Inspired by CW Allwine’s Date Night (Booth 48)
It won’t be long now. I hear they’re coming for me. We had a long run. I can’t say exactly how many miles I’ve covered because I’ve outlived my odometer. I’m sixty-two now, not nearly old enough to say goodbye to this world yet I’ve never been one to complain. I no longer have a four-barrel carburetor, but pondering the end does choke me up a bit.
There’s still a beauty about me; they say I still have a glow. People walk around me and say kind words. Things like, “Check out that old Chrysler Imperial—they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” They talk about my long lines and elegance and fancy taillights, and “all that chrome! You don’t find it in newer models.”
Those were the good old days; six-way power bench seats. V-8 engine, power steering, power brakes, push button this and that. My eerie and modern dashboard lighting that glowed in the dark. I admit I liked my toothy grill; people said I looked as if I were smiling.
Cruising down the highway, songs like “Little Deuce Coupe,” “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” and “Drive My Car” playing on the radio. Funny aside: Used to be when you hit the brakes the kids in the back tumbled onto the floor. Seatbelts have their advantages, of course, but they also clutter things up.
Now, in my last days, I’ve settled into one of my favourite places: the Starview Drive-in. Automobiles were a novelty when drive-ins began. People loved watching movies in the comfort of their own cars. It was like sitting in their living room. In 1959 when I was born, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theatres around the country. When I think about the old days here at the Starview, I feel happy. I haven’t felt this electrified since I was hotwired back in the ‘70s.
Wasn’t so long ago the family crowded in to watch movies: Jaws was a favorite, all the kids screeching and cowering. Why they let the little ones watch the movie is anyone’s guess. They had nightmares for days.
The Long Hot Summer, too, with Paul Newman at his finest with Joanne Woodward—that’s when they knew they couldn’t ignore what they felt for each other.
Then Belle du Jour, Endless Summer, even Psycho. The kids were asleep for that one. There was Viva Las Vegas, Rebel Without a Cause, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and Mary Poppins. The kids loved Mary Poppins. At intermission the lobby filled up with purchasers of 7-Up and popcorn and milkshakes and fries. I smelled like popcorn into the next day.
And Date Night, when the car grew quiet except for the clip-on speakers on the window, broadcasting the film.
I saw it all, not all of it good. JFK, protests to the Vietnam War, summer of love that ended with that Manson night of hate. Then the big hair, big collared ‘70s, and the ‘80s when cars shrunk like dried up mushrooms. All that detailing: tail fins segueing into streamlined but nondescript bumpers.
It’s fitting the end comes for me here, at the Starview—though it’s not the end end. I hear I’ll be reincarnated. As for the drive-in, the stars may no longer visit the big screen, but they mob the sky like daisies in spring.
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is editor of Palm Springs Noir (Akashic, 2021), which she also contributed a story. Her first book, Pen on Fire, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Her writing has appeared in Coolest American Stories 2022, USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series, Inlandia, Antarctica Journal, Rock and a Hard Place, Crossing Borders, Poets and Writers, and The Dark City Crime & Mystery Magazine. She hosts the podcast, Writers on Writing. More at penonfire.com.
Heaven From Here
by Robert L. Dean, Jr. (photo: Hinton, West Virginia, by Jason Baldinger)
The train arrives, or, not quite, really,
still belching, no squeal of iron on iron,
no one there to hear it, platform empty,
the sign of who we are backwards, perhaps
we have been or will be or are passed by,
history on display at the Ritz, an audience of
ghost chairs, stacking metal and vinyl banquet
on mosaic Depression tile, floral pattern
long wilted, like us, are we in or out,
we can’t make up our minds, maybe we’ll turn
left, maybe right, one arrow pointing us
toward the train, the other in the direction
it is headed, or was headed, or we remember it
being headed, or would remember, if we were still
here, still performing, still listening for the whistle
of time rolling in, the drum-drum heartbeat of
shako-plumed youth celebrating whatever it is
we used to celebrate, lamp-post flags waving
once again in the breeze that is surely locomoting in
on the dark underbelly of sky, one lone tourist
trying to capture us, ghost that he is and always will be.
