for Monika Pisniak & Lorette C. Luzajic
after Guernica by Pablo Picasso (Spain), 1937 C.E.
Truth is ugly. We possess art lest we perish from truth.
(Excerpt from Will to Power)
Art is the lie that enables us to realise the truth.
My very first meeting with Picasso transpired amidst the epilogue to the 20th century—around 2000 C.E. in London, UK—via the title of a book, Genius of the Century, and the image published on its cover front. (I beg your pardon, for the exact first, middle and last name of the author betrays my memory; at the moment, all I can vaguely recall about the artwork is that it appeared to be a distorted (self-)portrait of a human-face). And back then, Surrealism/Cubism was to me as the Greek language and customs were to the Barbarians, to be honest! After all, those were my early days of ‘selling my soul to the devil’ named Art & Literature. (By the way, it’s not as if I’ve acquired a complete mastery over the said genres now. (Ha ha!) But now, at least, what I’ve acquired a complete comprehension of is this: probably, the claimants of the mastery of Surrealism & Cubism have failed to comprehend the Spirt of the said Movements—‘cause, the human idea(s) of Drama & Dream is not the ‘centre of the universe’, id est, sometimes, the circumstance(s) defines the man, and sometimes, the wo/man leaves her/his tattoo painted on the body-of-circumstance(s), id est, on the teeter-totter of Human V Nature/Circumstance, maya is the fulcrum!) (An epic poem and/or a philosophical treatise on the ideas/dramas/dreams appearing in these lines, on another occasion now).
My very first meeting with Picasso’s one of the magna opera, Guernica, transpired amidst the prologue to the 21stcentury—around 2020 C.E. in Lahore, PK—via the title of a poem, ‘Guernica’, by Luzajic. Now, I trust that all afficionados of literary/art possess affluent comprehension regarding the historical significance and moral of the said painting. Hence, I shalt save myself the energies of unnecessarily labouring my thalamus on the War-of-Words—praising or critiquing the piece-in-point. Sure—an etymological inquiry of the Greek word, ‘ekphrasis’, reveals that the phrase is concerned with ‘defining/describing a piece of art/work in words’. However, as far as I am concerned, Art & Literaturehas no business with the lexicon-definitions/descriptions of phenomena! (I fear that this line will probably prove to be as if Greek Fire for various artists and poets and writers! (Ha ha!)) Anyway, my favourite verse of the said poem is: what is this man, human, who so wants war? (Now, such a concern begs a rather book-length type discourse on the nature & human condition/disposition. On another occasion, then.)
 Maya: Illusion.
Saad Ali (b. 1980 C.E. in Okara, Pakistan) has been educated and brought up in the United Kingdom (UK) and Pakistan. He holds a BSc and an MSc in Management from the University of Leicester, UK. He is an (existential) philosopher, poet, and translator. Ali has authored five books of poetry. His latest collection of poetry is called Owl Of Pines: Sunyata(AuthorHouse, 2021). His work has been nominated for The Best of the Net Anthology. He is a regular contributor to The Ekphrastic Review. By profession, he is a Lecturer, Consultant, and Trainer/Mentor. Some of his influences include: Vyasa, Homer, Ovid, Attar, Rumi, Nietzsche, and Tagore. He is fond of the Persian, Chinese, and Greek cuisines. He likes learning different languages, travelling by train, and exploring cities on foot. To learn more about his work, please visit www.saadalipoetry.com, or his Facebook Author Page at www.facebook.com/owlofpines.
pictures of hell!
wherein fractured bodies
lay in pools
of redless black blood
an eye sees all
sheds light on the darkness below
a woman burns in fire
in a house made of wood
with a square window
of no hope
in her emblazoned hand a fascist plane
sent by the evil one
to bomb guerinca
to obliterate guerinca
a practice of death
the surreal horse
speared with the lance
shredding newspaper mail
as the skull shrieks
through the snout
as a dead baby lays
her mother wailing
out of sight
the ghosts with a lamp
still in horror
are witness to all
the flower of death
the flowers of demise are
skulls and bones
a necrosis to all
stretched out on a white
on the shroud of turin
resolute in ash
i cry war no more!
