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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Prose Poem: 181 words
+ Visual Art: Painting
By Joan Leotta

A Scene of Chaos

—After Rubens, Massacre of the Innocents *

Such a scene of chaos greets my eyes—muscular men, babes being dashed to death, women trying to save children enmeshed in the horror. I note, though, that Rubens’ scene is bloodless, and buildings remain intact. Rubens had not wanted to horrify, shake his audience to their core, beyond the chaos that devoured the order of the place. In my home, we have a statue of the Holy Family fleeing all of this. The artwork is lovely, the faces showing need, fear, but not the desperation I see in the faces of refugees in Ukraine where today chaos reigns. Scenes of death and despair drip with blood. Buildings are piles of rubble. As Russians bomb and blast, burning Ukrainian books, massacring these innocents, I weep. My tears will not wash away the blood. My hands are not capable of replacing, restoring stone on stone, to rebuild. I cannot quell the chaos. I can, however, look to the refugees, so many holy families who flee the massacre. I can be their Egypt.


Massacre of the Innocents: 1612 Painting by Peter Paul Rubens


* Publisher’s Note:

Massacre of the Innocents (oil on canvas, 1611-12) by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is held by Art Gallery of Ontario:

Rubens was an artist and diplomat from the Duchy of Brabant in the southern Netherlands (modern-day Belgium), and is considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition.

Image above was downloaded from Wikimedia on 9 January 2023:

Joan Leotta
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales featuring food, family, nature, and strong women. In addition to her ten published books, her varied writings have appeared or are forthcoming in The Ekphrastic Review, Pinesong, Brass Bell, Verse Visual, anti-heroin chic, Silver Birch, Ovunquesiamo, Verse Virtual, Poetry in Plain Sight, Gargoyle, and others. Her chapbook Feathers on Stone was published by Main Street Rag in November 2022, and can be ordered from the author as well as from the publisher.

Ms. Leotta is a 2021 Pushcart nominee. Her microfiction “Magic Slippers” received the Penny Fiction 2021 award and was anthologized in From the Depths (Issue 19, Haunted Waters Press). In early 2022, she was named a runner-up in the Frost Foundation Poetry Competition. And her poem “Magritte’s Apple Explains It All” was nominated for Best of the Net 2023 by The Ekphrastic Review.

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