Guest Editor’s Note:
Thank-you to all of the writers who entered the DALE PATTERSON CHALLENGE; I was impressed by the quality, quantity and variety of the interpretations to Dale’s masterwork.
An over-arching apocalyptic theme emerged as I read through the responses. It seems flying fish and quaking buildings inspire contemplation of doomsday scenarios.
I hope all entrants continue to participate in future challenges, keeping this unique publication vibrant. I know I will.
It Happened Almost Overnight
We all saw it coming, but did nothing
much, hid in our houses.
Already there is no internet, no TV,
no smartphones, no video games.
The sky itself aflame with an eerie
light, not the metallic grey-green
from before the storm,
not the hot-red sky celebrating
forests fires or New York in flames.
But a poison yellow never before seen.
A yellow that curdles the blood.
A yellow that passes through the empty
windows of the skeletal fronts of houses
that once rang with the laughter
of children, the barking of dogs,
the scolding of parents.
The waters blackened by oil and soot,
not quite boiling.
There isn’t much time for evolution,
The birds fall out of the sky.
The fish grow wings.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of Tangents, a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the now defunct Goodreads monthly competition. There were other prizes. Recent poetry collections: From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949: A Child’s Journey and Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back. Her latest full-length poetry MS, The Rain Girl, has been accepted for publication in June 2020 by Blue Nib.
Poem, as Abstract Aphorisms
for Yahia Lababidi and Carl Terver
our milk gets infested with ants
we spill more than we rein
it is like a wave – arrives quickly
as it leaves – moments curdle
powdered sky on tuscan terrain
ghosts stalk angular tips of roofs
the mountains have risen
from salt pink as sea-rock
windows are washed in medallion
gold; birds have fled concrete sills
houses swirl in kinetic pools
when the ocean lost its gravity
inside the safe harbour of our minds
winds clang nervously as clumsy bells
our milk has spilled –
ants canvas territory
the tar on roads sweat their foreheads
heat has melted in its pot of indifference
our skins are red bricks of graffiti
dissipating as aerated cans of paints
summers have caramelised
fish wings in thick waters
the sight of blue is a site of grey
forage: ships hunt as water escapes
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her works appear in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Persian. More about her can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com
Turquoise Dorsal Fins
The storm’s itself a beard—
red herring, if you will—
for wild shenanigans
that take place in its murk
and turn the normal order
fairytale and topsy-turvy
under cover of the squall.
Put on these spectacles,
and see beyond the gale—
town houses snug as peas
in pods as flying fish put
the uakari screeching gulls
and Christian power poles
to flight in flaxen glare.
Or don’t. How partnerships
of odd men out are balanced,
sins become resolved
or sausages amassed
is not for queasy stomachs,
lily livers and faint hearts.
Let blue skies reappear.
Tom Riordan continues living and writing -- in Hoboken, New Jersey now. If you see him swimming in the river, don't call the police, he isn't drowning.
Eager to Stay Airborne
We, the scaled birds of the oceans,
are eager to stay airborne.
The tumult below
might drown every gilled
one of us.
Poseidon just heard
some Mediterrean sailors
praying to some god
for smooth seas to sail.
The wood from these houses
will soon become rafts
for those who denounce Jupiter
& driftwood for the coffins
of those who choose Pluto.
The blue of our right wing-fins
passports us to both sea & sky.
We believe we float forever
on the horizon when we die.
Mike Casetta has many poems published in many small presses.
As flying fish fall from the sea to the sky
in a capsizing world where the oceans apply
all the anger of currents which swirl into storms,
winding faster and faster, their violence forms
a great onslaught of tides, wind, and rain in their race
to remove mankind’s blight from the land, from Earth’s face,
and restore to its atmosphere air which is cleansed
as volcanic upheavals and lightning amends
with their hot, smelting furnace of natural power
pollutants which plague every forest and bower,
each crevice on Earth, on the land, beneath oceans,
the aggregate muck of insidious motions
which feed our fierce need to consume all we can
as man, in his wisdom, exterminates man.
