Landscape: Midnight Swim
"You should avoid being too much in the real world,
it isn't conducive to happiness...
Does nothing of us last when we are dead?
For the lucky ones, perhaps love."
P.D. James, A Certain Justice
How different the boat a lost smile on the water,
faintly green in the moonlight. How different
the single figure standing in the boat....embracing
the wilderness. At a glance, she could be an animal --
long and thin -- a weasel or a stoat or an ermine
standing upright on its back haunches its destiny,
to be a royal collar in a Renaissance portrait.
Looking for the light (a phantom moon slicing darkness)
I now realize the solitary figure is a woman hands raised
to hold up her hair from the nape of her naked neck.
Her hair is dark, still wet though the water is a memory --
conflicted -- the clinging kelp like the whisper of lost love
doubling the distance from the shore; then the boat,
its fragile size and shape almost unable to support her weight
as she takes her place briefly arching her slim body
to recall their pleasure his hands sliding down the length of her
as he told her what he wanted: to watch her swim, to become
a part of the canvas before it demanded his full attention.
And as his painting took shape did he feel her loneliness --
insatiable -- as he stripped all other life forms from the picture?
They had been lovers; if painted together, sleek and entwined...
But no. She is alone her skin like the sheer fabric of a night dress
as if she'd stepped from his 4-poster bed instead of the grasses
on a hidden shore. Will your palette float? she might have asked,
eyeing the water and the caliginous colors he'd used to disguise
any fires of incendiary passion. No Love, he'd answered,
as if prescient we're eras away from an Age with styrofoam...
Years later (ninety years to be exact) after modern art
was liberated from Victorian convention would a great grand-
daughter recognize the svelte, single figure standing in the boat
as a part of her past? Or was the painting's message to be her future --
the oars that were unmoving -- bubble pools in the water indicating fish
beneath the surface though they couldn't be identified; in the same way
I wasn't identified, alone in Paris writing on the deck of a Dutch boat
docked beneath the D'Orsay during a ferocious summer heat wave.
Above, tourists with binoculars watched me from a balcony --
est-elle folle ou celebe? And inside, on the walls of the museum,
a lone figure, framed, La Solitude -- art in the way Romantics dream
of love, its lack, their wilderness. Although bright fish can't be seen
in A Midnight Swim their scales shine like preliminary sketches
in a spectrum of possibility. Even unconscious (and even unwritten)
they are a wish and a promise: the inevitable dawn; the exquisite passion
of an inextinguishable hunger
as love begins to sizzle
in an elemental skillet.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Honoured multiple times by the Ekphrastic Challenge, she found Harrison's La Solitude to be reminiscent of a personal experience: in 1992, stranded in Paris during a heat wave, she stayed on a Dutch Bed & Breakfast boat, The Johanna, docked at the base of the Musee D'Orsay. Alone and struggling to finish a final academic paper (Yeats And The Tarot) necessary for a graduate degree in Creative Writing, she left the boat at night to find food; and to make trans-Atlantic calls to the father of her children. If asked why she continues to love him, after both divorce and his death, she might tell you one reason is that he accepted (and paid for) her nightly calls from Paris before she was able to return to Houston. Thomas Alexander Harrison is said to have created dreamscapes, which is why the atmosphere of La Solitude has a resonance with both "Landscape: Midnight Swim," and the ekphrastic poems in her book of poetry, When Dreams Were Poems, 2020.
the canoe slides
into grey silence
disturbs the bay
the gulls are silent
among the reeds
fog rests gently
on shoulders and lashes
I am not alone
Kat Dunlap grew up Norristown PA and now resides in Massachusetts where she is a member of the Tidepool Poets of Plymouth. She received a BA in English from Arcadia University and holds and MFA from Pacific University. She edited two college writing publications as well as the Tidepool Poets Annual. For many years she was Director of the National Writing Project site at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and is currently the co-owner of Writers Ink of MA. Her chapbook The Blue Bicycle is being prepared for an autumn launch.
An Abandoned Plot
holds a roof,
rising bamboos guard
reach the fence
where sits the crow
in morning breeze.
I gaze long at night sky
until it begins to talk-
until the letters dance
in nooks of heaven.
