This intriguing artwork spoke just as loudly to so many of you, as it did to me. We received so many wonderful interpretations of this piece. Once again, it was a painful process selecting, and I'm so sorry to have left out so many fine submissions.
I'm not surprised that this work inspired you. We can't help but enter into the painting immediately because as soon as we look at it, our mesmerising redhead is staring right back at us. Fioretti's sweeping dance of light and shadow shows us the others present, but like the men on both sides of her, we can't look away for long.
The Ekphrastic Review turned eight this month. I just wanted to say thank you for making this ekphrastic adventure happen. We have created unimaginable wealth together, an enormous body of work on art of all kinds. We have looked at paintings and other creations from all over the world, contemplated them, and let them speak through us. We have created new worlds inspired by the imagination of artists and of each other. We have taken deep dives into themes in art, and we have gathered by Zoom to talk about amazing artists and to write together. Many of you have created collections of ekphrasis and published them, or sprinkled your books with ekphrastic morsels in between other poems and stories.
We have become friends. We have become a family. Thank you all, and welcome to everyone who is stopping by for the first time.
Art Deco Party Night
When I think of us now
I think of Art Deco Party Night.
Whose idea was it
to celebrate a past that
thought it was the future?
We dressed for it - like an
antique photograph of fun:
a flapper and her man
in search of a charleston.
We dined among the
tiered skirts, rhinestones,
cloche hats; drank gin from a
silver teapot. Your beads
swung low when you danced,
and the jazz seemed to
signify a lost idea of happy:
the sort we inherited
along with modernity.
I still recall your eyes
on your return to our table,
kohl-lined and beautiful:
they grabbed every photon
in the room, and knew
their own future. By the end
of the night I knew it too,
and it failed to contain me.
Paul McDonald taught at the University of Wolverhampton for twenty five years, where he ran the Creative Writing Programme before taking early retirement in 2019. He is the author of 20 books to date, which includes fiction, poetry and scholarship. His most recent poetry collection is 60 Poems (Greenwich Exchange Press, 2023)
Paean to Phalaena
You can’t help but see her in the centre
flaming red, curve-lit, painted
like a cinnabar moth.
How she turns faces,
but she’s pointing at you.
Yes, you. She warns with toxic glow,
brazen stance, screen of silk bling wings.
Her markings and eyes hypnotise
and if you cut her
she’d bleed poison.
Venom already flows through
your veins like a thought stream
and you know one kiss would be lethal,
yet all you can think of is
her magnetic fire.
Helen Freeman has been published on several sites such as Visual Verse, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Red River Review, Barren Magazine, The Drabble, Sukoon and The Ekphrastic Review. Her instagram page is @chemchemi.hf. She lives in Durham, England.
Sí, señor. Once again
I fly close
to your orbit
in disgust and hunger.
You think I’m captured
but I won’t enter your smug
vest in which you carry around
vain attitudes and vacuous schemes.
When I undo
your supercilious bowtie later tonight,
as always, I’ll imagine
it being spun into a scarf
that I can use to fasten
For the short time
we’ll be together,
my tremendous urge
to slide up to the chest of drawers
in the hostal of your choice
where a gas lamp pulsates,
and I long to douse
my translucent shawl
until it catches and carries me
away from you
Sharon Roseman writes poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. She’s a professor of anthropology at Memorial University in St. John’s, Canada and a keen admirer of visual art. Her poems and micro-fiction can be found in Poetica Magazine, CuiZine, and Found Polaroids.
The Eyes of Anazit
If you thought her name was Phalaena, you’d be wrong. Phalaena is his name. It’s his nickname, actually. Phalaena is a Greek word. It means whale, and he donned the name for the endearment it was meant to be when she used those eyes to seduce him. But that was several years ago. “Aye! Mi dulce y fuerte ballena,” she whispered in his ear, the first night of their love-making.
Phalaena is every bit as prosperous in money and material assets as his girth suggests. Oh yes, he has charm, too, but Anazit was far more attracted to the charm of his bank account, and presently even that fails to engage her interest.
