Rachel of the Flowers
Rachel Ruysch, 1664-1750
You knew at a young age
your life would be
surrounded by your father's artifacts:
bones, bugs, stones in orderly disarray
his lab filling you with floral dreams
until you, the student, became the teacher
of light emerging from stone.
Profusion of peony reds with dark seeded centres
roses tumbling, waterfalls over pearl lustre
gems of silken leaves
petals hovering before they fall.
You dreamed out windows
contemplating light falling at dusk
others painting beneath you
worked while you
out-mastered the masters of the day.
One, two, ten children later
still your hand drew
emerging light from canvas
tumult of carnelian, ochre, azure
the green of the forest
where there was no forest,
that would not bloom again
until O'Keeffe dreamed.
Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes
Professor emerita of the English department from a campus of the University of Wisconsin System, also a retired librarian who served in a log cabin in the north woods of the state. Poetry published in three countries and several languages including translation into Chinese; some recent work appears in Of Rust and Glass; Awakenings Project, Rosebud, Moss Piglet, Poetry Hall, The Ekphrastic Review, and forthcoming from the San Antonio Review. Most recent chapbook is forthcoming from Cyberwit Press, When Wilding Returns.
To Rachel Ruysch Regarding Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge
Have here you painted somone else's art
who chose and cut each coloured stem to length
envisioning the sum as soul and heart
becoming briefly joy of beauty's strength...
...in which, though each indeed would stand alone,
all came to know, by master plan, embrace
as means with which, like finely chiseled stone,
they found by greater hand their time and place?
Or did you deep inside see ledge and urn
with this bouquet that speaks to living plight
as canvas where beholder could discern,
by slender ray of faintly echoed light,
the splendour and fragility of bloom
in dimly lit, forever waking room.
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent...
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.
Her Secret Garden
In her dream,
her legs entwine a gorgeous floral bed:
she tumbles and tangles with poppies,
twists herself into the bluest of bindweeds
while her head turns on a pillow
strewn with more swathes of morning glory
and a peppering of wild
Her eyelids waver,
rising and falling as sun rays bleach the blinds
but her mind still lingers in strange meadows.
Though her hands grasp sheets, her fingertips trail
curls of leaves, stems, pollen
before she senses the stab of cacti,
the snarl of thorns catching
the nape of her neck.
She wakes, she stretches.
A chalk-blue butterfly alights
on a foxglove, grown tall and purpling
between her shoulder blades
that begin to itch. Her scratching
shivers a hoverfly deeper into the petals
of an overblown rose that is rambling
across her back.
At last, she stirs,
standing to wash, slow breathe, dress.
Winged fritillaries flutter, shift, settle.
Balancing on a crinkled leaf,
a sleek dragonfly ripples
across her wrinkled skin
joining that flow of bright tattoos
swarming beneath her blouse.
Based in the United Kingdom, Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing poetry, flash fiction and short plays. Her poems have been published in both online and print journals, including The Ekphrastic Review. Roses, poppies, convolvulus and stone slabs can be found in her garden but she does not possess an urn.
of coming death
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 six poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS? (Kelsay Books July 2022) and WHISTLING IN THE DARK (Taj Mahal Publishing House July 2022), are both available on Amazon. Her seventh collection, SAUDADE, is going to be published by Kelsay before the year is out. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Adventure Is a Bouquet
Snipped from a garden, roses breeze the room.
They live urned near a stone ledge.
Adulthood is sledding the snow-sculpted hill
in the park until bottom. The past acts
like a ghost crawling from a fireplace no one cleaned.
What keeps returning is the strange navy glow
of a Cub Scout shirt and shock of the first coat and tie
laying on a bed to wear for grandfather’s funeral.
The future is chained to the past—now ashes.
Adulthood is not a fair exchange and one way
of staying alive is to avoid a stone ledge
while sleeping with red poppies and to remember
the soul looks like other souls walking a gaslit street.
Another way to rise above the topsoil is to stop
counting the remaining days like morning glories,
their tender seeds once buried in pots.
Today, the pharmacist is a goddess in her white jacket,
eyes flowered dark. She inserts the needle.
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, Panoply, San Pedro River Review, and The Ekphrastic Review. His next full-length collection of poems, A Place Comfortable with Fire, is forthcoming from Lamar University Literary Press.
