Swords, axes fly sink into soft flesh
eyes wide fear emanates why?
Torn from mother’s arms they fall
they cry hearts broken pierced
from under desks sound of whimpers
drowned out tears streak faces why?
Teachers’ arms spread wide to protect
shocked faces bullets fly into youth
innocent blood spilled death reigns
gun, swords kill the same but why
blank stares crowd, school slaughtered
voice shouts there’s one alive over here
Julie A. Dickson
Julie A. Dickson is a poet and writer of YA fiction, often addressing teen issues of bullying, abandonment and alcoholism. She shares her home with two rescued feral cats, quiet companions that indulge her poetry recitations. A Pushcart nominee, Dickson holds a BPS in Behavioral Science, working in-home with seniors. Her work appears in various journals including Misfit, Open Door and The Ekphrastic Review.
"In esoteric religions, Karma is the sum
of a person's actions in this and previous
existence, actions that decide their fate
in future generations."
-a definition of karma
"The child is father to the man."
Wordsworth, My Heart Leaps Up
The basket was empty. The lights outside the window
had calmed her night terrors and she had seen his face
in the patterns of the stars. If you have loved, you will be loved
her grandmother had said and a photographer had taken
her picture with weavers braiding fibers lining baskets
with cushions of soft grasses; smoothing fabric --
almost transparent in its thinness -- over the once-green
filaments, rhyming nature with the impossible emptiness
she felt trying to imagine herself in the arms of a myth,
a man, half sun god (or so the stories said) and part
as human as the bully who chased her around the playground
because "he liked her" -- what would he have done
if his motivation had been hatred of her color? Of her hair,
filled with fake diamonds when she dressed up for a dance?
Her mother had said Karna (on a bad day, his storm predicted)
had lifted her from the basket; how the basket was whirling
in the waters of a creek, fast and gentle fractured
in currents of possibility & sorrow how she was adopted
like a debt conceived in innocence: He called her Karma,
his hands unbraiding the vast uncertainty of chance.
Laurie Newendorp has been honored with multiple acceptances by The Ekphrastic Review. LIsted as one of ten Fantastic Ekphrastics and nominated for Best of The Net, she lives and writes in Houston. Fascinated by Hindu Mythology, she spent hours of her life in Rice University's Fondren Library, compelled and challenged by the Sanskrit Dictionary, where she found descriptions in the Gita comparable to those in early Irish legend. (Karma is a major character in the Gita, half god and half man.) As a mother and grandmother, she found it almost impossible to write about Rubens' Massacre of The Innocents, the Challenge picture selected near breaking news of American tragedy, the massacre of innocents in Uvalde.
Walking to School
Let me pull on your cotton socks, just so.
I know how your soles react. Look, look in
the mirror at how the curls crowning your
pale forehead spring back after each stroke of
Let’s go. Step outside and wonder at this
stick, this puddle, that dog. Hold my fingers
tight when we cross each road. Nestle snug in
my arms against the wind that threatens to
You are delivered. Give me a soft kiss,
I wear red because I am not afraid.
Mama is ready to bare her chest and
fight. She will gouge the eyes that flash evil,
so, when the man comes with the gun, don’t wait,
Eithne Longstaff: "I’m new to the poetry world and looking forward to MA study later this year. After a career as an engineer working in industry, poetry is opening my mind and twanging rusty creative strings."
Cry of the Innocents
Herod, Hitler, Putin.
Bethlehem, Auschwitz, Mariupol.
We cry to Heaven for sanity.
Sound sleep the angels.
Stephen Poole served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police in London, England. He has written for a variety of British county and national magazines, and his poetry has been published internationally.
In · no · cence
1. The sky was not a thunderstorm, the sun was shifting blue to gold peaceful, for what do the heavens know of the ambitions of man? How were the clouds to know they were supposed to gather in knitted judgement, to help wash the blood down the streets, to flood the city until the foundation of the walls were permanently stained red?
