Edgar Degas, L’Absinthe, 1876
I have seen you both in the morning street
Raving in the oily mud and the horse dung
Until the one of you takes a bottle to beat
The other’s back like a trampled rug
Then you fall in a heap on the canal bank
Tugging at each other in your shouting love.
You push and gripe and then lummox
Where you are, singing to everyone and to no one
Beside the junk and heaps of riffled slag.
Then you come in here slowly as if no one
Knew you, he—pretending to be a poet--
Watches the sun die out in the curtains.
You, listing, with eyes wrung out of sight,
Wake to find I pour you more absinthe.
Under your hovering bangs, a crooked stare
Hangs and drifts over your last good blouse.
It is your face that holds the corpse of a star,
A weak chinned light, that at first glance
Seems about to know, but upon a second look
Shows a constellation of bludgeoned grace.
Your pupils do not watch the emptying room
Nor study you glass’s green roil to white.
They do not read or see or presume.
Stubbed out, they wince at absinthe’s light:
Two black thumb prints on an empty carafe.
I have watched hands fumble to open all night
And watched them fumble to close, and laughed,
As miners’ wives do before husbands’ cenotaphs.
I talk to you for hours until I am ashamed.
There is an utter failure in staring a long time.
You have taught me this. I look away,
And look back again. Nothing of yours is mine,
And everything. Your shoe’s frilly tasseled lace,
Your blouse the colour of offal, hat supine.
To have you now would be to claim a grave,
And yet I’d have that grave, and not be honest
And work to keep you drunk and keep you late.
So when he looks away, I charge your glass.
You do not turn. You do not even look.
You say nothing. Your lips as still as a gash.
I empty out these emerald dregs in love,
And call you back to me with wormwood.
Andrew D. Miller
Andrew D. Miller is an American-born poet in Denmark, where he studied for his PhD in ekphrastic writing and photography. His poems have been widely published, in The Massachussett's Review, Ekphrasis, Iron Horse, Shenandoah, Spoon River Reivew, Laurel Review, Hunger Mountain, Rattle, New Orleans Review and more. He has been nominated for the Pushcart four times in total, three from Ekphrasis Magazine.
On My Way to Children's Art Class
to disappointment —
again my colours will be flat,
no life will leap from paper.
not knowing why
I face a rabbi’s portrait.
Not much to see — black,
stark black sinking away from
white prayer shawl, aging beard,
warmer shadowed skin.
No clear colour distracts.
Angular, awkward hands
lie in wait.
From within —
a phosphorescent glow.
His eyes urge me on
send me on my way.
I can continue on —
open your eyes,
use what you see
what you know,
bring forth only
what you are.
Ann Floreen Niedringhaus
Poems by Ann Floreen Niedringhaus, Saint Paul, MN, have appeared in numerous journals, such as Plainsong, Sojourners, The Coe Review, Rattle, Calyx, Albatross; and in anthologies such as, Country Doctor Revisited (Kent State University Press), Bound Together: Like the Grasses (Clover Valley Press, 2013). Her two poetry chapbooks are: Life Suspended (Poetry Harbor, 2003) and Parallel to the Horizon (Pudding House Publications, 2007). Bound Together, the second anthology of poems by Ann’s 20+ year long writing group, won the 2013 Northeastern MN Poetry Book Award while Ann was living in Duluth, MN, before her move to Saint Paul. A retired Social Worker/Nurse, Ann volunteers as a writing coach for the Wilder Foundation Youth Leadership Initiative and offers occasional writing workshops.
This is my river, she lisped, the blood flow
from the wine glass to my swollen lip.
It runs deeper than rib or bone.
It's my repair and moving home.
Ravens came to drink her tears.
She knew that nothing could stem their thirst.
Do stay awhile, she whispered,
I'll dance a song for you.
We'll drink together the winter through
and keep good company.
The moon was a glimmer in the stem of her glass,
her look tender as an open wound.
This poem was first published in Orbis Quarterly International Journal.