The Hang Up
by Robert L. Dean, Jr. (photo: Walkersville, West Virginia, by Jason Baldinger)
They hear it in Ohio, Pennsylvania,
the cotton fields of the Llano Estacado,
the gator lands of south Florida,
the bottom of Crater Lake. Tsunami
warnings siren across the Pacific. Three mountains
in the Hindu Kush implode. Blood stains
your connection to civilization. You didn’t know
Bakelite could cut so deep. It’s 1983
and she’s told you don’t call her again,
no matter if you’re lost in the woods in Hicksville,
or wherever, falling off a cliff. Sinking in quicksand,
goodbye, good riddance, good God.
Hasn’t she had enough. Haven’t you.
And here you are, four decades, three divorces,
two heart attacks, six grandkids later,
a middle of nowhere return, sanity hanging
by a thread, you wish you could pick it up,
put it back together, punch the right numbers,
say I’m sorry, wondering, isn’t life funny, how you found
it again, how this thing is still here, your anger, your
hang up, if only you’d known. Leaves rustle. Wind blusters
in the open window. You start the car, head for the Interstate,
that lunatic asylum you saw in Weston. Shuttered now,
tourists and ghost hunters only, poems of the lost
tattooed on therapy room walls. You happen to have
a crayon on you. In the rear view, the phone rings.
Robert L. Dean, Jr
Robert L. Dean, Jr.’s poetry collections are Pulp (Finishing Line Press 2022); The Aerialist Will not be Performing: ekphrastic poems and short fictions to the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020); and At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). A multiple Best of the Net nominee and a Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared in many literary journals. Dean is a member of the Kansas Authors Club and The Writers Place. He has been a professional musician, and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas, midway between the Air Capital of the World and the Flint Hills.
Recalled to Life
for my husband, upon his receiving first dose of experimental drug
Today you and I venture from our cocoon
near the medical center to the fine arts museum
about a block away to enjoy a few hours
of the respite for which art and verse are made.
The paintings speak as never before--
Heda’s Banquet Piece with its crumpled linens,
overturned silver goblets, half-peeled citrus,
and bread and oysters strewn across table;
van Dijk’s 1600s painting of Elisha’s meeting
with the Shunammite and her son, her only son,
having just returned to his mother in the land
of the living. And here we are, this April day,
ourselves a part of the canvases—we, the figures
in Heda’s painting, having hurriedly exited the
dinner table, the ghosts in van Dijk’s masterpiece
awaiting the call to new life.
This poem was first published in Georgia Poetry Society’s Reach of Song, Spring, 2022.
Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favourite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it. In 2021 she published her first collection of poems, Strange Fire. She enjoys morning walks, playing with her two grandsons, ages four and seven, and collecting and reading cookbooks.
A San Francisco Bay area sunset inspired French designer Pierrick Gaumé’s painting Sleepy Freeway (2008). Facing the viewer, atop the magenta sunset hills rests a bald sleeping figure of a hillside, head on hands, eyes closed. Stylized magenta and gold-outlined cars zoom left and right in the foreground. In as little as a decade, scenes like this one–even a super bloom of poppies, lupines, and golden mustard that colour hills as if lit by sunset–might morph into more sinister visions when fire seasons approach sooner and more quickly.
Once we could celebrate untroubled the brilliant reds, magentas, and oranges of the Bay Area sunset. Now those colours are the scale of fire danger alerts, nightmares of fire tornados, vision of an elderly couple in the in-ground swimming pool while the fire rages above them, the burnt paint odor of a white pickup toasted like a marshmallow as it escaped the Camp Fire. Paradise in ashes.
Sleepy Freeway is no longer able to drowse undisturbed. It must be ever watchful, like the fire watchers on duty, ready to tweet calls to CalFire and all who keep their bug-out bags at the ready.
