“Sculpture is the science of the hollow and the bump.” Rodin
“Sculpture is the science of the hollow and the bump,” Rodin
Look how he has made me
of the earth
hills and hollows
like the tree from which I came
hewn shaped scraped
Look at the nothing
that is my core
the empty hole
You are drawn from
the whole to the hole
the form is only the shell
holding the hole
Look at how he has made us
Jay Jacoby is a happily retired English professor having taught for most of his career at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He now lives in the Western North Carolina mountains and is able to focus energies on creative writing. His writing has appeared in several journals and he has four new poems coming out soon in an anthology, Barricaded Bards: Poems from the Pandemic (March 2021, ArsPoetica, an imprint of Pisgah Press, LLC) .
we walked away from town at dusk
red sand already darkening around us
you wouldn’t let me take a torch
said eyes would get accustomed to the dark
soon neon lights were out of sight
and the pale horizon faded
clouds turned violet like fresh bruises
and when the moon appeared its beams
turned hollows into pools of indigo
made sand glow like polished copper
I worried about snakes
then we heard the sound you held my hand
it’s only the wind you said but I was fearful
two black shapes loomed out of the darkness
impossibly tall against the night sky
I sensed in them deep suffering
like all the sadness in the world
one was pierced through its chest
just as you in your soul’s darkness
were later to be pierced
and the wind blew through the holes
like someone moaning
Sheila Lockhart is a retired social worker and lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. She is a member of the Moniack Mhor writers’ group and Suffolk Poetry Society. She has been published in Northwords Now, Nine Muses Poetry, Twelve Rivers, the StAnza Poetry Map of Scotland, The Writers’ Cafe, Words for the Wilds, Re-Side and The Ekphrastic Review.
On The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries
After the six 15th Century tapestries commonly regarded
as allegories of the five senses and a sixth sense of the heart.
The Cluny Museum, Paris
I. The Encounter
After the pious saints and tokens of war,
dulled paint, tarnished metals in exhibits
below, the tapestries, huge and glowing, float
in the dimly-lit room at the top of the stairs.
They astonish. How delicious to frolic
with brocaded ladies, with bright flowers
and beasts and birds! Though enchanted,
I sense beneath the posed scenes,
II. The Monkey
In only four of the six is the monkey allowed.
The artist knew well to mind the traditions,
hierarchy of senses being sacred and known.
Thus, the noble Sight and Sound,
gateways to God,
could not include this creature of sin.
He serves as our proxy,
this foolish debasement in near-human form.
But see him relish the berries of Taste
and the pungent carnation of Smell!
And notice his stare over the shoulder,
encountering us in his naïve boldness,
at center-front in Mon Seul Desir as though
to see our reaction to this puzzling tableau,
to tattle a tale back to artist and weaver.
His mischief expected, of course.
But how cruel is his bondage in Touch!
As the lady fondles
the horn of the tamed unicorn
and grasps the patron’s banner,
he sits disheartened, chained to a stone,
his fellow ape in a belt of confinement.
And other animals, too—the genet and dog
and the fox—all collared, subdued.
Only the soul-symbol heron flies high,
free from the cuffed falcon,
and the pheasants
upon which courtly vows are made,
arrive freely on time.
Rabbits scamper in abundance.
Beneath the nuptial perfection of the orange tree--
chaste blossoms and ripe fruit together--
the lordly lion turns to us with a smile.
And what of the Lady, solemn, distracted?
she poses weighted with thick robes,
trussed with chains,
held with stones.
III: The Four Trees
Of course, the artist would use four trees
—four seasons, four directions,
four humors, four winds--
Symbolic meaning understood,
with calming green against
rampant fields of scarlet.
The holly was a given--
long standing for the coy unicorn
and the moon in the waning half of the year,
but also for the passion of Christ
with its thorn-spiky leaves,
its blood-red berries,
and in its winter greenness,
And the oak, too, was required.
Ever the tree of the lion,
the king of the forest, the sun
in the waxing half.
These two bore the heavy load
of oldest legends, deeply felt
in Druid blood.
The orange tree was symbolic perfection
for those panels that hinted at marriage,
white blossoms, full-fleshed fruit:
the chaste and the fertile.
But the fourth choice is a mystery.
Why the pine?
True, its whirling cones
held pregnant seeds.
(Some carried these as charms.)
But other trees wield procreation magic.
Why not the birch with her healing magic,
powers of conception?
