Dear Readers and Writers,
I was, by chance, watching a video of a talk about Scottish archeology when the subject flickered briefly to ancient pagan rites on the hillsides. This painting was shown in a fleeting second as one of the illustrations of the old crafts. No further information was given about its contents, origin, date, or other issues of provenance. I tried writing to the institution to find out more, and froze the image to perform a Google image search. I called my Scottish friend and asked her for insights. Ultimately, my partner found it doing a keyword search for what he saw: a witches dance. As it turns out, the National Museum of Scotland that owns the work doesn't know much more about it than we have just stated!
It was perfect timing for a Halloween prompt. Perhaps because of its mysterious nature, we have had a ridiculous avalanche of submissions in response to this work! I used many more than usual and still left a sad pile out. I just want to remind you that your words matter to The Ekphrastic Review, whether they are chosen or not for each prompt's selected responses. That you are thinking and writing about these artworks that mean so much to me is everything. I thank you for participating. I thank all of you- writers who contribute regularly or occasionally, hopeful writers who hope to appear here someday, future writers who do the challenges but have not yet sent their words to us, and readers who love to discover more about art, poetry, and fiction. Thank you for making this community so amazing.
I invite you to join us for some sessions in writing together. This past summer, we began hosting intimate online workshops where we take a deep dive into some artworks and then do some writing. It is an amazing way for the ekphrastic family to come together, look, meet, talk, share, and write. We have had writers in Ireland, Australia, America and Canada! We have done some amazing writing in these sessions. These have been a special treat for me because I have the chance to share my passion for art history and the fascinating stories that lurk behind every painting. In the general Sunday Sessions, we write to a wide range of artworks chosen for variety and intrigue. In our themed workshops, like Ghost Stories, Sex, and the Moon, we looked closely at artworks on those specific themes. Coming up is a duet of evenings focused on Canadian art. We'll talk a quick walk back through history, and we'll look at classic art, women's art, Indigenous art, abstract art, and more, all from Canadians. You will surely be inspired with our fun exercises and supportive circles to write wonderful things. Check out the lineup ahead, here, and join us!
She quickens to its tune
hears chatter, yelps, squeals
all that heavy breathing.
Tapping three times three,
her mind leaps, swerves, reels.
Her chestnut stick jabs
at stone as she strives
to straighten her spine’s curve
and rise for another jig
with her devilish sisters.
Though who will heed her now
she’s blind, mute, bunioned?
Instead, she must rest,
night-festering with skull bones
and vacant coffins
as the beat swirls on
with a bright lass newly blooded
spilling fresh spells
across stained floors,
while the old ways are scolded
like a crone’s tongue.
Based in the United Kingdom, Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing poetry, flash fiction and short plays. This year, her poetry has appeared in various zines and journals including The Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, Spelt Magazine, The Alchemy Spoon and Dust Poetry Magazine. The Science Museum published one of her poems online on National Poetry Day 2021. She tweets @rambling_dot and still dances at parties.
for Gazelle Khan
– I stopped seaming
his quilts and mattresses –
pillows of diagrams and verses:
the triumphant triangle
of together forevers.
He was a Bohemian, more like.
D i s i l l u s i o n e d--
way too clever to fall for the age-old cliches:
ocean-deep blue eyes,
long-blonde Cinderella hair,
bright crescent-moon smiles,
blah, blah, blah!
My dance of back-turned feet
was the last of its night;
my dress was the sheer of moon –
so pure before the rags of stars
fell into its stitches – he saw my feet
bleed back to his truth: universe
orbiting a bigger reality:
his fleeing particles –
how he could never be contained.
And then he found me
on a piece of paper between clouds
I had stuffed into his sleep;
only, I appeared vagrant
the shape of a parched tree’s
head curved at the neck –
and my hair a waterfall
of twigs in autumn’s death.
I would have never had him
delivered to pain.
God forbid! Neither have I
ever been conventional.
But, to gain his heart’s interest,
I had to offer a bait to his soul:
I had to morph into a Witch!
That was my story he watched
like a dream he’d awaken to cold
like sheet of ice on air, his body
like soul strewn on ash, his eyes
bewitched onyx embedded in walls.
