Ekphrastic Haibun : Bosh
Recently the art world was rocked when a photograph of a spud, yes, the humble potato, sold for a record of a cool £750,000 (approximately $1 million).
This image by the Irish photographer Kevin Abosch was bought by an unnamed businessman, after he fell in love with the photograph hanging on Abosch’s wall, after having drinks together.
As potatoes go it isn’t even a good looking specimen, just a humble brown on a black background.
One recalls Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters which consists of five figures sitting around a square table eating potatoes in a dark room with light from an oil lamp.The Potato Eaters failed to be displayed in Salon. Today the piece is considered as being his first masterpiece.
warmed by a cup of
hot masala chai
This haibun first appeared in the other bunny.
Dr. Ms Angelee Deodhar is an eye surgeon by profession as well as a haiku poet, translator, and artist. She lives and works in, Chandigarh India. Her haiku, haibun and haiga have been published internationally in various books and journals, and her work can be viewed on many websites.
House of Self
I couldn’t see it from the street
but from inside her flames were bright
and blinding, though they spread too slow
to warrant an emergency
in the house where only she
abided, or could even go.
A matted coolness calmed the heat,
however, and a dark, the light.
A folded freak, an unfurled face:
Flashes that she froze and framed
hung on the walls, the edge of space,
cavorting with the unnamable, the unnamed.
And all the partitions crumbled
in a way: Room after room
diverse demonic subjects shot
from one creative womb.
And yet they were as mirrors; fun-
house ones, warped as a mind
where all the differences between,
coiled and contained, unwind.
Each like a leaf reopened
in a terrifying still
too strange for life. Yet I rejoiced
as long lost strangers will
on finding each other, not having known
the other was lost, or was,
shivering with recognition
to each other, they and I—but not
she whose work, although brief,
flash-froze her name on the back
of every glossy, ghastly leaf.
after Diane Arbus, 1923-1971
James B. Nicola
James B. Nicola's poems have appeared recently in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, and Poetry East. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His two poetry collections, published by Word Poetry, are Manhattan Plaza (2014) and Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016). sites.google.com/site/jamesbnicola.
After Contact Sheet #4539 of three different sets of identical twins, by Diane Arbus
In our secret language,
we float upside down.
It’s like speaking to a mirror. Or
an x-ray. Those shrouded outlines
presenting us with maps.
Here is your tongue, sister. Let
me share it.
Here is my hand. You take it
piece left over
from the time before
when we slept in
the aperture of our
Here are our eyes. Pinholes
Sarah Nichols is a co-editor of Thank You for Swallowing, an online journal of feminist protest poetry. She is the author of three chapbooks, including She May Be a Saint (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2016), and Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens (Dancing Girl Press, 2015). Her work has also appeared in Yellow Chair Review, Rogue Agent, and Noble/Gas Qtrly.
Books absorb us, draw us inward— even when we’re most in public. The great photographer André Kertész made a lifelong project of exploring that paradox. Between 1915 and the 1970s, he travelled the world, snapping candid photos of people with their books, their magazines, and the occasional newspaper. On rooftops, behind stage doors, on trains, in parks, in bars and shops, bent over trash bins, tucked into alcoves; black and white; male and female; priest and rabbi and nun; rich and poor — wherever he found readers, he recorded them in the act. Reading is the great leveller, the great lifter, his images seem to suggest. In the republic of books, we are all equal.
There is something almost unbearably poignant about these photographs today. Yet, what we sense when we look at them is more than wistfulness for an imagined past, more than mere nostalgia. Shot from unexpected angles, they conceal complexities; often we have to work to discern a subject within the frame. The experience mimics the act portrayed. In these images, we don’t simply witness someone reading; instead, we read someone reading. So what we feel when we look at them is something akin to deep reading’s deep engagement.
Only a lover of books could take such photographs. Kertész could hardly have been blind to the irony of that. For it was brilliant photographers like him who were rendering text increasingly redundant in his day. “Your pictures talk too much,” said an editor at Life, in rejecting some of his images. Kertész’s photos were so expressive, so complete in themselves that they left nothing for a journalist to say.