Ken Gosse prefers writing light verse with traditional meter and rhyme. First published in The First Literary Review–East in 2016, also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, The Ekphrastic Review, and others. Raised near Chicago, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.
Love in the Land of Flying Fish
Summertime, and the livin' ain't easy,
fish are jumpin' high as the sky --
Like birds of a feather fish fly together
their wings held steady in the yellow sky.
Beyond the ocean's tarmac waves the island
has survived in a painting with 28 cap-shaped roof tops
and 28 roof top trap doors all leading upward to the sky;
and 28 cut-glass cisterns called practical chalices
(a fictional alias) filled with rain gathered from a storm
before the sun flames at sunset and you begin
to make Cou Cou the island's favorite dish --
Authentic Barbados Flying Fish. So many of our friends
have said "the fairy tale is over" I'm afraid to tell you
I'm tired of being Princess Rustika my room
beneath the tower unfinished bare beams
and all the paint used up for the roofs; with
your message I care Rusty, I care about us! And
I'm ashamed to say I answered The way Daedalus
cared about Icarus? But I was tired, and the towers
were too narrow for over-indulgence -- second helpings
of flying fish -- and the floors were too narrow to dance
and the beds were too narrow for -- well, you can guess;
and the fish in the legend were coming home to sleep
(some had jumped into boats to sleep in the bay,
lullabye-rocking in the tarmac waves); with fish on my mind
I decided to sleep outside -- what they say, in Barbados
"flying fish" means fish sleeping on land
outside of the sea -- outside where my hands
could reach up for their wings (like birds of a feather
the fish fly together!) when stars are rising
in random locomotion to put forgotten dreams in motion,
leaving their sparkle for fish scales --
& I asked you
to hold the narrow ladder steady in a narrow tower
with a purple trap door if you please hand me fish nets
hand-made in Barbados where this fairy tale is written
though I've never been there to dream about fish wings
like flying mirrors reflecting my future in the shape of a sail --
when wings fill a fishnet my heart holds on --
carried by love
beyond the storm.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston, Texas. Her poem won second place in the Houston Poetry Fest, Ekphrastic Poetry Contest, 2018, and her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Nimrod (runner up for the Pablo Neruda Prize), AIPF, Isotope and Dogwood. A graduate of the University of Houston Creative Writing Department in Poetry, she enjoys reading at Archway Gallery and at various museums and art installations with Art & Words. Recently, she is pleased to have discovered the Ekphrastic Challenge (her first online publication) as poetry, art, archaeology, travel, dogs, horses (actually all animals) and family are her passions. She fished with her grandfather as a child but has never captured a flying fish.
Fish Out of Water
The birds swooped and dived,
“listen carefully to us”,
they sang to the fish.
“We lived in water. Then
we wanted to change
so we came out of the water,
left it below. Then
we swopped scales for feathers,
exchanged fins for wings.
We soared on the thermals
and perched in the trees
so come fly with us now
it’s your turn to leave.”
The fish listened carefully
they were intrigued.
“How do we fly?”,
“Come up and join us,
we’ll teach you to fly”.
“If you fall from the sky
we’ll teach you to swim”
the fish called up to them.
But the birds didn’t hear
until they joined in.
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality and writes hoping to find an audience for her musings. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal and So It Goes. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
Stormy opinions run down the flagpoles of our TV aerials
And cause our roofs to rattle as they discharge within and without us.
Bold views colour our imagination and our selves,
making us clash or complement with our neighbours.
We reward our tribe with glowing stickers
and like moths, we circle this artificial light.
And then as quiet as the dew
new ideas condense, coalesce and crystallise.
Still chaotic and pastel they cast little shade, and we,
blinded by comfort and compromise fail to see them.
But there is hope.
First our eyes need to be convinced that their vision is incorrect.
