Threshold to Coyoacan Plaza, Mexico City
Maia Elsner is a graduate student from Britain, with Mexican and Polish heritage, whose writing focuses on migration and diaspora.
Lover, Mother, Immortal
“The face that launch’d a thousand ships,” that’s what everyone remembers of Helen. When tourists coming tromping up the slopes of Mount Ida, smelling of insect repellent and sunscreen, slurping bright blue and orange drinks from plastic bottles that, emptied, are often left to litter the woods at the edge of the trail, they tell and retell one another the story.
My mountain teems with tourists now, flies to a corpse. They clamber up the slopes and wade in the pools of waterfalls, water that looks pure but will sicken them if they drink, so they carry purification systems and think nothing of the stream itself, only of what they will consume. They bring binoculars and point at birds, unaware of just how few there are these days. They stand on ledges and watch the sun set over the sea, as if Phoebus Apollo’s passage means anything anymore through the haze of pollution that rises from their sprawling cities along the coast.
They talk, usually of matters inconsequential, and sometimes of the war that rages on the other side of Turkey, of the refugees whose boats now and then are visible on the horizon. Often, in a funny game of one-upmanship, they try to outdo one another in the retelling of the ancient stories, piecing together the history of my mountain from fragments of memory from the schoolbooks of their youths. I hear them tell Paris’s story—cast out by Priam, raised by a she-bear, judge of the fateful beauty pageant. They seldom mention me, Oenone, his first wife, or if they do, it’s always the rumor of my death.
Homer tossed me on Paris’s funeral pyre. Bacchylides threw me from a cliff. Another tied a rope around my neck, and yet another hurled me from the walls of Troy. These are not my story. These are stories told by men who understand little of the ways of women, whether human or nymph.
A man should love a nymph and end up brokenhearted, not the other way around. It is not the nymph’s nature to love one and only one, the way a man expects her to. Her heart is not a human heart. Her life is not a human’s life. How can it be, when she will never die or grow old? A man to a nymph should be a toy. A playmate for now. A brief distraction from the tedium of life without end.
But to me, Paris was all. With Paris, I felt time for the first time, understood the preciousness of every moment, clung to the passing hours, feared the inevitable loss of outliving the one I adored. How I worried over him.
At first he laughed and called me mother, gently chiding my overprotective ways. Then, when I bore him a son, he called me mother tenderly as we doted on our child together. But all men must leave their mothers. I was too much mother and not enough lover, too much agape and not enough eros, and he left me on my mountainside, left me in the shade of the olive trees, left me for lust, and incited a war.
Fates, you say? Ha. They spin, they measure, they cut. What a charming story. But it is mortals who tug and tangle the threads of their lives. Fate is all mortals must die. They have choices while they live.
More the pity they do; they are so bad at choosing. It was not Helen’s face—beautiful, yes, of course, the most beautiful woman in the world, so said Aphrodite, who should know—but it was not Helen’s face that began the war. Man’s inability to choose wisely led to the launching of a thousand ships. Isn’t it funny how easily men blame women for their own folly? They say for Helen so many fought and died, but it was because of Paris, and it was for Menelaus, his pride so wounded by his wife’s betrayal.
Oh, Paris, vain-glorious fool. You had everything when you were with me. In the forever of my existence, I will never understand why my love wasn’t enough.
When he came back to beg my help, he already had one foot in Hades. He thought my herbs would spare him, but they only would have prolonged his suffering. When I looked into his bloodshot eyes, believe me, I was tempted to give him what he sought so I could watch him endure the misery he had brought upon himself. First, he abandoned me, then our son followed him to war seeking glory and finding only death, and then he had the audacity to beg me for his life! He thought he could pierce my heart once again with the desperation that shone through his eyes. I looked into them, peered into his soul, and saw how he loved life and how he didn’t wish to leave it, though he would leave me again if he had it all to do over.
For a long time, I wished I had never met Paris. For a long time, I told myself loving Paris was my one regret. But that day, when I looked Paris in the eye and saw him approaching death, fearfully, yes, but without regret, I understood that I, too, would do it all again if I could. If I could travel back in time to the day I met Paris, even knowing how it would all turn out, I would love him again.
So I let him go. I let him die, not out of cruelty, but out of love. Despite it all, I loved him. I let him go, though I must stay here forever, nymph of the mountain, watching the tourists in their Lycra and Gortex, with their selfie sticks and portable speakers blaring pop music that scares away the animals, with their own mixed-up versions of my story, versions that have erased me entirely.
On my mountain, the olive grove still thrives. I tend it as if it were my child. I talk to the trees and build homes for the birds and guard it from the tourists who would carve their names in hearts into the bark as Paris once did ours. That tree is long since gone, felled by a lightning strike in a summer storm two millennia ago, but I remember it. I remember him scraping at the bark, unable to contain his feelings, overcome by the need to leave an indelible mark of our happiness. Alas, no tree can live forever.