James N Hoffman: "I am retired and living with my wife in Ocean City, Maryland. I have a MA in Applied Psychology and a BA in Philosophy. I started writing many decades ago but found I like to write what I called colour poetry since I cannot paint. Later I learned that it is called Ekphrastic and has been as old as some of the Greek philosophy I studied. I have been published three times in the Ekphrastic Writing Challenge."
Today I can write about Lviv
and the white flower in the garden.
The wind in apricot trees.
Today I can write about Liev.
A hill overlooking the town.
Through days in the main square
where many people died.
My city struck by missiles.
How I suffered March.
So many times we have seen
charred earth the apricot trees
and in our blue skies
and over our heads the sun.
The weeping women, the dead child.
Ilona Martonfi is a mother, an activist, an educator, literary curator, poet and an editor. Born in Budapest, Hungary, she has also lived in Austria and Germany. Martonfi writes in seven chapbooks, journals across North America and abroad. Curator of the Argo Bookshop Reading Series. Recipient of the Quebec Writers’ Federation 2010 Community Award. Martonfi lives in Montreal, Canada. The Tempest, Inanna Publications, Spring 2022, is her fifth poetry book.
Guernica on the Wall of their Apartment
After we’ve arrived in Singapore we visit the Stevensons for Thanksgiving. Kathy says Ikea’s the place to go for furniture. They have everything. Look, she says, even art for the wall. Guernica. On the floor Robbie and Matt squabble over whose Lego piece is whose and Tina sits silent on the couch with Stephen King. The village burns. Flames lick into corners. We set the table.
The boys grumble. They say there’s nothing to eat and what's wrong with burgers and chips. Kathy brings out her Pumpkin Pie. A new recipe. Fighter planes are machine-gunning women and children. They run into fields to hide.
The boys are sullen. There’s foreboding with the first taste. They’d rather have ice-cream. The village, still burning.
Marjory Woodfield's poetry, articles and short fiction have appeared in The BBC and stuff.co.nz, as well as in literary journals (takahē, Orbis, Ekphrastic Review, The Lake etc...) and anthologies. She won the New Zealand Robert Burns Competition in 2020. This year she won the NZSA Heritage Poetry Award, gained second place in the Inaugural Patricia Eschen International Competition and was highly commended in the Erbacce poetry competition.
Guernica Comes of Age
I. Conception: Pablo Picasso encounters an article in l’Humanité,
Paris, April 28, 1937
I wear war tattooed on my skin.
My name is l’Humanité. Ironic, I know.
Guernica wouldn’t exist without me. Pablo’s
friend told him about the attack in Basque.
He didn’t pay attention until he held
me in his hands. I laid it out in black and white.
Operation Reprimand. That’s what it was called.
But in German, of course. Rügen. What an ugly word,
ugly deed to crush a small town for its resolve.
They chose a Monday: Market Day.
Four thirty-five in the afternoon, when teachers
and dutiful children run errands on the way home.
April 26th, the middle of spring. Over three hours
of those noisy planes, their bombs and grenades.
Fires raged through the rubble, smoke escaped
to the mountains, the sky aglow all night.
How do you find almost 2,000 people
in all that mess, to bury them?
I got Pablo out of his slump. I did my job,
Guernica takes after me.
II. Birth: Paris, May 1-June 4, 1937
I wear war as my second skin.
Commissioned by the Spanish government.
Special order at Castelucho’s shop
in Paris, where he sent me to my studio
with his finisher. We arrived so early
Jean was afraid to knock, but Papa
scolded him for being late.
It took the two of them to get me ready,
one to stretch me smooth while the other fixed
me to my frame. Jean was still applying the gesso
when Papa grabbed a stepladder
and some charcoal, transferred the scatter
of sketches on the floor to me, knowing
line is everything, colour optional.
III. Coming of Age: New York City, November 15, 1939
I love New York. Especially the MoMA.
What a sophisticated crowd. People
say that about Paris, but nobody
thought much of me in my hometown.
