Dear Ekphrastic Challengees,
Thank you all so much for submitting your amazing pieces to The Ekphrastic Review. I have devoured your words with great pleasure, and with great admiration. This was an intricate challenge indeed, so choosing pieces was not easy. I hope you will enjoy reading the selection below. Hurrah for The Ekphrastic Review!
Congratulations to everyone, go well,
like a half-remembered dream
the image flashes inside
a momentary thought--
you wish for more clarity--
a perfect photograph--
instead you sort through
the scattered details--
find the meaning
distill the longing
return the gaze
of that glimmer of desire
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new.
Follow her explorations on her blogs, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/.
I keep doing this; waking up from my pillowbook of dreams, and walking towards the cold wall. Hands and fingers and toes and feet. On fours, like a “wild yet tamed, gentle yet provoked” animal, my limbs soon warm up the stark icy marble floors with my human heat.
Whittled down to wanted nothingness, I remain a demon of my own making. Where are the words that described the depth of me? Did I have friends, family, lovers, lovers, lovers, lovers? Thus remains cusps of the fruit's pasts. Dark, sweet, resinous. Mild florals. Like a perfume of which the strength wraps its bare and callused and aromatherapeutic hands around your neck.
I finally recognise its scent to my own repulsion: lilac, peach, chemical lotion.
I am to live within a body benign and bruised. I am to wait for my cell-tissues to grow and regrow and I am to wait in an epileptic fervour until my moment of black blossoms inside me, an expectation I have always withheld. According to the words of the sterile, white, cottoncoat, pumpkin-headed doctor — now all that’s left to be done is for me to outgrow myself.
A quiescent night of the crescent moon. I move with a strange limbolikeness. There is weight to my body, and it dents the earth I stand on. I tried on glittering costumes tonight. Somebody, somewhere, urged me to go out of the house. “Wash yourself. Get out, clean the rooms, the whole damn place stinks.” This whole damn place is mine. I will clutter and pollute the space with my misery until it kills everyone who ever loved me; or chase them away. But I get out of the house, unclean, unwashed, sparkling confetti into the dingy evening. A sewer rat in a ballgown.
And it is here, then, I spin around like a disco light. Screaming silent in the middle of the gloom until Aphrodite catches me in her arms and brings me home.
Several silent evenings later: Aphrodite all hazy and ultraviolet, Aphrodite all supersonic and brilliant. A black sun to my shining shadow. Somehow gentle, somehow kind. A slender thumb wipes tears off my cheeks, I never knew they was there. The bulb of her nose nuzzles against my pants, and here it goes. There goes the ceiling, now here come the walls, and here goes the floor, and even she soon disappears. Bright-eyed, tenderfisted people always do in the end. I’m back again in my bed unwashed, untouched, unbeaten and unharmed.
I roll over to the cockroach and stone floor. Here is how it always is, when you are like I am, and god forbid that you are like I am: all euphoria scrunches and digests itself into something wider, fatter, larger. It takes up space in your heart. It climbs its beating walls, crimson glory vine. A tumour in the red living jungle.
When you are like me, euphoria turns into relief.
Phase 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
I meet her again now, and I know what you are thinking.
“She deserves better,” but I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, a while back.
I eat and eat and eat from her, the sweet and salty, oceanborne goddess, an ancient Olympian sea-insect. I scattered flowers in wait for her, and then patiently stood on the altar for her to walk into my trap: all serene and god-like.
Heaven don’t wait for small gods and bastards; we dove into hell with such fury.
You may think we were praying, paying, prostrating for penance.
As I said, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder last May, and Aphrodite has lots to give. I bite her neck, swallow her kindness, chew mouthfuls of patience and benevolence, I keep home and play house under her roof.
And then vomit it all back up. She expects me to, of course. But she is still hurt. Soon I am out of the fairygod palace with a rucksack and my trembling skin. I walk away.
I search for more suffering to eat up.
Phase 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66 -
I’m at the edge of it all
One day my hunger shall be satiated One day I will finally be happy, and then And then
I will be nothing.
I am still a seeker of suffering, a martyr for the morbid.
I found love many times, yes, but gave it away for something greater, something worse, something more painful. The prick of a pin blooms red on the pad of my index finger. Soon this too will turn into something blue, something purple. People-swallower, they call me. I am a hero. Saviour of the unwanted, unwanted people who want me once and never want me back. I go to him, he goes to her, she goes to them, they come to me, and I go back to Aphrodite, who like me, has developed a stomach for saving.