Or what about the yew and the willow
with their rebirthing and moon magic?
The chestnut’s chastity, the elm’s fidelity?
Medieval hearts adored these trees.
The artist chose the pine.
The reason, perhaps, is not of the flesh,
but of the soul and the mind.
See in the sixth tapestry, Mon Seul Desir,
how the pine, along with the most-holy holly,
anchors the opened tent,
the heart, internal sense revealed.
For the pinecone base bespeaks the “third eye,”
enlightenment’s center, and its needles held
the scent that dispels guilt.
Burn them to purify the home.
Bathe with them for magical cleansing.
And so the pine signals the lady’s sanctity.
She can allow her soul’s display,
guiltless after serving the lusty senses,
at the dawn of the Renaissance.
IV: The Flowers
Fields of flowers—millefleur--
in peak bloom. The April violet,
the June rose nod at once full-blown
in a season that could never be.
Separately woven with no distance confusion,
each discrete flower claims its sovereign worth.
For this garden of love: periwinkles, roses,
and pink carnations for wedding crowns.
Gillyflowers for constancy,
forget-me-nots for sincerity.
But the garden is sacred, as well,
and belongs to Our Lady, the Virgin.
She summons the watchful unicorn
with the purity of white roses,
with love, red-rose rich as Christ’s blood.
Lilly-of-the-valley, foxgloves, columbine,
daisies, and violets are her flowers,
as all would have known,
and thrive in each tapestry field.
Warming cold walls of ancient castles,
the tapestries contented hearts
both romantic and saintly
with flower-strewn meadows of red.
V: The Hands
The ladies’ hands have no knuckles,
no tendons, no blood.
Vaporous like those of elongated saints,
pure like the wings of small doves,
they yet perform earthly tasks,
caressing the horn of the adoring beast,
twining flowers into a lover’s chaplet,
playing the organ.
Fingers pluck sweets from a bowl
and make a dainty perch for the bird.
All moves illumine pleasures,
pleasures served to others.
One lady touches but is not touched.
One feeds but does not eat.
One fashions a flower wreath for another
but does not (like the monkey)
savor the heady fragrance
of carnation and rose all about her.
One offers music for the listeners,
another, a mirror for the unicorn, and finally,
after opening the privacy of her heart,
the lady’s hands in the sixth panel
cast aside all delight
in her own possessions
in her own pleasure.
And then she is wholly the servant
whom the artist, the designer,
the dyer, the weaver,
and the patron
expect her to be.
Clela Reed is the author of seven collections of poetry. Recently Silk (Evening Street Press, 2019) won the Helen Kay Chapbook Prize and then the 2020 Georgia Author of the Year in chapbook competition. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has had poems published in The Cortland Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Review, The Literati Review, Clapboard House, and many others. A former English teacher and Peace Corps volunteer, when not traveling or shooing deer from her garden, she lives and writes with her husband in their woodland home near Athens, Georgia.
The Yellow Room
It will forever be
in this corner of my house
where a hung calendar displays
The Chinese Screen by Margaret Olley,
set in her heaven-on-earth living room
with a doorway into a further room,
blue-walled, below its window,
steeped in silver, a figured jar.
In the near room, an offstage
window offers its broad
slant on things, emblazons
the ochre-and-gold at the screen's centre,
falls on a flank of yellow wall,
the daybed's vined, flowered coverlet
and, with only one cup, the coffee set,
its grooved whiteness
a provocation to shadow.
How many times, over the many years
was this yellow room
conjured through paint, to become
witness and archive of
a life lived in art,
and of the life of art itself:
here, the headlong anarchic whirl
of Matisse's round of dancers
the inturned calm, the storied
mystery, of the Chinese screen
with its pavilions, its robed figures
and a beyond of islands
on a blackly shining sea.
When evening comes
the room, no longer captive
to sliding shadows,
knows the solace of music –
its geometric airiness,
its aqueous flare-and-shimmer.
Then, humdrum pleasures,
and the sustenance, ease
that enable the long moment of
a whole life.
Soon enough, sleep's erasures,
the neon shock of dreams,
whatever kind of rest is given
until first light reaches in
to place its touch upon
the things darkness saves for us.
This poem was long listed for the Peter Porter International Poetry Prize in 2019. It is from Diane's forthcoming poetry collection, The Glass Flowers.
