Here are the results of the Rainy Night at Etaples ekphrastic writing challenge. Thank you to everyone who writes in response to the writing prompts. If you don't know already, every other Friday, The Ekphrastic Review posts a visual art prompt for you to respond to with poetry or prose. The alternate weeks, we post a selection of results.
We are very excited that in the year ahead, we will be having some guest editors for some of the challenges! This is going to bring different flavours to the table, as well as spread the word about the challenges and ekphrastic writing to a wider audience.
The Ekphrastic Review
All My Rains
Warm rain in the Caribbean,
giant bathtub abruptly
turned over by a tropical giant.
Rain that hurts. Rain that washes
away topsoil, flattening crab claw,
golden trumpet and scorpion orchid,
leaving the waxrose gasping for air,
fills all dents in the hotel patios.
Tennis courts become square lakes
of reddish, sandy mud. Every passing
car’s a drencher. Take off your sandals.
Let your feet transmit the moment
when a god created water and land.
A stifling thirty-eight degrees in the shade,
sabotaged for a brief, exulted moment,
soon reclaims its protagonism.
A dry spell on the Castilian plateau. Earth
crust breaks like freshly baked bread. All greens
from spring and early summer dusted ashen
by hot winds. The sky turns a metallic grey,
eucalyptus whisper urgent messages to
the poplars who bow in acquiescence.
Fat drops explode on the patio roof, cut through the
pines, leave welts on the soil. Soon the rains break.
Petrichor from wounded earth.
Squishing from the soggy wooden terrace
to the overflowing frog pond. Grasses bend
under the weight of the constant drizzle
of an English summer. Brushing past the dripping
hollyhock, it shakes its droplets onto my hair.
Peony’s heads hang low and heavy, the song thrush
shelters in the blackthorn. The shed’s rusted
door hinges whine. From my poisonous-orange
slicker dried earth from last year is washing off.
Into sudden silence the song thrush trills
an acknowledgement of a forgotten afternoon sun.
A small fishing village in the north of France.
Night and rain fall on roofs and streets, boots slip
through pools growing in importance between broken
asphalt and smooth cobble stones, the old
buildings hiding behind curtains of cold water.
We were caught by surprise on the way back
to the hotel, and the painter saw us that night:
a couple of lonely figures hesitating where
street lights seemed to transform puddles into lakes.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of Tangents, a poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the Goodreads monthly competition, a further poetry collection (From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949 : A Child’s Journey) has been published by Aldrich Press in May 2016, and her latest collection (Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back) has been published (January 2018) by Kelsay Books.
It’s hard to know what happens above your own head
when it pours so hard your face is obscured
by an umbrella’s black points shaking in wind.
The rain-wet street pools around your feet.
If you were to look back you’d see
more than your fears piling up in painted
facades. Buildings heaped with thick
strokes a palette knife clearly made.
What are you rushing to? Is your basement
flooded? Are you sick? What about the child
next to you; is it past their bedtime?
You can hear the horse’s hooves splash.
Lamplight reflections slick
the rippling puddle’s surface. Interiors glow gold
within windows, but the white houses are gray,
sodden with blue-tinged weight.
Has there ever been sun? Will the soaked
paint of your skirts ever dry?
Jessica Purdy has lived in New England all her life. Having majored in both English and Studio Art at UNH, she feels drawn to the visual in both art and poetry. She has worked as an art teacher and a writing teacher. Currently, she teaches Poetry Workshops at Southern New Hampshire University. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. In 2015, she was a featured reader at the Abroad Writers’ Conference in Dublin, Ireland. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including The Light Ekphrastic, The Wild Word, isacoustic, Nixes Mate Review, Silver Birch Press Beach and Pool Memories Series and their Nancy Drew Anthology, Local Nomad, Bluestem Magazine, The Telephone Game, The Tower Journal, and The Cafe Review, among others. Her chapbook, Learning the Names, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press. Her book STARLAND was published in 2017 by Nixes Mate Books. Her latest book, Sleep in a Strange House, has just been released in October 2018, also with Nixes Mate Books.
Under my skin, a little blue scene in the blood
—a piece of me stands under a painting sky
beside my black horse cooling
now that I’ve arrived at the square.
A peace in me stands the painting sky
that daubs the ruts with reminiscences.
