pretty girls have sharp collarbones
& knives for knees & watch as
blood blooms from under the line
of their brastrap. exquisite, they bleed,
tiny droplets of holy water: curse
the vampire that’s eating me from
within but i can’t live without her.
i’ll tell myself i am ethereal,
stranger to the carnal. pull
over, i hear, over music
playing even after the car crashes.
it’s summer again,
but i fall no victim to Chick-fil-A &
double whopper burgers,
red & ribs each time.
i suck the honeydew juice
from my fingers like a nursing child—
i am ethereal, i remind myself. i am
sun-goddess hidden in the swells
of my dressing gown, the shadows
under budding breasts, sunlight leaking
through her thighs. sun goddesses have
fruit-tasting breath & hollow holes
under their eyes. sun goddesses drink
from the moon, not the cup her
mother placed outside her door &
begged her to open, open wide.
tell me: how does the darkness covet?
no, meet me by the willow tree on
the next full moon & we can howl
together, fingers digging into soft
dirt & negative space
i held out my skinny elbows,
my armory of bones & placed
them where i knew you’d find
them: you always do. remember this:
the dead do not forgive. & neither
do the half-alive, the ones scared
of both now & the afterlife, the
ones who don’t tell you their
craving lies elsewhere.
open wide, i said. i didn’t like how
you looked at me. i looked at you t
hat way, once. like only you could
fill the hollows in me made not by
old age, nor osteoporosis, the kind
of shadows blooming from torn
kiss me, find me floating on the
12:01 AM, digital clock numerals
fogged into my brain on fire,
running like a madwoman in the
Vestibule of Hell as
the numbers chase me:  
   
tell me: is it comforting to know
Rue Huang is a writer from the Mid-Atlantic. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Alliance, Paper Crane Journal, Aster Lit, Words & Whispers, The Blue Marble Review, and TribLive, among others. She currently contributes as photography editor & opinion writer for her school newspaper. When she’s not consuming her body weight in blueberries, you can find her debating something philosophical with friends, or running with her track team! Her Instagram is @ewwitshallie.
May moves Spring aside
And sweat drips down walls,
Enveloped coats. Boats
Bump against crumbling
Smoke stack shores. Behold –
My feet stick to the
Ground. My mind a bell
Striking twelve. Maelstrom
Peters to eddies
And finally stops.
Silence. Damp wood in
Battle with firefly
Seas. Brown sunned skin in
Curtain hug. Feet raw –
Newly unstuck and
Bound to heat columns
Like boats in harbour.
Sulakshana Guha is an Indian writer. She has been published in journals such as the Kyoto Journal and Topical Poetry.
Hoch’s View from a Bilge Pump on a High-Rise
“DADA speaks with you, it is everything, it envelops everything,
it belongs to every religion, can be neither victory or defeat,
it lives in space and not in time.” ~ Francis Picabia
Hoch snips her photomontage with a sharp tongue.
Da means yes in Slavonic. Or does dada mean
hobbyhorse in French? She is Germanic, no face,
no nonsense woman wired to her white hair.
She means no, but can’t make up her mind, decide
where the line divides itself between life and art,
hetero and homosexuality. This is where she lives,
in her own collage of the in-between, trying to make
a stand for something, just not knowing what, stuck
hanging on the edge of her own blank map until
suddenly, her husband pulls her up from the lip
of a building, screws her onto the port side into
a bilge pump where she overlooks her own city,
mismatching faces and bodies, gender – men’s heads
on babies’ bodies, machines and humans – gears
polluting eyes. Greta Garbo straddles Kathe Kollwitz
in an alley below, both in striped pant suits twirling
cigars between five fingers like a baton, all the while
discussing how to best take advantage of men with red
feather boas and finally it all makes sense to her, this
illogical façade of senselessness, women using the ideals
of beauty to outsmart men, smog annihilating industry
and all the generals involved in the creation, the need
for dada to consume her, the urgency in which she desires
to spread the word to artistic and materialistic consumers
that it is okay to be in the middle, in space, unsure
of liking men or women, industry or nature. She unscrews
herself, finally decides to reject her “good girl” image,
and creates illogical cut-outs from other art forms,
even though hers will never quite measure up, but isn’t
that the point? She is done with perfection, never quite
had it anyway. Dada is her new religion. Til Brugman,
her ex-female lover, preached – never perform in a female
masquerade: and more poetically, never darken your eyes
with the devil just to parade around in non-clicking heels.
She resolves to claim back not only her masculinity, but
also cooking, confidence, and anxiety, and her desire to create
the ridiculous. She slices all things she likes and dislikes
from the city below and imposes them, one at a time, in her own
space filled with everything, all her idiosyncrasies that prove
the world is a blank rooftop packed with pointless possibility.
Lesley Richardson holds an M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a certificate in Multicultural and Transnational Literature from East Carolina University. Her M.F.A. thesis was awarded a Pass with Distinction, a first-time award. She taught at Coastal Carolina Community College for eight years, and she is in her twelfth year of teaching at Cape Fear Community College. Her publications are included in the following literary magazines and journals: Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, The Asheville Poetry Review, California Quarterly, and Main Street Rag among others. She is currently working on a novel and a book of poetry.
In Elder Years
She fingers photographs and stares at them,
intent yet vague, as if she’s searching for
some once-familiar place. Her eyes implore,
Just one I can remember. But the phlegm
that darkens, clogs her mind, takes all control.
Her stare dissolves. Somewhere inside concedes,
allows her to let go. Her memory bleeds,
she shifts up, off her bed into the hole
that grips her life — uncertainty. But then
she reaches back into the box for pics
she photographed in some past life. The mix
of foreign places, airports showing when
she traveled islands, shores, Australia once.
A speck of what she had known filters in . . .
the lighthouse trips, the stairs she climbed. A din
of waves against a rocky cliff confronts
the four walls that she lives within, the room
where out of focus scenes are all that bloom.
MFrostDelaney is a bean counter by trade, a tree hugger in heart and a recovering soul, practicing life in New England. A member of the Powow River Poets, her poems appear regularly in Quill & Parchment, has been nominated for the Push Cart.Prize. She has contributed poetry to HerStory 2021, has poems in the Powow River Poets Anthology II and Extreme Sonnets II, and displayed a poem at New Beginnings – Poetry on Canvas, Peabody Art Association 2022
Editor's Note: This story was inspired by Paroxysm Bloom II, by Crystal Wagner, not by the art shown above. Click here to see the work.
Let me tell you about the way I died.
Let me tell you about the moment of my death, how my body shivered and split apart at the junctions to release a cumulus of colour, a cacophony of azure-ebony-moss-magenta-gold. Let me tell you that my dying was beautiful.
No need to feel sad about what happened. It’s okay to remember joyfully the sight of me unravelling, my fingernails forming a thousand scales, my sinews bundled into sheaves of wheat, my open mouth like a honeycomb. It’s okay to be amazed. I know you’ve never seen anything like that before, and you probably never will again. It’s okay.
I don’t think it really matters why I died because the how was so spectacular. No one was to blame, I’m sure of that. If someone was to blame, if someone caused me to explode like a star at the end of its lifespan, surrendering its molecules to cosmic judgment, then I hope that person is proud of what they accomplished. I hope they shout it on the street corner and sing it in church and whisper it to their loved ones before bed.
I know that this blast of turquoise-amber-scarlet, this multihued inferno blazing into a sudden void, is not the end. I know that someday my scattered spirit will reintegrate in a new vessel. Perhaps I’ll come back as a dandelion. Perhaps as a clay urn holding the ashes of someone important. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the look on your face when you witnessed my glorious dissolution: surprise, a hint of terror, and then—like a sunrise—awe. You couldn’t believe your eyes. To be fair, you were expecting a normal first date. Some getting-to-know-you conversation, a few genuine chuckles, awkward quibbling over who was going to pay. Not this radiant display, but aren’t you glad you were here to see it? Aren’t you glad to have that memory forever obscuring other, less extraordinary moments of your life? Aren’t you glad to have known me for that blink of time?
