Editor's Note: The second selection of Christmas challenge ekphrases will post today at noon. Happy New Year everyone!
In the Nuptial Chamber, the Sun Shines
What the sun thinks when happy
That she is multitudinous
That she is a gift giver
Of turtles and lotus
She greets Shiva
Invites the salamander
And Phoenix to fly
She is concupiscence
The joy of birth and release
She is sunrise and sunset at once
And when she cries, for joy,
Her tears are yellow.
She is fecundly epicene
Over full with two
Too many sexes
And many eyes to see it
And red lips to taste it.
When will the lotus bloom?
Will you be there
Will you ride the elephant
Onto this teaming canvas?
Lucie Payne is a retired librarian who has spent the last 25 years encouraging others to write and she is now taking up her advice and writing as much as she can.
truths I tell. Still, I share
how it is I love. I tell that once
upon a time, I meet a dog named Dharma
and how ill-behaved he was. I knew a monk named
Gerry and still, I know several men with the name Jesus.
But still, it is the women called Mary who outnumber them all.
Bless me, I chant and stretch arms wide to place a turquoise mala
overhead to rest at the pulse of my throat. It’s the same head blessed sixty
plus years ago though I don’t remember the splash or the honor nor the song that
was sung. And still—we call it holy wine. The bread we offer to birds & squirrels. Amen.
Patty Joslyn moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts from Mendocino County, California, in 2018. She is fascinated with both death and birth as passages into new realms. As a writer she has been published in El Calendario de Todos Santos, poetsonline.org, VOYA, (Voices of Youth Advocates) Tupelo Press-30/30 Project-March 2015, and several anthologies. She has been a guest presenter at many events. Patty’s book ru mi nate was born in 2017 and she has eight self-published chapbooks. She and her husband share four wonderful grown children. Patty has never fully recovered from empty nest syndrome or the fact she can no longer do a cartwheel. She was once a wedding and birth photographer; now she simply tries to capture moments of beauty in each new moment.
The Machinery They Sent to the Heavens
And they reached and reached all the way up
until their children swallowed stars.
Hot bolts held the wondrous thing together
while the sky shook,
and when girders and gears rested on the
skeletons of angels, the strangers rested, too,
slept between two rivers, which erased their names.
And they told the story of a child on a stone,
sent girls out to ziggurats and tribes
with bowls of smoke and balm from herbs.
Together they rebuilt the world.
The story is an old one except this time
it’s told with songs, dream songs around a fire--
They designed a kind of machinery to listen to prayers, sing
to lepers and bless the wicked. Yes, I have seen it--
It has a face of dials, voice of storms,
and all of it went up,
hung on the constellations.
And they knew the mystery and workings of it:
its immortal hum for Cassiopeia,
which is how it communes even now with the earth below--
and all that moves upon it—star-crossed healers,
the jangling spell-struck and raped.
It ticks in the sun’s celebration,
an idolatry of summer.
Hand-made zodiac of fingerprints and coins
worshipped by sun-kissed cherubs who touch
the foreheads of poets with glittering spindles and keys.
Lenny DellaRocca is founder and co-publisher of South Florida Poetry Journal-SoFloPoJo. His work appears in many literary journals, including The Ekphrastic Review. He has published four poetry collections and two chapbooks.
To Celebrate the Bountiful
My love for you is a thousand suns
with adoring eyes all circling in rotation.
My love for you is the fish that swims upstream
with only the promise of reaching you.
I paint our world bright yellows
and brave orange hues,
fingertips pigmenting the walls with colour.
I pluck a golden globe from the sky,
like a dandelion in the field,
just to light the lamp of life
with tender offerings.
Joined by a bounty of threaded beads,
we are surrounded by luscious berries
falling off the vine,
a feathered crown bird,
a necklace adorned turtle,
and the young elephant draped in fine silks.
The circle of us jumps from splashes of ochre
to deep pools of tawny red.
We rise to the surface,
resplendent with feathers and blossoms.
My love for you is a celestial celebration,
a festival of the marriage of all things.
Cristina M. R. Norcross
Cristina M. R. Norcross lives in Wisconsin and is the author of eight poetry collections. She was the founding editor of Blue Heron Review (2013-2020). Her latest book is Beauty in the Broken Places(Kelsay Books, 2019). Cristina’s poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in: Visual Verse, Your Daily Poem, Right Hand Pointing, Verse-Virtual, The Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. She has helped organize community art and poetry projects, has led workshops, and has also hosted many open mic poetry readings. Cristina is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day. Find out more: www.cristinanorcross.com
I am full of holes. Perforated. Bored.
Clamping a fistful of frustration, I punch out syllables on the arm of the chair:
Every gaze drills a silent, undeflectable, glass-clear rod into my body.
They see everything, I tell him.