Some of his photographs seem to acknowledge as much, and to draw the implications even further. One in particular, taken in his study in 1960, is a kind of oblique self-portrait. Shot from a sofa or chair on one side of the room, it takes as its subject a wall of neatly arranged shelves. In the foreground we can see the photographer’s bare feet.
Those feet by then had transported Kertész from the ticker-taped floors of the Budapest stock exchange, where his family had sent him to work as a young man, to the absinthe-scented cafés and paint splattered artists’ studios of Montparnasse. Later still they had explored the fire escapes, rooftops, and windowsills of New York. At the same time, they recall the dirty, naked feet of the young boys poring over a book in one of his earliest photographs. At sixty-six, he had not forgotten his beginnings.
The objects on his shelves evoke a full and cultured life. Books. Magazines and journals stacked in piles. 19th-century landscapes, dark and moody. One of his more surrealist works, from the Distortions series, hangs in the upper right; below it a glass-encased clock indicates the passage of time. A mirror reflects the artist back to himself; a lamp casts light on the portrait of a woman, possibly Elizabeth, his beloved wife. And amid all this evidence of a refined and cultivated sensibility squats a television. Its screen is blank. Above it dangles an empty picture frame.
It is tempting to see that television as an evil dwarf in a tale of loss and bitter discouragement. By then, Kertész had lived in the United States for more than twenty years, and he had failed to achieve any recognition as an artist. Too late, too late, this image seems to say. As photography had overtaken books, so television might overpower photography. And the world would turn, increasingly, to flat and featureless screens for instruction and entertainment.
Kertész didn’t live to see the spread of computers and Kindles and smartphones, and it’s difficult to know what he would have made of them. For if he sometimes seemed to dread the march of technology, he also embraced its advances; one of the earliest photographers to adopt a 35 mm camera, in his old age he also experimented with the latest Polaroid. What’s more, as the father of street photography, he was always eager to take pictures of ordinary people going about their lives. In fact, if he were still at work today, instead of readers, he might be snapping candid shots of men and women leaning over their laptops or fixated on their smartphones. But, “I do not document anything; I always give an interpretation,” he once remarked. So I doubt if his laptop series would have anything to say about stillness or deep engagement.
Then again, better than anyone, Kertész understood that we live in a liminal time. Screens may seem ascendant, yet books and words can still command a central place. A later photo from his study series illustrates. Taken in 1969, shot from the same sofa or chair as the 1960 picture, it depicts the identical set of shelves; a viewer will also recognize many of the same books and pictures and treasured objects, along with the same bare feet, crossed in almost the same pose.
But that is where the similarities end. In this photo, to the right we see the table where Kertész does some of his work, along with a tripod. In this photo, the photographer’s own photo, his Distortion, occupies a more central place on the shelves. And in this photo, there is no clock, no television, and no empty, dangling frame. Instead, the artist’s neatly organized books and papers dominate the scene. By then, Kertész had finally achieved the American recognition he had long desired, and I like to think that with revived reputation came renewed hope in the rich hermeneutical tradition from which he sprang, and refreshed belief in the power of the word and the power of artful arrangement.
He must have sat on that couch or chaise almost daily for decades, and almost always with a book. But he did not take a photo every time. What, then, prompted this particular self-portrait? We’ll never know. Perhaps a shaft of sun fell just so across his page, distracting him; perhaps a memory, called up by the story he was reading, momentarily tugged his attention away from the page.
Imagine. At seventy-five, he is white-haired, balding, age-spotted, mole-scattered—marked by time, just as his room is marked by time—and the feet stretching out before him ache from his morning’s walk. Outside, in Washington Square, the sounds of a guitar drift up towards the window; closer, in the kitchen, Elizabeth shuts a cupboard door and then begins to hum. He thinks about their evening meal—baked fish, perhaps, with a simple salad and baguette—something light and fresh to mark the season. Soon, he’ll open a dry Riesling and pour them each a glass. From their small round table, they’ll see the trees in the square below and the crisscrossed pattern of the pathways.
Before the stock exchange, before the war, before photography found him, he used to fish the Danube. That was in childhood. Sun glanced off the water, making him squint. Drifting, dreaming, sometimes he’d wait for hours for a tug against the line. He laid the catch inside his uncle’s wicker basket. The larger carp would thrash against its reed-lined sides.
The most valuable things in a life are a man’s memories. And they are priceless.
