The War He'd Come to Fight
for Alfred Thomas Williams
This wasn’t the war he’d come to fight.
His bayonet, fatigues and slender
rifle were trained on foreign bodies
the same as his – explode the bone,
gouge the gut’s flesh and man
up proud, for home, if your flesh
becomes home to blade or bullet.
This wasn’t the war he’d come to fight.
The needle flight and saw-toothed
straw that trepanned him and spat
the parasite whose slow bloom
made a hot-house of his skin,
couldn’t be tracked on a unfurled
map and felled like game in-season.
They’d warned him on the boat: The invisible
enemy split the sodden air like moon-
light through an almost drawn curtain,
ghostly, needling, lethal. He was,
though, only alive to the knife-edge cries
of dropping shells and burst of battle’s lights,
alive only to the war he’s come to fight.
A mocking chill rose and shook the sweat
that pooled in his sockets and the rationed
soup spewed like lava forced
from a fractious core while the rot
of the monsoon’s soak on the canvas
roof yellowed the sickly brume of twilight –
this wasn’t the war he’d come to fight.
Mathew Wenham is currently the Head of Senior English and Literature at a secondary college in Melbourne, Australia. He has previously worked in multiple Australian universities as a teacher of philosophy and psychology. Mathew is a long-time lover of poetry, and is now in the first stages of his path as a poet. His work was been shortlisted for the 2020 Ada Cambridge award and his poems have appeared online at Nine Muses Poetry, Better Than Starbucks and The Society of Classical Poets
collage = reality – Joseph Cornell
what if I’m a mermaid – Tori Amos
Each frame is both window and cage
in Cornell’s boxes. Objects housed
are animated by their shallow space,
glass pane and attendant gaze. I surveyed
these dioramas in a book I snuck to my room.
In one, a wide-eyed doll ensnared in branches.
In another: butterflies and encyclopedia pages,
parrots looking on. Another: sheet music,
cork balls, crystal cordial glasses.
A pipe whose smoke is seashells.
Apothecary bottles filled with liquids,
bones, and wings. And a crinolined girl
borne aloft, a balloon, by threads of her dress.
Each item in these compositions is alert
in its small altar. In the hoard of my home,
there was no room to move. I’d curl myself
in the sill of my window, looking at books
and replaying one cd. Piano glinted hints
of what our own broken piano could do,
in the parlor, if made way to, via threadlike paths
through stacks of trash, unearthed from platelets
of clutter. Cornell bought trinkets he turned to art
from antique and dime stores, second hand shops.
A surrealist, he juxtaposed unlikely objects
to both contrast and yoke them. My mother, too,
furnished our lives this way, assembling antiques
and refuse with acute attention, everywhere.
On the front of the liner notes, Tori folds her body
in a box in endless empty space, arranging
that famous orange cloud of hair, her gaze and bent
body, over a tiny toy piano. In my favorite song,
she’s maybe a mermaid: grieving and mythical,
both at once. She asks, “can I be you for a while”,
but she already is, herself and myself,
a lovelorn siren, a chiming chimera.
Surrealists keel the unconscious, shake
the foundation of what you think is true.
The house was its own grand assemblage,
each room a box that housed mother’s junk
treasures, each item rife with meanings for her.
A girl with no space to take up but my window,
I assembled myself there, with my Walkman,
and sang along. I gazed and sang
from my window frame, extending beyond it
now and then by dangling a limb and letting it toll
like the tongue of a bell that marks time.
Emily Pulfer-Terino is a poet and writer whose work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Hunger Mountain, The Collagist, The Southeast Review, Poetry Northwest, Stone Canoe, The Louisville Review, Juked, and other journals and anthologies. Her poetry chapbook, Stays The Heart, is published by Finishing Line Press. She has been a Tennessee Williams Poetry Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and has been granted a fellowship for creative nonfiction at the Vermont Studio Center. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, and she lives in Western Massachusetts.
