On Hotham Park, August, 1942
The Channel ruffled its cheesecloth beyond Hotham Park,
under a sky-trail of hieroglyphic contrails, Spitfires,
black-crossed Messerschmitts and Wolfes. With sharp
faces we cheered the home-side kills, the falling fighter's
pirouettes, the tail-spun crumps and fiery columns cloaked
as failing comets. None imagined the panicked gauntlet
grappling with a stick when the cock-pit jammed,
how far they were from home, what dying here revoked.
But what was it in our upturned childish faces, what threat
did he suppose, this airmen turning back towards the land
when home was calling? We watched him turn, a glint shown
on his cock-pit glass with fire sent flickering from each wing,
not reckless Phaeton in a burning chariot, some other thing,
a hot-shot teenage air-ace working children from the bone.
Adam Cairns is a poet and photographer who lives in South Wales. He can often be found shivering and wet trying to photograph birds. When he warms up, he sometimes writes poetry. @AdamAcorns
Hell: when your cane slips
& blood drips on head shoulders knees
& toes sink but keep going...
Ekaterina Dukas has studied and thought linguistics and culture at Universities of Sofia, Delhi and London and authored a British Library publication on Mediaeval art. She writes poetry as a pilgrimage to the meaning and cherishes its surprises, dramas and out of the box gifts. Her poems appeared in various journals, including The Ekphrastic Review. Her collection Ekphrasticon is published by Europa Edizioni, 2021.
(after Alexa Karabin)
and here is where you closed your eyes curled
thin legs deflated after I drove off in a panicked blur
remorse keeping me awake till now when I return
to speak regret crouched in woody scurf and duff I turn
myself in throw myself on the mercy of your still heart
as a jewel sun decides to rise in earnest
turning you golden and the air fills with skippers
mulberry wings swallowtails and blues who know nothing
of sin or why I lay ferns and leaves over cut and wound
sitting shiva as beetles begin their service
garlic mustard and hellebore nod your tongue still
fragrant with corn and apple fur dew-shining
my whispered mea culpas stir the hair at your ear
scant reparation for all that’s been taken
Lynn Pattison is author of Matryoshka Houses (Kelsay Press, 2020) in addition to three other poetry collections: tesla's daughter (March St. Press); Walking Back the Cat (Bright Hill Press) and Light That Sounds Like Breaking (Mayapple Press). She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times and for inclusion in Best Microfiction. Pattison’s work has appeared in Ruminate, Moon City Review, New Flash Fiction Review, The Notre Dame Review, Rhino, Smartish Pace and numerous other publications.
after Anne Carson’s “The Gender of Sound”
Always evenings, naked, unafraid, glass pitcher on my shoulder, goat’s head severed under foot, a fist—amputated—resting, aback my neck. The crowd behind me like a crowd behind me always behind me, jeering, whispering, fielding all I say, even the sound of my voice. Escape me I escape you: words tattooed across my body: left breast; right, my belly—a mouth: open, painted in blood: menstrual or goat--does it matter? If I crouch, let whatever wants to run from me run; if I contort, head, arms, shoulders between my legs, throw myself—acrobatic—from the highest board or cliff, will the apology be enough?
My incantation is clean. Enough the usurper, the thief. We banked the tampons, the extra-strong deodorant. We drank the perfume. We covered our hair with cotton cloth. There was no more space. Just the dark bush before me growing darker, disappearing. A symphony of cicadas to mark the way. Join me. No eye teeth, no rusted knob. No more champagne. Pear-assed and perfect, I am your wet dream, my voice stolen; my violence intact.
