Animals, birds, and people, sitting on each other, with a killer whale on top. Why? Is it to give the killer whale some height so that it can look far away? Maybe they are friends, giving the killer whale an opportunity to see the lands on the other side of the shore. The killer whale outstretches its fins, forming a peace shape. Will the animals give the killer whale enough strength to take off and soar into the air like a bird? Every creature holds the ones above them. A raven in the bottom bears the weight of all the other creatures. Each of them support the killer whale, giving it energy to fly. Their little contributions adding up to a huge amount. The killer whale can take off now, with the height and strength given by the animals below, and explore the world beyond the ocean.
Kavyn is a ninth grader who loves anime and bread. He lives in his cozy nook doing art, poetry, and math.
The Condor Returns
For the first time in over one hundred years
the condor returns to Northern California.
For the first time since the big death,
we see new wings taking off
after birth and rebirth.
The totem pole tells us the story
of the evolution of the human spirit,
of our kin, our belonging, our journey, our symbols:
when you’re done you soar high above
what tied your body and spirit.
The world we know is only a description
handed down from generation
Poets, artist, stop the world.
Be the ones who remakes interpretation.
Allow people to see instead of just looking.
Call the Condor.
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. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
no thing with wings chooses to crawl.
the woodcarver, a man, stood tall
you in his long tribal shadow.
where does a woman like you go
with knives and native grit? windfall
is a straight tree. the call primal
to feed what cries out at nightfall--
to the rooted tree a deathblow.
no thing with wings chooses to crawl.
with each thwack, the birds withdrawal
to the sky. there’s a protocol
for roosting and flight. there’s a glow
at dawn. the native carvers know
how to sing & soar with a chisel.
no thing with wings chooses to crawl.
Robert E. Ray
Robert E. Ray is a retired public servant. His poetry has been published by Rattle, Beyond Words International Literary Magazine, Wild Roof Journal, The Ekphrastic Review and in four poetry anthologies. Robert lives in coastal Georgia.
Storytellers, sages of history ,
Cradle time in their words.
Be still and hear the echos of the past,
The hills resound with their murmurs.
Footsteps follow the ancient trails,
The heart knows the journey.
The elders do not seek, they know.
Trees pour out their sap of wisdom,
Animal spirits impart their totem.
Rumination’s visit from the stars,
The passing years illuminate our souls.
We are not wise, we are untied
Tether our consciousness
To the voices that came before us,
Be quiet and listen to the Earth.
Carol lives in Southern California and has had a few poems published in anthologies, online blogs and journals. She divides her time between painting, reading and writing.
Woulda Coulda Shoulda
Before we lost you I had planned to take you north to see the totem poles up in Canada. Your view of Douglas firs would be a blurry from the dog nose prints left on the window. Soon we would see country where more Sitka spruces would start to appear. From the front seat I would be playing teacher and boring your now teenage self with stories about how Sitka sprues were called ‘wolf trees’ because they had big open spaces with great outreaching braches. Even with headphones obscuring a bouncing head I would have caught your wide smile in the rearview mirror. I’d keep bragging on the stacked totems, how beaver, raven, bear, and even eagle were waiting to tell you about your future with animals and how stars were beginning to line up for you, my grandson.
But this never happened, because before you found your power and grew your blowhole large enough to take in water, we lost you. You were always about water from your strong breast stroke to beaming in a photo in front of that tall, lean waterfall. Maybe you thought yourself such a great swimmer you figured you’d make it, or maybe a very dark spirit had already staked its mortal claim, or maybe the totems would have healed you with their big toothed grins. Yes, they would have.
Ursula McCabe lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Her work can be seen in Piker Press, The Avocet, Oregon Poetry Association’s Verseweavers, Bluebird Word, and Academy of the Heart and Mind.
Here’s cupid heart cut into bark,
the timber frame for barque or home;
first nations carved their story too -
an ancestry, family tree.
Algonquian wood, totemic stood.
While others kneel at altar steps
and would alter inheritance,
they stand to ban native device
though fail to understand the craft,
or storeyed picture book of past.
