Ekphrastic Writing Challenge Responses: Teresa Vito
Guest editor's note:
It was wonderful to see the many and varied responses to the Teresa Vito Writing Challenge. After reading them all, I came up with the idea of putting together what would look like an electronic chapbook of twenty poems in response to Teresa’s painting, ordering selections as you would a short volume. The forms of tanka and haiku serve as regular breaths between the longer poems. Enjoy the read!
red anjou in profile
the shadow of your left hand
is an egyptian cat
five pears and a table
is a periwinkle sky-wall
and the birds are gone
your hair is a patient wing
bent and understanding
the wait of orchard trees
Paul Koniecki lives and writes in Dallas, Texas. He was once chosen for the John Ashbery Home School Residency. His poems appear in Richard Bailey’s movie, One of the Rough. He is the Associate Editor of Thimble Literary Journal.
Was it you I saw in my dream?
It’s your profile with black hair turning
and your gorgeous eye looking sideways.
You were the writer of the greatest love story.
The fruit between us was studded with dew.
Our skin as lush as pear flesh.
We read poems in French
and laughed together loving
our bodies as we painted them
red in the mirrors of mornings
the shadows of our arms crossed over our chests.
Our tabled elbows balanced the pose.
As children we loved our legs
the way they landed us from trees.
Our arms could lift any soft or spiky thing.
Our hands could heft the weight of ripening.
Five red pears the decades of a life.
Jessica Purdy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Recently her poems have appeared in The Plath Poetry Project, The Ekphrastic Review, The Light Ekphrastic, and Bluestem Magazine. Her books STARLAND and Sleep in a Strange House were both released by Nixes Mate Books consecutively, in 2017 and 2018. She is the 2019 Esther Buffler Fellow at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire.
With Red Pears and Bare Skin
Hold the pose long enough
and the outer becomes the inner,
the body becomes the mind, vivid
marries pale, and the world turns to paint.
Having become paint, the world agrees to be seen.
The seen world stirs the soul, which wakes the mind,
which enlivens the body, which eats two pears and
turns naked cartwheels around the yard until
wet paint and sun-splash spill into dream.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, author of two novels, a poetry collection, a mixed-genre collection, and several poetry chapbooks. Her most recent novel is The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh. Her most recent poetry chapbook is Burst Thought Shall Show Its Root: erasure poetry. Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: http://shirleyglubka.weebly.com
portrait: lady ma’at* among the pears
she sits with her hands as if
weighing two hearts
while three others sit waiting before her. . .
her gaze a mystery
does she look away because she is indifferent in her choices
or does she bestow compassion with averted eyes
and like all mysteries such as mercy
there is no answer
yet there is always more to mystery than merely answers
for it is here in her underworld kingdom
she sits in her singular splendour:
her pale bare flesh sensuous as ripened fruit
*the egyptian goddess of justice, truth, balance and morality
Sister Lou Ella
Sister Lou Ella’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals as well as three anthologies. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017. Her first book of poetry entitled she: robed and wordless was published in 2015. (Press 53)
Red is usually apples
but here soft-fleshed pears
balanced in cradling palms
as she looks into the light
As a poet who began writing later in life, Joanne Corey is particularly indebted to her poet friends. For this poem, thanks are due to the Boiler House Poets, who, in their annual residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams near where she grew up, often write ekphrastic poetry, and Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry group in the Binghamton, New York area where she now lives, who introduced her to the tanka form and taught her that it’s okay to vary the number of syllables in the lines.
Me and Five Pears
There’s something about the shape of this fruit
about the way it makes the light reflect
the colours from yellow to green
and from pink to red.
The green ones were my first choice.
Green turning to brown
with yellow and gold
I thought I liked them best.
But in the end it was the brightness
of the red that won me over,
of its perfection
into my painting.
I chose them carefully
and arranged them in a dish
spilling them out on to the table top.
Then I threw away the dish
and held them myself.
I struck a pose.
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud War Poetry for Today competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Vagabond Press, Light Journal and So It Goes Journal. https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com or https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
Count the names--
line them up and see
how far they
ever, endless, on and on--
voices calling out
for safe passage, for
yond is too
far—waters and tomorrows
rising and falling--
begin again with
the red of
the flesh as reparations--
blood turned into wine.
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blogs,https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/, and see more of her work on her websitehttp://kerferoig.com/
In this uneven universe I create stability,
for I am the Goddess of parity
cupping the weight of consideration
softly in each balanced palm,
rolling opinion, ripe with expectation
rounded as sumptuous fruit.