Poet and essayist, Rachel Neve-Midbar’s collection Salaam of Birds won the 2018 Patricia Bibby First Book Award and was published by Tebot Bach in 2020. She is also the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach, 2014, winner of The Clockwork Prize). Rachel’s work has appeared in Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, Grist and Georgia Reviewas well as other publications and anthologies. Her awards include the Crab Orchard Review Richard Peterson Prize, the Passenger Poetry Prize and nominations for The Pushcart Prize. Rachel is a current PhD candidate at The University of Southern California where her research concerns menstruation in contemporary poetry. She is also editor of Stained: an anthology of writing about menstruation for the AuntFlo2020 Project. More at rachelnevemidbar.com
Lucky 7: an Ekphrastic Marathon
Try something intense and unusual- an ekphrastic marathon, celebrating seven years of The Ekphrastic Review
Join us on July 17, 2022 for our craziest challenge yet!
It’s an ekphrastic marathon! With amazing guest judges, Meg Pokrass for flash, and Brent Terry for poetry.
Write to fourteen different prompts, poetry or flash fiction, in thirty minute drafts.
We will gather in a specially created Facebook page for prompts, to chat with each other, and support each other.
Time zone or date conflicts? No problem. Page will stay open for one week. Participate when you can. The honour system is in effect- thirty minute drafts per prompt, fourteen prompts. Participants can do the seven hour marathon or two sessions of 3.5 hours.
Polish and edit your best pieces later, then submit five to our Lucky 7 e-chapbook.
One poem and one flash will win $100 each.
Thank you to our flash judge Meg Pokrass for the marathon technique.
Marathon: July 17, 2022 10 am to 6 pm EST (including breaks)
(For those who can’t make it during those times, any hours that work for you are fine. For those who can’t join us on July 17, catch up within one week.)
Story and poetry deadline: July 31, 2022
Up to five works of poetry or flash fiction or a mix, works started during marathon and polished later. 500 words max- include a brief bio, 75 words or less
Chapbook e-anthology selections and winning entries announced sometime in September.
We are delighted to have guest judges Meg Pokrass and Brent Terry.
Meg Pokrass is the queen of microfiction, with nearly (or over?) a thousand journal credits. Her flash is widely anthologized in both small press publications and Norton’s. She is the founder of the Best Microfiction Anthology series and the New Flash Fiction Review. She has been a guest judge for many flash contests, at Mslexia and Fractured Lit. Meg is also well known for her microfiction workshops and creativity prompts. She is the author of The House of Grana Padano (with Jeff Friedman), The Loss Detectors, Spinning to Mars, and many more.
Brent Terry is an award-winning writer and a runner who teaches at Easter Connecticut State University. He won the Connecticut Poetry Prize and was nominated for the PEN Faulkner Award for fiction. He is the author of The Body Electric, Troubadour Logic, and 21st Century Autoimmune Blues, among others. He is an accomplished Spoken Word artist. He loves Dr. Pepper.
Böcklin: Das Toteninsel
Böcklin painted the picture five times
as if he knew he was going there eventually
outlining along the way
not to miss
this is the way artists sometimes work
as if to store the moments
without thinking about
what to make of them
as they stock up
there are some who think he has painted the picture
of the Island of the Dead
after the English cemetery in Rome
where Shelley lies
after giving up the spirit under much persuasion
some of the cemetery trees there
are clearly growing on the Island of the Dead in Böcklin's painting
there are some who believe that a Greek island
near Corfu must have been Böcklin's inspiration
for the island, the Island of the Dead, though everyone knows
that it lies inside himself
this can be clearly seen in the painting
it's as if life
steps forward and says: Let me just hold this anxiety
and so Böcklin can paint on
as if the Island of the Dead sets up its abode within him
and lives in him for the rest of the time he has
before he must go there himself