Me? I’m a painter. You might say I am to Madrid what Toulouse-Lautrec was to Paris--a fly on the walls of café society, sketching out life in the moment. Tonight though, Phalaena and Anazit are of secondary importance to my eye. Tonight my every brush stroke serves to capture the incandescent glow of the brazier, its metal heated out of check. Do you see how its luminosity spills over the tea pot and tip-toes up Anazit’s arm; how it rests on her cheek then crawls into her red hair? How it softly flows through the folds of her cape draped over the chair?
That brazier sheds its brilliance throughout the scene before me and causes me to trace it to the look of longing in the eyes of that gentleman at the table next. His own companion has turned away in delightful reunion with another. Those two women are heedless of the comforting heat being provided from Phalaena and Anazit’s table.
Heat, yes—just enough to cause a modest burn to rest on Phalaena’s face, but heat too little to lessen the arch in his eyebrow and the suspicion in his eyes.
Anazit has rallied every ounce of her ennui to posture herself for another. She rests her eyes on me. She is posing for me, oblivious to the fact the brazier is the point of my infatuation. I have to ask, would her eyes be as captivating without the play of the brazier’s glow? They would, indeed. They are the eyes of one who seeks, which is how she came to be called Anazit, short for anazititis, the Greek word for seeker.
Little did her parents know though, upon the day of her baptism, that Anazit would grow up to be seriously short sighted.
Karen FitzGerald is a genre fluid writer whose works have been declined by some of America's most prestigious publishing houses. She is undaunted.
"Emillie," aka “The Moth”
Phalaena wasn’t her name, but rather a description of her body. Her visage, composed of taut muscle, long legs, and thin, wing-like arms had reminded some drunken, forgotten man of the Phylum Phalaena Moth. Now thumbtacked to this horrible moniker, she was forced to carry it. Moths are known to singe themselves to death flying too close to the flames of an open fire, and so the similarities continue: Emille’ has always sidled up close to that which threatened to destroy her, certain she had the upper hand. Her Grandmere’ used to say “Trop jeune pour savoir, trop vieux pour e’couter.” (Too young to know, too old to listen) Her eyes were also Lepidopteran, bulging disks of anxious pools that fairly jumped off of her face, a disturbance of coalescence, protubing like orbs foretelling a destiny which she loathes and yet seems powerless to change. Terrorized, Emillie’s eyes record no casual memories. Each day, she marks her calendar with a number: usually three, sometimes five, and on a lucky day, two. Today, this bloated, boozy homme de famille, (family man) this cochon, (pig) is number four. They were always the worst, those with wives and daughters, those with respectable jobs, pent-up anger pointing at her with half-mast swords. Oh! He was almost as ugly as she felt herself to be, with that despicable nickname, Phalaena, a genus of moth soon to be rendered obsolete.
“What next” thought the moth,
Flying too close to the flames
As pretty fire danced.
Debbie Walker-Lass, (she/her) is a poet, collage artist, and writer living in Decatur, Georgia. Her work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Quarterly, Haikuniverse, The Light Ekphrastic and Natural Awakenings, Atlanta, among others. She has recently read live for The Poet’s Corner. Debbie loves beachcombing on Tybee Island and hanging out with her husband, Burt, and dog, Maddie.
Over Cigarettes and Orujo
Even if Spain had fought, he would’ve been too fat
old and rich to fight. So, he bragged about
his bull days, and how he’d been nearly gored
twice in Pamplona. She knew it was a lie.
He didn’t need to impress her; he’d paid her
for the entire evening. This wasn’t the life
any mother dreamed of for her daughter.
“Anna, you will go to school,” her mother
said over cigarettes and orujo.
Her mother was dead but not what she’d said.
When Anna told the man, he laughed aloud.
They were both drunk, and he wanted nothing
but her body. She couldn’t do it sober
she told the painter; so, he paid the man
what he’d paid her, and they left hours after.
