the differences subtle
how to gauge darkness?
between what is
and what could be
or from what is outside,
where there is no promise
of light, the darkness
excluded, leaving us
companions in this future:
everything is darkness
Ken Gierke is a retired truck driver who enjoys kayaking and photography, but writing poetry brings him the most satisfaction. Primarily free verse and haiku, his poetry has appeared at The Ekphrastic Review, Amethyst Review, Vita Brevis, and Eunoia Review, as well as at Tuck Magazine, and can be seen on his blog: https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com.
Memories and Rothko’s Black and Red
The Rothko Black on Red, 1957 invites me to free associate. I have no direct connection with this untitled painting, but I’m hooked on it. It invites Stendhal and also connects me somehow with my Latvian piano student and the Latvian composer I met in New York who played the flute - yes, his name returns: it was Arnold. We performed works together at the tiny Music Settlement School at which I taught for seven years.
Where have those Latvian melodies gone? Do they linger still, echoing from the walls of the small performance hall the school contained. Its little stage, two steps up may not have had a window opening onto the back street, (it’s unlikely a stage would have a window) but that back street was important. The wealthy of the neighborhood lived along the front street, hard-working Chinese and Spanish immigrants lived on the back street.
The poor were welcomed as heartily by our music director as the well-to-do. I remember how one Suzi W. developed as a violinist, ultimately inheriting the director’s European-made violin. I met the student later, an adult, performing in an ensemble on a more elegant stage in NYC, having achieved, having endured the demanding and screaming lessons the director gave.
But here are those children, some grappling with their instruments more eagerly than others; often, the “privileged” discarding the privilege and demands of performance more quickly than the back-street-kids, all eager and pounding at their drums, often expressing their delights in raw form. So here, then, is the red and the black, or the black on red as Rothko would have it. The contrasts, the struggles, the attaining.
The drama of Rothko’s works is transferred into my personal memory canvas. I don’t know how that transfer occurred, but now i feel more closely linked to this work; I have delved into my past, that past with its dramatic musical explosions and explorations, both my own, and those that occurred within the young children.
“True drama is a narrative structure involving the reversal of fortune, or at least some sense that this reversal has happened or can happen, and though drama is possible in an abstract painting, it requires specific elements.” Thus wrote a reviewer of Rothko’s work. I sense the reversal, the possibility that things can go either way, toward healthy development, perhaps, or toward cowardly refusal. It’s all there in his canvas.
Carole Mertz studied music at Oberlin College in Ohio, in New York, and in Salzburg, Austria. She taught music throughout her thirty plus years in New York City. She publishes bits of memoir on various online sites and enjoys visiting the ekphrastic review for its ongoing challenges and stimuli. Her first poetry collection Toward a Peeping Sunrise is forthcoming from Prolific Press in October. It includes one ekphrasis on Renoir.
Pondering Rothko During Acupuncture
I lie still under the needles,
a motionless hour of subtraction,
my body drifting free from pain.
The surprise of two black rectangles,
islands in a sea of red, stretches
my mind’s tableau: Rothko’s Black on Red.
I once sought solace from deep angst
in Houston’s Rothko Chapel.
His late '60s paintings starkly black.
Only whispers of green and maroon.
He took himself out of the world
before they were hung. Though Black on Red,
painted in 1957,
still vibrates with lifeblood. These needles
cannot pulse the chi, an energy
to illuminate this man’s visions,
his early life in Russia,
a displaced person in New York.
Did he feel he had lost a mother
tongue, a country? Did the slow
drain of bright colours, finally red,
from his canvases—the dominance
of black— paint him into grief’s
clutches? An abyss the only option?
Sandi Stromberg served ten years on the board of Mutabilis Press, a Houston-based press dedicated to serving the poetry community in the region. She was guest editor of its anthology, Untameable City: Poems on the Nature of Houston, which the Houston Chronicle recommended in 2017 as one of 10 best books about the city.
Black and Red
If twice qualifies as warning in a wind of wings
blackbirds do not like competition when you walk
along reeds in a red sweater.
The dulled black of a steam engine as the sun sets
over the Sangre de Cristo range is illuminated
as if an annunciation.
In the marsh, holly blanketed by berries is strung
with seaweed that dried in branches
after the storm of my youth.
A cardinal calls. A cardinal calls.
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 Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poem of Correspondence with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and France. Granted residencies in poetry from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), she is one of eight members of the Boiler House Poets who perform and study at the museum. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
They say it isn't art. They say it's too simple,
even a child could do such work. I look at the
squares, contemplate their meaning, the way
they juxtapose, the way the colors complement
yet contrast, then ask them without scorn, "Tell
me, what to you is art?" Then without hesitation
say, "the tragedy of love", watch the colours run.
An American abroad, Dan left his hometown near Chicago in 1994 and has since lived in five different countries. His poems and other writings have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Luxembourg Times, Issa's Tidy Hut, Jerry Jazz Musician, CLEW, and Verse-Virtual.
this red window frame
exposes a living room
to breathless night visions
lurks beyond these panes
stuffed full with colourless fields
outside we evaporate
in the end countless atoms
prove we're not alone
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Some of his work found a home here, and in other online and print publications such as Burning House Press, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal and Califragile. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com
Two Booths, Red Floor
three share a dark square
bordered by red floor
heads blurred at the top.
