The thinker tenses,
skin stretched with muscles’ tautness.
Hanging ape-hands betray the physical,
animal quality of his thought.
The thinker has a problem,
skin in the game.
The thinker’s grimace conveys not concentration
A twisted posture expresses not repose
but painful strain.
The thinker contemplates
because he cannot kick his problem to submission.
He may resort to force;
meanwhile, he imagines a stratagem.
The thinker’s massive body bends
as thinking weighs him down.
He bears his thoughts like rocks from a quarry
or water from a well.
Greg Sevik is an Assistant Professor of English at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, New York. His scholarly essays have appeared in such venues as The Hopkins Quarterly and The Emily Dickinson Journal. His poetry was published recently in Cholla Needles.
There was a moment
after the sinking of the boat
when there was silence as
we reached the bottom of the sea
there was a moment
when the storm gave us back the sky
and the clouds sent down gifts,
cerulean, blue-green, ice-blue,
crimson, purple, gold, indigo,
and men became like singing seals
claiming the ocean for themselves
we sang in that moment
and the sound held fast against the light
tiered with the water's turquoise
men floated up like single flowers
while synaesthetic angels
plucked music, orange, lemon,
tastes at the edge of honey
when the storm came again
I was alone with the self
in the dark ocean of my soul
wretched, but rising still
Thelma Laycock has been published in various magazines and anthologies. Her two poetry collections published are A Persistence of Colour (2011) and A Difference in Direction (2015) (both Indigo Dreams Publishing), plus, a series of interlinked short stories, Connecting North, (Stairwell Books, 2019). Some of her work has been translated into Hebrew, Romanian, Italian, French, and Welsh.
Johannes de Eyck Fuit Hic
On the sacred floor
of the marriage
stands clasped hands
beside his wife, one
lighted candle, one
snuffed, a husband
departed, the vital
to the wick
of the dead,
the holy ghostly
So is van Eyck
the eye drawn
into the mirror
can see every
of his brush
deftly stopping by
pieces, in planes
the movement of
the wall the flame
the wife’s trembling
Arnolfini’s left eye
the brush moves the eyes
move, Arnolfini’s right
eye the dog and then
the mirror slowly free-
zes van Eyck his arm
his hand. How did
the light commune
with itself, when the brush
stopped the mirror
We are there
between the unbound
couple and van Eyck,
witness to loss,
must turn round to
see the painter turn
back to see the
we moved we
Sollace Mitchell is a writer and filmmaker who has published occasionally, in The Nantucket Review, The American Oxonian, and others. He lives in Paris with his wife and two young daughters, all of whom are smarter and more charming than he is.
Ain Sakhri Lovers
“considered to be 11,000 years old and to be the oldest known representation of two people engaged in sexual intercourse” Wikipedia
Legs locked like arms in embrace.
Each head seen from the side
a mushroom shape like your secret self
squeezed in your grip
about to contract and release its own gravity.
Hands on a pinchpot
fingers coaxing a drinking vessel
a soup bowl a shallow dish
in which one dips driest bread
to an edible softness. Edible
softness being what we want from everything.
These stone lovers chipped
in stone with stone
after the artisan ate antelope meat
pried from the jaws of the hound-hunt.
How was he to know
before he left the pair in a puddle cave
that thousands would see
or fail to notice his work
amid thousands of artefacts?
Here are the things that made sense
of the world—hieroglyphs unlocked
and panopticons sorted
like shards by size and colour dumped
from an unscrewed kaleidoscope.
What wonders of the world blaze
in any museum that we push past
in the crowded guide buzz and camera hum
hurrying home or to a hotel
where alone or with another
we embrace or ignore our own bodies
ashamed of words
like cock or cunt or come
the parts we squeeze or prise
only in the dark
the parts we wish
would last past ourselves
past the dark
freed of glass-grim museum casement.
Gary Leising is the author of the book, The Alp at the End of My Street, from Brick Road Poetry Press (2014). He has also published three poetry chapbooks: The Girl with the JAKE Tattoo (Two of Cups Press, 2015), Temple of Bones (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Fastened to a Dying Animal (Pudding House, 2010) He lives in Clinton, New York, with his wife and two sons, where he teaches creative writing and poetry as a professor of English.
Art Becomes Her
Linda Eve Diamond
The specific painting by Caroline Dechamby that inspired this poem is Adhesif. View it here.
Linda Eve Diamond’s poetry has been honoured with several awards, including Grand Prize Award in the Artists Embassy International Dancing Poetry Contest “for exceptional poetry that inspires dance and for furthering intercultural understanding and peace through the universal language of the arts.” Her poetry has been published by numerous literary journals and websites. Find her poetry collections, selected poems and more at http://LindaEveDiamond.com.
New meaning given
to the blind
leading the blind
in this case the barely
the less functional
Part of a motley parade
on asylum grounds
all the patients tricked out
Down’s adults in
following a determined
leader, who know where?
The leader, a woman,
holding the slowest
of slow learners
one of the terminally
confused with false
ragged rude costume
permanently unfocused eyes
Is this the Great Escape?
Even if they made it
off the grounds
Where would they go?
What would they do?
Who would save them?
If hell has a take a number
system where you will wait
in a common room
for an interview
That waiting area would
look like this:
An asylum morning room
with scuffed industrial
strength tile floor
molded plastic chairs
for the young men endlessly
for those gone-eyed humans
as they compulsively sway,
moaning as they go
back and forth
back and forth
And chairs for the men
who balance them on
their feet as they lie
on the floor
even as the inevitable
that splits swollen lips
And a chair for the woman
of no discernible age
wearing a pressed dress
standing guard over the little
the kind of wagon kids use
to gather toys and dirt
and the refuse of life
So much depends on that
little red wagon
that signifies no more
than it actually is
where you wait
that your number
will never be called
They could be the wicker women,
elderly crones dressed in
too small winter-weight jackets,
scarves and hats that cover their
thinning, unwashed hair,
plastic dime store masks
to hide who they really are.
They need no dress up outfits,
no makeup to effect their look,
they are witch-like normally,
would have been burned or
drowned in an earlier age
instead of warehoused as they
Are five crones on the way
to an Autumn Rite where
the Wicker Man is waiting,
the one that has been built
on a common ground field between
built far enough away from human
habitation to prevent residual flames
from unintended ignitions once the offering
of the man has begun
As they watch the flames,
their eyes contain memories
of rituals past:
of the festering heat,
victuals flensed to
None of them are allowed
the gift of fire.
“This is not a dream.
This is really happening.”
Which movie was it?
Where Death was a man
with white grease painted face
able to be two places at once.
Was the voice on the phone,
across town, a man is speaking to
and Death is the man with the glassine eyes
and sinister smile standing next
to him as he listens to the voice
This is one cocktail party
he will never forget
like the club date he played
where the white faced man
sits front row in smoky venue
and in the back row as well.
No matter where you go
he is there before you
smiling as if he knows
something you will never
something you will
like how you came to be
in this field with this
white faced person
this person in a clean
white sheet wearing
a death mask and posing
for a portrait holding a small
shopping bag for candy treats
instead of a scythe
This is a picture that you
you can never unsee
once you have viewed it
from now on
in the dark room
of your dreams
“We’re not dreaming now.”
Eyes Wide Shut
So many of the costumed men
and women look as if they’d been
to the same costume rental Tom Cruise
used in Eyes Wide Shut
Where they rented a sheath dress or
a cape and cheap eye covering,
Lone Ranger masks
and went somewhere after the rental
they were never meant to be
Stood waiting on nearly frozen
asylum grounds or under suburban
Jersey sidewalk trees or on lawns
for a Satanic ritual to begin
All of them standing inert,
expectant, in the fading,
for shadows to become night
They may be waiting still.
They are the handmaidens of a witch’s
coven, cast out of the fold and onto
the streets in their chiffon aprons and
street clothes, their made-in Arts & Crafts
wands, colored paper stars affixed to the end
of sticks, their party hats and out-for-the-day
shoes, two bit plastic masks concealing
who they are from themselves.
They are wayfaring street creatures now,
standing on someone’s front lawn for a
group portrait as human defects dressed to
do Halloween. All of them are smiling or
trying to, in-dusk-coming cooling down
afternoon in somewhere New Jersey.
They are arrested development super stars,
sentenced to childhood for life. Someone is
watching over them. There are so many worse
fates in life than this, as the portrait clearly shows.
Untitled # 7
Edward Curtis photographed
masks like these
worn by native American chiefs
There was mojo
in those masks
generational lore attached
to each one
worn with pride,
magic that gave the wearer
Diane saw the power
the person inside
the brown paper bag
with eye and nose
and mouth spaces cut out
saw the dime store string
hair the finger-painted
captured the power
the magic on a negative
held it for awhile,
then let it go
One of Weegee’s special shots was
crowd reactions: facial expressions at
car crashes, murder scenes, the unloading
of paddy wagons. Those looks of horror,
the turning away and the glancing back,
revulsion and awe, fear and excitement;
a kind of madness in crowds, this random
together brings before the Caucasian white
circle is drawn, the blood puddles sand
covered and swept away...
Arbus would have known his work
on the back pages of large circ. dailies,
a new horror for every working day and
Would have known how he was on call
24/7, had touts in bars, police stations,
taxi stands, ambulance driver staff rooms...
When you see the shot of the crowd of
women staring at an unseen, out –of-frame-
event, you can’t help but be reminded of Weegee,
of fresh blood and open wounds, a horror show in
progress. But, the viewer must wonder:
what horrific thing are they seeing? Is horror
relative? Given that these are a gaggle of adult,
Down’s afflicted, gaping women, of all ages.
“What the hell are they looking at?”
What could be more unknowable that that?
In the foreground of the picture,
a masked, dowdy older woman
of indeterminate age wears a
double breasted overcoat, clutches
a small bag, unaware of her
rolling down white socks bunching
over terminally scuffed shoes.
She looks at the portrait taker
through cut outs in a brown paper
shopping bag, holes too small for
In the blurred background, an assembly
of fellow inmates at the asylum, are
gathering on a wide open field that
could be one used for football if these
inmates could understand the rules
of a game more complicated than
What are they doing back there?
So close together, running here
and there, while others stand as still
as the old woman in overcoat.
Maybe they are playing some kind
of supervised freeze tag game with
Death one outlier escaped from.
Or, maybe, she was simply, left behind
to stand as she stands now, for all time.
Learn more about the Diane Arbus photographs from her book Untitled, here.
Alan Catlin has published dozens of books on a wide variety f subjects. In recent years focusing on ekphrastic subjects primarily as he explores the nature of "seeing." The third book in his series on what we see and how we see it, Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh, was published by Dos Madres in 2020. Earlier volumes in the trilogy, American Odyssey, and Wild Beauty, were published by Future Cycle Press. His book on he Impressionists, Effects of Sunlight on Fog, is available from Bright Hill.
Canvas the dog that did not bark;
this corner shrunk from sketch to oil.
Some drawers, inviting pull deprived,
inquiries from chest crack removed,
acanthus of pale marble cut,
with facial walls, the smaller match
turned open to a closed affair,
as lucifer enlightened less.
Half empty glass, the see-though stare -
how may more blank intrude the pair?
What need of bright, grey ash cigar,
the stuff of birds that lost their flight
first snared, entrapped, now fade at length.
Hubby, innumerable days,
this schoolfriend now of Sickert’s beer,
and Marie, model, past gone where?
As versions grow, tight patterns flow,
serve yet to further claustrophobe.
Woolf, in sheep’s clothes, sees tales unfold
while Walter paints - there are no words.
Past divas taunt from Camden frames,
with two dreams of what might have been.
Malaise and languor, tedium -
can any strike a light for them?
This poem was first published by Nine Muses Poetry.
Stephen Kingsnorth, retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by some twenty on-line poetry sites, including The Ekphrastic Review; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines & Vita Brevis Anthology. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Forest Song 2
We had decided prehistorically
to shake hands heartily
a kohl landscape under thick moist
that has a portrait liquid sentiment
a glass mirror of antique rhythm
that smelled of cumin seed
biosphere, that has a feeling.
