Art Becomes Her
Linda Eve Diamond
The specific painting by Caroline Dechamby that inspired this poem is Adhesif. View it here.
Linda Eve Diamond’s poetry has been honoured with several awards, including Grand Prize Award in the Artists Embassy International Dancing Poetry Contest “for exceptional poetry that inspires dance and for furthering intercultural understanding and peace through the universal language of the arts.” Her poetry has been published by numerous literary journals and websites. Find her poetry collections, selected poems and more at http://LindaEveDiamond.com.
New meaning given
to the blind
leading the blind
in this case the barely
the less functional
Part of a motley parade
on asylum grounds
all the patients tricked out
Down’s adults in
following a determined
leader, who know where?
The leader, a woman,
holding the slowest
of slow learners
one of the terminally
confused with false
ragged rude costume
permanently unfocused eyes
Is this the Great Escape?
Even if they made it
off the grounds
Where would they go?
What would they do?
Who would save them?
If hell has a take a number
system where you will wait
in a common room
for an interview
That waiting area would
look like this:
An asylum morning room
with scuffed industrial
strength tile floor
molded plastic chairs
for the young men endlessly
for those gone-eyed humans
as they compulsively sway,
moaning as they go
back and forth
back and forth
And chairs for the men
who balance them on
their feet as they lie
on the floor
even as the inevitable
that splits swollen lips
And a chair for the woman
of no discernible age
wearing a pressed dress
standing guard over the little
the kind of wagon kids use
to gather toys and dirt
and the refuse of life
So much depends on that
little red wagon
that signifies no more
than it actually is
where you wait
that your number
will never be called
They could be the wicker women,
elderly crones dressed in
too small winter-weight jackets,
scarves and hats that cover their
thinning, unwashed hair,
plastic dime store masks
to hide who they really are.
They need no dress up outfits,
no makeup to effect their look,
they are witch-like normally,
would have been burned or
drowned in an earlier age
instead of warehoused as they
Are five crones on the way
to an Autumn Rite where
the Wicker Man is waiting,
the one that has been built
on a common ground field between
built far enough away from human
habitation to prevent residual flames
from unintended ignitions once the offering
of the man has begun
As they watch the flames,
their eyes contain memories
of rituals past:
of the festering heat,
victuals flensed to
None of them are allowed
the gift of fire.
“This is not a dream.
This is really happening.”
Which movie was it?
Where Death was a man
with white grease painted face
able to be two places at once.
Was the voice on the phone,
across town, a man is speaking to
and Death is the man with the glassine eyes
and sinister smile standing next
to him as he listens to the voice
This is one cocktail party
he will never forget
like the club date he played
where the white faced man
sits front row in smoky venue
and in the back row as well.
No matter where you go
he is there before you
smiling as if he knows
something you will never
something you will
like how you came to be
in this field with this
white faced person
this person in a clean
white sheet wearing
a death mask and posing
for a portrait holding a small
shopping bag for candy treats
instead of a scythe
This is a picture that you
you can never unsee
once you have viewed it
from now on
in the dark room
of your dreams
“We’re not dreaming now.”
Eyes Wide Shut
So many of the costumed men
and women look as if they’d been
to the same costume rental Tom Cruise
used in Eyes Wide Shut
Where they rented a sheath dress or
a cape and cheap eye covering,
Lone Ranger masks
and went somewhere after the rental
they were never meant to be
Stood waiting on nearly frozen
asylum grounds or under suburban
Jersey sidewalk trees or on lawns
for a Satanic ritual to begin
All of them standing inert,
expectant, in the fading,
for shadows to become night
They may be waiting still.
They are the handmaidens of a witch’s
coven, cast out of the fold and onto
the streets in their chiffon aprons and
street clothes, their made-in Arts & Crafts
wands, colored paper stars affixed to the end
of sticks, their party hats and out-for-the-day
shoes, two bit plastic masks concealing
who they are from themselves.
They are wayfaring street creatures now,
standing on someone’s front lawn for a
group portrait as human defects dressed to
do Halloween. All of them are smiling or
trying to, in-dusk-coming cooling down
afternoon in somewhere New Jersey.
They are arrested development super stars,
sentenced to childhood for life. Someone is
watching over them. There are so many worse
fates in life than this, as the portrait clearly shows.