All things being equal
I peel away skins of indecision
and when replete with deliberation
turn, slightly out of kilter,
scales laid bare
mouthing my calculation wordlessly.
For in all shadow I see light,
trading new-borns sliding from womb
for the dried-up gasping veins of age.
I am division, solidarity,
your world poised in my hand.
Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry and literature since childhood. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in Great Britain and internationally. She is a regular reader of The Ekphrastic Review and has contributed quite regularly in recent months. Kate is now busy editing her work for an anthology. Alongside poetry, Kate enjoys art, dance and playing her growing collection of guitars and ukuleles!
A golden spice pear tree
stands in my neighbour’s yard
close to the property line.
When the August wind
blows hard in my direction,
a few pears fall, hiding like Easter
eggs in overgrown grass--
The law would say
the fruit is now legally mine,
a kind of fortunate spoils.
Still, I gather the prodigals
before they rot, bag them,
drop them at my neighbour’s door.
My therapist assures me I’m okay,
weighs my options in her hands like fruit
on a scale, says there’s no timetable
for this kind of growth. She doesn’t ask
why I return the pears; heaps no praise
on the woman whose temptation’s
Marissa Glover teaches and writes in central Florida, where she spends most of her time sweating. Marissa is co-editor for Orange Blossom Review and poetry editor at Barren Press. Her work has appeared in The Lascaux Review, First Things Magazine, After the Pause, Stoneboat Literary Journal, War, Literature & the Arts, and SWWIM Every Day, among others. You can follow Marissa on Twitter @_MarissaGlover_.
the pear scale
gravity sculpts flesh
much-maligned shape finds
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Some of his work found a home here, and in other online and print publications such as Burning House Press, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal and Califragile. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to:https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com
Miss Lonely Heart and Hit the Pears
A Pueblo woman holds a pair of pears
viewing the mountains, left
the other three fruits
on the veneered oak table next
the most stunning dessert
ripe, moist, tender
caressed by summer sun while
contemplating by paring
underneath the skin, where
beauty lies deep
except in the eyes of the blind for
you will encounter no impurity
merely ingenuity and ambiguity
as the substance of our ego
our DNA, soul, our minds as
she confronts the duality
in two not one colour, of
the loneliness in her heart
uninfrangible, exposed through
adobe walls in the distance
ride the ThunderWolves Marching Band
high stepping through the ether
closer by the minute to
stand firm by the pear tree
in the orchard of Pueblo (the village)
by the wooden bridge suspended
open to the elements where
the circle is squared
of riddles, of conundrums
while underneath the surface
a Pueblo woman holds a pair of pears.
Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions in Europe and North America. His poems have featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He is particularly inspired by ekphrastic challenges.
This I Offer
red anjou pears
the colour of candied
poised on palms
as though to say
this I offer--
my own rosy
in the soft
Eva Rosenn most recently has poems appearing or forthcoming in NYMBM, Burning House Press, Panoply, briarslit, Pendora, and Curating Alexandria. She holds a Ph.D. from Columbia in English and Comparative Literature.
A Contemplation in Solitude
In a way, the gods that give us choices give us parity,
man or woman, rich or poor. They need no milk of human kindness,
no pear-shaped breasts, nor hanging male willow trees.
The fruits are given ripe to each, too many at once to eat
spread out upon the polished table we have come to know.
It’s just fruit
ripened but hardly edible.
A woman grows tired of waiting, a man too, I suppose.
I hardly look any longer,
reaching my arms out to one and then another,
twining my arms and choices about myself.
Weighing them, I’ll keep one, perhaps. You keep one.
They’re on display for everyone, a paradise perhaps
or perhaps just the hard-waxed surfaces that gods love.
It’s your turn now, don’t get attached.
Jared Smith's fourteenth volume of poetry, That's How It Is, has just been released by Stubborn Mule Press. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications over the past fifty years in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Taiwan, and Mainland China. He has served on the Editorial Boards of Home Planet News, The New York Quarterly, The Pedestal Magazine, and Turtle Island Quarterly, as well as on the boards of arts and literary non-profits in New York, Illinois, and Colorado. His website is www.jaredsmith.info
Skin on skin, like duet, pears balance,
where foreground resonates
with pyriform trio. Quintet of reds
shape stanza as glissando of rose
slides between lavender notes.