2. Chubby ankles are flung into the walls; I will never question where Cherubs come from, or who their makers are. A mother bores her eyes into the whites of her child’s, attempts to untangle his soul from hers and transfer it back to him, but she hasn’t realized he’s just a memory now and that their next moments together are already gone, replaced with midnight funeral rites and the carrying of his small body to get him there.
3. Guards change their synonyms from protectors and escorts to slayers and pawns. Look at how they fall, all swords, hands, and babies. Mothers claw and curve their backs over their children, and the earth does not shake for them.
Mea Andrews is a writer from Georgia, who currently resides in China. She has just finished her MFA from Lindenwood University and is only recently back on the publication scene. You can find her in Vermilion, Rappahannock Review, and others. You can also follow her on Instagram at mea_writes or go to her website at meaandrews.com
Rachel wept unceasing
for her children were no more
Rubens' mothers struggled
yet fought back
arms muscular and desperate
tearing at their faces...
the killers of the children.
Would mothers who had no chance
to confront the attacker
envy those women
a chance to die for their children
the ruthlessness of the killer
A blood tornado
sweeping little Bethlehem
repeated in so many towns--
Columbine, Sandy Hook,
a litany of teddy bears
hover near a pool of light.
19 voices sing no more
their desperate cries
crying for help
from men who failed them.
I weep for my own child
relive her passing
a shiver passes over me
I grab for air
as I know
if the mothers had been
the other side of the door
they would have taken the guns
from stunned men
and raged, raged, raged into that day.
Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes
Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes is a retired professor and former librarian in a log cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. Her publications include work in Poetry Hall, Poetry Quarterly, The Greensboro Review, The Malahat Review, and Moss Pigletas well as many others. Work has been anthologized in UnSettling America (Penguin Press), and Root River Voices, and Artery anthologies. She has participated in ekphrastic readings at several art galleries. Her chapbook The Lost Italian and the Sound of Words is no longer in print, but queries are welcome.
Rubens’ Anatomy Lesson
His first version of The Massacre of the Innocents (1612) is an unapologetic display of Paul Rubens’ anatomic acumen. The composition is appropriately chaotic, the scene frenzied. But the frame is carefully posed to provide the artist an occasion to explore from different angles the subtle play of muscles beneath exposed skin.
The anatomist will astutely point out the elements: See, here in the figure just left of center, we note the flexed deltoid and elevated scapulae, the contracted rhomboids between the shoulder blades expressing the tension of the upper back.
And there, in the figure on the right, a fine study of the extension of the upper arms, lifting the child. Observe the well-positioned triceps, two of its three heads visible in each arm, and the extended pectoralis. Note how the artist contrasts these muscle positions with those in the more relaxed posture of the figure to his right.
The artist has some difficulty with the abdominals, you can see, and hence they are mostly obscured in the three male figures. The obliques for example are concealed in shadow and by a curiously contorted abdominal wall in the figure to our right.
But there is fluidity here; no hint of the static tension in over-contracted muscles. Rubens has done well also in contrasting the fleshier texture and lighter hues of the central female. He errs greatly, however, in the adult-like muscularity of the infants. It is exuberant self-indulgence.
Rubens’ study is largely a success in anatomic position, proportion, and balance. We cannot be certain how serious he is about the massacre itself, though. The faces of the women are mostly passive, with fear creeping in on the right margin alone. Torment is reserved solely for the frozen expressions of the dead—but no blood, anywhere. There are no signs of trauma. The sword does not yet penetrate, the hand resisting it not yet slashed. Nor is any moment of death revealed—only its imminent proximity and its sullen aftermath. It is a scene frozen as if in cinematic preparation.
Violence is left to Rubens’ second effort in 1638. Here, blades breach and blood flows. Death is kinetic, validating the work’s proper title.
Ron Wetherington is a retired anthropologist and university professor living in Dallas, Texas. He has a published novel, Kiva, non-fiction in The Dillydoun Review and The Ekphrastic Review (forthcoming), and fiction in Words & Whispers and in Flash Fiction Magazine.
