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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Prose Poem: 246 words
By Michele Morris

The Alchemist

—After Woman with a Fan (Mujer con abanico) (1916)
by María Blanchard *

My mother wields her black fan like a knife, pointing it at me. Then flicks it open like the wing of a vulture to hide her disapproving face behind the lace. Stand up straight, no, straighter, she hisses at me from behind her fan. Much as I try, and I do want to please her, I can’t get my pesky vertebrae to hang down like a string of pearls.

My gold fan is an alchemist, turning this body with too many angles and corners and no straight lines into a golden moment, just like the space between a butterfly opening its wings wide so you see a distinctive design and then closing them tight, hiding their beautiful secrets.

But you don’t need to stand tall or straight or even still to wield a paintbrush like a sword. You want emotion? I’ll give you joy and sorrow, two swings on the pendulum that I know all too well. Or maybe anger and fear with a dash of surprise. I might not dance at the Palladium, but back in my studio I cycle through my emotions and choreograph a dance between the brush and the canvas, painting gleaming white limbs, piles of red books, raven black stresses, and pools of blood. That hump on my back is transformed into angel’s wings. There’s so much music and noise, I can hear the snap of castanets.


Woman with a Fan: Cubist painting by Maria Blanchard


* Publisher’s Notes:

1. Mujer con abanico (Woman with a Fan) (1916) by María Blanchard (1881–1932) is held by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Spain. Image above was downloaded from the public domain via WikiArt; link retrieved on 3 March 2022:

María Blanchard was a Spanish painter known for developing a unique style of Cubism. She was born with physical deformities that stunted her growth and made her walk with a limp. These included kyphoscoliosis, an abnormal spinal curvature from back to front (kyphosis) and from side to side (scoliosis). The emotional scars from teasing and tormenting that she suffered during childhood led her to begin drawing and painting to express her sadness. Source: compiled from Wikipedia; for the complete bio and links to her artworks, see:

2. “New York’s Palladium Ballroom is commonly revered as the birthplace of modern Latin dancing. Known as ‘the home of the mambo,’ the Palladium was New York’s most popular venue for Latin dance music from 1947 to 1966...” (Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, 10 January 2016); link retrieved on 3 March 2022:

Michele Morris
Issue 12, March 2022

is a former magazine editor and travel writer. She has a BA degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona and an MS in journalism from Columbia University. She’s the author of hundreds of magazine articles and two non-fiction books, one on Chinese cookery and the other on cowboys. Born and raised on a ranch in Montana, Michele raised her children in New York City. She’s lived and worked in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and presently lives in Park City, Utah where she skis, hikes and bikes, and has the stories and injuries to prove it.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Here’s to Life, ekphrastic prose poem by Michele Morris after a painting by Frida Kahlo, in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 11, January 2022)

Serenity Now, ekphrastic prose poem by Ms. Morris after a painting by Benjamin Chee Chee, in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 10, October 2021)

Remembering the Home Front on Pearl Harbor Day, article by Ms. Morris in Ms. magazine (7 December 2012), in which she describes some of her research for her novel, Paper Girls

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