Scott Elder’s poems have been appeared in numerous magazines including The New Welsh Review, Southword (forthcoming), Orbis, The Moth, Poetry Salzburg, Cyphers, Cake, Nimrod International, The Antigonish Review, The French Literary Review, Crannog and The Journal. He was a runner-up in the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2016 and among the winners of The Guernsey International Poetry Competition 2018 and Southport Writer’s Circle Competition 2017. His work has been highly commended in the Bristol Poetry Prize 2018, Poetry on the Lake International Competition 2018, Buzzwords Poetry Competition 2018, the Segora Poetry Competition 2015 the Brian Dempsey Memorial Competition 2017, and shortlisted in both the Fish Poetry Prize 2017 and the Plough Prize 2016 and 2017. His debut pamphlet, 'Breaking Away' 2015 was published by Poetry Salzburg and a first collection 'Part of the Dark' 2017 was published by Dempsey & Windle.
Poetry sites: https://www.scottelder.co.uk/
Editor's Note: Thank you to everyone who participated in this ekphrastic writing challenge. And thank you to Omar Odeh for the opportunity to be inspired by his wonderfully evocative artwork! If you aren't already aware, know that The Ekphrastic Review has two visual art prompts every month. Every other Friday there is a new prompt, and on the Fridays in between, a selection of submissions are posted. We are grateful to everyone who looks, likes, writes, submits, shares, and reads. Together we are creating an amazing body of ekphrastic writing and an amazing body of readers so the writing talents get the audience they should. Thank you. Lorette
At 3:00 a.m., two eyes stare
in my window, floating impossibly high
above the ground. Your own reflection,
I tell myself without believing –
one pupil open wide to gather
the light, the other a pinprick.
Night, the thief of colour, plunders
peace, smothers the calming melody
of birds and white noise of traffic,
signals the mind’s stray mutterings
to move in. Ideas I’ve hidden
even from myself skitter
across the page, trying to escape
surveillance. Tomorrow I’ll discover
a message in a mysterious hand
left on my desk. I jump at a yowl –
a neighbour’s cat in the alley –
but the eyes peering in never blink.
Alarie’s latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
We two women,
so like our friend Bastet
revered by ancient Egyptians
beloved by us.
She comes to us across
time, across the boards
pointing us to the blue
So, we will discern
open our eyes to your thoughts--
come to us,
receive our homage
such is way of wise
women and wise cats.
Joan Leotta loves to play with words on page and on stage. Her work includes poems just up or forthcoming on Writing in a Woman's Voice, Visual Verse and others. She loves to walk the beach, read, and cook for family and friends.
Two Women With Cat
My sister reminds me about the cat
that we took to the New Jersey suburb
of Philadelphia, who didn’t want to live there
and traveled 75 miles back to the house on the bay.
We found her in the spring when we returned
to open up the house, turn on the water drained.
She had lived the winter in the cellar.
After months in the suburb, I agreed with her choice.
She had tangled with another animal, survived.
Her throat was torn and she could hardly speak.
What I imagine a woman in a burqa feels,
what an artist senses trying to paint women sheltered
when we would prefer chance to security,
prefer a life lived to safety, prefer to be a black cat
scorned and left behind to fend on its own,
prefer the sliver of a crescent moon to a full at epigee.
Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press), and Wildwood (Lummox Press). Ride the Pink Horse is forthcoming from Spartan Press in 2019. With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
This frowning front door
foreshadows the fake smiles
hovering behind it.
The monsters within--
but the black cat hesitates.
She would not be back
if not for the regular,
fatty gourmet goulash.
A few undeserved kicks
worth it for a full belly,
a corner to cower in nightly.
In daylight, she scouts
unsupervised, shrieking playgrounds--
an affectionate lure
twining around children's legs
with her hypnotic purr.
Wide-eyes cannot resist
the dusky invitation to follow--
so close to bedtime—down the street.
Arriving at a frowning front door.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His work has been featured in many online and print publications, and has been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com
(and the devil too)
Kerfe Roig likes to play with colour words and form. You can follow along on the blog she does with her friend Nina, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/
Cauldron of Waves
I am wrapped in darkness and this darkness acts as my double.
No shadows, no incongruent tones - simply a weird remoteness which puffs up around me and makes me doubt myself.
It could have been in Mykonos, before the sunrise, looking out into the sea, into the obscure cauldron of waves.
Was it truly me then - or is this moment a nocturnal layer of my memory?
And yes – the houses were all painted white, here and there a trace of blue.
As the sun went up, I remember the cat gingerly treading on the painted roof.