some people think that man
is not immortal
that it must go to the Lake of Death
everyone carries as a birthmark
and that it lies in the sea
whose dark surface
always breathes lightly, day and night
full of malevolent dreams
only the time spent is the time
under way to the Island of the Dead
time that stands still
while life moves on lasts forever
there is a boat on its way in off the island
like another Charon sailing the souls of the dead
over Styx to the final resting place of the dead
in Hades, the underworld
where all shrub is colorless
until each person comes upon a thought
or an image of the mind
or a runic word
taking a shape corresponding to the surroundings
ultimately comprising their colour
Böcklin's Island of the Dead has no gates
one can sail in there directly
past two pillars
standing there, namelessly
it could be the pillars Boaz and Jakin
that stood outside the first temple of the Jews
erected in front of churches
all the way up through Tuscany
as a reminder of how pillars can be guardians
of sacred entrances
as long as they bear names whose origin is known
Böcklin's columns hold unknown names
and between them is not a stone ground floor
but the sea that carries the island
and the boat you arrive on, as well as all the thoughts
there are no gates at the entrance to Böcklin's dead island
the sea carries one there
one does not need to have an access card
when one has arrived
one has come in a sole movement
the solitary movement of the breathing of the sea
the island is not guarded, the white back
on the ferryman is not Charon
it must be Böcklin himself
if it is true that the Island of the Dead lives in all of us
and that we all hear the waves
the boat is decorated
but no one can know by whom
and where it has been executed, perhaps by someone
who once bought it or inherited it
on the first editions of the painting there is a staircase up
on some of them there are no columns
the trees grow differently in the different versions
just like in dreams
some years the white figure
who is Böcklin himself
stands upright in the boat but always seen from the back
just as one always sees a human being
who is dead from the back
because he has no soul
anchored in a figure
some years the white figure is more bent over
as if death has been entangled in an underground field
of reeds or grasses
or has been wrapped around the legs of someone lying down there
every night in dreams
or around the oar and the long barge pole
by which the boat is moved forward
what one does not know is if the white figure
when he has arrived
and left the boat with inaudible sighs
are supposed to stay in the abandoned buildings
on the island
behind the tall sturdy conifers
maybe they are not abandoned, just not inhabited yet
the buildings on the island are becoming more and dilapidated
as the years go by in Böcklin's painting, in the first versions
the air is fresh around them
and the sunlight reaches them
in the last version of the Island of the Dead the buildings are quite differently darkened
to one side there is a tall building
with windows - there could be books in there
one might be able to sense that time existed
that time actually was a place and not a void
that it moved when one was there
to the other side are the ruins of a cave
in there, there are no books
and if there were they would be damaged
one would not care to hold them in one's hands
The boat is led by a helper
dressed in a decorated suit, and as the years go by
he becomes more and more naked
as if man shows more of himself
while shame seeps into the walls
and in through the cracks there
and is soaked up by the water,
decreases like a flow of waves
Böcklin talked about the second picture
Das Lebeninsel, the Island of Life
and it is known he painted it
but no one has come upon it, it has not been seen
Böcklin: Das Toteninsel
Böcklin malede billedet fem gange
som om han vidste han skulle derhen til sidst
og ville skitsere undervejs
for ikke at gå glip
det er den måde kunstnere nogle gange arbejder
som om de kan opbevare øjeblikkene
uden at tænke på
hvor de skal gøre af dem efterhånden
som der bliver mange af dem
der er nogle der mener at han har malet billedet
efter den engelske kirkegård i Rom
hvor Shelley ligger
efter at have opgivet ånden under megen overtalelse