A Ta’wiz or two--
hidden in the bedside table,
or even dissolved in the morning/afternoon/evening tea,
would do the trick, apparently.
He would remember turquoise glint
– taste of spice reminding him
of cinnamon and ginger –
and my face of honey hues,
It is solstice.
I scale the moon with my eyes:
at its prime:
full and ready.
Saad Ali & Sheikha, A.
*“Ta’wiz” / تعویز (Urdu): An amulet or a locket, which usually contains a piece of paper with an encrypted combination of numbers, symbols, and scripts. In the South/East Asian cultures, it’s still commonplace to use a ta’wiz for both good and evil purposes.
Sheikha, A. (b. 1982 C.E. in Hyderabad, Pakistan) is from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan. Her works appear in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent publications have been Strange Horizons, Pedestal Magazine, Atlantean Publishing, Alban Lake Publishing, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Persian. She has also appeared in Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love anthology that has been nominated for a Pulitzer. More about her can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com.
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). 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.
open the coffins
watch us dance to demon screams
hold the skull aloft
to laud the queen of witches
on this sacred halloween
Stephen Poole served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police in London, England. Passionate about poetry since boyhood, his poems have been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry on the Lake, LPP Magazine, and two anthologies.
We all have heard it said that snowflakes and flowers are born in the same castle, a castle separated into wings by the expanse of the earth. As flowers dry and die in the graceful autumn sun, snowflakes begin their slow growth far away in the other wing, until it is the time, day or night, for our snowflake to float to us, a snowflake full of the endlessness even we who master the elements cannot truly grasp, the same way we cannot grasp the soft touch of the first flower. Now we five have gathered to welcome our own first flower of spring. A flower none of us have touched as we hold aloft our gifts and dance in distant pairs, all except our mother, who has grown so weary in the pursuit of a beauty she has begun to perish here, in the corner, though we shall ignore all interruptions and if she dies we will continue on with our skilled seduction, ignoring the old woman melting in her corner as we continue to dance with old skulls in our hands and our faces anxious with worry that we will never gather our new snowflake before she dances into the summer sun.
John Riley has published poetry and fiction in Smokelong Quarterly, The Ekphrastic Review, Better Than Starbucks, Banyan Review, Connotation Press, Fiction Daily, The Molotov Cocktail, Dead Mule, St. Anne's Review, and numerous other anthologies and journals both online and in print. He has also published over thirty books of nonfiction for young readers and continues his work in educational publishing.
Ward off the spirits, let the new year enter.
Summer’s end, barns overflowing.
The harvest has been bountiful.
Move with caution between the living
and the dead when the two realms blurr--
dance, sisters, make merry.
Let us receive those from the other side
with fire, fiddles and flutes.
It is All Hallow’s Eve,
and soon the dark will come again.
Feed the fires, make light, ward off what would
damage and derange.
Lead the Dance Macabre towards
the tombs, show the souls from whence they came
to visit on this special night.
Beat the bodhran with the bones,
take the sacred fire, light your hearth
again. Bring peace to your home,
bring joy to your winter.
Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fifth poetry collection, DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS, has just been snapped up by Kelsay Books for publication May/June 2022. Her website: https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Directions to the Witches Dance on Divination Drive
Travel State Road West 37 to 85, note the Rock Falls Raceway
and the unincorporated community of Caryville, spot Tanya’s
Tire Sales and Rock Falls Veterinary Care, proceed through
the town of Rock Falls, go past County H and Saint Joseph’s
Catholic Church, head over the river and past County O
and the Land O’ Lakes Feed business, notice the rolling hills,
fields, and dairy farms, watch for the Irrigation Valley
Systems’ building as you behold bur oaks, spruce, jack pine,
and an occasional dead deer, drive past The Tractor Doctor
and Woodland Millwork. You’re now in Pepin County--
go past County J, Junction County MM, Custom Storage,
Rapid Machining, County R, Junction County M, County V,
and over the Bear Creek bridge. You’ve made it to Durand--
follow East then West Prospect Street (Observe the sign:
Nelson, 15, Wabasha, 19), go past County AA and South 25.