The man had asked
her and her mother
the owner calculates busily
on a keypad
blue dots of gas
meekly lighting his table.
His one hand punches numbers.
His other stretches across
a pinch of red floor by rote
refilling their glasses.
No one comes or goes.
What was the question? she asks.
Are you lonely? he repeats as if tired.
They hold onto their dark places.
Janice Bethany a part-time professor in Houston, Texas, who recently published in The Ekphrastic Review.
“Untitled” – an invitation
to share, collaborate, decide
what this art means, how it feels –
at least on this day –
at least to you.
Or maybe a dare.
It worked. You stopped –
not like a typical Don’t Get It
rushing by, afraid of any
syncopation in the status quo.
Wrap yourself in hot red.
Shiver against blue prickles.
Are you afraid to face what lurks
in the dark or ready to throw
open the window? Perhaps
the blurred edges remind you
of your fading life.
Still confused? Don’t worry.
Something has shifted.
You’ve begun to talk back.
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.
Soot & Ashes
He rose from the fog
of childhood – out of
the time of ashes.
It was thought he brought
“good luck” to every house,
without malice or favour.
his arrival would ring
through the building.
Dressed all in black
from top hat to shoes,
to the wire brushes slung over
his shoulders, his face rimmed
in coal dust smudged by his work,
always, his teeth and eyeballs
a gleaming chalk-white.
like his signature on the bottom
step of the house: the date,
his initials and the simple sketch
of a ladder – its chalk luminous.
How memory waylays me
in front of this painting.
Tall like a man, wide like two,
its commanding red rectangle
both avian and ecclesiastical red.
Looking closely, I stumble
over two rectangles,
soot-black, softly scrumbled,
spontaneous, yet tentative
as they try to cover up
an earlier blue –
almost, but not quite –
but not trusted.
Right there, you can see
the brush break off
like an unfinished thought,
start again, less convinced
this time, blue hope
shrinks to the margins,
and ashes spread.
Barbara Ponomareff lives in southern Ontario, Canada. By profession a child psychotherapist, she has been delighted to pursue her life-long interest in literature, psychology and art since her retirement. The first of her two published novellas dealt with a possible life of the painter J.S. Chardin. Her short stories, memoirs and poetry have appeared in various literary magazines and anthologies. At present, she is translating modern German poetry.
so light the match
there will be no rest
not while black knots
sink into my core
in the end where
there is only oblivion
in the end where
i become death
where i trap you under
my soot-sullied boots
where the only word
i breathe is blaze
within the fire
within the fire
to start again
within the fire
within the fire
Tiffany Shaw-Diaz is an award-winning poet and visual artist who lives in Centerville, Ohio. You can learn more about her via: www.tiffanyshawdiaz.com.
When summer day temps
hit the red zone,
my head buckles over
under blocks of deep depression.
Dark pain wreaks havoc
with nerves, sinus, stomach,
roiling my whole system with regret
for having stepped outside.
Once, once only did August heat presage joy,
the day our daughter entered the world.
Red hot the day, deep the pain;
that joy sustains me.
Joan Leotta is a writer and story performer. When she is not sharing stories on page and stage, you can find her at the beach looking for shells. She loves putting words to art and has written often for The Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse and other ekphrastic-oriented journals and contests.
Stand eighteen inches away — it’s not about the colour,
colour’s merely an instrument, it’s about the experience.
Mark Rothko created in large format to engulf, astonish
the viewer. Transcendent in nature, his work expresses
human emotion — Joy. Struggle. Ruin. — where layers
of paint evoke the unknown, invite intimacy,
as broken and sweeping strokes build surface rhythm.
Like prayer, focus can open pathways to sacredness.
There’s devotion in examination,
reverence in awareness — to observe a rose, study its
crimson-depths, to hold the soil of ebony-earth, inhale
its bounty, to honour my dad’s words — Smell the dirt!
It’s about the experience — to feel, be in the moment,
to be inches or centimeters away — to immerse oneself,
to Take it. All. In.
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She is also author and illustrator of Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children (Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019) and Let's Make Faces! (author-published, 2009). Her work appears in print and online in North American and international journals and anthologies. She holds a B.S. in secondary education, an M.A. in arts and cultural management, and is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.
Through the Window
Of the moon
rising in darkness,
of the un
seen but felt--
of the turning that waits and
scattered by the sun,
the day and
yet lingering behind the
veil--quiet, a ghost
ness and borders that
crossed, and un
crossable—of the sudden
stillness falling through--
Of blood drawn
the vast other side
Kerfe Roig: "Mark Rothko is a painter of portals. Ekphrastic poetry explores the places between image and words in a similar way, as I try to do in relating my image art to my word art, often using the work of others as inspiration. You can see more of my explorations at my website http://kerferoig.com/ and on my blogs https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which I do with my friend Nina) and https://kblog.blog/"
Wednesdays in New York City
It had to be a Wednesday
summer in New York City
sun bright, nimbus dark
fierce wind then calm
endless desert to multiform
furtive heart, cleansed soul
fearful smile alongside tears
no laughter, not here.
Red Admiral on rose petals
scarlet rims to black foreground
en route to stinging nettles
another chapter, a bossa nova
massed ovum under leaves
free day on the horizon
it had to be a Wednesday
late February 1970.
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.
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