τυφλός τά τ᾽ ὦτα τόν τε νοῦν τά τ᾽ ὄμματ᾽ εἶ
Oedipus to Tiresias*
Adrian Piper, our Tiresias,
From age to age
From Thebes to Thebes
From Africa to Europe
Tiresias of our time and all time.
You who were female
Are now male
And again a female
“a sweet young thing”.
You who were black
Now white, now black
Again, are black and white.
Our Tiresias Mediatrix,
What was it like?
Our Tiresias Metamatrix,
How did it feel?
Our Tiresias Meretrix--
No, you turn no tricks,
But tricks of the media,
So turn again.
Daughter of Ham and Amon
And Dam of Hammon[s?]
Daughter of Man and Aton
And Man of Manhattan
Daughter of Isis and Osiris
Sister of Whorus [?]
Beloved of Ra
Queen of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms
Of East and West
Of Midtown and Uptown
Of Nevada and Times Square
And of Nevada in Times Square
Lady of the corner and the [lacuna]
Lady of columns and stepped pyramids
Of obelisks and stelae and amphitheatres
Sweet and low
A kinder, gentler Cleopatra,
Who trods around the pools of Canopus
At Canopus and Canopus of Tivoli,
Daughter of Piper?
Hap(p)y were we who heard no evil
Hap(p)y were we who saw no evil
Hap(p)y were we who spoke no evil
Baboon-headed were we.
Are you the Pied Piper, the Colored Piper,
Piping, prodding, pushing? Pushing it?
No, you are not.
You’re not pushy
You’re not sneaky
You’re not lazy
You’re not noisy
You’re not vulgar
You’re not rowdy
You’re not horny
You’re not scary
You’re not shiftless
You’re not crazy
You’re not servile
You’re not stupid
You’re not dirty
You’re not smelly
You’re not childish
You’re not evil
TURN TURN TURN TURN
And turn again.
Adrian Piper, our Tiresias:
Tell us what it’s like,
What it is.
John J. Trause
*“You are blind in your ears and mind as well as in your eyes.” Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannos, line 371.
“Adrian Piper” was previously published in John J. Trause’s Picture This: For Your Eyes and Ears (Dos Madres Press, 2016), and at Infinity's Kitchen.
John J. Trause, the Director of Oradell Public Library and formerly the Reference / Periodicals librarian at The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, is the author of Why Sing? (Sensitive Skin Press, 2017), a book of traditional and experimental poems; Picture This: For Your Eyes and Ears (Dos Madres Press, 2016), a book of poems on art, film, and photography; Exercises in High Treason (great weather for MEDIA, 2016), a book of fictive translations, found poems, and manipulated texts; Eye Candy for Andy (13 Most Beautiful… Poems for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, Finishing Line Press, 2013); Inside Out, Upside Down, and Round and Round (Nirala Publications, 2012); Seriously Serial (Poets Wear Prada, 2007; rev. ed. 2014); and Latter-Day Litany (Éditions élastiques, 1996), the latter staged Off Broadway. His translations, poetry, and visual work appear internationally in many journals and anthologies, including The Antioch Review, the artists' periodical Crossings, the Dada journal Maintenant, the journal Offerta Speciale, the Great Weather for Media anthologies It’s Animal but Merciful(2012) and I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand (2014), and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems (NYQ Books, 2015). Marymark Press has published his visual poetry and art as broadsides and sheets. He is the subject of a 30-on-30-in-30 essay on The Operating System, written by Don Zirilli, and an author of an essay on Baroness Elsa at the same site, both in April 2016. He has shared the stage with Steven Van Zandt, Anne Waldman, Karen Finley, Andrei Codrescu, and Jerome Rothenberg; the page with Billy Collins, Lita Hornick, William Carlos Williams, Woody Allen, Ted Kooser, Victor Buono, and Pope John Paul II; and the cage with the Cumaean Sibyl, Ezra Pound, Hannibal Lector, Andrei Chikatilo, and George “The Animal” Steele. He is a founder of the William Carlos Williams Poetry Cooperative in Rutherford, N. J., and the former host and curator of its monthly reading series.