Phase 124, 125, 126
One sunny yellow morning, the blue jay-bird calls and the tea is the right shade of red. My room is clean save for a bundle of clothes in the corner. I lie back under the shade of the rose sky. I imagine plants where there are none: lavender, hyacinths, violets, and morning glories. I think of my own destruction. How it eats me from the inside. I think of a woman who once hugged me and begged me to let it go. “None of this is your fault.” This sentiment of blamelessness got passed around a lot, along with the other aphorism for patience: “It shall pass.” Oh it shall pass, it shall, because ephemerality of all objects is a truth of life, but what about when it comes back? What do I do then?
Miniscule. The milkwhite ocean in my room. Against the dark of my body. The contrast kills me.
I have grown so big. My shoes no longer fit me. I am a large space with memories of other people inside me. I am the bump, I am the cavity. I am a mountain-canyon woman.
Phase 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197
I remember well. What I said then, there, dark, black, erasure, omission. I remember shape, colour, feeling. I remember the blood looked black. “Can we stop?” But it didn’t stop. I didn't wake up from my dream. And since then I have grown to despise stillness. My own dormancy devastation. I throw pebbles in the lake just to watch it quake. I manage to drag a god down with me to the bottom of it.
A poet, writer and acrylic/oils/mixed-media artist, Upasana Mitter pursues a degree in Sociology from Calcutta University. She occasionally sits down at a keyboard and lets herself go for a little too long. You can find her painting her graceless inner turmoils away at @rumpelstiltskin1693 on Instagram.
longing for organs
my soul imagines
the pitch of her voice
that would soon tingle
in her ears, wonders if the lobes
would be attached
patient, she polishes
her shell with prismed
white light, look
how bright she shines.
giving way to joints,
bone and marrow,
rivers in our legs,
flush faced, palms open,
ready to receive life’s offerings.
we bend question marks
into exclamation points
poke holes through the ends
to make a straw,
throw it out
so we can gulp.
when we meet a man,
my soul and I learn
that we can exist
as separate spheres.
I don’t let
us latch onto him,
of the day he’ll
leave, just like
my mothers and fathers
who left their loves.
I remind my soul
that we’re too busy
starting a business,
to be in too deep.
itching to feel,
dying to hurt
for another human.
to the interlude
where I once took a
nap on steaming
in the rivers shimmering
from my skinned knees,
cars backed up for miles
a trail of ants in aerial
my body a mirage in the July heat,
an inconvenience to the tens of people
with somewhere to be.
I rip the petals from the sympathy flowers
that show up prematurely on my doorstep
stuff the ruin of rumor
in my gaping mouth
sow a garden
in the depths of my womb
a last-ditch effort
At my wake,
my soul kisses my forehead
grips a bouquet of my flowers
plucked straight from my epicenter.
My soul walks herself down the aisle,
marries her love.
Lela Hannah's poetry has been published in Typehouse Literary Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Litbreak Magazine. She holds a BA in Integrative Studies from George Mason University. Lela is a neurodivergent writer and poet living with ADHD.
When I look into the mirror, I see vibrant ruminant purple lilacs. I reach out to touch the flowers and my senses release. The softness of the petals soothes my shaking body, and, in the distance, children are running in a field of vivacious green grass chortling in the golden sunlight.The children are huddled and speaking, but I can’t make out what they are saying. From the smiles and rosy cheeks on their young faces, it must be happy.
I startle at the sound of my name. It’s my sister Anne.
“Rose, it’s time. Do you need help getting ready?”
The lilacs and joyful children have faded from view. Staring back is my solemn face.
The face of a desperate, unhappy woman drowning in a life she doesn’t want.
Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher
Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher has been writing since 2010 and has had many micro-flash fiction stories published. In 2018 her book Shorts for the Short Story Enthusiasts, was published and The Importance of Being Short, in 2019. Her most recent book In A Flash, was published in the spring of 2022. She currently resides on Long Island, New York with her husband Richard and dogs Lucy and Breanna.
"The time of day or the density of light
Adhering to the face keeps it
Lively and intact in a recurring wave
Of arrival. The soul establishes itself
But how far can it swim out through the eyes..."
John Ashbery, Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror
"The long title poem showcases the influence
of visual art on Ashbery's style, as well as
introducing one of his major subjects: the
nature of the creative act..."
