Black Lawrence Press

This is not a sky

From This is not a sky:

Café Terrace at Night

after Van Gogh

The ladies and gentleman, dapper. Astral lanterns glare gaily: the formerly ominous sky, candelabrad and gilded and precious.

(It’s Venice. Or Paris.

They’re tipsy. They’re gorgeous.)

Verandas are paintings for passersby, glaze-eyed, unstumbling, unfazed by the cobblestoned goings. The patrons, bedazzled on red woven rugs, drink café au lait, limoncello, and wine.

(And her? No really…she’s fine.)

Though the awning’s aslant, and the golden patina makes faceless and foregone, a shape of a shadow. A man in a doorway. A man she might know.

(Please go. Please go.)

And the curve of his coat summons thoughts of a lamp glinting harshly off mirrors she’d dampened with gauze. That lowing, that losing. That lowering light.

(One terrible night gives all other nights pause.)

But the stars. The stars. The promenade hours. The weather and color. The memories severed by laughter, its washing, its waves. No one gone, no one grave.

No graves.


  • This is not a sky, and these are not ekphrastic poems. Jessica Piazza has imbued them with the very qualities they observe in the works they address: each is “an unfoldment,” and collectively “their imagined new lives are more real than the truth.”
    —H. L. Hix, author of As Much As, If Not More Than
  • Jessica Piazza's ekphrastic poems, each addressed to a painter (from Raphael to Bacon), exuberantly shrug off the boundaries between seer and seen, inner and outer worlds. Inventive, oblique, inspired, they enact rich encounters with texture, light, shifting perspective while staging, through formal ruptures, the subtle movement of ecstatic emotion and mind—fluid, roiling in color that is sound, image that is heard, rivers that remember. This is a magnetizing series that allows the reader to re-imagine the painterly in the poem, the poetic in the painting—and moreover, the voices invited and multiplied in such crossings, equipping us to read, after Turner, "the relentless memoirs this river writes of the dead."
    —Susan McCabe, author of Descartes' Nightmare

Jessica Piazza

Jessica Piazza is the author of two full-length poetry collections published by Red Hen Press: Interrobang—winner of the AROHO 2011 To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize and the 2013 Balcones Poetry Prize—and Obliterations (with Heather Aimee O'Neill, forthcoming). She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California and is currently a contributing editor for The Offending Adam and a screener for the National Poetry Series. Her commitment to fostering writing communities wherever she lives led her to co-found Bat City Review in Austin, TX, Gold Line Press in Los Angeles, and Speakeasy Poetry Series in New York City. She currently teaches for the Writing Program at USC and the online MFA program at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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