Diane Fahey is the author of thirteen poetry collections, November Journal the most recent. She has won major poetry awards, and has received literary grants from the Australia Council. Her poetry has been represented in over seventy anthologies. Diane holds a PhD in Creative Writing from UWS. dianefaheypoet.com
American Gothic by Grant Wood (USA) 1930
Oh – the blessed joy of hardship
Clothed cantankerous – rigorously stitched
To itch the hide with gritted guilt
Our skin so tight as if to snap
Or tear if emotion should appear
To crack at half a happy smile
We stand cold stoned still for
The long hard mile – while
We keep it shut – hold it in –
The lust – the sin – the wetted
Tongue or pouty lip shrivel at the lover’s kiss
Stand rigid frigid – silent as God’s angry angels
Shady subtle shifts of air – stealthy
Sly and ancient old – knives out
Swish swish – skinning souls
Chris Sparks is quite an old person but new to creative writing. He comes from East London but has ended up in Sligo Ireland. For many years he worked as a political theorist. Now he finds that (weirdly) every dark thing that what once was theoretical seems to be becoming actual. So, for his sanity and soul, he has decided to come at things from another angle and this is why he writes poetry.
Judging from the angle of sunlight playing with my cat, Taro, I’ve had a bit more sleep than I am usually able to manage. I wake up in sections, stretching on the expensive mattress my kids insisted I needed; they were right – rising is a lot less painful than it used to be pre-the-something-o-pedic. My hips take the longest time to cooperate, and because I need them to sit up, I thank them first. They’re not perfect but they’re the original set, and that’s more than a lot of people my age can say. I am grateful for every part of this body for what it continues to give me, and for what it hasn’t. At least not yet. So, I start each day voicing my thanks out loud, a ritual Taro has come to believe is Taro-centric. She thinks most things are.
I sit at the edge of my bed and grab some woolen socks from the basket that hangs off the wooden headboard. This is the most irritating part of my day. My feet have never been anywhere close to pretty, and the past twenty years have not been kind to them. More disturbing than the way they look is their increasingly sinister unreliability. They have a tendency to seize up or go numb when I least expect it, that is, when I forget to remember their intermittent treachery. They are my anatomical problem children, and, I admit, it’s a struggle to love them. Especially when just putting on a pair of socks can be so tedious; my toes balk at the necessary contractions, and the rough, calloused skin of my heels catch on the soft alpaca Nordic designs my youngest daughter favours. I sportscast the process for Taro, who listens closely while quietly attending to her own velvet paws.
When I am able to stand, Taro performs figure eights around my ankles, her tail flicking at the damp flesh behind my knees. She ushers me towards the hallway, then leaps ahead. As I shuffle into the kitchen, Taro jumps onto the countertop where she stalks the electric can opener. Unlike a lot of cats, she never feigns indifference. Taro is an unabashed lover of life, a Zen master of moment-to-moment mindfulness and grace. I have been a most willing disciple.
I’ve been saving some fresh cherries for this morning’s breakfast, a treat I enjoy both for their sharp sweet flavor and for the memories they conjure. When my girls were little, they’d called the stems ‘the cherry bones.’ They’d wash them in apple cider vinegar and collect them in a special jar. When they had a decent amount, and when my eldest declared that it was time, they’d bury them in the backyard under our copper beech tree. Always the same spot. Nothing has ever come up. On fine days, though, Taro and I pick our way through the bright shade of the tall green grass and check. Because why not?
Taro watches me abandon the dishes in the sink without washing them. I don’t mind leaving them dirty, and I know she doesn’t either; she likes to poke at them when she thinks I’m not paying attention, hoping I’ve left something good for her to chew on. I feel unusually tired, kind of a bit wavy, actually, and I sit back down at my place at the end of the long farmer’s table. My middle daughter will be along soon. I think I’ll ask her to check my blood pressure. She’s a veterinarian, not a doctor; we always enjoy trading jokes about the medical care she gives me. I’m wondering what we’ll make for lunch when a jagged blade tears at my side and I call out for Adrienne, now ten years gone, and m...
Taro is licking my face, the part that’s not mashed up against the chilly Mexican kitchen tile carefully chosen for its beauty and affordability when our house was in the planning stages. I’m glad of its cool comfort. I’m flat and feel like I’ve been pasted against one of those outlawed playground spinning saucers, but I’ve nothing to hold onto. I’m just whirling, afraid that if I lift my head from the floor, it’ll stay still. I may choose to linger a bit, right here, and rest my cherry bones.
Carolyn R. Russell
Carolyn R. Russell is the author of In the Fullness of Time, a dystopian thriller published by Vine Leaves Press in 2020. Her humorous YA mystery, Same As It Never Was, was released in 2018 by Big Table. The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen, her volume of film criticism, was published by McFarland & Company in 2001. Her poetry, essays, and short stories have been featured in numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, Flash Fiction Magazine, Club Plum Literary Journal, Ekphrastic Review, Reflex Press, and Dime Show Review. She holds an M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University, and has taught on the college, high school, and middle school levels. Carolyn lives on and writes from Boston’s North Shore.
The new ekphrastic prompt is up! Click on the image for details and instructions.
As we pass the summer solstice’s longest day of the year, I am playing frisbee with my children after nine pm, reading without table lamps, and reevaluating the colour match of my carpet to my couch. I am acutely aware of the balance between day and night, and more importantly, the quality light that summer affords.
While compiling a list of summer poems, I came across this poem Liminality, by Janina Aza Karpinska. The poem was posted with a painting of a night scene, but the original inspiration was a sunny afternoon picture. Suggesting night instead of day changed a woman’s moment of dining alone from a scene of confidently stopping to smell the flowers, to an isolating, cold, stark, disconnected and lonely portrayal that didn’t quite match the words. While both show a woman who "holds the space between arrival and departure" (the new woman is even still in her coat), the painting changed my participation in the scene from joining an inviting table to a voyeuristic discomfort--from a beaded curtain to an exposed, gaping darkness, from smirking sunglasses hiding the woman's thoughts to an unknown blank pane hiding me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and this ultimately prompted me to make two lists—one for summer night poems and one for summer day poems.
I am reminded of this today as I read another poem: Dusk at Baie des Anges, 1932, by Barbara Crooker. Seeing things “in a different light” is a cliché because of its surprising, yet undeniable truth—light changes our impressions of what we see. Does it reveal truth? Maybe, but is a summer dress viewed indoors any less real than one in “natural” light? No, but the setting’s light does colour our emotions about what we are seeing. As a companion to my Summer Nights list, here is a list of Summer Days poems.
However, just as summer nights invite dream and illusion, we find an abundance of light does not always reveal an underlying warmth, happiness, or even clarity.
Come Spend Summer in the Girl Cave, by Sarah Carleton
We might think of a “cave” as dark and dank, but the cave in this poem offers a colorful and inviting respite from our daily secrets and lies. Here, girls can take a break from keeping ourselves and our spaces mess-free and from worrying about what our husbands don’t like. A perfect summer vacation poem.
The Yellow Kite, by Gennady Katsov (translated by Nina Kossman)
Travel with the yellow kite, like a passenger, into summer reveries.
The Language of Light, by Siobhán Mc Laughlin
The quality of summer light is akin to a religious experience, but “is it enough?”
Old Home, Ogunquit, ME, by Liz Hutchinson
A wonderful poem on women whose faces are worn smooth being ever bathed in light.
Las Flores, by Laura Chalar
A summer house is haunted.
Swimming Lesson, by Jo Taylor
Swimming lessons may be a quintessential summer experience, but, from both the child’s and mother’s point of view, they are a difficult experience.
Mademoiselle Boissiere by Sarah Russell
The secret life of an old maid in her summer memories.
Persistence of Memory, by Akshaya Pawaskar
The emotion dripping from this poem is a perfect take on a very recognizable painting.
Chagall's Poet with the Birds by dl mattila
A traditional Shakespearean sonnet with rhythm and rhyme used to great effect, this poem offers a nod to nostalgia.
Claude Monet, Grainstacks in Bright Sunlight, 1890, by Grace Marie Grafton
As summer comes to a close, readers can console themselves in the capture of its golden light in this poem.
Jennifer Met lives in a small town in North Idaho. She is a nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net anthology, a finalist for Nimrod's Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and winner of the Jovanovich Award. Recent work is published in Cimarron Review, Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Superstition Review, and Zone 3, among other journals. She is the author of the microchapbook That Which Sunlight Chases (Origami Poems Project) and the chapbook Gallery Withheld (Glass Poetry Press). More at www.jennifermet.com.
Call For Throwback Lists
There are six 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 new Throwback Thursday features highlight writing from our past, chosen on purpose or chosen randomly. 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 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, 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!