Then bravery or foolishness both act as lubricants
to necks made stiff through inaction.
Next our legs propel us to the door
And finally our arms stretch outside, and
instead of hawk or dove,
what settles on our wrist
Is a fish.
Graham is a science teacher who enjoys writing and wordplay. He occasionally wakes up early when inspired to write, and has yet to win any prizes or competitions.
The Dreams of Fishes
The fishes leave the wide salty seas
Leading through estuaries
Of swamped land and marsh--
Crisscross entanglements of
Riparian buffer strips
Nibbled by run-off and wind
And time and space.
No longer knitting together
The underpinnings Mother Earth
Edged her shores with.
Earth—its people swimming in a work-a-day
World, hands glued to wheels
Or bits of silicone from valleys far off.
Night and daydreams lost on greed, lust.
Nothing in the name of Love moves them.
The fishes draped in sky-startling blues
Seek this new land where air becomes water
And the aerial ocean, the bubbled haven
Encapsulating this blue marble at its core,
To their delight, fills with water.
And the gleeful fishes swim
among the glassy-eyed peoples
In this newly deepening blue sea
The flags unfurled—and yes,
The flickering lights--
Taylor Collins writes and paints in Dover Delaware. She writes almost daily in fragmented forms usually taking the form of poetry. She has been published in two anthologies for prose. She makes small chapbooks and larger collages incorporating her poetic work. Taylor has participated in many poetry readings. She is past National President of National League of American Pen Women, is a member of the Mayor’s Art Council in Dover, and assorted arts advocacy related groups and paints and writes daily in her art gallery in the historic district.
The Audacity of Storms
I look at the sky and wonder how I can
stick my feelings in it.
the storm clips a nerve, but I don’t hear any thunder;
my ear, a shell on the sand, fills with echoes,
an inaudible scream
shattering to a million answering lights.
the tumult in the sea below begins to rise
causing a ripple of extinction; a fury
cast and unwound from the mouth
blowing every living thing out of the water;
rooftops dance to the cacophony of gulls,
skyfulls of fish spawn new fairgrounds--
the chaos mirrors the litter I’ve made of my life;
so many canvases washed in yellow defeat,
the mauve-coloured glasses and failed affairs
thrown at the wind’s salt feet.
tarnished crowns of disappointment
hurl from the clouds,
I’ve worshipped all the wrong gods.
my spine, like the easel sloped on the beach,
sinks to the weight of dreaming, to disbelief,
to grieving— I don’t need hope
or flesh or sea-wind; possibility alone
paints the torment in my heart, this unrequited
muted tone of tuna, crushed in a tin
of nacreous oil; an emulsion of longing
darker ever than storms or skies.
Jennifer Jenkins is a Canadian writer from Victoria BC, who lives and works in Central Ontario. Her poetry has been showcased in several publications such as the I-70 Review and The Blue Island Review in Kansas, USA, with a recently published book of poetry and prose.
Never expected the flying fish
to take to the sky. So many centuries
of evolution – building fin strength,
growing auxiliary lungs.
Have they adapted to escape
the oil spills, the tons of plastic
choking the sea? Or did they follow
the example of those first whales
who strode on four legs
into the waves to stay?
Across miles and years, the sea
calls me back. I chose the right day
to return. Some of us just know we’re living
in the wrong time, place, or body.
Alarie Tennille graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She’s now lived more than half her life in Kansas City, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
Jams on the Freeway
Second Sunday August
chaos without parallel
beach houses on the freeway
jammed gable to gable, tight
with headlamps on full beam
going nowhere fast
expletives in profusion
loud and offensive
not what realtors promised
though when do they deliver
just swarm round the periphery
avoiding the obvious
oblivious to the discord
but intent on more bucks
while covering their butts in
stretch lycra and cotton chinos
while a proxigean tide gallops
the coast like headless horsemen
in this age of global warming
water levels rising as yeast
talked about ad nauseum by
the incompetent, the impotent
with God’s children crying, loud
for action in our time
as a murmuration of Beach Boys
harmonise overhead carrying
saffron flavoured rock candy
once available at the 7-11
now liquefied to a ranch dressing
by the nouveau riche of America
with every vacant lot converting
into slivers of beach frontage
creating disturbances in profusion
loud and offensive
to generations gone deaf
with headaches on full ahead
jammed grudge to grudge, tight
life parked through freedom
second Sunday August
chaos without parallel.
Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions in Europe and North America. His poems have featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He is particularly inspired by ekphrastic challenges. In September 2019, he was the featured writer for the Federation of Writers Scotland.
We are not the only ones
who dream of reaching
here by some radical magic
fish are flying
not in a slow glide
skimming the waves
not in leaps
ecstatic with release
like whales and dolphins
flinging their bodies up entirely
into the unfamiliar atmosphere
they still can breathe
even though they must
return to water
no–these have no mammal lungs
to meet the stringencies of air
and yet they rise
above our rooftops
into the bird contested sky
or memory of flight
nothing but hope
reaching past the limits
of their biology
to know the feel of air
everywhere around them
the bright caress
of an unfamiliar element
a shout of joy
in that eternal dance
between desire and definition
we recognize so well
Mary McCarthy is a writer who was also a Registered Nurse, whose work has appeared in many online and print journals. She has been a Pushcart nominee and has an electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis magazine.
The city grows, it is frantic and furious, there is no stopping it. I will rise in its fury. I have always been that fish that could fly; I have always upturned runes and talismans like sandcastles sweeping out to sea. My trident is a rake for shells and barnacles. My fins are stardust, crackling sapphires. Well, your mouth was full of gummy bears and bottle-cap sours, but mine was a pillar of salt. I looked back, and my dusty fins found eternity’s gaze. Look, the sky is yellow, and the houses are wooden Monopoly toys, or Lego. What if these black fossils beneath us were a lantern, instead of whispers of extinction? What if these leaping sardines were luminaries, instead of omens? The swallows falter in the low distant light.
Lorette C. Luzajic
Lorette C. Luzajic is the founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review. She is an award winning visual artist whose works are collected all over the world. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.
Ginny had asked Davy to move the bird feeder before she saw the blood red bird with dusty black wings.
“I changed my mind,” she said. “Maybe you should leave the feeder where it’s at.”
Davy blew on his coffee. He didn’t look up from his phone.
“How come? Those sparrows are crapping all over the deck.”
Ginny got more coffee. She looked out at the bird feeder balanced on a crooked pole a few feet from the deck railing. She remembered how she and Davy had jammed the rusted pole into the soft ground, not thinking it might be too close.
“You’re right,” she said. “About the sparrows, I mean. But there’s this weird red bird coming by that I’ve never seen before.”
“So what? A bird’s a bird. It’ll crap, too.”
“I guess,” she said. “But it looks kind-of sick and dirty and lost. We should help it.”
Davy stood up from the dinette table and put his phone in his back pocket.
“Not really,” he said. “It’s probably just here spreading disease. I’ll move the feeder this weekend. Last thing I want is some deadly virus.”
Ginny sat on the sofa and watched the birds after Davy went to work. The red bird with black wings showed up around 10 a.m., the same time it had the day before. She noticed the bird’s tail was ragged and that its head looked scaly.
She paged through a dog-eared Roger Tory Peterson book and paused on a picture of a scarlet tanager. Flipping to the range maps, she saw that the robin-sized bird wasn’t native. She had heard some things about “accidentals” and jumped on the Internet to look it up.
“It’s a scarlet tanager,” she told Davy when he got home. “It must’ve gotten caught up in some awful weather thing—you know, like a wind shear.”
Davy walked by her to the stove. He lifted the lids on the pots.
Ginny nodded and held up the picture in the Peterson book.
