Dear Ekphrastic Family,
I quietly chose this painting to honour Black History Month, placing it in front of you in hopes that it would work its magic and become part of your stories and poems. With its subdued scene, I wasn't sure how many responses we would get. It's a quiet painting that transports us into open space and a different time, but behind the scenes, the story of the artist is terrible and remarkable and inspiring. I love how art speaks when we give it a few moments of contemplation, a phenomenon that happens every time, in every challenge. This time, we had a surprise flood of outstanding entries on so many themes. We chose a veritable cornucopia of stories and poems, to sustain you through to spring. Thank you to every single one of you who entered, even if your piece was not selected this time. This is such an important space of creativity and discovery, and everyone who participates in it is part of something truly amazing. Thank you all.
The Long View
It is a panorama of snow-crusted field and trees and orange-streaked sky and perhaps the person on his or her way back to the old farmhouse is checking for someone hiding in the long line of spiky pines, or lurking in the underbrush. The wife’s brother, perhaps. An angry father? As if the person who’s peering out over the field has been gone a long while and isn’t sure of his welcome. Let’s say that person is a derelict husband who a month ago, stole money hidden in his wife’s round hat box, oddly painted with a similar bucolic scene. That husband went off over the hills to a distant village where he assured the post master that he could read, even read cursive, and so for almost a month he sorted the scarce mail the train periodically dropped off and picked up to carry downstate. And one day the husband up and accompanied the mail downstate where it was said women wore black stockings and strappy garter belts and not much else. It got old fast. He missed his daughters, their dresses sewn from flowered grain sacks, his wife whose apron is stained from canning beets and beans. Soon he will cross the wide field, whistle for his old dog, spy his two daughters at the window, call out their names, lift them high. He leaves his wife’s name for last, and when she appears in the doorway, he reads her narrowed eyes, her crossed arms above the apron he dreamed about. She steps forward, and the door is open, her answer to him standing there, asking to come home.
Pamela Painter is the award-winning author of five story collections. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals such as Fictive Dream, Flash Boulevard, Harper’s, JMWW, Sequestrum, Smokelong Quarterly, and Three Penny Review, among others, and in numerous anthologies such as Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, MicroFiction and most recently in Flash Fiction America. Painter’s stories have received three Pushcart Prizes and have been presented on National Public Radio, on the YouTube channel, CRONOGEO, and by WordTheatre.
of the skin
leads a peripatetic life, dividing her time between an off-grid cabin in Quebec, Canada, and a cozy stuga on Gotland Island, in the Baltic Sea. She is currently in Sweden with her daughter’s wee sprogs (4 and 7). Said sprogs keep their MorMor (an ancient 73) running madly off in all directions and massacring the Swedish polysyllabic vocabulary with alacrity.
Untitled undefined unrefined
this landscape is tossed
for anyone any time any cost
at the auction of abandoned hopes
because gold was not enclosed
as a lining to its now lined skin
though in the beginning when ravished
by that excited young hand
it gave birth to petals and potatoes
grapes and cherries that cheered
the new settlers who cherished
the land for being just a host
not for that entitled dowry ghost
while now there isn’t anyone to give a damn
on its own it can’t soul-shift from soil to land
to planet earth amid the tides of aloof fate
it can only weather and bathe
under the cold heavenly tears
as in the first post-petal day
when it became an abandoned maiden
though perfectly adorned as all its peers
as Attica Campania Provence
with the same chemical defiance
which in alliance with sun rain
and dexterous hand gives birth
to petals potatoes grain and cherries
that the soul cherish yet here it is alone
untitled unmanned unpetaled
soil land planet spellbound
by the ghosted home sound.
Ekaterina Dukas, MA, has studied and taught linguistics and culture at Universities of Sofia, Delhi and London and authored a book on mediaeval art for the British library. She writes poetry as a pilgrimage to the meaning and her poems have appeared widely on The Ekphrastic Review, its Challenges, Poetrywivanhoe and anthologies, among others. Her poetry collection Ekphrasticon is published by Europe Edizioni, 2021.
We walked out of the forest
And Tooley, who doesn’t like the forest, says loud and clear into the frostbell air, can’t we go to a movie for a change?
I’ve been trying all kinds of whatever with Tooley. Dress-me-up sex and now hiking, that I had to buy a pair of boots for.
I say, Tooley, just look at that house over there in the clearing. Tooley tells me I sound like a fairy tale. The clearing, Tooley says with his Tooley-sneer, who talks like that in real life?
Excuse me, mister, I say trying to be light and all, but I talk like that. And it’s a beautiful clearing, a beautiful house. Look at that sloping roof, all white and Christmas. I bet a wonderful family lives there.
