Early morning she walks out
leaves only a note saying “Bye,”
takes from the apartment
all evidence of your crumbling love.
At work, another note,
pink this time, your desk emptied,
a box left with your belongings
including your coffee cup.
They say you’re too distracted,
even after twelve years’ service.
You wander around the city,
find a library, sit and stare for a while,
go to a park, stare some more,
thoughts whirlpool in your brain.
The Automat at lunchtime, crowded as usual.
You get yourself a tuna salad on rye,
cup of coffee, table in the corner.
Coffee’s supposed to wake you up,
but, two cups later, you’re still fatigued, spent.
More hours meandering on darkening city streets,
you find yourself at the corner diner,
order a slice of apple pie and, yes, another cup.
A couple banters with the soda jerk.
Her smile reminds you of Dolores, when she cared.
His hat resembles yours, maybe the same haberdasher.
They seem so at ease with each other,
but, hey, they’re no vision of perfect love.
It’s never as simple as coffee.
Jim Garber finds his poetic voice in the rhythms and tones of everyday speech interspersed with quotidian absurdities. His poem “Apology” won runner-up in the 2017 Elizabeth R. Curry Poetry Contest. He also served as editor of Bring Me a Lamp: An Anthology of Poems by Modern Iranian Poets. His other passions include playing music on fiddle, mandolin and guitar.
I come to Phillies twice a month,
pretend I’m waiting for someone
who never shows yet he walks
out of the night twenty years on.
Decades push through my make-up,
shine from the window.
I’m like an old movie star who steps
into the day, away from the camera
to find a carp complexion,
as green as nausea.
I regret my loose hair,
second best girdle,
want him to see the girl in me,
the soft absences he pushed for once.
I want to take off his hat –
hide my head in it.
My fingers edge to his hands
like a clairvoyant
guided to spellings by ghosts.
I carried his brief child once,
killed it for him –
saved him from his father’s rage.
One summer we met
in open spaces
swam in the cornfield
behind Macy’s farm
glittered in sunlight.
Pauline Rowe has four previous poetry publications and her pamphlet The Ghost Hospital is forthcoming (Nov. 2019) with Maytree Press. She is Poet-in-Residence with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust. She has an MA in Creative Arts and PhD in Creative Writing.
Only 5¢ Phillies at Nighthawks
Cigars advertised over the curved plate glass window
are American-made in Philadelphia, grown in rich
Lancaster County soil by Amish and Mennonite
farmers, then rolled by Puerto Rican and Cuban
workers at the Bayuk Brothers Tobacco Company,
the everyman cigar, affordable, good tasting.
My first job out of high school was at Atlantic Tobacco
Company, Wildwood, New Jersey, seashore resort
where diners were not the modern ones of cities
but aluminum clad where I waited for the midnight
bus and Gary Taylor’s mother would tell me from
behind the counter how pretty I’d become.
How if he’d known what she knew he would have paid
more attention as I sat in the bleachers at Clem Mulligan
Park and watched him pitch, my grandfather a catcher
for the Philadelphia Athletics before there was money
in sports, only fans around the bar slapping him on the back
after a game, offering a smoke of the hometown cigar.
Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and France. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
The Hats of Nighthawks
1942 offered a range --
Hopper chose the fedora --
plus, the soda-jerk
(diagonal in shape, like his diner).
The woman in red wore flames.
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). She is also author and illustrator of Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children (Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019) and Let's Make Faces! (author-published, 2009). Her work appears in print and online in North American and international journals and anthologies. She holds a B.S. in secondary education, M.A. in arts and cultural management, and is poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.
Who would stake out customers in
Phillie’s diner? Look, in that second story window,
movement so slight one would think
a spider lowers itself on its silvery thread
until you spot a flash. As if a star had cratered in
the dull room. Look at that heavenly
body, or gun moll, perched on a stool,
back exposed to plate glass. Maybe she works for
the chain-smoking gumshoe, confusing
the clerk confined to top off each cup
these gloomy hours. Will he note a brief glimmer
just above and behind her fiery curls?
Who is that holding a firearm in his palm?
See him –there– below window shade number two.
The streetlight bounces off a handgun
in someone’s jittery palm. Perhaps the pistol
is for defense. Or is this a hired gun meant to kill
the downcast loner lost in thought?
Stood up? he wonders, sipping a mug
with fedora tipped back. Maybe set up. His brow
beading up sweat. Look up! Look up!
