To Francisco Goya Regarding El Conjuro
Your deafness, left as illness passed,
was cruel curse upon you cast
by demons such as these you've wrought
whose wretched incantation fought
was struggle made to no avail
against such power to assail
the flesh by piercing mystic doll,
unmoved that could not feel at all,
yet made you writhe and relegate
to canvas plane and copper plate
prophetic wisdom pain invites
to fill the dread of restless nights
in sackcloth silence fit to mourn
the fear and folly vainly borne
by peasant and by noble fool
who grant by blood empowered rule.
The first are poor covinced they're sheep
whose constant shearing earns their keep...
...the second shepherds foisting ruse
of such illusion they abuse...
...so long as favoured by the reign
that otherwise they would profane
as promise evil ogre kept
to menace conscience having slept,
neglecting the atrocities
that human animosities
contrive as futile wars to wage
where hate is masked as moral rage
as if by principle obsessed,
which we imagine dispossessed,
we can endear, as righteous cause,
the proposition -- and its flaws --
that power is by birth the right
descended as the spoil of fight
long unremembered but by those
thus granted will that they impose
to reincarnate monsters made
where reason lulled to sleep is laid.
Portly Bard: Old man.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
"I imagined man...noting acoustic phenomena whose nature and provenance he cannot determine. And I grew afraid of everything around me – afraid of the air, afraid of the night."
Guy de Maupassant, Complete Works
You look to the sky, hearing a flutter
of wings, and nothing is there
but questions. You imagine
a coven of bare bones in your future -
time-stripped, a vulture sated --
every ounce of what's meaty eaten,
unwasted. A wing-whispered voice
in your mind's ear teases, baiting:
Here is what's left of your beloved.
You cower, bereft and listening.
a light touch when you're alone,
a flash of father in his favorite chair,
an olfactory memory of cologne.
What need have we for witches
or psychics and mediums
when the crones in your conscience
hover so near, with their gapped teeth
and darkened eyes so like a former lover,
carrying a basket of all you didn't
conceive or failed from negligence?
Betsy Mars is an LA-based poet, educator, photographer, and newly fledged publisher. Her first release, Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife (Kingly Street Press) came out in October, 2019. She is a travel and animal enthusiast, a lover of language, art, and a believer in humanity. Her work has appeared online in numerous publications, as well as in a variety of anthologies and the California Quarterly. Her chapbook, Alinea (Picture Show Press), was published in January, 2019. Both books are available on Amazon or through the author who can be reached at email@example.com.
In the Shadow of Malleus Maleficarum
The Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for “The Hammer of Witches”, or “Hexenhammer” in German) is one of the most famous medieval treatises on witches. It was written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, and was first published in Germany in 1487. Its main purpose was to challenge all arguments against the existence of witchcraft and to instruct magistrates on how to identify, interrogate and convict witches. www.malleusmaleficarum.org
One must have a mind of witches and
witchery for Goya’s Incantation,
four disfigured women, perhaps no more than
the stylish majas of his early works,
their beauty lost with age and suffering.
I saw four such women in a Spanish village years ago.
Their black outlines sharp against whitewashed walls,
their faces shadowed in wrinkles and warts.
But Goya paints these four with kidnapped babies,
has them twisting waxen figures, casting spells
by candlelight. And I cannot shove aside
thoughts of medieval witch hunts, the Inquisition,
the Malleus Maleficarum.
How suspected witches were hammered and hung,
hexed by its words. A holocaust of women.
Were the man and boy who grovel here
at their feet bent to witch’s will as men
perennially fear—the man in yellow
a neophyte, enticing a young boy
to shed his innocence, harken to the hoot
of owls, surrender? Or are both females
and males governed by the fallen angel,
a Lucifer banished, descending
from the darkened sky?
Sandi Stromberg loves The Ekphrastic Review challenges and gathering poets’ work into anthologies. She co-edited Echoes of the Cordillera (ekphrastic poems, Museum of the Big Bend 2018) and Untameable City: Poems on the Nature of Houston (Mutabilis Press, 2015). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, read on PBS during the April 2017 "Voices and Verses," and published in multiple small journals and anthologies. She has been a juried poet ten times in the Houston Poetry Fest. Her translations of Dutch poetry were published in the United States and Luxembourg.
for Marge Simon
Her memories swelled like a large magnetic wave
when she sent them out to the universe – the last
spell, the last cost by a final fall of her strand of hair;
the diminutive time and the hordes of owls – come
white as the bleached shades of treeless branches,
birds with diminished addresses, hordes of black –
hoards of clouds against ebony cloaks – attached limbs
on babies, unsevered like an unploughed piece of land;
a needle ruptures her iris, skein of screams gush
as water in the sky; bloodless plunder – virgin’s
broken protection of dreams – nightmares sit by her bed
as addictions before dissipating into smoke; only the walls
are white, and the light she sees behind shut lids
cowering against reels of sunlight – the timeless
realm; and the mercenary, who is awake with his quiver
of spells, rips off the glassy night like a wilted page;
he hovers over her body like a lucid bone, transforming
with the call of owls – sky, a static of flapping chords –
a flame whips the backs of amassing hordes; black as
face, potent as moon-harvest, invisible as eclipse.
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her works appear in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent publications are Strange Horizons, Pedestal Magazine, Atlantean Publishing, Alban Lake Publishing, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Persian. She has also appeared in Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love anthology that has been nominated for a Pulitzer. More about her can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com
Nightmare of My Reality
My prayers for deliverance have gone awry.
Even from above, creatures descend,
in a sulfurous fog,
flanking me, cackling
crushing, stomping all hope.
employing innocent babes,
repurposed to evil singly and by basketfuls.
My beloved friend, by my side
changed into a ragged crone
stinking of urine, in a perversion of sunny yellow.
Her hand upon me, not a comfort, instead
stings my flesh, scores it with sharp nails.
Cackling, cavorting, calling curses upon me.
her confederates ravish my soul.
Owls, messengers of death,
drift toward me in the fog.
Oh, how I long for their arrival!
My soul is at the limit of anguish
ready to roll over the rim of sanity
Will something save me
from this dream that has
seeped into my reality?
Will more false friends
manifest their crone selves
or will they stay hidden
behind masks of smiles so
Then I also too could pretend,
pretend to be happy, to be sane?
Joan Leotta is a writer and story performer. Her work has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, read at the Ashmolean, and published in journals in Germany, Ireland, England, Canada, and the US. She usually writes on more cheerful topics, and both her stage and page wordplay often involves, food, family, and strong women.
Goya started this way:
he painted the canvas a thick black
thoughts winged their way like demons
along the painting’s surface
they communed with witches and owls
but they could see nothing in the dark
Goya took some paint away
he added bright yellow for a candle flame
his thoughts could now see!
they conjured up a basket of babies
and witches who smirked at evil
Goya painted a reddish yellow crone
she reaches towards the figure in white
who is EVERYMAN trying to flee panic
if only the man could turn himself around
detect the sunlight; it could save him
Susan Koppersmith is a poet living in Vancouver, Canada. She attempts to write a poem a day.
Blessed are the fools
for they have grown wings
Blessed are the wings
for they carry the sky
Blessed is the sky
for it follows the path of the moon
Blessed is the moon
for it knows both the light and the dark
Blessed is the dark
for it illuminates the unseen
Blessed is the unseen
for it exists without reason
Blessed is unreasoning
for it cannot be known
Blessed is the unknown
for it is the realm of fools
Kerfe Roig enjoys playing with words and images. You can see more of her work on her blog https://kblog.blog/ .
Malediction at a Matelot
Under a waning moon
I discover, espy
you mangy matelot
sneering at my torso
from millennia chasing
my rat persona
without a tail.
Hence I will curse
upon your soul
inside your heart
for no good reason
apart from I can
until you’re broken.
I see you quiver
from head to toes
with shrieks and screams
body contractions, shakes
as I control
your every muscle.
Alas Father Time
strikes seven forty seven
my powers recede
my spell is broken
you clasp your knee
you turn your head
you regain composure
free up your mind.
Without a tale
my rat persona
retreats from the scene
devoid of coven powers
over manky matelots
I wither, wilt
under a waning moon.
Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions in Europe and North America. His poems have featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He is particularly inspired by ekphrastic challenges. In September 2019, he was the featured writer for the Federation of Writers Scotland.
After A Funeral
No one has died yet and it’s unusual.
Well, I admit I’m writing this after a funeral
so maybe it’s unspoken. I took off my nice shoes,
the shiny, black ones, and crumpled onto grandma’s couch
and we’re waiting for something to happen.
It’s North here, the leaves are already changing
against this pavement coloured sky—
lighter than ink but still dark enough to write off the sun.
Someone said it will freeze tonight for the first time
this year. I need to remember to bring in my plants from the yard.
I’ve never seen someone hand out frozen candy on Halloween,
the frigid, filed down edge of a Jolly Rancher is too similar to a razor blade’s.
I wish I worked on a fishing boat in Florida for the inspiration
but I never applied, I’m afraid of drowning.
That’s the thing about it, it can happen anywhere:
oceans, lakes, streams, pools, bathtubs, refillable bottles,
the dog’s bowl, any one of the puddles deepening outside.
This is my first will: Do not cremate me.
I hate dust. But I don’t want a casket or formaldehyde either.
I tried cigarette’s chemical solution in high school and didn’t like them.
Voodoo is the next obvious experiment because I want the owls to speak
Spanish and with their yellow eyes hold the eyes of every remembered dead.
It makes sense, once you understand it, that death approaches like this:
a tangled thicket of arms and soft skulls swaddled in wicker.
I don’t hear the moaning but I see it. The tunnel of light
everyone fears is not the moon, an angel, or even a nightgown,
It’s a pale glow radiating from a handful of descending bones.
The question remains: at which end of the tunnel do you live,
here in fear, or there, where everyone is dying to go?
Tate Lewis recently graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a double major in English-writing and Religion. He lives in Bloomington, Il with his fiancé in an almost flipped house and is finishing his first full-length book of poetry, he just needs a publisher now. This book is determined to not only focus the reader’s eye on the ugliness of his father’s struggle with cancer but also his discoveries of him within and apart from fatherhood. His poetry can be found in The Ekphrastic Review, Better than Starbucks, The American Journal of Poetry, and Dream Pop Press.
Dark Minds, Dark Arts
Day of all souls, day of the dead,
forever night, night of the dark arts,
night of the righteous when the priests
took over the old traditions.
The Spanish church all powerful,
images of sins and sinners;
run-ins with a lingering
inquisition still fresh in memory.
Deaf and disillusioned, black-period Goya,
no longer quite in and of this world,
remembered his youth, feared
madness. It was in the family.
A painter imagines, is haunted,
paints. In a private museum,
in a patrician street in Madrid,
hangs his painting El Conjuro.
A group of witches, a man crouching
in horror. An owl, a basket full of babies,
a wax effigy, pins, bats… the ingredients
for a witches’ ritual. Goya paints
the mad, the disfigured, the believers
on a layer of black. Colours only
used as highlights.
The rest stays in the dark.
Goya knew that witchcraft is not explained
by rational analysis. He immersed
himself into dark places of the mind
where stark horrors live.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of Tangents, a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the now defunct Goodreads monthly competition. There were other prizes. 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, has been accepted for publication in June 2020 by Blue Nib.
You don’t expect the heath:
after nightfall, in your nightshirt,
the late October air frigid,
stars receding, the moon
in a septic haze, as you cower
and tremble and the wind roars,
You don’t expect emissaries,
certainly not the demon kind:
in black cloaks,
with blood-soaked glares,
teeth falling out,
bats and owls like flies
clawing at their heads.
You don’t imagine music
either: dark, runic strains
intoned, dragged from the bowels,
throats, of hairless hags,
the devil rattling old bones
through your marrow, their wails
bubbling in bile.
And how could you even begin
to fathom the innocents—in
a basket, gnarled, ash-skinned,
they squeak like snared rats
pinned to each bottomless curse,
each bone-thump—to succumb
to souls that never saw light,
ever borne to their doom?
But least of all do you expect
the one draped in gold:
the sightless crone, her laying on
of groping hands: offering,
in your fatal descent, surrender,
in her touch, embrace:
the last moan, and final release,
of the damned.
Alan Girling writes poetry mainly, sometimes fiction, non-fiction, or plays. His work has been seen in print, heard on the radio, at live readings, even viewed in shop windows. Such venues include Blynkt, Panoply, Hobart, The MacGuffin, Smokelong Quarterly, FreeFall, Galleon, Blue Skies, The Ekphrastic Review and CBC Radio among others. He is happy to have had poems win or place in four local poetry contests and to have a play produced for the Walking Fish Festival in Vancouver, B.C.
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