Barbara Danin Challenge
I thank all the writers who submitted poems to the Danin Challenge. There was something to admire in everyone one of the pieces. The eleven poems I’ve chosen interpret Barbara Danin’s Cadmium Sea with candor, pain, joy, humor—everything I want and need from a poem.
I’d like to thank the middle school students from the Rising Leaders Academy in Panama City, Florida, too. Their teacher, Brandi Glover, had approximately 30 young writers enter poems and short stories for the challenge. Danin’s swirling waters inspired narratives about swimming and fishing, friendships, climate crisis, stereotypical ideas of beauty, and what it’s like to be an outsider. I was moved by many of their pieces.
Of the students’ work, I’ve chosen two poems: Samia Albibi’s “Free Me,” which floored me with its honesty and resonance—I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I chose Artem Daibarsky’s untitled poem for its humour and musicality. Congratulations to these two young scribes. They—and all the students who shared their writing with me—have bright futures ahead.
Tina Barry, guest editor
I swallowed her, eventually, as I did with everything else of value, for safekeeping. She seemed to understand, brave daughter, as I pressed with my thumbs, as she’d watched me do with my marital rings, her pages of dried flowers, the papers that would surely be taken. I made myself a vault to her treasure, cupping, compressing. Child. Concentrate. Now dense as gold and perfect as a nesting doll, her whole tiny person nestled against my tongue, soundless and prayerful. Or maybe that was me.
Kari Nguyen’s short fiction appears online and in print, including in five anthologies. Find her: karinguyen.wordpress.com and @knguyenwrites.
into my hand,
the river falling at sundown.
Ships' horns wail on currents
of muted air over would-be
lovers stalled in loneliness.
The river caresses its unrequited cargo.
Charlotte Hamrick’s poetry, prose, and photography has been published in numerous online and print journals including Foliate Oak, MORIA, Connotation Press, and The Rumpus. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was a finalist for the 15th Glass Woman Prize for her Creative Non-Fiction. She is Creative Nonfiction Editor for Barren Magazine and lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets. Follow her on Twitter @charlotteAsh. Website: Zouxzoux.wordpress.com
Orpheus in the 21st Century
Rivers of milk and blood flowed down from the past
into the Age of Reason when the sun fell into the ocean
(an elemental Enlightenment) and resources were renamed.
Scientists said you came to me in melted snow
and blood washed down from battle fields my identity
doubled when the aborigines hummed dream songs
and women on the river bank changed disguised
in the colours of nature widows wore black
nights of seduction and storm clouds, the winter
when the pipes froze and I ate seeds of springtime
in the underground pink and green and raspberry red,
fleurs du temps, oceanic blue -- nothing rhymed --
scry bowls, prehistory, the Greeks. My mother wept
writing to say I was too young to marry harsh reality
and she missed me like sunflowers growing wild
in the field where I'd left the others when I heard you singing.
They say it was the river nymphs (naiads) who tore
your body into pieces and sent your head floating down the river,
and there were predictions by poets that your music
would flow, forever, under the pens of men,
and that was true -- I was your muse,
years counted in hundreds while I waited,
leaves falling in autumn like withered hands;
young again when I write it is you
calling me to be with you in the 21st century,
in words beautiful and lyrical and strange
changing rhythms with spangled starfish
and sea urchins marine data, and a river --
the magic of light and a huckleberry moon --
this I remember Mellow Yellow,
how love songs are written with broken rules
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston, Texas. Her poem won second place in the Houston Poetry Fest Ekphrastic Poetry Contest, 2018, and her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Nimrod (runner up for the Pablo Neruda Prize), AIPF, Isotope and Dogwood. A graduate of the University of Houston Creative Writing Department in Poetry, she enjoys reading at Archway Gallery and in various museums and art installations with Words & Art. She is pleased to have discovered the Ekphrastic Challenge (her first online publications) as poetry, art, archaeology, travel, dogs, horses (actually all animals) and family are her passions. She translated ten of Rilke's "Sonnets To Orpheus" in the voice of Eurydice, and he remains another of her passions.
Cortege & Corsage
Lethe sucks my colour off,
turns blood cells into silk
& thinks to usher me
beneath its golden scythe
from which cut flower heads
float down as prettily
as ghostly falling doves,
forgetful, blithely pounce.