visse af kirkegårdstræerne
vokser tydeligvis på dødeøen på Böcklins billede
der er nogle der mener at en græsk ø
nær Corfu må have været Böcklins inspiration
til øen, De dødes ø, selvom alle ved
at den er inde i ham selv
det kan man tydeligt se på maleriet
det er som om livet
træder frem og siger: Lad mig lige holde den her angst
og Böcklin maler videre
som om De dødes ø tager bo i ham
og lever i ham hele resten af den tid han har
inden han selv skal derhen
nogle mennesker tror at mennesket
ikke er udødeligt
at det skal hen til den dødsø
alle har inden i sig som et modermærke
og at den ligger i havet
hvis mørke flade
der altid duver let, dag og nat
fuldt af onde drømme
kun den tid der er forbrugt er tiden
på vej mod dødeøen
den tid der står stille mens livet bevæger sig
der er en båd på vej ind på øen
som en anden Charon der sejler de dødes sjæle
over Styx til de dødes endelige opholdssted
i Hades, underverdenen
hvor alle vækster er farveløse
indtil den enkelte finder en tanke
eller et sindbillede
eller et runeagtigt ord
der tager form efter omgivelserne
og til sidst rummer deres farve i sig,
Böcklins dødeø har ingen porte
man kan sejle direkte derind
forbi to søjler
der står der, navnløse
det kunne være søjlerne Boaz og Jakin
de to søjler der stod udenfor jødernes første tempel
og som er rejst foran kirker
hele vejen op gennem Toscana
som mindet om hvordan søjler kan være vogtere
af hellige indgange
bare de har navne hvis oprindelse er kendt
Böcklins søjler bærer ukendte navne
og mellem dem er ikke stengrunden
men havet som bærer øen
og båden man kommer i og alle tanker
der er ingen porte ved indgangen til Böcklins dødeø
havet bærer en derind
man skal ikke have adgangskort
når man er ankommet
er man der i én bevægelse
i havets åndedræts uforlignelige bevægelse
øen er ikke bevogtet, den hvide ryg
man ser på færgemanden er ikke Charon
det må være Böcklin selv
hvis det er sandt at dødeøen bor i os alle sammen
man hører skvulpene
båden er dekoreret
men ingen kan vide af hvem
og hvor det er sket, måske af nogen
der engang har købt den eller arvet den
på de første udgaver af maleriet er der en trappe op
på nogle af dem er der ingen søjler
træerne vokser forskelligt på de forskellige versioner
ligesom i drømme
i nogle år er den hvide skikkelse
som er Böcklin selv
opret i båden, men ser ham altid fra ryggen
sådan som man altid ser et menneske
der er død fra ryggen
fordi han jo ingen sjæl har
der er fast forankret i en skikkelse
i visse år er den hvide skikkelse mere krumbøjet
som om døden er blevet viklet ind i et underjordisk område
af siv eller græsser
der har viklet sig om benene på en der ligger dernede
hver nat i sine drømme
eller om styrepinden og den lange åre
båden stages frem ved
det man ikke ved er om den hvide skikkelse
når han er kommet frem
og har forladt båden med uhørlige sukke
skal være i de forladte bygninger
der er på øen
bag de høje faste nåletræer
måske er de ikke forladte, de er blot ikke beboede endnu
øens bygninger bliver mere og forfaldne
som årene går i Böcklins maleri, i de første versioner
er luften frisk omkring dem
og sollyset rammer dem
i den sidste version af dødeøen er bygningerne helt anderledes dunkle
til den ene side er der en høj bygning
med vinduer, der kunne være bøger derinde
man kunne måske opleve at tiden fandtes
at tiden faktisk var et sted og ikke et tomrum
at den gik når man var der
til den anden side er der ruiner af en hule
derinde er ingen bøger
og hvis der var ville de være skadede
man ville ikke bryde sig om at have dem i hænderne
båden er ført af en hjælper
klædt i en dekoreret dragt, som årene går
bliver han mere og mere nøgen
som om mennesket viser mere af sig selv
mens skammen siver ind i væggene
i de sprækker der er
opsuges i vandet og aftager
som et bølgeskvulp
Böcklin har talt om det andet billede
Das Lebeninsel, livets ø
og man ved han har malet det
men ingen har fundet det, ingen har set det
The Danish version was originally published in the collection Øjeblikkets tredje tilstand [The Third State of The Moment] (Det poetiske bureaus forlag, Copenhagen, 2018).
Jakob Brønnum has published 41 books in Danish. His work has appeared in La Piccioletta Barca and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. He lives in Sweden with his family.
