Guest Editor's Note
When I accepted the task of being a guest judge for the ekphrastic challenge, I never could have imagined how gratifying it would be to read all the submissions inspired by my painting. But getting the list down to these remaining has been the biggest challenge of all, and made me appreciate the daunting task editors must have to face in their daily routines in the selection process. If you scroll down looking for the poem or story you submitted and don’t see it, keep in mind that every entry I read gave my painting incredible worth, and I thank every one of you for being inspired by this challenge.
Although I kept adding to the list of poems published here as they came through, I still had to eliminate so many. I gave myself some guidelines for the task to make it easier: I looked for originality through metaphor, how those metaphors were presented, if the poem suggested fine-tuning, editing, or attention to form (new or established). I also wanted to see if the poem could stand on its own, if it connected more to the image rather than to the title of the painting (I think the challenge would have been very different had the painting been Untitled.).
All the submissions opened my eyes to a thought that has been in the back of my mind lately. Coming from the Florentine school of ancient artistic techniques, I’ve often felt that realistic or figurative art isn’t always appreciated in the contemporary art scene, just as poetry (or the poet in this case) is often placed in the margins of popular culture. Although mainstream literary magazines are what keep our literary scene afloat, those gems of poems that you can find in self-published chap-books, or little known on-line journals or blogs, can throw you for a punch with amazing literature and imagery. We have many venues available to us today, and there are so many profound thoughts and excellent writing out there that we as writers of all genres can consider ourselves part of the wondrous universality of the human voice.
I want to thank the editor of The Ekphrastic Review, Lorette Luzajic, for giving me the opportunity to be a judge for the Ekphrastic Challenge, and a special thanks to everyone who submitted for taking the time to be inspired by the image that so inspired me to paint it.
Alice Trains Up the New Girl
OK so, once you got the front cleaned out,
just take another look around,
make sure you got your salt & pepper filled,
everythin' wiped down, and you're just about done.
That there's David, you don't gotta worry about him.
That's mosta what he does, sit there lookin' out the window.
Reads a book sometimes, or the Sunday paper.
I think he's some kinda writer or poet or somethin',
that's what Grace says anyways.
He's got this little notebook he writes in sometimes.
He don't talk a whole lot but he's nice when he does.
Gets the same thing usually, never complains, tips pretty good.
There's somethin', I dunno, kinda sad about him.
I mean that ain't even the right word.
It's like...I dunno...you ever been out walkin' when it's gonna rain
and the sun's goin' down? And there's like these little patches
where you can still see some sky?
That's kinda how it is with him I think.
I mean I dunno, I'm just talkin' shit.
C'mere, lemme show ya how to refill the syrups
without gettin' all sticky.
Scott Renzoni is a poet and actor from Vermont, now based in the Berkshires. Previous poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Connecticut Poetry Review, Anathema Review, KGB Bar Online Literary Review, and others. He has appeared on stages in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Renzo is a four-time "Jeopardy!" champion and, for a time this summer, sold used books.
Poetry in the Chess Cafe
“Poetry is like chess” the old man said to me.
He was sitting in the corner of a diner
looking vacantly through the window
at the sunlit city street.
“Not only in the sense” he continued quietly
“of the length of time you need to think.
But also there's an instinct -
the right move or the right word
can arise it seems from nowhere
and inspiration is all around.
For example, I am no past Grand Master
so why do I talk of chess?”
He looked downwards at the floor
where the black legs of the diner chairs
stood quietly on black and white tiled squares.
“Perhaps we are but pawns” he said
“but that is just the starting point
for another poem another day.”
He nodded briefly at me
then turned his gaze back to the street.
Juliet is an adult education tutor and conservation volunteer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her poetry has been widely published in journals, online and even baked into cupcakes. She blogs at http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter @craftygreenpoet.
can you conceive of a Poet
running a cafe? you’ll get what you get.
when they can find the inspiration.
I know you ordered
poached eggs on dry toast.
but imagine mushrooms!
such a metaphor for childhood -
before that first kiss
brought you out into the world
of new possibilities; garlic, olive oil,
the taste of Aphrodite, the sea lightly brushed
by summer. 10am. Is it too early
for a chilled Rose, briefly frozen grapes
and cheese? French of course.
that mixture of earth and decay, after all,
isn't that what love is, decay,
can it ever transcend the first touch of fingers,
shock of eyes meeting eyes, isn't it just a journey
into the soil from there? Best not to hang around
the wood panelled, checked floored room.
just order blueberry pie, double macchiato to go.
In the corner of my local bistro
they let me think, puzzle, ponder,
behind the open facade of sound and vista.
Clouds take off and I stall here
with unhurried words, feet under sea level
and a heaven high life around me.
I never forget to greet the salved morning
and wipe the daze from the window, eyes
vexed as if beaten to sleep by sand. Truly,
the words stopped coming a long time ago
and I called, summoned, stole.
Empty houses froze to their shutters,
shreds of paper took wing through
a long-lived summer, the wind fell out
with my coat, crying out with arms open.
I return, every day, and face and try.
The room moving, the stove softly coughs
and tea turns bitter, the window shivers.
My hands wait in the middle of silence for the luck
that never lies at the end of the road, it rests alongside
and rises, in sweet names that guarantee.
Kate Copeland started absorbing stories ever since a little lass. Her love for words led her to teaching and translating some silvery languages while her love for art, water and writing led her to poetry...with several publications sealed already! She was born in Rotterdam some 51 ages ago and adores housesitting in the UK, America and Spain.
for Saad, Neruda and Rumi
When these eyes will have tasted
their last salt; like oysters that keep
their shells afloat, I will buoy
from sinking your name
in the beds of their tongues –
when the word when
stops applying to my days –
my sense of time on the brim
of winds – at mercy of broken ships
at mercy of mapless waves;
you will know from the shivers
that will arrest your throat,
like a bird gasping for breath
through beak caught in a fractal;
from the pit I will rise to your lips
yet your voice will be a lump of soil
entangled between wet roots;
I don't lay upon you curses
but when you took my heart
and treated it with your wounds,
you didn't pause to see how it grew
into a bush of lilies – kaffirs of peach
cups beaded with honey-dew –
you severed and stitched
with the proficiency of a lover;
when the word when
will become a metronome
in my navigation to the Divine,
you will find me waiting
in the loop of your glances
that migrated like hands of time –
swift and fierce, devoted and mellow,
bruising web of myrtle-stars –
see me here, how my skin sags
in pockets of heaven – a notion
you exist as mine – unbound
by greed for a rank among saints;
I don't lay upon you verses
but when the word when
unshackles from the wall of eternity,
find me within your swirling flame
alighting this route – the melting
of your soul to the soldering of mine.
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, Italian, Albanian 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
After Lunch Menu
we would meet every Shabbat after
second meals had gone from
the bistro on the boulevard next
her studio, her home
we would sit by the window on
the chaise longue yet cower
from life passing over cobbles
screeching and screaming
we would talk about heritage of
forefathers’ flight from the east
overcoming prejudice and persecution
over writing about wrong
we would mourn families departed
to the plains north in Poland
on a train leaving after dark
on a journey of no return
we would come back to books with
few publishers, few readers
full of double entendre
and images clandestine
we would review each other’s drafts
critiquing and commenting
proffering words of encouragement
to words crafted of truth
we would hover machinations over
life converted into verse in
iambic pentameter with
rhythm but little rhyme
we would sip caffè complemented
by al dente nibbles with foibles
eradicated by second versions
or perhaps even thirds
we would set targets, assign tasks
like employer and employee
like lover and the beloved
she confided last time
we would meet up this Shabbat but
no show, no sign while
her studio is shuttered with
a swastika dabbed on the door
Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical free verse. He has achieved success in poetry competitions across the British Isles and North America. His work has been published by many literary magazines, anthologies and webzines in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, India, South Africa, Kenya, USA and Canada. Since 2018, he has been part of The Ekphrastic Review community particularly enjoying the fortnightly challenges. He is a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland for whom he was a Featured Writer in 2019.
What We Ask
The evenings discovering us from the rest
Contemplating what it would be like from the eighth floor hospital bed.
Far buildings miniaturized, changing in fading light
Like Monet's experiments with cathedral drawings.
Darkening trees reappearing under the street lights,
Sky engraving the blue with golden lines and
An efflorescent peach hesitantly turning grey.
No, it cannot end with the evening star yet to climb.
What we ask are a few lines
For the moments to live, day dreams to survive,
Debates to be etched, writers to pass through
As if it was Cafe de Flore, year after year, day after day.
It is here that we find our truth,
A place of warmth and a life like any other.
Abha Das Sarma
Abha Das Salma: "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, Visual Verse, Sparks of Calliope, Trouvaille Review, here and elsewhere. Having spent my growing up years in small towns of northern India, I currently live in Bengaluru."
He will be disappointed, my father
who waits somewhat impatiently, poet
gleaning fodder from errant daughter – he
does not approve of any life unlike his
that consists of hard work, education
the highest priority. His classes absorb
words of valor, what does it matter?
His daughter is in a minority, unpublished,
no daddy’s girl, she chose to forego navy,
armed forces not her destiny, that he was
a scholarly officer, correspondent of war
she doubly disappoints, not writing
and now ditching their monthly luncheon,
feels his judgment, held like invisible
truncheon over her until the time when
daughter avoids the diner, checkered floor
mock chessboard of her life, king waiting
to knock pawns from his path like nothing
could barr his way, until he realizes his
mistake; today she finally threw the game.
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson is a Poet who loves writing to prompts, whether visual or written words. Her muses are water, nature, teen issues and current events. Dickson's poetry has appeared in various journals including Proems, Misfit, Sledgehammer, Avocet, Open Words and The Ekphrastic Review. She is a Push Cart nominee who serves on the board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Her full length works are available on Amazon.
Poem for The Poet
I see you, sir
across the way.
In seeing you,
in watching you
I became you.
We will all become you.
Life will disappoint
Dreams will dissolve
All that will remain
All that ever was
Tristan Marajh's work appears or is upcoming in Firewords Magazine, The Bombay Review, Dreamers Creative Writing Magazine, The Nashwaak Review and others. He is a winner in the Scugog Arts Council's Ekphrastic Writing Competition (fiction); his brief conversation with fellow winner Eleni Gouliaras (poetry) can be read in The Ekphrastic Review here.
While he waits for another cup of coffee
he stares—the waitress has no idea
he’s regretting an em dash in the first quatrain
of his most recent poem, the one about the time
he stood on a stool next to his mother, his cheek
touching the cool skin of her arm
as she deftly pulls flour into egg yolks, stirs
with her fingers and kneads the dough,
then rolls it through the press—parchment thin--
and how it glows when she holds it up to the window
where the red bougainvillea sway—in nearly the same
manner he walked through the doorway today
faltering, the moment he remembered
how that same shade of red
had matched the colour
of his small shoes—and her lips.
Gwendolyn Soper is 1 part poet, 1 part commentary writer, 1 part soprano (formerly with the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Utah Chamber Artists, and Utah Light Opera), 4 parts grandmother, and 1 part beekeeper in rural Utah.
Like painter pausing flooding light
the poet hears reflected plight
to speak to moment lest it pass
becoming shelved like emptied glass
that's lost to those it might have served
by being message verse preserved
and proof prophetic, conscious mind
believed its soul could be entwined
in future it would not behold
that was in wizened eyes foretold
by pattern laid of perfect squares
and disarray of empty chairs --
the order and the chaos left
by those who've gone to those bereft.
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.
The Poet and the Artist
I sit with my sketchbook.
He with his thoughts. Even without paper,
I can tell he’s recording, debating.
We often occupy the same quiet.
I live in this moment, capturing
this space, the light of this hour.
He disappears into another dimension.
Entering customers might marvel why
it takes so long to choose a sandwich
or ice cream cone. They don’t know
the ineffable taste of inspiration.
Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. Thanks to fellow poets, who generously share the hottest poetry news, Alarie visited The Ekphrastic Review a few months after its birth and decided to move in to stay. She is a consultant for prizes, occasional judge, and received one of the first Fantastic Ekphrastic Awards in 2020.Please check out her three poetry collections on the Ekphrastic Bookshelf.
I’m dying empty,
Having climbed past
Middle age and now,
In this sun-latticed
Space, where hope
And language end,
Memory enters and
I try to reconcile all
That’s passed with
What little remains,
Weighing how I might
Yet remake this life
Of bad beginnings into
Of remembering. But
Math becomes even
More daunting as we
Age and it seems so
Much more has been
Subtracted, like the
Way a winter’s silence
Within a balsam-blue
Wood steadily and
Such that sounds become
Something rare and
Unsettling, like the
Voice inside my mis-
Shapened heart, even
As days shorten and
Descend, as they must,
Towards a cold and
John Muro is a life-long resident of Connecticut, and a graduate of Trinity College, Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut. He has a life-long passion for art, and worked at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut earlier in his career. John’s first book of poems, In the Lilac Hour, was published last fall by Antrim House, and it is available on Amazon. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals, including Moria, Euphony, River Heron, Sheepshead, The Writer Shed Press and the French Literary Review.
The Poet in the Cafe
How long, exactly,
does it take to make a god-
damned BLT? Sigh.
Johnny Eaton is a writer, songwriter, cartographer, actor, and artist living in the Outaouais, Quebec, Canada. His poetry has been published in Blackfly Literary Magazine and Seven Mondays Journal. He's just getting back into poetry after a long hiatus. Isn't it great that this is longer than his poem?
Waiting On A Muse
Without the hum of voices sharing news,
A café is an uninspiring place,
If where its owner planned to meet his muse.
This poet wears a disappointed face——
It's past the time she said she would be here ...
No smartphone rings——his poet's place is pro
Good conversation, smartphones interfere ...
Old phones, though here, are silent——she won't show.
Nor will the old-time patrons who once came.
A café host who nurtured têtê-à-tête
May reminisce, but times are not the same,
Upturned by Covid and the internet ...
So he'll close down, and write of days long gone——
Ennui may be the muse he waited on!
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons is a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Florida State University. His acrostic sonnets have appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Better Than Starbucks, the Creativity Webzine, Current Conservation, the Daily Mail, the Ekphrastic Review, Grand Little Things, Light, Lighten Up Online, New Verse News, Oddball Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, the Satirist, the Washington Post and WestWard Quarterly.
Art is Everywhere
The poet feels it. A queue of objects d'art
along the top-shelf of his mind all mean something:
a china cat that comes alive in dreams,
its brittle whiskers testing distance;
a goblet never meant for wine,
toasting its existence with sips of air.
Art is everywhere. The poet feels it,
interlocking fingers to greet himself in reverie.
A blue cotton blazer hugs him like the sky
as chairs challenge tables on the chessboard floor,
contemplating gambits: an infinity of strategies,
or one, like once upon a time...
Brown fades to beige in lemon light,
the sun warming windows chilled by night:
he watches it illuminate a sugar bowl,
its heaped cubes of crystal, becoming white.
Paul McDonald taught at the University of Wolverhampton for twenty five years, where he ran the Creative Writing Programme. He took early retirement in 2019 to write full time. He is the author of over twenty books, which cover fiction, poetry, and scholarship. His work has won a number of prizes including the Ottakars/Faber and Faber Poetry Competition, The John Clare Poetry Prize, and the Sentinel Poetry Prize. His academic work includes books on Philip Roth, Allen Ginsberg, Lydia Davis, narratology, and the philosophy of humour.
Chairs tango dream -
perfect legs clasp like his hands,
an ambushed poet.
Ekaterina Dukas is author of a British Library Publication, a poetry pilgrim, a Sanskrit student. Her poems appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Beckindale Poetry Journal, Poetrywivenhoe and Caged Blossoms.
The old man's journey
ends when a loved one has gone
in early summer.
Toshiji Kawagoe, Ph.D. is a professor at Future University Hakodate. He lives in Hokkaido, Japan. His poems in ancient Chinese have been published in the anthologies of Chinese poetry and his science fiction short stories in S-F Magazine and Anotherealm. His academic works in economics are also published in many books and academic journals.
The Poet Isn't Here
The poet doesn't linger in cafes.
The poet doesn't write about coffee.
The poet isn't inside today's stale menu.
The poet doesn't make a virtue of being alone.
The poet isn't soaked in cynicism,
a listless teabag.
The poet took their chess pieces from this floor,
caught the bus, is on a long journey,
won't be back.
Don't forget the tip.
Osculum of a Purse Sponge
Osculum of a Purse Sponge is currently underwater
A Quiet Place Away from Home
Grandpa often came to the diner in Laurens before people hustled to their jobs or after they finished their chores on their farms near Rush or Pickerel Lake. Most mornings he arrived before sunrise and shared fishing news with other grandpas, men with very little hair, and pretty women served them coffee as black as Iowa mud poured from a glass pitcher.
He said he’d introduce me if I could wake early. Vacation at Grandma and Grandpa’s helped me collect extra sleep for when I had to return home. It was tough for a ten-year-old to sleep when Mom and Dad fought.
Grandma could make coffee at home, but I think Grandpa needed quiet time, too.
I ran past his rusty pickup truck to the new air-conditioned Cadillac they bought after the farm auction. I climbed onto the leather seat, snapped the belt, and drank the cool silence with him the twelve blocks to town.
Main Street was empty except for two cars and a bright blue pickup with a load of straw in the back. Someone turned on a light at the Ben Franklin Store, but most owners were probably sleeping.
Grandpa flung wide the heavy door and motioned. “Ladies first.”
I giggled. He made me feel ten feet tall.
A bell chirped overhead. Hanging from a wire string the tarnished bell screeched like a violin someone forgot to tune. But the tiny café smelled like Grandma’s kitchen when she’d baked chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls on the same morning.
A woman with a flowery embroidered apron hugged me. “Hello, doll. You like our canary? Take a seat and I’ll be right back to take your order.”
“Are you Daisy?”
“Why, yes.” She glanced at Grandpa, then at me. “Now, how did you know that?” The woman’s voice sang, and her hands swept across the room. She twirled, and in one motion lifted the coffee pot, hung two cups on one finger, and glided back to our table.
Mini packets of sugar beckoned. The menu was artistic with handwritten words and flowers matching Daisy’s apron. “Ten cents for coffee?” I asked.
Daisy winked again. “Five cents for him.”
“It’s fifty cents where I live.” I shouldn’t have said that out loud.
Grandpa patted my arm. “Black. And a box o’ sugar cubes.” His eyes twinkled as the sun brightened the room. He put his finger to his lips. “Don’t tell your grandma.” He blinked both eyes, pressed his lips together, and made his expression that meant, And that’s that.
“Can I just have sugar cubes?”
Grandpa’s laughter filled the room.
Daisy pocketed her order pad. “Sure thing, sweetie. One box of sugar cubes coming up.”
He scraped his fingernails on the tablecloth. No one scolded him here.
Grandpa gazed through the huge wall of windows framed by checkered black and white curtains that matched the floor.
“Do those red chairs spin?” I pointed to the tall counter near the sweets.
He looked away from the window, blinked again, and nodded.
I stepped on the black squares, pretending the white ones were water, and climbed on a tall round stool and spun in grand circles.
“Be careful, doll,” Daisy warned.
I grabbed the table to stop, but my head kept spinning like I was on the teacup ride at the Iowa State Fair.
Grandpa’s worry lines appeared. He was tapping his fingernails on the fabric and played a tune I didn’t recognize. He saw me staring and the lines on his forehead softened. Wrinkles spread from the corners of his eyes. Just like that—his grin made him stop tapping and brought his twinkle back. Like a beautiful sunny day, the blue sky sparkled in his eyes.
Grandpa and the bell greeted the men one by one as they arrived. A grunt or two, sips of the muddy coffee, and the gurgling pot blended with the chatter of friends. Conversations hinted at family. Most had a wife and kids, but all voices rose in a crescendo when they shared their fishing tales.
I wanted to save every word and pack them in my suitcase. To ask why each one gathered here every morning. To know if the other wives fused about their husbands. And to listen to sad accounts of having to sell their farms and land.
Peace graced Grandpa’s face. He told me that many men came to America through Ellis Island just like he had, from places all around the world. From Sweden, Germany, or other countries across the ocean, they came to the farmlands of Iowa. They dug ditches, laid tile, or plowed fields to earn a living until they could buy a farm.
This land required back-breaking work, he’d said, but work offered rest each night, with a wife who’d worked as hard in the kitchen as he had in the fields.
Maybe that’s why Grandma scolded him. Maybe she felt unneeded in town. Or unloved.
Filled with breakfast and stories, I closed the box of sugar cubes.
He held out his work-worn hand. “Well, Grandma’s waitin’. Better git goin’.”
My ten-year-old hand in his sandpaper grip felt warm and safe. Loved.
I’m married now, and older than Grandpa was that summer. But I know better why he went to the diner after I had children of my own.
Sometimes silence feels right. Some days I need to escape. And I, like Grandma, sometimes nag my family.
“I just went to the grocery store,” or “I can make you a mocha Frappuccino for much less than Starbucks.” I wish I hadn’t said those out loud, either.
The din of small talk buzzing beyond my earbuds at Café Diem helps ground me.
That’s worth more than any price for coffee.
And if time travel were possible, a million, billion dollars wouldn’t keep me from a trip to Grandpa’s quiet place.
To sit once more and not say anything at all.
To see blue skies twinkling in Grandpa’s eyes.
Patricia Tiffany Morris
Patricia Tiffany Morris sketches ideas in her sleep, that is, when she finds time to sleep. She gravitates toward inspirational messages, encouraging others to find hope in Christ. An eclectic creative with a geeky-tech affinity and a poet with three names, Patricia adores Pinterest,Instagram, and hashtags, but finds Twitter quirky. She owns Tiffany Inks Studio LLC, the publisher of Journaling Scribbles, artwork, and custom logos. TISLLC provides tech troubleshooting, tutorials, and specialty services for writers.
He stared out the window into the empty street lit only by the flicker of gaslights. The restaurant was empty and so was the page before him. Blank. Nothing.
“Another whiskey,” he called across the empty dining room to the waiter.
“Bar’s closed, sir. I can get you a cup of coffee if you’d like.”
The old man shook his head and dropped his chin to his chest. He wanted to dull his senses, not awaken them. So much to say yet not a word came to mind beyond her name. “Evie, Evie, Evie.”
Their lives had been linked, bonded, after sixty-three years. She was not his other half. They were together as one. Today she would nurture the earth. Tomorrow he would join her.
But first he was to deliver a stirring eulogy as he’d done for so many of his congregants who had passed away through the years.
The door squeaked open. He didn’t look up, but heard the footsteps approaching.
“Dad.” He heard Marilyn’s soft voice and felt her warm hand touch his resting on the table.
“Dad,” she repeated. “Let’s go home.”
“But I didn’t …”
“I know. I’ve got this one.”
He looked up. Smile lines deepened on his face. “Evie,” he said staring into his daughter’s eyes.
Barbara Schilling Hurwitz
Barbara Schilling Hurwitz is a veteran teacher who has found a new voice through creative writing. Her short stories have appeared in many online and print journals including Montgomery Magazine, America Writers Review 2020, The Drabble, Potato Soup, Fewer than 500, Microfiction Monday and several Pure Slush anthologies. She enjoys reading, paper crafts, travel and time spent with family.