A retiree with wanderlust, Margo's just returned from a writing residency in Italy. Her home base, Houston. Twice nominated for a Pushcart, Margo’s poems have appeared in Ekphrastic Review, What Rough Beast, The Fourth River, and The Houston Chronicle. Margo thrives on closely observing film, photos, and paintings. She’s been known to ‘find’ inspiration by eavesdropping.
Dank, brooding, and complicit night portends
itinerant mannequins at counters
in deserted shops, foretells gusts soughing
around corners, marquees screaming come-ons
like mute ventriloquists. These four, converged
so late, configure fate: a matrix of
baggaged vagabonds. Their razz-the-waiter
bantering ignores neglect, evades blame,
dissembles flip rapport. Their opaque pitch
interests no one, dissolves into the dark.
D. R. James has taught college writing, literature, and peace-making for 35 years and lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. Poems and prose have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, his latest of eight poetry collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press) and Surreal Expulsion (The Poetry Box), and a micro-chapbook All Her Jazz is free and downloadable-for-folding at the Origami Poems Project. www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage
We’re voyeurs, watching from a distance,
like the shop windows in the painting,
absently observing the street. And how
could they avoid it? The storefront glows
like an aquarium, inviting inspection,
its art deco exterior curved, sleek as a shark,
a Bentley cruising the block. The four
specimens behind the glass might have
emerged from a dream or diorama, a Disney
vision of the future, all gleaming surfaces,
already obsolete--the men in their hats
and suits, the woman in her red dress,
the silver urns of coffee dispensing wakefulness.
Believing that seeing implies understanding,
we study the two men seated at the counter,
those doppelgangers. The one at the far left
corner observes the couple (if that’s what they are),
sitting silent before their coffee. It’s a closed system;
no way in or out, suggesting that even things seen
most clearly remain essentially unknown, unknowable.
Robbi Nester enjoys writing ekphrastic verse, and is currently working on an ekphrastic manuscript inspired by art, as well as a chapbook inspired by a Netflix series. Her poems have frequently appeared in this journal in the past and in many other journals and anthologies. She is the author of four books of poems: a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), and three collections: A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014), Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017), and Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). She has also edited two anthologies: The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an ekphrastic e-book, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees, published as a special issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal.
Phillies at Three
What he’s just done
he cannot believe.
He flicks the tea bag label
between thumb and finger
that same one that felt the
cool curve of metal
the hot sick jolt of fear
but went and did it anyway.
Paulie wears his concern
in chevroned furrows.
The woman in the red dress
The guy with eyes below the brim
their night spent dancing,
chilled to silence
She slides her hand to his
as steam twists into the air.
He coils the string around
his finger, tethered to the bag
which lies docked and steeping
Like her, at home
Victoria Pickup is a previous winner of the Ernest Frost Prize and Café Writers competition. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies, magazines and online, most recently Nine Muses, Peeking Cat, Runcible Spoon and Reach Poetry. In 2018, Victoria co-founded the Inkpot Writer’s Group in Hampshire.
A tanka in Irish & English in response to
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper
mall san oíche
an caife éirithe fuar
gadhar strae áit éigin
ag tafann ar ghealach cheilte
iarchéile ina shuí leis féin
late the hour
coffee gone cold
somewhere a stray dog
howls to a hidden moon
somewhere, someone’s ex is sitting alone
Gabriel Rosenstock was born in postcolonial Ireland. He is a poet, translator, haikuist, tankaist, playwright, essayist and novelist.
much like coffee, around here.
The clinking of cheap mugs
and the scraping of forks on egg-stained plates
is actually a symphony in my head.
Words, nuances, and glances swirl around me.
At this counter, I am witness to
the early morning steam of thought,
the grinding gears of colleagues deep in discussion--
much like the coffee beans whirling in the grinder.
It is nothing short of glorious.
I am not watching the world walk by--
I am welcoming human interaction,
in all of its cacophony of sound and splendour.
Rachel recently separated from her husband.
She comes here after pottery class every Thursday night,
ordering a small slice of lemon meringue pie
and a mint tea.
I love hearing her stories of creation and colour.
The counter comes to life,
when envisioning the sloping curves of a vase.
Trent and his chess mates come here after school.
They can only afford a Coke,
but I spot them some chips.
We buy them in bulk.
Kids are good at sharing,
and their laughter bubbles
and echoes from every corner of this joint.
We are renewed by the joy of youth--
find solace in making things, like pie and pottery.
We share counter space.
Cristina M. R. Norcross
Cristina M. R. Norcross is the editor of the online poetry journal, Blue Heron Review (www.blueheronreview.com), and the author of 8 poetry collections. Her latest book is Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Cristina’s poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in: Visual Verse, Red Cedar, Your Daily Poem, Right Hand Pointing, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Her work also appears in numerous print anthologies. Cristina is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day (celebrated annually on Feb. 20th). Find out more about this author at: www.cristinanorcross.com
Spending the Evening with Nighthawks, the Famous Painting
I will not speak of
I will refuse to see
What will I see?
I will see wide.
What else will I see?
I will see space.
When I go out at night,
and look for a place--
Ah, but I do not go out at night,
I do not look for a place.
But let us say, for the sake of the poem--
I go out at night
and look for a place.
What do I want?
I want wide, I want space.
Wide clean space,
calm, simple, well-painted.
I dare to enter
I am not
I am simple.
I am calm.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, poet, and novelist. Her most recent publication is Burst Thought Shall Show Its Root: erasure poetry. Shirley has been guest editor at The Ekphrastic Review and has happily contributed quite a number of ekphrases to the site. More about her literary adventures at: https://shirleyglubka.weebly.com
It’s 4 a.m. inside Phillies, you know, the
diner where two streets meet under the sign
where there’s a drawing of a cheap cigar.
I break the silence, ask shall I fill ‘er up?
but the couple are not interested in coffee,
their cups marking the distance between them.
So I shrug, ask the hunched man sitting solo
under his steel-gray hat, coffee cup at a distance to his right
D’ja want som’more?
The hat suggests a surly no without thank you.
Back to shining salt and sugar shakers
until their tops gleam like the shiny
metal urns I filled with hot water.
The lady in the red dress holds some matches,
more interested in her nails than in the man,
who fidgets with an unlit cigarette. Who knows
whatever they have going, what they’ve done—
maybe something happened, or maybe nothing
ever will. The guy looks like he’d murder his own
mother. They act like we’re in a film,
but the reel stopped and the movie won’t ever be
finished. I can’t believe this lady is wearing
a sleeveless dress on such a bitter night.
Maybe she’s just a natural radiator with heat
you want to kiss out of the red of her dress,
her hair, those rouged lips.
It’s a month after Pearl Harbor and maybe the war
will just go on forever. Maybe nobody will come back
to live in those apartments facing this fishbowl.
I’ve been painted as a cheerful chap. Yup, my shift’s
over pretty soon and I’m outta here. Someone to take
my place in this non-stop joint, where everyone’s
a stranger. There’s no open, no close and no one
would give a damn if they disappear.
Kitty Jospé retired from teaching French literature and language in 2006 to explore writing poetry in English. Many of her poems reflect her work as Art docent at the local museum. She enjoys leading workshops on ekphrastic writing, and curates a weekly discussion of poems since 2008 at libraries in Rochester, NY. Since completing her MFA at Pacific University in 2009, she has published 5 collections of poems, one of which was semi-finalist for Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has appeared in Ekphrastic Review, Atlanta Review, Nimrod, Calyx.
A Clean Well-Lighted Place
(After Hopper and Hemingway)
Nighthawks cocooned in nothingness,
Nada enveloping their psyches like
The amniotic sac protecting a fetus.
Lives without meaning, without purpose,
Without aim, plodding through a universe
Where Randomness dictates the rules,
Where businesses fail and relationships
Crumble and Doubt pays visits like
Unwanted suitors. Rejection. Fear. Paralysis.
Resignation. Nighthawks, solitary figures,
No longer participants, but observers, empty
Like deserted buildings, despair as certain as
Weeds pushing through the sidewalk chinks,
But for a clean well-lighted place beckoning
Wanderers from the dark; or the Ancient of Days
For Whom the night shines like the day
Offering respite from the cold
Harsh world that is modernity.
Jo Taylor is a retired high school English teacher from Georgia who enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her two young grandsons, hobbies that give impetus to her poetry writing. Her major themes deal with art, family, and faith. Jo has published in Silver Birches and in The Ekphrastic Review.
To Edward Hopper, Regarding Nighthawks: The Calm Before the Storm
You've illumined the land -- where much better by far --
nearly thirty years later the nickel cigar
would still speak to the ethic the "doughboys" had brought
to the "war to end war" they believed they had fought
for the right to the night shifts that kept them employed --
with a pride the Depression had never destroyed --
where they spoke very little to all they had done
but reminded those younger that peace would be won
by the selfless we arm with distinction they've earned
by the coal they have mined and the fields they have turned,
and the wells they have drilled and the pipes they have laid,
and the shops they have kept and the goods they've conveyed,
and the factories manned and the steel they have milled
for the cities they've planned and have proved they could build
that will shine in the darkness as light to the world
of allegiance to flag that will never be furled.
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
The Lady in Red
Isn’t she afraid, the lady in red,
sitting in the centre of all that unripe green light?
Will he guess her age, she wonders.
Will he walk her through the baleful brunette streets
as they coil slowly toward dawn
suddenly turning into the subway never to look back?
Or will he want to wrangle once they reach 4th Avenue
sparring over where his hand might roam
as the neon scream of a summer saxophone
tears hard at the edges of the city?
Or could it be, they just sit a while longer
so she can measure the kind of lonely in his eyes?
like the cup of Joe at his wrist.
Hope Terris lives on Long Island, NY, and teaches college English. Hope was both an English and an art major in college and loves to write ekphrastic poetry.
I am not what you think,
apart from some patterning
visible among beige-brown,
a bar of white streaked
across feathers in flight,
but my call? You will hear
me clearly as I cut and loop
through city streetlights.
Hawking at dawn and dusk
I see myself reflected
in the glass fronts
of downtown diners
where men slink onto stools
like urban foxes
hats angled, hoping to pull
disinterest from a dame’s face,
lips as red as cherrywood counter.
It is cheap, this coupling,
wartime romance as transient
as winter sun on the Hudson
star-flecked with illusion,
but together they bookend
the dregs of a day
smoke wafting, rising like
the skyline of Manhattan,
lungs clogged with Prufrock’s song.
I am pulled towards fluorescent strip
where insects crawl on nicotine walls
escaping nip of New York air.
My voice, spilling onto sidewalks,
bounces off glass
as if caught in an empty jar,
jazz rifts roll in with the night
lifting to diminished 6th
demanding as dissonance.
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!
There is one night light
in this town: it is saffron-
emerald, and it is called
Phillies, easily found
at the corner of Breughel
and Vine. With that address,
you might expect
a whole population,
a gaggle of antics and age,
radiant life being lived,
a really grand time.
Instead, though, you’ll find
folks who are sufficient
they seek a cuppa,
two lumps stirred;
sleep failing them,
a nickel plays a platter;
love an afterthought,
it’s rhubarb pie a la mode.
Don’t mind the emptied
streets, the enclosing dark,
they seem to say. Just slip
into a red dress, tilt
the brim of your fedora,
down or up, and say good eve
to your fellow behind the counter--
then prime your marrow
for the quiet clap of dawn.
Alan Girling writes poetry mainly, sometimes fiction, non-fiction, or plays. His work has been seen in print, heard on the radio, at live readings, even viewed in shop windows. Such venues include Blynkt, Panoply, Hobart, The MacGuffin, Smokelong Quarterly, FreeFall, Galleon, Blue Skies, The Ekphrastic Review and CBC Radio among others. He is happy to have had poems win or place in four local poetry contests and to have a play produced for the Walking Fish Festival in Vancouver, B.C.
How do I step in, Mr. Hopper? Where?
No door. I peer through the enormous seamless
plate glass window of this diner – yet
there is no earthly window where one might slip
in, sit down at that long stream of endless cherry counter
have a cup of coffee, black.
It’s like a snow globe, with no snow,
no weather ever, really, and always 1 a.m.
I look and look at the averted eyes of the woman
dressed in glossy red, lips painted burgundy;
her fingers nearly touch, but do not touch,
the alpha male beside her, whose eyes are likewise
private, meeting no one’s.
Opposite, a single man in shadow, turned totally away
from us, blue jacket just a bit too tight, straining in its
stretch over a rounded back. Is he the dark side of the moon?
The waiter with his Nedick’s hat, white uniform, leans
over, toward his customers, who are forever looking elsewhere.
At the rear two stalwart coffee urns turn toward
us; we almost warm to these two gentle robots
with their sprightly gleam and ready spigots.