Model in Love
Later there will be postcards –
prints of body parts signed in her own
meticulous italic, telling
how she misses
the warm moulding of his hands,
that splash of water
when she was only possibility.
For this, she is grateful
and though she might have hoped
(or even a head)
she is glad of those pubescent breasts
with their dab of nipple,
the smooth sweep down to staccato
There will be time enough to tell him
that she has let herself go.
From her billowing window she dreams
of a cluttered atelier:
turps, clay, clatter of wire-cutters,
plaster of Paris; misses
how he came again and again
simply to touch
the intelligent slope of her shoulder.
Other arms have circled her since.
Though lovers pluck her
as they might a courgette flower
(for taste and decoration)
still she knows that a girl must be free
to walk as she will –
that a pedestal impedes,
no matter how tenderly it kisses
the stems of her feet.
This poem was previously published in Magma.
Claire Booker lives ten minutes walk from the sea in Brighton (UK) with her husband and two cats. Her work has been published widely in the UK, including in Ambit, Poetry News, The Rialto, The Spectator and Stand. She blogs at www.bookerplays.co.uk
The Heft of Black
"All (my) objects are retranslated." Louise Nevelson
to the dark
raven on ebony
Grid of shapes
spindle from a chair
handle from a shovel
small wooden crate
slat from a garden gate
a barrel head
a barrel stave
blessings within a box
each harmonious to the next.
Boxes of beautiful
Don Cellini is a teacher and translator, a poet and photographer, the first two by training, the second by good fortune. His most recent work of poetry is Stone Poems from FootHills Publishing. ArtePoéico recently published his translation of Historia solar/Solar Hisory by Jair Cortés. He believes that Words Transcend Walls. More of his work can be seen at www.doncellini.com
Ekphrastic Writing Challenge: Henry Darger
Join us for biweekly ekphrastic writing challenges. See why so many writers are hooked on ekphrastic! We feature some of the most accomplished influential poets writing today, and we also welcome emerging or first time writers and those who simply want to experience art in a deeper way or try something creative.
The prompt this time is Untitled, by Henry Darger. Deadline is September 6, 2019.
1. Use this visual art prompt as a springboard for your writing. It can be a poem or short prose (fiction or nonfiction.) You can research the artwork or artist and use your discoveries to fuel your writing, or you can let the image alone provoke your imagination.
2. Write as many poems and stories as you like. Send only your best works or final draft, not everything. Please copy and paste your submission into the body of the email, even if you include an attachment such as Word or PDF.
3. Have fun.
4. USE THIS EMAIL ONLY.
Send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org. Challenge submissions sent to the other inboxes will most likely be lost as those are read in chronological order of receipt, weeks or longer behind, and are not seen at all by guest editors. They will be discarded. Sorry.
5.Include HENRY DARGER WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line in all caps please.
6. Include your name and a brief bio. If you do not include your bio, it will not be included with your work, if accepted. Even if you have already written for The Ekphrastic Review or submitted other works and your bio is "on file" you must include it in your challenge submission. Do not send it after acceptance or later; it will not be added to your poem. Guest editors may not be familiar with your bio or have access to archives. We are sorry about these technicalities, but have found that following up, requesting, adding, and changing later takes too much time and is very confusing.
7. Late submissions will be discarded. Sorry.
8. Deadline is midnight, September 6, 2019.
9. Please do not send revisions, corrections, or changes to your poetry or your biography after the fact. If it's not ready yet, hang on to it until it is.
10. Selected submissions will be published together, with the prompt, one week after the deadline.
11. Rinse and repeat with upcoming ekphrastic writing challenges!
The rain arrived as expected. Knowing it would didn’t make the storm any more welcome. Quite the opposite in fact. Still, the inevitable must be accepted to some degree. Besides, with so much to do indoors, Belinha doubted she would’ve even made it outside today. She wanted to wander the park, but the house needed to be made ready. For what, she couldn’t say. Saying made it too real.
Perched in a windowsill, she watched the streets empty as pedestrians fled the downpour. A street vendor pulled canvas flaps down, covering her cart, then opened an umbrella. She stood waiting for the rain to stop. If the sun came back, she would be there waiting to shout, “Olhá a bolinha!”
The woman reminded Belinha of her mother – determined individuals refusing to flinch in the face of bad news. Unlike her mother’s beauty, that trait, unfortunately, couldn’t be inherited. Belinha liked to think she did her best. How exactly a person is supposed to react to life – everyone knows without any real proof. And though she used to have her own certitude, it seemed lately paixões diagonais induced uncertainty. She used to flow; roots now chained and choked her.
Sighing, she mashed out a half-smoked cigarette. An edge still smoldered in the ashtray sending a smoke ribbon skyward; recalling nights in the café listening to fado musicians. They sang of sadness she only wanted to know voyeuristically. Now, those foggily recollected lyrics hit close to home – “Com que voz chorarei?”
Belinha drifted downstairs. A maid approached the bottom of the steps. On a silver tray the young girl carried a glass mug, a gift from Belinha’s husband, Lúcio. He sent her a set from Brazil, where he worked overseeing the start of a rubber plantation.
He wrote to her often from the heart of the Amazon. Telling her about Manaus changing before his eyes. Electric lights in the savage jungle. His letters filled with tales of rubber baron extravagance. One buys a magnificent yacht somehow inspiring another to purchase a tame lion as a pet. Another waters a horse with champagne. The money flowed, and Lúcio insisted it would carry them to a better tomorrow. Yet, Belinha didn’t see it that way.
Shooing the maid away, Belinha gave orders to ready the house. Lúcio returned today. His last letter said he would be back to take her to Manaus. She didn’t want to go to South America – paixões diagonais.
Overseeing the servants, Belinha remembered sipping coffee in the café with her friends. That constellation of lost stars guiding to a joyful middle of nowhere; memories of evenings on balconies finding peace in liquor induced silences, when each knew they were at risk of speaking the truth, so no one spoke – dare not confess a longing, a dream, an intention; ask for a kiss, she used to pray, staring at Afonso. They joked about the bourgeois. They felt so certain then – it would never be them. Yet she spun around, dancing alone in the café, while the guitarist played a sad song that somehow made her happy. Belinha bumped into a man, spilling wine on his shirt. He looked at her; she smiled; they laughed – “It’s only a shirt,” he said – and everything changed.
No longer the young woman peddling flowers. She would never have to go home, feet burning sore from wandering the city all day for a few réis. She’d never worry about money again. Yet, she couldn’t remember really caring before.
Evicted more than once, she slept in the park. The shape of clouds inspiring her dreams. Sometimes she visited friends who were marginally better off. They let her stay a few days until chance offered a new home. It felt like freedom to Belinha.
Her mother called it aimless, a childish existence. However, that old woman died in the street. A sunny afternoon, handing over a dozen red roses, her heart stopped. Belinha never wanted that to be her, working all the way to death. There must’ve been a better way.
And then oh! there it seemed to be. Lúcio’s smoldering eyes. His tongue dripping honey. He promised her the world. She only wanted a balcony to sit on at night, watch the stars, and echo poetry. They seemed so much the same until they married. That’s when everything changed.
He told her she needed to stop going to cafés, especially those full of people he called seedy – she called friends. He informed Belinha she belonged to a better class of people now. She disagreed. He insisted. She… lacked the steely resolve of her mother.
So, now, instead of wandering the park in the rain, she stood in a room of their gigantic home. The palace of a future rubber baron. It felt like a mausoleum sometimes – buried alive, dying slowly therein; she stood beside a table arranging flowers. The maid behind her assisted. The two made small talk neither would ever remember. A touch of her past in this moment, Belinha looked at the arrangement; she felt like her mother.
It wasn’t nostalgia that hit her. Rather, the blandness of the bouquet. An overwhelming saudade washed over her.
She lost her breath. Catching the edge of the table, she couldn’t breathe.
“So little colour,” she gasped.
The maid grabbed her, expecting her to faint. Belinha pushed the girl away. Clutching at her collar, she ripped open her striped blouse.
Staggering towards the front door she shouted, “Let me out!”
The sadness of something missing chased her. The ghost waiting to bite saw the chance to sink its teeth into her. But she wouldn’t let it. Instead she flew out into the storm. The downpour drenched her in seconds. Yet she no longer felt herself drowning.
“Belinha?” Lúcio, under an umbrella, addressed her in confusion. Waterlogged porters stood behind him carrying his luggage. She looked at him. Her eyes burning coals, she smiled.
She said, “I’m going for a walk.”
Then she vanished into the rain.
J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history, and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog www.honestyisnotcontagious.com and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.
#70-2: Rothko Room- Dupont Circle 1970
The room on 21st Street was always mysterious,
luminous, dark, insistent.
And in his final months it could have been asked
of the artist what he was doing in marking his last
days and hours, he, in a sense, sitting on that bench
suspended in space with the colours coming off or
just falling in with Pollock or de Kooning, losing
or winning an abstract debate, rolled in a bar
in the 50s.
Or could he have been trapped by some beaten
down beat notion or desperate song or other drinking
story where these motions between the spaces
were unresolved, lost in colours or held in reserve
in some unknown cavern by the side of his road?
Somehow bereft, perhaps scheming day by day
with a honed absence and mere drafts of feeling, barely
communicable in a language connected to that lost village
in the Latvian East.
And a cool sun was revealed bright over Washington
in an audible red, exhaling orange, green in the room
somehow muted and barely visible to the view of a
lamentable, confined, intractable state, bright and
most luminous, a child’s Russian language haunting
in its specificity and convolution asking here about
what it might mean in deep America as if to say,
“where’s the poetry” with the poet out of the room.
Suicides turn in upon themselves with extinction
revealed in its altered state and occasionally, perhaps,
like to think of themselves free of death, sociable
and astute despite imaginations failure at the last,
a vacancy in the spirit, the artist lost less form and
formulation, trees of depression assembling
in a fatal ring.
After this, in that room that still sits near the Circle,
was seen wild snow and spirits moving deftly from
the corners and margins there casting the grey shadow
over rarer hues, a deeper wave, a peak on the stretched
canvas indivisible from the brush dipping in a can of
crazed, cheap materials.
Crowded, spacious, intentionally undefined with
dialogues interior but forward, deep, still within
view, incomprehensible but well sprung from
despair, alcoholic, triumphant, opening the sky,
filled with volition, spontaneous, rising, drawing
the sun and darkness, internal in its self-referential
determination, reclusive, restive, peaceful, running
down the gallery wall to this small limitless space.
Removed to his native grounds, sprawled out in
Manhattan, hope and the total absence of hope,
torn from form and colour hard upon him from the
damp of the North Sea as that lost year showed the
artist gone, his form and silence an emblem of a
modern time as the old raw figures of the boulevards
and towns had been expelled at last fleeing from the
foreground, the stark literal banished from a teeming
house, hiding just out of sight now
After a long hiatus and residence overseas John Huey returned the United States and to writing in 2011. Since then he has appeared in numerous on line and print journals as well as three anthologies. His full length collection, The Moscow Poetry File, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. www.john-huey.com
Discovering My Mother in a Painting by Mary Cassatt
She catches me with her half-smile,
unconscious delight flowering over her.
I finger the single strand around my neck,
eyes fixed on the woman with pearls—my pearls, my mother’s.
It may be the pastel colour lit by lamps of rosy hue
as she looks out from her balcony, or maybe the sheen
of her strawberry-blonde hair curled back behind her ear
that mesmerizes and transports me
to the theatres of my mother’s dancing career,
the chandelier casting soft reflections, the rustle
of anticipation in the upper tiers before lights dim.
I remember her Irish skin—milk-white porcelain, blush
that tinted her cheeks. Any minute she might break
out in that hearty laugh, infectious to anyone around her.
Even in the wake of dying, light glints off her coral scarf
and nightgown like the leaps and pliés of her life.
I long for my mother, on loan from somewhere else,
who’s stopped to linger here for a spell
in the Art Institute. Too soon she’ll have to leave again,
but here, where shadows are part of light,
is where I stand.
Mary Jo Balistreri
Mary Jo has three full length books of poetry and one chapbook. She was a musician most of her life but due to the death of a grandchild and a consequent loss of her hearing, she turned to poetry. Mary Jo has always been interested in art and received her BA in art from the U. of Pennsylvania. Please visit her at maryjobalistreripoet.com. She lives in Wisconsin.
She stood upstairs. The sun rose. Did he say today, or tomorrow? The baby cried. I am sure he said today. What day was it anyway? Sunlight hit the carpet. If it was the start of the week, it would be tomorrow. And if it was a day into the new week, it would be today. The baby cried. The sun dropped. I am sure he said today.
Michael Buckingham Gray
This short story first appeared in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.
Editor's note: This is a reverse ekphrasis- the painting was created to go with the flash fiction.
Michael Buckingham Gray is a Best Microfiction and a Best Small Fictions nominated writer and creative writing tutor. His writing has appeared in The Fortnightly Review, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and other magazines. Some places he has tutored at include the University of Notre Dame Australia, Workshop Freo, and Intuition Educational Support.
Elle Santarelli has painted throughout Europe as a tool for immersing herself in the different cultures, as a trade for accommodation and a way to understand and relate to the setting. She has painted murals from a hostel in Rome to a surf shop in Morocco, a bar in Spain to the Berlin Wall. Now back in Australia, she has immersed herself in the humble settings of the Mid West and painted Michael Buckingham Gray's flash fiction stories, using similar techniques. She has painted with the youth at STAY and recently completed a mural at the new community centre.
The lonely streetlight reaches
through the half-open window, into
the corner office, strokes the white wall,
the metal file cabinet, the fine, round ass
of the secretary snugged in blue. Its
glow casts the words scrawled across
the letter in high relief. They shout
at the man who clutches the letter
in both hands. She’s onto us,
he says to his new love,
his “true love,” his voice strangled
as the words grip his throat.
Oh baby, the woman pleads, let’s get out
of town, leave this crummy office behind
and start fresh. Maybe California?
I got a sister in LA.
The man doesn’t answer, doesn’t move,
silent as the typewriter on her desk
a yard away from his, the distance
like an ocean for so long, when all he could do
was stare into the endless blue of want,
adrift on the ship of wife and family
until one day she threw him a line:
Wanna go for a drink? He’d been
drinking her in ever since, each swallow
his death and his salvation.
The woman has forgotten what she wanted
in the files. She clings to the cabinet
to keep from falling, her dark eyes
smudged with tears. His silence is louder
than the first clap of thunder.
Grab the umbrella, she thinks,
here comes rain.
Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavours to pursue an eighteen-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and mixed-media artist living in Los Angeles. Her work has been published in Algebra of Owls, Calyx, Gyroscope Review, Rattle, Willow Review and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Open The Fist, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. You can find her online at www.elyabraden.com.
Flowers From My Mother
She’d watch foxgloves by the window,
elegant, erect, preferring partial shade,
gladed at untamed garden’s edge.
They drew her, out alone in chill air
to propagate them on paper, water-coloured
as breeze-ripple dipped their heads
to her paint, her attentiveness of eye and hand.
Transplanted to an indoor nook
their vigil of flowering lived the drift
of sometimes cherished, sometimes overlooked.
Pink blooms pulsed with secrets,
plump for the nuzzle of unseen bees.
Outdoors, cooling petals wilted into winter,
seeds scuffed in soiled darkness.
Now framed in my room these silent bells
soft-toned as shells, twilight, ghosts
are transfigured in a creamy haze of glade
no longer wreathed by green-dusk gloom.
They stand as she imaged them, centred
in a kindness of light, her landscape of mind:
Digitalis purpurea, cordial for my heart.
On this windless wall they nod again.
Julia D McGuinness
Julia D McGuinness is a poet, counsellor and writing therapist based in Cheshire, England. She runs writing workshops for creativity and well-being, including work with cancer patients. Her poems have appeared online at Ink, Sweat and Tears, Riggwelter and Amaryllis among others, and in her collection Chester City Walls. In August 2019 she becomes Chester Cathedral’s Poet-in-Residence. You can find her at www.creativeconnectionscheshire.co.uk .
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