Untitled # 7
Edward Curtis photographed
masks like these
worn by native American chiefs
There was mojo
in those masks
generational lore attached
to each one
worn with pride,
magic that gave the wearer
Diane saw the power
the person inside
the brown paper bag
with eye and nose
and mouth spaces cut out
saw the dime store string
hair the finger-painted
captured the power
the magic on a negative
held it for awhile,
then let it go
One of Weegee’s special shots was
crowd reactions: facial expressions at
car crashes, murder scenes, the unloading
of paddy wagons. Those looks of horror,
the turning away and the glancing back,
revulsion and awe, fear and excitement;
a kind of madness in crowds, this random
together brings before the Caucasian white
circle is drawn, the blood puddles sand
covered and swept away...
Arbus would have known his work
on the back pages of large circ. dailies,
a new horror for every working day and
Would have known how he was on call
24/7, had touts in bars, police stations,
taxi stands, ambulance driver staff rooms...
When you see the shot of the crowd of
women staring at an unseen, out –of-frame-
event, you can’t help but be reminded of Weegee,
of fresh blood and open wounds, a horror show in
progress. But, the viewer must wonder:
what horrific thing are they seeing? Is horror
relative? Given that these are a gaggle of adult,
Down’s afflicted, gaping women, of all ages.
“What the hell are they looking at?”
What could be more unknowable that that?
In the foreground of the picture,
a masked, dowdy older woman
of indeterminate age wears a
double breasted overcoat, clutches
a small bag, unaware of her
rolling down white socks bunching
over terminally scuffed shoes.
She looks at the portrait taker
through cut outs in a brown paper
shopping bag, holes too small for
In the blurred background, an assembly
of fellow inmates at the asylum, are
gathering on a wide open field that
could be one used for football if these
inmates could understand the rules
of a game more complicated than
What are they doing back there?
So close together, running here
and there, while others stand as still
as the old woman in overcoat.
Maybe they are playing some kind
of supervised freeze tag game with
Death one outlier escaped from.
Or, maybe, she was simply, left behind
to stand as she stands now, for all time.
Learn more about the Diane Arbus photographs from her book Untitled, here.
Alan Catlin has published dozens of books on a wide variety f subjects. In recent years focusing on ekphrastic subjects primarily as he explores the nature of "seeing." The third book in his series on what we see and how we see it, Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh, was published by Dos Madres in 2020. Earlier volumes in the trilogy, American Odyssey, and Wild Beauty, were published by Future Cycle Press. His book on he Impressionists, Effects of Sunlight on Fog, is available from Bright Hill.
Canvas the dog that did not bark;
this corner shrunk from sketch to oil.
Some drawers, inviting pull deprived,
inquiries from chest crack removed,
acanthus of pale marble cut,
with facial walls, the smaller match
turned open to a closed affair,
as lucifer enlightened less.
Half empty glass, the see-though stare -
how may more blank intrude the pair?
What need of bright, grey ash cigar,
the stuff of birds that lost their flight
first snared, entrapped, now fade at length.
Hubby, innumerable days,
this schoolfriend now of Sickert’s beer,
and Marie, model, past gone where?
As versions grow, tight patterns flow,
serve yet to further claustrophobe.
Woolf, in sheep’s clothes, sees tales unfold
while Walter paints - there are no words.
Past divas taunt from Camden frames,
with two dreams of what might have been.
Malaise and languor, tedium -
can any strike a light for them?
This poem was first published by Nine Muses Poetry.
Stephen Kingsnorth, retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by some twenty on-line poetry sites, including The Ekphrastic Review; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines & Vita Brevis Anthology. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Forest Song 2
We had decided prehistorically
to shake hands heartily
a kohl landscape under thick moist
that has a portrait liquid sentiment
a glass mirror of antique rhythm
that smelled of cumin seed
biosphere, that has a feeling.
Truly, eyes are full of blessings
with an art of deeper sense
love breastfeeds with milk and honey
green olive dreams foster a world,
rivers, rains and renaissance.
It has logos: words to speak
hymns to sing, deity to bless the soil
razor-sharp and bohemian
buoyant and brimming dopamine
to heal the schizophrenia of the dead.
Sunrise or sunset: goodwill
feeds the time, people and context
we witness nature’s nudity
cunt: beauty, sperm: life
with innuendo of science
a canvas of reconciliation grips
there’s no fear of death—no fear.
An intense geography runs our blood
the longitudinal heartbeats kiss
a vintage life-size efficacy
unbelievably pretty prior and after
what goes down the arteries?