Stories from the Picture Box
I set up a picture box on a downtown sidewalk, near a bench, and a tree. I put a drawing in, opened the doors, and began: "Gaito Kamishibai ( GAI-toe Kam-MISH-e-bye—"Outdoor Picture-Story Show") is Japanese story telling using pictures displayed in a portable box, often perched on the back of a bike. Storytellers with boxes were a common sight on the streets of Japan from the 1920s to the late 1950s. During WWII, kamishibai was enlisted for government propaganda, and reached its peak after the war, in the seven years of the U.S. occupation, (1945-1952). Before radios, movies or televisions were widely available, it conveyed public announcements and propaganda from the U.S. authorities in visual form, but at heart remained cheap street theatre, and income for demobbed soldiers turned storytellers. Everyone was hard scrabbling to make a few yen in the rubble and chaos of post-war reconstruction, and their stories and pictures were the grubby desperate birth yowls of manga to come. (And, I wonder, what else? And who were the storytellers, really? They did it to survive. They sure didn't get an MFA to learn how. Did they mix the news and kids' stuff with their personal views, inner demons? Did they parse those things out at all, or narrate a gumbo of gonzo journalism and PTSD nightmares? Nobody was in control. In those ruins, and ours, the stories could, and can be anything). Wait, our ruins? This is not 1946 Japan, it’s 21st Century United States. There is no meaningful comparison, or equivalence. But we have inherited the shadows that were burned into Hiroshima brick; we carry the plutonium in our bones. If and how we own the trauma of our histories seems the only stories in the box worth telling, even if I don't know how to draw or write or tell those tales at all. What will we make or do with those bricks of irradiated shadow? Build shelters? Erect walls? Pitch them into tear gas? Drop them down a well of dreams to listen, breathless, for the plunk? I closed the doors.
Atomic Rulers of the World
I put a drawing in the story box and opened the doors. The audience was one kid on the bench, kicking his legs and sucking on a thick straw from a jumbo cup.
He said, "What's this?" The straw rattled air.
"It's called Atomic Rulers of the World.”
“This drawing is of a scene from a cheap Japanese TV series from the late 1950s, featuring a character called Giant Man, or Star Man. Episodes were lumped together and dubbed in English as movies for U.S. TV in the early '60s. The Saturn in the sky gently sways on piano wire. I first saw this on TV, home from school with a bad fever, a rubber ice pack on my forehead that hurt with cold and seemed to drive the fever into the film. Here the High Council is meeting to stop another planet from irradiating all the planets in the system, including Earth. They summon Star Man. He has a white suit and a cape. He flies to Earth to capture the radioactive device and stop the invaders. When he flies, the wires holding him make little peaks in his back. The actor who played him, Ken Utsui, went on to a distinguished film career. He hated playing Star Man. He had to stuff his crotch with cotton to make it look bigger. After a Japanese boy wearing a Star Man costume died jumping from a window, Utsui quit the role, and never spoke about it again.”
“Cool. Thanks.” The boy hopped off the bench and dumped his empty cup in a steel mesh trash can. Ice cubes clattered against the metal and I took it for applause. He walked away and I closed the doors.
Return to Sender
I put a drawing in the story box and opened the doors. The audience was a young woman on the bench in a FedEx uniform with two girls, maybe six, and twelve. The woman slouched and thumbed her phone. The younger girl's dark eyes had a jaguar prowl. The older girl stared, attentive or dazed at the drawing through glasses like ice. She poked the woman and said, "Look Mom, Rapunzel."
The woman's eyes didn't leave her phone. "What?"
The girl asked me, "Is this Rapunzel, like, let down your golden hair?"
"I don't know. It's called, 'Return to Sender.'"
The mother stayed glued to her phone but grinned and nodded ruefully. "I know that one." She sang imitation Elvis: "Return to sender/Add-dress unknown! / No such number/ No such zone!"
The girl said, "That happens to you in your truck, right mom?"
"That happens to me in my life." She laughed. She squinted at the drawing and said, "You can see the mailbox is open. Rapunzel answered his call and let down her golden hair before he could check the mail, so he left it open and climbed her hair. But it was a wig and came loose when he was half way up the tower. He plunged to his death, never to see Rapunzel's face, or the letter returned to him from the unknown zone. The End."
The girl shook her head. "That's not what happened."
“No? OK, he saw the stamped letter and thought, what the hell, I’ll call blondie. Then he broke his neck.” The silent younger girl's voice was growly and startling. "That's the wizard's tower. He's sad. He can't spell anymore. And nobody sent him a letter today." I closed the doors.