Romanian-born Irina Moga is a member The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC); she previously published two books in Romanian. Her poetry has appeared in literary magazines such as Canadian Literature, carte-blanche, dandelion, Rockhurst Review and The Chaffin Journal.
Darkness, heavy with
with lines by Iraqi-American poet,
The poet wrote, Cinderella left her slipper
in Iraq. I would borrow this line and so many
others, but I have never been in her skin,
never written words punished by exile.
I wasn’t painted by Omar Odeh. The eyes
muddied with sorrow are not mine. They do not
grace my face. I never wore the veil,
lined my eyes in kohl.
I wasn’t the one to lose a country.
My memory cannot smell the river, the lily, the fish.
My mind cannot understand the keyhole, the eyebrow, the cat.
My honesty cannot borrow another poet’s words
to describe my response to this artist’s painting.
And yet, I feel vibrations from his art/
her lines. They swirl inside me, wanting
release, voice. Have I not felt loneliness
like an inverted hollow? Have I not been estranged?
Have I not looked into darkness, heavy with
loss, then chosen to grow on new soil?
Sandi Stromberg is enjoying the ekphrastic challenges presented by The Ekphrastic Review, with poems accepted in response to Joseph Cornell and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art. She also loves gathering poets’ work into anthologies. She co-edited Echoes of the Cordillera (ekphrastic poems, Museum of the Big Bend, 2018) and Untameable City: Poems on the Nature of Houston (Mutabilis Press, 2015). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, read on PBS during the April 2017 “Voices and Verses,” and published in multiple small journals and anthologies. She has been a juried poet ten times in the Houston Poetry Fest. Her translations of Dutch poetry were published in the United States and Luxembourg.
Kept too long in the closet
With the rags and brooms,
Like punished children
Learning to obey,
We see each other
Know the shape
Of every bruise
And broken promise,
The taste of longing
Swallowed with our bread
The sour air we breathe
Beneath our veils--
We whisper and hiss,
Polishing our smiles
Until they shine
Like hungry moons,
Sharp enough to cut us out
Of these strict margins
And let us walk,
In rags and tatters,
Into the open air.
Mary McCarthy is a former nurse who has always been a writer. She has had work in many on line and print journals, and an electronic chapbook, "Things I Was Told Not to Think About," available as a free download from Praxis Magazine online.
With fated accidental bold abstraction he
caught my soul on canvas, he who never knew me.
I knew him, or knew the painting, never him,
unless his soul was there in paint, a scrap at least,
arms open, catching mine. I'd never seen the work
till then, but recognized myself. A self I'd never seen.
Always I'd assumed one chose and settled in—defined—
inside the confines of a single life when time enough
had passed and all, or almost all, was sorted out.
If any art might echo what I chose, it would be
subtle, gentle, mild. My life was moderate.
But this was daring, brave. Forest green thrust up
a clutch of striking reds and vivid tangerines.
And was there ever such a brightness, cream and
black, to ricochet around a world of paint? Bright
cream, bright black, to pull the willing reds and
tangerines to vibrant circling over steady
forest green. This was, I saw, my soul, or
one of them. An early version, or a late, when
I had been, or was to be, more than I knew.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, the author of four poetry collections, a mixed genre collection, and two novels. Her latest poetry collection is Through the Fracture in the I: Erasure Poetry; her most recent novel: The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh. Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: http://shirleyglubka.weebly.com/ Online poetry at The Ekphrastic Review here; at 2River View here; at The Ghazal Page here; and at Unlost Journal here and here.
I’m standing in a gallery with my hands in my pockets.
A girl is looking out at me from a painting wondering
(judging by the expression on her face)
whether I am wondering the same thing
that she’s been wondering since Paul Cezanne
painted her in a shady garden wearing her blue dress
and white apron in 1873, which is,
“what is the difference between
impressionism and expressionism?”
But I’m not thinking that at all.
I’m wondering why it feels to me as though
Paul Cezanne had painted me standing in front of her
in my cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirt
with my hands in my pockets in 1973.
David Jibson is the editor of Third Wednesday Magazine, a quarterly print journal of literary and visual art. He is a coordinator for events of the Crazy Wisdom Poetry Circle in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
And the heat.