The waves of history scents
the breezes of heliotrope tickles
life music, live dance, life pigments
the forest songs of soil and salt
the forest songs of hope
the forest songs of hemoglobin
hint a gesture of life to the fullest.
Pitambar Naik grew up in Odisha in India. He’s an award-winning poet and the author of The Anatomy of Solitude (Hawakal) and a poetry/fiction reader for Remington Review. He’s work forthcoming or published in The Indian Quarterly, New Contrast, Brushfire Literature, Liquid Imagination, Ghost City Review, Eunoia Review, Glass Poetry, Cha, Vayavya, Occulum, Formercactus, Literary Orphan, The Punch Magazine, The World Belongs To Us (Anthology) HarperCollins India among others.
Afresh Frankincense is 12-year-old and in Class 7th. He is a child art-prodigy from Odisha and lives in Hyderabad in South India. Though he loves math and science so much, art has a special place in his heart. His work has appeared in Moonchild Magazine, Hindustan Times, Kids 4G and elsewhere.
Join us for biweekly ekphrastic writing challenges. See why so many writers are hooked on ekphrastic! We feature some of the most accomplished, influential poets writing today, and we also welcome emerging or first time writers and those who simply want to experience art in a deeper way or try something creative.
The prompt this time is The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli. Deadline is June 12, 2020.
1. Use this visual art prompt as a springboard for your writing. It can be a poem or short prose (fiction or nonfiction.) You can research the artwork or artist and use your discoveries to fuel your writing, or you can let the image alone provoke your imagination.
2. Write as many poems and stories as you like. Send only your best works or final draft, not everything you wrote down. (Please note, experimental formats are difficult to publish online. We will consider them but they present technical difficulties with web software that may not be easily resolved.) Please copy and paste your submission into the body of the email, even if you include an attachment such as Word or PDF.
3. Have fun.
4. USE THIS EMAIL ONLY.
Send your work to email@example.com. Challenge submissions sent to the other inboxes will most likely be lost as those are read in chronological order of receipt, weeks or longer behind, and are not seen at all by guest editors. They will be discarded. Sorry.
5.Include NELLI WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line.
6. Include your name and a brief bio. If you do not include your bio, it will not be included with your work, if accepted. Even if you have already written for The Ekphrastic Review or submitted other works and your bio is "on file" you must include it in your challenge submission. Do not send it after acceptance or later; it will not be added to your poem. Guest editors may not be familiar with your bio or have access to archives. We are sorry about these technicalities, but have found that following up, requesting, adding, and changing later takes too much time and is very confusing.
7. Late submissions will be discarded. Sorry.
8. Deadline is midnight, June 12, 2020.
9. Please do not send revisions, corrections, or changes to your poetry or your biography after the fact. If it's not ready yet, hang on to it until it is.
10. Selected submissions will be published together, with the prompt, one week after the deadline.
11. Rinse and repeat with upcoming ekphrastic writing challenges!
12. Please share this prompt with your writing groups, Facebook groups, social media circles, and anywhere else you can. The simple act of sharing brings readers to The Ekphrastic Review, and that is the best way to support the poets and writers on our pages!
Woman Carrying a Child Central Park 1956
She could have been
With her almost shoulder
length dark hair
Angular facial lines
Not quite beautiful
Maybe a camel hair
overcoat she wore in
all kinds of weather
She could be the same
woman who told me
it never got cold in
She should know
She went to college there
And I believed her
more fool, I
Left for college and
a brutal winter where
temperatures routinely had
wind chills well below zero
That winter I contracted
double viral pneumonia
under dressed as I was
for frigid weather
In the photograph,
I could have been the small
boy asleep in the woman’s
That woman with the worried,
The kind of look my mother
always had when she went
places in her mind
no one was meant to go
She could have been
my mother if my actual
mother wasn’t confined to
a nuthouse in 1956
I could have been loved
I could have been that
Click here to view this photograph by Diane Arbus.
Eva Rubinstein’s Diane Arbus Seated Before the Collage Wall
Diane looks older than she is
or ever would be
A woman in leather pants
and a dark shirt
Only a couple of years removed
from being mistaken for the sister
of her oldest daughter
Before the hepatitis
she naively asked a friend about,
“Can you get hepatitis from anonymous
Before the orgies she filmed and
took part in
The persistent money woes
Married lover troubles
that fueled her fear
of losing her looks
She appears as a person
who no longer cares what
she eats, if she eats
“What would be the point
Sitting, as she is before
the collection of death, destruction,
Not long before she would
become, “Portrait of the artist
three days dead in her bathtub”
Click here to view Rubinstein's photo. Scroll down to bottom left image of Diane Arbus.