And it was the World’s Fair! Millions
of folks the world over, and all I saw
was their backs. Had they been hoping
to find something to admire
when bombs drop on homes and barns?
I was supposed to go to Spain after that.
They thought me an insult. Must be all that Truth is
Beauty nonsense. Of all people, you’d think they
would want the world to know how it feels.
I went back home to spend a year with Papa.
He believed in me. Sent me on tour
to raise money for the motherland, the refugees.
First to Great Britain, then across The States.
More of the same. Revolting. Cuckoo.
What did they know?
Two and a half months of Nazi assaults
will make you see with different eyes.
Becky DeVito is a professor of psychology at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut. Her doctoral dissertation investigates the ways in which poets come to new insights through the process of drafting and revising their poems. Her poetry has been published in bottle rockets: A Collection of Short Verse, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Ribbons: Tanka Society of America Journal, and others. Sources referenced for this poem: The Atlantic, The Guardian, l’Humanité.
Help is not a word he said lightly,
warrior that his father was, taught
to knuckle under any pain without cries
So, he became a farmer, much anger
from his father, but still a living carved
out of a tough existence, poor meager
until war came to his village, father
insisted he fight, watched his brothers
die trampled by plow horse, never meant
to be in battle under moonlight, bare bulb
overhead, broken bodies, vessels overturned
fields and homes in vast ruins lain waste
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson is an advocate for captive zoo and circus elephants, loves feral cats and writing poetry. She enjoys the challenge of prompts and workshops to write poetry. Dickson holds a BPS in Behavioral Science, is a past poetry board member and regular contributor to over 50 poetry journals, including Open Door, Five Fleas, Blue Heron and The Ekphrastic Review.
Visiting Guernica at the Reina Sofia, October 2022
Darkness fell from the sky
trees budding out in early spring
became kindling for devastation.
Shapes hidden in the shadows -
women and children and horses flee.
There is no escape from oppression.
I scrutinize Dora’s photographs;
the process fascinates me.
How does Picasso make paint reveal truth?
A mother holds her dead child
the bull’s balls dangle over them -
a swollen sword of Damocles.
The canvas howls newspapers print facts
a crumbling town rattles its ruin
the last hope evacuates.
It’s too much, or not enough
I exit the former hospital to a dreary afternoon
and walk through October rain.
Lesley Rogers Hobbs
Lesley Rogers Hobbs is an Irish writer and poet. She just moved to Port Orchard, Washington with her husband and service dog. Her poetry has been published by The Ekphrastic Review, The Avocet and Open Door.
The last time I remember, a bald guy was trying to draw an olive branch on my beak. A branch, a dream, a desire for peace, too heavy for my beak. It kept falling out. And I blink and here I am, lodged between a dead horse and a dead bull in a wasteland which smells like putrefied flesh. And dead human arms, and legs and under an eye glowing like a fluorescent bulb. Senseless destruction.
One white feather drops from my wings, and flutters. All my friends are ash, and they ask me, one time, why are you so white? And I say, humans, you know, they have this thing for white, and I am supposed to bring peace. And they ask, is peace white? And frankly, I have not seen peace to know. The white feather flutters with a red spot on it, a stain of human death, and killings and this terrible stench. Humans wait for the worms and vultures to clear their mess. But right now the silence. The waiting. I must try to fly out from here before becoming vulture food.
I flap my wings. A sharp pain runs into my ribs. I stretch out a leg. A black void, my foot dangles. I am stuck in mid flight, like someone shot me, and gravity disappears, and I straddle life and death. But I try again, and flap the other wing. I cannot lift it. Then I put my neck out, further, a little further I stretch my wings together, and with a sharp pain I am dislodged, and fly into the world.
Ani Banerjee is a retiring lawyer and an emerging writer from Houston, Texas, who was born and brought up in Kolkata, India. Her flash fiction has been published in Flash Flood, Friday Flash Fiction and other places. Find her on Twitter @AniBWrites and http://www.AniBanerjee.com
Suppose my voice be unheard
among this muddle of other voices,
I ought to turn my back.