Peter Stitt (Poetry Foundation)
"Guide me through the purple rain...
Paved the way we're not the same."
Prince Taylor/Matteo Orenda, Purple Rain
I have wondered what happens in back of the moon-polished mirror
of a silver spoon: soup's on in its bowl (condiments in motion)
as my grandmother fastens her lavender dress holding fabric in place
with a marcasite brooch, its portrait the faces of flowers as if rose
gardens thrive, deep in her heart, reflecting her life in a heart-shaped
night, the suggestive magic of blooming... & O how I wanted to ask questions!
What if the answer's a concave bite and it changes the nature of hunger?
Magic traded for music, a vortex of wonder filling these spoons
shaped for sorrow -- spoons with bright craters for tear drops -- & why
are they practical, tools for tomorrow when our bodies are curled up,
together and warm under the spoon-moon Spooning in a fairy tale context,
a convex current called being in love? When I paint you a picture of Paradise,
can the food in the spoons be created with passion? Foodstuffs on canvas
with Spoons 1 & 2 sharing the lucky leaves of a shamrock (love's me in art,
love's me not in the sad part) in a riveting selection that splits our reflection
to an abstract assemblage of foodie features -- what is left on the spice rack,
purple rain in the garden turning time back to thoughts of my grandmother's
hands. She opens a white net curtain at the window, and finds scattered letters
I've inked for a story as tears fill the sad spoons, and rain falls on tree leaves
in lavender shadows, whispering a message from the green knight in chain mail
on Spoon #4 -- First a concave thought, now turn the spoon over --
there's a song in a fresh wind
in a convex beginning.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Honoured multiple times by the Ekphrastic Challenge, her book, When Dreams Were Poems (2020) explores the relationship of life to poetry and art. The ancient meaning of Soupcon -- a tidbit -- is suspicion. The double meaning of lines, past and future; and the spoon, concave and convex, is reminiscent of the poet's thesis, Crossing Time Lines, 1992. When John Ashbery came to The University of Houston with Susan Sontag before 1992, he was a white-haired gentleman wearing glasses and a business suit, his appearance very different from his picture on a paperback copy of Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror, a book that showed, on the cover, a dark-haired young man in a shirt left open to the waist. During Ashbery's and Sontag's conversation, at the front of a large museum gallery with limited acoustics, they seemed to be repeating references to a "rock garden.” Suspicious of what on earth a "rock garden" had to do with literary genius, it was only later that the audience discovered that the words, like a verbal trompe d'oeil, were avant garde.
My Private Epiphany
This is the dream:
Say the word
Save the world
Feverish I fish
My way through the ink
Lacing up my nets of word
Tying them with strings of number
Turning traum into trauma
This game is
Turning words into flesh
Follicles and all that stuff
And I am chasing
The patterns of ink flowing
Images and symbols
And I am dashing
Through the purple haze
I can’t touch it
This much I know:
It’s the counting not the numbers
It’s the writing not the words
It’s tearing the petals that makes you love them
Don’t wake me up
I am dreaming my way to the word
The one I yearn for
The key to
My private epiphany
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.
Mother cries lies prone
I look up see reflected
roses were not she
in pain she may smile
Whispers from womb
we cannot hear she can
even my hand in hers
does not soothe those
hands Reiki healing
might remember sounds
silken above the screams
dreams everything knows
the name spoken as flesh
tears open agony will not
be the last word relief
must call in kind touch
kiss her lips pain passed
empathetic serpent go
leave her plant the root
of healing quench the flame
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson is hooked on ekphrastic poetry and has been dabbling for almost 5 years, as well as other writing forms. Her work appears in over 60 journals, including Mastidores USA, Misfit, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. She has served on two poetry boards, been a finalist in YA fiction writing, a Pushcart nominee and a guest editor on several publications. Dickson holds a BPS in Behavioral Science and shares her home with two rescued feral cats.
What began as a love story between two people evolved into a graveyard. We started out so strong, the future on our lips, magic in our hearts. Our hips rolled together and released tiny droplets of potential life. Thousands swam in my glittery juices, but it took only one to penetrate the shelled oval. Formation began at once, dividing again and again. Then something happened; it didn’t grow. It floated around until it died without a breath and was reabsorbed. The flower of our love story was gone; we broke, petals falling one by one. Days of silence, nights of emptiness, left me cold and bitter. Where once was our bed, dirt took over with plants emerging. Under the trees, headstones grew. I carved our names in cold granite.
