The Final Exchange
for Shaohua Yan
after Figures in a Landscape by Bertram Brooker (Canada), 1931 C.E.
Our brief final exchange,
after we had been naked together
for the last time—
before we parted our ways for good:
YOU: … But you ought to know:
whilst you were with me,
you were always able to be yourself.
… I know you
like I know the back of my hand!
… But perhaps, until you actually faced
the music of the aphorism,
the grass is always greener
on the other side of the fence,
you would never mature up (to life).
… Forget me not!
I: … This is the Final Resort:
moving away (from everything).
… Nothing else makes any sense
to my emotional/rational mind anymore!
… And when I was eventually betrayed by my so-called love of pragmatism & empiricism, I had no face left to face you. … I confess: you knew me like you knew the back of your hand, indeed! … And NO, I could never forget you—though I tried all manner of recipes to cook all manner of excuses.
Saad Ali (b. 1980 C.E. in Okara, Pakistan) has been brought up in the UK and Pakistan. He holds a BSc and an MSc in Management from the University of Leicester, UK. He is an existential philosopher-poet. Ali has authored four books of poetry i.e. Ephemeral Echoes (AuthorHouse, 2018), Metamorphoses: Poetic Discourses (AuthorHouse, 2019), Ekphrases: Book One (AuthorHouse, 2020), and Prose Poems: Βιβλίο Άλφα (AuthorHouse, 2020). He is a regular contributor to The Ekphrastic Review. By profession, he is a Lecturer, Consultant and Trainer/Mentor. Some of his influences include: Vyasa, Homer, Ovid, Attar, Rumi, Nietzsche, and Tagore. He is fond of the Persian, Chinese and Greek cuisines. He likes learning different languages, travelling by train, and exploring cities on foot. To learn more about his work, please visit www.saadalipoetry.com.
Figures In A Landscape
"The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred.
No matter who it is, it is sacred..."
Walt Whitman (The Body Electric)
"With so much before me...mountains and lakes, how could I not
Be only myself, the dream of flesh, from moment to moment?"
When we gathered to say our last goodbyes,
Mon Cher Ami, I was surprised when your daughter
said I didn't know Daddy painted so many nudes.
Your art was a secret, or perhaps I didn't know you
well enough to imagine you in the Texas countryside,
in a cabin you'd built yourself, with a woman
peeling off her clothes -- that identity -- and assuming
an evocative position close enough to reveal her details,
her flaws, the way her embrace had inspired you
to translate her body with the language of brush strokes...
Beside a lake in Manitoba, Bertram Brooker's figures
are anonymous, and naked their faces hidden,
the woman's hair falling forward,
resembling the long branches of a willow
as she bends beside the shapely backside
of her partner, his body like a boy's in its beauty,
unwrinkled by time, his head turned
so he can watch her movements, her fingers
reaching down to trace the pattern
of his open lips as if she can catch sound,
and hold it in her hand, the landscape filled
with silence & a kind of music -- nature's fugue --
(point and counter-point) soothing
2 figures suspended between the finite
world and the infinite, their dreams, abstract
& representational fused in the artist's view
by the sensual message of the girl's hair,
drying after a swim; and the boy's body,
articulated and repeated in the curved immobility
of the mountains on the other side of the lake.
Beneath a muted blue sky, an unexpected wind
whispers an earthly interpretation of Eden:
in the beginning, there was a tree, a Lone Tree --
and then I found you before the light exploded
in abstract expressionism, and we were more
than 2 figures, our images undressed in the landscape
before another night came down and notes
for summer music
were written in luminous shorthand
Laurie Newendorp contributes, regularly, to the Ekphrastic Challenges. Her book, When Dreams Were Poems, 2020, explores the relationship of poets to art. One of the book's ekphrastic poems won second place in the Houston Poetry Fest, 2018, and another was nominated for Best of The Net, 2020.
Figures in a Landscape
A geography of bodies stretch across the canvas
White as snow-covered hills, or the
Sheer carbonate structures of the Dolomites.
Ski-slope hips--wind-whipped, dimpled escarpments--
Dip into the spinal ridge and fall
To the blanket below, gathered in snow drift folds,
The other body rises, peaking, tree-like.
A knobby white birch, or pale banyan, her
Hair like aerial roots seeking richer soils.
Nature is laid bare in them. Naked.
Open to the light. So true to life
It could not be shown as art.
The landscape is artifice by comparison,
A flat blue water plane, uncertain river or lake,
The mammilated, over-round horizon.