I was glad to know you, friend. I liked seeing your smile when you noticed that the dessert section of the menu offered green tea ice cream. I liked the flamingo-beaded purse that you slung casually over your shoulder. I liked how you kept wiping your hands on your pants like this whole casual dating thing made you nervous, but you were showing up for it anyway. If I hadn’t gone off like a firework halfway through lunch, I think we could have meant something to each other. Instead you were left with dazzling loops and whorls burned into your retinas so that when you close your eyes, the image will replay over and over.
So that you’ll never forget me.
So that I’ll never fade away.
Desiree Remick (she/her) is a student at Southern Oregon University. Growing up in the Rogue Valley, she learned to love nature, literature, and fencing: three passions that remain with her to this day. Her debut short story was the runner-up for Kallisto Gaia Press’ 2020 Chester B. Himes Memorial Short Fiction Prize. Her work has also appeared in the Nude Bruce Review and Unlost.
We are very excited to have longtime friend of the Review, Brent Terry, join us next month for a fun generative workshop stuffed to the gills with poetry exercises.
Brent is a legendary creative writing professor and award-winning writer. He is known for his wacky sense of humour, zany wordsmithing, and love of rock n roll troubadours, as well as for his passion for trail running in neon kicks.
Don't miss this special lunchtime event, a chance to play with words and images in a new way.
Click here to sign up.
You thought I was…dead?
That’s silly. I was only sleeping.
Sleep, as I have discovered, is not like death at all,
But rather another state of living. The dead
Don't dream, do they?
I have dreamed, let me tell you,
I have dreamed for a thousand years,
And I have lived more in each one than I have before.
I have dreamed of “the bodies changed into new forms”
As the world began, and I have dreamed of the look of terror
On your mother’s face as it will end…
Tricked? No, I wasn’t tricked into sleep, for
The goblet was full of beauty the whole time.
Don’t you understand? The sleep was beauty:
I dreamed of Chaos before the world began, and
She is “a crude and disordered heap-
Naught but stagnant constancy.”
She did not have logic.
Beauty is what exists outside of logic, you see?
Sleep is beauty, because beauty is what exists outside of logic,
Or underneath it.
It takes the subconscious and the subjective to make up what is sublime.
Nothing more, nothing less.
They say that even Odysseus was made foolish by radiant Penelope.
I opened that box to see what beauty is. I’ve been called
That word my entire life and yet I
What it means.
I thought if I saw what beauty looked like…
It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day.
I have drank the goblet, and I have seen beauty now, and now I am awakened.
You walked through Hell for me.
Men have a strange habit of doing that, don’t they?
Of going to the underworld for a woman they love.
As I said: beauty is the death of logic and the birth of love.
It is these foolish idiosyncrasies of people that are relics of that primordial existence.
How is your mother, by the way?
Oh, I know she still hates me, but I don’t mind.
I never expected a goddess of lust to be rational.
I assume Athena hasn’t found herself a lover yet?
I always liked her. She never looked twice at me.
Give me some of that ambrosia, Cupid.
My throat is dry, and I’m thirsty for godhood.
I’ve left that “poorly united dissonance of the source of things”
For a third and final act in my “perpetual song.”
Just say you abducted me. The gods won’t care.
Author's note: "All the quoted parts in my poem are from the first book of Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. The translation is mine."
Emily McM. is a high school student who enjoys theatre, poetry, art history, and liberal arts in general. She lives in North Texas with her family, cat, and dog.
I rehearsed and collaborated with my late wife Wendy Fort, dancer and choreographer, on Afro Psalms in the fall 2001, a year before her passing. Wendy was diagnosed with lymphoma 30 minutes before the performance. We drove quickly from the doctor’s office to MONA and decided our performance would go on. Wendy started treatment two days later. Mona’s curator slowly walked out before the audience of 300. Wearing white gloves, he placed a painting on the easel. I read one poem each time it settled on the easel. After I read the poem selected by Wendy to perform Stepping Out. Wendy received several standing ovations and applause that still linger in the halls of the Museum of Nebraska Art...
It would be the last dance of her life. Her life too.
I was co-curator. I chose 15 paintings and wrote a poem based on each painting, a sonnet-sequence. I titled the entire sequence Afros Psalms and titled each poem based on my observations and history depicted in the art. The paintings and poems were framed and shown during the opening and other events.
Wendy’s memorial service (piano, music, poetry, reflections, and song) filled the grand hall of MONA. There were poster boards and graphics made by our two daughters, photographs, and dance performances. Ten years ago, one of your staff members sent me the original video of Wendy’s last dance. One of my student assistants filmed the entire Afro Psalms premier performance and the Memorial Service). I was able to capture the attached single photographs.
"This series of paintings and drawings portrays the day-to-day lives of African Americans in the first half of the 1900s. The empathetic images, created by artist Grant Reynard (1887-1968), are given context by the historic recollections of the accompanying poetry by Charles Fort. Through the artwork and the sonnet redoublé inspired by it, the viewer may better understand the lives of African Americans in the early twentieth century."
Museum of Nebraska Art, website
The woman slow-danced in Satan’s arms
tossed a rose to a black man on a throne
in love with a slave’s wish and circumstance
undressed in the parlor before his kiss.
The hunchbacked poet walked in the meadow
until he memorized the King’s English
dreamed in his fever of the crippled ghost
who in his shame praised the woman he mourned.
His wish was a source of the broken crown
the journal written by God’s shaking hand
and fires that smoldered in the great sea
with the blood of the world cupped in his palms.
They recited his wish, her love, his shame
brooding in the shadow of Othello.
Black Dolls, White Dolls
The black women gathered parts of white dolls
before the Supreme Court a young lawyer:
black doll and white doll before a black child
as the black child caressed the white doll face.
The black child had seen beauty in God’s face
before the headline news of a bombing
and four girls killed at the Birmingham church
freedom riders, riots, water hoses.
What if the white women gathered black parts
attached a white head to a black body
or a gifted black head to a white body
attached black beauty to the white beauty?
Three doll eyes pecked out by a yellow crow
the hunchbacked poet walked in the shadow.
Crime in the city became punishment in the field
with the blindfelled crowd and a hooded
soldier at ease like a coiled serpent
taut as a bent cross on his armor.
The lunatic and depraved left the cry quarter
for the long march to circle the gallows
as the hanging judge tore his bible and mused:
Punishment in the field became crime in the city.
Was it how we punished the wealthy
who plundered, robbed, and killed
or the poor and how many we killed
Wearing their tar and feathers like a gift?
Crime in the city became punishment in the field
with quicksand and rope a foot too short.
Give us our poor king of the free
who discovered truth every four years
in a pickup truck and trailer park blues
or his sharkskin suit at the juke joint bar.
King of the free give us our poor
who born to circumstance and keen design
without the kettle of blueblood bedside
diseased in heaven without a birthright.
One black man in love with America
polished the president’s silverware raw
and one black man in hatred of thieves
crawled the back alley and stirred the fat clean.
Give us our poor moved to a burial ground
his wish was a source of the broken crown.
This was not a vogue it was jazz riff
born out of a mud cart and wagon wheel
into the twist the slide and the house fly
from the lean genius of Louis Armstrong.
There was coloured heaven at the movies
and What a Wonderful World he laid down
in a pin-stripped blue Easter suit wing-tip
before James Brown fell down in a black cape.
The swoon of the crooner and double bass
born out of a slave’s wish and circumstance
into a soft shoe dance and cocoa bop
down home country blues into rock and roll.
Dancers and singers gave up the seven mules
as they beat the man with the pitchfork blues.
Choreographed and Performed by Wendy Fort.
In a Just and Miniature World
It is a fearful thing to love What Death can touch.
There were clear signals you were not well
fourteen days and fourteen nights doubled over.
The evening’s champagne was left unopened
tied in blue ribbon like death’s bright palette.
The horse drawn carriage arrived at midnight
with pouches of a used and rare blood type
as the devil’s fortune took the devil’s turn
and catheters and picks left a territory of welts
like the discarded stars falling in your eyes.
The hooded driver passed the medicine bag
to Dr. Bascom passed down by his grandfather
who bowed to the South Dakota mountains
wiped your forehead and took your rapid pulse.
This was not a part of the evening news
unequal to holy war and starvation of nations
only comfort to a husband with two daughters
left on the back porch with no crimes to unlearn
who knelt together like angels on the great plains.
There were clear signals you were not well
with two weeks of doubt until they scanned
your organs as the fog lifted over the Platte River
a smoky black mushroom like a newborn stillborn
known only as a case number left at the prom door.
There was no wind in Nebraska on New Year’s Eve
as the head nurse tapped your veins for the morphine
until your white count rose and your platelets danced
and your recovery made a good country doctor flinch
after a distant signal found the artery of remembrance.
After the Rehearsal
We gathered your choreography of Afro Psalms
our wedding vow performance on marbled floors
at the Museum of Nebraska Art MONA To Its Friends.
You practiced for hours at Harmon Park’s
rock Garden raised by WPA flophouse workers
free room and board for the farmers and artists
the shapers of Central Nebraska’s Stonehenge.
We gathered the African kalimba and rain stick
metaphors of black magic and voodoo blood
for our evening’s curtain call in the corn palace
under a shower of circumstance and disease.
Forty-five minutes before the poetry reading
your dance and the art exhibit opening
we were seated in the small doctor’s room
half-alive in thin aluminum chairs
among the scorched leaves in the hollow
and the bright wings of the angel noble
in their wild and hovering insignificance.
It was the doctor’s first and correct call:
I am sorry to have to tell you
you have lymphoma.
There was nothing to be said.
We walked into the distant world
thirty minutes until our performance.
We would not tell our daughters tonight
and we gathered our poems and music
hollow instruments that moaned in our hands.
As we arrived and hurried into the museum
to a full house of literati and wise docents
the sandhill cranes and life studies seemed alive
with the avant-garde of the central great plains.
You were stronger than the hunger of gravity
and you had not doubled over for an hour
and the strong medicine they gave you
made you more of your second self.
I saw the throttle of pain in your eyes
with ten long minutes to show time.
Our daughters Claire and Shelley
sat in the front row with large eyes
small hands and their larger hearts
knowing something was wrong with you.
They had stared into the devil’s wishing well
as you walked on stage they wished you well.
For Wendy Fort
Twice they said you would not make it
and you awakened like a small bird
in its first dance outside its fallen nest.
Husband, two daughters, and friends
sat at your bedside at daybreak
into the evening until each minute
fell out of the heavens like gold coins
in the lilac wild that were your eyes.
Your chest rose and your breath fell
and the night nurse detected a slight
murmur in the parlors of your heart.
It’s going to be all right mommy,
shhh, shhh, Shelley whispered.
They held your hands for hours
as Shelley sang into your eyes
that suddenly opened and you smiled
and said to your daughters:
I love you, write it in your journals.
They wrote it in their journals
in their bedrooms in your voice
on your last day on earth
before heaven you told Claire (16) and Shelley (12)
you would speak to them in their dreams.
What am I going to do without you
without the walks to elementary school?
I did not want you to walk me.
it would be funny to my friends.
What about our little dog Mojo in the park
who leaped like a deer in the prairie grass
behind the Windy Hills Elementary school?
It’s going to be all right mommy,
shhh, shhh, Shelley whispered.
I don’t want another Mom.
She won’t see me graduate college
married or dance in the meadow
soft shoe with Barishnikov or Astaire.
She will be gone forever.
Claire comforted Shelley:
You will be fine.
You are beautiful.
Wendy made you beautiful.
There is nothing to fear.
Afterwards in the afterlife
you gave us the proper signals:
Claire dreamed you had left us
and the morning clock stopped.
Weeks before your photograph
that blew across the room with closed windows
and without the Nebraska wind landed face up.
Shelley wanted to play the violin for you
and they found it in the dark locker halls.
She played Cripple Creek by memory
though her music sheets were in the case.
Shelley’s last song for you to hear
a symphony filled the hospital halls
and lifted your spirit slightly
from the hollow ground to higher ground.
After I heard your last breath, Wendy,
I awakened Shelley from the fold out bed
and she touched your hollow chest.
Do not worry Mom, it will be like meditating.
You were gone.
You asked: Where did she go?
Can you close her mouth?
The nurse closed your mouth.
We walked down the hallway
and drove out of the parking lot
as Shelley wept in the backseat.
I suppose it was Shelley’s young heart and age:
We should have gotten a jar for her last breath
finding something alive to trick death?
The first five poems above are from Afro Psalms, an ekphrastic collection first published by Kearney, University of Nebraska, in 2001, and performed the museum.
Many thanks to the Museum of Nebraska Art for the use of the artist's images.
Charles Fort is the author of six books of poetry and ten chapbooks including: The Town Clock Burning (St. Andrews Press) and We Did Not Fear the Father (Red Hen Press). His work appears in 45 anthologies, including The Best American Poetry. Fort is Distinguished Emeritus Endowed Professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Founder of the Wendy Fort Foundation Theater of Fine Arts. Poetry Honours and Awards include Yaddo Fellow, MacDowell Fellow, The Writer’s Voice Poetry Award Individual Artist Award in Poetry, Connecticut Commission on the Arts, Poetry Society of America Mary Carolyn Davis Memorial Award, the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, and more. Fort received the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Siena Heights University and Faculty Scholar Awards from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Southern Connecticut State University, and he is represented on the NC Literary Map: Fort founded the Creative writing program at UNC-Wilmington. Fort has completed 350 villanelles. His first novel is forthcoming.
Van Gogh Revisits His First Painting as a Ghost
I’ve seen this street hundreds
of times, sometimes
even in my dreams.
So what is it about one man,
slouching down the canal,
the light like dawn,
The way the lines
are stone and water
skeleton and key?
Fog makes us intimate,
Shapeless, he and I
Just a handful of neighborhood
Undistracted by a wide expanse
When the curtains part halfway
Like a careless mouth
We flow like water
Into their open lives.
Jenna K Funkhouser
Jenna K Funkhouser is a poet, freelance writer, and mosaic artist living in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has recently been published by Geez Magazine, the Saint Katherine Review, and As It Ought To Be, among others. She is currently working on her second volume of poetry, an ekphrastic exploration of fully inhabited lives.
The momentum continues with the launch of our second writeathon, the Superstition Writeathon Event! Wednesday, September 13, 12 to 4 pm EST! This session, we will focus on the theme of superstition, writing about uncanny objects, beliefs, and the ways we invest the world around us with meaning.
Realtime, online, and asynchronous: you will work independently, while connecting in a private Facebook group. Those who can’t join in real time will have a week to participate at their convenience.
Meg & Lorette’s writeathons will be a monthly happening, where writers work and play, flexing their creativity with prompts and possibilities designed to eliminate the blank page. Dedicate four hours to writing, leaving your usual routines and censors at the door. Experiment, explore, and come away with a library of eight drafts to develop and revise later.
There will be ekphrastic prompts from the world of art, vintage photography prompts, Meg’s famous word lists, and more. you away. You can write microfiction, poetry, CNF, plays, memoir, or anything else.
Writeathon works will be eligible for publication in our forthcoming magazine, ROBIN: a literary quarterly.
We can’t wait to see the surprising stories that will be born.
Click here to sign up or for more information.
“Sometimes in a nervous frenzy I just fling words as if I were flinging mud at a wall. Blurt out, heave out, babble out something — anything — as a first draft… Until it exists, writing has not really begun.”
Meg Pokrass is the award-winning author of 8 flash fiction collections, Mslexia Magazine’s Flash Challenge creator, and founding editor of the Best Microfiction anthology series. Lorette C. Luzajic is the author of several collections of flash and prose poetry, and an internationally collected mixed media visual artist. Her passion for art history and lit collided in the founding of The Ekphrastic Review, the world’s flagship journal of writing inspired by art.
The Ekphrastic Review
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