I know that when he went to the land of the dead he drank from the river of forgetfulness. All of his folly, all of his suffering, all of the hurt he caused washed away by death. And what of the love? Must that, too, be forgotten? Perhaps even the Lethe cannot wash away the memory of love, but here, on my mountain, I’ll never know.
Diane V. Mulligan
Diane V. Mulligan is the author of three novels, most recently What She Inherits. She is an English teacher at Saint John's High School. From 2012 to 2018, she has been the managing editor of The Worcester Review.
Ekphrastic Review Fundraiser
The Ekphrastic Review is having a fundraiser until August 31.
Our hope is to sell 20 square foot artworks (from Lorette C. Luzajic, your humble editor) for 100$ off, making them $150 Canadian dollars with free shipping. There are countless original options to choose from.
Thank you to a supporter in UK for ordering this piece above, Ray of Light, 12x12", mixed media on canvas.
Thank you to the others who chose to send a gift or become a patron through Patreon!
The Ekphrastic Review is a unique journal devoted exclusively to writing inspired by visual art. We hate the idea of subscriber fees, submission fees, or ugly ads that degrade the work of our writers and artists. For this reason, I decided to try a brief fundraiser with very special prices on my square foot line of artworks. You get an amazing price for original art, and a chance to support a great journal.
Stop by and look through the inventory of options. If you decide you'd like to own a piece, use EKPHRASTIC100 at checkout as a coupon code. The total is flat $150 Canadian with free shipping worldwide. Thank you so much. We hope to sell 20 and are off to a good start with our first order!
Sale ends Friday August 31.
Winged Domino Unmasked
Remove these veined delicacies from my lips,
I taste tomorrow about to take flight.
Still wings cling to her silent storm of protest.
She breathes in dust, rust coloured air
and remembers the heat, flesh against flesh
the dry taste of desire, saffron-tongued.
He places a necklace around her neck;
a rose, a twist of thorny stem.
A barbed barricade to snarl her skin.
The birds in her hair bother her;
the lovebird that whispers in her ear,
the blackbird that taps her skull, wings spread.
A grey dove rests, heavy with love.
Head turned, a glance back, a questioning eye.
She feels the weight, the pain of punctured skin.
Listen to the flutterings, these frenzied things
that lie like dying orange flames on lips and eyes.
Yet smooth as silk they slip, a waft of sari
to kiss lids closed; poet-seer, friend.
He wakes as if from a dream; her head a solid
azure sky. He has made her a distant reality.
Marion Oxley lives in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire with Alice, her three year old boisterous Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She has had poems published in a variety of poetry magazines and anthologies including, Bare Fiction, Three Drops from the Cauldron, Butcher’s Dog, Ink, Sweat and Tears and has had poems listed or placed in several well known competitions such as Fire River Poets, Write Out Loud, and The Plough Poetry Prize. She currently helps out at the local food bank.
Reflections on Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World
All eyes are focused on her
the woman in the foreground of outstretched earth
weakened limbs crawling towards her horizon
I stand among the crowd and see a young girl in that painting
one who longed to be invisible
all those years when she sat shivering at her desk
other eyes locked on the leg braces the orthopedic shoes
In her world a dance resonated within and her feet never stopped moving
so she learned to fill blank sheets of paper with language
small knotted fingers working diligently as she merged herself to each page
her world as wide as she could make it
courage her mantra.
When it was her time to cross the horizon
the wheelchair with all its struggles was cast aside
its spokes radiating a golden brilliance that shattered sunlight
her time now to walk the seven shades of rainbow
and dance in that pair of ballroom shoes
the shoes she had always wished for.
I turn away from the painting knowing it will pull me back as it always does
Some of the crowd move closer to view as much as they can of Christina’s World
I look through this window of humanity, the framed masterpiece
and see someone else’s world
another woman my mother.
Helen Leslie Sokolsky
Helen Leslie Sokolsky's poems have appeared in a number of publications including The California Poetry Quarterly, Poet Lore, The Poetry Review PSA Confrontation, POEM, and The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry. Forthcoming works will appear in Seven Circle Press and Poetry Quarterly. Her chapbook of poems Two Sides of a Ticket was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014 and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice. In 2016 she was a finalist in the Atlanta Review's International Poetry Competition. A retired New York City special education teacher Helen lives with her husband in upper Manhattan near Fort Tryon Park “I am so appreciative of our proximity to the beautiful art and music in the Cloisters and weather permitting I try to walk through the gardens whenever possible, an inspiration for much of my writing.”