Brooker embarrasses the Victorian in us,
Our shameful curators’ tastes,
The nudes held from exhibition,
Checked by the prudes, who exposed themselves
As the gatekeepers that they are.
Ian Evans is an emerging writer and middle school teacher with his B.A. in English and an Ed.M. in Secondary English Education. He is co-author of The Mechanic, a graphic poem, and his poetry has appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review. He lives in Highland Park, New Jersey, with his wife, who is also a writer and teacher.
More honest, two could seldom get
than, fully naked, as eyes met
for revelation once begun
that nevermore could be undone
in which the sense of absent space
became the landscape of embrace
in moonlit window aptly framed
and seen as art to be acclaimed
at moment they apart awoke
to freedom relished as they spoke
of all that it had meant to be
in eyes they could but hope would see
the soul each also sought to bare.
but half its worth before its dare.
Portly Bard: Old man.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Figures in a Landscape
Beyond the crest
of hip and buttock
and the smooth swell
of shoulder and breast,
hill and mountain
sweep down to the lake
in misty twilight hues
of greys and blues.
While his dawn sleep
is dark and deep,
her dreams were
broken by first light
a welcome respite
from the wreck of night.
Kim M. Russell
Kim M. Russell has been writing poetry since she was a schoolgirl but only began submitting to competitions and anthologies when she retired from teaching in 2014. Her poems have been published on-line by Visual Verse, among others, and in print: Afflatus Magazine, River Writes (Bure Navigation Conservation Trust), Anthology of Aunts and Second Place Rosette (Emma Press), Peeking Cat Anthologies 2017 and 2018, and Field Work (UEA Publishing Project with Kunsthalle Cromer). She lives in the UK, in East Anglia between the North Sea coast and the Norfolk Broads, with her husband and two cats.
What will I remember of you
When I grow old?
Will I think about our time apart,
Our time as friends, as lovers?
Will I recall certain sensations:
Fear, heartbreak — all that comes
With young love?
I’ll remember vulnerability ––
The way first kisses and first fights
Took me back ten years, to when
I first flew a kite.
I’ll remember how you laid me bare,
Peeled back layers in a way that
Nobody had ever done before
Nor could ever do again.
I’ll remember how you stretched me thin,
Brought everything out of me (the butterflies,
The cries, the feeling of your eyes on mine
For the very first time).
I’ll remember that you brought me closer to
The sky, put my thighs on your shoulders,
Picked me up –– the sunlight shone through me.
Niko Malouf: "As a teenager living in Los Angeles, I enjoy writing about the things that surround me, stimulate me, the events of my adolescence as well as the happenings of the world. I hope to share my experiences and perspective with others and inspire them to do the same."
I like those words that tilt their emphasis
from syllable to syllable, depending
on what part of speech they’re playing.
An adjective, for example: invalid.
Dismissing something as false, irrational
et cetera, a curt judge of a word,
rolling back its weight from second place to first,
making itself a noun. Heteronyms
are good like that, you say. Your gaze is fixed
on this chronic landscape, green with double meaning –
this late nonplus of curve and counter-curve.
A hip, an elbow, a white stretch of skin:
our bodies mean exactly what they mean.
Fatigue hangs like fate while the glossy lake
swims past the nakedness of our defeat.
It comes as some relief to be out here
with you, amid the certainties of love
and loss. The hills mimic (or mock?) our torsos.
Or perhaps they think that we mock them,
uselessly flung down here as we are,
you beside me, one more time, as the sun
dips in search of its usual resting place . . .
Michael Caines was longlisted for this year's National Poetry Society Competition.
Afterwards, a stillness; they are arched, poised, aching
for the possibility of more. Right now, they choose
to pause for breath beneath their familiar oak;
stare at light shafting glacial water;
watch faint sunrays kiss curves
of hills on the far shore;
sense the ripple of
This dawn, they are featherless; the last wisps, from
neck, breast, back, plucked by the other last night.
Now, as in old tales, they are naked; queer
bodies in true wilderness. Here they can
be; remote from crowds and
comment; hot blooded
birds, rocking to
One day soon, thousands of downy feathers will
sprout, uncurl, stretch before the long lift
skywards; mute swans flying,
back to the strong beats
of bright city lives
with men. Once
but still together.
Based in the United Kingdom, Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing flash fiction, short plays and poetry. This year her poems have been published on various webzines including Words for the Wild, Another North, The Ekphrastic Review and The Poetry Pea.