Alan Catlin has been publishing for parts of five decades in little, minuscule, not so little, literary and university publications from the Wisconsin Review to Tray Full of Lab Rats, to Wordsworth’s Socks and The Literary Review among many others. His chapbook, Blue Velvet, won the Slipstream Chapbook Contest in 2017. He is the poetry and review editor of Misfitmagazine.net, an online poetry journal.
up that fast
She whispers, you don’t come up that fast, in this inky room. I don’t. He didn’t. She won’t. She lingers down there in her blue immensity, chips away at the Ouroboros of her trip like a flying fish. Why are flying and drowning the same down here? A halo crowns her hair with air. Why are you breathing so loud? It signals she’s coming up, tied to her cord with two toes in this amniotic light that closes around us. A school bites like spurs in socks. Pick them out. This cord so fragile I could cut it with a finger.
Under is a film-installation artwork by Martina Amati (Italy) 2015.
Sean West holds a BFA in Creative and Professional Writing. In 2019, he was shortlisted for the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. His work has been published in StylusLit, Stilts Journal, and Baby Teeth Journal, among others. He lives and works in Brisbane. Find more of him at www.callmemariah.com.
Bal du Moulin de la Galette
Jostled and elbowed at the Musée d'Orsay by people clicking,
first at each painting, then at its attribution, I start to realize
no one's looking at the canvases, just their screens. And so
my nature morte composes itself, as I wait
by the leather banquettes for a few still minutes, until
a flock of cell phone users settles like pigeons
on a park bench, more interested in checking messages
and posting on Facebook than watching Renoir's dancers
whirling and dipping, light and shade stippling
their stiff dresses, their serge suits, their rosy skin.
Here in Montmartre, on a Sunday afternoon, the hall
is bathed in sun filtering through the trees, dappling
the woman in the blue-and-white striped dress, the men
with their straw boaters. Even the glasses on the table
ring with song.
But on this Sunday, in the museum, none of this registers.
Hunched over, waiting for the ping of incoming, faces
laved in pixelated light, drawn to the world of two
dimensions, thumbs are the only thing moving. A faint
hint of batter sizzling in butter enters the room, along
with distant phrases of accordion music. You can almost
hear the turtledoves twitter and tweet in the far-off trees. . . .
This poem first appeared in Barbara Crooker's book, Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Poetry Press, 2019).
Barbara Crooker is the author of many books of poetry; The Book of Kells and Some Glad Morning are recent. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse. www.barbaracrooker.com
Walk Within the Garden As If It Were a Garden
after Villa of Livia
In the room, you are surrounded
by silent birds, each set of wings
stilled and doused in whatever you consider
the absence of colour. Miles shrinking
to a pinch, horizon an elusive diffraction
of light. Beaks brush feathers as if just realizing
they are there. Free: illusion.
The layers of stained blue make you forget
that you too are made
of many skins; that walking through the garden
means stepping outside
of your body, your face one
flammable fresco, your ribs a thin cage
you cannot kiss. If: a whisper.
The warm fruit blooms
and never stops, resting on the shadows
housed by leaves. You do anything
but look at the ceiling
or speak of the goldfinch. Let us pretend
no crack weaves through the neck of a bird
like one great Cupid’s arrow
splintered down its center. Let us not mention
the slant of gates, so close to breaking.
on the ceiling wakes you up; makes you remember
the architecture of another room’s silence
made of walls.
You curl your fingers into a fist,
not wanting to knock,
knowing no one is on the other side.
Rachael Lin Wheeler
Rachael Lin Wheeler is currently a student attending Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. Her poetry, prose, and photography have been recognized by Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She is also the founder and editor of Vox Viola Literary Magazine, an intersectional feminist online publication, which can be found at https://voxviola.com.
Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems
Lorette C. Luzajic
Mixed Up Media 2020
I'm so thankful to Ekphrastic contributor Rennie Halstead for a new review up at The Poetry Shed. Many thanks as well to Abegail Morley.
Check it out here!
I'm most grateful to everyone who has purchased or read my book. You can get a paperback copy on Amazon by clicking book cover above.
You can get an ebook copy for the price of a coffee, here! $5 Cnd.
The Ekphrastic Review
Join us on Facebook: