In Which I Consider Myself A Possible Woman of Algiers
Delacroix, like me, is charmed but deluded,
fascinated by their harem allure--
luscious flesh, bejeweled bodices,
vibrant costumes, figs.
Entering through swinging saloon doors,
I pose for them.
My red bloomers are brighter than theirs,
my cheeks burn violet energy.
They do not look my way,
I am disturbing the languor, familiar stupor.
Leaning on thick rugs, bolstered pillows,
these plump doyennes are adorned
with gold necklaces that sparkle against
nude chests, coyly covered by see-
through muslin blouses.
Turkish turned-up sandals,
thrown to the side, reveal
meaty feet, pudgy toes.
At times, our ladies shift positions
to ease a hip or elbow—discomfort
does not suit them.
Bored with the hookah,
they compare the men
they bedded last night:
a corpulent prince with lacquered hair;
sanctimonious merchant, smelling of musk;
odoriferous suitor, stale wine, spunk.
Spiritless, they wait uncounted hours,
tomorrow night will be a repeat.
Blue-black Algerian servant,
Samia, turns away from them,
she’s heard it all before.
The mirror on the tiled wall above them
tilts forward, she has not bothered
to straighten it.
She stops abruptly when she sees me.
Am I a new consort?
She determines not,
we are kindred spirits she and I,
different kinds of gems.
We recognize this luxuriant space as dark,
light shines through a depressed window
but to no end.
It doesn’t go anywhere,
only opens to the kitchen
where Samia is headed.
I believe it leads to Exodus,
we could run fast,
holding hands to escape this confinement.
As I attempt to find my way
across the circle of ladies,
a putrid smell rises--
moths in the drapes, cockroaches
in the corner, truth exhaling
from the rotten flesh of women
under those bloomers.
Dressed-up dolls dulled by men
who tell them they are well-taken care of,
they don’t realize their pearl anklets,
endless hashish, servants-in-waiting keep them
prisoners for life.
I pick my way through an airless world
across plush carpets to follow brave Samia.
At least, Delacroix had foresight to render her
with fleet feet and shoes on.
Lee Woodman’s essays and poems have been published in Tiferet Journal, Zócalo Public Square, Grey Sparrow Press, The Ekphrastic Review, vox poetica, The New Guard Review, and The Concord Monitor. A Pushcart nominee, Lee is also a longtime artist and media producer, whose radio and film awards include five CINEs, two NY International Film Blue Ribbons, and three Gracies from American Women in Radio and Television. She was awarded an Individual Poetry Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for FY 2019. Her poetry collection, Homescapes, will be published in May 2020 by Finishing Line Press. www.poetleewoodman.com
In La Tour’s Education of the Virgin,
Saint Anne and her daughter Mary
are at peace in chiaroscuro candleglow.
Anne tilts the print up at just the right angle
for Mary to read. At ease with one another,
the mother waits, while the girl bends the light
to the book, enchanted by the words.
I’m at the kitchen table with my mother,
a small, shaded lamp illuminating our book.
She’s helping me to read, not the Bible,
but the story of Rowdy, the curious colt
who escapes from her corral and runs
up a little hill, down a little hill,
up a big hill, down a big hill,
until her mother brings her home.
I memorized Rowdy and loved reciting
with my mother the colt’s rhythmic rolling
up those hills, then down them,
up, then down again.
If I could paint, I’d fix that time
at my own kitchen table – the light,
the story, the book between us,
my mother’s devotion.
Ann Taylor is a Professor of English at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. where she teaches both literature and writing courses. She has written two books on college composition, academic and free-lance essays, and a collection of personal essays. Watching Birds: Reflections on the Wing. Her first poetry book, The River Within, won first prize in the 2011 Cathlamet Poetry competition at Ravenna Press. A chapbook, Bound Each to Each, was published in 2013. Heloise and Abelard, the Exquisite Truth, is based on the famous twelfth-century story of their lives.
George Seurat’s Evening at Honfleur
Seurat’s science calls horizontals calm,
but down the slope of pilings these turn sad,
while sunset breaks white against the solemn
black of jagged rock. His light’s a stern, mad
landscape divided into tiny balls.
This picture’s machine calculates why
one pale dot hued against the next recalls
a cool gaiety not unlike the sky
spread out above a certain slant of shore.
Somehow we understand this riddled air
and suspend it in thought above Honfleur
because Seurat saw something like it there.
His art’s divisioned dots define a scheme,
conceived as theory, that we must see as dream.
This poem was first published in Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, by Joseph Stanton, Time Being Books, 1999.
Read The Ekphrastic Review's interview with Joseph Stanton, here.
Joseph Stanton is Professor Emeritus of Art History and American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has published six books of poems: Moving Pictures, Things Seen, Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban Oahu, Cardinal Points, and What the Kite Thinks: A Linked Poem (co-authored with Makoto Ooka, Wing Tek Lum, and Jean Toyama). Over 500 of his poems have appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry, Harvard Review, New Letters, Poetry East, Ekphrasis, Image, Antioch Review, Cortland Review, New York Quarterly, and many others. His awards include the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award, the Ekphrasis Prize, the James Vaughan Poetry Award, the Ka Palapala Pookela Award for Excellence in Literature, and the Cades Award for Literature.
Ekphrastic Writing Challenge: HALLOWEEN THEME WITH FRANCISCO GOYA
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 El Conjuro, by Francisco Goya. Deadline is November 1, 2019.
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. 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 GOYA WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line please.
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, November 1, 2019.
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.
11. Rinse and repeat with upcoming ekphrastic writing challenges!
The Werther Effect
Roaming around the musty stacks
at the George Bruce Branch of the
New York Public Library – a 12 year-old
and artless me, eager though indiscriminate
traveler – my only real move being
from Children’s Section to Adult –
I somehow landed on The Sorrows
of Young Werther.
Before I even knew what Sturm und Drang was,
Goethe tossed me this way, and then that:
young Werther hopelessly in love with Charlotte,
who is affianced to Albert, whose pistols Werther
borrows (so right in an epistolary novel!),
as he sets off upon a journey, shoots himself,
and then is buried under a linden tree. Poor Charlotte’s
grief, of course, immense; perhaps she too will soon
find solace under that selfsame tree.
Not knowing fully what this all might mean,
(having just moved to the Adult Section),
I did know it was bad – a puddle
of impossible desires. And so I put my head down
(not quite in Walheim, but at 125th in Harlem,
at the George Bruce Branch), and quietly wept.
I always wondered what had caused my yielding,
so complete, to the pathos of poor Werther:
Was it the tatters of another day spent reeling
in that 6th grade maelstrom? Was it the afternoon’s
receding light in that already dim library? Or was it
just the sudden gush of a pre-adolescent geyser?
It was only decades later that I came across
the curious phenomenon of Werther Fever:
1774, the novel published. . . countless young men
dressed in yellow trousers, blue waistcoats, and long black
boots – all over Europe, Werther mushroomed. . .
drawings, cups, plates, even a perfume – celebrating
Too often were their bodies found, the tearful
book beside them.
Banned in Leipzig, banned in Italy,
banned in Denmark; the clothes, the book – contagious.
Reportedly two thousand young men taken by his sorrows:
the Werther Effect.
Then traveling further, I alighted on a Wilhelm
Amberg painting, from 1870. Five young girls
sitting in a tawny forest. One, in a long dark dress,
reads to the others, and on the rock behind her
rests a handkerchief. A second girl weeps
quietly on a companion’s shoulder. Another,
rapt and sorrowful . . .
Listening, they wear
a look of wondering sadness,
a look the newly blossomed wear.
. . . . . . . . . .
A golden light seeps through the trees;
late afternoon – a turning time. The painting
titled “Reading from Goethe’s Werther.”
The scene a frame in which to set my own tears
shed for Werther’s troubles – now mirrored here,
quintuply-mirrored, in my melancholy doubles.
No longer I, just one disquieted young reader,
but rediscovered finally unto myself – collected –
part of a universal chorus now of grievers!
Helen Bournas-Ney was born on the island of Ikaria, Greece, and grew up in NYC. She served as the Assistant Director of the GED Center at NYU and as the Director of the Learning Center at SUNY Farmingdale, and also taught a number of writing courses. She received the Anaïs Nin Award for her work on Rimbaud and George Seferis. Her work has appeared in Plume, the Cumberland Poetry Review, the New Hampshire College Journal, and the 2019 anthology Plume Poetry 7.
No one else had ever told her that.
Only the shining wasp with a voice clean
as a spinning needle--
how water would hold her closer
than any body. Never betray her.
It would polish her bones like fever.
This is why she pushed her way through
cattails which sprang
like a crown of thorns along the riverbed,
her red slippers going burgundy
in the bloodwarm, tidal mud.
The water’s green meniscus wavered
in the swell of her advance. Abandoned,
her bouquet spread across the surface
like frail arms opening toward the perfect
cerulean sky. Her pale braids unspooled
like scrims of light. The spoiled lace
of her gown, yellowed with pollen
and sun, tangled in a willow branch torn
free in the past night’s storm, and
for a single breathless moment held
her in the shadow of that ancient tree
while, just above her watery eyes,
the black wasp hung, unfurling paper
from its mouth like a delicate scroll
upon which nothing was written.
Or else it was something unbearable as grief.
This poem previously appeared in The Journal and Out of Eden.
Frank Paino was born in Cleveland, Ohio and earned an MFA from Vermont College. His poems have appeared in a variety of literary publications, including: Crab Orchard Review, Catamaran, North American Review, World Literature Today, The Briar Cliff Review, Lake Effect and the anthology, The Face of Poetry. His third book, Obscura, is forthcoming from Orison Books in 2020. Frank’s first two volumes of poetry were published by Cleveland State University Press: The Rapture of the Matter (1991) and Out of Eden (1997). His awards include a Pushcart Prize, The Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature, and a 2016 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.
Millennium Park, Chicago
Silver archway, upturned u. Watch the specks of colour
as you walk toward it. One of them is you.
Seek the hue of your t-shirt, a splash of handbag.
There you are, high in a corner, near sky.
And though close now, you’re small as though viewed
through the narrow end of field glasses.
Come underneath. Crane your neck to see a face
you’ve known since birth peering down, shining
and safe like a waking dream of your afterlife.
Stroll until nightfall. Bowed skyline lit and reflected,
the Bean glitters like Lake Michigan in the dark. Only here,
you can touch the cool surface with no risk of falling in.
Ona Gritz's poetry collection Geode was a finalist for the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, Bellevue Literary Review, Seneca Review, and elsewhere. Ona is also an essayist, memoirist and children's author.
Instead of The Golf Channel he slept through,
he stands at the foot hills of Mount Takao,
arms stretched upwards, and watches white
herons and geese announce our arrival to the cherry
blossoms, lilies of the valleys, wild cherries, passion-
flowers and roses, singing, with silky breaths,
their perfume into the breeze; sweet summer eagerness.
Instead of chilled beer poured in a frozen glass
he drinks hot tea, wisps of steam; warm and pleasant
and inviting, curl the outline of his mustache and open
him up the way a fighting conch stretches out of its shell
to dance in the current, loosening his grip once clenched
behind his barricade door, exposing his soft
pink and orange tenderness.
Instead of folded hands and knelt knees behind a pew,
he dances in a circle, kicking around mud, under visions
of the Pure Land breaking through the clouds beside the sun’s
ascension in the East dissolving the morning’s dew
and exposing permanent meadows softened with running
rivers teaching dharmas, while he invents games for the gathered
listeners like a laughing Buddha, like a dad.
Tate Lewis recently graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a double major in English-writing and Religion. This is his third publication ever but his second from the manuscript he is currently compiling. His upcoming book of poetry’s determination is to not only focus the reader’s eye on the ugliness of a futile struggle against death but also his discoveries of his father within and apart from fatherhood. His work has also been featured in Better than Starbucks and The American Journal of Poetry.
A Darkey Hymn “All I Want”
It hardly had to do with her
Shadow Night hymn
In the grief of her song
Dark throat ripped
Like the hem
From America’s gown
in history’s skin
Toss me the blade
I want to split seams
This/our brown child
Slip me the shank
To slit this Night
Lolita Stewart-White is a poet who lives and works in Miami. Her work has appeared in the Iowa Review, Rattle, Callaloo and Kweli. She is a Cave Canem fellow and the winner of the Paris American Readers Series.
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