I anchor in clear waters-
until the stars fall
in slow drizzle.
My breath in dying mist.
Abha Das Sarma
An engineer and management consultant by profession, Abha Das Sarma enjoys writing. Besides having a blog of over 200 poems (http://dassarmafamily.blogspot.com), her poems have appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spillwords, Verse-Virtual, Visual Verse, Sparks of Calliope, Trouvaille Review, Silver Birch Press, Blue Heron Review, here and elsewhere. Having spent her growing up years in small towns of northern India, she currently lives in Bengaluru.
Woods and Waters
This night is mine, and
all around, the moon is
calling me to come...to ride
upon the light that kisses night
within the earth’s deep
The night is mine, and
as I smile, eclipsing day and duty, it’s here I run to sail upon
this lake of ebony and silken sun-
less beauty of the night,
Here, I am ruler of my realm as
all alone I stand, and in the grand-
ness of the starlight I am... I am...a
traveler of sky and sea, ...of
woods and waters.
There is no you...
in this wide world of night,
as I stand seeing far away the
light of day fast fading in the
march of time.
But here, each moment stills...
to hush the rush and random
shouts of mobs and gobs of
powers’ red abuse.
Here, I stand.
Here I am...bare to wear
fair sparkles of the night,
my night, afloat on dreams of
where there is no
L. W. Owen
Linda Watson Owen is the Mississippi Poetry Society's 2023 Poet of the Year. Her book, A Gift of Dappled Light, is a compilation containing a variety of her award winning poems and favourites of readers and audiences. It is available through Amazon.
Finding Solitude in Watery Silence
The words are stagnant in my mind
like the lily pad clad surface of the pond,
and they curl into the shells of my ears and bury themselves in my flesh.
A metaphorical parasite that can no longer vocalize, no longer bleed dry
the murmurs and stories in the paper and whispers exchanged in ballrooms
"She went out to swim at midnight and a fisherman found her body the next morning."
An empty boat
A sunken oar
A discarded dressing gown
I could feel the sloshing of the freshwater in my lungs and yet,
I could still hear their whispers
Still feel the cold, rough hands that pulled me into the boat
and the scream that erupted from the old man's throat when he realized I was dead.
I was dead.
I was dead?
The coroner only knew I had no pulse and yet,
in the cellar of the morgue on the rusted table, he mumbled to himself about how this
“young woman of high society” was found washed up on the bank,
tall grasses tangling in my silken hair and mud painting my porcelain skin
I had no bruises, no gashes, no strangulation marks, no skin underneath my fingernails.
He didn't know if it was by my will or another's that I was no longer alive
I didn’t know either.
But after concluding my autopsy report and plucking the aquatic larvae from my body
he wrapped my body and sent it off in a carriage to be buried
and still I couldn’t open my lips to tell him about the maggots in my throat
But this is where my memory refuses to fracture like glass and clear
because I do not know why I now stand in my boat looking back at my reflection
just as I had done nights previous
and still remember nothing about who I was.
Who I am?
My name is a distant memory, this pond a place of my past
and yet when the moon rises every night my ghost-
the word they scream as they see my figure following the path to the cattails
-wanders back to this boat
because this small sapling of a lake was my only familiarity
But now I see the moon's reflection sewn together across the water's surface with mine
and for some reason, I want the moon to see my face more clearly so I hold back my damp hair
and pray that the heavens won’t take my soul just yet
because just at this very moment I have a new thought,
"It truly is such a lovely night for a swim."
Lily Wilson, is a sophomore at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, photography and drinking excessive amounts of coffee in her free time. She hopes to work in forensic investigation and become a published poet/author when she is older.
I once loved a sweet soul
her shadow looked like me
I once loved a sweet, sweet soul
his shadow looked like me
We are lost here tonight,
the truth we cannot see
Who shall save us,
You or me?
Who shall save us,
You or me?
I shiver at what
the answer might be.
Under a full, full moon
I hear the earth’s hum
Under this bright, bright moon
I hear the earth’s hum
My heart she beats,
yet my fingers are numb.
Who shall save us,
You or me?
Who shall save us,
You or me?
We shiver at
what the answer might be.