He looks at his familiar shelves. Perhaps he recalls his father’s bookshop, back in Hungary—the country he fled, first in pursuit of his art, and later, to escape Nazi persecution.
The moment always dictates in my work. So much history embedded in those carefully arranged lines and planes. So much life within those assembled pages. So much life in all pages. The novel in his lap, for instance. Words, like light, bracketing moments; words, like light, calling forth worlds.
Everything is a subject. Every subject has a rhythm. His hand closes around the camera’s familiar weight. The viewfinder frames the scene. Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.
The shutter clicks.
I write with light.
He sets his camera down. Then he turns back to his book.
Susan Olding is the author of Pathologies: A Life in Essays, selected by 49th Shelf and Amazon.ca as one of 100 Canadian books to read in a lifetime. Her writing has won a National Magazine Award (Canada), and has appeared in The Bellingham Review, The L.A. Review of Books, Maisonneuve, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, and the Utne Reader, and in anthologies including Best Canadian Essays, 2016 and In Fine Form, 2nd Edition.
The Broken World
Now that you have come
to sort things out,
I am more
confused than ever.
and it’s been years since
I heard midnight
knocking at my door-
I’ve made my life
squished it crammed it stuffed it
with law and order.
I intended to keep
the crashing winds at bay,
as if lists and yoga, or sorted silverware,
could possibly protect me
from the gods of the sea.
I never know
if the roads
will bring you home, and
are written in your eyes,
the things you’ve seen,
the things you’ve tried to hide,
and you are wearing the sun
and the rain and the road
and the endless
(If you can give it, I can take it
‘Cause if this heart is gonna break
it’s gonna take a lot to break it.)
(I’m broken like a promise,
shattered like a dream.)
You are a storm that blows through here
galloping wild horses,
but something else,
something wilder, unrestrained.
It doesn’t matter:
every time you
break my heart,
I will grow another one
for you to smash
and treasure the hours
it falls apart,
just to have something from you.
I can’t stop you
from climbing across my roof
and into my window
if you need to get to me.
I don’t even know if
you are dead or alive.
Now, the great unknown, again.
as you arrive,
Do you remember?
Once you said, you would do anything for me,
anything at all,
you’d walk 1000 miles for me, you said,
and the ferocity of your conviction took me aback,
how love blazed in your eyes,
It was a promise you kept,
arriving from the east
like rain on my roof.
But I had said, no, don’t you remember?
I don’t want it, I told you.
I won’t ask that.
You know all I’ll ever ask of you
is to put
your pipe down
Leave it down
I beg you,
leave it down.
I will never, ever
ask another thing.
Now as ever, your company is easy,
and holding you
is comfortable, familiar sorrow.
You ask about my work,
and about my meetings.
And whether I’ve found anyone.
My fingertips trail your scars,
fading rope at your throat,
feathers on your wrists.
Now, as if there were
no years between us,
and no grief,
we sprawl across the floor with
Johnny Cash on repeat, and it’s
an apt soundtrack for all that we have seen,
for the people we have been.
And yours is a lonely road,
my most beloved friend,
but you’ve never questioned why I keep
your heart with me as best I can.
Even so, I told you.
It was how tenderly you tended to
my injuries, how you
tried to save me.
The air here is filmy and surreal,
emptied of you,
soapy and edged with grief.
I can’t fix
the broken world.
It is you who could,
you who fixed my sink and my bicycle
when you hitchhiked into town.
It’s only 2000 miles,
repacking your backpack.
I’m clean now, woman,
I’ll make it west, don’t worry.
Lorette C. Luzajic
Originally published at Hood, and in The Lords of George Street, by the author, Mixed Up Media Editions, 2016.
Surrealisms series- Lorette C. Luzajic
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The City Life for Me
Some enjoy living
in the middle of nowhere.
I’d be as lonesome
as a bale of hay, stranded
in a snowy field, waiting
for something, anything
This poem was written as part of the 20 Poem Challenge.
Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She became fascinated by fine art at an early age, even though she had to go to the World Book Encyclopedia to find it. Today she visits museums everywhere she travels and spends time at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, where her husband is a volunteer guide. Alarie’s poetry book, Running Counterclockwise, contains many ekphrastic poems. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
Four Round Bales. Photo by Todd Klassy. To see more of Todd's rural photography, visit www.toddklassy.com.
