Underneath, by Jordan Trethewey
every great artistic man
is a stable woman
whose strength holds him aloft
while he fluctuates wildly
from obscurity to success,
mediocrity to inevitable breakdown.
The ride is wobbly and uneven.
Like everything worth anything,
it’s about practice and resilience
in a side tent at the sideshow
hearing the low-attendance boos,
ignoring shit slung from the monkeys
whose names adorn the Big Top.
In self-aware moments he hears her,
really hears her sing the notes to Ave Maria
forming a bridge below the whole act.
He realizes the beauty of the waves,
ignores all routine hindrances,
and once more attempts to match
the rhythm of a rocking boat--
hoping it gets both safely to shore.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Some of his work found a home here, and in other online and print publications such as Burning House Press, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal, Califragile, and is forthcoming in The Blue Nib and Fishbowl Press. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. Jordan is an editor at https://openartsforum.com. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com.
Ekphrastic Writing Challenge: Henri Regnault
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 Salome, by Henri Regnault. Deadline is December 13, 2019.
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. (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 HENRI REGNAULT WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line in all caps please.
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, December 13, 2019.
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!
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VIEW ART HERE
John L. Severance Fund 1971.136
She stares at me across two thousand years
Asking perhaps if I remember her
If all the rites: the funerary tears,
The preservation, pickling in myrrh,
The artful wrapping up of what remained,
The portrait placed with care upon the sheet,
Had stopped forgetfulness. Her eyes are strained,
As if each visitor she heard repeat
The same refrain--young woman, Antonine,
Unknown--had drained a little more
Of that which made an artist now unseen
Paint her so true. Two thousand years she wore
And yet if I could speak her name, I swear
She'd raise her eyes and life would still be there.
This first appeared at 140 Syllables.
Philip Styrt is an assistant professor of English at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA. His creative and critical work focuses on traditional forms of poetry and drama. His poetry has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist), Sliced Bread and The Oriel College Record.
In Memory of Murni
– for the painter, I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih –
“i was pregnant at the time”
on the back of a small painting
to remember you by
the painting tells the story
the figure of a woman already showing
chewing the end of a hay straw
in a cage of turquoise-green
Murni, you don’t need to be with child
your spiritual children
already roam as free as light
“i want a child of my own womb”
your words of rue
in your home garden
Murni, your innermost womb
has borne you many children
more than you realize
you imparted the essence of your soul
to children who use wheelchairs
you gave them the brush, canvas, colour
and the whole painful travail
spilled out as the painting we weren’t expecting
and now, Murni, in that peaceful place
perhaps you’re painting angels
sobbing for the womb’s loss
or depicting the face of God
in every colour of human suffering
Wayan Jengki Sunarta, translation by Brian A. Salmons
– untuk pelukis I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih –
“saya hamil saat itu”
di balik lukisan kecil
lukisan itu bercerita
sosok perempuan hamil muda
mengulum benih bunga
dalam sangkar hijau toska
Murni, kau tak perlu hamil
telah mengembara sejauh cahaya
“aku inginkan anak dari rahimku,”
di halaman rumahmu
Murni, rahim batinmu
telah memberimu banyak anak
melebihi yang kau duga
kau bagikan saripati jiwa
pada anak-anak berkursi roda
kau beri mereka kuas, kanvas, warna
dan segala dera derita
tumpah jadi lukisan tak terduga
Murni, kini, di alam damai itu
mungkin kau melukis malaikat
yang tersedu kehilangan rahim
atau menggambar wajah Tuhan
dengan warna-warni derita manusia
Wayan Jengki Sunarta
Brian A. Salmons lives in Orlando, Florida. His work has appeared in Eyedrum Periodically, NonBinary Review, Ekphrastic Review, Poets Reading the News, The Light Ekphrastic, Eratio, and others, including an anthology forthcoming from YellowJacket Press. He is the host of @BrianAndTheNight, a poetry podcast on Facebook.