Massacre of the Innocents
I heard them inside my head. Those terrifying cries. The sound of them moved the brush in my hand with painful exactitude. If there could be no virtue in this world, there would be on this canvas. That was my innocence.
Twice, history says — twenty-five years between — I drew from my palette this protest in excruciating colour. Against the slaughter of children, who barely know life. Against the anguish of mothers, who can only scratch the face of evil. Against the destruction of flesh by flesh. But history is wrong. Not twice, but every day I make this painting in my mind.
Because they offer me no choice. Those who kill for gain. Those driven by personal demons. And those who watch the death of innocents.
This is the death of innocence.
Raphael Badagliacca is the author of two books (Father’s Day: Encounters with Everyday Life, and The Yogi Poems and Other Celebrations of Local Baseball) and 17 produced plays. He has written and performed nearly a hundred monologues. He writes in many genres: poetry, short stories, essays, book, movie, and theater reviews. He wrote English subtitles from Italian & Sicilian for the film, Many Beautiful Things (“Tanti Beddi Cosi”). Samples of his extensive business writings can be found at www.thewritingfactory.net. Author page: (https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B0053HM2R4) Reach him at email@example.com
“The party got a little wild,” Brutus said. “The wailing, the moaning – all because some baby got tossed in the Baby Tossing Contest that hadn’t been registered by a responsible parent.
An irresponsible uncle, apparently drunk on wine and mead, deep in the cups, deeper at the tables. So he signs up his nephew, who lost horribly, grotesquely even. Then the bloke starts stabbing people, getting his purse back by bleeding theirs. Got what he wanted, plus a few nights in the morgue with a bunch of spirits that didn’t like him.”
Tony Daly is a Washington DC/Metro Area creative writer. His poem “Sunita Soars” (first published in Utopia Science Fiction, February 2021) was nominated for a 2022 Dwarf Stars Award with the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). For a list of his published work, please visit https://aldaly13.wixsite.com/website or follow him on Twitter @aldaly18.
Our Calibre of Prayer
Oh dear God, how can we hold it all in
the palms of our hands, stained red
like targets? We should have nailed it
by now. We live with our faith
overflowing, we praise the Almighty
Weapons in our hands. Witness
our children witnessing. Oh dear
God, how have we led our children
to slaughter, falling one by one,
their little palms bloody? We stick
to the script, sure, moral high ground
and hollow points. We conceal
our guilt, screaming for mercy. Still,
we teach our children Amen.
Heather Brown Barrett
Heather Brown Barrett is a poet and member of Hampton Roads Writers. She lives in Virginia, mothering her young son and contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything with her writer husband, Bradley Barrett. Her poetry has been published by Yellow Arrow Journal, OyeDrum Magazine, AvantAppal(achia), Defenestration, The Ekphrastic Review, Superpresent Magazine, Backwards Trajectory, and by SEZ Publishing.
The Gospel of Saint Matthew
No evil could be laid more bare
than senseless act to leave despair
those torn from nurture never know
as seed we bury meant to grow
allegiance we will hold above
the liberty far more we love
than innocents we give as price
to be the blood of sacrifice --
all those we've sent to keep us free
well knowing they might never be
and those forsaken bearing scorn
whose only crime was being born
forgotten as the reason why
the crowd insisted "Crucify!"
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
Slaughter of the Innocents
Reubens painted this nightmare
twice, this desperate knot
a storm of flesh on the canvas
women fighting hand to hand
with armed men, over the bodies
of babies they can’t save
the ground slick with blood
littered with the newly born, newly dead
Teaching us there is no mercy
for the small and weak
so easy to break, so hard to save
While we repeat the nightmare
like a bad habit, a ritual
of anger and despair
of losses we swallow
so often we forget to choke
Even now, on this ordinary day
when the boy comes
carrying his new guns
into the classroom
of children half his age
and begins to shoot
Where the children try to hide
curl up, play dead
cover their faces
with their classmates blood
clutch their phones and beg
No one comes
They are already ghosts
rising like smoke
above bodies torn to rags
On this ordinary day
no one makes it home again
no one is rescued, no one saved
the scent of their short lives
burning like incense
before an unnamed god
Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette C. Luzajic, The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, and recent issues of Earth’s Daughters and Third Wednesday. She has been a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee.