I will not see the setting sun
the bloody sky
the lapping tongues
of fire on the fjord
the scream passing through it all
instead I see a son’s relief
his lapping whimpers
and moaning tongue
no longer rationed in uncertainty
I crack the door and step
into the flux, his arms
raise, the mouth gapes to scream
and all his rations concentrate to purge
the comforts of the lonely
Christopher Forrest lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife and two young sons. He earned his MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and currently serves on the editorial staff of Press 53 and Prime Number Magazine. In his free time he enjoys being outside with his family and southern interpretations of poutine.
Sold to a Private Collection
(on seeing Jean-Michel Basquiat's Notary)
you put nothing on but you on canvas—oracle,
SAMO© [same old, same old]--
tagged beat-down warehouses,
scrutiny from rats & bums, night owls, kin.
how is it to be mythic, now, over
one hundred million dollars for clarifying desert dichotomies
with your blood traces, nerve sauce, & sinew?
It’s you in paint, crayon. pundits talk of a fractured
psyche like they know of rags, but your speculations, of words-made-flesh, of PLUTO,
belie their conclusions. You’re a planet, a god of death.
you saw & verbalized LEECHES, FLEAS, & PARASITES
attacking the FLESH of a MALE TORSO,
kafka’s penal-colony machine made visceral.
as you wished, you’re an African presence, a seer
confirming an existence some will pay for but never wash away,
who will pay no mind but surely money.
you, nomad of your own body, finder of self-meaning,
marks & gestures quickening within a caring eye, archaeologist,
lost to most in some private collection.
Darren Lyons is currently an MFA student in the Creative Writing Program of The New School in New York, NY. Recently, his poems were published in Chronogram and The Inquisitive Eater, and a poetry/painting project of his was featured on The Best American Poetry Blog. One of Darren's short stories and another poem were published in the 2016 and 2017 editions, respectively, of Stonesthrow Review.
You painted this studio a radiant scarlet –
a luminous sunset
spreading joy with increasing abandonment.
The glass is empty, not your plate.
Absorbed in your creations I wait,
thinking you will walk in any moment,
start sharing stories of paintings on paintings,
remind me that creativity takes courage.
Uncovering the blue and yellow beneath the red,
I note the walls were white,
you changed the colours until they felt right.
Your signature is everywhere,
the way you fit things to make a whole.
While working you never try to think, only feel
and connect – woman and man, earth and sky,
tree like a human body, human body like a cathedral,
studio like a private universe. Art the only thing
that matters once it stops hurting.
The green blue light of the window
intensifies the interior where memory
is suspended like the grandfather clock
whose face has no hands –
the fathomless mirror reflects no illusions.
An open box of crayons offer paradise
contained in this world within worlds of yours,
teaching me how to lose and find myself in art.
This poem first appeared in Shanta Acharya's book, Imagine: New and Selected Poems (Harper Collins India).
Shanta Acharya is the author of eleven books, her publications range from poetry, literary criticism and fiction to finance. Her poems have appeared in major journals and anthologies. Her latest, Imagine: New and Selected Poems, is published by HarperCollins India, 2017). www.shantaacharya.com
I follow your gaze, you study my flesh
as your paintbrush strokes me onto canvas.
You search every contour of my body
and with an urgent need to capture me
you conjure me up, close enough to touch,
and with the sweeping bristles of your brush
you smudge in my hair with dabs of Lamp Black,
then with your knife you scrape some of it back.
You slap oil paint onto palette and mix
Zinc White with a hint of red to make pink,
then you add yellow and a dot of green;
with colour control you flesh in my skin.
You, with expressive spontaneity,
smear me in paint, mark me your territory.
Helen Heery took up writing six years ago but is relatively new to submitting poems to magazines. However, two of her poems appear in Gazing at Gaia, an anthology published in 2017 by Manchester poets in support of The Manchester Buddhist Centre.
This flower's like floating
on the moon, drifting in and out
of dreams. I am a little afraid
of all this space to be myself.
From behind the petals, I see
draw strings and scaffolds,
the magician's hat. I would have
preferred uninitiated awe.
Nuclear weapons scare me still
even though Reagan is dead, the bombs broken
into pieces we could carry in our pockets.
O'Keeffe said she would make flowers so big
New Yorkers would have to stop and see
what she sees in flowers and we all know
what she sees in flowers, the delicate opening
fold upon fold, the pink blush, the way
the shapes stretch to glory.
Today O'Keeffe would do set designs for Gaga.
I got older, slower, sadder,
came down from the clouds and found
acid rain falling. I have less hope
than I did before. I feel the dark unfold.
O'Keefe might say we are smaller than we know,
the world more gracious.
Deborah Bacharach is the author of After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Collections, 2015). Her work has appeared in Pembroke, Arts & Letters, Cimarron Review, and The Texas Review among many others. She is an editor, teacher and tutor in Seattle. Find out more about her at DeborahBacharach.com.
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