We are a wonderful family, Tooley says, and I figure he’s being sarcastic, so I tell him right there that he is the one sounding like a fairy tale. He rears back at that, like a unicorn heaving up on its hind legs. I give you everything, Tooley says. And by everything, I say, I am sure you mean heartache. I remind him right there about Loretta. Which is a thing he would rather I forget.
The trees all around us are scabby and bare, the grass nearly dead and glistened with snowfrost. Without the forest to hush up our thoughts, Tooley and I can hear everything we are thinking at each other.
I’m going to knock on that door, I tell Tooley. I bet there’s a warm fire there, and cocoa.
Well, I’m going home. Tooley says and walks away from me like he’s done so many times. I watch him fade back into the forest. I watch and watch until he is a twig himself.
I walk across the open field. Skrinkle of ice cracking under my boots. I am hoping that if there isn’t a family inside of that house, then maybe a kindly old woman, someone who will make me feel wanted and make me feel loved, the way I must have felt the first time I looked into Tooley’s eyes.
At worst, it will be a poisoned apple that I will at least know enough not to bite.
Francine Witte’s flash fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals. Most recently, her stories have been in Best Small Fictions and Flash Fiction America. Her latest flash fiction book is Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press.) Her upcoming collection of poetry, Some Distant Pin of Light is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. She lives in NYC. Visit her website francinewitte.com.
Detroit Institute of Arts Museum
In contemplation I study
the landscape painting
while the museum guard
in a pressed gray uniform
with polished black shoes
stands erect and motionless
five feet to my left.
In the untitled painting
snow-tinged Norway pines
are a backdrop for winter’s
Wisps of smoke rising
from a weathered cabin
elicit memories of exploring
northern Maine woods
when I snowshoed near
Moosehead Lake. I pause,
refreshed by this recollection,
continue across parquet
to the next framed piece.
Dr. Jim Brosnan is the author of Nameless Roads (2019). His poems have appeared in the Aurorean (US), Crossways Literary Magazine (Ireland), Eunoia Review (Singapore), Nine Muses (Wales,) Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), Strand (India), and The Madrigal (Ireland). He holds the rank of full professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI.
To George Washington Carver Regarding Undated Home Landscape
Sober is simplicity
as truth you find to praise
nestled in the nature you
have painted with its clays
stating so implicitly
we're what our life becomes --
what inventiveness exhilarates
or mindlessness benumbs.
I sense a soul alive within
the place it knows it must begin
to live the love that sets it free
from devil's shackle hate would be
that stays content with meager yield
and blames its own mismanaged field
that must be fed what it must feed
by crop rotation to succeed
the way that art had led your mind
to fascination it would find
to summon its creative force
that helmed the path of patient course
to answers you would find were where
you wisely took each reasoned dare.
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.
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.
Out in a field
is revealed a cabin
some might not think
livable, but stars
at night show a different
view, tree lines, new grass,
deer may graze, calm –
undisturbed by man,
no fear of small cabin
in pre-dawn sky, etched
painted morning light, open
them of predators that might
lurk by woods; quiet
is the norm, from window
watch nature unfold its day,
branches sway, sky changes
hue from gold to red to blue,
homestead sits in solitude,
no others in sight, land
unblemished earth but for
small plants that serve
to nourish inhabitants.
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson is hooked on Ekphrastic poetry and loves a good prompt. She has served on two poetry boards, coordinated 100 Thousand Poets for Change for five years, and her work appears in over 50 journals, including Misfit, Tiger Moth Review, Uppagus and The Ekphrastic Review. Dickson holds a BPS in Behavioral Science and her full length works are available on Amazon, including her book, Bullied into Silence (Piscataqua Press 2014).
The woman with the camera came again yesterday. I told my mother. I was frightened. My mother has said before that when you are trapped in a picture taken by a camera, the spirits come for your soul. The woman did not take my picture but she did take a picture of the house. Our house is supposed to be safe and she has made it not safe, because probably now the spirits can get into the house through the picture. There is hardly any furniture and it is often cold and we don’t have a tap inside but we are together.
My mother tells me to watch carefully and to let her know if the woman comes again. I must not shout – I must run to her quickly and quietly so that the camera cannot capture us, and the woman does not suspect that we are near.
I have spent the day waiting and watching. I did not sleep well and I was tired as I did my tasks this morning. I was glad when my brother left the house and my father went to the fields because their souls will not be in danger if the woman comes again. I have kept the animals away all day. The cat was surprised as I flapped my arms at her but the dogs were happy to run free and go after rabbits. My father did not want the cat and dogs but my mother insisted, she said we had to look like a normal family, in case anybody came. But the only person who has come is the woman with the camera. I don’t know if she wants to talk to us, or take us away again, or capture our souls for the spirits.