Dust to dust but ash to pole,
for funerary casket cache,
a welcome sign or ridicule,
pot-boilers in the tourist trade,
community, kinship support.
Neel before all with female skill.
You see the wood before the trees.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales, UK, from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including The Ekphrastic Review.
On Native Artist Ellen Neel
As feat iconic each would stand
to mark possession long of land
by generations thus endeared
as spirit that had persevered
to earn enduring totem made
that honoured roles their strengths had played,
first will, determined to persist,
then skill devised to coexist
with nature's growth from its decay,
and predators becoming prey,
in seasons of repeating course
implying greater present force
that moved adept, creative heart
to be the hands of native art.
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.
To a Grandmother I Never Knew
Did you ever
marvel at the intricate carved wings
of some eagle
in wonder at cedar-hewn faces, cheering
this new world?
What did you
make of fine stacks of ancestral symbols
so alien to you?
Let me place you,
a young woman, hungry and shell-shocked
from your epic journey
with its endless gusts
of ocean gales; with its steam-train crawl
across a continent
that heaved you past
cities, lakes, prairies; past forests and mountains,
to this near wilderness.
You look up,
startled by some sacred, ancient totem pole:
your glance full
of curiosity or
is it fear? Those haunted eyes! Do you panic
and ask: “Why am I here?”
Do you fight off
familiar sickness: that fierce swell of frantic longing
for the old world,
for the salt marsh,
with its curlews, its sheep, its sea thrift; for your firstborn
lost in its mists?
Based in the United Kingdom, Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing poetry, short plays and flash fiction. Her poems have been published in various journals, including The Ekphrastic Review.
An Out-gas of Broken Links
Link me to the land
where I belong. Let me
breathe my Spirit’s
in-breath and out-breath of life. Let me
be like Earth’s nourishing
river of peace, paneled
with colors that gave me form.
I am carved with celestial meaning
and notched with history’s visions.
Yet here, just here in these swamps,
injustices linger and nations hide
behind the serpent’s vitriol.
The serpent slithers through the miasma,
wanting more, and always wanting more.
Carole Mertz, poet and essayist, has recent work at The Ekphrastic Review, Abandoned Mine, Adanna Literary Journal (Fall, 2022), Dreamer’s Creative Writing, and River Teeth. Her meta poem “Invited to Linger” was a finalist in the Ars Poetica 2022 Contest at Riddled with Arrows. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Carole is the author of Color and Line (2021), and Toward a Peeping Sunrise (2019). She is Editorial Assistant in poetry at Kalisto Gaia Press and book review editor at Dreamer’s.
Too many minds in the kitchen,
Too many heads in the room,
Too many masks over faces,
I hope to close my eyes soon.
A fight I feel myself losing,
A battle waged by their stares,
A wrong I want to be voicing,
I hope my lungs will find air.
My silence fuels their cruel power,
My nature drives their beliefs,
My weeping feeds their aggression,
I pray to welcome the beast.
Then I will judge this false jury,
Then I will disband this tribe,
Then I will unmask this fighter,
I see a rebel inside.
Corrie Pappas is a small business owner living outside Boston. Her work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review and she is the author of the children’s book, Come Along and Dream.
as if always
echoes out of nowhere--
like raven shimmered,
gathered into silence,
echoed out of nowhere
on the water’s edge--
gathered into silence
like the beginning of time--
on the water’s edge,
like the beginning of time,
balanced on the horizon,
like wings thundering--
balanced on the horizon,
like wings thundering
that begins as brume
the way the sky
begins as brume,
opens and frees itself--
the way the sky
within and without
opens and frees itself,
within and without--
tiny stars of stillness
tiny stars of stillness--
like raven shimmered
as if always
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. She is a frequent contributor to The Ekphrastic Review, and her work has also been featured recently in Feral and swifts & slows. You can follow her explorations on her blogs: https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/, which she does with her friend Nina, and https://kblog.blog/.
Salute to the Sun for Another Day
What happens to you when more loved ones
are dead than alive? To top the ivory tusked totem
is more than the heart can bear some days.
Where was your mother that day your kittens died, that black
night when your best friend passed, your golden son Jason
left the world without a sound except your screams ringing in the night.
You look into the empty corners of your house--
it has become the sum and substance of you. Paint a smile
on those lips, pull on those jeans, lift the leg that won’t go alone.
Strive for one more day of drifting democracy. See if you can make
someone you meet on the street smile, in answer to yours.
You beat the alarms again, all of them.
Jackie Langetieg has published poems in journals and anthologies: Verse Wisconsin, Blue Heron Review, Bramble, Ekphrastic Review. She’s won awards, such as WWA’s Jade Ring contest, Bards Chair, and Wisconsin Academy Poem of the Year and a Pushcart Prize nomination. She has written six books of poems, most recently, Snowfall and a memoir, Filling the Cracks with Gold.
Seabear carries her largest child
Black white red nursing
Held strong by his inner beings
Slippery frog keeps his honest
Bak and raven keeps her safe
In Stanley Park
J. L. Wright
J. L. Wright has published two hybrid poetry collections, Unadoptable Joy and Homeless Joy. Published on four continents, J. L. participates with several different poetry groups including IWWG, Jersey City Writers, Poets on the Coast, and Village Books Writer’s Corner. J. L. develops poetry craft while influencing students during community education.
I was walking by the riverside watching tiny fishes straddling the stream. The aroma of damp soil was in the air. It must have rained last night. I sat by a big rock watching the sunrise, toddler rays sprinkling their warmth like a mother’s morning hug. Love and longing gathering in her body overnight, the mother rushes in the dawn darkness to find her child, to hug her little darling, her spit, sweat and coziness in tow. In a few hours however, this gentle morning will become the blazing noon. Tender mother will turn into an evil witch, scorching the earth, punishing her child for mischief and languor.
I never met my morning sun.
My mother left me when I was a baby. She wasn’t ready for a child and a girl at that, especially one that looked like a portmanteau of world’s evil. Now, right at this instance, I don’t fault her. I’m a grown up. But I spent the first 15 years of my life blaming her for giving up on me. When she eventually found her way to me and tried to patch things, I had already grown into a beautiful, kind, young woman, no thanks to her and I wasn’t ready to let her in. I couldn’t suddenly fill the empty space in my heart with someone who showed up a decade too late. That space was expansive when I was born, but over time it kept shrinking and had finally settled into a tiny fragment, the size of a mustard seed.
When I told this to my friend, he suggested I visit a healer.
“You should go see Shebungaa.”
“Who is Shebungaa?”
“Shebungaa is the cousin of Bak’was the Wildman of the Woods, a red cedar being, an all-knowing spirit of the forest.
“Is Shebungaa a he or she?” I asked.
“No one knows. Shebungaa have no gender, they are beyond such trivialities. They are simply Shebungaa, wise and powerful.”
This comforted me and gave me a tiny bit of hope. Next day I travelled to the park to see Shebungaa and asked if they could turn my mustard seed heart into a lemon ball. Or bigger.
Shebungaa stared at me as we stood facing each other. They reached into the mountains, twisted their hands to pluck an essence from the top, from the wings of Kakaso’Las and placed a tiny speck of light in my palms. A gift, they called it.
“Guard this with all you have.”
“But… I don’t know how. I’ve never done this before.”
“Grow this each day, nourish it.”
“How will it grow? What if it dies? What should I do? I don’t know how to take care of things. No one took care of me, so I never learned how. I don’t know if I can do this.”
Shebungaa looked down and up, then closed their eyes as I rambled on, “What if you’re making a mistake? I thought Shebungaa are supposed to be helpful and wise. Do you realize what you’re trusting me with?”
Shebungaa was walking away. The mountain light rested in my palms. How is this going to help my mustard-seed heart?
Honestly, I had expected a show, a miracle. I had imagined Shebungaa reaching into my chest and healing my heart with light and magic. Instead, they handed me light itself. I was a tad disappointed and a whole lot scared.
That was then.
For three years I have been guarding the speck. I flamed it, nourished it and spread its light and warmth every day, even when it seemed impossible. The speck grew, the light grew. The orange-gold iridescence renewed souls. And the reason I sought Shebungaa in the first place? That was happening too. I could feel the space in my heart growing. More and more people visited the mountain light seeking the beauty of malleable heart, seeking wisdom. Seeking the infectious exuberance. Seeking strength and ecstasy.
That’s when trouble started. I realized that the line between good and evil is not only flimsy thin but an illusion. Good became bad and bad turned to evil like fast burning forest fire. I hadn’t witnessed such jealousy, deception and gluttony before. Some wanted the flame for themselves. Others simply wanted it gone. No one thought about the hard work or sacrifices needed to nurture the flame. They couldn’t see. They were blinded by greed. They saw power and coveted it. Then one day, just like that, it was gone. The light was destroyed. Whatever had opened inside me shrunk again.
If only I hadn’t let people near the light. If only I had been more careful. If only I could find Shebungaa again and beg them for another speck. If only. If only. If only.
I wandered with no hope for months and stumbled into a desert one evening. Tired and beat, I crouched by a cactus, thirsting for life. Hours went by as I sat peering into the sand. A lizard came out from under a rock, grabbed a roach and scampered back to its hiding.
“Something is killing something else. All the time.”
Was that Shebungaa’s radiant voice? Or me thinking out loud?
All the history and zoology lessons I didn’t pay attention to in school were coming back to me. Cheetahs and coyotes kill deer and elephants. Deer and elephants eat plants. The hyena feasts on rotting flesh.
“Why should humans be the exception? Are you blind to the nasty hyenas among humans, salivating at the sight of red meat? If there are deer and elephants, there will also be coyotes and cheetahs among us. Have you forgotten? Or do you not want the struggle?”
I couldn’t tell if Shebungaa was guiding me from outside or within. Either way, this is the second gift. Anything good must be protected and goodness is always worth the struggle. Light flickered in my chest.
I can see the moon rising now. Glimmer and hope too.
Sowmya Krishnamurthy is an artist and writer who lives in Chennai, India with the love of her lives, Kavyn and Navilan. She writes fiction, poetry and weekly menus for her family. Her work has been published in The Birdseed, 3MoonMagazine, The Visual Verse and elsewhere. She can be found sleepwalking on Twitter @sowmya.
Finding the Right Words
It was late afternoon on the day of the equinox and Shona was in the land now designated as a small public park that held the four totem poles belonging to her family.
'Charlie, you gotta see the colours! Look at all the cool animals, they musta loved them! That one on the bottom of the front one - I swear it's Sonic The Hedgehog! Shame it's kinda behind the grass.' The voice floated across from the other side of the low boundary fence.
Shona was used to visitors reacting to the totems in their own way. This particular set were placed in quite a photogenic arrangement so were a regular stopping off place for what Shona called the drive-by tourists, the ones who'd pull up to the parking space and sometimes not even get out of their car. They'd just grab their phone or an i-Pad, point and click, and most likely post to their socials later on.
Of course, a few stopped and got out, wandered around the poles and even read the information board. The details on there had been recently updated, with input from Shona's family. She wondered how much could be said in a one metre by a half metre board? In fact the information was scant, a few basic facts about the approximate date of construction of each pole, the name of their community. There was a reference with a QR code to other resources should anyone care to find out more. Shona gave a kind of mental 'huh' as once again the thought came that it didn't even name-check great-aunt Ellen, the artist behind the front pole, even though she knew that the omission had been a collective decision.
Shona waited for the car to move off and wandered round the totem poles. The autumn equinox was a special time, one among many in the cosmic calendar that held the important memories. She stopped in front of the 'Sonic' one and ran through the retelling of the history of this world, the journeys through its lands, the world before and the one beyond. Others from her family would arrive soon to join her.
Words mattered. There would recitations later, some known only to her oldest relatives. These words would never be shared with the university researchers or the journalistic types who came out to write op eds about the place. Words held power and strength and memories and a connection from the past to the future, the flow of energy around the universe and all the stages of life's journey. Each totem might serve as an external reminder but the truth of the cosmos was in the collective oral tradition.
For a second Shona attempted to see the poles through the eyes of the tourists. She appreciated the fine workmanship and beauty of the carvings, the vibrancy of the paintwork. Ellen truly had a gift, not just for working the wood but for capturing the narrative. Try as she might Shona couldn't help reading the stories of the people and the land, the ancestors and the generations to come as she took in each symbol. That bird wasn't just a bird, that head was more than a representation of a person. Even the spacing and arrangement of the poles themselves held special significance, one that would be refreshed and revealed later on at sunset. Tonight was going to be especially good, a mostly cloud-free evening and an early moonrise meaning the setting sun and moon would appear together. Later on, this designated dark skies site would offer a tantalising glimpse of the milky way, gateway to the wider cosmos. The equinox was a special time of balance, harmony and interconnectedness of all things as well as a gateway from one season to another. The gathering would reflect that.
Anyone looking from the outside would just have seen another tourist moving slowly between the poles, a bit more contemplative than some, but nothing unusual. Shona knew the power was in the words yet to come, the rest of the time all that knowledge and wisdom were just hiding in plain sight.
After years spent with numbers Emily Tee is now spending her time writing poetry and flash fiction. She's had pieces published in The Ekphrastic Review challenges and in print in several Dreich publications and poetry anthologies including Hope is a Group Project, by The Wee Sparrow Poetry Press, with other work forthcoming elsewhere. She lives in England.
"My grandfather loved thunder storms.
He loved to see the restless weaving
Edward Hirsch, Ancient Signs
"The goal of life is to make your heartbeat
match the beat of the universe, to match
your nature with Nature."
Joseph Campbell, Reflections On The Art of Living
"Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over."
How many were the mornings when I watched the light unfold
inside the raven's night-black wings? And found out what
the Kwakiutl know -- The Raven brings The Green!
A girl, I dreamed Green Mansions -- the rain's long fingers
touching leaves and I was free (or so I thought)
to take a chance, embellished by the elements in ways
I learned to turn the page to nature my fate designed
by a water fall of words; and art, illustrations for the faces
on a totem pole stacked like chapters in a serial romance
ignited by the wilderness. At the top, inside the carved paws
of the Spirit Bear an Orca struggles with the forest's passion,
a pulse so strong it transforms creatures from the sea
to humans, a Man sheltered by the Thunderbird, its flight-
pattern lines in turquoise as the sea surges through the trees
for an unlikely couple -- Bak'was and Dzunka, wild man
and woman, she, a giantess; Children fear her whisper
in the woods -- Hu! , she says, her voice's hoarse sound
wind in the cedars as spirits of the trees eat ghost food
out of cockle shells, congregating in invisible houses (Somewhere
i have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience...) as the girl
in the rain forest travels through fire in a fairy tale rising on Thunder-
bird/Phoenix wings to look for her legend of true love, the rain forest
story of a native American prince
who appears in the song of a totem frog.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Her book, When Dreams Were Poems, 2020, explores the relationships of art, surreality and poetry. One of Ellen Neel's totem figures, the Spirit Bear, refers to the creation myth of "ghost" cubs born to the black Kermode bear. The bear was named (to the poet's surprise!) for Frank Kermode, an early 20th century zoologist, whose name suggested a romantic nature for her poem: Sir Frank Kermode, a literary critic, came to the University of Houston when Newendorp was a poetry student. One of his books, The Romantic Image was a reference source for her poetry thesis. "Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience" is the name of a poem by e.e. cummings that ends with a beautiful line, apt for a rain forest, "not even the rain has such small hands." The Kwakiutl and Tlingit transformation masks in the North Coast Gallery of the New York Museum of Natural History started Joseph Campbell on his "hero journey" in writings that began the poet's fascination with myth.