Ekphrastic Writing Responses: Berthe Morisot
Guest Editor’s note: A big thank you to editor Lorette C. Luzajic for trusting me to step into her shoes for this challenge. I also wish to thank all the writers who participated. I asked you to give Berthe Morisot the attention she deserves, and you exceeded my expectations. I made the job harder on myself by deciding to narrow my choices to a top ten. The writing kept pouring in and pouring in. I was impressed by the range, volume, and quality of the submissions. Your varied backgrounds were just as amazing as the writing itself.
When I hear “poet,” I usually expect an author, teacher, tutor, or librarian, but we come from all walks of life. I heard from one or more nurse, mechanical engineer, psychiatrist, historian, minister, and police officer from seven or more countries. One author had never written an ekphrastic poem before. Another had written to the challenges, but never dared to send her writing in. More and more readers are gravitating to poetry. The Forward Book of Poetry 2020 reports that poetry in the UK has experienced “an unprecedented boom, with sales up 50 percent over five years and a record 1.3m books sold in 2018, it seems everyone is reading poetry.” It appears there’s a similar boom in the number of people writing it.
Here’s to you, to poetry, and to the art that brings us all to The Ekphrastic Review!
Balconies are dangerous places
especially for children.
The rails may be low,
and it’s so easy to take a tumble.
So a mother watches always alert.
Balconies are dangerous places
too reminiscent of climbing frames
shouting out ‘climb me, yes you can!’
But it’s so easy to fall.
A mother must always stay alert.
And children are precocious with no sense
They know daddy always catches them.
But daddy is no longer there.
She looked away and he became one of the fallen.
A mother must always be alert.
Anyone can take a fall.
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. 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, Vagabond Press, Light Journal and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
Listen to My Words
Listen to my words my little one.
Never be afraid to chase your dreams,
for you can be anything you want to be.
Be resolute in your determination
to out-stare the disapproving crowd
and never live your life
to other people's agendas.
Do you know why Mama likes to wear black?
It is because I am in mourning
for a life I was never allowed to lead.
Look at the city, the bustle and beauty,
the affluence and want.
It is bursting with opportunity -
if you were born to be a man!
You, my cherub, are my greatest achievement.
I will not give you the advice
my mother gave to me:
to marry well and do your husband's bidding.
I say to you, marry for love, not security.
Be your own woman and be known as such
so that when you are seen in the city
people will know who they are dealing with.
You will be admired and hated in equal measure
but refuse to be caged.
Learn all you can, have opinions and be outspoken
but do so with style and charm
while always retaining your femininity.
This will drive men mad.
Men bluster and flounder when
dealing with women they can't control.
Take life by the throat, my darling.
Strive to achieve your dreams
so you don't have to mourn
a life not led.
Stephen Poole served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police in London, England. Passionate about poetry since boyhood, his poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry on the Lake, and The Strand Book of International Poets 2010.
There’s nothing more attractive in colour
than black and white. Have you ever seen
nuns in their black habits and white wimples
against the rich background of a park
in late summer?
Mrs. Manet, the woman painter,
the female impressionist the brotherhood
viewed with some resentment, captures
a moment of beauty and intimacy.
A woman and a child.
Both seem deep in thought, rather than
admiring the scene before them,
the river flowing wide and gentle,
the skyline unknown to us.
Even Sacré-Coeur had not yet been built.
No landmark gives away their position,
they are safe from Global Positioning Systems.
Has Auntie taken out her niece for a Sunday
afternoon walk? Is the young women a friend
of Mum? Perhaps it’s the child who shows
the woman the view from ‘her’ balcony?
We can only guess, but Berthe Morisot
allows us a glimpse into a world
where frantic busy-ness does not
interrupt a languid afternoon.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and Tangents, a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2011, she was three times winner of the Goodreads monthly competition. 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, will be published by Chaffinch Press end August 2020.
Though Madame leans on a terrace rail above
the vista of a distant city scene,
her gaze seems inward. What’s she thinking of,
her lovely face contemplative, serene?
A plinth and urn of roses near at hand
suggest a cemetery on that hill,
for everywhere, it seems, the dead command
the best and highest views. Each flounce and frill
of her black gown and bonnet signal grief.
So, mourning then, beside a little girl
who is the legacy of love too brief,
more priceless than an everlasting pearl.