Rain fell from black clouds, and that caked black paint
moths vanishing in the gas-lit street lamps.
“Always look up, Anna,” her mother said,
but never directly into the light.”
Robert E. Ray
Robert E. Ray is a retired public servant. His poetry has been published by Rattle, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, Wild Roof Journal, The Ekphrastic Review and in four poetry anthologies. Robert lives in coastal Georgia.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
But you could talk to the blue-shadowed
tablecloth and its red lamps bathing
the evening glow. You could try to touch
the woman’s arm, winglike,
who is fatally attracted to fire. You could
offer to pour her wine left in the bottle--
hopefully, not the troubled, passed-over
sips of Spain. The gaze and graceful contours
of a coterie. The glaze of look-up smiles
and look-back glances. And if I could, I
would act as the uninvited guest, which is not
exactly acting, but pretending as a mysterious,
swirling broth would from cabbage, turnips,
and marrow bones while cooking cocido.
A stock pot with cured meat ready
for your purity. You could enjoy the clever,
camouflage of a tuxedo—a suit flush of
countershading—to look like a penguin,
waterproofing feathers from a secret gland
even though I know it’s hair oiled
from a hidden bottle. You could forget
that cologne face.
You could dilate your eyes and not be escorted.
You could find love, if not here, then as an embrace,
gusts of awareness. Sing and pray. You can see
towards heaven past the unfinished cathedral spires.
You could try to unfasten her disorder. You can’t
choose who sits at the table; her chair was the last
available, or maybe you blundered
in later. You can’t expect a teapot to pour.
You can’t expect the sugar cubes to plop in the cup.
The cigarette is a bad chimney. And if it’s troubling
that more decades rumble by, you can still remember
the dark brown fur of a moose roaming the thin,
forest floor on an island in boyhood,
and chocolate chips snuck from a crinkly bag
when your mother wasn’t looking.
That rock and roll song is burned into your skin,
like your father’s voice, the semisweet,
bluesy advice. You get what you need.
The woman stares until she turns to you,
her face aglow, she says: You wouldn’t understand.
You know. You know before she flies away.
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, A Place Comfortable with Fire(Lamar University Literary Press).
Hours After a Watermelon Sunrise
This afternoon after leaving
Hotel Regina, I plan a stop
at Murillo Café for a late lunch.
Outside under the cloth awning,
I will order sesame crusted tuna
which the server will deliver
to a blue metal table where I
am seated. Yesterday when
I joined a guided tour
at the Museo del Prado,
intently studied Fioretti’s
Phalasna, I tried to discern
the reason for Madame’s
annoyed expression, her
martini glass almost empty,
her cigarette still burning.
While I stood mesmerized
in front of that masterpiece,
the museum guard stared
attentively. I was unaffected
by the scrutiny he was
giving me as my mind
played Ain’t Misbehavin’,
that jazz hit of the Twenties,
before I continued through
the museum to observe
other famous paintings
by Greco, Goya and Rubens.
Dr. Jim Brosnan
Dr. Jim Brosnan’s first poetry and original photography collection, Nameless Roads, was traditionally published in 2019 (Moon Pie Press). He has had over 600 poems published in the United States, Ireland, Canada, Wales, India, Singapore, and the UK. Jim is a Pushcart nominee, a finalist in the Blue Light Chapbook Contest, and has won several awards in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ annual competitions, including a first place in 2021. Jim holds the rank of full professor in the English Department at Johnson & Wales University. drjimbrosnan.com
I Dare You, Pretty Please
I am the Ice Queen
immune to the pins and pricks
of your whimsical touch
let me voodoo you with my torch
Beware, would-be lover
my fiery, frigid stare
my raven eyes all aflicker
like Icarus, your lust is my must
Count to three, oh so slowly
drawing in my finespun scent
as I scatter smoke signals like Sirens
yet be careful lest you choke
Lean in a bit closer, dear
and graze my pearly, lilac skin
let my blood-orange inferno
ignite your thirst from within
Inhale deeply my bouquet, my love
but not without a fee
just try to dodge my silky lair
I dare you, pretty please.