He squints from under a John Deere cap
even when there is no sun. It's late fall now,
the hay—enough this year—baled
for January feeding if the pickup makes it
to the herd—huddled, wooly, steamy breath
to match his own, pitch fork separating clouds
of gold, strewing it like loaves and fishes--
that kind of pride, though pride's a wobbly perch
when drought and blight's the norm, when the pickup
needs a fuel pump, barn needs shingles.
But this morning, the sky's wide and blue
and bare, and Waylon's singing Ramblin' Man
while he hums along. Bernice'll have coffee
scalding hot at the cafe, and prices were up
on the farm report this morning. Folks and steers
ain't so different, he reckons, herd gathering,
keeping with their kind.
Sarah Russell has returned to her first love after a career teaching, writing and editing academic prose. Her poetry has appeared in Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, The Houseboat, Shot Glass Journal, Bijou Poetry Review and Poppy Road Review, among others. Her poem “Denouement” won the GR poetry contest in February, 2014. Follow her work at www.SarahRussellPoetry.com.
January 12th 2010, Haiti
Madonna of Port-au-Prince
You who look like Alice Your eyes red with shattered plaster and weeping
Your full lips bruised with dirt
Your hairpiece of locks slipping back like a cowl
The powder dusting your oval cheeks is grey concrete —
If the rest of you was not buried under rocks of blasted wall
And the figure in the foreground was not blood splattered
And someone’s leg was not trapped behind you,
You could have been a pretty girl
With sand on your bare arms
Writing your name on a shell
On some beach off Les Cayes—
You who look like Alice
Another lost girl I used to know,
Not an ikon’s model
On a chapel wall in Jacmel
But a strange Madonna anyhow
Flat on the scattered masonry
Sans enfant, or enfant gone from your hands
To the devouring earth —
The ikon herself
Impassive Erzulie, gazing through your Carib face
From a palette of pixels
Framing now before me.
Did you find him, maman, the old man,
Or was it the grandchild left in your care for the day,
Or, in the catastrophe behind you,
The daughter who was setting your supper,
Or perhaps your friend, having a Dominican ponche with you?
Your long arms, maman, are bathed in the white dust of disastrous city-fall,
Your fingers are exhausted from their frantic and futile search for bones,
For hair, for a belt or a bodice,
For a baby, a baby who was impossibly there,
Gurgling at her spoon
Teasing your heart,
And you singing a lullaby, “Haiti Cherie”
Haiti beloved, beloved child,
Gone child, gone with the walls, the debris, the tranblanterre and the lavalas,
Gone from your arms, from your keening, scrabbling fingers
Despairing under block, under board, under broken back
And the child disparu, taken —
Or was it your friend from Cap Haitien,
Or the daughter who shared your name,
Or the old man — companion of your days,
Comrade of sleepless hours, keeper of your young heart
Comforter of those fallen breasts
Fallen under your torn chemise
Fallen with the roofs and the windows and the President’s house
Fallen with the broken routes of Port-au-Prince Fallen and forlorn, Haiti Cherie?
The ionic columns hold nothing up
Not the twin cupolas that welcomed mariners to Port-au-Prince
Not the grand round windows of stained-glass ikons
Not the novenas of those who died in the fallen girders,
Unless you count the blue dome of vacant air
The ruined, ruined facades
The hovering stench —
Has Boukman triumphed?
Do Legba and Ghede aka Baron Samedi mount the buried altars?
Does Ogoun lie entombed in this broken peristyle?
Do these curious questions matter to the houngan
Crying down the mess of fallen masonry
To touch his daughter’s ears?--
Outside the shattered cathedral
The women kneeling in the dust
Raise rosaries to the familiar Haitian sky
And lift their psalms
Past the ionic columns
That hold nothing up.
At Capernaum, Boats
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who
sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.” – Matthew 4:16.