Having spoken to you about this, I don't like it ! What satisfies me is this, expecting casual rules. After being content alone, we are together. This Thursday, Yes. Next Thursday, I will be there. "If she apologized to him, then he lied to me.” I'm handling this, left handed, Oh right you are. She hated pepper and salt, they are no good for you. Why must you do that, the dog doesn't like it either. The cat licked his feet, he must be cold. You need to find a professional, not me. She was surprised at the wit, then fainted. The office closed, the dead line busy. It didn't open, while the garage door worked. The paper was late, conditions warranted change. Making a game of it, what is for dinner ? Statements made were false, but the heart was true. Sex is so over, not really ever existing for me. Yelling a lot, but never meaning much by it. Holding fast, the storm passed slowly. Snap-shots of life, frames that never stop shooting. A lesson learned disappeared, replaced by an iron. No pictures allowed, the past is naked. The bed collapsed, it wasn't anyone's fault. A mouse ate some cheese, and is now fat. Do you really want to go to jail, that's illegal. The teacher left town to come back. It’s a win-win, do it your way. Check it off the list, The Park. We are all alike, but not on the same day. Remember those flowers, they were beautiful.
MWPiercy is a writer and artist.
Thank You for the Flower Arrangement
Your extravaganza displays
as how you love me. A red rose
threatens to shed a petal, spreads
open almost lazy. Poppy nods.
Your card, yes I know you
miss me, tucked into a drawer.
I believe I miss you more.
All lights off after this short day.
Dark dims both reds and green.
We don’t know, do we,
when we’ll see each other
again. Weeks, maybe months,
so I’ll scatter spent blooms on
the stone-cold garden. I promise
to wash the vase, store it,
hold for what you deliver next.
Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet whose husband lives 3,000 miles away. Her new book One Bent Twig (poetry about trees and climate change) is available from Future Cycle Press in January, 2023.
Resisting Flowers from Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge, by Rachel Ruysch (Netherlands) 1680s
My feet are cemented in terracotta pots;
I remained fixed inside
during Spring’s sunny spectacles.
Summer adds its balmy lethargy.
Autumn chases me to the woodstove.
All unrestrained becoming, blossoming
and final blazing
but I don’t
take my place
in the cycle of beauty.
In this dark season,
work to loosen the soil
of potted people.
They sow life in the great indoors,
stoke my joy with nature’s designs.
Density of dark green tangle
pushes mightily at every angle,
heavy, veined with white strain
firm, full of recent rain
makes a vine backdrop,
a vigor and volume black-drop
to frame in contrasting bright
asymmetric, organic light:
Yellow lily, pink peach rose, orange gerbera daisy,
bluebell, buttercup, begonia, royal blue convolvulus,
explode in irrepressible chaotic colour.
Lavender trumpets leap in spiral steps
prepare the pulpit for a towering orange proclamation:
Do not mourn for the dying of the season;
Do not believe the outdoors holds the only life and reason.
I shrink down to the size of one creature
and roam among the lovely growing things.
Sheila Murphy writes poems to get closer to things. She is a musician, a pastoral minister, a spiritual director, cancer patient, retreat leader and adventurer. She has published poems in Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction and The Ekphrastic Review. Sheila lives in coastal Maine, is married and has two college-age children.
With a slight nod and Mona Lisa smile
rose announced herself the most beguiling
bloom of the bouquet.
Chortling with a thorny voice
she stretched her long stem
to the bottom of the urn
and sucked as much water as she could,
gulping with pleasure.
After shaking her shell-pink petals
rose continued regaling her fellow flowers ,
telling them how she was named for Aphrodite’s son Eros.
It is said Aphrodite moved the letters around
and anointed the showy bloom--Rose.
Rose could tell she was wearing on the
watery poppies so she then
declared herself the sexiest anagram of all time-
how with her canted neck and stem,
she appeared wanton and would draw
everyone’s gaze with wild abandon.
The other flowers ignored rose
and smiled in their own beautiful way.
They only kept her around
for her scent which usually made up for
her excessive boasting.
Ursula McCabe lives in Portland, Oregon. Her work can be seen in Piker Press, The Avocet, Oregon Poetry Association’s Verseweavers, Bluebird Word, and The Ekphrastic Review.
Distilling life - Rachel Ruysch
So many blooming, bountiful years ahead
for this painter’s steady hand and inherited
eye for detail. Petals perfected, insects inspected,
dutifully rendered with precise delicate touches.
Her brush delivered milk thistle, a bold blue
nasturtium, a blush pink rose, and a central peony
a glow to outlast mere fashion and taste. A tiny
butterfly alights a foxglove, and below, ants climb,
and a geometric spider approaches a white rose:
danger and movement amid leaves and stems.
But there’s darkness branching beyond
where the light falls. Cuttings freighted with paint.
Awaiting appreciation, her life stills before
the canvas, her hand then immortalises
death-in-progress, flowers wilting to fade
before the task of capturing them is complete,
live on suspended in a moment. Nothing is left
of the flowers, their vase, the insects,
the buildings, or artist. Nothing left except this
oil painting with fine cracks running through it,
and the artist’s name. Both become a history-less
record of inconsequential yet timeless
ephemera rolling together like convolvulus
across uncertain centuries without remark.
Rebecca Dempsey’s recent work has featured in Streetcake Magazine, Defuncted, and Unstamatic. Rebecca lives in Melbourne / Naarm, Australia, loves art, writing and film, and can be found at WritingBec.com.
Baby Boy, Born at 34 Weeks
Your bloom is so great
and so small, you
weigh only four pounds
and seven ounces; my heart,
from my body, a blossom
still perfect. Every life
is a flower
plucked from ignorance;
and wither through our seasons
in this earthen urn,
beautiful in our arrangement
of certain decay.
My son, flourish
bright and brave, for one day
you, too, will fade.
You are my only
heavenly blue morning
glory in this wilted world.
Heather Brown Barrett
Heather Brown Barrett is a poet in southeastern Virginia. She mothers her young son and contemplates life, the universe, and everything with her writer husband. Her poetry has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Yellow Arrow Journal, OyeDrum Magazine, AvantAppal(achia), Black Bough Poetry, and elsewhere. Find her on Instagram @heatherbrownbarrett
Floriography, or the Poet Writes a Love Letter to a Botanist
Years ago, on a whim,
I ordered a rose-flavored latte – it came
all white and pink, foamy milk petals spread
to the rim, and I remember, my mouth tasted of rose syrup
for hours afterward. It was Valentine’s Day,
and I didn’t know you yet – but later,
the day we walked through the garden
amongst the rose bushes, you told me that the chemical compound
that gave roses their scent was actually named for them – rose
oxide – and that it was detectable to humans
at concentrations in air as low as five parts
per billion. And with so much more than five parts
blossoming around us, I thought about that latte,
and how so much of our sense of taste
is tangled up in smell, and how much smell is tangled up
in memory – and then you smiled, and something bloomed in my throat
because it was Valentine’s Day again,
and I smiled back, because I could just taste that syrup
on my tongue.
Before you, I preferred to call this one morning glory,
or belle de jour – but these days, you have me appreciating
the Latin name, meaning, to wrap around, to bind
together, to interweave – instead of ribbons, I imagine hands
fasted with flower stems, growing
yellow-centered blossoms ringed with a spring sunrise,
bright white streaking into blue – I imagine palms
turning, and Convolvulus tricolour
guiding our fingers into the right patterns,
the right twists and gaps – teaching our fingers
how to form the shapes
I’ve never been a very good sleeper. That night we camped
in your trailer – do you remember? – you fell asleep
smelling like a field,
and I stayed awake with a cup of tea,
thinking of Persephone. The poppy was created
for her sake, you know – her mother wasn’t a good sleeper either,
so Persephone made sure that wherever she walked,
her favourite flower blossomed
from her footsteps. The tea she cultivated from it
gave her beloved mother restful sleep
and sweet dreams – and in the summers,
Persephone would send bouquets of them
down the Styx, to give her beloved husband
the same. And I remember – that night as you slept,
and I drank my tea, I got to thinking that really,
it was Persephone’s love
that made the world go ‘round – not roses,
Nasturtium for celebration, peony for prosperity,
foxglove for confidence and pride – floriography should be
its own language family, with as many dialects
as we have tongues – but still,
with as many species and tones and models as we have,
it’s the semantics that get us – whatever we try to say,
however we try to say it, we can only hope
that someone understands.
Urn on a stone ledge:
What I mean to say is, please understand, I really like you –
What I mean to say is, It doesn’t feel like enough to just say that I really like you –
What I mean to say is, I wish I could arrange words
the way you arrange trees and taxa, or a florist arranges the petals
in a bouquet –
What I mean to say is, Flowers communicate with auxins and terpenoids
and mycorrhizal networks, and compared
to those little miracles, language just feels so clumsy –
What I mean to say is, please understand,
I never wanted a garden
until I met you.
Kimberly Hall (she/her) received her master’s degree in behavioral science from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Her poetry has appeared in online publications such as First Flight and Sappho’s Torque, as well as in several ekphrastic poetry anthologies. She still gets the idiomatic butterflies whenever anyone mentions that where she can hear it.
Flowers in an Urn
The flowers have been left unchanged,
thin line between forgotten and uncared for.
Yet In the privacy of that urn,
they whisper and nudge each other,
the pot too small, the ledge too high
Yet spilling over,
Some sprightly, some drooping,
some morning glories
some narcotic poppies,
some shocking roses
too snug in that home
like fetuses in a womb,
about to be replaced
about to be watered
sprayed with freshness
or wilted with
weight of bearing the beauty
of the world on their shoulder
in the midst of tragedy.
Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor-poet hailing from Goa, India. Her poems have been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Shards,The Blue Nib, North of Oxford, Indian Rumination, Rock and Sling, among many others. She won the Craven Arts Council ekphrastic poetry competition in 2020 and was placed second in The Blue Nib chapbook contest in 2018. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, The falling in and the falling out (Alien Buddha press, 2021) and Cocktail of life (bookLeaf publishing, 2022).
An exacting chemist
he believed in daffodils and God
in that order
paged the dictionary for pleasure
and talked it
so words like abhorred come naturally to me
when speaking of him
and words like “Confound it, boy!”
came naturally to him
when speaking of me
Cleaning out his house we found
the urn empty
God only knows where
he dumped mom’s ashes
We know he loved her
as we salvage jonquil survivors
from neglected gardens
to place in the dusty water
of mother’s urn
Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.
The turning-point between afternoon and eve, when energy runs
out and colours give in, reluctantly, hop-skip-jumping along still
lifes where techniques tell you to remember what grows and what
urns, and the pyramid pictures of a past, that never seems erasable,
they grow into questions. Hence, when was the last time you were
in love at all - and when did the stems stop to curve less wildly?
The sun lights to golden on a dark backdrop, that cannot seem to stop,
yet cannot seem to stay green no more either, the clearness, a clarity,
no, it’s sharpness rather, that’s left with wound-up light-ness, made up,
to show everyone how well one flowers, when left with light-footed
torment, a small part of a tall world, a gold world, unreal maybe, for
when the body has gone, the mind needs a cushion, the feet in the grass,
while the white wine headache seems more pleasing, still, days are
lost later. The plan for tomorrow is to hang all skirts on a rack and
feel the only truth when with you or with them, hence, hold my hand
in a carriage or make it to my legs, there, while you never drove,
while a mutual friend said you made me a portrait, and now I can only
think of how much this must have cost you. Flower monsters power
monsters, and in the end sharp brushes need cleaning too, in a way,
non-fiction jettisoned, as fiction-life makes it workable to survive,
without big tears, or airy-fairy feelings. I don’t know why you sold
the blue velvet chairs, the marine bed, but I would never have come
so far alone, after you. And I just wanted to tell you how I enjoyed
Kate Copeland started absorbing stories ever since a little lass. Her love for words led her to teaching & translating, her love for art & water to poetry…please find her pieces at The Ekphrastic Review (plus Podcast & translations), First Lit.Review-East, GrandLittleThings, The Metaworker, The Weekly/Five South, New Feathers, Poetry Barn. Her recent Insta reads: https://www.instagram.com/kate.copeland.poems/ Over the years Kate has volunteered at various literary festivals and at Lisa Freedman’s Breathe-Read-Write workshops. She was born @ Rotterdam some 53 ages ago and adores housesitting @ the world.
Because of the flowers there's the wind
Vistas, stains, dreams of life,
bits like growing hair
to be arranged as a centerpiece -
now I have made a canvas out of a barren landscape.
The body enters, afraid:
absurdly, I spilled her crudity over it.
I have cut the watercolour myself,
when she broke my fall with lightning,
to ease the white that lightning splashes.
Angelo 'NGE' Colella lives in Italy, where he writes poetry and prose in Italian and English, makes analog collages, asemic writings and DADA objects.
I have lost both my father and mother, yet it’s the attempted suicide of my mother that seeps into my work. about the time yellow forsythia blooms. grandmother Mariska bakes kalács with raisins, my favourite. memories of me as a young girl, tearing cellophane of the Easter rabbit. the red ribbons. sweet bread and chocolate, two very different stains. I thread these stories together, of pain and loss and childhood memories. the work encircles itself as our conversations about wild flowers, life and death become the seeds of my photographs.
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.
This is an illuminated folio
from the inherent old testament of the flower –
when the bee ruled the breeding spree,
before the advent of man’s hybridization campaigns.
The queen of bloom –
incarnation of ultimate attar,
epitome of beauty, symbol of love,
was one of the first to be welcomed aboard.
And the crossbreeding delivered
designer trendy points:
glossier look, harder petal, grander format,
and – a scientific surprise –
less fragrance, if at all.
The invisible, the magic of attar, was gone.
