Wonders of the World: Enchanted Buddha Fish Sing a Song of Purple
So I’m standing in front of the Buddhist Master
who’s ignoring me
because he’s sitting in a cave
draped in lion skin, and made of stone
But that’s okay
Because the stream surrounding him
is filled with fish-gods who shimmer
beneath the splendor of an autumn light
drawing each moment into the mist of their water-shadows.
Across the river an ancient monk meanders along a bridge
its wooden planks drawing deep breaths each time he warns
that there are ghosts wandering the bamboo groves
And my son moves to my side
to gaze into the cosmos spinning beneath us
silken veils of blue, green, yellow, white
centered by a glow
soft as the moon halfway through its midnight journey
Which causes me to wonder if it’ll be dark
by the time we get on the Harley and ride down this mountain
But that doesn’t matter
as much as the fact that right now
flames are devouring the jungle
we’ll soon be driving through
and we don’t even know it yet.
My eyes drift back to the fish
but the moment I turn they swirl toward panic,
reversing direction in one swift movement
their scales embracing the shape of a golden leaf
before their neon blue descends toward the sorrow of purple
and I toss them a piece of bread
while asking them out loud
Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?
Karima Diane Alavi
As a graduate student, Karima Alavi received a scholarship to study language, history, and art in Iran. After completing her Master’s degree in Middle East and Asian Studies in the U.S. she returned to Iran to teach. She later taught Middle East Studies at Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C., and most recently taught Humanities, Art History, and Creative Writing at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe. Karima moved to New Mexico to serve as director of the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute on ‘Understanding and Teaching about Islam.’ Her short stories have appeared on National Public Radio (All Things Considered), in Sufi Magazine, Voices of Islam, and online journals such as the Santa Fe Writers Project, Glint Literary Journal, and Tom Howard Winning Writers. Her novel manuscript, Merchant of Color, set in the Vatican and Iran during the Renaissance, won the David Morrell First Place Prize at the 2017 New Mexico/Albuquerque Author Festival, was a semi-finalist in the 2019 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition and, along with another one of her manuscripts, In the Shadow of the Tombs, was one of ten finalists in the 2020 Keats Literary Competition. Karima lives in Abiquiu, New Mexico, where the howl of coyotes and the prowling of skunks inspire her to stay inside at night and get more writing done.
Sapphics for Artemisia
Woman painter, eyebrows and lips tight twisted,
saws through sinew, brushes on dark vermilion
blood that pools on sheets and erupts in ribbons:
Holofernes lies like a birthing mother,
knees contracted, wetting his bed with bleeding.
Judith — midwife, murderess, woman painter --
ably attends him.
Artemisia, lavish in flesh and velvet,
bares her thick white elbows and roughened knuckles,
bares her backward appetite keen for murder:
Knowing art historians, cataloguing
yellow ochre, umber and chiaroscuro
coolly point professional tidy fingers,
none of them painters.
Cara Valle is an English teacher and fitness enthusiast living in Virginia with her husband and four young children. Her poems have been published in Light, Mezzo Cammin, The Lyric, Think, Blue Unicorn, and other journals.
She wasn’t thinking of babies at all, before
a beefy Gabriel dive-bombed her rackety room;
Outside, her almost husband sawed and planed,
joined mortise to tenon, slid dovetails into place.
Time enough when they were properly wed.
She was just reading, puzzling over prophets
and all the great reversals of fate they promise:
tyrants tumbled, the ragged, downtrodden raised.
When would all this levelling happen, and how?
Then the brute angel barged in; and in the air
a chain, a garland of babies, babies, babies –
how could one woman ever welcome so many?
But it was just one, her baffling son, she must bear.
She pictured the timbers falling from Joseph’s hand.
Veronica Zundel is a non-fiction writer and graduate of the Poetry School/Newcastle MA in Writing Poetry. Her poems have been published in Other Poetry, Magma, The Alchemy Spoon and various anthologies, used in an OU foundation course and broadcast on Radio 2. She has won the Barnet Open and Cruse Lines competitions and been a finalist in the Mslexia competition. She lives in London, UK.
Basket of Plums (by Anne Vallayer-Coster, 1769)
—after William Carlos Williams
saw your painting, and have
been wondering if you had eaten
one before setting up the
still life, the plummy plums
heaped in the basket, so lushly plump that
we might taste them. Were
you tempted in
the moment, in the
days when an icebox
was no more than a dream and
before you knew which
way life would turn for you;
I mean, were
you thinking you could live on art, probably
or maybe, saving
yourself, hungry for more than breakfast?
Were you worried how long the plums would last? Forgive
me for not knowing you before yesterday, me--
I just try to keep up with things as they
pile up like overripe plums. Were
you aware how delicious
they would be, so
luscious and sweet,
so perfectly paired with the teacakes and
the glass of water, so
real, that for a moment, the world was not so cold.
Purple Brown (by Mark Rothko, 1957)
—after William Carlos Williams
hope to have
been able to say, I have eaten
just as much as the
soul needs, tasted enough plums
of joy and suffering, accepted that
precarious balance, a feeling you were
able to plum and muster in
the heart’s cloister, the
body’s generator. No icebox
for you but something warmer and
stirred in thin washes and across scales, which
steeped in the aftermath of rainstorm, and you
who could plumb a line deeper, were
you among the early risers, probably
sensing a holiness in the early hour and saving
seconds of time for
yourself, long before breakfast.
Will god forgive
the human tendency to dwell on “me”--
our trials and trespasses while they
of other histories slip past us, and were
we awake or did we only dream delicious
thoughts? I see a field suffused with plum, so
radiant that I linger, the chapel quiet, the children sweet
and still asleep. There is something I have lost and
I have come to find it. We harbor dreams and so
we hope. We gather what we can against the cold.
Sharon Tracey is the author of two poetry collections, Chroma: Five Centuries of Women Artists (Shanti Arts Publishing, 2020) and What I Remember Most is Everything (All Caps Publishing, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Radar Poetry, Lily Poetry Review, Pirene’s Fountain, The Banyan Review, Terrain.org, SWWIM, The Ekphrastic Review, and elsewhere. sharontracey.com
Cooking Tips for the Demon-Haunted
Keep those demons at bay, is what Mama always said, for they will try and try to find a way in, and they are many and they are everywhere. Even now, standing in the kitchen as I am, a demon is beside me. If a bird flies into your window, leaves a trail of feathers and blood, it is a demon bringing bad luck; if white roses grow where you planted azaleas, a demon sowed the seed; if the paint separates and the color will not fix, a demon dipped his brush; if the beans sour in the soup, a demon stirred the pot; if the rice burns in the pan, a demon fanned the flame; if a young woman twists and turns on a high wire, rope of braid hanging down, she is a demon in pleasing form and that rope is the noose she holds for your husband, or for you. Too many demons crowd my head; they snap and fly like hot grease on a cast-iron frying pan, spanging through the sky, leaping and multiplying, they are all busy going somewhere and here I stand as the water boils away, leaving a smell of brimstone.
Are you feeling well, child? Mama asks, her fingers cool against my forehead. Surely this is Mama’s hand, the hand I’ve always known, so white and dry and cold.
Kathryn Kulpa is a New England-based writer and editor with words in Flash Fiction Magazine, Monkeybicycle, No Contact, and Pithead Chapel. Her stories have been chosen for Best Microfiction and included in the Wigleaf longlist. She is flash fiction editor at Cleaver Magazine.
These writings, inspired by breathtaking art, break through our distracted busyness and unbelieving to remind us of our ability to hear other living things communicating with us and with each other. Enjoy!
José of Lisbon, by Sarah Kilgallon
The path is the way in this short, gorgeous piece: “But even that first night the path of stars never let him rest.”
Manzanita, by Robert Walton
With the phrases: “emerald wreathed fingers” and “its stolen treasure,” this poem is fascinating.
House Behind the Trees, 1906-07, by Barbara Crooker
This poem carries us all to “this house behind the blue trees” with joy and abandon.
Thomas Hart Benton Shows Me Where to Stand at the Edge of the Field, by Sara Judy
The title of this poem pulled me into the feelings of the poem.
Under the Trees, by Marion Starling Boyer
For the love and power of trees in this beautiful poem based on a painting by Edouard Vuillard: “muted beneath mature trees so content and well-behaved they reach decoratively to one another”
There are almost seven years worth of writing at The Ekphrastic Review. With daily or more posts of poetry, fiction, and prose for most of that history, we have a wealth of talent to show off. We encourage readers to explore our archives by month and year in the sidebar. Click on a random selection and read through our history.
Our occasional Throwback Thursday feature highlights writing from our past, chosen on purpose or chosen randomly. We are grateful that moving forward, Marjorie Robertson wants to share some favourites with us on a regular basis, monthly. With her help, you'll get the chance to discover past contributors, work you missed, or responses to older ekphrastic challenges.
Would you like to be a guest editor for a Throwback Thursday? Pick 10 or so favourite or random posts from the archives of The Ekphrastic Review. Use the format you see above: title, name of author, a sentence or two about your choice, or a pull quote line from the poem and story, and the link. Include a bio and if you wish, a note to readers about the Review, your relationship to the journal, ekphrastic writing in general, or any other relevant subject.
Put THROWBACK THURSDAYS in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's have some fun with this- along with your picks, send a vintage photo of yourself too!
L’Européenne Fayum Mummy Portrait
On Roman roads from Antinopolis, you reclined,
While tasting dates in a luxurious litter.
A sandstorm hit; and panicked, scared, supine,
“She died,” Ra and Sol Invictus whispered.
Anubis came. The jackal discarded your brain,
while Isis wept, incanting a sorcerous dirge.
The ibis scribed “avarice” on papyrus.
Osiris nodded, you turned to windswept dust.
Yet on paneled cedar, eunuch master of Thrace--
Apply the thickened wax and gossamer dyes.
Entomb Ma’at. Egyptian raven of grace
Pursues a fennec fox with onyx eyes.
Now your soul illumines the Louvre—the ancient portal.
Alexandrian goddess reborn. At last, immortal.
Dave Day is an attorney from Honolulu, Hawaii. He has published articles in the Emory International Law Review, the Hawaii Bar Journal, and The Dartmouth.
The Gift of Prosperina
Wake up, master Gaius, wake up! The house is astir. Can you hear the chickens? The deer came up from the lake and woke them up, and all the fountains too. Do you hear the water? Your father left at dawn for an important meeting. Aulia is baking bread for you, and I must help Dala with the washing. Help me, dear baby, drink your breakfast. I picked a pomegranate from the garden, crushed its great old heart, and let it bleed into this silver bird for you. I bring the gift of Proserpina, master Gaius, so you never part with your mother, young Marcella of the golden bracelets. She is coming soon to kiss your sweet soft hair. I left my mother far behind in Thracia, a land of wild roses and mountains covered with thyme.
Drink up, dear Gaius, this will make you stronger, taller than your father. When you become a scholar and a fleet commander, will you remember how I woke you every morning with silver birds and pomegranates? Will you take me home to see my mother?’
Author's note: Gaius Plinius Secundus (23-79 AD), known as Pliny the Elder, was born near Lake Como, Italy. He was an ancient Roman naturalist, philosopher, and naval commander. He was the celebrated author of the encyclopedic Natural History, regarded as a scientific authority for centuries after his death.
Blaga Angelow lives in Los Angeles, California. She studies Classical Mediterranean History and volunteers as a docent at the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu, California.
Creativity. Community. Conversation.
That's what our workshops are all about!
Discover new ways to engage with art during our fun Sunday sessions, where we gather as a community to write together.
Click on image above for more information about this week's workshop and an upcoming session on the marvels of Magritte.
I waited every night for you, spread my blood across the bed like a blanket. Finally you arrived streaming in through the roof -- a golden rain of many leaves. When my maid caught you, you were gilt, so thin you melted on the tongue, dissolved if wet. When you fell on me your leaves became blood, my pillow blood, my blanket blood, the blood that ran both in & out from between my thighs. I feel your hand slow & rough along the soft line from arm to breast, my open mouth. Gold leaves light my hair, the lush smell of life rises like a cry into the room.
Poet and essayist, Rachel Neve-Midbar’s collection Salaam of Birds won the 2018 Patricia Bibby First Book Award and was published by Tebot Bach in 2020. She is also the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach, 2014, winner of The Clockwork Prize). Rachel’s work has appeared in Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, Grist and Georgia Reviewas well as other publications and anthologies. Her awards include the Crab Orchard Review Richard Peterson Prize, the Passenger Poetry Prize and nominations for The Pushcart Prize. Rachel is a current PhD candidate at The University of Southern California where her research concerns menstruation in contemporary poetry. She is also editor of Stained: an anthology of writing about menstruation for the AuntFlo2020 Project. More at rachelnevemidbar.com
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