This, the Port of the boat people
This, the Port of their Prince
Docks of sails in sunset--
This is the Port of the boat people
After Dessalines and Duvalier, HIV and cholera
After tornado and tremblor
The Gadarene adventure and their Bay of Pigs
Canoewrecks off Florida, the invading boots of marines
From caravel to carrier—
After the desolate cities of my pilgrimage
And diverse tribulations
From deserts and catacombs to creole favelas,
These crosses of masts under the purpling evening
Their sails folding like seamless robes
The people neither coming nor going Home-harbour safe
Intransit to the undying lands of their Prince
Who loved fishermen
Who slept in their boats
Roped their storms to His peace
And encompassed their little faith
With His incomprehensible love
Home harbour safe—
At Capernaum, boats
The Port of the boat people
The Port of our Prince.
In Caravaggio’s Ikon
In Caravaggio’s ikon of Thomas seeing Christ
all eyes are locked to the doubter’s firm finger
poking around the torn flesh, under
the strong hand of the Carpenter. Thomas,
Apostle to our secular, mocking, murderous
new age, meeting his worst-case scenario
with the firm grit of flesh under his thumb
that index of incarnation— incarnation, Immanuel
God is with us — under the impossible rubble
as we claw at the unimaginable earthfall, Immanuel—
over the body of someone’s son fallen in crossfire
in shrieking shadowlands of betrayal
through terminal disorientation of disease, Immanuel.
Because that wound is real, the death was certain
here, beyond reason, beyond the apocalypse
of private disasters, is something else
is Life beyond life, beyond heartbreak
beyond assassination, beyond the tremblor
at 3 in the afternoon, beyond the amnesiac cancer of the mind.
Here, under our finger, is faith, here is hope,
and He asks us, against the brutal heel on the locked door
the harsh fist of imploding earth
the shroud covered bier—
“Love one another.”
John Robert Lee
JOHN ROBERT LEE (b. St. Lucia 1948) has published several collections of poetry. His short stories and poems have been widely anthologised. His reviews and columns have appeared with regularity in newspapers, local and regional. He has also produced and presented radio and television programmes in St. Lucia for many years. His books include Saint Lucian (1988), Artefacts (2000), Canticles (2007), Elemental (2008), Sighting (2013), City Remembrances (2016). He compiled and edited Roseau Valley and other poems for Brother George Odlum (2003), Bibliography of Saint Lucian Creative Writing 1948-2013 (2013); he co-edited Saint Lucian Literature and Theatre: an anthology of reviews (2006) with fellow St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte and co-edited Sent Lisi: poems and art of Saint Lucia (2014) with Kendel Hippolyte, Jane King and Vladimir Lucien.
Editor's note: Some of the photos shown with John Robert Lee's Haiti earthquake sequence were not the original photos that he was inspired by. Where unable to obtain permission to show specific photographs, Ekphrastic has substituted public domain imagery that is related to the pieces. In this case, the author and editor believe the subject matter is so important and timely again that selecting related imagery was the best option. Both paintings are the original inspiration.
(use search box above)
Meghan Rose Allen
B. Elizabeth Beck
Karen G. Berry
Susan P. Blevins
Rose Mary Boehm
Catherine A. Brereton
Charles W. Brice
David C. Brydges
Danielle Nicole Byington
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Fern G. Z. Carr
Tricia Marcella Cimera
SuzAnne C. Cole
Suzanne E. Edison
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Ariel Rainer Fintushel
Edward H. Garcia
Adam J. Gellings
A. J. Huffman
Olivia J. Kiers
Jean L. Kreiling
Tanmoy Das Lala
Lorette C. Luzajic
Ariel S. Maloney
Mary C. McCarthy
Patrick G. Metoyer
David P. Miller
Mark J. Mitchell
S. Jagathsimhan Nair
Heather M. Nelson
James B. Nicola
Bruce W. Niedt
Kim Patrice Nunez
M. N. O'Brien
Pravat Kumar Padhy
Melissa Reeser Poulin
Rhonda C. Poynter
Marcia J. Pradzinski
Anita S. Pulier
Ralph La Rosa
Mary Kay Rummell
Christy Sheffield Sanford
Janice D. Soderling
Liza Nash Taylor
Janine Pommy Vega
Martin Willitts Jr
William Carlos Williams
Shannon Connor Winward
William Butler Yeats
All works of art or literature are used with permission of the creator or publisher, OR under public domain, OR under fair use. If any works have been used or credited incorrectly, please alert us so we can fix it!