We are naked
and we are afraid
We are buck-naked
and we are afraid
Lord, Lord, won’t you
please come to our aid.
Jeffrey G. Moss
Jeffrey G. Moss was born and bred in Brooklyn, USA. After 32 years guiding 13/14 year olds in crafting their worlds he has finally started following some of his own writer’s advice. His work has appeared in Cagibi, Hunger Mountain Review, Under the Gum Tree, and Hippocampus. Find him on IG @jeffgm.
The Full Moon Salon
Without fail each month
The gathering within the cave
The wet echo of excited whispers
Darkness and dankness
Woollen blankets, candles
Soft slurp of corks being pulled
Candle flames appear like glow worms
Tonight the ritual has run too long
The wine has run too freely
Pale flesh upon wool slumbering
In the stillness before dawn
I take the boat, find the air
Clear, still, silent, deep
Moonglow on my skin
But you call my name
A glow worm bobs at the cave mouth
I row back to you
Athena Law lives in the lush Queensland hinterland (Australia) and her short fiction has been published by the Australian Writers Centre. She likes to tackle baking and gardening projects while she's mulling over the tricky plot points of her first novel.
After an Afternoon at The World's Columbian Exposition
She whistled “The Waltz of the Flowers,”
low to weave her way down to the rowboat,
as fireflies lit an ease in and out to the rhythm of her steps,
her breath, the clear notes of Tchaikovsky.
Moonrise, or the last setting sun’s rays catch
stillness the moment before movement,
the moment a pause before unheralded discovery,
the shedding of everything else –
the afternoon sun and dust, the latest melodies loud
along the midways, the chill of ice cream, the screams
of rocking at the top of the Ferris Wheel, the days’ clothes.
Light body into flat calm,
after this day of celebrating conquest:
boats on the water to cross oceans of false
discovery, voices recorded like astounding
announcements to claim the air,
signals of sound alongside her mother’s
syllables of punctuated, “My goodness,”
and “Well, I never….”
Between the stanzas of her steady song,
the moon rises above dense trees,
the shoreline a dark mouth
that will resist swallowing until she makes more
of this moment of stasis, clean lines of skin
against the cool air at the end of an August day.
There’s time because it’s already been awhile
since she let the oar drop into the water,
balanced herself at the prow until the dark water
absorbed her patience, the noise
of all the rocking, as the dissipating waves
escaped to the definition of wild shoreline.
Hear her whistling to ease the waves to stillness.
She is not Christopher Columbus, this slant
of dusk light on still water no wonder
of any new world. Her eyes fill with
the ferris wheel, electricity, and the recorded
sound of voices, and her mother all a whisper,
“Look, honey,” “Listen,” and “Hold this,”
sweet vanilla, cold in a waffle wrapped
the better to carry and continue
so much everything, no solitude, until
a day can call it quits, level the earth
back to the limited horizon and the bull frogs’
sudden quiet and her whistle lifting.
Oh, to release the world of exposition,
expectations, and so much wonder,
so many wonders to ease out, lose the bank
of world event and yammering delights,
to stand still, the irony of painted solitude,
before the arc of her naked lines that define
the body that will break the surface.
Michelle Holland is currently the Poet-in-Residence for the Santa Fe Girls School and the treasurer of NM Literary Arts. She lives in Chimayo, where she gardens, writes poetry and creative non-fiction, and runs the trails from the BLM gate through the barrancas to Truchas. Her poems can be found in literary journals, in print and on the internet, as well as in a few anthologies. She has two book-length collections of poetry, Chaos Theory, Sin Fronteras Press, and The Sound a Raven Makes, Tres Chicas Press.
Here is away, and here is home.
There are no grasping fingers, no crushing blows--
no crushing blows, only the drumming of wings,
the fiddle-plucks of notes in moonlight rills.
The moonlight dances, alive--
it embraces me in song, an appoggiatura.
An appoggiatura, the shimmer on water,
a resolution broken by an owl shriek.
The owl shrieks my name in welcome or warning.
This is not solitude, only a space without men.
I am on my small boat without gods or men,
my body is bathed in moonbeams, and I dive.
I dive, I dive, I dive, swimming in night music--
here is away, and here is home.