You’re now in Buffalo County—drive through the town
of Maxville, past County V, scan the unincorporated community
of Urne as you steer past Junction County K and County KK.
*You’ve driven 45 miles—you’re nearly there, only a few
more turns to go . . .Take a sharp left onto Wizard Way, go past Palmistry Place,
Talisman Terrace, and Alchemy Avenue, switch off your
headlights as you pass Voodoo Loop and Vampire Passage,
navigate over the Nightmare Creek bridge, take a wide right
to Startled Street, go past Corpse ‘n’ Court and Zombie Lane,
watch for Sorcery Circle—discern your magical essence,
sense its presence, then take a right, intuit an invisible left,
here, Divination Drive will appear, follow the illuminated
jack-o’-lanterns to the top of the hill, park between the gargoyles,
negotiate the path of incantations (Be careful, try not to trip
as some of the runes are missing.). When you reach the stronghold,
sound the gong (Don’t be alarmed for it will play “Ding-Dong!
The Witch Is Dead”). After you enter, please remove your socks
and shoes (We’ll dance barefoot until dawn, so be prepared
for bloodied feet.). Now, you’ll don your pointy bonnet as you
shake, rattle, and roll with your sister witches! After all, it’s All
Hallows’ Eve where skulls rise to the occasion, bones gleam
on the floor, and coffins stand upright as casket décor.
P.S. You’re welcome to stay through November 2nd to celebrate
the Day of the Dead. We’ve coffin accommodations in the dungeon.
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts has authored seven books, five poetry collections and two illustrated children's books. Her newest collection, As If Labyrinth - Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released by Kelsay Books in April of 2021. She’s a nature enthusiast, Best of the Net award nominee, and the poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs.
In a pagan church cellar
All Hallows' Eve
sorceresses with pointy noses and bonnets
dance across a creaky floor in bare feet
in smocks that sway like ghosts
their hands rejoice in midnight ether
as they raise the dead in reverie and sorcery.
The eldest hag in the corner sits still
reflecting on evil in dim light made bright
by a lone candle flickering
and a young angel-witch alabaster pure
twirling in an ivory tutu.
Such wicked crafts
the crone could teach her
how to stir cauldrons of hemlock punch
stroke black cats
devour bats for lunch
screech and cackle
cast gloom and doom
enthrall with spells
drown in Hell
bring bad luck
walk under ladders
bathe in muck
beguile and charm with creepy notions
poison with bane and fatal potions.
Clutching her cane
the old witch wonders
will she ever tempt a warlock again
with her toady skin and gnarled fingers
fly away on a broom
sweep past the moon
pirouette and be carefree malevolent
or will she be overshadowed by this luminosity
will she be spirited away into one of five coffins
open caskets outlined with skeletons
that foreshadow her death
and the deaths of her coven
whose skulls rattle in the air
on the ground
beneath the earth.
Tanya Adèle Koehnke
Tanya Adèle Koehnke is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society (T.O.P.S.) and the Scarborough Poetry Club. Tanya's poems appear in The Ekphrastic Review; The Ekphrastic World Anthology 2020; The Canvas; Big Art Book; Canadian Woman Studies; Foreplay: An Anthology of Word Sonnets; Tea-Ku: Poems About Tea; Grid Poems: A Guide and Workbook; and other publications. Tanya taught English at several post-secondary institutions in Toronto. Tanya also has a background in arts journalism.
The wives danced late into the night. They frolicked and twirled, happy to be free of their onerous husbands who obliged them to scrub clothes and floors all day, toil long hours in the kitchen, perform like whores in the bedroom by night, and always receive their men with smiles when they returned home from their seafaring adventures.
But the townspeople claimed the husbands weren’t away on the high seas as the wives maintained. There were whisperings that the women were witches who’d murdered the men and hidden their crude coffins in the dark woods until worms, weather and soil did their work and the wives dug them up again and danced around their bones. There were even those who said the witches lay together in the dark of night, drinking mead and giving each other comfort, shunning proper relations. There was one in particular, rumored to be the favorite of the coven. A fair-skinned, sassy lass with golden curls and a graceful gait, who turned heads wherever she was glimpsed, though she was rarely spied in the street or the marketplace. It was said that she was hidden from sight by the old crones—made to engage in their wicked deeds, and sent to a dungeon when they tired of her or grew jealous of her charms.