is a word that conjures
is a burning silence that has no
is an idea that exists beyond
is an instrument that stills
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Her poetry is usually written in conjunction with her artwork. 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/
Questa è Guerra: Musings on Peter Paul Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents
I pull up Peter Paul Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents on my computer and for a few seconds I admire the expertise of Rubens’ brush; the dynamism of the composition; the influences of his travels through Italy, the vivid saturated hues so reminiscent of Raphael, the animal physicality that recalls Michelangelo’s paintings on the Sistine Chapel. But this feeling does not last. I cannot help but see the infant corpse whose face has turned blue; the old woman grasping the blade of the sword aimed at her bare breast; the child about to be dashed against the ground while its mother reaches out her arms pleading for her child’s life. I don’t know who can look at this painting and not feel sickened. I can’t. These last months alone have delivered a surfeit of war, a glut of massacres. There is no beauty in butchery.
Most art, it seems to me, and painting in particular, is in the business of wooing the eye and spirit with a seductive dream of harmony and wholeness. This canvas is cut from a different cloth, a reminder of the poison at the heart of humanity’s terrible bewildering history. Rubens, like Goya and Picasso and Salvador Dali and Eugene Delacroix and Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi, and so many others, has used art as a way to say, Look; don’t turn away; see what war has done.
I blink, and I am standing in front of Picasso’s Guernica, holding my mother’s hand at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I am only a child, five or seven or ten years old, and I do not understand what I see. On my mother’s face, though, are tears.
I blink again, and I am a grown woman, with children of my own, and I am in Paris, standing in front of Picasso’s Massacre en Corée, the artist’s response to the 1951 Sinchon Massacre of Korean civilians by American troops. This time there are tears on my face.
I blink and turn away. The TV is on, and the news is of the dead and dying in Ukraine, whole cities demolished, rubble now. My grandfather was born in Ukraine. Nobody knows the number of Ukrainian dead, or the number of Ukrainian children stolen from their parents and taken hostage into Russia. A third world war has been unthinkable, but few of us living in Europe believe Putin will stop at Ukraine.
I blink and turn away, and in front of my eyes are the children killed in mass shootings across the United States. Twelve killed at Columbine High in 1999. Twenty killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Nineteen killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, just over a week ago. Another mass shooting since then, even before the Uvalde children were buried. There are so many other deaths, an impossible number. The parents of children who have died in mass shootings have created a support group. They call it “The Dead Kid Club.” We watch the news from our apartment in Amsterdam. Our friends here cannot understand how the U.S. allows this to continue. We try to explain, but there is no explanation.
There are no paintings of the children killed at Columbine, or Sandy Hook, or Uvalde. We have been spared that.
I blink again, and I am in Padua, Italy, in 2015, in a museum hosting a photography exhibit. Questa è Guerra: This is War.
My husband and I hadn’t planned to spend our afternoon looking at black and white photos of such brutality. When we boarded the train in Venice that morning, we expected to explore beautiful old churches with frescoes and colorful open-air markets, to sit in cafes over espresso and gelato. But the path from the train station to the central market took us past the banner announcing the exhibit and we looked at each other and went in.
My pace through the exhibit is initially slow, leisurely, lingering here and there over particularly moving photos. But soon it is too much: there are too many photographs of too much carnage, wall after wall after wall of war after war after war, and I walk rapidly through the rooms until I reach a bench and sit down. A short documentary film is playing on a large screen facing the bench. It is by Henri Cartier-Bresson on the prisoners of war in WWII.
The film plays, finishes, and people get up, but I cannot move. The film begins again, and again I watch. My husband finds me, sits down next to me. Tears are going down my face. I cannot speak.