“See,” she said. “Look.”
She waved the book near his face but he didn’t look up from scooping macaroni into a bowl.
“Yeah, I see it.” Davy ladled chili over the macaroni and sprinkled cheddar over the top. “Want this?”
Ginny shook her head.
“No. I’ll fix my own.”
Davy grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and sat down.
“Quit thinking about that bird,” he said. “And stay away from it. You’ll get Avian flu or something.”
Ginny slept in the next morning even though she usually got up with Davy. She laid in bed and listened to the songbirds and metallic clap of leaves. When Davy came in to slip on his shoes, she kept her eyes closed until he nudged her.
“You’re not sick are you?” he said. “I told you that bird was no good.”
Ginny turned over and pulled the blanket over her ears.
“No. I’m just tired,” she said. “It’s not the bird.”
Davy stepped away without saying goodbye. She waited for the door to shut and kicked off the sheets and pulled on a robe. Going to the kitchen, she poured the last cup of coffee and stood by the window in her bare feet. Shreds of pink clouds crossed over the sun, scattering thin shadows on the ground. She blinked as the sun grew brighter, then saw the striped tabby as it prowled on the deck.
Ginny rapped on the window. The cat stopped and stared. Ginny cinched the sash on her robe and stepped outside. She threw a stick. Then a pebble. The cat skirted away.
“Get the hell outta here.”
Ginny shook her fist. A breeze blew her hair over her face as the cat raced into an overgrown yew. Turning to go back in, she noticed a stray candy wrapper from the neighbor’s garbage and bent down to pick it up. Before she could grab it, the wind tossed it toward the feeder and toward the red bird, laying twisted and twitching near the edge of the deck.
Ginny hurried to the red bird and knelt beside it. The bird tweeted violently and spun in a circle, one wing stretched fully, the other crooked and sticking up like a sail.
“Be still,” she whispered. “Sh-sh-sh.”
Peeling off her robe, Ginny mounded it in a pile and sculpted the edges to make a soft pocket in the center. The bird blinked, its gray beak half open.
Ginny cupped her hands under the bird’s belly, feeling the rapid beat of its heart. The bird’s broken wing fluttered as its good wing slapped her forearms.
“Here you go. Sh-sh-sh.”
Ginny set the bird on the robe, watching it struggle to pull its wings back in place. She noticed the missing tail feathers, and the pimpled skin on the back of its head where feathers had been. She wiped the grit from the bird’s back using the tip of her pajama top, and removed a tangle of short dry grass from the bird’s tiny talons.
“What ‘cha got there?”
Ginny turned when she heard a raspy voice. A man in an over-washed bucket hat and crooked aviator glasses was peering through the slats of the deck.
“A scarlet tanager,” Ginny said. “It’s hurt.”
The man stood on his tip-toes and gripped the rail for balance.
“You don’t say.” The man cleared phlegm from his throat. “They don’t usually come up this far.”
The bird chirped as its legs curled toward its belly.
“It’s really hurt,” Ginny said. “I think that cat did it.”
The man shook his head.
“Could be,” he said. “Damn cats.”
Ginny stroked the bird’s downy belly.
“It’s heart,” she said. “It’s beating so fast.”
The wrinkles deepened on the man’s face.
“Best leave it be,” he frowned.
“I can’t,” she said. “It needs help.”
The man smoothed the oily gray hairs that stuck from his hat. He gazed at the sky and pushed up his glasses.
“I wouldn’t,” he said. “Birds like that. They don’t belong here.”
Ginny crouched as the splinters from the worn deck pierced her knees. The bird cheeped quietly as its eyes began to close.
“Better wash your hands,” the man said grimly. “Those migrating birds carry disease, you know.”
Ann Kammerer lives in East Lansing, Michigan, where she works as a freelancer for business and higher ed. Her short fiction has appeared in several regional publications and magazines, and has received top honours in fiction writing contests.
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