But the woodswomen paid no mind to such gossip. They barricaded the doors of their shared cottage with iron bars, dangled what looked to be human skulls and femurs from the thatching of the roof. So forbidding was this display that no one dared seek entry, certain that a terrible curse would befall any righteous soul who ventured too near. Cloistered inside the shadowy bosom of the hut that was warmed by the golden glow of lantern light, the women with their pointy bonnets and nimble feet were the only ones to know what really went on within.
Kathryn Silver-Hajo writes short fiction, long fiction, and poetry. Her stories appear, or are forthcoming, in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Flash Boulevard, Bending Genres, Cleaver Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, Ellipsis Zine, Unbroken Journal, Six Sentences, The Drabble, The Ekphrastic Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, The New Verse News, and Rusted Radishes: Beirut Literary Journal. Read Kathryn’s work at www.kathrynsilverhajo.com and follow her on Twitter: @KSilverHajo
The Origins of Our Sabbath
Women were created to dance in bare feet
and stain our wrists with frankincense;
To join hands in the black mass and listen
to the skulls chanting about the magoi.
The timber crust of mother nature creaks
under our liberated toes and tell us that
cornered carpal bones join moon dances.
The word, magoi, was the earliest form
of witches. It spun around a charge of
delusion. On the first midnight cycle,
mothers teach us about white phrygian
caps pointed up to different coordinations.
Dusted down by the goddess Diana, mother
says we are a magical species. Candles
flood southward to tell us that a woman's
liberation frightens men. Delusion became
another designation for all-seeing. Outside
our window, the sticks of pale skin declare,
“guilty, guilty, guilty.” We are echoes awaiting
cauldrons of coffins, but we keep dancing
under the triumph of our moon.
Lily Connolly is a recent graduate of the University of Tampa's creative writing department. She has been published in several magazines and is the winner of the 2019 FCHC poetry contest.
At the Witches Jamboree
Though you burn us alive
witches never die.
Drums pound a syncopated beat.
Our flesh no longer weighted
liberated from the stake
we dance and cackle in the street.
A leader swathed in white
chorus fitted out in black
we swab the autumn air
with the bramble swish of brooms.
We cock our pointy hats
twirl skirts of tinkling coins
our ample bellies jiggle.
Our ample bellies jiggle
twirl skirts of tinkling coins.
We cock our pointy hats.
With the bramble swish of brooms
we swab the autumn air.
Chorus fitted out in black
a leader swathed in white
we dance and cackle in the street
liberated from the stake.
Our flesh no longer weighted
drums pound a syncopated beat.
Witches never die
though you burn us alive.
Sandi Stromberg is a dedicated contributor to The Ekphrastic Review, which has honoured her with one of its Fantastic Ekphrastic Awards and twice nominated her poems for Best of the Net. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poetry has appeared in many small journals and anthologies, most recently in MockingHeart Review, Equinox, easing the edges: a collection of everyday miracles, San Pedro River Review, The Ocotillo Review, and in Dutch in the Netherlands in Brabant Cultureel and Dichtersbankje (the Poet’s Bench). For ten years, she served on the board of Houston’s Mutabilis Press, dedicated to poetry.
Discarded Matter and Reassembled Molecules
Good and evil are categories that exist both everywhere and nowhere. Out of context they mean nothing.
her changed body, now
inanimate, a cut-out
glued onto grey air
Darkness requires balancing with light. The random shifts that surround us with fate cannot be forsworn.
was she now merely
a conduit, a portal
connecting two worlds?
Bodies return to their immortal matter, an intersection always waiting on the threshold of time.
the chamber opens,
flowing both ways all at once,
The ancient circle dances through an eternal ghostly night. By day, life intersects with death and continues on.
much is alway in
ferred--all questions are abjured,
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/, and see more of her work on her website http://kerferoig.com/
Dance as fast as you can,
point your pretty toes,
fling your arms wide, flirt
with the hem of your skirt
while skin is smooth,
while curls are golden,
while breasts are firm.
