El Lienzo Humano
No estamos solos.
We are not alone.
Our bodies human canvas
splashed with sweat, mucus,
spit, tears, blood, dirt, dung.
Holding in our humanity,
protective barrier between
the harsh without &
The world is often unkind –
screaming, berating, clawing,
pounding us down.
But we emerge
with rainbow hues,
emerge and celebrate
Our refusal to stand down,
lay low, lurk in shadow,
hide who we are.
We emerge with howls,
with arms held high,
with voices joined
in communal joy,
in declaration that
We are not alone.
No estamos solos.
Jennifer Hernandez lives in Minnesota where she teaches immigrant youth and writes poetry, flash, and creative non-fiction. Her work has been published in many online and print journals, most recently in Visual Verse, Talking Stick, and Heron Tree. She especially loves sharing her work – which touches on themes of identity, social justice, and the different lenses through which we view the world -- at readings and public installations because the interaction between word and audience is where the magic happens.
You’ll ask, Where are the lilacs?
And the wild roses?
And the cats and kids,
I‘ll tell you all about it.
I lived in a suburb,
with the changes of seasons outside,
and the apple trees.
From there you could look out
at rain falling. A walled garden a
meadow thick with grasses
and raspberry brambles.
Then one day, all that stood emptied
carton boxes and moving truck.
Look at my house repossessed.
Look at the boarded windows and doors.
Clay roof tiles, the brick chimney.
And you’ll ask: Why doesn’t her story
speak of lilacs?
see the blue.
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, 2022, is her fifth poetry book.
The Baani of Hands
Hands tracing hands, upon hands
Hands holding fingers, new borns
Filtering sunlight from faces. eyes
Cutting the ends, of days. daylight
Snapping at readings, poet/poems
Letting in octaves into birth canals
Picking, peeling skins from eyelids
Transferring between body, empty
Trembling beneath covers, shaping
Carrying hiccups wearied with age
Writing distress signals, surviving
Baking & braiding, wooden wrists
Soothing parched wombs, healing
Questioning while slithering slow
Sniffing into sealed smells, touch
Kneading lightly into all stiffness
Living as handprints, impressions
Cradling the cracks, furrowed sky
Swirling desire at edge of wounds
Folding together as palm to palm
Teaching to touch, even tyrannies
Kneeling next to knees, blooming
Being needles, totems of dead rain
Distilling sand from sand, psalms
Seeking flames, dressing our dead
Traveling across lengths of spines
Skimming over a trembling mouth
Forgetting their history of violence
Learning to grasp a knuckled quiet
Contemplating moments minutely
Breathing with tips, such precision
Introspecting impotence in hunger
Sketching wallpaper with scriptura
Partaking baani, strumming a vaani
*Bani meaning word, or scripture, the guru’s words
*Vani meaning voice, the guru’s speech
When Kashiana is not writing, she lives to embody her TEDx talk theme of Work as Worship into her every day. She currently serves as Managing Editor for Poets Reading the News. Her chapbook Crushed Anthills by Yavanika Press is a journey through 10 cities. Her newest full-length collection, Woman by the Door was released in Feb 2022 with Apprentice House Press.
To Manuel Espinoza Regarding Opresion
Your images are chaos cast
where present is forever past
and souls become what they despise,
the terror suffered they reprise
that deepens spiral by design
of humankind in steep decline,
its spirit shackled, ball and chain,
as heir to will of ruthless reign
exerting by dynastic rule
the fear benumbing faithless fool
who neither sees in image cast
the chaos into which he's passed
nor future mocked as shadowed bliss
cessation brings as calm abyss.
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.
There it is, my life!
All reference points as if photo-shopped, road maps and boundaries held and breached, have turned into craquelure.
Pain made visible.
Orange and red splatters document my ardour and the heat of life. The silencing invader at work on my throat chose lavender as if to mock me and pitch-black to numb the field around my lips for fear that they might voice too much, or whisper words of love.
The body, paint-balled, has fallen hostage to time. My right arm a stump without its writing and art-making hand, my left, caught reaching high above my head, yet falling short of touching another’s outstretched hand.
Till my last moment, time will multiply those fine fissures and deepen those cracks, until ground, paint and the life lived, submit.
Barbara Ponomareff lives in southern Ontario, Canada. By profession a child psychotherapist, she has been fortunate to be able to pursue her lifelong interest in literature, art and psychology since her retirement. The first of her two novellas, dealt with a possible life of the painter J.S. Chardin. Her short stories, memoirs and poetry have appeared in Descant, (EX)cite, Precipice and various other literary magazines and anthologies. She is an occasional painter of abstract acrylics and regularly contributes to the The Ekphrastic Review.
The Naked Truth
My body is a blank canvas
I wince at the shock of colour
waterfalling my bare skin,
I convince myself
I’m respectfully shrouded
but it’s only an illusion
as tinctures fall on acetate,
in the Emergency Room
the primary hue is anxiety
reds, blues, yellows sooth pain
but only temporarily.