Instead I resolve to look
into the eyes of myself,
peer at reflections of vanity
thro’ shards of broken memories.
Perhaps I’ll cut off my ankles
and surrender beneath the feet
of descending angels,
till I am a bloody mess
Marc Brimble: How to make the perfect cup of tea: Prepare loose tea by placing 1-2 teaspoons of loose tea into a tea strainer, put the strainer into your cup, then pour properly heated water directly over the leaves. If using a teapot, measure 1-2 teaspoons per 8oz of water. For milder tea flavour, shorten brew time. For stronger tea flavour, increase brewing time.
Marc is based in Spain. Find some of Marc´s poems here - https://marcbrimble.substack.com/
To Picasso Regarding Guernica
Ironic is the war you wage
in fractal of destructive rage
that by its brush must decimate
the truth it leaves to re-create
from shards beholders render whole
each eye somehow in somber soul
enabling by implicit guise
the sum as cast to symbolize
resistance mourned that faces war,
the scalar breadth of battle gore
that tyranny leaves unresolved
as fear that's felt but only solved
by swell of far more hellish force
from those who seek a freer course.
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.
Three and a Half Hours
I was twelve and on the precipice of adolescence. I was boundless joy, irrational fear, foolish frustration and fresh hormones – I was life.
My town was not a metropolis. It was slow, with dirt roads lined with red claveles spicing the air and green hills lazily rolling around. Our gathering place was the weekly market where I met my friends to laugh and gossip. On luxurious weeks I had the freedom to saunter down the road on my own. Those days were mine, and I relished my freedom.
That day mama walked with me. My twelve-year-old body flamed with resentment. She did not understand the freedom she withheld from me. And all for a stupid spice she wanted for this Sunday’s dinner. I hated that she thought I could not remember.
On our walk she bored me with ramblings about April and how it was the best month.
“Look,” she said, pointing to the hills. “The rain washes them clean of winter. We should be excited about how hard spring is fighting to make its way out of the cold to gift us with its beauty.”
Only half listening to her, my thoughts were on my friends or maybe a boy I thought was handsome. What did I care what the stupid flowers and grass had to do to be pretty?
I paid close attention to where my loafer stepped as I never wanted to soil the white of my socks. Mama stomped through puddles like she was putting out a fire. Her socks and ankles were rusty from the muck. While she went on about the water in the streams being life-giving, she splashed muck on my left ankle. She did not notice my anger but kept talking about the birds coming home to sing us their beautiful songs.
“April, my dear,” she said, “April is life.
She was wrong.
Mama had just found the pimentón when we heard them. The birds that day were not returning to sing us beauty but hurtled toward us. The metal-bodied fowl spewed fire, screamed, and dropped hissing packages on us.
The first bomb hit a group of unbelieving upturned faces. Unblinking masks of fear shattered to pieces in seconds. There was no rain that day, only life-draining metal aimed at our tender flesh.
Mama’s hand clawed at the back of my neck as she spun me into her breast. Her body engulfed mine like a blanket. When the bullets hit her, they sounded like muffled popping balloons. The impact of the hot metal felled us to the ground like a cypress tree.
The heat from her final rattled breath cooled the flesh of my ear within seconds. I lay beneath her absorbing the dirt on my back and her blood on my front. I was an unmoving human sponge to the filth and death growing around me.
What I could not see bundled within the folds of mama, I could easily take in with my ears. Screaming mixed with explosions mixed with flesh hitting the ground. The jumble was pure hell for a twelve year old imagination.
With the fading whirr of planes, there was a short frozen moment of silence. Before the fourth heartbeat thrum in my ears, the wails of anguish crashed like a wave over the carnage.
The sounds of shoes crunching clods of soil near my head emboldened me to move. Mama was heavy and held me within her death cocoon. It was hard to pull away. I rolled our bodies to the side and shimmied out from under her. I could not look – must not look. I patted her hand as if to comfort her or maybe hoped she was pretending. She did not move, and I did not look.
The chaotic scene caught my attention, and for the first time in three hours, I saw what my village had become. Smiling faces replaced with masks of anguish howled to the heavens. A heaven that did not answer.