Absent the sun, the sky a flattened gray
casts no shadows on this shadowed day.
A recent winner in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest, Barbara Loots looks forward to the publication this year of her third collection, The Beekeeper and other love poems. Find her at barbaraloots.com
Drawing the Lines on Gender
I did not create the cage,
but the scene as I see it.
A young child, a lioness
trapped in portrait,
narrow eyes confined
powerless, the Seine
flowing out of reach.
Soft bristles catch
the glint, a smirk of gilt
caught on face
of Sacre-Coeur’s dome,
the tumble of titian spilt
on white-washed smock
like sparks of unrest.
I angle mama,
the bend of her waist
poised like a question
and stroke the mourn,
allow a snatch of flesh
to glance through net.
I did not create the cage
but define the lines on gender.
Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry since childhood. Over the last few years she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in webzines in Britain and internationally. She is a regular reader of The Ekphrastic Review and her work has appeared in response to some of the challenges. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
Berthe Morisot to Eugene Manet, 1883
It is early morning and Julie stirs.
Your bare feet slap the floor. You fetch her
to our bed. Our squirmy, fledgling redbird.
Her whispers make me smile while I feign sleep.
You ask about her dreams, if the rabbits
wore their bustles. If they wore proper shoes
upon their paws. She says the rabbits want
grass on their toes but bees abound and sting.
In these little conversations with our daughter
you show me the stature of a man.
For every battle that I fight to be accepted
I am not armored as she is with your gold words.
Her trust in you is rapier and lance, all dragons
should beware. Young women raised with so much love
can walk through danger anywhere. Behind
my back are whispers, this marriage saved me from disgrace.
Let them think what they will. Edouard is brash.
We compete with brush and colour, space and light.
What you hold, Eugene, he never will. I could
paint Julie every day, and each time, a picture of your heart.
Ann Thornfield-Long has work in Artemis Journal, Silver Blade, Riddled with Arrows, Haiku Journal, Wordgathering, The Linnet’s Wings and other journals and anthologies. She is a retired nurse and first responder.
A Mother’s Advice to Her Daughter
Enjoy this quiet prelude to your life
For all too soon a man will win you o’er
And then he’ll leave to fight and go to war
Return to vent his anger on his wife
And you will bend to him to forestall strife
But he will choose to beat you all the more
No longer songs and flowers as before
(Know where to hide at times he bears a knife)
For men are little children from the start
You’ll be his toy and then he’ll break your heart
And you will lose your beauty and your youth
While he will find a young and tasty tart
Like me, you may find solace in your art
Forgive me child for telling you the truth
Now retired, Barbara Huntington, a closet poet her whole life, is still a bit shy to call herself one. Who but a poet would look at Morisot’s painting and decide that a French sonnet would be the best fit? After a busy and varied career, including technical writing, teaching science in inner city schools, and being a premedical advisor for 20 years, she’s focusing on poetry. Barbara has been previously published in The Ekphrastic Review, in Chachalaca Review, and in local (San Diego area) anthologies. She is about to begin her MFA program at San Diego State University. To learn more, visit her at BarbaraHuntington.com
When a man dies,
he leaves more than a woman
dressed in black weeds,
the colour of his child’s hair,
a flash of his smile in her expression,
a question always on her tongue,
he leaves a void in the teeming-city-world
gone the shield
against the tug of impudent hands,
the cushion against the cold stone
and rats running the gutters,
the squalor of cheap rented rooms.
Gone the light from the golden river,
the silver from the shining slate roofs
dull in the half-light of half-life,
the dusk of a day scarce begun,
with a bird-bright child,
a handful of shining memories,
watching the river slip beneath bridges
she will never dare cross.
Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, Hedgerow Journal, Visual Verse, ink sweat and tears, Eye to the Telescope, Nightingale & Sparrow, the Drabble, Lucent Dreaming and The Ekphrastic Review. She has a well-stocked blog at janedougherty.wordpress.com/
The Balcony Rails of Paris
stand in cast iron witness to communes,
occupations, student uprisings,
terrorist bombings, and endless pigeon
Monsieur Hussmann designed them for
Napoleon III’s urban renewal.
The Parisians repaint them religiously,
every year or so. Perhaps under all
that black they’re red like the Egyptian tombs
once were, or sea green and blue like the walls
of Pompeii, or pink, or yellow. Drink enough
Bordeaux, and the scrollwork moves across the
visual field like the text on a billboard
in Times Square. Something about Descartes,
Existentialism, or Structuralism.
I can’t say for sure. My French is terrible.
Matthew Sisson's poetry has appeared in magazines and journals ranging from JAMA The Journal of The American Medical Association to the Harvard Review Online. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his book Please, Call Me Moby was published by the Pecan Grove Press, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas. He is the former poetry editor of the trade journal Modern Steel Construction and has read his work on NPR’s On Point.
Woman and Child on a Balcony
Decades later she is a mother
sewing stars on pinafores, each little
jacket. On her own jackets, too, her coats.
Edward said things would be all right.
Each star, each pinafore—with each little
change in the orders, she knows nothing,
no matter what Edward said. Was it all right
when her sister left for Amsterdam?
The orders change, and no thing
is anything she knows. Goodbye,
when her sister left for Amsterdam.
Goodbye to that afternoon, goodbye
to anything she knew to be good. Bye,
she waved on the balcony where her mother
stood, too, the two of them that afternoon
in Paris, the bakery wafting up from below.
Mother's gone now. And from that balcony
the ubiquitous red flag. She should have left
Paris when they closed down the bakery.
We don’t know, though, whether to stay,
when to leave. Isn’t a red flag a red flag?
Stars everywhere on jackets and coats.
When do we know? Do we stay? Go?
Decades later she is the mother.
Andrea Hollander moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2011, after living for more than three decades in the Arkansas Ozarks, where she was innkeeper of a bed & breakfast for 15 years and the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College for 22. Hollander’s fifth full-length poetry collection was a finalist for the Best Book Award in Poetry from the American Book Fest; her fourth was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; her first won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays appear widely in anthologies, college textbooks, and literary journals, including a recent feature in The New York Times Magazine. Other honours include two Pushcart Prizes (in poetry and literary nonfiction) and two fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017, she initiated the Ambassador Writing Seminars, which she conducted in her home until the onslaught of COVID-19. Now she conducts them via Zoom. Her website is www.andreahollander.net.
Morning or Night, No Pink Skies This Time
Father, this isn’t what I always wanted to show you—it’s very nearly the opposite. But as stark and as lonely as the landscape is in death, at least it is peaceful. And at least you have some green to keep you company as you go from flesh back to earth.
One day you too will be a part of this green, this greater vista. And the clouds that are dark and ominous now will be as light and as lovely as the cottony ones you always liked staring at whenever they appeared on a summer day.
I haven’t forgotten what you taught me, that there are new things to be learned from old things, that the stars are as infinite as the grains of sand in and not yet in existence. That death might be the beginning of everything and that one day we might meet again.
I hope if that day comes, we will be equals even if we cannot be friends. For I also haven’t forgotten what you said the one time I asked if we were friends: “In your life you’ll have a hundred friends—but you have only one father, and that’s me, so, no, we are not friends.”
For now, let that bird keep you company. And if he isn’t being merely playful—if there’s something more dire to his clutching at your cerement—know that I will find him, that I will find who or what sent him and I will wipe out of the next world whatever force would dare defile you.
Such a right would belong only to me, and as of now I surrender all claim to all the animosity and all the resentment and all the unending ire your mistakes have created in me. This does not make us immortal nor correct nor certain. It does, however, make our story “storied”—and as you would say, one day I will begin it at the beginning and you’ll listen in, one ear pressed to the Earth herself, the other to your Heaven above.
Garth Ferrante is a complete unknown who writes and makes games out of challenging his own creativity. He writes because he loves to, because he finds meaning and purpose in it, because if he didn’t, life would be lifeless.
A Matter of Perspective
Imagine you’re that line,
that inner arm line,
reaching from shoulder
arching like hope
to meet another
and so create a gateway
to a place
the soft calligraphy
of nubile flesh, drawn
with such economy of tenderness.
You would be luminal,
a portal opening ... to where?
A forest canopy
echoing with bird song,
or a musk scented alley
in an old medina
thick with silences
you’ve no way of solving,
or that ruined house
you found on a cliff top
washed by the light
of an infinite sea.
And should imagination fail
there’s still a dancer
in balletic pose,
arms raised above her head
like an Eve,
needing no snake
to guide her to the apple.
Frances-Anne King's poetry has been published extensively in many journals including Acumen, Agenda, The Rialto, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry Salzburg Review, Scintilla and New Walk. A pamphlet, Weight of Water was published by Poetry Salzburg in 21013, and she edited an anthology of ekphrastic poetry, From Palette to Pen, for The Holburne Museum in Bath in 2016. She has won various awards and prizes the most recent being First Prize in the 2018 St Hilda’s and the Poet’s House Oxford, Science and Poetry Competition. She lives in Bath where she convenes ekphrastic poetry workshops for the Holburne Museum.
An old man walks uphill and builds an altar,
prepares wood for the burnt offering.
A boy follows his father, not knowing
where they will find an animal to slaughter.
There is a long, tense pause,
an instant thick with trembling,
when a weathered hand covers the soft face
and pushes the precious head against the kindling.
The knife gripped firmly in a knotted fist,
the blade set to plunge into soft neck
and splash a boy’s life across the rock –
now, only an angel of the Lord could stop it.
The ram in the thicket. The scent of fat
melting over stone. This miracle boy
will live, have sons, grow old and blind. He’ll laugh
at his blessings when the Lord provides joy
enough to forget the books of old men,
fathers who carry knives and fire,
and the sacrifice required to build a nation.
No, he will be thankful. The Lord provides.
Ben Weakley lives and writes in the Appalachian Highlands of Northeast Tennessee. His work won the 2019 Heroes' Voices National Veterans Poetry Competition. He has previously published in The Ekphrastic Review and his poetry can also be found in Portside and Modern Haiku Magazine.
Thank you on behalf of our great writers to all of you for your love, support, and readership.
The Ekphrastic Review takes a considerable amount of time, about 60 hours a month. While we keep our expenses very low, any and all expenses come out of my own pocket. I am grateful to everyone who has sent a gift to help make the load lighter.
Today we are out $315 USD for a web upgrade and annual maintenance fees, etc.
If you feel moved to help with this, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
You can give a one time gift of $5, $10, or more (in Canadian dollars!) Click here. THANK YOU.
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Unfolding, she emerges through the fog, over the river bank, leaving her brothers and sisters fading from her rebirth. Water droplets cling to her marble fingertips and hair; her eyelashes glisten. Her movements are slow and deliberate and her head tilts in contemplation as if in question mark. Threads of seaweed cascade down her bare skin in waterfall formation, clinging and slick.
Lying on his back, his arms interlaced behind his neck, the artist waits patiently for the stars. He wants to count them, wants to see Vega, luminous and pulsing, suspended between two red moons in the night sky. One descending, the other rising, like a see-saw. He wishes he could reach up and pluck them, bring them down together with Sirius and Arcturus, and he would place them on his tongue; taste the colours. Then he would slip them into his pocket. A collection of constellations to keep him company as darkness falls.
Sometimes he paints them, agitated and feverish in night dreams. Swirls of white and yellow blossoms in a tilted world of reflecting razors and scars which his doctor labels hallucinations. Then they immerse him in cold baths until his teeth chatter and his vivid alien world disappears.
He hears the rushing at his temples, the whispering winds and shifting currents and then the silence. He raises his head. She is looking at him, now. The girl, knitted from pearl and dusk, eyes as green as tender moss punctured by circles of black. His gaze moves down her graceful frame, the small of her waist, the curve of her hips, sinews of thighs and calves, delicate but firm in their solid form. He thinks she is made of water crystals, fashioned together and sculpted before being deposited gracefully on the river bank, in the sediment of the evening tide. He blinks several times, to dispel the leathery humidity from his eyes. Soil fragrances mingle with salt, air chocking with mist.
The last time he saw her, she was crouching by the water’s edge, gazing at the emerald surface, while his skin stung from the slippery cradle of a hundred jellyfish. He swam further into the waters of the Rhône, closer to the wormhole. But the sounds of the carriages with the horses clocking the cobblestones, the shouts of the newspaper boy and the walking crowds, overwhelmed him. When he looked back, she was gone. The time before that she was swaying where the edge of the world meets the river mouth, her torso half submerged as if hovering in anticipation. The water swirled around her. That was the first encounter and she has inhabited his waking dreams with dread and wonder ever since. He did not paint her on the canvas, the girl. Yet here she is, emerging from his beloved Starry Night over the Rhône, like a cruel phantom.
As they dressed him, they told him that she doesn’t exist, is but a figment of his madness but he knows that they lied. He folded over onto the floor and cried.
The river girl glides towards him, now and when she moves, the shadows follow her, leaving behind residues on the ground. Up close, he can see a riot of veins, maps to multiple destinations imbedded beneath her lucent skin. Her body is an atlas of cities and oceans, mountains and streams. Falling on her knees before him, she extends her hand.
With trembling fingers, he traces the lines across her hand to the soft inside of her wrist, marveling at the map of his frenzied world. Sweat and green musk emanate into the night air. Trepidation mixing with damp meadows. He wonders, momentarily if she would let him go and the possibility sparks a flicker of hope.
Lichen tendrils from her finger tips suddenly wind around his neck, across his nose, his lips. He cries out, his face twisting, and the tendrils recede, playful and withholding in their savagery. She seeks to absorb his living memories but for that she requires his permission. She is a scribe, a captivator and a storyteller for her people. Born to weave his recollections over thousands of moon-cycles, she seeks to share them with her people. A race that once inhabited land.
Exiled to the waters, they long with aching yearning for sensations that evade them. The feel of grains of silt between their toes, the warmth of suns on their backs and the softness of moss at their fingertips. The pressure of solid muscle against their own skin, the pleasure of being held and loved. Her people no longer endure touch. Beyond the water, while in humanoid form, their hands and fingers distort into wisps of vine every time they attempt to touch anything or anyone. Even their birthing is cold, stark and void of feeling. All they have are memories of what and who they used to be.
The artist regards the river girl with undisguised horror and draws back slightly, even though he knows the same has happened to his father and to the father before him. He remembers how the thickness of their fear still inhabits every room of his asylum and frequently, it seizes him roughly. Flings him, head first through the wormhole, into a world full of rites of passage that shape new shores and history. This is an agreement which he did not consent to and to which he is expected to submit. He considers mutiny but escape comes with its own brand of terror; a dangerous shift in planetary axes and the shame and loneliness of the material world. His river people control the tides and the revolutions of his moods. He thought he would have courage when the time came, but now, it eludes him.
The outline of the river girl’s face distorts into a milky apparition. Edges waver for an instant, and then she is in focus again. She knows that she is dissipating and at the back of her mind she hears her people’s urging. But she will not take without consent. There are rules and regulations, and she detests bloodshed. They have absorbed memories from unwilling soil dwellers before. Countless souls, whose minds were plundered and torn, and the waters churned with nightmarish agony.
Out of fascination and morbid curiosity, the artist stretches out his hand, runs it down her back, cutting his fingers on flared gills where shoulder blades should be. He winces, his face grimacing with a sudden burst of revulsion and sorrow. He pities her and her kind but he cannot sacrifice himself. All memories would fade; of family, friends, of a French young woman with golden curls and an outrageous smile who makes him think of tender words and breathless starts. He pledged his love to her as he carved it from parts of his body. Sealed and delivered his left ear, as a bloodied, kidney-shaped heart, placed neatly in the palm of her hand. Her threads would disappear from his thoughts and a dark void would take her place. He would lose them all and have to start again. Behind his eyelids he imagines a sudden burst from a distant sun, a dying star but the image is visceral, instant, then detached. The river waters rise with the tide.
The river girl’s contours begin to waver. She extends her hand towards him again, tendrils twisting and reaching out and then, as if in afterthought, immediately draws them back again.
If I give myself to you in this form, she thinks, will you give me your lived history? The artist hears her thoughts inside his head as clear as if she had whispered them in his ear. I am sorry, he mouths and slides further away from her. He suspects that this is not her true form. Staring into the pools of her eyes, he wonders if she would ever allow herself to be seen in authentic configuration. Perhaps she is made of vapours with nocturnal eyes in perpetual haunting.
His chest expands and contracts like bellows, his blood rushes through his body, the adrenalin and fear mingling. He knows her power and her strength, she could easily hold him down and rip his memories from his mind. Shutting his eyes, he prepares himself for the onslaught.
The river girl sits immoveable for a few moments, the atmosphere around her impregnated with anguish, the despair of her people’s cries in her ears. She recalls images of the river bank teeming with violence long ago; the screams and thrashing of soil dwellers. Their hollow stares afterwards, still linger. With a sudden release, she stands up to her full height and slowly makes her way towards the river bank. For a brief moment she glances back at the artist and in her eyes, he sees the sharp glint of consumption, the glimmer of knives. But then she turns, and sliding back into the waters, she disappears below the surface.
Carla writes a few things and reads a great deal more. She has been weaving tales since the age of seven, when she was unduly fascinated by robots and aliens. Speculative fiction has remained a favourite genre, although she also enjoys contemporary and historical fiction. Her short stories and poems have been published in a variety of literary magazines such as All Worlds Wayfarer, Heart of Flesh and Royal Rose.
All is shadow until
light flickers or flashes
and stone walls quicken
with a galloping procession:
cantering antelope with spiked horns,
horse's sun-soaked brown flank,
spotted bull staring at its spindly-legged twin
with rolling muscular middle.
A bristly-maned horse is dwarfed
by a massive bull bowing his head.
Inside the twisting corridors
of the cave, one room has been named
apse, another nave,
linking this house of creatures
born of the flourish of a brush
in a dark time beyond memory
with skyward thrusting stone
harboring in glowing glass
a man holding on his lap a lamb,
hovering above him, a dove.
Kate Deimling is a translator and writes poetry and fiction. Her poems have recently appeared in Rockvale Review and Steam Ticket. She has translated six books from French on topics ranging from Renaissance art to the wine industry. A native New Orleanian, she lives in Brooklyn, New York with her family.
Tugged to Berth for Breaking Up
What is this title, sub about?
A sound of weird philosophy,
some nightmare of midwifery,
phrase fortunate for fact or pun,
intended, or unstable mind?
Who commands attention, rides the waves,
gains position that moves public taste?
Hanging committee, Turner’s hold -
own chosen space, as face the square,
Trafalgar’s glory at the door,
astute for Fighting Temeraire.
Just second rate, a blockade float,
named risk and rash or foolhardy,
less fight, sauce boat by crew baptised,
both convoy escort, clinker jail,
until their broadside intervened,
saved Victory, from jaws defeat,
this hero, needed by the state.
Dark daring gashes cause the bright,
was scumbled sun its set or dawn?
Or both, a transit for the time,
embroidered ghost, furled sails, firm masts -
though none aboard, this funeral pyre.
The steaming tug hauls canvas ship,
stack moved, stark flame, emerging age,
this searing scene marked changing pace,
new dispensation underway.
The craft from Chatham dockyard launched,
graffiti on oak timbers felled,
by Father Thames to Rotherhithe,
its skeleton, the hulk frame spread
through city streets to Ludgate Hill.
Lain beside Lord Nelson’s tomb,
alive today on cashier’s plate,
was this art, promissory note?
This darling child of artist’s age,
due homage paid to lost, the past,
is this a fulcrum, turning years,
can this permit altering taste,
to atmospheric painting mood?
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had some 140 pieces accepted by on-line poetry sites, including The Ekphrastic Review; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines, Vita Brevis Anthology ‘Pain & Renewal’ & Fly on the Wall Press ‘Identity’. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
The Ekphrastic Review
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