The lovely pink colours are in the sky now, as the sun is going down. I do not think the woman will come again today but I am going to wait until it is dark completely. Then my brother and my father will come home. If we are lucky my father will bring some food and we will eat before sleeping.
Frances Owen lives in Salisbury, England. Now retired from a career in public health, she writes poems about the places she has lived in Africa as well as about health issues, social justice and inequality. Having had a number of academic papers published, she is now working on her first poetry pamphlet and a memoir. She workshops her poetry with a number of writing groups. A member of Lapidus, she facilitates Writing for Wellbeing Groups with the WEA, at her local doctors' surgery and for Wiltshire and Salisbury Museums.
The town called Diamond was smothered in white.
A ghost haunted the treetops, the fields,
Is it cold, it it dead?
Tenacious, the way growth separates walls.
Roots pushed arms from the earth.
But in the cabin, time looked with the long eye.
While Diamond miners scooped handfuls of dirt
And wondered, how can this be bought and sold?
How deep do we go?
From the unremarkable but warm cabin,
Another took a handful and asked,
What life can be coaxed from here,
how can it be nourished?
Plumes of breath decorated the wind.
Milkweed and seed pods, frost in the fall,
Golden gauze peeked through
A lidded sky.
Sara Dallmayr is originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan. She received her a BA in English from Western Michigan University. Dallmayr's work has appeared in Laurel Review, Sugar House Review, Midway Journal, Penn Review, and others. She lives in South Bend, Indiana.
Winter in Alabama
for George Washington Carver
Peanuts and sweet potatoes
fill the hillside,
they fill the living earth
to the living door.
Next year, they will
burst forth again,
but for now, under the frost,
under the gloom,
those legumes and tubers
await the passing
of another season.
Snow sits suspiciously
on those towering conifers.
Evening’s winds will shake
those branches free of the dusting,
but for now, under the frost,
under the gloom, the boughs await
the coming thaw.
You can feel it on the breeze,
smell tomorrow’s vernal equinox
in the damp midwinter skies.
Tomorrow, the peanuts
and sweet potatoes will
once again rule the valley.
Tonight, under frigid
they sleep and snore.
Tonight, under the cold gusts
as the clock on White Hall chimes,
we doze and dream
Andre F. Peltier
Andre F. Peltier (he/him) is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated poet and a Lecturer III at Eastern Michigan University where he teaches literature and writing. He lives in Ypsilanti, MI, with his wife and children. His poetry has recently appeared in various publications both online and in print. His debut poetry collection, Poplandia, is available from Alien Buddha. He has three collections forthcoming in 2023, Trouble on the Escarpment from Back Room Books, Petoskey Stones from Finishing Line Press, and Ambassador Bridge: Poems from Alien Buddha Press. In his free time, he obsesses over soccer and comic books.
Just because you were born under
a mulberry tinted Missouri sky
behind bars of winter trees
didn't mean that winter would
set limits to your dreams.
Just because you spent thirteen
years in Moses Carver’s tiny
cabin on contested prairie ground,
yellow ochre, walnut brown,
didn’t mean you weren’t free.
Just because winter was hard &
woods thick didn't mean the wood
was yours to cut or fire yours to
kindle: the only road unmarked,
you found your way out alone.
Just because you were the shade
of earth, every human's home,
barred from schools reserved for
whites, didn't mean you couldn't
learn from nature's misegnations.
Just because you painted a scene
from earliest childhood's seeing -
everything about the place, empty;
no people, no animals, father
dead, mother lost - didn't mean
you learned nothing: scholar,
heart & soul, studied nature’s
bounty, creation's partner,
learned to see what’s hidden
under winter's landscapes; seeds
that can be coaxed to green
abundance, Alabama’s mean
clay mixed into five-hundred
shades of paint to beautify
the south, liberate its colours.
Margaret Flaherty: "I’m a retired attorney. I wrote poetry in high school, but stopped for a busy fifty years or so. I started again in 2016 after I met poet and essayist Lia Purpura at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts where she was leading a poetry writing workshop. With her encouragement, I went on to earn an early-pandemic Masters in Poetry in August 2020 from the Ranier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. I’ve published poems in Passager (2022 Poetry Contest), Yellow Arrow (2022 on-line Vignette series) and was recently awarded first prize for poetry in a contest sponsored by the Bethesda Urban Partnership."
Holdouts, they call us.
Stuck in the past.
