This was painful. It often is, choosing a few from many. But on the occasion of the gorgeous artwork by a consistently participating and popular challenge poet, we had heartfelt, personal work meant to honour the art of our beloved Rose. I am thankful to all of you who entered. We went with a large selection but it was still tough to choose. We are grateful to every writer for sharing your gift of words with the world. As always, we strive to strike a balance between supporting regular participants, welcoming new ones, and showcasing different perspectives and readings of the artwork itself. This is not an easy task!
In this case, Rose sent me her own poem about her artwork, and it seemed only fitting to me to show it first, followed by some of your entries.
Thank you all.
From the ashes Phoenix rises.
From defeat, strength unfolds its wings.
There is power in forgiveness,
growth through inclusion,
witch-magic in rebirth.
And Phoenix does not rise unarmed,
she is prepared to fend off any new ambush,
soaring into the evening sky like a griffin
on the way to the end of the known earth.
Proud, relentless, only the heart vulnerable,
the intention is noble,
the outcome guaranteed.
From the ashes Phoenix rises.
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 fifth poetry collection, DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS, will be published by Kelsay Books in July 2022. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Hooded chainmail feathered mantle
wings spread pinifer needles extend
owlish shape-shifter puffed to terrify
serious stance captured prey faceless
aggression tantamount to her survival
pinned for eternity needled to art
tapestry frozen in time vesuvian aviary
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson is a poet who addresses bullying, animal rights, environment and dabbles in Ekphrastic poetry. Her poems appear in New Verse News, Misfit and The Ekphrastic Review as well as other journals and in full length on Amazon. Dickson holds a BPS in Behavioral Science: Gerontology and works in-home with seniors. She is a past poetry board member, guest editor to two journals and shares her home with two rescued feral cats, Cam and JoJo.
Heart wings pulse, beat
every breath a rhythm.
Whispers scratch, cling
as cobwebbed veils
trace prey and paths divert
like the mighty eagle
spreads its wings and soars.
The maiden in her bower
proclaims shaded victory
bright eye aflame she
observes as furtive dance
gilded futile lives
to be known
to be free.
Jane Lang’s work has appeared in online publications including Quill and Parchment, the Avocet, Creative Inspirations, The Ekphrastic Review, and has been published in several anthologies. She has authored two chap books and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
The First Place
Mail coif of feathers and needle-thin primaries. Webs along with birds and humans and their rehearsed unaffected faces in the event that there is not a war. Hovering is acceptable. Standing is not possible. Face impassive one half covered in mail coif the other half covered by nothing except the elements and the enemies. Perhaps one day the uncovered side will break the law that allows only certain movements and comments; unlikely though it might be possible.
One option is hovering full-bore soaring – you will recall standing is illegal. Being held is not illegal. This aided Jimmy immensely in removing its armor. It would land on his open hand gracefully. He'd cup his hands and it would settle in for a quiet, sensitive nap. Sleep needs.
I just watched careful to never raise a ruckus.
Most of these were rarely glimpsed interlaced manifestations. One night I came to believe in them and one dragged a tail of feathered light by me so fast I think I saw it. So excited I told no one.
War came. In the first place there was no surprise involved. In the first place we did what we thought we were supposed to do. This is what preparation is always for. I should tell you here that my lacey friends are able to fly in any direction being as adept forward as backward. Their primaries only look fragile. Sharper than any razor stronger than the strongest tempered steel. Nothing delicate about them aside from their desire to remind us of something we cannot quite pinpoint.
The navigator recognized the entrance to hell. Its signal was green. As soon as he and his crew were in they started a campfire. Its signal was green. In the first place they celebrated with dance and seemingly improvised song. Celebrating the light they imagined would return. If it had ever been there in the first place.
Maiden voyage next time we will not return, not without the first place.
John L. Stanizzi
John L. Stanizzi authored eleven collections - Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide/Ebb Tide, Chants, Four Bits, Sundowning, POND, and The Tree That Lights the Way Home. He is widely published, and besides Ekphrastic Review, he has published in Prairie Schooner, American Life In Poetry, New York Quarterly, Cortland Review, Poet Lore, Italian Americana, and many others. His translations appear widely in Italy. His nonfiction has been published in Literature and Belief, Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, Evening Street, Potato Soup Journal, after the pause, and others. Potato Soup Journal named his story Pants “The Best of 2020” and it appeared in their “Best of…” anthlogy for 2020. A former New England Poet of the Year, John received a Fellowship in 2021 from Connecticut Office of the Arts. Lives in Coventry, CT., with his wife, Carol. https://johnlstanizzi.com
The Phantom Bird
A songless fledgling in a ghostly garden,
as if a drawing made with x-ray lines,
emerges out of shadows bound by dreams.
This is the darkened wood in which it hovers,
interstices of night between the trees,
whose leaves are feathers so precisely splayed,
And here a woman who remembers this.
Her breath and pauses punctuate these words,
telling many tales of silences.
Her unseen arms are arched above her skull.
She tips her mask-like face to that slow fan,
descending overhead -- the shuddering --
a solemn touch of slowly flexing wings.
O wonder, when she sees they are her own.
R.W. Rhodes is a retired professor of global religions. His poetry has appeared in various journals: The Montreal Review, Better Than Starbucks, and Halcyon Days, among other publications. He was the third-place winner of the 2022 Society of Classical Poets Translation Competition. He is the collaborator for an art/poetry exhibition, Specimens and Reflections, that will take place in September at Fairfield University Gallery.
I had two wings,
Yours were larger.
Kept me from things,
Made life harder.
I thought I’d soar,
I slowly crashed.
My eyes were yours,
Fears swiftly stashed.
I could not move,
Doubt smothered me.
Greatness to prove,
So high the fee.
Lines firmly drawn,
Time wept release.
Somewhere a dawn,
Somewhere my peace.
Corrie Pappas is a small business owner living in New England. She self-published the children’s book, Come Along and Dream, several years ago and has been writing poetry since childhood.
of your kind
bent to your
by a new
Carole Mertz, author of Color and Line (Kelsay Books) writes in Parma, Ohio. A recent poem on a migraine brought her a Pushcart Prize nomination. Carole reads (in poetry) for Kallisto Gaia Press and the Julia Darling Prize.
Gift of a Dream
From the unbroken darkness
a mile or two below
my waking thoughts
the feathers of the dream
angel drift upward
spiraling in a thermal
and gathering into the shape
of a woman running
against clouds of newspaper
sailing down the sidewalk.
She stumbles into my arms,
her eyes amethyst, her hair
bound with a black cloth,
her hands holding my
shoulders as she pulls me
into her arms in a green
rowboat, water spilling over
the gunwales, trying
to swallow us as we cling
to each other, to our breathy
whispers, deep kisses, and tears.
Malcolm Glass has written and published poems and stories in many journals and reviews for the past sixty-five years. His thirteenth book, Mirrors, Myths, and Dreams, a collection of poems, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018.
My lover, lover,
there’s feathers above my head.
One eye is open.
My unmasked face wants you
but half is shaded.
When I paint violet,
the canvas is an angel.
The hopeful couples
have never seen dreams my way,
have never seen snow dust wings.
John Milkereit lives in Houston, Texas working as a mechanical engineer and has completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the Rainier Writing Workshop. His work has appeared in various literary journals including Naugatuck River Review, Panoply, San Pedro River Review and previous issues of The Ekphrastic Review. His next full-length collection of poems, A Comfortable Place with Fire, will be published in 2023.
She Was Once a Bird
A girl is born
With sparse mousy-brown feathers,
Laughing eyes, a secret charisma
Born as sacrifice to the Gods
Of domestic terrorisim
A Wren, she used to be
Kicked from the nest too early
When the mother-love couldn’t stretch
Across eight squawking nestlings
The one terrorized, stuck to the side,
Was pushed out, flipping, stumbling, then realizing
An awkward flight, fraught with love and terror.
She was a bird, nevertheless, and meant to fly
Yet she flitted, searching for something warm
She used to know, burrowed into her brothers
And sisters, content and covered, anonymous
The noticing rendered her real, and disposable
Immediately perceived as wasting too much space
Released from comfort and captivity
She used her wings only sparingly-
Not wanting to wear them out like so many
Free things intrigued her: blackberries, night sonnets,
Shiny glass, clean water in concrete baths,
Abandoned domiciles, suet and seeds
When surprising new plumage appeared, she preened
Puffing out her tiny chest, she attracted attention
Such a light-boned, creature, chattering to herself
A singular man honed in, startling her stock-still
He hovered over her body, stiff on a branch, and wished.
Unfamiliar appendages began to sprout:
Wings into half- arms, lengthened, thickened legs, a widened head
Hands, ears, larger soft brown eyes, a huge heart
Wrapped in a soft suburban blanket
She soon forgot the joy of effortless flight-
Disremembered the enormous freedom of climbing white sky
She hid shiny things only she could retrieve
Feathered her nest, waiting and wondering:
Would her daughters inherit wings?
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, Poetry Quarterly, Haiku Universe, 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.
A Mythical Creature of Unknown Power
When the prowling starts, I swoosh Cassie onto my shoulders and we lace fingers into wings. We are a mythical creature of unknown power. As the creature’s head, Cassie must stoop a little under the lintel, and as the creature’s body I must hip the door shut on its latch as we fly from the monster to our magical underground realm.
Back before our little family realised it was lacking a Cassie, Mum mosaicked the basement walls for me with leftover paints trollied round by Fiona, our favourite neighbour. Dad used to say we’d struck gold with Fiona. Mum would just smile in that way she had, like she knew a whole lot more than she needed to say. In the evenings, I’d anticipate her key in the front door. Leg it up the rubber-edged steps to waylay her.
We anticipate different things now, Cassie and me. We become moths avoiding light when the air starts tasting bitter.
Beyond our whispers, we can hear the empty waltz of Mum’s yellow rocking chair in the kitchen. A bottle rolls overhead, garbling its hollow rhythm, and from its sticky-sweet mouth I picture the last spits of poison dulling to oblivion.
Cassie wiggles her drawing at me. It’s us, our rainbow wings outstretched behind a tiny, shuttered house. “When proper Daddy comes back I’m gonna give him this picture,” she says, and her feather-thumb goes to her mouth the way it does when he’s reading her a story, pyjama-snuggled and leaning in to every sober word. Outside the house our old red truck hovers, fresh with fat tyres. A tall, smiling man waves from behind a giant steering wheel.
Sad-Monster-Daddy is tired now. My chest vibrates to his three-up-two-down stumbles on the stairs above, rousing the truth-genie I keep corked up inside.
I drum my hooves on the vinyl floor. “Wanna fly up and get some cocoa before bed?” Cassie nods and raises her arms. I swear she’s growing bigger and heavier by the hour. Nearly too heavy for mythical flight. After cocoa I’ll heave the bottle bin to the end of the alley for its fortnightly pick up, past Fiona’s back door. The light from her art studio a glowing invitation.
For now, though, we wheel and swoop. While upstairs’ snores begin to fade, like the closing beats of a secret countdown.
Linda Grierson-Irish lives in Shropshire, UK. Her stories have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Ellipsis Zine, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Flash Frontier, Bath Flash Fiction anthologies, Reflex Fiction, Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology. She has been included on the BIFFY50 (Best British and Irish Flash Fiction) 2018-19, and received two honourable mentions for Best Microfiction 2019.
When God became His life begun,
from filaments He had it spun
in saline depths forever dark
where He alone could be the spark
unseen that would begin design
of threads that weave to redefine
and slowly rise to seek the light
as ecosystem day and night
of tiny forms to swarm the seas
at first and then the lift of breeze
to spiral skyward free from brine
then fall to land and realign
as fertile germ forevermore
the means to thrive and wings to soar
of life enlarging both ashore
and in the blue from brim to floor
creating likeness slowly drawn
that filaments were moved to spawn.
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...
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.
I live split. My head laced.
Two sisters in their struck
Memory. From the round
Table. Knight at the Ark.
She shall appear self-strange
Her wings, static of
The sky raised.
Angelic light should permeate her.
Autodidactic, idiosyncratic, anathema.
Some mythic beast, some mammory.
From the pharmakon, chronological
Third eye, her bird throat
Voice striated, in-describe
Her blue eyes rimmed with kohl.
On sight, try flight for the first time.
Evangelical, ethereal, antimony.
Healer, medicine girl-liquor
Of the good kind, pawned Neptune
Akhenaton off, doll where you go
A concept all way cross my planet
‘n back to wade, Episcopalian
Eyes scowls in gold lettering.
Hypokaimenon- a material sub-
Stratum, what grounds the field
Goes under us ‘n goners?
Sail as if this pulse
Were punctuate, and yes
She goes underground, ecstatic
Plunge of sweet pine bristles.
Steep hills in Kashmir valley
Where the river runs glen dry
Upstream fish-eyed, the whole
Embrace of another inside healer
Versed in psychiatry,
The question, presentation,
The approach, a practiced glance.
Challenge, Jasper, why?
Time- flash hands changing in the pan.
If I ever washed them, a different river already
Stuck out like serration- I rinsed
Lank, walking forth to the good cold water
And stood there, and like talus there was a ledge.
I didn’t know where that ledge was.
Jasper Glen is a poet from Vancouver, Canada. His poetry appears in The Antonym and Island Writer Magazine.
Hold the white dove
with both hands
forming a bowl,
at the front.
Feel the flutter
of its heart
aginst your fingers.
It's more scared
of you than you are
of hurting it.
When the time comes
release it with
a gentle upward motion.
It knows what to do.
Have you ever held
its cool smoothness,
the metal heaviness?
Links that flow like
The weight of it pulls
down on the head, sits
heavy on brow, flows
over your shoulders.
A full moon eye
stares from half
a face, the rest
Too much sadness.
Only sibyls see
what the future
holds and they
speak in Greek,
On hearing, hearts
of warriors and doves
Emily Tee spent her working life wrangling numbers. Now retired, she has recently started writing poetry. She has had several pieces published in The Ekphrastic Review challenges and will have some others in print later this year with other publications. She lives in England.
I Used to Fly
No predator I, without talons
Nor piercing beak to capture prey but preyed upon
By birders and other collectors.
I used to fly with velveteen wings
Now delicately skewered one feather at a time
To faux velvet canvas under glass.
I used to glide with radiant eyes
Through jet streams in vast cobalt skies and starry nights
Half sighted now and punctured through.
I used to soar from wind swept plains
Through forests to the timber line of mountain tops
Majestic reverence no longer mine.
Revered though still while on display
Where passer-bys observe my splayed magnificence
Soaring now in eyes’ imagination.
in the parlor,
down the hall,
in an hour when
you no longer
music you can’t
In these restless
cast in a silky
backdrop, a chorus
of angels sings
while you try
on this late
Dr. Jim Brosnan
Dr. Jim Brosnan is the author of Nameless Roads (2019). His poems have appeared in the Aurorean (US), Crossways Literary Magazine (Ireland), Eunoia Review (Singapore), Literary Yard (India), Nine Muses (Wales,) Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), Strand (India), The Madrigal (Ireland), The Ekphrastic Review (Canada), and Voices of the Poppies (United Kingdom). He holds the rank of full professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI.
By Another Name
In front of Smitty’s Bar on the beach
yellowed by the wash over mudflats
called a nicer name than the muck
Mother used as a facial
I remember the twist of her hips
as she waded from one rippled expanse
of sand to the next and rose out
of depressions where oysters dwelled
as her face dried in late morning
and began to crack in lines
from eyes and nose until
they settled below her mouth.
I never patched them with thread
just let them stay at the tide’s reach
as it made its way to steps
that topped the bulkhead
everyone called a different name
but I held fast against the breach.
Kyle Laws is based out of Steel City Art Works in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Beginning at the Stone Corner (River Dog, 2022), The Sea Is Woman (Moonstone Press, 2021, winner of its 2020 award), Uncorseted (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2020), Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence coauthored with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With eight nominations for a Pushcart Prize and one for Best of the Net, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. She is editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
Remembering Brünhilde, Njal & the Völsungs
Poured evenly across a brass plate,
a cobalt black layer of waxy resist
vacuum sealed the surface, etching needle
scratching artistic details among Viking runes;
link upon link, rings linked with rings,
drenched in ferric chloride, boiling water
& baking soda flushed away the etchant,
revealed a Rhine Maiden’s leather braces;
scalds lionized Brünhilde’s fiercely fair power;
brandishing a bright spear, the shield maiden
spread & fanned wings like a golden eagle,
steely swan feathers jutting outside divine armor.
Covering & protecting the Valkyrie
crown to collarbone, a chain mail coif
forged on Midgard’s anvil, annealed
with prudence, galvanized in patience,
tempered by good judgement & distinguished
favor ushered men like moths towards flames
as she rode though stiff winds, scanning every
still breeze in search of steeds unsaddled--
warriors fallen—choosing & guiding the slain
into Valhalla’s all to brief hereafter spent boasting
of battles, revisiting sagas—embellishing personal
exploits--drinking & feasting until Ragnorök.
An award-winning Washington-based author, poet, and educator, Sterling Warner’s works have appeared literary magazines, journals, and anthologies including Trouvaille Review, Shot Glass Journal,Danse Macabre, Ekphrastic Review, and Sparks of Calliope. Warner’s collections of poetry include Rags and Feathers, Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Edges, Memento Mori, Serpent’s Tooth, and Flytraps: Poems (2022)—as well as Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories. Currently, Warner writes, participates in “virtual” poetry readings, and enjoys retirement in Washington.