I put a drawing in the story box and opened the doors. There was a chunky young guy and his friend, small and gaunt. The chunky guy hunched meekly on the bench but his skinny friend sat in a confident sprawl. Both wore drooping t-shirts displaying heavy metal bands in Spanish. I began: "In the mid-twentieth century, most neighbourhoods had a street ending in an electrical substation. On those streets there was always one family with twin girls, and sometimes, identical triplets. The buzzing from the insulating coils made the girls' braces into radios. Implanted I-Pods were born.”
The bigger man raised his hand, as if in school. “This is a story, right? About a North American twentieth century?”
“Because I was going to say, in Mexico every neighbourhood would have a maquiladora. A factory. Every street would have an asthmatic girl with a cleft lip. And I think the coil thing looks like a kind of chess piece. A pawn. When I was a kid me and my friends, we played a lot of chess. Chess and video games. I was a pawn man. My friends said when that computer, Azure Profundo, that Deep Blue, beat Kasparov in the ’97 rematch, it was the end of the Grand Masters, but I don’t believe that."
His friend nodded vigorously and jabbed the other's shoulder. "You know what I think? I think that thing looks like a pile of poop. Poop with a light on top."
"Dude ate a light bulb and shit it out." They both cackled, and the big kid added, "Remember what Trump said, that you could cure Covid by inserting a bright light into your body? Maybe he just swallowed the light and shit it out. That's Melania and Ivanka and what's her name, Ivana?—come see his last poop." All of us laughed. I closed the doors.
Woman at Kitchen Table
I put a drawing in the story box and opened the doors. I said, "This is called 'Woman at Kitchen Table.'" Two women had come by to rest on the bench. They wore mismatched shawls, scarves, long bright skirts and knit caps with the local university football logo, a swaggering badger. The younger, in her 50's, shelled a boiled egg on her lap. The older was short and stooped and bobbed her sandaled feet over the ground, grinning and chattering to her companion in Hindi, or was it Nepali? I could see my story would be talked over by Hindi, or Nepali. One of their cell phones rang with a Wah-Wah, "Failure" jingle. They let it ring.
I began: "This is a woman having a birthday party of one."
The older woman laughed. "One year old."
I said, "I mean, she is alone."
"No," the younger woman said, "No year. No candle in the cake."
The other said, "Candle on the table."
"She's a baby."
"She's before baby. She's waiting for her number one birthday."
I asked, "She's waiting to be born?"
I asked, "Where do you wait to be born?"
The older woman shrugged impatiently. "At the kitchen table." I closed the doors.
I put a drawing in the story box and opened the doors. There was no one listening. “A husband and wife’s refrigerator got hot. At the appliance store the wife went to a row of ‘smart refrigerators.’ As the salesman talked, she took her husband’s hand and surreptitiously slipped him a small object, as if passing a file for a jail break. It was a little rubber alien, made of metallic blue gooey rubber. The salesman was saying, ‘These smart refrigerators can read recipes to you, leave messages on the touch screen door, show you on your phone their insides, without having to open the door. You can watch the inside, in real time.’
The husband said, ‘Why in the world would I want to do that?’ He gripped the tiny alien.
The wife said, ‘If there is a child who has gone inside to play or hide, and becomes trapped, this feature could save their life.’
The salesman was alarmed. ‘That could never, ever happen today! No refrigerators on the market latch from the outside.’ He went on. ‘But say for example you are in the store and can’t remember if you are out of milk. You could ‘call’ your refrigerator and see what’s inside. Here. Let me demonstrate.’ He took out his phone and dialed a number. A video screen appeared with a gulp sound. He handed the phone to the couple. The husband looked at the white interior. ‘What’s that?’ On the top shelf was a little figure. The salesman said, ‘Huh.’ He opened the refrigerator, and inside was the blue rubber alien. ‘Some kid must have been playing around.’ The wife nodded with satisfaction. The husband opened his hand. It was empty and released a puff of chilled air.”
