Dear Ekphrastic Writers,
You are my people. Many of you have become friends, exchanging emails, sharing poetry news, and turning The Ekphrastic Review into a home and place for inspiring workshops. Of course, we have our own Queen Bee, Lorette C. Luzajic, to thank for that.
This challenge brought in a record number of responses (at least for challenges I’ve judged), which means it was even harder than usual for me to narrow my selections. As TER regularly tells us, it’s good to have a blend of regulars and new talent, as well as a variety of approaches. I was pleased to name TWO high school students (from the same school) and a retired beekeeper in my dozen finalists.
A big THANK YOU TO ARTIST Noah Jayne Andrews for inspiring our contestants! Writers, take a bow. I was almost as delighted by your praise for Noah’s art as I was to read the wide variety of your responses. Please visit noahjayneart.com to learn more about her and her artwork. (I suspect these three weeks have seemed a long wait for Noah Jayne. I know she’s excited to see your creations.)
Thanks always to Lorette C. Luzajic for bringing our ekphrastic community together.
Does anyone know that
behind the glamour lashes
beyond the spiffy nails
beneath the furs
in spite of the sparkle
you hide a lethal stinger?
Laura Rovi is an assistant librarian in northern WI, USA. Often, she reads. Sometimes, she writes.
Wilson's Corners Still Buzzes About Her
Auntie Delphine, a bee's knees, being blown to New York on a wind across our Wisconsin meadow, to wildflower in the city, to speakeasy and hive jive in pearls. Auntie Delphine freezing as a worker bee, a spent blossom with chipped red polish, in an alley off 41st Street for, it's whispered, a dope drone promising honey.
Karen Walker (she/her) is in a basement in Ontario. Her work is in Centaur, Flash Boulevard, The Hooghley Review, voidspace zine, Brink, Overheard, and elsewhere. @kawalker.bsky.social
Long Live the Queen
She’s ready now.
They’ve fed her royally
as befits her station.
She’s groomed and pampered,
decked in the finest furs
She’s ready now,
eyeing up her suitors
as they fly above
in their bellies.
None will survive
When their job is done
so are they,
as they surely fall
back down to earth.
She’s ready now
to lay and lay
and in return she’ll be fed
groomed and pampered,
while her fertility
is closely inspected
by her servants.
So when her laying slows
they make another
from her own egg,
in her own image
to be groomed and pampered
and decked in the finest furs
and when she’s ready
they’ll kill the old
and lay her to rest.
The old queen is dead!
Long live the queen!
She’s ready now!
Lynn White is a retired bee-keeper who 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
I have an eye for jewelry
I am not pretty, I am glamorous
People love me,
want to become me
But deep down inside
I worry that people will see the real me
And hate me
Hiding behind the confident smiles
I am insecure
Worried about every thought that passes through
Behind all the makeup and glitter
Are bruises and scars
From brothers much older then I
Under all the mean comments to others I make
Are little voices that question
My every move
I hate who I’ve become
But how can I change?
Seri Cummings is a sophomore at Herriman High School in Herriman, Utah who loves to read and cook.
He is the Queen Bee
He is the queen bee.
Our world is like the hive.
Instead of the matriarchy we have a patriarchy.
He is the queen bee.
I sting once and I die.
He can sting as many times as he wants and he gets no repercussions.
He is the queen bee.
He orders everyone around.
He lets other people do his bidding.
He is the queen bee.
He has a pheromone that leaves no room for contentment.
If he’s in a bad mood, he makes it known. It is then everyone’s problem.
He is the queen bee.
He’s convinced that if he were to die, the whole world would spiral.
He’s convinced anything and everything is made for him.
In actuality, he’s not much bigger than the rest, just his ego is.
He is the queen bee.
Paityn Burns is an involved high school theatre student who lives in Herriman, Utah, and attends Herriman High as a senior.
You could be a movie star
a multitasking Hollywood avatar
wearing diamante tassel earrings.
You could outshine them bigwigs
be the queen of their ant colony
cool as a cucumber, never wobbly
if you put your mind to it
you could do almost anything, legit.
I would even buy your picture.
Ask if you would sign it. And feel ten times richer.
You are one specimen that cannot be contained
of course, you'll need to be subordinate
follow your true, unique path
take your chosen direction at every impasse
find a new strategy to climb
and like every good actress, learn to mime.
Failing that? I'll share a bottle of cognac
or hold hands over chilled champagne.
Mark Andrew Heathcote
Mark Andrew Heathcote is an adult learning difficulties support worker. He has poems published in journals, magazines, and anthologies online and in print. He resides in the UK and is from Manchester. Mark is the author of In Perpetuity and Back on Earth, two books of poems published by Creative Talents Unleashed.
The three of them stood near the entrance, droning on. Busboys were such gossips, especially when there was a true celebrity arriving, full entourage in tow and all the paparazzi getting in on the act.
Flash bulbs popped and camera shutters snapped away.
Queenie posed nonchalantly. She was always comfortable being in the limelight. She felt she'd be born to it.
The busboys agreed there was an unmistakable buzz around Queenie.
Busboy A: "She's really found her signature style."
Busboy B: "Oh yes, a cocoon coat, how very appropriate! How very her. And that fur collar, it's to die for!"
Busboy C: "And that gorgeous soft black velvet cloche hat. How fitting. How on trend."
Busboy A: "It's perfectly complementing her mascara. I could drown in those eyes."
Busboy B: "And her nails. That must be the latest shade of vermillion."
Busboy C: "Queenie's always been my favourite. She's fierce with a capital F. And she's here tonight to slay!"
Busboy B: "Oh, bee-have! She'd eat you up for breakfast."
Queenie, half listening, savoured every moment of the attention. After all, she deserved it.
Emily Tee writes poetry and flash fiction. She's had recent pieces published in The Ekphrastic ReviewChallenges, Whale Road Review and elsewhere online, and in print in Poetry Scotland and several anthologies. Emily is also the judge of the monthly ekphrastic poetry contest run by The Wee Sparrow Poetry Press. She lives in the UK.
It was the summer of nectar,
the nightclub buzzing with lust
as he made a beeline for her,
irresistible in leather and fur
adorned in beaded dewdrops
with lips that tasted of pollen.
How she loved the purr and hum
of the Harley-Davidson,
the sticky ooze of its oil
grazing the slickened road,
goggles sealed beneath her chin,
black jacket stitched to skin.
She loved him then, the way
he stood out in a crowd,
all the fussing, the flirting,
that speed at which they kissed
the wind with the grace of skaters
swerving over flowers and curbs.
What happened to adventure?
At what point did she tire
of his constant droning, on
and on, urging her to rest,
build a nest? The matriarch
dying in a hive of activity.
How easily he was replaced,
the natural order restored.
These expectations, obligations
exhaust her; she longs to taste
the sweet sun on her tongue,
to feel that sting in her tail.
Kate Young lives in England and enjoys writing poetry, painting and playing the guitar, ukulele, and mandolin. Her poems have appeared in various webzines, magazines, and chapbooks. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. Her pamphlet A Spark in the Darkness has been published by Hedgehog Press and her next pamphlet Beyond the School Gate is due to be published soon. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
Portrait of the Queen
She was born to be a queen,
the Mother of the bees.
Her fur is soft and supple.
Her eye looks straight at me.
She’s alluring, she’s a priestess,
and, now and then, a scamp.
She knows the way to work a room,
exactly how to dress–
when to enter, when to leave–
how to shimmy with the best.
She’s stunningly seductive,
provocative, and camp.
Has no question of her place.
She was fed on royal jelly
put an end to all her rivals
this bee queen Machiavelli.
She’s a danger, she’s a warning.
She’s a Siren, she’s a vamp.
For days she’s sat here on my desk,
this haughty queen of bees,
and though I’ve work to do
she’s called out to me.
I’d like to crawl into her portrait
get deep into her skin
find out how she learned
to make her way with men.
to don her regal swagger,
grab her gift of rare esprit,
for she’s the very femme fatale
I often long to be.
Ursula Shepherd spent her professional life as an ecologist and biogeographer. She has watched the world dry and heat, and species go extinct. She has also delighted in the planet’s beauty and writes in warning and wonder. She is the author of a book, Nature Notes: A Notebook Companion for the Seasons, as well as essays and non-fiction pieces and has recently returned to poetry. Her poetry has appeared in, among others, Unbroken, Minnow, Grim and Gilded, Passionfruit, The Orchards, and previously in The Ekphrastic Review.
My aunt was fur and long red fingernails,
she was Arpège and hats with veils,
worn at an angle.
She was dare and devil,
bewitching and hot of temper.
Oh, the temper.
There was a buzz about her.
When she walked (she never tottered)
on heels that reached into the sky,
there was a swishing sound of silk and taffeta
rubbing and inviting lude thoughts.
I read the thoughts in men’s eyes
when they watched her pass.
She was earrings that pulled the earlobes
down with their weight--
glass, not diamonds.
It was said she had lovers.
There were other aunts who had husbands.
She was everything I wanted to be
when I grew up, and I was prepared to pay
the price of nasty whispers behind
gloved hand, raised eyebrows, jealous looks
that could kill.