My father was eighteen years old when his plane was shot down over the Netherlands and he was taken to a POW camp in Germany. My father would never speak of his experiences, although the reports of others — which I delayed reading until years after his death — tell of atrocities and starvation. My father returned to New York looking like a survivor of a concentration camp, but the more serious wounds were internal, and these never healed. By the time I sat on the bench watching Cartier-Bresson’s documentary, my father had been dead for almost a decade and there was no way to tell him I was sorry for judging him so callously with all the blind self-righteousness of youth.
What was in Rubens’ mind when he planned The Massacre of the Innocents? What was Picasso thinking when he began work on Guernica and Le Massacre en Corée? What was Cartier-Bresson’s intent when he photographed the prisoners of war? What can art do in the face of humanity’s barbarity, its endless appetite for power and violence? And how will we respond?
Kimmen Sjölander is an evolutionary biologist, writer, and professor emeritus from the University of California, Berkeley. Her creative work has appeared in The Moth, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and the Buddhist periodical, Lions Roar. She lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with her husband.
Wars, battles and bodies,
Piled like garbage in a dump
Limbs askew, eyes begging
Blood soaked canvas of depravity
Nowhere to go but die.
Where is God?
Where is grace?
Nothing but a figment, or fragment
Look again and weep, no yell
At depravity for
It remains until today.
Weep, weep, weep.
Ellie Klaus was born and raised in Montreal. She has lived different selves over several decades: daughter, wildlife biology graduate, vision quest traveler, family life educator, president (of her son's school committee), friend, confidante, lover, wife, mother, caregiver and now caregivee, if there is such a word. Each has contributed to a different perspective of living, of life. The pieces of the puzzle are evident and coming together, although the final image is yet to be revealed. So, writing has reemerged as a creative endeavor to release some of the angst that arises from living a confined life, or any life for that matter. She has a poem entitled 'Bones' that appears on NationalPoetryMonth.ca April 9, 2020 and poems published in The Ekphrastic Review and Pocket Lint.
Fighting For the Lives of the Innocents
calls us to
to a slaughter
on this main street
of mothers’ screams
The artist pleads
this 17th century’s
last week in Texas
on the sidewalk of
parents waited for
will cease to
echo in the streets
it used to be
now young killers
roam the halls
filled with venom
and their assault rifles
will never stop
nor will the
heroes who die
for the lives of the
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler: "I am a non-fiction business writer based in Atlanta, GA but found my true creative calling during the pandemic when poetry drew me in. I received the 2022 Natasha Trethewey Poetry Prize from the Atlanta Writers Club for my poem, "While Waiting for Her Name to Be Called" and have been taking poetry workshops, attending readings and buying poetry collections to my delight. Ekphrastic poetry is a true find and has helped me rediscover the joy I felt when the lights went out in my art history classes."
Villanelle: Massacre of the Innocents
Too late, too late! Already it occurs:
naked, armed, and strong, at Herod’s command,
the soldiers have begun the massacre.
In the streets, mothers and infants slaughtered;
their shrieks and cries echo throughout the land,
and it’s too late! Already it occurs:
all of Bethlehem is filled with horror.
Into innocent breasts, daggers are rammed;
the soldiers have begun the massacre.
In the middle of the chaos and the gore,
a woman, her red dress torn, claws a man,
but too late, too late, already it occurs:
while a dying woman falls against her,
she cannot hold her boy with just one hand.
The soldiers have begun the massacre.
The future king of Jews, Jesus, savior,
must be found. On this day, babies are damned.
Too late, too late! It already occurs:
the soldiers have begun the massacre.
Gregory E. Lucas
Gregory E. Lucas writes fiction and poetry. His short stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Blue Unicorn, The Horror Zine, Yellow Mama, and in previous pages of The Ekphrastic Review. He lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He can be contacted at GLucas6696@gmail.com.
Massacre of the Innocent
Innocence is an inborn flight,
so, why on earth,
someone would hit
the only winged human wealth?!