Figures in a Landscape
Gently rounded mountains and soft valleys.
Undulating sensualness. Why did I always draw
women, they asked? Because they have the lines
that make me want to take my pencil or brush
and… and then I just used my thumb to show
them. Words failed me.
What did you mean by that, they asked.
And I remained shtum. If I had been able
to explain, I wouldn’t have painted it.
Women’s skin, women’s roundness, women’s edges,
women’s joy in each other’s beauty, women’s desires,
women’s love, women’s friendship.
Eternal. Coveted. Feared. Persecuted.
Let me watch.
We are watching. Voyeurs of no-colour colours,
strength, drama and tenderness.
Figures in a landscape.
If he had been able to tell us, he wouldn’t
have painted it.
There are as many new stories as there are watchers.
There are as many interpretations as there are readers.
We’ll all make our own
second moment of creation.
I can almost touch, reach into the painting
and let my hand tenderly caress that moment
where the torso melts into the hip, deep
valley of the eternally feminine.
I can almost reach in and stroke
the crease where thigh joins buttocks.
There aren’t words enough
to tell you about where white meets grey
Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and working in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). Her fourth poetry collection, THE RAIN GIRL, has been published by Chaffinch Press end August 2020.
This is a world of curves,
of subtleties, of women.
It is not reliably pleasant.
Sometimes our hair hangs down.
But the soft full strength--
folds of earth,
folds of cloth, of flesh,
folds at the centre of mind and heart--
who would choose to be elsewhere
or other than this?
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, poet, essayist, and novelist. Her most recent chapbook is Reflections Caught Leaping: poetry and related prose. Her latest novel: The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh. Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: http://shirleyglubka.weebly.com
full of her own sex
rising from ocean
each day a virgin
waiting for love
we lay on dune
our bodies tuned to
the lyric of waves
the rise and fall
I traced your landscape
draped on breast
on folds of skin
curves of spine
an exotic shell
unsure where spirals
remember the man
crafting sculpted sand?
hands of a God
until we emerged
as if carved in stone
we watched dusk
wash her palette
in ocean salt
we waited for tide
to begin his unkind
lapping our sin
Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry and literature since childhood. Over the last few years she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in webzines in Britain and internationally. She is a regular reader of The Ekphrastic Review and her work has appeared in response to some of the challenges. Kate is now busy editing her work and setting up her website. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
What Will the Children Think?
“Although Booker’s Figures in a Landscape, 1931, was accepted for a 1931 exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA) at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario), it was not hung because it was felt it might negatively affect the sensibilities of children.” James King
We refuse to display this painting
of bare lines and elegant curves,
of stark white flesh and warm tones,
crowning the creases,
of a stark white bedspread.
What will the children think?
We do know that nudity,
filling the blank spaces of life-
in restrooms, in bedrooms, in childbirth
in operation theatres, in death.
But, what will the children think?
We revere Michelangelo and Donatello for their David,
Rodin, for his thinker,
Boticelli for Birth of Venus and Goya for La Maja desnuda
and the endless line of sculptors and painters
who have been there, done that.
But today, what will the children think?
We do see the two bodies, natural, real,
foregrounding a beautiful landscape.
We do remember Nude in a Landscape
that hung aslant in all its glory
on these pastel walls not long ago.
But today, what will the children think?
We do know that art is an endeavor to acknowledge
the beauty of human body - a temple
of new ideas, of fresh thoughts,
of sacredness, an altar of offering to God,
a means to find answers to life’s questions.
But, what will the children think?
What will the children think?
No, we cannot corrupt their morals, their malleable minds.
No, we cannot, we cannot.
We refuse to display this painting.
Preeth Ganapathy is a software engineer turned civil servant. She lives in Bangalore, India. Writing has been her passion since childhood. Her works have appeared before in a number of online magazines including The Ekphrastic Review, Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, Voices on the Wind Poetry Journal and are upcoming in Mothers Always Write and Willawaw Journal. She is also the winner of Wilda Morris’s July 2020 Poetry Challenge.
The statues have come to life –
their marbled skin made flesh
and glowing pink by a rush
of blood and a flush of warmth
from the icy lake. Fluid now
and graced with softer curves –
their plinths forgotten with their fear –
they lounge at ease, adopt a pose
that fits within their skin, adapt
to one another, breathing in
the scent of evening’s balm.
Alive, at one, so still, so calm.