I’d watch her lift up her chin, raise
her long cigarette holder, and smile.
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 eight poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was three times nominated for a Pushcart and once for Best of Net. Do Oceans Have Underwater Borders? (Kelsay Books July 2022), Whistling In The Dark (Cyberwit July 2022), and Saudade (December 2022) are available on Amazon. Also available on Amazon is a new collection, Life Stuff, published by Kelsay Books November 2023. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Biggest Bummer about Being Queen?
That’s a cinch, it’s the constant expectations.
It’s always sip, sip, sip, mate, mate, mate, lay, lay,
lay, so tonight, that’s why we’re standing right here
by the front door, eggs dropped, hive larvae tucked up …
Yes of course, nannies there and drones foraging,
which means I’m choosing, just this once, to scarper.
Can’t I scrap my duties for this rare flight out?
Glad you agree. Go ahead and take the shot.
You mean the beret? Yes, chic isn’t it? French.
Thanks, it’s velvet, so cosy with this fur stole
over my low-cut evening gown. I’d show you,
but don’t want to smudge my freshly lacquered nails.
Oh, great you noticed! They do match my spiked heels
and set off my diamonds and pearls. Shall I smile?
Makes my eyes sparkle you say? My best feature
I think, though of course the workers disagree.
Haha! They’re new vegan lash wispies, glued on
and my antennae have been specially curled.
Cheers! Let’s abscond from all this royal jelly
and fussy buzz. One last spray of Gucci Bloom
and it’s time. Madame Butterfly, here we come.
Helen loves trying her hand at the prompts on The Ekphrastic Review when the artwork catches her eye. She has poems published on various sites and magazines and currently lives in Durham, England. Instagram @chemchemi.hf
I got out. Finally. So often I’d dreamed of the Outside. Oh, how often. But they kept me there, ruler of their kingdom, as if it was my dream. But I only dreamed of the Outside.
All my babies flew the nest, season after season, and there I remained. A baby-making machine. Egg after egg after egg. Hive mind always sensed what would happen next. So I couldn’t escape. I was trapped and pampered. The walls of my haven, a cage of incubation.
I wanted out. I didn’t know what Out was. It took me so long to be brave and learn. I was too big to escape. What hidey hole was there for me? What way to get free?
Such a farce to be queen. There is no true power in this. It’s a beautiful prison but a prison nonetheless. There are none like you and no one cares. No one knows you. You give and give and they take. Who would understand your aches?
I had to be my own knight in shining armour. I had a stinger and I would use it if it killed me. Which it would. Better that than live the rest of my days breeding, breeding endlessly. The endless egg woman. My body, but not my body.
Then. Oh then, one day. My wish came true. One day, I finally used my wings. Feeble at first, they were, weak from lack of use, but I gave it all I had.
It was a balmy season, there was warmth, I remember. The colonies were out that afternoon. Nectar duty. I had some time. Not much, but enough. I’d laid my eggs for the day and feigned rest. So my other minions would suspect nothing. But all the time I was spying. Spying for a way out.
And all of a sudden, as the hive walls were being rebuilt by the longstanding ones, I spied a hole. A tiny hexagon of light. A beam of holy ray. Just shining. As if for me. So close it was, so close and almost striking me. And I was afraid.
But I knew too that my chance would not come again and I would surely perish if I didn’t leave now. Now. So I got up and made to fly. It took me several tries but I reached the holy light. Yet the next hurdle was to be overcome. I got stuck, I could not fit through. My womanly girth would not allow me.
So. I ate my way out. Ate the hole bigger and bumbled through. The longstanding ones stood aside, buzzing wildly. Calling me back. No, I said. No. Clumsy and drunk-flying, I flew. Flew, then tumbled to the ground. Onto a bed of leaves.
And my God, the sensations! Light, breeze, sound, all these new vibrations! So this was the Outside! I shivered with pleasure and went along my way. I never looked back.
Now I go around incognito. The colonies couldn’t find me. No doubt they have a new queen now. I met others like me, others who’d got out. We have our own special circle. We meet when opportune, when the equation of seasons allows.
Life is good on the Outside. I love my new life. I need never be the egg woman again.
Nina Nazir (she/her) is a British Pakistani artist, poet and teacher based in Birmingham, UK. She's had work published in various journals, including The Ekphrastic Review, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Free Verse Revolution, Unlost Journal, Messy Misfits Club, Harana Poetry and Visual Verse among others. She has work forthcoming in Laughing Ronin Press and Sunday Mornings at the River. When she's not teaching, she's making art or poems. Other than that, she can usually be found with her nose in a book in her favourite local café, but also on Instagram: @nina.s.nazir and X (Twitter): @NusraNazir