Now that I’ve arrived at the square
in a lamp lit night of viridian and marine
that daubs the ruts with reminiscences,
I turn to gaze at topaz windowpanes
in a lamp lit night of viridian and marine
drenched with fallen clouds.
I turn to gaze at topaz windowpanes,
my house now made of nighttime chrysoprase.
Drenched with fallen clouds,
I feel the weight of my late return.
My house now made of nighttime chrysoprase
beside my black horse cooling,
I feel the weight of my late return
under my skin; a little blue scene in the blood.
Amy Holman is the author of Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window (Somondoco Press, 2010) and four chapbooks, including the prizewinning Wait For Me, I’m Gone (Dream Horse Press, 2005). Recent poems have been accepted at concis, Gargoyle, and The Westchester Review. She is currently at work on a collection of poems and watercolours.
The night was so wet, I yearned to drown in it. Like a city under the sea, liquid light flowed off facades like a silk nightgown sliding off a shimmering mermaid, her naked scales an alchemy of sapphires, emeralds and topaz. I exhaled jewels of longing into the drenched night air, imagined a dark door opening, a silvery woman beckoning, a warm hearth glowing inside where her silent invitation led. But the child. Mine tonight. So into the chilly room and into dry clothing and into the warm bed with him and for me, cold consolation of whisky, gold in a grown-up glass.
Greta Bolger is a poet and visual artist living the good life in a little village in NW Michigan called Benzonia. Her writing has been published in several online and print journals, including Eclectica, Silver Birch Press, Literary Bohemian, Mom Egg, and Sea & Sky. Her poems have also been recognized in the Interboard Poetry Competition many times. http://webdelsol.com
Got the Blues
got the blues
got the blues
got the blue time blues
got the shape
got the form
got the feel
got the tone
got the time
got the pitch
got the shade
got the lock
got the key
got the sign
got the scene
got the bent
got the pose
got the woe
got the way
got the say
and he blew it straight,
yeah baby he showed us the way
Charles Rossiter, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Recipient, hosts the twice-monthly podcast series at www.PoetrySpokenHere.com. Recent books include the just-released Green Mountain Meditations and Winter Poems. He lives and writes in Bennington, VT.
Impressions on a Rainy Night
I arrived in Etaples
carrying the weight of my race
with my paint,
hoping to blend with
the cobalt-charged scene,
palette alive with blue fusion.
The small fishing port with
soft fingers of light
invited me in.
Here I would fit,
colony of colour- makers
free from dark studios,
shelter from wind
blowing its prejudice over Chicago.
My azure-oiled strokes
applauded the rain,
as it swept along streets
in tides of divergence,
artistic style coursing through France.
Into the frame
I pencilled two figures
rushing yet static,
their voices like mine
lost in the hiss
the guttering, muttering
foreboding of war,
spray-can of hatred
sliding off pavements
lines and tones merging.
Washed from canvas,
I bled into background,
back to my black-American root.
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 magazines. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges. Alongside poetry, Kate enjoys art, dance and playing her growing collection of guitars and ukuleles!
This The Start Of A Second Coming
Le Touquet hôtels full
Tourists and distant travellers
Stella-Plage no better
We made for Étaples-sur-Mer
Walking late December the rain
From the direction of Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Along La Manche.
Squelched through puddles
Avoiding the deepest while
Street lamp shards
Danced chanson française
Nobody else out
Nobody to seek directions
To Hôtel Souquet-Marteau
While not a 2 star in sight
Nor humble gîtes.
But at the corner of Rue des Remparts
Next a bon ami bar
A stable lay ahead
With les ânes at peace
Sheltering against foul weather
Straw dry under cover
Space for us at last la Mère
L’Enfant arriving on cue.
When darkest cumuli parted
With intellectuals of Montreuil
Off in the east
This was to be a long night
But this the start of a Second Coming.
Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions in Europe and America. He has featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. His ekphrastic poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review and Nine Muses Poetry.
Out in the Rain
The town fathers (of course
they’re fathers) must know
that curbs encourage puddling,
that street lamps offer more glare
than safety. When rainfall
blends grey and blue into the dark,
most folks take cover
in the yellow confines of their rooms.
So a patient horse has the outdoors
mostly to itself. But tonight
a man and woman have stolen out
to risk the rumor of a warm encounter
at the corner. And a mother, trailed
by her child, worries that she’ll lose
the resolve to walk away from home.
Jack Kristiansen exists in the composition books and computer files of William Aarnes. Kristiansen’s poems have appeared in such places as FIELD, The Literary Review, Stone’s Throw Magazine, Main Street Rag, and The Ekphrastic Review.
Two Years Before
Events that happen every day are noted
and recorded in diaries. Incidents are reported
in newspapers. Photographers take pictures.
It is continuous, these moments.
Before the flood, then after.
Before the riot, then after.
For Etaples, a town in France,
before was a rainy night depicted
as an impression in marine colours
by an artist two years before
the start of World War I.
Before the military hospital.
Before the cemetery.
There is such innocence in before,
such optimism, because not knowing,
we can hope.
Zen Masters say, stay in the moment.
This moment is a rainy night.
I am in France. I am painting.
And I am happy.
Mary C. Rowin
Mary C. Rowin's poetry has appeared in various publications as Panopoly, Stoneboat and Oakwood Literary Magazine. Recent awards include poetry prizes from The Nebraska Writers Guild and from Journal from the Heartland. Mary’s poem “Centering,” published in the Winter 2018 issue of Blue Heron Review, was nominated for the Pushcart Anthology. Mary lives with her husband in Middleton, Wisconsin.
A Winter’s Night
An inky-dark place
pushes down on them
from night’s bleak horizon
They seek the limen
which will welcome them--
Isolated, yet not alone,
the two trudge
through dark corridors
burdened and bleary-eyed,
weakened but sanguine
Carole Mertz, poet and essayist, enjoys the way The Ekphrastic Review helps her view sights with greater care. She has recent works at The Ekphrastic Review, Eclectica, Quill & Parchment, Front Porch Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and elsewhere. She lives in Parma, OH.
The Storm Within
Umbrellas braced as futile shields
reveal the force that nature wields
where river lifted into cloud
now loosed as rippled, falling shroud
has washed against the window pane
through which my eyes have sought in vain
to see by softly haloed light
the sharpness dulled by rain and night
of structures whose defiant stance
is mirrored more as shimmered dance
in shallows out across the street
where intermittent drops repeat
their troubling echoes mocking gloom
of silence that engulfs my room.
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.
I waited while
the rain met my tears for
your empty promises
past my drowning feet
into an ocean of blue
your cry of pain
false as the night-flies
glow between glass
my soul became
globules of yellow
darkened dank windows
a hue of cobalt
into the cerulean
snaking lamps gazed
I asked for
a hand perhaps
one last look
you dreamed away…
Zac Thraves is a writer and performer based in Kent. "I have written a couple of books, plays and poems; I am a storyteller and actor and I am in the process of trying to get an agent to help me in getting my latest book to a wider audience."
The continuous rain flooded the freshly dug trench, washing away the loamy soil. The stench of the soldier’s infected wounds, as he was being carried in the stretcher, nauseated Emile Beaupre, who was hip deep in water, fearing that he would either drown or be shot in the head, never seeing Marietta and his unborn baby. He trained for trench warfare six months ago at Etaples. Emile practiced maneuvers, polished buttons, scrubbed pots and pans, scrubbed the floor, dug trenches, set up wire netting as a shelter for in coming hand grenades. His individuality was slipping away.
Two years ago Emile was standing on the corner under a lamppost attempting to light the tip of Marietta’s cigarette, holding his hand over it, shielding it from the rain. The lights in her parent’s house flickered on, her father expecting his daughter home at a certain hour. He was spying on the Bohemian artist, who had no real future, no better than a busker. Her father cursed Emile accusing him of leading his virgin daughter down the path of debauchery, even though Emile had met Marietta at a Paris cabaret, introduced by a mutual friend, Henri Levesque, a writer who sat with the smart set at the literary and artist’s table. They smoked and drank and exchanged ribald jokes. Marietta joined in.
When Germany declared war on France, advertising posters and recruiting stations sprang up everywhere - Enrolez-vous! Marietta’s father incessantly taunted Emile, calling him a momma’s boy and an effete - Emile holds a paintbrush, not a rifle. Her father was incensed that their relationship had lasted two years; he knew Emile’s reputation. Soon after, Marietta learned that she was pregnant and broke the news to Emile. Emile did the honourable thing and they had a private wedding ceremony with Henri as the best man. To prove to her father that he was a brave man, he walked into the recruiting station and enlisted.
Corporeal Beaupre lay in a hospital bed. He awoke with his left hand bandaged. Screams and moans flooded the ward. An American and British flag were draped on the adjacent wall. An angelic nurse clad in white approached, holding an envelope. She smiled and handed it to him. He stared at it.
“Would you like me to open it for you?”
Emile shook his head, eyes still fixated on it. She left.
Emile tore open the envelope with his teeth, shook out the folded letter which landed on his thigh. He read the letter, folded it up, and slid it back into the envelope.
An American doctor pulled up a chair and sat by Emile. He introduced himself as Doctor Murphy from St. Louis. He had trained in Britain and was transferred to Etaples.
“News from a girlfriend?” He pointed to the letter.
“My wife gave birth to a baby boy.”
“Congratulations, corporeal.” The doctor held Emile’s wrist, counting out the beats of his pulse. Dr. Murphy opened a folder. “I see here you listed your occupation as an artist.”
“Are you right handed?”
“Lucky for you that it was your left hand.”
“Yes, I’m very lucky.”
Two military police officers approached the bed.
Emile cradled Henri’s head in his lap as the rain and his tears commingled. An incoming grenade had blasted Henri’s legs off. His clothes were shredded, exposing his lacerated flesh. Emile retold Henri the same ribald jokes. Sitting in the trench, Emile recreated the cabaret scene - the sights, the smells, the gaiety - the day when Henri introduced his beautiful future wife to him. He said goodbye and with his two fingers, closed Henri’s eyes.
Three days later, on a cold, clear night, when the stars were at their brightest, Emile had stuck his left hand above the parapet attracting German fire. The bullet had blown off three fingers, left a fourth a stubble.
Matthew Hefferin loves writing flash fiction and short stories. He is currently writing a book of ekphrastic prose poems based on his photographs.
William Edouard Scott Paints Northern France and Haiti
Figures of a woman and child in the flooded street,
umbrella against the wind,
scene all black and blue except for the yellow of light
from gas lamps and their reflection in pools
that in Haiti would be streaked with diesel gasoline
as we splashed through in a Jeep
after evening prayer behind the school once a prison
on Independence Square. Before the downpour,
I sat on a balcony in a cane captain’s chair above where
the first African freedom was declared
sixty years before end of the American Civil War,
Haiti, where women carry bundles on their head to market
and men rest with machine guns sheltered by awnings
against the sun.
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 Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press), and Wildwood (Lummox Press). Ride the Pink Horse is forthcoming from Spartan Press. With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
Le Temps Perdu
Strange to think of such a night
as paradise, even in memory.
A piercing, cold rain moved in –
not uncommon for a fishing village –
just one more reason to leave.
My wet shawl shuddered, my numb
feet shuffled on. Swinging wide to avoid
the corner puddle – almost home, almost
home – I stopped. The swirling water
shimmered under the lamp post
as though posing for Monsieur Monet.
Glancing up, I saw the daffodil windows
of home, glowing like a light house.
Was Maman expecting a guest?
As I reached for the handle,
the door swung in. I swooned
in the warm fragrance of coq au vin.
Maman wrapped me in a blanket
by the fire, rubbed my feet dry.
Did I even thank her? All day long
I’d been daydreaming of life in Paris.
On that night, before the Great War,
Étaples was perfect. Now no place
feels like home.
Alarie’s latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
I slipped from tangled sheets
To stand naked at the window
Looking down at a night
Turned watery blue in the rain
Yellow lamp light blurred green
Reflections in the street
I was young then in Etaples-sur-Mer
My days were heady with turpentine
Standing naked at the window
I saw the tableau before me
Waver and sway
As if beneath the sea
And from the watery depths
Emerged two dark shadows
An elderly man and a small boy
Standing as if apart
Their heads bent to the rain
I felt your arms
Go around my waist
You coaxed me back to bed
How I regret leaving
Those two dark figures
Alone in the street
I don't even remember your name
Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Director of Writing and Communication Programs at Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire. She has published fiction and poetry in Foliate Oak, Serving House Journal, Soundings East, Hospital Drive, Blueline, Evening Street Review, and Adelaide Literary Review, among others, as well as several themed anthologies. Her novel Telling Sonny has just been released by Adelaide Books. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.
A Periodical Journey
The subtle brightness of the light
shown through the dark, unstormy night
of steady rain, chilled summer air,
with hardly any people there
who might traverse by light of day
the street on which the town hall lay.
One woman with her child in hand
endured the cold by harsh demand
of drunken spouse returning late,
whose temperament would not abate
till Sunday noon, or later yet,
so leave they must, though tired and wet.
Although the way was damp and dark
she knew the route well—through the park,
across the square, the bakery shop
where in the daytime she would stop
meant they were almost half-way there;
the comfort of her sister’s care.
They’d pass the coach beside the lamp
where cabby made his evening camp,
awaiting those who’d pay their way
and help him keep his debts at bay.
He knew them well and touched his cap--
they had no fare to break his nap.
A lonely gendarme came in view
and smiled at them, although he knew
they wouldn’t stop tonight to talk--
the weather forced a swifter walk--
but he would watch for one more block
until they turned beneath the clock.
Her sister, wakened where she couched,
gave warm embrace to both and vouched
she’d care for them, just as before,
and on their next trip to her door.
They knew her husband, loved and dear,
was like this just twelve times a year.
Ken Gosse prefers writing light verse with traditional metre and rhyme filled with whimsy and humour. First published in The First Literary Review-East in November 2016, his poems are also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, The Ekphrastic Review, and others. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years, usually with a herd of cats and dogs underfoot.
Sheen imbues buildings, soaks sidewalks,
lifts teal, bathes beside turquoise,
steeps within steel. Bristles splash aqua,
sip lapis, drip white, scumble the surface,
where pools collect light. Cerulean builds
columns, frames windows, forms
shape, caresses the canvas as technique
brushes place. The effets de soir*
romance the piece, play with impression
and reflective release. Oils surrender
in painterly dance, a rainy night, à la plein
air, in Étaples, France.
Jeannie E. Roberts
*effets de soir (French) is an impressionistic
technique, meaning the effects of evening.
Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. She has authored four poetry collections including the most recent The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017). Her second children's book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, is forthcoming from Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books. She is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs.
I Do This On Rainy Nights
It amuses me,
the way glossy cobblestones distort
glistening reflections in lamplight.
A wizened mother,
perhaps thirty years old,
ushers her child home
late from the sitter's.
Twelve-hour laundress routine
seen in soggy scuttle and stoop.
Both become horizontal smudges
on a painter's slate palette.
Les Gendarmes will find him.
A pattern will be established--
he is neither first, nor last--
a profile created.
I preserve my souvenirs
in formaldehyde Petri dishes.
They will wonder
what sort of person
removes eyelids from victims.
What is the perpetrator telling us?
Their eyes are open
in that final moment--
my face the last image
scored on stunned retinas--
they understood their role
in the cosmic experiment,
selflessly offered-up their pieces
to a puzzle master’s expert hands.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His work has been featured in many online and print publications, and has been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com
It’s 4 am and I’m wearing a blue raincoat (after Leonard Cohen)
It’s 4 in the morning, almost December--
each day I return to you hoping you’re better,
New York is a hospital, dying and living,
machines full of numbers, the music of beeping--
Do you dream of your house with its ceilings and stairs?
Are you living inside it now, making unseen repairs?
As your past comes by full of stories and tears,
what you gave what you feared--
all the things left unsaid…
drowning in the unsaid--
Now each day is the first and the last and the always,
no masks to uncover, disguise what the time plays--
We come and we stay and we go meeting only ourselves,
spending fortunes and throwing them away like wishes in wells--
You hand us no thoughts and your eyes gaze beyond,
skipping dreams through the air like stones on a pond--
I see you there still breathing harshly with pain,
what abides, what remains--
will we waken or sleep?
to release or to keep--
Oh what can I tell you, what can I tell you,
what can I possibly say?
All the sorrows forgiven, lost tomorrows now riven,
our lives intersected and frayed…
All is circling round to the centre of you--
you can be who you need to be now without fearing the truth--
And thanks for the gifts that you didn’t intend--
thread to bind and to mend—lives I didn’t expect--
And the years collapse spilling stories and tears,
nothing left now to fear--
all the words disappear…
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blog with her friend Nina: methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ and see more of her work on her website: http://kerferoig.com/
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