Wayan Jengki Sunarta is a writer from Denpasar, on the island of Bali, Indonesia. He started writing in the early 1990s and has published extensively in Indonesian, including seven poetry collections, three short-story collections, a novel, and a travelogue, and he has been included in more than fifty anthologies. His work has been published by a variety of prominent Indonesian journals, including Kompas, Koran Tempo, Media Indonesia, Java Post, Bali Post, Indopos, Kalam, and Horizon. He has been awarded or nominated for several literary awards and is active on the literary scene in Indonesia. His most recent published work is the poetry collection Amor Fati (Pustaka Ekspresi, 2019).
The Peasant’s Dance (Suktinis, a mead named after a Lithuanian Folk Dance)
The honey wine, although sweet
with traces of blueberry
and black and red current juice,
warms me with overtones of bitterness.
The nectar fills me with music,
and my limbs, heavy from the harvest’s labour,
are loose, and I want to dance.
And dance, I will, a spinning dance,
fired by fiddling, pipes, and drummer’s beat,
until the night falls to dawn.
Then, tired, but not exhausted,
I’ll reel homeward
to sleep on the straw bed,
dreaming dreams of wheeling freely,
forgetting the daily whip of obligation
that drives my work in the fields
in service to a man
who does not speak my language,
who does not even know my name.
Joseph Kleponis has taught English and American Literature in schools north of Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has appeared nationally and internationally in journals such as The Aurorean, The Penmen Review, Leaflet: The Journal of the New England Teachers of English, paperwasp, Eucalypt, and other literary magazines imprint and online. Also, he is a member of the Methuen Grey Court Poets.
12 Tone Diptych, by Mark J. Mitchell
12 Tone Diptych
two Paintings by Arnold Schoenberg
1). The Red Face
I am not
converting my scream
I’m teaching notes
mathematics that allow them
to change colours.
2.) Self-Portrait, Walking
The baton may seem to drag
but invisible movements command music.
My back is only turned because
violins don’t require my eyes.
This road is very brown and dark.
It absolutely must be lonely.
Mark J. Mitchell
Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu was recently published by Encircle Publications. He is very fond of baseball, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster where he makes his meagre living pointing out pretty things. He has published two novels and three chapbooks and two full length collections so far. https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/
A Genesis of Light, by Annette Sisson
A Genesis of Light
written in response to Frederick Hart, American sculptor (1943-1999)
Annette Sisson is Professor of English at Belmont University. Last week she was named one of seven Fellows of the 2020 BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, which resulted from a national competition. In June 2019 she won The Porch Writing Collective’s poetry contest (regional) and was awarded honorable mention in Passager Magazine’s spring 2019 national poetry contest. Recent publications include Rockvale Review, Nashville Review, Passager Magazine, Typishly, One, and Hamilton Stone Review--and she has poems forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, KAIROS, and SPANK the CARP. Her chapbook, A Casting Off, was published by Finishing Line Press (May 2019). Annette enjoys traveling, hiking, supporting theatre and serving on the Board of the Nashville Children’s Theater, watching the birds at her feeders, baking, playing the piano, reading, and writing. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, dog, and a small flock of hens.
The Ram God Khnum
There is another world and it is this one.
This ram’s extinct. But on the god
its horns stand yet. Each twisting curl
is lost in Nature, not on him –
since he’s not young. He scans the hall.
By his crown, know the god who threw
gods and men on a potter’s wheel.
Khnum surfaced from beneath the Nile.
He views his works with his ram's eyes
from some room in the British Museum.
It's cold in here; the crowd wear coats
to gaze at him. His left hand holds
crisp British air, as if it’s real.
The gods come calling. We do not.
Though that tongue's gone, its alphabet
compels the mind. Each choice we make
is patent. Gods are thus made up.
What they might want, we can't foretell.
We age, not them, and that's the deal.
In Egypt, where believers still
remain, the smoke of sacrifice
rises to Heaven. Is the work
Khnum fashioned lost beneath the silt?
you ask. Like birds, we greet the day.
We wish for something to reveal.
John Claiborne Isbell
John Claiborne Isbell teaches French and German at the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley. Since 2016, various MSS of his have placed as finalist or semifinalist for The Washington Prize (twice), The Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes (twice), the Elixir Press 19th Annual Poetry Award, and The Gival Press Poetry Award. He published his first book of poetry, Allegro, in 2018.