An Eclipse of Moths
when I first see her pale skin
and the dark art of her tattoos
I am uncertain how much of her
beauty belongs to her youth
how much to her nakedness
to parts of her which will depart
or parts of her which will linger
around her, upholstery left to weather
a fifth of a fifth of bourbon still
in the bottle, tires stacked on tires
each ruined thing made poorer
in contrast to the source of light
her friends in casual awe of breasts
a wealth made richer
by these decaying reminders of
what is the opposite of intimate
Red Star Express
where globalization and blue collar
diverge, where paint peels, where summer
smells like sealcoating and cut grass,
we listen to a shopping cart
rattle against the cracks in sidewalks,
we hear a baby’s cries and the shoo, shoo, shoo,
at the intersection of voyeurism and empathy
the street lights hum, when the venn circles
of exploitation and love create pointed oval
ellipses — shaded with nostalgia, with memory,
with future — we listen to sparrows hatching
under the a.c. A car rumbles to a stop
and the boys joke and shame each other
as they ride their bicycles past the fire
you know you want to fuck her
flush-faced, rolling through the intersection
of youth and something else, rolling
—he doesn’t know if he can ever tell them--
rolling over poisoned soil where you can be sure
the all quiet brick factory is/was westinghouse
blinds of a punched-in-the-mouth
storefront, Queen Anne’s
lace cautiously judges ribs
and belly, a blue bicycles’
broke spoke abandonment
causes you to wonder
is possible when--
then wiggle your toes
in the twin caves of too-big work boots
on the shore of a red
petalled parking lot puddle
after the rain
you take a breath and know
crabapples are blossoming
nearby—is this enough—close
then open your hands
then those tricky prepositions
from and for
The Taxi Depot
oh god, the rain
you say during
moment it reaches dirt
not yet soaking
fabric, and we
by the smell
detergent meets dandelion
we will gather
on the grass
beneath the water tower
watch the persieds
and defy gravity
An Eclipse of Moths
we arrange what no one else wants
recreate the space in our homes
where we ought to but can’t
feel comfortable, where all the furniture
suggests we might be at ease but
heavy smoke and tired tones of voice
place the room itself out of reach
a coffee table, an ottoman, a sofa,
the sky and shelter from the sky,
we drag the armchair over gravel
asking does it look right here?
how ‘bout here? until we are tired, bored
with the escapade, you tell her
she looks beautiful, she says
with an uncertain degree of tenderness,
that you look hurt, then
hands stroke the side of your head
fingers in your hair along your scalp
light spills from your lips
and you float up into the air
Author's note: "In 2020-2021, the photographer Gregory Crewdon’s images offered me a way to travel when I couldn’t. A chance to meet people, or, remember. Each photo is an invitation to ekphrasis, persona, lyricism and other ways of attending to their experience. In all, writing to them became a way to make in answer to my inability to make. Sometimes, I returned to the same image and wrote again. The troubles, joys, and doubts of my own places and people, my own “here,” were held up to my imagination by this remarkable work and I am grateful."
Charles Malone is a poet and teacher in Kent, Ohio. His full-length collection Working Hypothesis is out with Finishing Line Press. And his chapbook Questions About Circulation was selected for publication by Driftwood Press as part of the Adrift Chapbook Series. He edited the collection A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park with Wolverine Farm Publishing and has work recently published or forthcoming in Hotel Amerika, The Best of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, The Sugar House Review, The Dunes Review, and Saltfront. Charles now works at the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University coordinating community outreach programs.
at the Joan Miro exhibit, NYC
Into the mute music I went,
my eyes became my ears.
Waltzing the welcome,
room to rediscovered room,
each canvas a ladder to an eclipse,
a mountain’s black triangle
beside the swirling red
joy-path, & inside, the festival:
a guitar as an infant sees it,
& beneath the sky’s tracery,
blue-black eyes spiring
within circles, sporadic birds
that dot & dovetail what might
be birds, & better than paint
tucking lovers in a night sky,
without gravity. How can the sky
not be entire, this conscious blue
the seed of my dreaming?
Maximilian Heinegg's work has appeared in 32 Poems, Thrush, Nimrod, The Cortland Review, and Glass: Poets Resist, among others. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, won the Sidney Lanier Poetry Award, and been a finalist for the poetry prizes of Crab Creek Review, Cutthroat, Twyckenham Notes, December Magazine, Rougarou Journal, and Asheville Poetry Review. He is a high school English teacher, as well as a singer-songwriter whose records can be heard at www.maxheinegg.com
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