Six round stools, unoccupied, some hallowed
with a glint of the fluorescent light that floods
inside, on one of these (if I could just
step in), would I be able to discern a clue, a crumb
of something on the counter, on a cup, or in their faces,
a hint of what is going on?
Outside the diner there’s a borrowed light
radiating from inside, cast on the unaccountable,
unpeopled sidewalk; is that where we are meant
to stand? Spare urban pasture, green and lighter greenish
ground on which to build a pedestal for our amaze?
richly knotted in perpetual gaze.
Helen Bournas-Ney was born in Ikaria, Greece, and grew up in New York City. She was Assistant Director of the GED Center at NYU, Director of the Learning Center at SUNY Farmingdale, and a writing instructor. While studying Comparative Literature at NYU, she received the Anaïs Nin Award for her work on Rimbaud and George Seferis. Her work has appeared in Plume, the Cumberland Poetry Review, the New Hampshire College Journal, and the 2019 anthology Plume Poetry 7.
Night and Hawks
There comes a time, but you have to wait until the hubbub dies, the rolling home
and car doors slamming, radios blaring with final weary laughter, when dark falls.
There’s a time when dark trickles silent except for hollow footsteps and the whoosh
of the espresso machine, brushing our faces with a remembered caress, and we
can imagine the stars. City nights are starless and moonless and each cupful of quiet
has to be dipped from a diminishing stream, a slender trickle where the pigeons sip.
Follow the stray cats to find it, where the kerb bends sharp, always right angles,
into the brief silence that waits for the birds to return with the rumbling dawn.
Café lights glow, turning streets into gullets, swallowing shadows. No moonlight
this, only ersatz, that draws moths with fluttering, papery wings, not hawks,
hawks don’t come here foraging with the pigeons in this delusion. Hawks fly high
and fierce where the night is dark and bottomless, and their sharp, narrow wings are
moon-silvered. Shield your eyes with your hand and look higher than the gulley of
darkness, above the rumbling dawn, and you can see them, hanging among the stars.
Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, Hedgerow Journal, Tuck Magazine, ink sweat and tears, Eye to the Telescope, the Drabble and The Ekphrastic Review. She has a well-stocked blog at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/
Every night the same. Six months
slogging by like ten years. Rarely see
five customers after 10 o’clock,
but I need to pay tuition. Sure hope
the war ends before I finish college.
But tonight, when the bell tinkles,
sunshine pours in the door.
Can’t take my eyes off the redhead.
Neither can Midnight Joe, my regular.
Can’t sleep when his son’s on a ship
What’s with her date? He doesn’t
look at her at all. Won’t say a word.
Just holds up his cup when he wants
a refill. She deserves better.
What a creep! Guess I don’t like
the strong, silent type after all.
He seemed nice enough
at intermission when he asked
me out for coffee.
Smiled when he told me he spotted
me from the balcony. With hair
like a neon sign, I hear that a lot.
Soon there won’t be any bachelors
around older than this blond kid.
We chatted about the concert
till we got here. Then he clammed up
like he thought I might be a spy.
Maybe he’s one.
I know what the kid’s thinking.
Look at him drooling over the dame.
She’s a class act, but that guy with her
is either an idiot or deploying –
still an idiot. You need to grab
a life while you can.
I’m an idiot. One look and I
was a goner. Can’t look at her now.
Tomorrow I leave for boot camp.
Won’t burden her with that.
Alarie Tennille graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She’s now lived more than half her life in Kansas City, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
He said aurora –
I imagined flowers,
but we weren’t lodged
in dreams; embarked
on the haze of my ginger
hair , he told me he had been
a sailor – how he flew
over the seas on his ships.
The man in the suit sailed
on rockets, metal ships
sturdy like success –
inventions of chemicals
a lady wasn’t expected
to know; they impressed
like the skins of paints
on what they believed
was my mind’s petite canvas.
Someone had discovered
rebellious uses of jelly,
liquid that burnt; thick songs
blew from the sideways
juke, much like how every
radio departed from the real
story of the woman in red
with three strange men;
the starlight outside dancing
to mellow tunes of a romance
selling tickets as appeasement,
as distraction, as insistence,
as a memory that meant
to outlive trenches – men
in uniforms, bodies dressed
in flags. I was looking at him
sitting adjacently distant,
his eyes buried under his hat
but his gaze: mesmerising wit.
He knew how the lights rose
far-east like sashaying time,
how my knowing of fugitives
was no coincidence – rugged
word for my pretty mind –
and the story of the lovers
making large screens blush,
ache and forge, the aura was
exotic – entangled in a mix
of trust and faith. Someone
today ripped metal wings
through morale – victory
and baggage. Tonight I sat
in safe lights of warm topaz;
my skin glowing like a goddess,
unaffected by far-audible stifles
of howling ghosts, our country
undefeated, and I unbothered
but about the mystery of mobius
ribbons swirling stars delicately
like ballerinas on poles; his gaze
unlifting as his neck pointed
towards north; close your eyes,
he seemed to gesture, imagine
the dance of conquest – souls
fled too soon – the lights: waves
of open arms; look into the night,
starless and fiery, but lit and calm.
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her works appear in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent publications are Strange Horizons, Pedestal Magazine, Atlantean Publishing, Alban Lake Publishing, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Persian. She has also appeared in Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love anthology that has been nominated for a Pulitzer. More about her can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com
Night and Day
lasts eight hours.
“Your jobs save our boys,”
say the supervisors if we complain, sneak outside
for a smoke. When our backs ache, hands cramp, we have to remember
we do count. Without us, those planes won’t fly. After I clock out
I head for a diner. Still dark outside,
but inside light as day.
Order a cup
Tina Hacker, a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, was a finalist in New Letters and George F. Wedge competitions and Editor’s Choice in two literary journals. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, both online and paper, including the Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers, San Pedro River Review, Coal City Review, The Fib Review and Quantum Fairy Tales. Her full-length poetry book, Listening to Night Whistles, was published by Aldrich Press and her chapbook, Cutting It, by The Lives You Touch Publications. Since 1976, she has edited poetry for Veterans’ Voices, a magazine of writing by veterans from every state in the country.
No seat for you at the cherry counter.
Brown bodies with rounded features
out of place in the artist’s play of light
and angles; only sharply-cast white
bodies in crisply tailored black suits,
a form-hugging red dress permitted
in the painting's careful illumination.
Were you behind the orange door
in a poorly lit kitchen, your droopy
apron and brow sweaty as you scraped
bacon grease on the grill, washed lipstick
stains off porcelain coffee cups--ones
your lips could never touch? Coloured
but not colourful enough to appear.
Aren’t you always behind
the door or just off the fringe
of every canvas in this era? Yours
the forgotten unformed faces behind
darkened windows with shades
half-drawn, only allowed to peer into
brightly lit diners--for you never any
front doors. No conscious thought
of your exclusion-- just no thought
of you—at all.
You, the true nighthawks lost
in the shadows, seeming to
vanish wherever you would land.
Charlotte Rea is a native Virginian who spent twenty-six years in the United States Air Force, starting out as an Airman Basic and retiring as a full Colonel. She has spent her retired years doing volunteer work and writing poetry. Growing up in the segregated South, she has an appreciation for the "nighthawks" of the Hopper era and the shadows they still struggle to fly out of.
Whiskey on the Rocks
How much a drink
can transform the night
or is it the darkness
disclosing as it makes clear?
Disclosing the nighthawks
who perch on razor-sharp suits
dropping smoothly to hunt,
tableaus of confidently strolling
high above gleaming sidewalks made clear
as the epicentre casting water shivering
his sight piercing with looks that shoot
tapering to winks
On streets where dimming light had flickered
across panicking faces, multitudes scurrying -
evening a hurry to beat the rush
in time to change from suits,
shaving razor sharp:
wheat from the chaff.
What a difference
the dark can make
when nighthawk sits
in light of their own making.
Tom Pryce was born in 1993 and read Theology and Religious Studies at The University of Cambridge. He holds an MPhil in Philosophy of Religion, focusing on Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida. His poems have appeared in The Mark Literary Review, The Ekphrastic Review, and at exhibitions in Cambridge. When not used for poetry, his mouth is usually found shouting at football and/or drinking ale. He can be contacted on @tomprycepoetry or via tomprycepoetry.com
Nighthawk Threatens to Break the Fourth Wall
Nighthawk by himself, holding up the counter half an hour
before Edward Hopper saw him and sketched him.
From this angle he looks like an interchangeable
Man in the Grey Flannel suit type. An Automaton.
The grill cook hasn’t seen him before, has no handle
on what brand of joy or which battle brought him
here unaccompanied at 2 a.m. In turn, the artist
who created this scene doesn’t know the thoughts
of figures in the image, his constructions or his rendering.
And I the writer never met the artist, to pick his brain
with a clarifying question. One more degree of separation--
most readers of ekphrastic take-offs don’t know the writer,
either. There’s a chain of trust in the good faith effort
of recording and interpreting behavior. Stories are fragile,
dependent on agreement to pass and receive them intact.
The hat of the solo Nighthawk is the pivot point
for the iconic image. We can’t know what’s buzzing
through his brain, restless anomie or settled routine.
Nighthawk alone with his reasons, drawing on napkins,
drawing on decades of studying other people. Relying
on a cup of percolated coffee to keep the night at bay.
Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. His chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance is readable at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in: Eunoia Review. The Lake, Mojave River Review, and Praxis.
No Rick’s Bar this,
it is quiet enough to hear the rub
of cloth on glass, the deep draw
on a cigarette, to be startled at
the sudden hiss of the coffee machine.
No Bogart and Bergman intimacy here,
she in her red dress from the five and dime store,
his cheap suit sharp-pressed as angular as his face,
the counter rigid as the distance between them.
In this silent screen image
they are beyond the fall out from Pearl Harbour,
the hustle on the streets, away from the cacophony
of late night news stands, Movietone images
of ‘Fire over Hawaii.’ On the waterfront
Coney Island is blacked out.
And the bartender polishes another coffee cup.
Living in Leicestershire, U.K., of London-Welsh ancestry, Sue Mackrell’s poems and short stories have been published in literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. Her poem ‘Vive La Parisienne’ appears in the current, Ekphrastic edition of Agenda http://www.agendapoetry.co.uk/ and her ekphrastic poems have also been included in previous editions. She is retired from teaching Creative Writing at Loughborough University, U.K. which gives her time to focus on visiting art galleries and museums, most recently in Rome.
“You can always tell where the camera is.”
Wim Wenders, on Edward Hopper’s paintings
From this safe distance there’s nothing to be afraid of.
The redhead holds her sandwich. Her companion smokes.
The man by himself stares at something no one sees.
The blonde counterman talks and talks as he works,
stooped, so the back of his white jacket swells, full
in the bright light. The forces holding them together
keep holding for now. Nothing gets out;
nothing can get in. The coffee urns’ black levers
wait for the pressure of a fingertip to release
the hot weight percolating inside them night
after night after night, and the light decays, the light
decays and falls through invisible plate glass
and leaves matter abstracted to faint shadows
radiating on the sidewalk and across the alley
where windows reveal absence after absence.
It’s January, 1942. We can move the camera.
We’ll know where it is by the evidence
of what world remains for us to see.
Brad Richard is the author of four collections of poetry (Habitations, Motion Studies, Butcher's Sugar, and Parasite Kingdom, winner of the 2018 Tenth Gate Prize from The Word Works) and three chapbooks (most recently, Larval Songs). His poems and reviews have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Barrow Street, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Laurel Review, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, and other journals. He lives and writes in New Orleans, and teaches for New Orleans Writers Workshop. More at bradrichard.org.
Soda-Coffee Clerk in a Marvel Universe
I’m not the first person you see when you look
through the window. Your eyes, no doubt, hook
on the blonde, the red dress, those men magnets.
It’s a minute before your gaze lands on
my white uniform, a soda-coffee clerk
bent to my task in this corner diner.
You might ask: What’s a young, good-looking guy
doing in a dead-of-night job like this?
I’ll tell you the truth. I fancy myself
a nocturnal bird, camouflaged, not by tree bark,
but by bright fluorescence. In the play
of dark on light, my mind conjures a Marvel
Universe, where I spend my days reading
comic adventures that often star last night’s
customers. These three may be a gangster,
his moll, a cat burglar. As Nighthawk, I was
first one of the bad guys, then reformed
from supervillain to superhero
through endless transformations that left me
almost dead, then allowed me to breathe again.
On the night shift, my mind roams this other
world, coffee the alchemical potion
that increases my powers from dusk to dawn.
Customers hardly see me, their gazes
deep in coffee cups, the ashes of cigarettes.
Sandi Stromberg recently received a jury award for her ekphrastic poems in the Friendswood Public Library Ekphrastic Reading and Contest (outside Houston, Texas). Her pleasure in writing to artworks continues to grow, especially through each of these challenges from The Ekphrastic Review.
The Ekphrastic Review
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