Mona Mehas (she/her) writes about growing up poor, accumulating grief, and climate change. A retired, disabled teacher in Indiana, USA, she previously used the pseudonym Patience Young. Her work is published in journals, anthologies, and museums. Mona is a Trekkie and enjoys watching Star Trek shows and movies in chronological order. Follow on Twitter @Patienc77732097 and linktr.ee/monaiv.
dog roses, various, everywhere
scales like petals drop from my eyes
washed by thunderous purple rain
under it my golden corn withers
stems wilting to greying straw
question: how to turn a sow's ear
into a silk purse fit for a mermaid?
I am more than a receptacle
more than an egg casing
not just biological imperatives
deep rooted instincts
from basal ganglia
my synapses can string together
true pearls of wisdom
and everywhere, dog roses
(a poem title taken from a dream)
roes in rows upon row
tiers of eggs dripping with purple tears
all my decisions, indecision and visions
lead at last this final revision
the grains of sand
almost all flown through the pinch
biology's own egg timer
the direction inevitable
but I have unfinished business
and more to offer life
so don't write me off
as an empty husk
Emily Tee writes poetry and flash fiction. She's had pieces published in The Ekphrastic Review and for its challenges, and elsewhere online, and in print in some publications by Dreich, in Poetry Scotland and in several poetry anthologies. She lives in the UK.
Manifesto of the Mindless
Mr. Eliot --
This is what your Prufrock wrought,
no matter what you might have thought.
Let them hear as chimes the rhymes
that mock the death of meter
Feed them swill until their fill
of chaos looms as sweeter.
Huddled as a muddled mass
of teeming insurrection,
let them wallow where the dream
is hymn to imperfection.
Let their colors be the shades
unending of dilution.
Make -- of babble -- bubbling brook
beloved as elocution.
Where the poem's been destroyed...
...let mindlessness disguise the void.
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.
Where To Begin
I have to start with the skin I’m in.
It’s as close as I can get.
Expands to fit me
as I grow.
Responds to sun
covered or not
by the clothes I wear,
the mood I’m in.
By my hand
as I draw
on the important things
the voices whispering,
in the end
when my number
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Consequence Magazine, Firewords, Vagabond Press, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
She doesn’t look like me,
but I’d know me anywhere.
Someone is trying to harvest
my organs as we chat.
Perhaps I fight off clairvoyance
(from Cherokee or Neanderthal?)
because I can’t sort real trauma
from normal brain dump.
Told my doctor I’m having more
nightmares. He said to consider them
part of my creative process. Makes sense,
even though my dreams don’t.
I can read your hand, your mind, your
bank account. No thanks. My crappy dreams
star a parade of scammers, swindlers,
and telemarketers. I don’t take their calls
or answer their emails, but they break
into my sleep.
Oh the relief to wake in my own bed!
Nothing What It Seems
Muffled scream, I jolt awake.
My husband worries.
Happy dreams get pounced on
by cats or yanked
from behind night’s curtain
by my alarm clock.
Good night. Think I should start
Alarie Tennille was a pioneer coed at the University of Virginia, where she earned her degree in English, Phi Beta Kappa key, and black belt in Feminism. Alarie received the first editor’s choice Fantastic Ekphrastic Award from The Ekphrastic Review, and in 2022, her latest book, Three A.M. at the Museum, was named Director’s Pick for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art gift shop.
Petals at Play
She wanted something to say,
but velvety petals veiled her mind
and in the blackout the words flew out
unchained, weightless like in outer space,
sound after sound breaking unbound,
throwing a chaotic frantic tantrum
upon the word’s beginning’s sanctum.
Aflame, the petals launched their own game:
tugging the veil after being tugged
under a monosyllabic “yes-no” spell,
changing the love’s pendulum as they fell,
each weighing less than a particle,
but the last - as the whole vocabulary.
And it is fast coming. Dreading.
Petals plummeting. Fingers tugging.
Yes petal – gem. No petal – damn.
Which one will stop the pendulum?!
Last fall, tremor in hands. Here it lands…
The ruthless spam blows her mind,
while she only wanted one thing to say,
but now could find no word to relay,
only lone sounds and lost petals around
knocking themselves in the wilderness
of thousands junked love pendulums.
Yes petal would have stopped the tantrum
and ushered the sounds back into sanctum;
She trust that yes petal is the best shepherd
with magical skill to tug the word’s appeal.