Tom Riordan lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.
My Country 'tis of Thee ... listen but see
that pretty face drowning in scraps of our flag.
That girl's not singing sweet land of liberty,
not wishing the blue hobby horse carry her
to a white cottage with camellias at the gate.
She sees the black edge, knows it exists.
This winter after cleaning my car from thick ice, my nose bled for hours, my
own Bloody Sunday, not to demean the Irish massacre of 1916 but
a reality check on the world that is. I became only a Nose and you my girl are
only a Face. Let's fly off to Russia, visit Gogol's Nose, Kovle, dressed
in an officer's uniform, pretention at its best. Leave in a flash, needing to breathe,
to abandon fake identity, escape, reject rapture, nobility and fly west to Half Moon Bay,
sing to the anemones floating in the sea, reclaim
Next hop a flight to Pawley's Island in the east, spread out
our bodies in a gazebo, see red winged blackbirds fly, waves
crash up the terrace steps at high tide and watch the sun rise
above the clouds, electrifying the sky, but feel the black edge,
believe it exists.
Mare Leonard lives and works in the Hudson Valley where she is an Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT programs at Bard College. Her latest chapbook, The Dark Inside My Hooded Coat, was published in 2018 at Finishing Line Press. Leonard was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for a poem published in The Pickled Body. A narrative poem published in 3Elements will be available in a national anthology in 2019. You can find her on Facebook or www.mareleonard.com.
The Journal of Regret
Even now, after all these years, I still see you float and
bob, doll-like, reluctant yet resolved.
In the other room, our dog howls your name, though
the windows have no answer, and the panes merely
tremble in response.
I sit on the closet floor, every dresser drawer open,
surrounded by coloured hills of worn cotton, your
favorite sweater pressed against my breath.
Every time I inhale, I smell flowers and dirt,
unbreakable clods of regret with nowhere to bloom
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, THIS IS WHY I NEED YOU, out now from Ravenna Press. You can find more of his writing at lenkuntz.blogspot.com
From the Barren River Bridge at dusk
you can see the shadows climb out
of the phosphorescent sycamore trunks.
You think of the happenings described by falling:
dusk, night, sleep, love, leaves and rain. Love.
Each instance a letting go, finding a door
out of the ache. The Barren passes below.
What in this suspended state, makes the dark
water’s whisper so enticing?
Twenty-two a day, you hear. Two you know
by name. Donnelly’s note mentioned the rollover,
failed attempts to piece the body together,
the pills. While Smitty kept his reasons to himself.
Each gone and you leaning on cold metal
facing it alone. If you were to fall it would be
you and gravity, a private rendezvous.
But those left behind would search, construct
a meaning that made their own crossing possible.
You know because you keep coming back
Empty-handed. You keep walking,
drag your feet on the latticed metal bridge
to make the kettle drum sound, the sound
that says you’re there in the darkness
accompanied by cricket, bullfrogs, a siren wail,
tires humming in harmony with asphalt
and the song of men, of women, who know
someone is at the other end waiting.
D.A. Gray’s poetry collection, Contested Terrain, was recently released by FutureCycle Press. His previous collection, Overwatch, was published by Grey Sparrow Press, 2011. His work has appeared in The Sewanee Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Ekphrastic Review, Rise Up Review, Still: The Journal, and War, Literature and the Arts among many other journals. Gray holds an MFA from The Sewanee School of Letters and an MS from Texas A&M-Central Texas. Retired soldier and veteran, the author writes and lives in Central Texas.
It was the day that mother could not find her car, her memory swimming in red. She could not find her key. Gold is the colour of blood close up. She also could not find her shoes, or her coat. When she is a billionth of a meter will she break apart, abandon skin and bones? It was the day she lost her hat, her management, her sympathy. The day she lost her name, her best bag, half-slip, her powder, her lipstick, her brush, her feather duster. It was the day she lost her bed, her window, her dog, her voice, her footing, and her foot. When she passed the narcissi on the bank, she heard the whispering of Adephagia, more, more, more. She lost her sight, her texture, her tone, her beginning, her middle, her end.
Mary Lou Buschi
Mary Lou's poems have appeared in Laurel Review, Indiana Review, Field, Thrush, Lily Poetry Review, among others. Her books include two chapbooks with Dancing Girl Press, and one full length, Awful Baby, published in 2016 with Red Paint Hill.
What the Inanimate Knows
To you who are not here
in an elegant terror of
let us make
a deal to meet up at the
of a better mythology
which I allow you
As I speculate
what the inanimate knows,
so gently observant
And why the animate
towers so high.
and water be
Sarah Sarai’s work is in Barrow Street, Sinister Wisdom, Gone Lawn, Boston Review, Cleaver, and others. Books include That Strapless Bra in Heaven (forthcoming); Geographies of Soul and Taffeta; The Future Is Happy. She lives in N.Y.C.
Working with cadmium pigments—strong oranges, reds and yellows—an artist can
accidentally ingest dangerous, often lethal, amounts of heavy metal poison.
Homeopathy: based on the claim that what, for a healthy person, causes symptoms
of disease will, in the sick, provide a cure. The premise: dilution increases potency.
I wake aware of peril to my soul, my flesh immersed in swathes
of orange-red and drapes of sulfurous liquid gold. And yet,
my mind remains my own, afloat Ophelia-like, as calm as if
begotten for a nunnery.
And yet, too pale. Too still.
Above me, I sense presences: I’m omened by a spread of blackbirds,
shadowed by sleek beasts—or no, by black swans landing softly
with a stroke of silky oils, of oily silks.
A spill of pigments
stains me with forbidden shades fit for a painted lady, wanton
and depraved, except my face remains serene and chaste.
Thus split, what hope for me?
What comes, comes suddenly,
comes in the form of a phrase from an earlier life: like cures like.
Homeopathy. But is it sin: self curing self? So be it, then.
My task, to mix a homeopathic elixir—infinitesimal bits
of heavy-metal poisons—cadmium, mercury, arsenic, lead--
infused in water to stir the blood and steer the body back
Cadmium seems best: malleable, silver-white,
resistant to corrosion. If I dilute the tincture without ceasing,
like a prayer, it should reduce to less than undetectable. If so,
what’s left will be almost an absence—a state known to the adept
as water’s memory.
Awake, I’ll retain the traces—an inner sea
emblazoned and enflamed, forever lashed with gold. I’ll be
invisibly entangled with exotic flowers, companioned by
mysterious dark beasts.
By day, a paragon saved by grace
from any taint of wantonness. By night—twice saved—I’ll float,
a water nymph, a liminal creature, laved in the lethal waters
of a cadmium sea.
Marjorie Stelmach’s sixth poetry collection, One Chair, One Evening, will be out this year from Ashland Poetry Press. Her work has previously appeared in the Ekphrastic Review, as well as in Arts & Letters, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Image, Prairie Schooner, and others. A sequence of her poems received the 2016 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from The Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
perhaps she dreams
of flowers, a town with a school
her eyes turned
toward land and safety
her mother’s fingers
no longer gripping her arm
a child alone
in the ocean, a brilliant swirl
of red light spilling
from the guard boat just behind
the child’s head barely
above the waterline
Siân Killingsworth’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Typehouse Literary Journal, Stonecoast Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist), Columbia Poetry Review, Mom Egg Review, Oakland Review, and others. She has an MFA in poetry from the New School, where she served on the staff of Lit. She is a current board member of the Marin Poetry Center and recently started writing poetry reviews. Read more about her at www.sianessa.com.
America, the land of the free… ehh not so much for me, America is a torturous place. Just because I'm black doesn't mean I'm dangerous or different. My skin colour doesn't define me, I define myself. I have so much more to offer than just pulling out weeds and planting new trees. It's painful to see my friends get shot or whipped to death, and nothing happens. I feel like I'm drowning in their blood, mixed with my tears. Here in America, freedom isn't something I have. So next time you think America the land of the free, think about me.
12-year-old Samia Albibi is in the seventh grade at the Rising Leaders Academy in Panama City, Fla.
Welcome to the sea, would you
Like to hop right in?
if you go there in the right time
you will find 29 reasons why
you should not swim like it's a dream
but some will pull you in.
Just don't open your mouth or
something might come in
make sure to wear some goggles or
you will have some struggles.
Don't pay attention
to the weird birds,
they don't bite, but
the fish might.
Artem Daibarsky is a sixth-grader who speaks five languages and is learning a sixth. He is a YouTuber who enjoys the martial arts. His favorite colour is neon yellow.
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