Dance as fast as you can
but don’t forget:
your unseen partner
in this danse macabre
is dancing fast too
lurking in corners –
Gretchen was a winner in the Poetry Society of America's Bright Lights/Big Verse competition, judged by Alice Quinn and David Lehman and was projected on the Jumbotron while reading her winning poem in Times Square. Her poems have been published in journals including The Chattahoochee Review, Pacific Coast Journal, Northeast Corridor, Inkwell, Pudding Magazine, and Upstreet. They have also appeared online at Poetry Southeast, SeaStories, and Prairie Home Companion, and have been anthologized in Chopin and Cherries, Poetic Voices Without Borders, Sincerely Elvis, You Are Here: New York Streets in Poetry, Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge: Poems About Marriage and Family Pictures, Poems and Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones. Her chapbooks, That Severed Cord and The Scent of Oranges, were published by Finishing Line Press.
Macbeth - The Prequel
in darkest coven close together
fiddles scrape, bagpipes skirl
round and round in 666some reel
witches whirl like a fanaa of Dervish
without their virtues of love and honor
but with tongues, forked and barbed
for tonight a trio will depart
forsaking coffins and cerebral sisters
off to the heath of purple heather
to meet Macbeth, Thane of Glamis
brave general in King Duncan’s army
victor over Vikings and Irish invaders
but for now the sorcerers rehearse
chanting loud their pungent prophecy
of Lady Macbeth and her hapless Thane
in wanton treachery, unstinting ambition
through bloodshed to impending regicide
a Greek tragedy of the Scottish glens
Scottish born Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical free verse. He has achieved success in poetry competitions across the British Isles and North America. His work has been published by numerous literary magazines, anthologies and webzines in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, India, South Africa, Kenya, USA and Canada. Since 2018, he has been part of The Ekphrastic Review community particularly enjoying the bi-weekly challenges. He is a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland for whom he was a Featured Writer in 2019.
Moonlight shines brightest on the young.
Like a new bride, Jenny dances
barefooted in her white dress.
Bonnets, stained aprons and shadows
drape the obedient and old.
After the dance--
at dawn, the sun over the stone wall,
a man will strangle her in public
watch the gleam leave her eyes,
put a flame to her cooling pale flesh,
proclaim it is for the betterment
of the people. He will say:
God is avenged by man’s hands.
The wood coffins remain
for the obedient and old.
Her ashes will rise—like Tabitha,
dance in the wind.
She will not be confined
by a man’s hands.
Moonlight shines brightest on the young.
Like a new bride, Jenny dances
on the dead painter's canvas.
Her mother, a Mary of sorts, watches
silently from the dark margin.
Old women speak for the spirited
who danced too long in the window.
The judge’s gavel and coffin-maker’s
mallet echo between the stone walls.
At dawn, the sun over the horizon,
a man will silence her in public
legally. We will see the painting,
the witches—and say it is history.
Robert E. Ray
Robert E. Ray is a retired public servant. His poetry has been published by Rattle, in High Shelf Issue XXXV, and A Poetry Garden, a poetry anthology. Robert is a member of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in coastal Georgia.
Witches at Prom
We linger on damp dungeon walls,
from which skeletons (collecting dust from dances ago)
are hanging: tinsel-tied and limp.
In this dead dude’s skull I’m crushing (serving as a cup)
is a dim reflection, wobbling
painfully. “I’ve heard—” (your mirth-quivered lip)
“that the punch’s spiked... or at least, I think it is.”
You flash me this stretched-skin grin,
through those lash-thorned eyes,
and I find myself following your lead. We make out
with our mirrors (acid-red in kool-aid),
and from these twin crania
respectively, our images wane.
You've donned a wedding dress for today—
grave-robbed, that you must’ve grazed
at the knees getting out.
It and I are tangled now,
with other sweaty bodies on the floor.
In this dance, my corsage:
a mourning lily on my breast,
brushes yours, a sable rose.
I’m in your hands now:
they’re so bony, (so white),
so warmth-drained over mine--
and it gets me going that you’re so much more
gone than I.