Jeanne Blum Lesinski
Jeanne Blum Lesinski is a long-time amateur of French culture and first met the artist of Sleepy Freeway when she was an exchange student in France and Pierrick Gaumé a school boy drawing cars. Years later the two reconnected. She still loves French culture and the car culture, this time the California car culture that jumps from the canvas in brilliant colour. In 2008 when Gaumé painted Sleepy Freeway, the dangers of climate-change induced wildfires were not on our minds the way they are today, demonstrating how viewers’ interactions with artwork evolve as the world changes.
Read Jeanne's poem, World in Motion, in response to artist Joseph Cornell.
Jeanne's poem, Embroidery, Lily Yeats, was a finalist in our Women Artists contest.
Moriturus (Ascanius and the Stag)
Cervulus ille redit, iamiam moriturus in urbe
Quae non condita erat …
Caught by perspective’s spell, the eye
Lifts to that blurry reach of blue
Above the bridge – a peak or two,
Then cloudy trees meet branching sky:
A prospect delicate as foam!
Till, drifting left, you find, below,
The lengthened form and levelled bow
Of Prince Ascanius, heir of Rome.
To see his target, you must turn:
Across the bushy stream, due right,
A stag, neck skewed, confronts his sight
Direct: poor beast, about to learn
History’s impetus, the blow
Long told. Look left: the arrow’s set
Straight at his lengthened throat, and yet –
Look right – he stands there still, as though
Saved by the context; through this frame
Nothing can pass. Look right, look left;
Pause at the entry point, that cleft
Of edgeless blue. The sky’s the same,
The bridge, the temple – not yet built,
And yet already ruined, bare
Against the still bucolic air.
Heaped between loss and loss, the silt
Of memory thickens, aided by
The clench of art. What should we mourn?
The stag waits, spindly as a fawn.
Look back, look up: the stones rise high.
The sky holds blue. The branching sky.
Julia Griffin lives in South-East Georgia. She has published in Light, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, and some other magazines.
The Shadow of the Lighthouse
falls on the grass sloping down to the hotel
at the edge of Monhegan Island
in our painting by Paul Arlt, which hung
in my parents’ living room in 1943
when my father worked in D.C.
as our troops pushed ashore at Salerno
and I was born.
In the painting, we stand atop
the absent lighthouse, looking beyond the hotel
to a smaller island, then the curved horizon
beneath a pinkish sky.
General Kesselring’s panzers countered,
then withdrew to their Winter Line
slowly up the snowy central mountains,
the “tough gut” of the Axis, said General Clark,
apologizing to his men.
Two decades later my brother and I retrieved
the Chevrolet convertible of our father,
divorced and dead, and drove it east,
stopping at Dealey Plaza where in November
President Kennedy had been hit,
the Zapruder frame holding the instant
not shown for years.
The smaller island, Manana, is bare
with just a foghorn station’s
lone beacon sticking in the sky.
A few sailboats sit in the harbour
near the hotel where my family must have stayed
when we visited and I was only a boy.
Hunt Hawkins' book of poems, The Domestic Life, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Tri-Quarterly, Poet Lore, and many other journals. Hunt has lived in Norway, Myanmar, Tanzania, and Poland where he taught as a Fulbright Distinguished Professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow.
“The fairy delicacy, ceaselessly at work.”
The Autobiography of an Idea, Louis H. Sullivan
I say there’s something living in this common earth,
Latent, not free before to manifest in flesh,
Only to reach toward heaven, not sky;
I say at last let us let it be true.
Now come immense and peaceful migrations;
Thundering engines of steel and steam;
Instant electric signals;
A new kind of light.
Let ancient fathers remain at their rest;
In this new world, even the stars are new.
Seeking with all of their youthful pride,
Born in the breadth of the Mississippi River,
The redwoods that tower above the Pacific,
The thousand-mile horizons over the prairies,
Unpent mankind begins to bend back
All the massed superstitions.
Can will command nature? I say will is nature.
As the tree in the seed, so are we liberated.