What to hail, what to mourn,
given that the symbol affects the beholder,
then we are faced with a shocking importer –
love without magical hues,
practically - of no use.
O, rustic rose, you are looking at us
from this hues’ team-building exercise
with wide open child eyes
as a direct objection
to the adults’ extreme demands
from the ever young essence of nature;
your humble stare is at once fragile and firm –
davidian spark vs. goliathic gloom,
brush and nature working hand in hand
to intercept any existential torment:
you knew – losing your fragrance meant
losing your language,
and not just any, but the lingua franca
of the horticultural world.
Any linguist’s fret.
I joined the inquest by experiment –
I made a bouquet in your image,
set it in a matching dark vase,
and studied it without bias.
Here the results:
in breach of the 17th century tick impasto
your fragrant speech leaked and soared
and overwhelmed the thin whim of the bouquet
at a coat of paint distance from me.
Hence, the conclusion:
the roses I bought at the hip flower market
for their elegant sculpted headgears,
expressed no attar utterance, towered mute,
‘cause they were engineered;
while your inborn artless beam storied
the essence of the honeyed conception
‘cause it used nature’s power of creation.
As a footnote:
this little horticultural episode
speaks not just for the blossom queen,
but for all endangered languages
of anything that blooms –
plant, smile, idea, spring –
flourishing on earth as it is in the genesis,
and in this colorfully unassuming emphasis.
Ekaterina Dukas has studied and taught linguistics and culture at Universities of Sofia, Delhi and London and authored a book on medieval art for the British Library. She writes poetry as a pilgrimage to the meaning and her poems featured numerous times in The Ekphrastic Review, Ekphrastic Challenges, Poetrywivenhoe and others. Her collection Ekphrasticon is published by Europe Edizioni, 2021.
Now you have left me
You gave me these blooms,
they droop now.
Painted in hues of light, bellbine
bound me to you…yet
descends now into dusk.
That peony, token of my bashfulness
(you knew me far too well),
now shows only brokenness.
Were the poppies meant, perhaps,
to comfort me? If so, they hang
their heads in scarlet shame.
Those pure white rose-petals flare
as sign of innocence lost; you chose red,
red roses to tell silken lies of love.
One flower alone
speaks thorny truth--
of all your treachery:
the crimson rose
for heart-deep mourning
now you have left me lone and lorn.
Never having had a collection of her landscape poetry published, Ballagher is currently working on a sequence of poems about Exmoor (UK). Recently one of these was chosen as winner in Poetry on the Lake's 2022 formal category with a pantoum about Tarr Steps in mid-Exmoor: https://www.poetryonthelake.org/competition
Muriel gathered all the artificial blossoms, the stray plastic flowers that were scattered around the cemetery after storms, took them home and stuck them in a dark squat vase she'd found in a charity shop. A shrine of sorts to her own displaced life. It sat in a dingy unloved corner of her ugly room, providing a bright spot of unnatural eternal floral freshness, gaudily cheerful. No matter how many times she sniffed the bouquet it remained unscented. Still she persevered, convinced there would be a sweet fragrance to be inhaled, one that would transport her to other times, other places. Later, when they came to clear the rented room, the woman who picked up the vase and its contents paused and briefly looked at its dust encrusted edges before it too went into a large black bin liner along with Muriel's other meagre possessions.
Emily Tee writes poetry and flash fiction. She's had pieces published online in The Ekphrastic Review and elsewhere and in print in some publications by Dreich, as well as several poetry anthologies. She lives in England.
we cannot see the hands that clutch the stems
nor the heads bowed in weariness
only the multi-hued skirts are draped
from carefully arranged branches
dancers' feet tucked up inside them
shy stamens and pistils dwarfed
by shades of red and white
with one lone cerulean blue
representing the prima donna
who now sits overwhelmed
by the chorus
Adrienne Stevenson (she/her) lives in Ottawa, Ontario. A retired forensic scientist and Pushcart-nominated poet, she writes in many genres. Her poetry has appeared in more than forty print and online journals and anthologies in Canada, the USA, the UK, and Australia. When not writing, Adrienne tends a large garden, reads voraciously, and procrastinates playing several musical instruments.
Where Sits the Urn
Whooshing midnight train mounts
Bird cries where sits the urn-
Holding glory in white and pink,
Convolvulus falling, softly
Like a thin warm rain
By the stone ledge where sits the urn.
Wishes in poppy colour outshining life,
In rose petals filling the urn-
The untimely return of moments,
Deception, overflowing of ashes
Into shape of a day yet to come.
Each hour increasing the emptiness,
Sky looping inside the moon-
On the bedside windowsill
Where stood the urn once.
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.