The music, a string ensemble screech,
settles into slow dance
on the floor, for the final scene.
We bow our heads
and I find anchor in our temples,
wet where they join
from the condense
of our last-leaving breaths.
Some things we know will change
when witching hour cedes to sunrise,
with the violin cease-- when we all must flee.
When we leave our girlhoods locked within
the walls of this dungeon, six feet deep:
alongside your hand-me-down wedding gown,
your rose-thorned gaze, and wilted lily petals
scattered all across the floor.
Though I know one thing will remain--
that’s the kool-aid stain of your smile
on mine, so I know what comes beyond
could be alright.
Sonika Jaiganesh is a 19 year old university student (she/they) from the UK who has become a lurker/lover of The Ekphrastic Review. They are passionate about art-and-aesthetic history, the discipline of curation and experiencing all the types of literature that life has to offer. They have only recently begun sharing their work, but hope to share a lot more to come. You can read their poetry on 'Literary Veganism', and follow their newly hatched twitter account @sonikajaiganesh
Witches' laughter drowns
the music as they dance,
bat black and cat eyed,
open coffins framing
a skull’s applause of teeth.
Witches' laughter drowns
the sound of shredded feet,
heels drilling bone
into late October loam.
Here, where it's bloody,
here where foul things are savoured,
elongated nostrils sniff the air.
When they catch the scent of me -
a man sneaking peeks
through a curtain in his mind -
they turn to face me,
yellow gaze upon me, cold skin
kissed by the moon.
Witches laughter makes
a halter of their hatred,
drags me from my hiding to my doom.
Paul McDonald taught at the University of Wolverhampton for twenty five years, where he ran the Creative Writing Programme. He took early retirement in 2019 to write full time. He is the author of over twenty books, which cover fiction, poetry, and scholarship. His creative work has won and been shortlisted for numerous prizes including The Bedford Prize, The Bridport Prize, The John Clare Poetry Prize, the Ottakars/Faber and Faber Poetry Competition, the Sentinel Poetry Prize, the Sentinel Short Story Prize, and Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and Best of the Net.
Paul McDonald Amazon Author Page
Dead Bells of Ireland
Dead Bells of Ireland cannot
hold a candle to this lady’s cap:
she dances fore and centre,
the opened coffins’
with such lovely gesture
to her left.
"De Brevitate Vitae"
oh how the drinking boys
for centuries would sing:
Iuvenes dum sumus,
Iuvenes dum sumus,
Post jucundam juventutem,
Post molestam senectutem,
Nos habebit humus,
Nos habebit humus.
Their fifth stanza, so apt, like these,
Vivant omnes virgines
Vivant et mulieres :,:
Long live all girls,
Easy [and] beautiful!
Long live [mature] women too,
Good, [and] hard-working.
these five women, called ‘witches’, dancing!
Whose prima ballerina has feet foreshadowing
a life just like their own: feet are
all the same, wide, bare and mud-splashed
yet still they fly across the floor.
Parodied cliches, yet admired:
shoulders, forearms storied
muscles from a lifetime
of field labor and chores.
Determined to have fun:
their chins jut out,
and one’s upturned nose
is longer than Pinochio’s.
On the dancer’s right, in a dark
but profiled foreground,
an old woman is plunked down,
her cane held upward
as if in half-salute,
she gazes up, mesmerized, bewitched
by the short chiffon-dressed maiden
in whom (perhaps) she sees her own
lost youth flown fleeting past,
and beneath the curled white fronds
of her own soddy old bonnet
therein may lie a self-portrait
of our anonymous
Carolyn Clark, PhD, Pushcart Nominee 2020, is a retired teacher who sometimes leads workshops at The Writer’s Center. Indebted to teachers at Cornell, Brown, and The Johns Hopkins University for degrees in Classics-related fields, she enjoys the outdoors, writing woodlands lyric poetry, and finding mythology everywhere. Her poems can be found in various journals, a Covid-19 anthology (Golden Foothills Press, 2020), two recent collections (Cayuga Lake Books 2017, Kelsay Books 2019) and a pair of chapbooks (Finishing Line Press (2013, 2018).