A bridge leaps the gap, knit from steel tendrils;
Stones once defiant yield at last,
And summon new angels who,
Stretching their wings,
Form a canopy like boughs shielding the garden
Where a gentler force unfurls:
Vitality groping toward its fate,
Enfolding its frame in a million faceted intricate blossoms;
A lace of vines and fractal structures, glittering effulgences;
The asymmetric, incalculable, wild marvel of ensoulment.
I say new bones, new life. Yes,
Emerging like Eve from Adam’s rib of iron,
From starbursts and diamonds and oak leaves,
Spinning atoms’ forces and the
Feminine swells that bring new creation;
Gravity now is balanced on lightness;
Great masses expertly poised upon pinpoints;
Arches throwing their compass feet forward,
Toward a tomorrow certain to be.
Let me show you the golden doorway.
Timothy Sandefur: "I'm an attorney and author located in Phoenix, Arizona. I've published several books, including my first book of poems, Some Notes on the Silence, which came out this past spring, from Kelsay Books. My poem "New York City Haiku" appeared in The Ekphrastic Review this past summer."
marks my canvas
from beyond time
twenty years passed
held by limitless light
lids emit ice blue
influence even now
blessed or cursed
her shadow covers
blankets to her will
be like her or not say
daughters of night
telling my life
history of tomorrows
Julie A. Dickson
This poem was inspired by another painting, called The Artist's Mother, Josephine, by Joseph Sulkowski (USA), contemporary.
Julie A. Dickson has written poetry since age 12, writing her conduit to memories, both creative and cathartic. She has dabbled with Ekphrastic poems for several years now and enjoys the visual prompt. Her poems have appeared in many journals including Girl God, Misfit, Open Door and The Ekphrastic Review. Dickson holds a BPS in Behavioral Science and is a past poetry board member and Pushcart nominee. She loves cats and advocates for captive elephants.
The Painter Who Painted Blue
He painted blue and it didn’t mean anything which felt like a relief after so much caring and that’s what he probably liked best about it.
Everything was too complicated, like his mother’s blue eyeshadow and his dad’s blue absence, and he wished as a child that he could paint every one of the family sadnesses blue.
He stood in his own doorway often, staring out at the blue coloured promise of many blue coloured walls.
He was handsome in a Buster Keaton kind of way, which made many unattached women feel blue.
You can turn empty space into gold, he told the public, but he didn’t do that. He turned empty space into blue.
His famous monochrome symphony of one-note paintings made even his critical mother feel proud.
He may have been known as “the man who used to be blue inside.”
He overthought everything unless it became blue, and the heart in his chest pumped out pieces of sky.
Meg Pokrass is the author of numerous flash fiction collections, an award-winning collection of prose poetry, two novellas-in-flash, an award winning collection of prose poetry, and a 2020 collection of microfiction, Spinning to Mars, which won the Blue Light Book Award. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Washington Square Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip and McSweeney's has been anthologized in New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018), Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015) and The Best Small Fictions 2018 and 2019. She serves as Founding Co-Editor of Best Microfiction and Festival Curator of Flash Fiction Festival U.K. and teaches flash fiction online and in person. Find out more at megpokrass.com.
Our last workshop of the year is a special Frida Kahlo wine and art night on Sunday evening! Join us to celebrate the legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. We will relax with our choice of beverages from the comfort of Zoom at home, discuss Frida's amazing biography and artworks, and use her works for some creative writing exercises. Come and discover these special workshops where the ekphrastic community connects in conversation and creativity.
Frida Kahlo- wine and art write night
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was a larger than life character and epic talent. She is known for her epic love affair with Diego Rivera, for her heroic struggle with numerous illnesses, and for her fascinating paintings. Join us online for a night of lively discussion, writing exercises, and wine sipping.
Sunday November 27 2022 on Zoom
6 to 8 pm eastern time
Doors open at 5.45 for optional meet and mingle.
If you wish, bring your own wine, or tea, and snacks.
The Ekphrastic Review
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