Claudia Court has had work published in several magazines and anthologies, and has won a number of competitions. Her debut collection, How to Punctuate a Silence, was published in July by Dempsey and Windle.
Figures in a Landscape
Do not expect the moon’s blue glow to linger
longer on the two women’s naked flesh,
or that either one will move a finger,
stir, turn, or offer yet another caress,
and don’t think these lovers will hold their pose
forever. One is on her side, at rest
upon a luminous blanket -- tints of rose
flecking the mounds of her shoulders, her rear,
the creases of her legs; the other shows
one small breast’s bewitching curves. She sits near
a window while gleams soften on a lake
walled by dark hills. The stars shall disappear,
just like these figures in a dream’s landscape,
dim, fleeting, gone as soon as you awake.
Gregory E. Lucas
Gregory E. Lucas writes fiction and poetry. His short stories and poems have appeared in many magazines such as The Horror Zine, Dark Dossier, Ekphrasis, Miller's Pond, and Blue Unicorn. Some of his poems have also appeared in past issues of The Ekphrastic Review.
we lay there naked
looking through the window
at the paired down blue landscape.
it was just as if waiting
for Magritte to add
a surreal touch.
a fine artist
was standing behind us
easel and paints at the ready.
What a beautiful picture
we would make lying there
even without a surreal touch.
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. Find Lynn at: lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
I was a traveler
in a place without borders
where we were the only citizens
exploring with care each hidden crevice,
we climbed cliffs and crags,
ascended to the apex, ecstatic, enraptured, dizzy and delirious.
Now, gone the roses, the softly mounded hills--my gnarled fingers reach out to a void,
a landscape erased by time. You were my true north, and we created a textured map, each touch imprinted in my mind. But the map is fading, and I am lost.
Merril D. Smith
Merril D. Smith is a historian and poet. Her poetry and stories have appeared recently in Vita Brevis, Streetlight Press, Ghost City, Twist in Time, Mojave Heart Review, Wellington Street Review, Blackbough Poetry, and Nightingale and Sparrow.
Just Off The Sea-To-Sky Highway At Lions Bay BC
We did not close the curtains yet
we did not close our minds
woken by first light
sun stuttering over Gambier, the island
shimmering on Howe Sound.
With silence of late fall
nobody jogging through Douglas fir
no orange on Maple, the leaves
no kayaks off Lions Bay.
We spooned tight, as one
pheromones screaming assault
droplets of guilt on our horizon beyond
woodland and rippling waters
deep blues, the pain.
Behind us Two Sisters
behind us September/October
ahead Porteau Cove, sandy beach on
the periphery of our liaison
shipwrecked by Howe Sound.
Far too anxious for breakfast
too early for TransLink
two six two, the bus route
West Vancouver due south for
Horseshoe Bay, your ferry.
Soon to be separated, gone
miss the silk of your pristine skin
miss moments we shared
miss tension and self-incrimination
woken by first light for
there can be no other.
I ingest your body parfum
digest your body language
resist your fingers on my lips, the touch
forbidden fruit is a dark hollow above
pristine shores of Lions Bay.
Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. Of late, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges. In 2019, he was a Featured Writer of the Federation of Writers Scotland.
Hills unfold a backdrop as sensuous
as the flesh reclining, undulating
in front of them. Two women fallen
under the spell of the river’s current,
the last light of a darkening sky,
as though they had laid down to love,
then rest in its sensual presence.
Their lithe bodies rosy, slants and slopes
painted with a whisper of blue shadow,
the Greek perfection of the breast.
The curtain is pulled back on the edge
of spiritual and material--
complementary in this moment
of pure serenity. Forget
that the public cried out against these figures,
removed them. Admiring beauty in nature
and countryside, they turned prudish faced
with nude figures in a landscape.
Sandi Stromberg was a prize-winning magazine feature writer and editor in another life. Today, art and poetry combine to brighten her days during the pandemic. Her most recent work has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Still the Waves Beat, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing (“Silence as Matter”), and Waco WordFest Fire Anthology (“Mischief on Jamaica Beach”).
Lorette C. Luzajic
Lorette C. Luzajic's creative writing has been published in several hundred literary and arts journals in print and online, and in about a dozen anthologies. She has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net, with one making it to the finalists. She is the author of numerous books, including five collections of poetry. Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems is the latest. Her poetry has been translated into Urdu. Lorette is the founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review. She is also an award-winning mixed-media artist. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.
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