My eyes were overwhelmed by the scene. Beyond the ruined buildings, and ruined town, the colours of death flooded me with doom. Bluish white bodies lay atop garish red ponds melding with the rust brown of the earth.
The sounds and smells and chaotic colors became too much for my young mind. I pulled my knees to my chest and leaned against mama for support. I rubbed my thumb raw worrying at a spot on my socks.
A man tapped me on my shoulder to ask if I was hurt. No, I said, but mama is. Mama was added to a growing line of bodies covered in whatever linen that was found intact. The man walked me in the opposite direction and delivered me to a woman surrounded by children. She said we needed to leave. I turned to look one last time. All life-giving colours had been replaced, drained away – only black and grey remained. Forever more, my life would remain in greyscale. Joy forever muted.
Jennifer Cabral is a wife, mother, educator, psychologist, writer, and photographer. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband Stephen and annoying old Vizsla Magic. She recently pivoted her focus from APA format to creative writing. She is half way through a sh*tty first draft of a novel.
The Tree of Guernica
"OAK of Guernica! Tree of holier power
Than that which in Dodona did enshrine
(So faith too fondly deemed) a voice divine
Heard from the depths of its aerial bower --
How canst thou flourish in this fighting hour?"
The Oak of Guernica Supposed Address to The Same,
"Then go out and get the prize calf...and let us celebrate..."
And when the colours had disappeared from his canvas like spilled blood,
did Picasso imagine which figures could be redeemed after the war?
Would the horse -- say -- make its way through the streets of Paris, brought back
to life ridden by a woman whose idea of art was to believe in lines of love?
Whose eyes and body could be translated from his thoughts to Cubist pieces,
a compilation that could create an unforgettable face; or help the heart
of Spain rebuild a Basque village? As twilight filled the windows of his studio --
blue-petaled and violet -- did he dream of a girl with an empty basket (her cesta)
looking at the rubble of her homeland; remembering the days she could come
to the center of Guernika for simple, day-to-day things: grains for cereal,
vegetables and fruit, the crafts of tailors, cobblers and the mending of her Amona,
her grandmother. She had touched the linen fabrics sold by the flax merchant
who had filled her ears with stories weaving words as well as cloth, the threads
of his life, some from foreign markets like his tale of Zeus's Temple in Dodona,
where, it was said the future could be written by prediction if he wove an image
into cloth. He would chose the bull, he thought, like the proud animal
destined to appear in Picasso's painting and give it, like a horned god --
the Minotaur -- the head of a man and body of a massive herbivore in white,
like snow, fallen in a field where animals graze waiting for wildflowers -- oxlips,
cowslips, pyrean buttercups, blue gentians -- the spring abundance of the Pyrenees
like the bull's home in a book written for children; or a labyrinth where war-torn
bodies lie beneath the Tree of Guernica the place where Basque laws were made --
a democracy -- a season when branches pressed out leaves,
and Picasso explored the roots of art --
the bull, the woman, and the horse.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Recipient of multiple acceptances by The Ekphrastic Challenge, "The Tree of Guernica" represents the first time she has made two submissions for the same challenge, her reason that the poem is written in memory of her dear friend and teacher, Marilyn Hammer Black, whose age and potential for survival were influenced by WWII; and who introduced her class to the meaning of Picasso's Guernica, her favourite painting. Guernica's (or Guernika's) Tree was famous for centuries, known to both Wordsworth and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
in arced cries lining the sky,
escaping by the guiding light-
in strokes that paint
faces agape with colour of death,
a weight history must bear.
spawned body parts, spilled blood
like stretches of cactus across desert
with red flower heads.
men and women sit inside
deep dug squares of mud-
leaves wither, nothing is spared,
bulls, horses, mothers' love.
what occupies a devil's mind?
what rides heart of a shooter-
desire to fight, anger, dreams
to conquer the earth.
a wait until tornado strikes
swirling the dead, spinning spilled blood,
blooming stillness into a clamor-
Abha Das Sarma
An engineer and management consultant by profession, Abha Das Sarma enjoys writing the most. 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.