild,
a sunlit meadow where flowers bloomed.

Buttercups trampled, earth torn asunder
a church erected in hail and thunder,
childhood dreams destroyed too soon.

My heart wept to see so clear
in chains a boy of tender years,
where now there stands a chapel room.

Rome planted bodies of guilt-ridden men
beneath the weight of sacrament,
amongst darkened sods of wrathful gloom.

Mark Sheeky’s Watercolour: The Garden of Love (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: Her World by Andy Cash (Words) Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Her World
(by Andy Cash)

She had shown him a new world
Feral, sensual and wild in beauty
Flying free, a forever butterfly, in a new Eden
Yet he was now a lost soul
A new Adam alone with femininity
It was her empire to roost
Lust left him in an abstraction of paradise
To age in shameful silence

Mark Sheek’s Oil Painting: The Paranoid Schizophrenia Of Richard Dadd (available for sale)

Inkphrastica: Siren Song by Martin Elder (Words) Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Siren Song
(by Martin Elder)

She sang the siren song
Until she could sing the song no more
And the song was drowned
The words lost
The trees burned
In the fire of another’s love
Of reckless gain
And her hair falls
In layered strands
Remnants of the finesse of what once was
To strew the land
What’s left of hope has become
A tired empty tear down one side of her face
Whilst the other stares
In vacant disbelief
Trees now denuded of paradise
Stalagmite stumps of make believe
Her lips full and pursed with pregnant words
She cannot sing or speak
Because the words have gone
Not even enough for a lament
All that’s left a final scream
A dying swan
A sound which can never be heard
By those left to walk the land
Heads buried in coats of despair
Because nobody listened
No one really cared
But for her the memory is still there
The memory will always be there

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Panting: The Passion Of Anna: Part One of an Ingmar Bergman Triptych (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: Wax by Nicola Hulme & Just So Greek by John F. Keane: Inspired by Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting

Wax
(by Nicola Hulme)

Life melts , slips away,
pooling slowly, before cascading
over the edge into decline.
Cooling, hardening, leaving a path,
too soon traced and overlaid
by the next generation.

Once illuminating,
bursting with energy,
flaring and flickering, finding
cupped hands of protection
against the breeze,
spluttering and guttering.

The light now fades,
a naked flame chars
a crumpled wick,
sending up a plume of silvered smoke.
The candle shortening, descends
into oblivion, extinguished.

Is it an endless sleep, oceans deep?
In Karma, do we rise again?
Or, when flame is dowsed
and all is black
does death defeat us?
Darkness and nothing more?

Death welcomes us all; unbiased and inclusive,
Inevitable mortality holds no prejudice.
Some rush towards him,
giving the Grim Reaper a hand.
Others run from him
on supplement and vitamin fuelled treadmills.

The indiscriminate scythe offers strange comfort;
levelling the playing field.
You cannot take my life,
barter or buy it to lengthen your own.
My spark burns until the day I’m snuffed out.
I am grateful for every second.

Just So Greek
(by John F. Keane)

Cassandra’s fractured face seeps into hollowed rock
Quick bow-spray spatters white across spectral seas
Cool effigies dream of thespian victories
Winged artistry, brave hands and tragic sorrows;
Mimetic marble strives at dawn to recollect
Ecstatic festivals and nights of wanton dance

While colours leap from distance, filling us with spring
And pallid plastic dreamscapes with primeval song;
Uncounted species and genera of lost loves
Rise tall and stalk like phobic shadows of dismay
Through trembling phonic moments on forgotten strands
While our new Muse awakens, thumbs sand from her eyes

Takes morning ship to Corinth, eying spindrift waves
Occluding Thracian smiles and foreign faces
Unheeded on her long and voiceless voyage
Towards a distant shore of endless origins;
A few more lines weave Phidian visions taut
With drowning lovers and heroic inference.

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: Wax Cataclysm Of Phoenixes And Unphoenixes (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: She’s Cold by Dorinda McDowell & Ever Changing by Nigel Astell: Inspired by Mark Sheeky’s Watercolour

She’s Cold
(by Dorinda McDowell)

She’s cold.
She’s almost drowned out the sun with
her tears; they did not stop for days:
see that sun almost falling from the sky!

The black menace in the corner is
a frightening reminder of her
desperate journey.
The sea was cold.

Yet…

It is still the same sun
and it hasn’t fallen from the sky.

And she sees the flowers
and she loves their vibrancy.

They are from the earth and she
is on that same earth, and
not on the leaky boat now.

She takes the mug of tea
from the kind lady.

She is safe.

Part of her aches for happier
yesterdays.

Her youthful, aged heart sighs and
begins its crippled recovery
towards a slowly blossoming
new hope…

Ever Changing
(by Nigel Astell)

Blue sky rider
signal flower red
traffic light hill

Standing upright defiant
history remains black
against life itself

Cycle of demands
our turbulent earth
ever changing world.

Mark Sheeky’s Watercolour: The Schoolboy (available for purchase)