Ninety-five runs so close to here you can smell the fumes, they say. There’s a Starbucks across the street, for Chrissakes.
The Koenigs have sold. Their pasture, cattails, and shallow creek have been tamed, paved and soldered into a hotel, ten stories tall. Along our northern boundary, the Childers’ farm is now a Big Lots, a Supercuts, a Giant, the stores surging out of the ground, shiny and sprawling as poison ivy. At night, we hear workers stomping down boxes, tossing glass bottles that shout and echo inside dumpsters. Cigarette butts and aluminum cans in wrinkled paper bags creep onto our land like trespassers.
The men come when Granddad is chopping wood. The silver of his axe speaks for him, so the men prance along our porch, offended roosters, the tired planks bending with their weight, muttering about wasted acreage, dreaming up the ways our cottage violates their codes. Lindy and I, peeking through yellowed lace curtains, stumble backwards when one of them slaps a bright orange sticker on the window pane.
Later, Lindy and I will peel off the sticker with our fingernails and Granddad will burn it in the red brick fireplace. The sun will fall behind the hills and the land will rust to gold, and Granddad will deliver his lecture on sovereignty again. As Lindy writes down his words on the back of an unopened letter from the bank, I will fix my eyes on the downy barbs of his beard and imagine him young and green, black mud cupping his heels, crouching to spy on sparrows that bathe in the dust beneath loblollies, the land spiraling around him like a cartwheel.
Joanna Theiss (she/her) is a writer living in Washington, DC. Her short stories and flash fiction have appeared in journals such as Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, Bending Genres, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Fictive Dream. Before devoting herself to writing full time, Joanna worked as a lawyer, practicing criminal defense and international trade law. Links to her writing are available at www.joannatheiss.com.
You are here
Loud and clear
Mapping the mind not
Tracing the tracks
Prisms and squares what
Is this gift of abstraction
I am here
Morphing the math from
The dancing sparrow
I am here
Not blending in but
I see you
I am stardust boxed
A rooftopped dreamer
Stien Pijp lives east of the Ijssel, in Gelderland, The Netherlands. Some years ago she and her family moved there to a house in the woods. As a dreamy urban person, comfortable with the rhythm of the city, she experienced nature to be quite unnatural to her and seeks to connect with it ever since. In 2017 she wrote her dissertation Why this now? about the search for meaning in conversations with people with aphasia. She works as a language therapist. She reads stories and poems of friends and sometimes writes herself.
The Peanut King
I know this place. I’ve been here. Diamond Missouri.
It’s just a few miles from Joplin, where I was born.
Straight east, then south on Highway 59, though
The road probably wasn’t there in your day.
It looks like you painted this picture in winter,
Just at twilight, or maybe dawn. The walnut trees look almost bare,
And that might be a little frost on the ground,
Though I don’t see any smoke coming out of your cabin, which is gone now.
That big space in the back must be your garden.
And those trees, just in front of the distant horizon could be pines
Or white oaks. This is the Ozarks, an ancient magical land of rocks
And cliffs older than humans, rivers and underground springs,
And deep cold caves meandering under the earth, darker inside
Than a starless night. Those of us who were born here
Carry the Ozarks in our hearts forever.
But there was always an elephant in the room,
Although we didn’t use that expression in those days.
Everybody used the S words, forming an invisible, curving line,
Like a Serpent: Slavery, Segregation, Separate, but equal.
All the children knew that was a lie. We could hear the sorrowful
Gospel music coming out of the old unpainted church right across the street
From Grandma’s church. We could see the shabby schools and
Broken down cabins like yours. But the grownups all believed the lie,
Except for just a few, like my mommy. She’s the one who told me about you,
A former slave who transformed American farming and made Missouri famous.
You were Missouri’s diamond, the Peanut King. You grew peanuts
In your garden, performed experiments on them, and invented all kinds of
Wonderful new things to make life better for the sharecroppers and everybody else.
She had a list in her head of all your accomplishments, like crop rotation,
Whatever that was. I was a little girl who loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
So you became my hero. I think you were Mommy’s hero too, because
She wanted to make something of herself even though her family didn’t’ have much.
And she did. She and my daddy got out of the Ozarks before us kids started
Believing the lie. And she earned herself a doctor’s degree.
There were Ozark men besides you who came along later and did well for themselves,
Harry Truman, Langston Hughes and Johnny Cash, but you were smarter than they were.
You went off to Tuskegee and became a professor, a scientist, always helping.
Now your garden and the place where your rickety old cabin used to be
Are a National Monument with an African American woman park ranger.
Now kids learn about you in nice clean schools.
I can’t honestly tell you that old serpentine line has disappeared,
But you were the sunrise that drove some of those snakes back in the cave.