Merril D. Smith
Merril D. Smith lives in southern New Jersey. Her work has been published in poetry journals and anthologies, including Black Bough Poetry, Acropolis, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Storms, Fevers of the Mind, and Nightingale and Sparrow. Her full-length poetry collection, River Ghosts (Nightingale & Sparrow Press) was Black Bough Poetry’s December 2022 Book of the Month. Twitter: @merril_mds Instagram: mdsmithnj Blog: merrildsmith.org
Born to Be Wild
Believe in the wild before wildness.
Speak from a boat. Speak when nudity
saw shaded foliage dress the shoreline
with a dark hem. Speak for her, elbows
raised, hands wedged behind the head.
Speak for tranquility, that surface speaks
for adventure from a faintly tinted, red face.
Believe in wild as a magic carpet ride,
flying over sparrows, once a band
who sang from a Canadian village
buttoned with orchards and cider houses.
Believe in gods who say you don’t
have to celebrate clothing anymore.
You don’t have to celebrate what’s in
the closet. How to imagine bare skin
is how to touch someone.
He is seeking. Or seems lost. Or he
is deciding where to land, believing
lessons from epic trips that failed.
Believe in running with the current,
coming whatever way and feeling
nature’s coolness as if drinking
a truth serum. As if contemplation
is a country. As if wind carries time.
Believe in the wild before boarding
the boat to cast off boring stories
from before. Forget the past losses
and happy endings, nature is love’s
embrace. Whether he will return
is hard to know. She likes a delicate
wait, a sweet whisper before
John Milkereit resides in Houston, Texas working as a mechanical engineer and has completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the Rainier Writing Workshop. His work has appeared in various literary journals including Naugatuck River Review, San Pedro River Review, and previous issues of The Ekphrastic Review. He has published two chapbooks (Pudding House Press) and three full-length collections of poems, including most recently from December, A Place Comfortable with Fire (Lamar University Literary Press).
All she could think of that moment was that Hemingway story—Nick Adams in that boat with his father, his father rowing away from the Indian camp. She wondered if Nick had heard the same screams, the same croaks of bullfrogs, the plops of startled turtles slipping off rotting logs—the same tremulous bird, its long white wings slapping the shallow water, chopping the air into shimmering ribbons. The sun would not come up over the hills, she was sure of it. But the stars had never been brighter. Late evening, standing at the bow, no one rowing, she felt quite sure no one was coming. Not her father. Not him. She could see the mouth of the river, the river that connected the lake to the ocean—but no signs of life on or under the water, nothing to swallow her. It was there and then she felt free, unpossessed, like that great egret vanishing.
Robert E. Ray
Robert E. Ray is a retired public servant. His poetry has been published by Rattle, Wild Roof Journal, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, and in five poetry anthologies. Robert is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. He resides in Georgia.
At the Edge of the World
I watch as you rise with wobbling knees and
clutch your wrought head–a greasy knotted clump.
A landless and barren sea slips into a chasm
swallowing existence as your dingy drifts
toward a silent, invisible edge.
Panic swallows you like smoke suffocating one last breath
till nothing remains.
Darkness passes into pale off-gray light
close your eyes and an insatiable off-white whale finds you.
Do you sense the end?
The silent end of the world where direction and time
But the oar–buoyant, glowing, pointed…
Only take it!
it is solid, it is real and light as wind.
Take it! Please!
Space crouches just beyond sight ushering you into some failing star
millions of millions of miles from the nearest failing star.
Samuel writes poetry as a hobby, but he hopes to one day publish some of his work. He currently runs a poetry Substack called The Pony Express, where he publishes weekly, original poems. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
The world she knew
behind a curtain of night.
The silence swallows her pain.
An occasional night fish breaks the water.
Small waves lap against
the thin hull of the boat.
She feels the touch of the water
through her bare feet.
Her body responds like a Stradivarius
to the touch of the bow.
The shore an unwelcome memory.
She tries to see the light breaking through
a blackness that opens with reluctance,
They said she’d find a way.
The depths are willing
to receive her.
Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru, and author of two novels as well as seven poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her latest: Do Oceans Have Underwater Borders? (Kelsay Books July 2022), Whistling in the Dark (Cyberwit July 2022), and Saudade (December 2022) are available on Amazon. A new MS is ‘in the oven’. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Alone (But Not Lonely)
She couldn’t help but relish in the hazy dusk
settling over the leafy canopies surrounding the river,
the last vestiges of sunlight becoming obscured by a misty, gray overcast.
Her naked figure, standing at the bow of her canoe, was clad in nothing but a soft smile.
Arching as she threw her unruly auburn hair into a lopsided knot, her balance remained unchanged–
which must have been the result of dozens of similar escapades onto the river.
The sleek, wooden canoe, painted a faded baby blue, rocked gently back and forth in the placid waters.
Its gentle curves and slender shape allowed for it to blend in harmoniously with the tranquil environment,
but its oars seemed to glow in stark contrast amongst the depth of the glossy, black waters.
Humming along to the creaking of the oars
and the lyrical symphony of the buzzing cicadas, the lean figure said aloud, to nobody but herself,
“It’s such a shame–the description of ‘alone’ inherently carries a negative burden, does it not?”
“I suppose, this may be because of its cunning daughter, ‘lonely’. But I am alone, and yet–I am not lonely.”
She broke the silence again.
“Oh, the joys of solitude!”
Hannah Guo, is a 15 year old rising junior in high school. She loves music, art, and literature, especially poetry. Her short story won the Platinum Award for Scholastic's National Art and Writing Contest.
To Alexander Harrison Regarding Solitude
As if entombed in darkened space
you have her sense immortal grace
-- becoming marble carved and left
to world, though from her then bereft,
that sees by haunting light of moon
in eerie silence her lagoon
and visage as a dawn foretold
of solace newly taking hold
where lull of glow and flickered gleam
is fading dance of distant dream
and blaze arising more direct
commands her soul to resurrect
the joy that cannot live in stone
and oar that no one wields alone.
Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent...
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.
Green dinghy sits light
on the still lake, so still
I stand at the bow, inhale
the heavy night air, stretch
my achy back, flex
stiff arms, and squeeze
the pain from shoulders
from the noise
and haloed lights
into the peaceful deep
of darkest night
Ann E. Wallace
Ann E. Wallace is Poet Laureate of Jersey City, New Jersey. Her new poetry collection, Days of Grace and Silence: A Chronicle of COVID's Long Haul, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in February 2024. She is author of Counting by Sevens (Main Street Rag) and has published work in Huffington Post, Wordgathering, Halfway Down the Stairs, Snapdragon and many other journals. You can follow her online at AnnWallacePhD.com and on Instagram @annwallace409.
Goodbye crowd of need
I have stopped, dropped
my spirit oar into still water
leaving you ripples of
words left behind as
guides to your hidden places
no one can find me now
I can stand in my own tallness
look into my own dark trails
eat stillness hear calling voices
on my own delightful channels
move my eyes toward shore
only when and if I want
to see your faces
waiting for more of me
Susan Shea a retired school psychologist who was raised in New York City and now lives in a forest in Pennsylvania. She had the privilege of working with children and families who struggled with disabilities and mental health concerns. A poet since third grade, Susan now feels like she is coming alive again in the free moments of time. She has been published in Plainsongs, Pudding, Poetry Forum Newsletter, Oxalis, The Orange Review, The Accordion Flyer, The Bluebird Word, and The Agape Review. Recently Susan has had poems accepted for four upcoming anthologies.
True solitude is difficult. And yet,
it flows freely across vast stillness,
reluctant to draw hard and fast borders.
I stand against the dark yawn of night,
my boat a silver slant, a dim raft
between water, shore, and sky.
Leaves flung across sheets of glass
over my moonlit image: its curvature
illusory, variable, unknowable.
My solitary posture bows, elusive
to rest and towards the restlessness
of night’s creatures.
Elanur Eroglu Williams
Elanur Eroglu Williams holds a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing, and a minor in Sustainability Studies from Concordia University Montreal. In addition, she has a M.Phil. in Children's Literature from Trinity College Dublin, and a M.S.Ed. in Reading/Writing/Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She has worked as an elementary school teacher and educator, and is currently based in New York City.