Who? he asks.
All of them, I say, watching a knot in the skirting watching me. Outside, inside, through…
When I get angry, the punctures glow. Pink.
But they dance. And they tap their feet to the splash of blood spewing from my heart as it races past the windows they have skewered.
Cold bells, singing in silver, bounce on their nubby ankle bones as they stamp. Their curled fists spring open, splaying rayed fingers which momentarily glimpse the golden eyes of sun, then retract to transient hibernation before bursting open again.
He’s watching, too.
Who? he asks.
The sun. The sun watches them watching me.
And there are days when my heart stills, and my blood runs so cold it is blue. Salt crystallises on the rims – maybe they are iced fishing holes. I don’t know – and they peer right through to the horizon that has sliced the sky from the ocean.
A shrill wind stirs feathers into their hair, and their earrings rattle in chatter, and the turtles clack across the rocks, past the dead-eyed fish, to find home. Their bells scrape like tumbling tins as they shiver and wrinkle with the chill, and blades wedge in my skull.
Do they ever sleep? he asks.
Never. Their eyes flick like pendulums, always searching –
Searching? he says, his brows pulled up and tethered by invisible strings.
–and counting the time. Counting the emptiness. Which is unquantifiable.
Sometimes, they accidentally catch each other’s eye.
Left Right. Tick Tock.
I catch his eye. Flinch. The eyelets in my shoes are staring.
And, as though I am pore-filled earth, they push in jewelled noses, breathing in meadows, narrowing their fingers to reach in to pick flowers and –
When? he asks.
On yellow days. They fold leaves on their palms and watch them uncurl as though settling to sleep. They are distracted by birdsong and cherries and drink the amber of sunset. Yellow days are the best days.
He exhales over the top of braided fingers, the tip of his breath fingering my face as he shoulders the weight I carry.
And these eyes are everywhere, watching you, looking deep within you, constantly?
The mosaic mirrored elephant on his desk glints and winks at me.
For the first time, I look directly at him, and see golden poles of sunshine spearing his body through the window.
My shoulders slump, too. What’s so difficult to understand?
I wave my fingers through the glittering sceptres, feeling the merest veil of warmth, nod, and just think the words:
They’re watching you, too.
Helen Laycock’s flash fiction has been showcased in the Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, The Best of CafeLit and Lucent Dreaming – whose inaugural flash competition she won. She was longlisted in Mslexia’s 2019 flash fiction competition and her work was selected to appear in the 2019 Flash Flood Journal as part of National Flash Fiction Day. Helen Laycock's short stories appear in a variety of anthologies and magazines as well as in her own collections. A former lead writer at Visual Verse, her poetry has appeared in Popshot, Poems for Grenfell (Onslaught) and Full Moon and Foxglove (Three Drops Press), and her children's poetry has been published in The Caterpillar magazine. She also writes children’s fiction.
The sun-flower-whorl of the deities
is abloom with their smiles,
augmented by their big black eyes.
Their purity ratified
by their nose ornaments.
The obelisk in the middle
Is reflective of its monumental stature.
The baroque conglomeration of birds,
the marine life and the deity of the crops
constitute a colourful polyglot.
The bridal couples at the bottom-ends
have their own lessons to portend.
The genuine, on way to set up the homely relationship,
and the ersatz, despite the garland and the gift,
bears a head borne serpent in its stinging bid,
aiming to vitiate the august bondage.
Yet this fantasia is sanguinely alive
with its exotica of colours bright.
Muhammad Farooq Malik
Muhammad Farooq Malik: "I am Muhammad Farooq Malik, an ex-army major, but now a professor of English Literature. I have been teaching for the last twenty-five years, at the University of Central Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. I have considerable interest in English literature and composed two poetry books, namely, I the itinerant and Conjugal Concoctions. I am also engaged in translating into English the selected works of three great Urdu poets namely Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz, aiming to preserve the rhythm and lucidity intrinsic to Urdu Poetry. Now 72, I go hiking regularly to rejuvenate my spirits and revitalize my bond with nature."
Faces of the Sun
The sun has many faces,
but she always smiles,
a little lop-sided smile,
a wide welcoming one,
a beam of complete happiness,
there’s always a smile.
So I shall cover the wall
with her faces,
with her smiles
and the sun will smile at us
each night we spend together.
Yes, even in the night
we shall see her smile.
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, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com///www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
The Brahma Kamal*
The mist cleared
Revealing faces in eyes, closed in hope
Of a dawn such as this,
The Brahma Kamal had bloomed too-
The fragrance blowing into flowers woven in garlands
Exchanged together with vows
On a day that would allay fears
Of a missing note, of the last symphony,
A day that would wipe
The tears that had dried, centuries ago-
The conches roared, enticing the beholder
To witness colors that smeared the skies,
Where swam the fish and flew the turtles
Following the beats of the parakeets,
The elephants led the procession, the celebration
In harmony of the wedding music,
I could live my life, by-
It was a rare show
Of gyrating suns that formed saptapadi,
The seven steps of ecstasy
Their gaze blinding the bonhomie,
Summoning the Gods to adorn the earth and
Romance in human forms-
Between sorrow and joy, in unison, just for today.
Abha Das Sarma
*Brahma Kamal is a rare, legendary and mythological plant of India. It is named after Brahma, the God of Creation and blooms only for one night in the entire year. The flower starts blooming after sunset and takes about two hours to fully bloom. It has a spellbinding fragrance.
Abha Das Sarma is an Indian writer with a blog of over 200 poems. An engineer and management consultant by profession, writing is what keeps her alive. Her poems have appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spillwords, Verse-Virtual and elsewhere. She also enjoys writing haikus and has contributed to weekly postings of Haiku in Action. Having spent her growing up years in small towns of northern India, currently she lives in Bangalore with her scientist husband.
I Am Woman
I am mother
I am daughter
I am sister
I am aunt
I am grandmother
I am wife
I am woman
I am in the fish that swims in the sea
I am in the key that opens your locked dreams
I am in the DNA that binds the world together
I am in the circle of life
I am woman
I am the tears in your joy
I am the sorrow in your laughter
I am the calm in your anger
I am the crowd in your loneliness
I am woman
I am mother
I am daughter
I am sister
I am aunt
I am grandmother
I am wife
I am woman
Nivedita Karthik a graduate in Immunology from the University of Oxford. She is an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer and published poet from India. Her poetry has appeared in Glomag, The Society of Classical Poets, The Epoch Times, Visual Verse, The Bamboo Hut, Eskimopie, The Ekphrastic Review, and The Sequoyah Cherokee River Journal.
Cloistered on the farm near a stream, she soothes
her leaking soul in lotus and hibiscus, frail upon
It’s time. Nine suns bathe turtles and fish, free
now to breathe, to close the edges of her cracks
dancing like rubies in the air. They wait for
her to let go a mother’s hand, to wipe the tears
flooding deep wrinkles, to lift a bowed head
A red-billed oriole, sunbeam held tight in his
beak, sweeps a feathered crown upon her cheek
and taps a claw, gently on her shoulder; it’s a
short path to the dark night. Her mother says
this is both free and savage. She must go, trust
the nine suns, for tomorrow is never promised.
She takes a step, and the yellow light is water
the day almost too much to bear. Suns watch
every move, encourage her with red lips smiling.
She sees him waiting, dark to her light. In his
hand a marigold. He holds it to her: she reaches
for its petals. One teardrop scars her cheek.
The sky is honeyed and clear. A peacock struts
across her feet, the smell of marigolds and lilies
on the air.
Maryann Gremillion is an educator and writer working with elementary schools, teachers, and nonprofits to build transformative communities. She taught elementary school for fifteen years in Houston where she discovered a passion for teaching creative writing. Maryann also worked for twelve years as a writer-in-residence and then program director for Writers in the Schools. Her work has been published in Glass Mountain, Teachers and Writers magazine, and several local anthologies. She is excited to complete a book chapter about her work with teachers and writers in collaboration with Texas A&M University, due to be published January 2021.
The Traditional Trend - Setter
India…. the land of the delightful & the diverse ….
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari,
Presents an array of sights & sounds .. visual & ephemeral
With no moment dreary.
The land of goddess “Sita” in the epic "Ramayana“
Became the epicentre for Mithila art.
Decorative motifs depicting ancient times,
Became the trend setter for mixed media from the start.
With Sita's father popularising this ancient art form,
For his daughter’s wedding galore,
Who knew this trendy folk art would be,
Immensely popular to this day with art enthusiasts wanting more.
India, with every corner of the country,
Depicting arts in their own tradition
Many tried to create their own rendition ..
Indian Mithila art remained supreme
With its deep rooted ethnic ethos & its colours which gleam ..
Saving trees as the legend goes,
The artists using tree bark as a base ,
With legendary deities depicted hence preventing felling ,
With the common belief to avoid the wrath of the Gods.
What a great way to preserve our heritage & green cover,
A double bonus as they say,
Wishing & hoping that more such arty gestures can save Mother Earth,
From such travesty which she suffers day by day!
Mithila with its simple materials put to use,
Madhubani style is here for centuries to stay.
As a proud Indian artist, this is my belief, I say ..
The artist relies on the faith of his audience,
So lets go all out & pray for this bountiful art form to be world famous one day!
Parul Mehra: "I’m a mixed media artist, born in New Delhi (India). I have studied Art & Architecture in college, taught by some great masters of the art forms. My visual training has taught me to observe my surroundings & greatly appreciate the beauty of nature. This has inspired most of my work. As an artist I enjoy working with like minded collaborators, who also like to make a difference in the world by using art as a medium, in fact for the betterment of humanity. I’m currently based in Singapore. You can view my full profile on www.parulmehra.com."
Kohbar of Mithila
Joyously joined—our first four nights.
He is beautiful. Will he cherish me?
Of course I know how to paint a kohbar.
Am I not from Mithila?
Did I not learn from the best?
It is my duty.
They taught me well.
Painting, penetration, piercing, plenty…
love, food, divinity,
the symbols: tortoise, fish, snake,
Lotus covering ponds
until you can’t see the water,
the root stems of lotus leaves.
I have covered the wall,
celebrating the faces of moon, sun and other gods,
all witnesses to our union,
watching the auspicious event
of our first night.
Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fourth poetry collection, The Rain Girl, was published by Chaffinch Press in 2020.
Mother to all, in your many arms are both weapons and instruments of peace:
lotus blossom, conch shell.
Mother to all, your countenance is fierce to those who would do harm, full of love for us,
Mother to all, appear to us in your many incarnations: as goddess of fertility, love, beauty,
harmony, devotion; likewise, as she who springs forth from your head in times of battle,
whose arms hold blood-soaked swords and the heads of our enemies.
Mother of all, protect us, but also grant us the strength to protect ourselves.
Mother of all, you have been here since before the world existed, since before
the sea and sky.
Mother of all, you remind us that the world is both fearsome and gentle,
that we infuse energy into lifeless matter, that without destruction,
nothing will be made new.
Jennifer Hernandez, Minnesota teacher/writer, has performed her work at a non-profit garage and a taxidermy-filled bike shop. Her flash fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction touch on themes of identity, social justice, and the different lenses through which we view the world. She delights in the interplay of image and text and has published work in Visual Verse and Poetry in the Park in the Dark, a project sponsored by Saint Paul Almanac in which poets and artists collaborated to create broadside posters for display in solar-powered “rocks” that lit up at night for passersby.
The Ink of our Journey
the gods are watching
faces afloat in seas of petals
girdled by turtle and bird
eyes of knowledge ride
sun-freckled skies to hang
pure silk from Kohbar
I offer my gift my golden kiss
garland strung from beaded neck
sweet as dawn’s new milk
patterns of fate tumble twist
in scaled mosaic stitched on dial
hope enclosed in Krishna’s lap
we rise silvered in candle-sheen
skin slick from mehndi-perfume
the ink of our journey birth
Kate Young lives in Kent, England and has been passionate about poetry since childhood. Over the last few years, she has had success with poems published in webzines in Britain and internationally. She generally writes free verse and loves responding to art through ekphrastic poems. If pushed, she would name TS Eliot as her favourite poet. Her poems have appeared in Ninemuses, Ekphrastic Review, Nitrogen House, Words for the Wild, Poetry on the Lake and a Scottish Writers Centre chapbook. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. The
pamphlet Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite was published by Hedgehog Press in 2020 and her poems feature alongside two other poets. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
be it known that
she was the centre of the universe
for example, she attached her body to ashen
suns, as they hold her inside the pigments of
her ochre life
she was born before she gave birth, and died
after she set herself aflame, a sati to all death
and when planets came together in conjoined
rituals inside her wombs, she would receive
their dance to the valence
of her bewitched moons
then her brimming soul
would unveil into the seasons of hope, where
a humming could reclaim her lost pilgrimage
her virgin gaze tearing into borders of
for example, the wings of an undying garuda
would be hers, her tongues unboned of all its
curses, would swallow galaxies born of oceans
now churning, her eyes would flood a wilted
sky, parrots unlocked in chorus of her bones
be it known that
she is the centre of the universe
for example, breasts aflame with braids
exhaled into stories of marigold rituals
an ancient ritual in some sects in India, during which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre.
Garuda is a mythical king of all birds from Hindu mythology that has a mix of eagle and human features. He is the vehicle of God Vishnu represents strength and balance. He is known as the enemy of the snake as representing evil. He was granted immortality.
Madhubani – literally means honey forest.
Traditionally used colours used are derived from plants – mostly ochre, lamp black, terra red. Shows scenes of forests, scenes of weddings, playful gods, planets, mythical animals and birds, has no white space usually.
Kashiana Singh lives in Chicago and embodies her TEDx talk theme of Work as Worship into her everyday. Her first collection is Shelling Peanuts and Stringing Words. Her chapbook Crushed Anthills is a journey through 10 cities. Her poems have been published on various platforms including Rattle, Poets Reading the News, Visual Verse, Oddball Magazine, Café Dissensus, and others. Kashiana proudly serves as an Associate Poetry Editor for Poets Reading the News.
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