Which ones are those...?
Which ones are those who dance disdain
on death as if delight so vain,
forsaking holy rites conferred
for devil's brew their steps have stirred
as if a curse they dare to press
upon the pious who profess
to be by birth the voice aloud
of faith to them by saints endowed?
Are they the ones who pray to hide
the sins in which they too abide
but suffer others to embrace
as if confession offered grace?
Or are they witches fantasized
as demons those have "exorcised"?
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.
The Witches Dance
On woven silken webs those spider’s crawl
hide from the moonlight beams
Those steepled hats on witches’ heads
that Samhain feast of rising dead.
Light-footed dance, they sway to tumbled life
the masks from hell a burnished gold
Ghouls outside watch in, despair at the high amuse
as coffin lids lie open, languished on the floor.
Those dead walk, abandoned in gleeful mirth
each woman is a goddess in ether flow.
Swing high swing low, mercurial beings, while
toes meet the earth, surge to the beat.
Margaret is nominated for the Best of The Net, 2021, for Creative Non-Fiction. She writes poetry also.
Published in journals and magazines and online. Her background is in Social Justice Advocacy.
Lady in White
She dances, unfettered, oblivious
to the macabre reality in which she treads,
the focal point of our attention,
the milky-skinned queen of the ball.
released by mandrake and nightshade.
Pure, innocent, naïve,
she waltzes and pirouettes,
oblivious to the blood coating her feet.
Perhaps she is grape stomping,
or dancing in the wood,
surrounded by flowers in bloom
or potential loves,
while we await the witching hour.
We wait with blood and bone.
We watch with devils and greed.
We dance with our fair skinned queen,
until the tincture’s power fades,
when her rosy cheeks flush will with fear,
her screams will echo through the circles of hades,
reaching the ears of our Dark Lord,
melodious as cherub bells marking his assent.
Her terror will only sweetening her sacrifice.
Tony Daly is a poet and short story writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and military fiction/nonfiction. His work has been recently published or is forthcoming with Danse Macabre, Silverblade, The HorrorZine, Utopia Science Fiction, and others. A retired U.S. Air Force medic, he proudly serves as an Associate Editor with Military Experience and the Arts. For a list, that probably needs to be updated, of his published work, please visit https://aldaly13.wixsite.com/website or follow him on Twitter @aldaly18.
I dance alone.
Behind me, my new sisters
dance in pairs—how joyfully
they spin & clap their hands;
lighting the dim room with a
skull lantern; memento mori.
I wonder why the other crone
just sits & watches; stitching secrets.
Perhaps she’s jealous of my youth,
but her old eyes shine with pity,
so I try my best not to look.
I won’t let her ruin the fun:
the night is young & it is mine--
I’ll dance until my feet grow sore;
I’ll twirl in my new dress--
white & pure as a bridal gown,
or a burial shroud.
When the clock strikes twelve
there’ll be a sacrifice
in my honour.
Corinna Board lives in a small village in the Cotswolds and works in Oxford, where she teaches English as an additional language. She loves her job, although she wishes she had more time to write poetry and that she could write a more interesting bio! She can be found on Instagram @parole_de_reveuse. (She was born in the UK, but lived and worked in France, hence the Instagram handle which actually means ‘dreamer’s word.’)
So, Now, We Dance
We twirl and swirl,
My sisters have conjured me,
from an albino pumpkin
where I rested
until the time was right.
Once they chanted the
magic words to waken me
I was ready and
so now, we dance.
See the villager elder ladies
wise beyond their years
forgotten by the young?
See them smiling
at us as we twirl and swirl?
I invite them to join us, saying,
So, now we dance!
You, who live beyond the frame,
you can join us here
if you know that magic
or simply dance where you are
to your own self music--
sing, sway, move,
twirl and swirl in your own power.
So, now, we dance!
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage, as often inspired by art as by the world around her. She tells tales of food, family, nature, and strong women with pen and in performance.
Oversees the dance, crone
longs for youthful times
when she too raised hands
to call on spirits, macabre
waltz, bone symphony
to celebrate in secret.