Ultimately, she isn’t absolutely clear if she lost
to an illiterate foliole or a dismantled word,
but she knows it is now all up to the next bud…
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 featured widely on The Ekphrastic Review, its Challenges, Poetrywivanhoe and some anthologies. Her poetry collection Ekphrasticon is published by Europe Edizioni, 2021.
Donna-Lee Smith, a practising insomniac of several decades, listens nightly to audiobooks. Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway remains a chronic favourite.
Always there were undercurrents
in my firmament
as I drifted, cloud-like, toward this guy or that guy,
believing that anything
could be planted,
that with a little sunlight and water,
something plausible might take root.
Often I drifted with a purpose
wrapped around me like a fog
pulling me backwards through
someone’s touch, my consent a portal
to pass through,
a sleepwalker’s pact with loneliness
for access to other desires,
or a dim-lit doorway
to my body’s pleasure
nagging at me all along.
But it’s the crying cat I think of most often,
offspring of a fated mispairing,
adopted to help make it work.
How long it’s been
since I left her to someone
likely not up to her care,
since she trusted my hands
with her animal warmth.
Janis Greve teaches literature at UMass Amherst, specializing in autobiography, disability studies, and service-learning. She has published previously in such places as The Florida Review, New Delta Review, North American Review, and Beltway Quarterly, among other places.
Trauma, A Telling
Grief blooms as purple roses.
in solitary midnight dark.
Tethered by thorns,
dewdrops mist the dawn.
There is no black and white -
sorrow bleeds mauve, magenta,
an ink blot on a white slate. Pain
inherited, learned, from the very start.
A sea of tears smudges the horizon.
Heart purpled like a bruise,
clenches like a fist.
Every soft thing, a ruse.
And how the wound becomes a womb;
future festers there.
How the loss becomes a loathing;
smoke and mirrors hide self.
In sorrow’s garden, petals fall
like ever-shedding dreams -
sun-starved, wilted by wrongs.
The only seeds are stones.
Plumage of pain, fractured, fallow fate.
The root torn from the crown,
a silent, muffled cry. Furrows
of rupture and break.
How to reconcile night with day?
Heart, a honeycomb lair of hurt.
Life, a storm brewing.
The bruises leave their marks.
Siobhán Mc Laughlin
Siobhán Mc Laughlin is a poet from Co. Donegal in Ireland. Her work has appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review and in journals such as Drawn to the Light Press, The Poetry Village and The Honest Ulsterman. As well as ekphrasis writing, Siobhán is inspired a lot by nature and is a devoted fan of haiku. She works as a creative writing facilitator and loves taking on new writing projects, the next of which is NaPoWriMo Poem a Day challenge in April. When she's not writing she's either reading, daydreaming or spending time with (and taking orders from) her cat. Twitter: @siobhan347
Empress Josephine Takes A Bath
She asks me for
vintage wine and candlelight
a tub full of champagne and sea salt
Sarah Vaughn in a mellow mood,
boo-hoo to Waterloo, she says,
just fed up
with this reign of terror
pass the cake and sugar, please.
She commands I read from his latest missive:
Vixen, Cinderella, selfish lover.
What is it you do all day, Madam?
What affection stifles and puts to one side the love, the
tender constant love you promised him? Of
what sort can be that marvelous being, that
new lover that tyrannizes over your days, and
prevents your giving any attention to your
Floating back in water,
mouth open in laughter,
Creole woman of Martinique
oh, so bored. but not beautiful
What Hussar’s hands does he suspect
skim the water’s surface toward her damp flesh?
She snatches the letter:
Josephine, you who know all too well
Rule my Heart
Be home in three days
Good grief, she says.
The pages fall sodden to the floor like petals.
Scrubbed cells chafe and slough
off in perfumed water.
The ink of his small words
dissolves into black pools on wet tiles.
Into the towel I hold for her, clean flesh rises
like a new continent.
For a brief, flickering moment
a conspiracy of candle flames
scorches an empire.
Alyce Miller is the author of three books of short fiction, one novel, and one book of nonfiction. She has published more than 250 poems, stories, essays, and articles, and has been awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction, the Ellen Gilchrist Prize for Short Fiction, the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Fiction, and the Lawrence Prize for Short Fiction. She’s had numerous lives in numerous places, and the one she’s living now is in the DC Metro Area. www.alycemillerwriter.com