“And they can watch you.” A tall woman in hoodie and sunglasses was leaning against the tree, smoking in the sun. “Smart is always watching.” I nodded and closed the doors.
I put a drawing in the story box and opened the doors. On the bench was a woman with a fisherman’s vest and tiny pug dog on a leash, curled and panting at her feet. I began: “A man married and had everything yet wanted only to be alone. Over the years the one thing he kept for himself was always waiting in the basement. His wife knew better than to ask, and had certainly never been allowed to see it, or interrupt him when he was working. Still, to be certain, he had installed multiple locks and doors in the back of the basement. These would have to be passed through to get to the work room. The first door was a cheap hollow wood door with a simple combination lock. Behind that was a sliding metal fire door with a pass code and a thumb print reader. Next was a steel blast door with a retinal scan, and a voice identification box. Next was a tiny door, like in Alice in Wonderland, just large enough to crawl through. Then a swaying curtain of clattering ceramic beads that analyzed skin particles off your hand or arm or shoulder, and that sprouted poison barbs if they registered any DNA but his own. The final door was like the first one, a hollow fiberboard slab with a metal hasp and a combination lock. This door opened into a blank white room, the work room. It was softly lit with a stretch of low, indirect lighting behind one wall’s baseboard. A single stuffed armchair sat in the middle, made of an inviting brushed material the color of seashells, on dark wood rockers instead of legs. He rocked. On the floor facing the chair was a black and white photograph of his wife. She was looking directly back at the camera, wearing no expression and no makeup, her hair pulled back and fastened into a bun. It was a new photo. He was always careful to keep it up to date. The rocking chair made a pleasing soft bump on the wood floor but otherwise it was still. He was safe from any disturbance, free to see his wife without worry or interruption.” The woman on the bench said, “This is why I live with a dog.” I nodded and closed the doors.
Gregg Williard is an artist and writer. His work has recently appeared in Conjunctions, Vine Leaf Press, Phoebe and Revolution John.
The Week the Artist Died
This was inspired specifically by the photograph of artist Ruth Asawa, reclining and holding one of her sculptures, by Imogen Cunningham (USA) 1951
I worked in Noe Valley for a year at the bookstore, close to my cousin’s house, though I avoided Anne’s loud laughter and easy confidences, she the daughter of our in-law friends in San Francisco. I walked the steep hills during my lunch break, thighs pounding the 45 degree lanes and horizontal streets the length of the hills.
My favourite path was on Castro Street past the clock shop where a black cat sat next to a deconstructed clock like you’d find inside a large wood case in someone’s hallway, except here it looked like a surreal experiment.
And I would often pass the house of an artist, dwelling of modern wood and glass without adornment. She was well known in the Bay Area for buoyant sculptures woven in the method of native American baskets.
I thought of her as one of us. At that time, I didn’t know that she was among the art gods, that she transformed the sea inside onto the outside of her body. The shapes looked like loose fabric though tight where they shrunk or grew, like gourds. The forms made their way out, strange beings on their own, surging over the crests. And I wondered, did she try to name then? Did she rock with them back and forth, like she would with her young children? One after another the sculptures would teeter over due to the vast size.
Then, one day I found out she died. Heard it from a customer at the bookstore who heard it from her husband who knew one of the children who saw the demise of her mother due to an autoimmune disease.
The next day my cousin appeared at the back of the store as I was receiving new books into the computer. I sat on the tall stool, fingers at the keyboard. She wore a red blouse and jeans, her dark curly hair framing her face.
She wasted no time in telling me about her diagnosis. Breast cancer.
Yet she first wanted to talk about the artist who we knew so little. Not about the doctor who gave her the news, or her parents. And she asked how I was doing. My father died a few weeks before, and I’d been off work for a week. Then, how was my mother coping? I’d returned to work after spending time with my mother and didn’t pretend to smile, just kept my head down while hand-selling books, but mostly asked to work in the back. And she listened to it all.
She also wanted to talk about her loneliness since the split from her husband. As if her other news wasn’t enough. Though she was raising two girls, she wanted intimacy. Did I know anyone?
All this intersected together somehow and I saw her as fragile in all this. Her usual way of going on without pause, this time peppered with inquiry.
And I think we both realized that just talking would help us. This time, through her pointed syllables, I recognized an opening. I realized that I knew it was there all along, the round woven shapes a possibility.
Laurel Benjamin has poetry forthcoming in Lily Poetry Review, Black Fox, Limit Experience, Word Poppy Press. Find her work in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women's Poetry, South Florida Poetry Journal, Trouvaille Review, The Ekphrastic Review (challenge finalist), California Quarterly, Midway Journal, MacQueens Quinterly, Wild Roof Journal, Tiny Seed, and more. Affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers, she holds an MFA from Mills College and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Twitter handle: @lbencleo More at https://thebadgerpress.blogspot.com
Wonders of the World: Enchanted Buddha Fish Sing a Song of Purple
So I’m standing in front of the Buddhist Master
who’s ignoring me
because he’s sitting in a cave
draped in lion skin, and made of stone
But that’s okay
Because the stream surrounding him
is filled with fish-gods who shimmer
beneath the splendor of an autumn light
drawing each moment into the mist of their water-shadows.
Across the river an ancient monk meanders along a bridge
its wooden planks drawing deep breaths each time he warns
that there are ghosts wandering the bamboo groves
And my son moves to my side
to gaze into the cosmos spinning beneath us
silken veils of blue, green, yellow, white
centered by a glow
soft as the moon halfway through its midnight journey
Which causes me to wonder if it’ll be dark
by the time we get on the Harley and ride down this mountain
But that doesn’t matter
as much as the fact that right now
flames are devouring the jungle
we’ll soon be driving through
and we don’t even know it yet.
My eyes drift back to the fish
but the moment I turn they swirl toward panic,
reversing direction in one swift movement
their scales embracing the shape of a golden leaf
before their neon blue descends toward the sorrow of purple
and I toss them a piece of bread
while asking them out loud
Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?
Karima Diane Alavi
As a graduate student, Karima Alavi received a scholarship to study language, history, and art in Iran. After completing her Master’s degree in Middle East and Asian Studies in the U.S. she returned to Iran to teach. She later taught Middle East Studies at Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C., and most recently taught Humanities, Art History, and Creative Writing at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe. Karima moved to New Mexico to serve as director of the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute on ‘Understanding and Teaching about Islam.’ Her short stories have appeared on National Public Radio (All Things Considered), in Sufi Magazine, Voices of Islam, and online journals such as the Santa Fe Writers Project, Glint Literary Journal, and Tom Howard Winning Writers. Her novel manuscript, Merchant of Color, set in the Vatican and Iran during the Renaissance, won the David Morrell First Place Prize at the 2017 New Mexico/Albuquerque Author Festival, was a semi-finalist in the 2019 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition and, along with another one of her manuscripts, In the Shadow of the Tombs, was one of ten finalists in the 2020 Keats Literary Competition. Karima lives in Abiquiu, New Mexico, where the howl of coyotes and the prowling of skunks inspire her to stay inside at night and get more writing done.
Sapphics for Artemisia
Woman painter, eyebrows and lips tight twisted,
saws through sinew, brushes on dark vermilion
blood that pools on sheets and erupts in ribbons:
Holofernes lies like a birthing mother,
knees contracted, wetting his bed with bleeding.
Judith — midwife, murderess, woman painter --
ably attends him.
Artemisia, lavish in flesh and velvet,
bares her thick white elbows and roughened knuckles,
bares her backward appetite keen for murder:
Knowing art historians, cataloguing
yellow ochre, umber and chiaroscuro
coolly point professional tidy fingers,
none of them painters.
Cara Valle is an English teacher and fitness enthusiast living in Virginia with her husband and four young children. Her poems have been published in Light, Mezzo Cammin, The Lyric, Think, Blue Unicorn, and other journals.
The Ekphrastic Review
Join us on Facebook: