Dear Readers and Writers,
Once again, I am astonished by the variety of approaches to an artwork, at the different ways that writers have responded to this artwork and artist. It is always difficult to choose among so many wonderful entries. Please know that whether or not your entry is posted, you are part of this ekphrastic project and community. Ekphrastic writing is the best path to art appreciation, and art is doorway into history, innovation, spirituality, knowledge, memory, empathy, and so much more.
Thank you so much for joining us. Every other week we feature a new prompt, choosing a wide variety of thought-provoking works of art, from the obscure to the most famous. Check out our current prompt here: there is one more week to enter. And please consider sharing this post or any other on your social media, so that our writers can have more readers. We are very grateful for every share.
The Song of Edmonia Lewis
(thinking of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
In my mind I see the archer,
See the bolt that will be loosened.
And the sculptor made it happen,
Brought to life sweet Minnehaha,
Brought to life her aging father,
Both to wait for Hiawatha.
Black the hand that shaped the marble,
Wise the soul of ancient people:
Africa and the Ojibwe.
With her chisel shaped the story,
But the faces must be white ones,
Thus fulfilling expectations.
Had to leave her native country,
And in Rome found recognition.
Longed for peace between her people,
Longed for reconciliation,
Longed for wounds to heal forever.
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.
Want to find out more? https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
O my child, with each breath I steal your love for me
With each arrow I make I trace your life that you lent
Unquestioningly, I have prayed from the time you were born
That you be with me.
You the beautiful, who plaited mats of flags and rushes,
I arrow-heads of jasper hiding my love in my crevices
Like the deer laying down itself with love so deep
In silence on your feet always.
In the wake of Shiva the creator, Brahma the preserver,
We live amid good and evil, it is a warmer world that I dream
Now a shrine by the fireside urging you to surmise
The communion of Ojibwa and Dakota tribes.
Abha Das Sarma
An engineer and management consultant by profession, I enjoy writing the most. Besides having a blog of over 200 poems (http://dassarmafamily.blogspot.com), my poems have appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spillwords, Verse-Virtual, Sparks of Calliope, here and elsewhere. Having spent my growing up years in small towns of northern India, I currently live in Bengaluru.
The Old Arrow Guitar Maker
The sculpted gestures of
looks to me like the one is
waiting for a missing guitar. . .
The Elder shows the child:
“Here’s how I would strum
if I had that perfectly good guitar.”
“Darling, you got to let me know.”
“Playing in the dirt / we find the seeds of doubt”
“Look in my eyes / What do you see?”
Mahnahnahnahnaut, mahnahnahnahnaut, mahnah--
“I used to travel in the shadows”
The child looks puzzled,
once looking for arrowheads and arrowshafts to appear,
now wondering if the Elder could make
a guitar of lightning jump from the fire.
The Elder pauses, mid-strum in the empty air,
sees the child not understanding,
so the wise one says,
“These sounds are visions of the future
when Alex Chilton will come around.”
Klik—klik—wahawa —— klick-klick—wahawa—wahawaower
“I don’t know where I’m gonna live / Don’t know if I’ll find a place”
The child, knowing it is punkishly impetuous
to interrupt an Elder—even when strumming air,
the child cannot contain the line:
“I cannot understand, my Elder.”
The Elder muses, “Child, I may take that line from you:
‘I cannot understand…my god.’
“But I see that you did not come today
to write future’s music with our forward-fathers,
but let me show you how Mr. Jones
is striking up a conversation with us now.
“When it was time to become an adult,
I prayed to the moon, to my unfound love,
‘Darling, you got to let me know.’
“When I reflected on leaving my youth behind,
I remembered when the change began,
‘Playing in the dirt / we find the seeds of doubt.’
“When the Elders revealed my Lover to me,
we first had to trust the chief’s wisdom who asked,
‘Look in my eyes / What do you see?’
“We were scared by the flame and fire there,
doubt making us see something dangerous,
but then I had to remember my place:
‘I used to travel in the shadows.’
“When we trusted and came together,
we were still full of questions:
‘I don’t know where I’m gonna live / Don’t know if I’ll find a place.’
“Then the strumming was joined by drumming,
doubts and questions jangled in the air,
like you said, Child,
‘I cannot understand my god.’
“But if John Hiatt, Alex Chilton, and Mr. Jones will meet us there,
I imagined the only thing to do was pray for
that guitar of lightning to leap from the flames
and into my hands.
“That’s why, Child, I sit like this now.”
Benjamin Squires (BiCS) is a poet, photographer, and pastor in northern Illinois. He has never learned to play guitar, but can often be found playing air guitar and drums on his steering wheel while driving. His photography can be viewed at: www.bicspics.com
Farther up the river is the village where the women are stewing squash, beating dried corn, and stretching deerskins to dry. Farther down the river, three days’ journey, is the trading post. Shania has never been there but she has heard of the rough, strange ways.
Right here, with Pa-Gi, the old arrowmaker, is exactly where she wants to be. She has aped his headband and moccasins, but their necklaces are vastly different. His has claws from bears he has killed; hers has only wooden beads. Dummies.
Every day he is sharing his cache of parts and tools, and most importantly, his wisdom. The flint and sinew for the arrowheads, the pine and cedar shafts, the split feathers and more sinew for the fletching. The knife to trim.
She sits on a rock beside him, watching an osprey pinwheel overhead. An otter chitters on the riverbank, then plops into the water. She has seen twelve winters come and go. The elders gave her special permission to learn from Pa-Gi, because she was too wild for stewing squash. Today, she has slain her first deer with her own arrow, and now, gently cooling, it lies at their feet.
Pa-Gi said a prayer of gratitude for its life. May this deer’s body nourish our bodies, and may its memory nourish our souls. Happiness warmed her shoulders like sun on a turtle’s back.
Then he began explaining how to repair the arrow she pulled from the deer.
When Shania grows old, she will remember fondly her apprenticeship to Pa-Gi, the intricate stories and pulsing songs of the hunt he taught her, but right now she finds the old man cranky and critical, his voice gravel scraping a tender sole. How could she know the arrowhead would detach as she tore it from the muscle? She plucks at the soft folds of her skirt and looks away.
But this is not the only lesson; in fact, she will pass along the story of this day to her children and her children’s children.
Out on the water, a canoe glides. She sees it passing between birches near the water’s edge like a lynx drawing close to its prey. The canoe holds the translator, Three-tongues, and an unknown man. For a moment, Shania thinks the fame of her hunting has already spread to the world, and she beams with delight. But no: foolish pride.
She has heard of the traders, their strange clothes and behavior. Bearing weapons, always. Bearing gifts, sometimes. Perhaps he has glass beads so she could make a necklace for her mother.
Pa-Gi murmurs, “watch out.” Some traders are greedy. They will argue over the number and size and thickness of pelts. Sometimes they take a hunter’s own deerskins, those meant for personal use. She keeps her eye on the trader as the canoe pulls to shore; she drapes her skirt over the trimming knife.
The two men climb from the canoes, low-stepping along the central seam so as not to tip it. The trader has marvelously strange clothes. She wishes she had a boldly striped sash like his. She can barely tear her eyes from it, how the stripes move as he moves like shadows of tall grass swaying in the wind.
The trader is looking at her. He is not admiring her kill, lying fat and sleek at her feet. He is looking at her body, her bare arms, her budding breasts. He looks so intently she is about to say something, make a joke about growing antlers. But she stays silent.
The trader says something to Three-tongues.
“The girl,” Three-tongues says to Pa-Gi. “Is she your daughter? How much do you want for her?”
“She is not for trade,” Pa-Gi says calmly.
“Ahhhh.” The trader opens a big bag. He pulls out a cup. Not dull-colored, like a birchbark cup, but shiny metal. Not heavy, like a wooden cup, but light. He holds it aloft and it gleams in the sun. He hands it to Pa-Gi.
“Test my fine cup,” the trader says via Three-tongues.
When Pa-Gi does not move, the trader takes a second cup from the bag and scoops up water. He takes off his own hat and tosses the water on himself, so his face is wet and dripping and shining.
They all laugh in surprise.
“Go ahead. Try.”
She watches Pa-Gi handle the metal cup. He turns it a little, he touches it a little. On rainy days she has seen him make a drink from the bark of willow trees to ease the pain of his bones. This would be a fine cup to brew such a tea. No leaks. Hot, not warm.
“She is not for trade,” Pa-Gi says, handing back the cup. His eyes darken briefly. “She is my wife. I need her all the days of my life.”
As the canoe with the two men drifts away, the osprey bursts into the sky again. Shania vows to make a better arrow.
Short fiction by V.J. Hamilton has been published in The Penmen Review, The First Line, and The Antigonish Review, among others. Her fiction has been anthologized twice and she has won the EVENT Speculative Fiction prize. She lives and works in Toronto.
The Arrow Of Time
The arrow maker's expert at his craft.
His jasper points are honed with perfect skill,
Each fastened with precision to its shaft--
And when they fly, their flights bend to his will ...
Reflecting on his daughter's changing role,
Resignedly he grasps she too must fly:
Of time, the arrow's not his to control,
When any day a stranger might walk by ...
Once Hiawatha comes, this father knows
Fond days with Minnehaha soon will end--
Time's arrow is the one that never slows:
Its flight to Minnehaha's will must bend
Most surely, bringing sadness to the day
Events propel this daughter far away.
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons is a Professor Emeritus at Florida State University who builds game-theoretic models of animal behaviour. His acrostic sonnets have appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, the Creativity Webzine, Current Conservation, the Ekphrastic Review, Grand Little Things, Light, Lighten Up Online, New Verse News, Oddball Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, the Satirist and the Washington Post. His limericks have appeared in Britain’s Daily Mail.
The Present of the Future
Gaze, Father, to the future, to your daughter’s destiny
And dream of strong bonds between your own Dakota
And your other half, Ojibwa, now in the name of Hiawatha
As he offers sustenance in your honour and in his hope
That you will grant him leave to marry Minnehaha,
Daughter at your side and in your love. Gaze and comprehend
That in unifying both your houses will find strength in peace
That far surpasses specious glories that are fleeting in the
Trying times of war. Let the arrow-heads you craft of jasper
Find their home only in the hunt and not in perceived enemies,
For peace brings to this realm the happiness that stories of your youth
Reserved for the after-life; This is reality; confront it as a man ---
Eschew encouragement of battle in wars of blame and shame
And turn that gaze so readily to Hiawatha and help your eyes
Peer to a realistic fantasy where people live and love and know
Acceptance based on substance and of character, not hatred born of
Disillusion and unfounded images delighting in an evil separation.
The love of your young daughter and her man can be the making
Of a future filled with hope come to fruition, a place where children
Play and learn and fear not those who share the blessings of the
World so treasured by forefathers --- crystal streams, verdant vegetation,
Prey uncountable, air so crisp that breathing it sings songs to heaven.
As close as Minnehaha is to you in body is she so in cherished dreams
And so it falls on you, a man of skill and of great wisdom,
To help her build a world that ancestors can peruse and smile
And know that this God-planted country will be in faithful hands,
Hands that craft the arrows that will hunt the food that feeds
Their people, hands that plait their resources into clothing and
Carriers of food and water. Peer, Old Arrow Maker, with placid
And comforting anticipation at a peaceful competition,
One which sublimates the human inclination tending to conflict
And brings to us a higher plane containing multitudes of treasures
That our all too oft unrealized hold out to us, if only we can put aside
Our feeble and unjustified but baser instincts to do battle.
Here is the lesson to be learned: Use your tools, our Arrow Maker,
To build a strong foundation for your child who kneels with love
Beside you, do your best work always, construct not weapons but tools
To create the foundation upon which those who come may thrive;
Student – daughter – son to be – heroic guide, lead them to tomorrow;
Make more than arrows when you piece together the days ahead,
And in your doing so, take comfort in your understanding that
You have protected all you love and value --- your people, your land,
Your dreams, the prayers that emanated from your forebears:
You are no noble savage; you are not savage at all; you are
What we must call --- if we are perspicacious --- the true American Dream!
Herb Munshine: "I live in Great Neck, New York. I have been a high school English teacher for 56 years and am still teaching. During my teaching career I have been advisor to student literary magazines, newspapers and yearbooks. I love encouraging young people to express themselves in writing. I have had a few award-winning student-writers, and I am proud of the accomplishments of all my students. I started writing poetry during my days as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa in 1964-1966 and I have written many poems during the current pandemic. I have two grown children and seven grandchildren."
I am young my father says
I cannot know the ways of men
yes, just a girl a springtime flower
of tribe and stream, laughing water,
rapid water, flows the river,
weave the rushes, sit with father
works the stone, my father watches
Hiawatha, I have seen him, stranger
to our tribe, our people learn
my fate is fever, death comes early
lost in love, my Haiwatha,
but in death sings his Nokomis
daughter of moon, her tears she cries
the snow my grave, alone in darkness
ne’er again to see my husband
Minnihaha lost forever
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson has written poetry for over 50 years, has lived near four of the five Great Lakes and finds water to be both cathartic and a muse for writing. Dickson's poems can be found in Page & Spine, Blue Heron Review, The Avocet and The Ekphrastic Review, among others. Dickson serves on the board of the Poetry Society of NH and her full length books are available on Amazon.
Letter From The Oberlin Jail, From Edmonia Lewis to Her Beloved Aunt (Ginoshenh)
February 21, 1862
Here I sit in the Oberlin jail. My left leg is torn, I am provided with bandages from my attorney, John Langston. He visits every other day, now that Samuel has business he must attend to in Colorado Springs. Thank gichi-manidoo for my brother! He has provided the funds to Mr. Langston for my defense. Mr. Langston, a coloured man, also attended Oberlin College. However, unlike me, he graduated with high marks, and in good standing. Right now, I am so concerned about both my leg, and my very life, that the thought of not graduating has been pushed to the back of my mind. How one’s fate can be changed in an instant in this country! My mind is still on moving to Europe. My deepest desire is to have the opportunity to create and live my life untethered by my gender, and the colour of my skin. From where I am right now, I see no clear path to getting there, but I dream of the colours nightly.
I have other injuries too, the worst a superficial cut to my right eye that bled profusely, but doesn’t appear to be deep. I’ll not go on about my outside issues, it is the inside that storms with the indignities I suffered from the faceless mob. Faceless, only because the cowards put masks on before their vicious attack! I smelled the rose perfume of a girl from school, imagine it! She sat right behind me in my Art History class! Oberlin may not accept me back. Samuel has been in recent contact with Mr. Edward Brackett, a sculptor from Boston. Depending on what the college decides, I may end up as his apprentice. If I get out of here, and get out I must, my intention is to visit with you and my other relatives in Niagara Falls. To be out among the trees, to lay a freshly cooked fish on a plate and eat it with wild rice and corn after fishing for it in the early morning light, this thought sustains me.
I am sending this letter by Mr. Langston so I can tell you what you already know: I did not poison those girls! I think I was set up, but by whom, I do not know. I was with them both, readying for friends to arrive at our boarding house. We all ate the same thing, although they both drank milk, and I only water, as you raised me to do. They fell over sick before our company arrived. Melissa told her father it was me, that I intended for both of them to die! I didn’t think for a moment that anyone believed her, until three days later I was ambushed, beaten, and jailed. I don’t know why I thought for a moment that my denials would be heard! As one of only thirty coloured students out of a thousand at Oberlin, I know my word doesn’t stand against the majority!
I prayed my third novena to Saint Joseph last night, and God willing, I will be out of here before the ninth one as my trial should be concluded four days hence, possibly before you receive this letter.
I have been thinking about sculpting the bust of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, you may know of him. He was the commander of the 54th Infantry, all coloured men, and he was white. I have written to his son after reading about him in the local paper. I do think many people will be interested as he has many admirers in the North. He died leading his men into battle, and he didn’t have to be there. His family was well-to-do, but he joined the cause nevertheless, and I find that admirable. I hope to hear from his son soon and Samuel says he would like to see me mount my own show! That bust would be a sure draw, and I intend to pour the very cast myself.
Do not worry over me too much, ginoshenh! I’m hoping that you will hear of my freedom from Mr. Langston even before you receive this letter. Soon, very soon, we will be casting lines and laughing together. I remain in my heart the true expression of the name you first gave me at age five.
Author’s note: Edmonia Lewis was a half-black (Haitian) and half-Indian (Ojibwe) woman who was the first renown modern black sculptor. She attended Oberlin College, funded by her brother, Samuel, who had made his fortune in the California Gold Rush. Her first show was in Boston, where she exhibited a bust of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. A few years later, she moved to Rome to study under master sculptor Antonio Canova, free to make art and practice her Catholic faith. She was acquitted of all charges related to poisoning her friends, but the college dismissed her right before graduation. After her young mother’s death, her Ojibwe aunts raised her, naming her “Wildfire.” In 2002, she was named as one of the One Hundred Most Influential Black Americans.
Debbie Walker-Lass is a literary essayist, poet and short story writer. Her work has appeared in several journals and magazines, including The Ekphrastic Journal, Three Line Poetry, and Natural Awakenings, Atlanta. After a long career in Supported Employment and Mental Health, Debbie spends her time reading, writing, and creating jewelry from vintage pieces.
When Gallery Lights Fade
I brought you back
to where it all began,
to find the light in your eyes as
we admire the brush of love
carved out in the artist’s hand.
We circle the marble again again
and realise there is no light
within the moulded eyes, just stone
rolled into sockets of bone.
The opacity worries me.
His forehead strikes me,
the way it reflects the gallery glare
back at your face
like the smile of a blade
caught in a full moon rising.
How can sculpture express such light?
There is so much emotion in her eyes
without a fleck of duck egg blue
or a pool of warmed bronze
to lighten the mood.
I can almost feel the fold
and softness of Minnehaha’s skin,
trace each tress of her hair
in its skim from her scalp to her back
solid, yet slight as a whisper.
I drink in every detail of her
and catch the tilt of her neck
leaning into Hiawatha’s world,
re-shaping its form
into something polished, atoned.
Her father waits, his
wise hands turning wood
over and over
until perfection sits in his palm,
a gem ready for gifting.
I brought you back
to where it all began,
to find the light in your eyes.
It is late. Gallery lights dim as
we pass out into the moon.
Kate Young lives in England and has been passionate about poetry since childhood. She generally writes free verse and loves responding to Art through Ekphrastic poems. Her poems have appeared The Ekphrastic Review, Nitrogen House, Words for the Wild, Poetry on the Lake, Alchemy Spoon and a Scottish Writers Centre chapbook. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. Her pamphlet A Spark in the Darkness recently won The Baker’s Dozen competition with Hedgehog Press and is due to be published. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
Loving fathers don't forever
ask a daughter to endeavor
as the latent beauty looming
within bud awaiting blooming.
They envision her transcendence
into bliss of independence
as transplanted blossom growing
seed to cast as her resowing --
as creations of her making
found revering, not forsaking,
all her father's constant caring
that once felt so overbearing
but was fittingly preparing
heart undaunted for its daring.
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.