Flesh builds with beige imbued tones
as sienna and ochre plant pose.
Palms lift, bells echo in crimson repose,
where raven-haired beauty holds pomes.*
In botany, pomes are fruits produced
by flowering plants.
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her second children's book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, was recently released by Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019. She is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.
to make ends meet
Babs McGrory is the State of Delaware Beat Poet Laureate (2019-2021); founder of Vowel Mouth Poetry; creator of #Piku314; featured participant in 2018 Golden Haiku contest.
There’s a balance between shape and desire
Of a beautiful pear—its rounded bottom,
Definitive shoulder, small sumptuous end--
A delicious Red Bartlett. Her hues evolved
From dark to blazing scarlet as she matured
To bear fruit when ready—it will be years.
There’s balance between impatient time and
A quest for knowledge, for a taste of truth
In any hopeful relationship.
She heard about it amidst the knowing-tree,
Wondered what it’d be like to understand
Everything about him, what it would take
To be a good wife. To not know any guilt
Or accusation that slithered into their lives.
Her husband, Adam, also wrestled with
How to understand his own wife after
He tasted the luscious pear on her lips,
Falling down, unbalanced.
John C. Mannone
John C. Mannone has poetry in Windhover, Annals of Medicine, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Peacock Journal, Baltimore Review and others. He won the Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three collections of poetry and serves as the 2019 Dwarf Stars Anthology Chair and editor. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and two other journals. He’s a retired physics professor living near Knoxville, Tennessee. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com
Wanna bite? Better than apples. Tastier.
Especially these red ones. Comice.
creamy textured, and juicy.
Like me, their skin breaks easily,
might appear bruised on the surface,
but this does not indicate
damage on the juicy interior.
Take special care in handling even before ripe.
Question: How is a woman like a pear?
Answer: It depends on how you spell it.
Check for Ripeness™ by applying
gentle thumb pressure near the stem end.
Like me, when it gives, it’s ready to be eaten.
Alexis Rhone Fancher
(Poem created of text from the USA Pear website.)
L.A. poet Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Verse Daily, Plume, The American Journal of Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Diode, Nashville Review, Wide Awake, Poets of Los Angeles, Rust + Moth, Cleaver, Slipstream, and elsewhere. She’s the author of five poetry collections; How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here, (2017), Junkie Wife, (2018), and The Dead Kid Poems (2019). EROTIC, New & Selected, publishes in 2020 from New York Quarterly. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com
Pears tilt the way a woman’s breasts
Might, squeezed between folded arms,
Each hand outstretched in a different direction,
Each offering a pear to a different god,
Pears with skin the colour of blood on cloth,
Each hand cupped, embracing a pear, her thumb
Squeezing a little, as her arms squeeze her
Breasts, as the light squeezes shadows of pears
And hands, the light that’s a filament of cold
Tungsten, broad strokes of light, shadow of
Her hand, Anubis, god who painted the skin
Of the dead with oils, with the scent of pears,
God who wrapped the dead in shadows and
Light. On the table, three pears, three shadows,
The light leaning one way, the pears another,
The table earth-coloured, the woman’s face
Turned away, a hieroglyph, strands of black
Hair across her cheek, her forehead, shadows
Squeezing the light. In her hands and on the
Table, the pears do not move.
George Franklin is the author of two poetry collections: Traveling for No Good Reason (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions) and a bilingual collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas, translated by Ximena Gómez (Katakana Editores), as well as a recent broadside, "Shreveport," published by Broadsided Press. Individual poems have appeared in Into the Void, The Threepenny Review, Salamander, Pedestal Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, and Cagibi. He practices law in Miami and teaches poetry workshops in Florida state prisons.
Equal and opposite.
Luscious and voluptuous.
Weighing how I love
with nothing to bind me
but the beauty of what is
round like hips
and smooth as skin.
of what to bite.
Tricia Knoll went to riding camp near Pueblo, CO. She is aging, has fewer choices than earlier in life, and loves pears.
Still Life With Pears
"There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. Some love stories are brief, maybe not worth telling. Maybe it just wasn't big enough to share, compared to the others. Or maybe it was too hard to tell honestly. Most who care for me would blame the man in this one, but as is usual in these cases, that wasn't the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
2. Well, I was pretty hooked on him, the Scottish-Chinese-Brazilian-South African-French-Moroccan army brat, but I kept my head above water. Cynically, I could say that by then, I knew how these things went. But there was more baggage on my side than was fair to the other. He knew that, and risked something anyways.
3. Some things, I wasn't willing to give up. Other things, I wasn't able.
4. Once, getting ready for a night on the town, him in a t-shirt that said Fight or Die, me in denim and pink tulle, he told me he was struggling. He could have handled the fact that I had other lovers on my dance card, he said, but no man should have to compete with the dead.
5. He used to do squats and curls when we were just hanging out, or drill punches into a boxing bag. I found it distracting and annoying, but when I said so, he told me I should be using every spare moment for push ups, too. When I said I was happy with long walks and occasional yoga classes, he shook his head and told me that wouldn't cut it. I had a lot more to burn. I told him my whole life had gone up in flames.
6. I also told him guys I dated were usually into all that extra. Why did he ask me out if he wasn't? I wanted to give you a chance, he said.
7. Well, if my own penchants for excess were obvious to the naked eye, even written on my body, his were more subtle. The compulsive fitness regimens looked like dedication and discipline at first glance. And there was a kind of isolation from everyone else that I initially mistook for prudence. But in the short time that we were together, it crossed my mind that perfectionism and self-destructiveness weren't really opposites after all.
8. One evening, after celebrating my art opening, we retired early because he'd had too much gin. He wasn't used to it at all. As for me, after a bottle to myself, I was just getting started.
9. I'm sorry, I said that night, as I mopped his clammy forehead to help alleviate his spins. I was barely out of rehab at the time, trying to eradicate ten poisons and replace them with mere tonic and gin. I tried not to get involved, I told him, but I really liked you.
10. In the sleeping bag on the basement floor, he peeled off all the Spanx he usually wore to bed and curled against me. Thank you for letting me into your life, he kept repeating. His hands were in my hair, on my back, at my waist. He sat up, looked at me in the flickering glow of the television, where MMA fighters were clawing and humping like feral cats in an absurd ballet. But I won't love you, he said, voice wavering in uncertainty and some kind of grief. I won't love you. Not until you're free.
11. I turned away for a moment. All I'd ever wanted was to belong to someone who would stay, and I kept making sure that couldn't happen. I held him, made small comforting noises so that he could fade to sleep. But then my hurt and all my cruelty rose up inside of me like gall. I moved a bit so that he would stir, and hear me. Too late, I said, and it came out cold because that's how I was feeling. You already do.
12. I wanted this. I wanted him. I wanted to forget the ghosts of Christmas past, purge myself of my unquiet mind and appetite for destruction, be born again. I wanted to flirt with security, domesticity, maybe even make beautiful babies.
13. I made him a painting. It had been on display at my show that night, a neon declaration of Biblical proportions, disguised as a still life bowl of fruit. Refresh me with apples, it said, quoting the Song of Solomon, for I am sick with love.
14. I was in transition, breaking from one world into another, but I hadn't made it there yet. I wasn't ready.
15. The ending of the story is predictable. After a few more attempts at bridging our irreconcilable differences, we went our separate ways. I just wasn't enough for him, I told myself smugly, because it was hard to face the fact that it was the other way around. I didn't let myself miss him much, and it hardly matters now. I wouldn't do anything differently because I couldn't have. The timing was all wrong, and timing is everything.
16. In another story, it is pears, and not apples. The story does not bear on this one, except as an esoteric example of how all things are connected. Many years later, in an art and poetry journal, I came across a painting of a brunette woman sitting nude, juggling red pears. She appeared poised, but puzzled, seeking to balance life's surreal wheel. You and me both, I thought, and at that moment, unexpectedly, the old platter of apples rose from memory. I wondered what he'd done with that godawful painting, heartfelt, but not my best, not even close. I imagined it tossed dusty into a dumpster on moving day, or still on that cellar wall, with new tenants, stoners who couldn't be bothered to move it. I imagined he had moved away, to somewhere with a small lawn. I conjured a compact redhead with firm little teacup breasts, someone who held her own at Krav Maga. Wife and kids scrubbed and polished, unbruised, unblemished, as squeaky clean and wholesome as those apples.
17. I couldn't fall asleep for a long time that night, after you did. When you fell back to dreams, I listened to you breathing. We didn't have much longer, that much I knew, and I treasured the wee hours and the ticking clock for what it was worth, just for that night. I tried to tell you everything, I said. I tried to warn you.
Lorette C. Luzajic
Lorette C. Luzajic is an artist and writer in Toronto, Canada. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review.
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