Rose Anna Higashi
Rose Anna Higashi is a retired professor of English Literature, Japanese Literature, Poetry and Creative Writing. Recently, her poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, America Media, Poets Online, The Avocet, The Agape Review and The Catholic Poetry Room. Many of her lyric poems and haiku can be found in her blog, “Tea and Travels,” which appears monthly on her website, www.myteaplanner.com, co-authored with her niece, Kathleen Pedulla. Rose Anna lives in rural Hawaii with her husband Wayne.
Before ever the war ceased and I could return, I dreamed the shack, the barn—both crouched beside the lake.
I dreamed the land we fought for—hard edges of the homestead softened in first snowfall; a beacon sun sinking west over those low hills; birches almost bare of leaves; spruce bent in the blast; and snowdrifts on the lake whisked all wild by a northerly wind.
I dreamed all this when I lay shivering from frost and shock on the front line.
To wake, then, in that bitter darkness, was to grieve the loss of my own land each night I was alive—or half alive—in a filthy foreign war.
After those long, mud-ridden nights on the Somme, I would waken to reds—not the red of a painted barn, nor of iron-rich earth—but to the poppy-stain of blood spilled on furrowed French soil. Or I would be hunched on a fire-step watching for the other red—not that of the farm’s gentle sunsets swooped by cardinals and robins, but for death-dealing fire-bursts in churned fields: fire in fierce skies, fire on the ground—flames blossoming like great peonies…but in no way sweet in our nostrils.
Although the red clapboard barn has weathered to brown since last I saw it, this—our land which I love so dear—did not in fact change over the time I went away. I am glad to be able to make this simple assertion. I am surprised, too.
In quiet homecoming daylight, I know now that the farm—the land—is just the same.
My eyes, I realise, are what must have changed—my view of all I see, all that lies right here.
Today, I cannot look at red. Standing here with a brush in my right hand and bucket of undercoat in my left, I shall never again cover the barn’s siding in red paint.
Instead in green—the colour of hope, and home.
In 2022, Lizzie Ballagher was chosen as winner in Poetry on the Lake's 2022 formal category with a pantoum entitled ‘Across the Barle’. Her work has appeared in print and online on both sides of the Atlantic. She lives in the UK, writing a blog at https://lizzieballagherpoetry.wordpress.com/.
George Washington Carver's Daybreak in Missouri
after Langston Hughes, "Daybreak in Alabama"
When I get to be a famous scientist
I'm gonna write some bulletins
Share my knowledge about the plants
I'm gonna write down the best advice
How to learn the secrets from nature
The garden of Eden that grows right here
I'll be out before the the sun's risen yet
When I can study the stems and leaves
When I can sketch their delicate traceries
And I can use all my learning for good
Be a better plant doctor than right now
And I'll teach classes that'll be for everyone
"Of black and white black white black people"
And tell them how to dig deep into the soil
How to grow peanuts and sweet potatoes
Teach them how to heal our barren land
"And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it"
All these hands will reach out together
To help and heal and provide for one another
In the time near dawn when the woods are loveliest
When I get to be a famous scientist
And paint the beauty of daybreak
Note: the quoted lines in italics are from Langston Hughes' poem. This poem is also inspired by the following quotation from George Washington Carver: "Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise.”
Emily Tee writes poetry and flash fiction. She's had pieces published in The Ekphrastic Review and for some of its ekphrastic challenges, and elsewhere online, and in print in some publications by Dreich, in Poetry Scotland and in several poetry anthologies. She lives in England.
In the dream
my father’s middle-aged body
became a glorious farm pastoral
where on his thighs grazed the cattle
and between his toes the grasses grew
where maidens carried milk in buckets
up his arms and down
his back a pasture where wild horses ran
while the sheep lay down at his feet
and in his hair the flowers grew
his chest a meadow of melancholy
rising and falling
with the kind of breathing
only the dead know how to do.
I looked at him and said
Mom would like that.
Yeah, I think Mama would.
Ann Iverson is a writer and artist. She is the author of five poetry collections: Come Now to the Window by the Laurel Poetry Collective, Definite Space and Art Lessons by Holy Cow! Press; Mouth of Summer and No Feeling is Final by Kelsay Books. She is a graduate of both the MALS and the MFA programs at Hamline University. Her poems have appeared in a wide variety of journals and venues including six features on Writer’s Almanac. Her poem "Plenitude" was set to a choral arrangement by composer Kurt Knecht. She is also the author and illustrator of two children's books. As a visual artist, she enjoys the integrated relationship between the visual image and the written image. Her art work has been featured in several art exhibits as well as in a permanent installation at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. She is currently working on her sixth collection of poetry, a book of children's verse, and a collection of personal essays.
Mickey had hidden her father’s painting underneath the bed. He wouldn’t be looking for it anytime soon. She had three days to put it back before he came home from his latest trip to England and did his usual inventory to determine what if anything had been sold. Her father considered himself a great artist and would puff up with pride when people told him he painted just like George Carver. After one trip, he’d hit Mum when he discovered the Blue Barn was gone. Mum had shushed her just before his fist shot out. Mum was always protecting her. The last time was worse. Mickey thought she’d seen her father’s anger in all of its shades of fury but when she’d sold Morning Rush, he’d lost all control. Mum was in hospital after another ‘silly fall’ for a week.
When Mickey visited her with a bunch of peonies from the garden, Mum had told her it was time. “You’re old enough now, Mickey. Take the passbook, and the suitcase from the back of the shed. Your father won’t remember that one. By the time he figures out I’ve been lying about you visiting your friend, you’ll be safe. I’m sorry Mickey. I should’ve left a long time ago and taken you with me but I was scared. Forgive me.”
She’d tightly held her Mother’s hand, tracing the bruises on the pale face with her finger. “He would have found us Mum. No one was going to protect us. I’ll come back Mum, I will. I’ll come and get you once I’m settled and he will never, ever guess where we are.”
Mickey slid the painting out from underneath the bed and brushed the dust off the canvas. This one didn’t have a title because her father said it wasn’t finished. She took out his pochade and ran her fingers over the ridges of dry paint on its edges. Looking at the cheerful rainbow of colours, she wondered how a man with such a black heart could create such beauty. On his trips away, he’d leave them just enough money to eke out a bare existence. He’d never wanted her mother to work and then complained about how much money she cost him, and inevitably, how much both of them cost him. Selling a painting was the only way to make ends meet. Mickey would pass the streetwalkers at dusk on her way home from school, and pray to god she and her mother never ended up beside them. Their sad eyes, hard as granite, would soften when they saw her. Were they remembering when they were too young to have any inkling of what lay ahead?
She took a slim charcoal pencil from the box and started to sketch. By the time night had fallen, she’d filled the image in with muted colour. Opening the closet door, she took out her packed suitcase with the passbook safely tucked inside, and with the painting under her arm, Mickey climbed the stairs to the attic. She rehung the painting carefully, making sure it was in the same position as her father left it. Any degree left or right, and he would know it had been moved, and her mother would pay. Mickey closed her eyes and stepped through the door of the tiny wooden house she had added to her father’s unfinished scene. Tomorrow, her mother would come to the attic, and, as Mickey had taught her, remove the little house from the painting with a cloth moistened with acetone, gently, so as not to disturb her daughter’s future.
Linda lives in Lake Tabourie, NSW, by the sea. In this beautiful environment, she writes poetry and has recently dabbled in flash fiction. Linda is completing her Degree in Creative Writing at Curtin University and enjoys seeing her work published in various literary spaces. She is a recent Pushcart nominee thanks to the The Ekphrastic Review.
Winter 1946. Germany.
My brother’s boots stuffed with newspapers.
I didn’t inherit his trousers.
Dress requirements for girls: ski pants covered
by a dress. (Don’t they now have leggings covered
by a dress?) Anyway, where was I…
We ski to school, straight from the low window,
couldn’t open the front door, too much snow.
Now the hares are coming to the fence.
Not that we have anything to spare, but there is
always a carrot or some grass we take from the spot
by the barn where the roof covers it and the snow
can’t settle. The hares are grateful.
We heat a Pfennig on the wood stove and press it
against the iced-up glass, iced up with many magic patterns
of extra-planetary flowers and fairy grass. We watch
the hares zig-zagging across the endless field, leaving their
footprints in the snow.
It’s closed season. The animals seem to know it.
Two Russian soldiers pass on a motorbike, stop, get off.
Several shots later they each carry a hare by their ears,
clearly congratulating each other on an efficient kill.
As though I hadn’t known by then that the world
is not a fair place.
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. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
There will be no survivors. The trees are almost an afterthought, the squat little building planted amid the clearing, arrogant and oblique, a desperate attempt to bluff one’s way out of trouble; the lone sentinel resolute against the pressing onslaught of the wilderness. It’s no longer a laudable thing, to be the champion of the frontier, there are other things out there, things that stir in the evening, once the shutters come down, and the lights go out. What happened to the ones you turned out, you chased away with fire and noise, unintelligible words from your square mouth, echoing up and down the valley, barked with righteous indignation? The old binaries no longer exist, they are as lost as the owner of this slab hut, scrabbling for purchase against the increasingly slippery cliff face of moral progress. Today is a reckoning for the man who travelled up the river in a futile attempt to stamp his mark on history, to capture the land in paint and patronage. Now our past demands that we knock down the walls, liberate the artefacts from their glass cases, and look again at the landscape we put in the frame, as woke as the dawn sky.
Jessica McCarthy is a high school English teacher from Adelaide, South Australia. She has a Master’s Degree in Writing and Literature, specializing in Children’s Literature, and enjoys finding new ways to inspire her students to read widely and write creatively.
Stepping out to the porch I watch
a hover of crows assembles
in the bare sycamore
like a darkroom image.
Another sign that after years of turning
my back to this patch of bottom land,
to the fields gone to pasture,
to the white framed house leaning
like a moored skiff in a sea of switch grass,
return runs in my blood.
Return after all those years of spinning
the dial on the volume of the world,
humming along to its noise.
Tapping my foot to its static
out there on highways, in my bubble
of glass and chrome.
Here, a high wind soughs through
the evergreens that circle the house,
tuning the orchestra of morning.
When I was a child, I dared the blackwater river
to ferry me all the way to the Gulf
in its swift spring run.
On the threshold of spring once more, I rest
against the rail, giving in to the gravity
under these well-worn porch boards.
Barbara Sabol is a retired speech pathologist attuned to the music and timbre of voices in conversation and within the lines of a poem. She writes both long-form poetry and haiku. Her fifth collection, core & all: haiku and senryu, was published by Bird Dog Press in 2022. She is the associate editor of Sheila-Na-Gig online, and edited the 2022 anthology, Sharing this Delicate Bread: Selections from Sheila-Na-Gig online. Barbara finds both editing and teaching essential to a sustainable writing life. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two wise old dogs, who listen to every line she writes.
Close behind the house, under brush,
disclosed to no one, blooms a garden
so lush it dims the ground it grows out of
and browns the surrounding leaves and trees,
each flower reflecting the other’s beauty,
each resplendent in its knowing.
Above, a rainbow streaks
the sky into dusk and
snow caresses the canvas.
Or is that cotton
lollygagging across the land,
choking the soil into servitude?
It is the moneymaker, after all--
flowers, to some, pure folly.
A golden door of freedom awaits.
The answers aren’t inside
those four walls.
They are everywhere else.
To touch a flower is
to touch infinity.
Did you feel it?
Did you love it enough?
Lisa Reidy Harter
Lisa Reidy Harter writes to challenge the status quo. Interning for The Gettysburg Review while earning her BA in English literature, which included taking classes with the Review’s inimitable Editor Peter Stitt, sealed her passion for all things poetry. To satiate her lit addiction, she also got her MA. You can find her on Zoom with her beloved poetry writing group or taking courses with The Writer’s Center, Grackle & Grackle, and Hugo House. Lisa resides in Maryland with her Velcro Vizsla, Harley, attached to her side.
When an Artist Becomes an Agricultural Scientist
Day after day, he spends alone, in the woods,
collecting his floral beauties to plant in his little garden
hidden in the bush not far from his house,
hidden away from the thorns of judgement and pricks of prejudice.
Day after day after day, he toils
to fan the fire of desire
to learn more
music, math and painting.
And then he begins observing how the ink traces of art can shape
and reshape the contours of science.
He notices the principles of science
diffused in the ways of nature,
like strands of colours in water.
And he documents the wonder that is missed
in the ordinary blink of an eye.
He makes the world understand that art and science
can co-exist on the beam
balance of interest.
And when the time is wild and ripe,
he gives back
285 new uses for the peanut and 118 new products
from the sweet potato,
a blend of sisal and henequen that can be used as twine.
He advocates cultivating native crops - wild plum and soybeans.
He gives, gives and gives
not just when the time is wild and ripe,
but he gives back all the time.
He gives back
to the villages, to the poor,
to soil, to nature.
He becomes a sheet anchor, a trend setter, a streamliner,
a go getter, a goal setter, a path finder, a path breaker.
He gives back
Preeth Ganapathy is a software engineer turned civil servant from Bengaluru, India. Her works have been published in several magazines such as The Ekphrastic Review, Soul-Lit, The Sunlight Press, Atlas+Alice, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Mothers Always Write, Tiger Moth Review and elsewhere. Her microchaps A Single Moment and Purple- have been published by Origami Poems Project. She is also a two-time winner of Wilda Morris's Poetry Challenge.