Strong black women bearing down
on other people’s clothes –
blue checkered dress
orange striped shirt
-- they (the ironers)
are faceless, identical
in sky-blue smocks
heavy heavy black rectangles
while behind them rises
Catherine Allen is a cultural anthropologist and writer. Her publications include poems (Rhino, Anthropology & Humanism), ethnography, creative non-fiction and an ethnographic drama. She lives in Greenbelt, MD with her dog Jimmy.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Papa, you changed after Mama died,
forbidding your daughters from marrying.
I accepted that decision
but then Robert’s letters arrived,
like birds through an open window.
After meeting him more letters
quickly flocked in,
he loved me. Impetuous,
absurd, I insisted. Never mention love
again. Inevitably, like the moon
"love" kept popping up.
Papa would never agree to my marrying.
To broach the point would have meant
all doors locked from outsiders,
even letters turned away.
What else could Robert and I do
Crossing the Channel
was nothing compared to the distance
that opened between me and you, Papa.
Yet here I am, disinherited, an island
you have purged from your map.
Oh, Papa, for too long
I was an invalid whose friends
existed on paper.
Thank god, Robert's love has stayed
as steadfast as the seasons,
my heart no longer merely
a postal destination.
Bob Bradshaw is recently retired, and living in California. He is a big fan of the Rolling Stones. Mick may not be gathering moss, but Bob is. Bob's work can be found in many publications on the net, including Apple Valley Review, Eclectica, Loch Raven Review, Peacock Journal and Pedestal Magazine, among others.
Claudel's Wave of Madness
Paul Claudel, the brother of French artist Camille Claudel, had her committed to a mental institution in 1913, just after their father’s death. Although her forms indicated that she had been voluntarily admitted, they were signed by a doctor and Paul.
Prior to her incarceration, she destroyed many of her sculptures in psychotic fits. Only about ninety remained by the time she was hospitalized. Perhaps she pictured them living on after she had smashed them. Did she feel their cold reproaches could no longer hurt her? Or did they still mock her, freeing themselves from the monolith of night and shambling toward her bed, their derision a crack in marble only she could see?
One work that she spared was La Vague. La Vague was a departure for Claudel, so it’s fitting that it told of a wave, a change about to move water and land as one. Made of bronze and onyx marble, it was more delicate than what had come before. I wonder if critics were comforted when they saw it, thinking that the aging spinster had swapped her lurid embraces for decorative arts, as was proper.
But Claudel had seen woodblock prints by the Japanese artist Hokusai and been inspired. In Hokusai’s work, nature is pruned and perfected but loses none of its power. His waves are as pretty as the hair of a doll but still they crash out of the frame. Maybe that’s what Claudel was after, or what she was. Rodin wrote to her in a letter, “In a single instant I feel your terrible force.”
Did she ever wish she had shattered La Vague? In the sculpture, the wave looks like it’s reaching for three young girls. It arches like the back of a woman with her lover, but when it touches them the faces pooling in its water might be men’s—Camille’s doctors, her brother.
Maybe she dreamt of it in the asylum. Or maybe she dreamt that she would not be cast in bronze, that she would wither and crumble, broken plaster littering the floor of a huge atelier.
Maybe she dreamt that madness wasn’t set in stone.
This essay is excerpted from the author's upcoming memoir, Chronic: Blame, Bodies, and Decades of Madness.
Cynthia Gralla is the author of The Floating World and The Demimonde in Japanese Literature. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and currently lives in Victoria, British Columbia. (booksbyCynthiaGralla.com)
Early Photographs of W.B. Yeats
People in old pictures don’t smile.
You’ll say photography took time,
and a smile is painful to hold.
Scan the face of Yeats, the jaw clenched,
the squinting gaze set on no one.
He won’t be moved. You’ll see this look
among children, too. To be seized
like that, alive, stalled precisely
in time, by an inhuman eye:
could you casually consent?
Held in your repose, you face Death
at its great ease—the poised spirit,
slower than you, and in no rush
now that you’ve paused, to see you go.
Joseph Chaney teaches literature and writing at Indiana University South Bend, where he serves as publisher of Wolfson Press. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including The Nation, Yankee, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Dogwood, Stoneboat, and Spillway. Some recent poems may be accessed online at Off the Coast, The Cresset, The Apple Valley Review, and Shark Reef.
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