Ann Marie Steele
Ann Marie Steele, who resides in Charlotte, NC, America, is a writer who dabs in poetry, essays, and short stories. She holds a BS in Journalism (News-Editorial), and an MA in Secondary English Education. Although Ann Marie works as a high school English/Special Education teacher, she has a passion for writing poetry. She pens pieces about love and loss, and what she observes and experiences. The loss of her youngest son has deeply impacted her writing, which has been described as resiliently defiant. Having published more than 200 pieces on Medium.com, she was recently published in The Ekphrastic Review with her piece, “Every Lilly Donned with Grief.” When not writing or teaching, Ann Marie is an avid participant of Acro yoga aka Partner Acrobatics, where she can often be seen flying and hand-standing upside down just for kicks.
The lad’s soldier is marched out the door.
The canvas is despatched.
Prado! A Spanish flee.
For, seeing the uninvited guest
Concha’s contribution is censorious.
And critical. Crucial.
Crossroads warrant cross words.
Are those fellows careless, carefree?
Uncurating - present participle, supposedly unknown.
Men canvassed are proved the majority view.
Exhibitionism, as they exhibit women’s art.
The latter (of course)
fulfil their expected clichéd rôles -
miniature decorators, seen fillers,
scene as most chaps see them.
Flighty moths of the night playing with fire?
Are we observing how life has been
and censuring ourselves?
Are we observing how life has been
but should censor ourselves?
Who is careful?
And what is fragile?
Lepidoptera without butterfly wings?
Or ego mindsets?
Who should pull the cloth away
and upend the table?
To reiterate the past scenes more difficult than we thought,
unless the iteration is reconfirmation.
Phalaena - left over type, as classified.
Collaborator, colluder, victim, survivor,
at table with another uninvited guest?
Not sharing a table.
Who would want ruddy smoke in their eyes?
Or see the mirrors already in other’s eyes?
Pupils can be fast learners.
False attribution is too easy by half.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales, UK, from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including The Ekphrastic Review. His blog is at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
She needs a plan should she decide to leave
this scene no longer fun, this man who brought
her here again, who let her long believe
she could aspire to more than what she ought.
Right now, she cannot even look at him,
at anyone. How foolish she has been
by acting moth-like on another’s whim,
by serving as amusement now and then.
He never will be more than what he is,
base metal underneath a coat of gild.
She holds a cigarette, not one of his;
the empty glass beside her goes unfilled.
She glowers since she wants to tip her chair,
grab all belongings, head for some elsewhere.
A native Virginian, Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her collections include Never Enough Already (2021) and Sooner or Later (2022).
Moths at Midnight
as jazz sways over decadent tables
she holds my gaze, this painted lady
wrapped in the drape and fold of wings
nectar in glass, beads of possibility
nestled in the scoop of her breast
and shades of cyan bright in neon
a man leans into the club cocoon
his suited elbow angled in, eyes fixed
on the splendid specimen centre right
golden highlights in her hair, a glare
transcending the flutter of moths
winging the frame of femininity
Kate Young lives in England and enjoys writing poetry, painting and playing the guitar and ukulele. Her poems have appeared in various webzines, magazines, and chapbooks. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. Her pamphlet A Spark in the Darkness has been published by Hedgehog Press and her next pamphlet Beyond the School Gate is due to be published in the next month. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
You think she’s looking at you, but she only sees
the light reflected in your eyes; feels the moth’s
attraction to the flame, expects it too will be the death
of her. Thinks there are worse ways to go. Her protector
has made yet another demand and she must decide
how much more of herself she can afford to lose.
The kohl collected below her lids─ how many times
has he caused her to cry tonight? She stares at you
as if you know, as if you are her last chance.
It’s too intense, that look, and you blink back the image
in your pupils of the moth singeing its wings in the fire.
She shrugs and turns back to the man. The moth,
its beauty seared the moment it swept into the spark,
has an answer for her.
Cheryl Snell's books include several poetry collections and the novels of her Bombay Trilogy. Her latest title is a series called Intricate Things in their Fringed Peripheries. Most recently her writing has appeared in Gone Lawn, Impspired, Necessary Fiction, Pure Slush, and other journals. A classical pianist, she lives in Maryland with her husband, a mathematical engineer.
Torture listening to this boor.
Boring beyond belief!
Captain of all he surveys–
or so he thinks. Arrogant ass.
His disposition is like his cigar:
difficult, smelly, entitled.
He may buy champagne,
but he will never own me.
I am thin to his thick,
wrapped in translucent wrap,
drawn to the flame of drink, dining,
If only he was not the reason
I am here.
Lynne Kemen lives in Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than a Handful was published in 2020. Her work is anthologized in Seeing Things (2020) and several others. She is published in Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Fresh Words Magazine, Spillwords, Topical Poetry, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and Blue Mountain Review. Lynne stands on the Board of Bright Hill Press. She is an editor for the Blue Mountain Review and a lifetime member of The Southern Collective Experience. Her book of poetry will be published in 2023 by SCE.
poetic exiles on the voyage out
you’re a mean ol lady
funned jimmy joyce
roosted beside him
in the temple bar
caught in the net
your words are lead
glazed with guilt confused
like you they amuse
i prefer blondes
in rooms of their own
at a waxing moon
knurled fingers caressing
from dublin & london
bred & dead
same month same year
flutter over the waves
leaving no room
Donna-Lee Smith, way back when Earth was blue (not alage green) and TV black and white, had a most-loved prof at Concordia University (Montreal): Michael Brian, a Joycean scholar. While gorging on Joyce, D-LS fattened her studies to include Woolf and Atwood. Answer me this fellow lovers of the smitten word: Why has Atwood not received the Nobel???
Serious, seductive, sensuous.
Faux fragility betrayed
by a sapphire stare.
The evening ambiance
no longer infused
with swollen indifference.
Bathed in a central glow,
the architectural arch of your arms
is ready to envelop.
tempting and teasing,
clothed in diaphanous distraction.
The challenge of your glare
declares a delicate passion
that solicits satisfaction.
Time and again, it is said,
the moth flies to the flame.
I become another statistic.
Enticed then ensnared by nocturnal charm,
the hubbub becomes peripheral,
and all else is rendered redundant.
Henry is a poet, writer and mental health essayist based in Somerset in the UK. He has appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review.
Captured and categorized
as a trophy to wealth and control
netted as a prize along
with fancy restaurants and big cigars;
her wings are more beautiful when spread
released from the blue smoke and lechery
she stares with unveiled freedom
out of the frame
toward the eyes of the artist
who lifting an eyebrow
nods toward the exit
and fragrant valley orchids.
Daniel Brown began writing poetry as a senior and is especially interested in ekphrastic poems and those with musical themes. He's been published in a variety of journals, has hosted a Youtube channel titled Poetry From Shooks Pond and at age 72 published his first collection, Family Portraits In Verse. through Epigraph Books, Rhinebeck NY. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They have a name for girls like her, a name
that sounds like some dead and rotting thing in the gutter.
The dead and rotting thing in the gutter
once had wings, its feathers scattered by the wind.
The wind of passing limousines scattered her gaudy feathers,
spattered her painted face with mud.
She caked the paint thick as mud to hide the dirt
she felt the world must see, the dead eyes,
because the world sees only dead eyes in girls like her,
never the wings torn from magazines to escape a prison.
If only wings of strass and gauze could change a world,
beat high and bold, carry lost girls somewhere bright.
All hearts with beating feather-wings belong in the shining blue.
They have a name for girls like her, Phoenix birds.
Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, The Ekphrastic Review, Black Bough Poetry, ink sweat and tears, Gleam, Nightingale & Sparrow, Green Ink and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She blogs at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/ Her poetry chapbooks, thicker than water and birds and other feathers were published in October and November 2020.