Elaine Sorrentino, communications director by day, poet by night, has been published in Minerva Rising, Willawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Ekphrastic Review, Writing in a Women’s Voice, Global Poemic, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, Agape Review, Haiku Universe, Sparks of Calliope, Muddy River Poetry Review, Panoply, Etched Onyx Magazine, and at wildamorris.blogspot.com. She was featured on a poetry podcast at Onyx Publications.
The Colours of Silence
Once, I used to spread my blood red wings wide and coast over the village, while below, children pointed and squealed papagayo papagayo. I tapped into mangoes, letting the juice quench my throat. I played hide and seek among the banana leaves. I bobbed to the beats of drums, maracas. Once, I fell in love with a purple passion flower, she was speechless when I introduced myself papagayo papagayo.
Trapped in a net as I slumbered, I awoke in darkness, my head hooded: all hues drained. I heard the rattle of a cage around me, felt the swell of the ocean beneath me. I longed for the perfume of the forest, for the warm morning breeze to rouse me, for the children to point and squeal papagayo papagayo.
Now, in this cold damp land, in this bleached room, my blood red wings are tied, my claws are clipped, my beak held shut. Firm hands grasp my neck and twist and twist. What I hear is not the clicking of a python about to shed its skin. And after all the roughness, a delicate blade cleaves me open, fingers scoop me out. My heart thumps its last papagayo papagayo.
Stuffed, stitched, sprayed, they take my eyes and give me ones of glass. I hear children tapping at my cabinet asking Daddy, daddy, why can’t it talk? and wish my fused beak could shriek: once I was papagayo papagayo.
Bayveen O'Connell is an Irish writer whose flash fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for Best Microfiction. Her words have appeared or are forthcoming in Brilliant Flash Fiction, Janus Literary, Splonk, MacQueens Quinterly, The Ekphrastic Review, The Forge, Fractured Lit, and others. She's inspired by travel, folklore, history, myth, music, and art.
That We Too May Dream
Time, relentless in the light,
slows or stutters to a stop
at night. Dreams come,
filling gaps in the dreamer’s
Gaps shapeshift. Dreams hopscotch.
An infinity of images gathers, plucked
from the time of sleepwalking,
which is childhood, a luxury
For those children bereft of youth,
of dreams, monstrous nightmares
day and night and day fill the void.
Hunger-enriched lassitude and cold
as they trudge endless rock-strewn
trails in the dark or crouch on
water-sloshed dinghy floors.
Their eyes are ancient
and aware. Longing
suffuses their faces:
Come to us, Angel of Death.
Cradle us in your arms, that
we too may dream.
CJ Muchhala’s work can be found in Never Forgotten: 100 Poets Remember 9/11, as well as other anthologies, print and on-line journals including Mobius: the Journal of Social Change, Rise Up Review, a previous Ekphrastic Challenge, and in art/poetry exhibits. Her work has been nominated for the Best of the Net and twice for the Pushcart Prize.
That fist coming at her isn’t the signal.
The first shove, palm against her mouth,
that was it or maybe his sparked words
stinging, cinders scorching the skin.
When the anger overflows like red lava
anything that can’t move fast enough
is engulfed in the burst of blind heat.
The girl pushing him off the other
is a phantom, gritty still with sleep,
waking to the sound of breaking chair
and shoved table. She stays as she woke,
unable to move to the kitchen scene
though she sees it as if she were there--
her mother on her knees, arms up
in defense of her face, as the daughter
lunges, pushes at him to no purpose
even as she lies in her bed, stiff and still,
the covers pulled up over her mouth.
Luanne Castle has published two award-winning full-length poetry collections and two chapbooks. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, and other journals. She lives in Arizona with her five cats inside and bobcats and javelina outside.
An image, a movie, a peopled underpass
rises above reality, refuses to be ignored,
punctures the surface, cobwebbed and dusty,
with its lone claim: chaos unmitigated.
The frantic spider weaves in desperation
a pat and rational web – ‘How sad’,
a lowering of the eyes, a lament too weak
to climb out of the throat; safety.
Distance brings peace, space to pause –
reexamine the box for scratches, dents
from a pained grimace, a crime, the dark side of the moon;
all is sound, yet a weak voice whispers
I am the darkness. I am here.
Brett Schaller currently studies English at Hillsdale College.
The Promise of Love Was Not Accurate
I dreamed that I could attain happiness. The path was straight and defined by green foliage
that arched above and planed the way. The promise of love was not accurate.
The masters painted romances on couches and pastelled the petals of gentle flowers.
You threw acrylic paint into my open mouth while I swore I would not love you again.
The pot boils until the lid that seemed to fit will no longer come loose with heat or cold.
Red anger boils hot. Love enflames the rest. A bruise fade through purple to yellow bile.
I opened myself to the splashes of your grit. Together we rose and wrapped ourselves
as if we were only and all at once. Silk is not enough cover for missing skin.
I reach for you but you are no longer there to turn away. I contain the rising panic
in shades of blue. The shadows darken against this background.
The twitches of the empty house sound like you. You will no longer hear me scream or cry.
Love haunts in griefs and shades of gray. The stains do not ever come out.
Other poems by Kay Newhouse can be found in New Verse News, Wildfire Magazine, The Writers Center Magazine, and London Writers Salon Anthologies. She is a new poet who loves the parallels between improvisational partner dancing and creative writing, and the way an urge towards community shows up in all our nooks & crannies if we let it. @KayWCS.
What is the origin
Of your oppression
Piece by piece
Your violence seems delicate
Not for anyone to see but me
To explain your movements
Explore your rage
How you silence me
I learn my lesson
Your semiotics assignment
I rehearse it
My body wears
The colours of your hate
The marks of your mistreat
My mind bears
The tale of you
I stare in the dark
Into the precise expression
Of your oppression
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 she experienced nature to be quite unnatural to her and seeks to connect with it ever since. She works as a language therapist and wrote a dissertation about the search for meaning in conversations with people who lost language due to brain damage. She reads stories and poetry of friends and sometimes writes a poem herself.
What Murders Sleep
In sleep it seemed
like Chuang Tzu's dream:
Was I a human
or a butterfly?
Into dark woods
men marched a band
mostly of teenage boys
stumbling over roots.
These were commanded
to undress quickly
pulling at buttons
and unbuckling belts.
One had a leather
vest a gunman wanted
and yanked from arms
clasped behind the youth.
Another boy as pretty
as a girl was held
down as they used
him and were done.
After a summer
dance, folks had laughed
when a butterfly alighted
on his curled hair.
The gunmen covered them
in a patch in the woods
where nothing would grow,
seeded like dragon's teeth.
Years later, opening
the grave, relatives
found a boot or shirt
and screamed a name.
No one found the butterfly.
Royal Rhodes is a poet and retired educator. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including: Last Stanza, DREICH, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and The Montreal Review.
our last supper
sip my blood
tongue my flesh
like lovers do
inhale the thyme
devour the mace
ignite the tapers
intone your prayers
like christians do
join your brethren
pump your fist
never trust them
like I trusted you
slay kill slaughter strangle shoot execute knife butcher nullify demolish murder
Donna-Lee Smith sends up a prayer to the sisters who have experienced me too moments or worse.
To the angry fearful men, of woman born and raised, what fuels your anger so?
his mouth screams, almost shatters
muscle rage on walls and ceiling
crimson boils across an arm, blue
hope fades and shrinks like sand
behind a window crossed in steel bars
love always on cement stained yellow
say instead it’s always love, his mother’s
face embedded in his chest, eyes burning
black hair strangling his neck, hands beg
for deliverance from chains and ghosts
their bodies sore from rocks and loss,
fighting for air and space to sleep
slaps are explosions and fear eruptions
until brown skins are raw and dying alive
in a world with deep cracks hiding
what we cannot see: voices silenced
Maryann Gremillion is a Houston poet who enjoys ekphrastic writing. The process often leads to wonderful surprises as creative spirit leads the way. Her work has appeared in Glass Mountain, The Sun, The Ekphrastic Review and Teacher's & Writers magazine among others. She appreciates being part of writing communities.
There's nothing Good about this Friday. The scream catches in my throat. I have no words. All I can find is this noise, low, guttural, rising from deep within. It's been brewing for years. Every time I've pushed down on the brutality of life, the violence for no reason, the sting of shame, the fear of the raised fist, the bitter gall of loneliness, the sharp searing scald of abandonment, the heartache of rejection, the unearned feelings of guilt, the self-loathing, the desperation of needs unfulfilled, I've fed this beast, the one that now roars out from my innermost core. And in this moment that sound is enough. It has to be. It's all I've got.
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 and Poetry Scotland among other places. She lives in the UK.
to be anything
right now, not
or a colour or worthy
even of a name
and if we
name ourselves, what we
if we draw
lines and colour the spaces
they create, what then?
will we see
beyond the chaos,
that try to
gather into some solid
thing to understand?--
can we mend
what has been
broken, shattered, riven, lost--
rearrange the bones?
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/.
From Time to Time-
The anger is reborn
Raising arms served to-
Swooping down on, trampling
Pride and kindness
With falsified strength.
Curling bodies like new foliage-
Unable to unfurl over edgy barks
Of headless trunks.
The sky is streaked in blood,
Sun rays mock the needle burns,
Rain screams a silent song-
Under a square-foot of light,
Anguish is laid to rest.
No longer afraid
I become dead cattle
On the cargo bed-
No longer afraid I flee
In the pickup truck-
No longer afraid to be
Beyond lands, free
Beyond serving roadside tea and buns.
Abha Das Sarma
An engineer and management consultant by profession, Abha Das Sarma enjoys writing. 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.