You wouldn’t watch such film,
but since it is the book of books,
you undertake the pilgrimage
to the biblical meaning and battle
incredible Old Testament impediments,
such as fratricide, incest, misuse; in search.
Hence, when you get
on the New Testament highway
you expect a smoother ride
and a fresher hue of life.
You join shepherds, magi and angels
rejoicing at the messiah’s arrival in the manger,
but an inauspicious word soon shades the wonder:
Herod, the mighty king, decides to make extinct
the prophesied conqueror of the Royal throne,
and since the magi do not return
to inform him who exactly is the god’s son,
he orders to be put to death
all the male children in Bethlehem
and its vicinity at the age of two and under.
At the same time, the messiah’s worldly father
follows the advice he receives in sleep
and takes the mother and infant to Egypt.
The butchery proceeds with no effect,
yet, the insane horror spills mammoth
in Rubens’ canvas turned beast’s paw
where small and giant bodies
are antithetically cramped,
tender tissue is adversely crushed,
no pose, no gap, no vistas,
just untouchable heat of hell;
unlike visions with more lingering spell
such as that of Raphael,
whose cold suspense delivers
swift sward offence
on an arena of spiked chaotic run,
where horror scratches the air,
pain and hope hang on a piece of hair,
even sliced in two,
in this high renaissance portmanteau.
Rubens, instead, ties it all in a baroque knot,
flesh, tissue, skin, heads, bodies, limbs –
gruesomely pressed in predator’s clench,
goliathic muscles flatten baby cells by hand,
no allusion of escape, all swallowed by
a pale gasping colorscape
with just two respiratory hues –
red, stamping the earthly blood
and blue, upholding the heavenly clue,
that they didn’t die in death,
instead they live in higher world in bliss.
Rubens reaches this higher spot
in six years, untying the massacre knot
and releasing the Holy Innocents
to enfold The Virgin and the Child
like petals trouping around the pistil,
this parabolic flower dipped
in a leaped quantum cloud –
curating thus the martyrdom allegory:
in physical terms this baby army
is no stronger than a flower,
but sacrificed for God
it gains higher lot than all kings’ armies on earth –
a quantum leap setting the meaning in an eye’s blink.
These monstrous muscles raging massacre,
tearing babies from mothers’ breasts,
causing milk-spill over hairy butchers’ sweat,
this atrocious act deconstructs the macabre might
and wings the innocence’ rubensed flight.
No more no less – quantum exactness.
If Rubens’ baroque passions deliver
the salient dramatic power,
his real diplomatic skills procure
the exchange rate mechanism
of the essential energy dynamism
maturing the type of physical installment
as quantifier of the metaphysical elopement.
The rate that sets armies on their knees,
believers in meditative tears,
nonbelievers as converts.
Like the daily leap when you breathe
a blossomed flower in a moonlight hour,
but see an altar’s incense burner
and Rubens’ parabolic bloomer:
no mort no birth, just the winged exchange rate
of the two currencies of quantum holiness.
Ekaterina Dukas has studied linguistics and culture at Universities of Sofia, Delhi and London and authored a book on mediaeval art for The British Library. She enjoys studying Sanskrit. She writes poetry as a pilgrimage to the meaning and her poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review and its challenges selection several times. Her poetry collection Ekphrasticon is published by Europe Edizioni, 2021.
A Scene of Chaos
Such a scene of chaos greets my eyes--muscular men, well-fed babes being dashed to death soldiers, women trying to save their children entangled in a ball of horror. I note, though that the scene is bloodless, that the buildings are intact. Rubens had not wanted to horrify his audience to their core. Buildings are crushed into piles of disconnected stones. I look across the room at a small figurine, bought for Christmas, then kept for year-round display—“The Flight into Egypt.” Three people and a donkey make up the statue—the ones who fled the scene, the refugees the Romans sought, the ones the false rulers feared. In Ukraine, the Russians, seeking to be rulers where they are not wanted, have no such qualms. They leave a scene of death and despair dripping in blood. As the Russians bomb, blast, burning Ukrainian books, spill the blood of the innocents, in an effort to destroy their world, their futures, I weep. But my tears will not wash away the blood. My hands are not capable of replacing, rebuilding stone on stone, to rebuild the world, rewrite their books. I cannot quell the chaos. I can, however, look to refugees, and so many holy families who flee the massacre. I can be their Egypt.