Join hands, sway to trance,
bare feet bounce lithely
inside sacred crypt, magic
sings a wiccan chant, dance
a gala to welcome initiate
bridely white her dress.
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson explores new forms in poetry through workshops, prompts and art, Ekphrastic being a more recent favourite. Her poetry appears in Misfit, Open Door, Sledgehammer, Pulse and The Ekphrastic Review, among other journals; full length works available on Amazon. Dickson shares her home with an 8 year old rescued feral black cat, who is often her first audience. She has coordinated workshops, 100 Thousand Poets for Change and is a past board member on two poetry boards. A Pushcart nominee, Dickson has written poetry for 50 years.
Look at her; how the candlelight dresses her
white, shining skin. Look how she smiles,
beguiling. Bares her feet, feels the ground
beneath her bones; she shares a common
heart with her sinister sister-crones. Circling
widdershins, wayward, unruly bodies
articulate the dumb dead, uncontained now
in their graves. In the annihilating turmoil
of the ecstasy to come, she turns and turns
and turns again. Sinews, muscles, pulse
with supernatural blood. She feels us
close to her as we sing with one voice,
howl with one tongue. Among us women,
she is free, she is bright, she is young.
She does not notice the devil in the shadows.
Does not see his scarlet grin, knowing
nothing of the sacrifice to be made before
the morning bell rings, that in daylight
she will disappear. Although we know
this power too well to be entranced,
beating the time with a heavy stick, still
we’ll take a partner and dance the age-
old dance, always to his tune, played
by a veteran enchanter. For this is his
classic magic, this is the ancient trick.
Louise Longson lives in West Oxfordshire. She is a qualified psychotherapist, specialising in trauma and enduring mental health issues and currently works to support those distressed by chronic loneliness and isolation. A late starter to writing poetry, she settled down to it in 2020 at the age of 57, and her work has appeared in various publications including One Hand Clapping, Fly on the Wall, Dreich, Vaine, Nymphs, The Ekphrastic Review, Drifting Sands, The Poetry Shed, Obsessed with Pipework and the various publication of Indigo dreams Publications. She is a winner of the Dreich ‘Slims’ competition 2021 with her chapbook Hanging Fire. Twitter @LouisePoetical
"Wi' twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches)
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!"
Robert Burns, Tam O' Shanter
" In my step, nothing is real -- dreaming, I'm dreaming."
Witches Dance, Mercyful Fate
Witches came from the kitchen without their brooms;
the girl wore a dress made of moonlight. Outside the thunder
made glorious booms and a Halloween dream
filled the Laird's living room: Fancy a dance?
(she was sure that she'd heard him) that this was a night
when true love was exhumed -- why her great aunts
and witch-kin had come from their coffins -- to dance
at her wedding and hear the year's news: how they'd finish
the dinner (they called it Dumb Dinner -- drum-rolls for the witches!
breaking bread with the dead) as she stepped from a painting
over the fireplace, a girl born from fire in the background,
young again -- fairy magic -- to teach them the dance steps,
old bodies, shapeshifting, pyrne in a gyre: Aphalba,
the oldest, had to sit down as Amethyst reeled with Allegra,
Shedding, Back-Stepping, Rocking, Cross-Over -- Toe
and Heel, Shake and Turn -- spirits in a poem by Robert Burns!
Is it as much fun as bowling with skulls? One arm in the air,
one arm crossing her heart she's wearing a moon dress by Cutty Sark,
how witches bewitch a young man in the dark, dancing
the dance, the witches' dance her Halloween Fling in a Chinese hat....
Call it the art of their choreograph when the witches' circle is the witches' map.
Honoured multiple times by the Ekphrastic Challenge, Laurie Newendorp's recent book, When Dreams Were Poems, 2020, explores the relationships between art, life and writing. "Cutty Sark" is the ancient Scots' name for a woman's nightie, or undergarment, and the Halloween celebration for the silent dead was a love ritual known as "The Dumb Dinner." "Halloween Fling" was written in memory of a witch's peaked hat and costume made for the poet at a young age by her grandmother, who believed in the spirit of youth.
Come write with us! Below are several upcoming workshops online at The Ekphrastic Review.