Look, the tarpaper roof is torn
in the shape of the mountains we left,
or my girlhood spent birthing
these children. I won't sing to them,
the daughters who will only leave me
for strangers. I save my voice for prayer.
I tell my eldest to bundle her sister
and rock her in front of the stove. Don't leave
the candle in the window. It will inspire the men
who already burned down our barn.
The snow is higher than the roof now.
How many sons will satisfy you, husband?
This new one is as wrinkled as an old man.
Say something please, say something.
The only place for us is where we carve it.
Cheryl Snell’s books include several poetry collections and the novels of her Bombay Trilogy. Her latest title is a collection of flash fiction called Intricate Things in their Fringed Peripheries. Most recently her writing has or will appear in journals including Gone Lawn, The Dribble Drabble Review, and New World Writing. She was trained as a classical pianist, and lives in Maryland with her husband, a mathematical engineer.
Doing the Dishes after Shoveling
After two hours of heavy lifting
the second round left my hands
The first round sang
encircled the trees
embraced the freeze
surrounded the landscape
as if an orbit of notes
After the second round
I dipped my shivers
quivers of cold
beneath running water
into a river of warmth
as if an orbit of notes
The radiant repetition of living
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts has authored eight books, six poetry collections and two illustrated children's books. Her most recent collection is titled The Ethereal Effect - A Collection of Villanelles (Kelsay Books, 2022). Her work appears in Barstow & Grand, The Ekphrastic Review, Sky Island Journal, and elsewhere. She serves as a poetry editor for the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs.
Small Black Horse, Large Moon
"Whose woods these are I think I know,
his house is in the village though...
My little horse must think it queer
to stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
the darkest evening of the year."
Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening,
"Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness
of the woods before sunrise."
George Washington Carver
The woods are lovely, dark and deep with fairy tale flashes of color, Grimm's characters
singing in a 20th century musical to dispel their fear of darkness; my son as The Narrator
in a high school production of Into The Woods... How different are those woods now
than they were in 1864 when, as an infant, George Washington Carver was kidnapped
by slave raiders during the Civil War? And how lovely the woods he painted as they looked
before sunrise after he was grown his life saved when he was traded for a fine horse
by Moses Carver, a horse trader in Diamond, Missouri? The moon and stars have a history
of their own -- as everyone knows -- diamond-like patterns that show the way home,
following the light from Kentucky to Missouri; and on a Spanish trail to Cordova
in A Rider's Song by Lorca a poem with la luz de la luna -- a large moon -- to print the sky
above the horse and rider as sounds of war and music fill the foreign landscape:
even as death stalks beauty Lorca's words are nourished by Spanish olives in his saddle bags...
In America, George Washington Carver -- his early education from the earth --
invents 300 ways to use peanuts a chance to rise with agricultural abundance
in places where, even today, tourists look for diamond chips and see -- in reality --
a woods with an untitled home, a terra firma stage where Carver's hands were quick
to learn domestic chores his fingers with a facility for sewing as well as sowing --
for growing peanuts. Like Jimmy Carter, whose family were peanut farmers;
and like African slaves from the Congo who believed some plants could possess
a soul (the word goober comes from nguba) nature shows anyone can be a President,
or named for one -- George Washington -- his namesake Dr. George Washington Carver,
the first Black African American to get college degrees in agriculture; and maybe
taste a spoon full of peanut butter...
Near a cabin in the woods in Carver's untitled landscape
(and in Frost's poem) a horse pauses as, in Spain, Lorca's hand closes around an olive,
his gypsy heartbeat paced by the ecstatic notes of the duende. The call of a voice
in the woods asks a slave running to freedom if passion is a fairy tale, an escape
in a setting dwarfed by a variety of trees where Red Riding Hood plays hide-n-seek
with an unidentified wolf. Here, in this wonderland of leaves, magical and scientific,
where trees fill with words and color as the sun rises over a rural doorway
that leads into a boy's mind home becomes a memory with horses and riders
and goober peas -- A Large Moon and A Small Black Horse -- words
of ways that love has searched
for destiny's design.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Honored multiple times by The Ekphrastic Challenge,
her book of poetry, When Dreams Were Poems, explores the relationship of art to poetry and life. Historically speaking, George Washington's survival and success are exceptional. Kidnapped as an infant in Missouri and taken to Kentucky, the man who would raise him, Moses Carver, sent a neighbour to find the child, his mother and sister. Only George was found, and exchanged for one of Moses' finest horses. A sickly child, he was taught domestic skills and learned to sew instead of working in the fields. Africa (the Congo) and America both farmed peanuts; and both had "safe houses" such as the ones on The Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Lorca was executed during the Spanish Civil War, but the beauty of his language survived Fascism.
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