Truly, eyes are full of blessings
with an art of deeper sense
love breastfeeds with milk and honey
green olive dreams foster a world,
rivers, rains and renaissance.
It has logos: words to speak
hymns to sing, deity to bless the soil
razor-sharp and bohemian
buoyant and brimming dopamine
to heal the schizophrenia of the dead.
Sunrise or sunset: goodwill
feeds the time, people and context
we witness nature’s nudity
cunt: beauty, sperm: life
with innuendo of science
a canvas of reconciliation grips
there’s no fear of death—no fear.
An intense geography runs our blood
the longitudinal heartbeats kiss
a vintage life-size efficacy
unbelievably pretty prior and after
what goes down the arteries?
The waves of history scents
the breezes of heliotrope tickles
life music, live dance, life pigments
the forest songs of soil and salt
the forest songs of hope
the forest songs of hemoglobin
hint a gesture of life to the fullest.
Pitambar Naik grew up in Odisha in India. He’s an award-winning poet and the author of The Anatomy of Solitude (Hawakal) and a poetry/fiction reader for Remington Review. He’s work forthcoming or published in The Indian Quarterly, New Contrast, Brushfire Literature, Liquid Imagination, Ghost City Review, Eunoia Review, Glass Poetry, Cha, Vayavya, Occulum, Formercactus, Literary Orphan, The Punch Magazine, The World Belongs To Us (Anthology) HarperCollins India among others.
Afresh Frankincense is 12-year-old and in Class 7th. He is a child art-prodigy from Odisha and lives in Hyderabad in South India. Though he loves math and science so much, art has a special place in his heart. His work has appeared in Moonchild Magazine, Hindustan Times, Kids 4G and elsewhere.
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 The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli. Deadline is June 12, 2020.
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 you wrote down. (Please note, experimental formats are difficult to publish online. We will consider them but they present technical difficulties with web software that may not be easily resolved.) 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 NELLI WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line.
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, June 12, 2020.
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.
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Woman Carrying a Child Central Park 1956
She could have been
With her almost shoulder
length dark hair
Angular facial lines
Not quite beautiful
Maybe a camel hair
overcoat she wore in
all kinds of weather
She could be the same
woman who told me
it never got cold in
She should know
She went to college there
And I believed her
more fool, I
Left for college and
a brutal winter where
temperatures routinely had
wind chills well below zero
That winter I contracted
double viral pneumonia
under dressed as I was
for frigid weather
In the photograph,
I could have been the small
boy asleep in the woman’s
That woman with the worried,
The kind of look my mother
always had when she went
places in her mind
no one was meant to go
She could have been
my mother if my actual
mother wasn’t confined to
a nuthouse in 1956
I could have been loved
I could have been that
Click here to view this photograph by Diane Arbus.
Eva Rubinstein’s Diane Arbus Seated Before the Collage Wall
Diane looks older than she is
or ever would be
A woman in leather pants
and a dark shirt
Only a couple of years removed
from being mistaken for the sister
of her oldest daughter
Before the hepatitis
she naively asked a friend about,
“Can you get hepatitis from anonymous
Before the orgies she filmed and
took part in
The persistent money woes
Married lover troubles
that fueled her fear
of losing her looks
She appears as a person
who no longer cares what
she eats, if she eats
“What would be the point
Sitting, as she is before
the collection of death, destruction,
Not long before she would
become, “Portrait of the artist
three days dead in her bathtub”
Click here to view Rubinstein's photo. Scroll down to bottom left image of Diane Arbus.
Alan Catlin has been publishing for parts of five decades in little, minuscule, not so little, literary and university publications from the Wisconsin Review to Tray Full of Lab Rats, to Wordsworth’s Socks and The Literary Review among many others. His chapbook, Blue Velvet, won the Slipstream Chapbook Contest in 2017. He is the poetry and review editor of Misfitmagazine.net, an online poetry journal.
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