Joan Leotta tells tales on page and stage. Her writing has been published in The Ekphrastic Review and other journals and she appears on stage telling stories of social justice, strong women, food, and family. “Encouraging words through Pen and Performance” is her motto.
Nothing new here.
Hasn’t it always been so,
this othering? Desire
to rid ourselves from threat
to the kingdom of self.
Murderers might be armored
with righteous fervor
or crowned with orders to obey.
Perhaps untethered voices
scramble one’s mind and a rapacious
quest to still them. Some baked-in-trait,
trick or taint in our genes
commandeers our heads. Centuries
of bloodshed. Blood as dictator
and treasure. More valued
than gold. Yet, it’s the naked
violence against children,
slaughter of the defenseless
we seem unable to quell. We are sick.
Of it all. Aren’t we?
Suzanne Edison’s first full length book, Since the House Is Burning, by MoonPath Press was published in 2022. Her chapbook, The Body Lives Its Undoing, was published in 2018. Poetry can be found in: Bracken; Michigan Quarterly Review; The Lily Poetry Review; Scoundrel Time; JAMA; SWWIM; and elsewhere. She is a 2019 Hedgebrook alum and teaches at Richard Hugo House in Seattle.
The Innocents on My Street
I live in a major city in Texas, in a craftsman bungalow built in 1926, situated half a block from an elementary school. Each day, parents and children pass along the white picket fence in front of my house, walking to and from school the way I did sixty years ago. What could appear more wholesome and innocent, more Normal Rockwell?
Every day, a letter or postcard arrives in my mailbox: “We will pay cash for your house.” Well-to-do young parents make over-the-value offers to live in this revitalized neighborhood where mammoth two-story houses replace small cottages. They want their kids to attend this school that is winning awards for its achievements in educating the young.
But Texas is a state of open carry, concealed carry, permitless carry.
How long will these innocents be safe? How long before someone walks past my home with a gun? Or maybe people walk past my house with guns every day. After all, they don’t have to have a permit to obtain one. They can legally conceal it.
Texas has a governor and a host of politicians indebted to the National Rifle Association. In a world where actions speak louder than words, they support increasingly lenient gun laws in the face of increasing tragedies.
As though firearms were their most valuable possessions.
Sandi Stromberg is a devotee of ekphrastic poetry. Her poetic and prose responses to art have been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Words and Art, and three volumes of ekphrastic poetry from Friendswood Public Library: Do You See the Way The Light, Still the Waves Beat, and Words Become Shadows as Our Spirits Rise. Her poetry also accompanied an art exhibit at Houston Jung Center in 2019. In 2018, she co-edited Echoes of the Cordillera, published by the Museum of the Big Bend, ekphrastic responses of 39 poets to the photography of Jim Bones.
The Ghost Shall Return
The grey was everywhere
Squeezing through the meshed doors and windows,
Growing into a giant shadow with a troubled soul.
Thrusting like the lightning splitting the sky,
Shutting eyes, piling bodies over bodies.
The ghost shall return tonight
Of horror avenged by the mother-
A child knows no fear
Holds no grievance
As were you once, a wish
Held in someone else's arms-
The bloodlines shall scar your face
Writ your palms with curses
Tell tales of laments and disgrace-
In dreams you shall be the child
Grieving in arms
Over the blood that had flowed then.
Abha Das Sarma
An engineer and management consultant by profession, Abha Das Sarma enjoys writing the most. 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, here and elsewhere. Having spent her growing up years in small towns of northern India, she currently lives in Bengaluru.