Fin de la Jornada
We walk side by side the day’s labour
done and nothing left to bear but the
rutted road home
the sun already set, autumn
seeping into our shoes I’d
reach for my sister’s hand if
my fingers didn’t ache so
still, this my favorite time of year
the harvest all in and the shawl
pulled tight about my shoulders
the current whispering past
and what waits for us at table
loaf of bread and two spoons
that first sip of sancocho our
mother’s warm embrace
perhaps it’ll still be light when we get
home the silhouette of tomorrow
already on the horizon
Marc Nieson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and NYU Film School. His background includes children’s theatre, cattle chores, and a season with a one-ring circus. His 2016 memoir is SCHOOLHOUSE: Lessons on Love & Landscape (Ice Cube Press). He's won a Raymond Carver Short Story Award, Pushcart Prize nominations, and been noted in Best American Essays. He teaches at Chatham University, edits The Fourth River, and is at work on a new novel, Houdini's Heirs. More @ www.marcnieson.com
Far Figures Walk the Road
When fatigue and beauty meet and
alchemize each other and invade me
and I long to fly down (for we view
them from above) and walk with
I can only sit here with my distant
heart and shaken mind
and with the ingrained glory of the
scarred and muddy road
and know I cannot know that
world of distant folk
with lives and minds as complicated and
complex, as mysterious as mine.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, poet, essayist, and novelist. Her most recent poetry collection is Burst Thought Shall Show Its Root: erasure poetry. Her latest novel is The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh. Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: http:// shirleyglubka.weebly.com
at the end of the day
You may think the Venezuelan untruthful
for painting hardship so pretty,
cotton candy clouds making a spectacle
pulling eyes from the poverty
the endless labor of the fields.
You many think Boggio naïve
to soften field workers
with shadowy pigment, as they disperse
with corn for arepas
with soya for fortitude
to their humble homes
before the imminent fade of hope and glow.
You may think him mad
to highlight weary resolve on canvas,
to light up the pink blue glory
harking behind pervasive cloud pictures
exposing every futility,
every darkened breaking point.
Is it not a greater act of rebellion
to spit on realism
to blur all else to get to beauty,
on your knees beauty,
to paint creation as heaven’s own
while willing us to see it?
Deborah Hetrick Catanese
Deborah turned toward writing as an adventure during her retirement. She spent four years as Founding Consultant, Editor and Writer for Project Motherhood, a blog about the intersection of fashion and parenting. She now writes creative nonfiction and poetry for the joy of it. She has also been published in Voices in the Attic, by Madwomen in the Attic, Carlow University; the Pittsburgh Post Gazette; The Microcomputer Facility and the School Library Media Specialist, by American Library Association; and The Dreamers Anthology by Beautiful Cadaver Project Pittsburgh.
All footsteps end at the same moment at twilight,
to gather where river, horizon and mountain meet--
a crossroads of mind, sweat and heaving breath.
The road has been muddy, brain mired in it, lulled
by feet’s rhythm into an open azure that deepens
as if pulled from a knapsack, contained in a glass
and savored into mild intoxification—a giddiness
of not thinking, simply noting the horses’ strain
pulling wagons, a barge moored at the canal bank,
the trees’ perpetual night along the opposing shore--
a long day, no more word than a breeze to myself
but heart and breath in their continual conversation
to the cadence of ankles and shins, an open secret
kept buttoned beneath a flannel shirt, the weight
of steps. A chill and haze of ice drapes overhead;
I watch for stars’ metal gleam to pin it into place.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA in Poetry from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Oyster River Pages, San Pedro River Review, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His poetry chapbook, Colors the Thorns Draw, was released by Desert Willow Press in August 2018
Fin de la Jornada
It is la fin de la jornada laboral.
The road home, a cattle trail,
is long, worn, almost desperate.
The trail is a rhythm
of cold toes in mud soaked shoes.
The land beside is of verdant green,
stretches to the edges
of tidal tears
reflecting sky, swirls of blue cream
enough to feed a country of open mouths.
Enveloped in dreamy impressions,
the field workers believe burdens lifting.
Time is a straight path.
Time is a vanishing point
Time is singular and headed home.
The secret to survival is to believe
the path leads to refuge beyond suffering
where babies try to stand
and fall laughing. Joys of family
are brief. Time is a circle.
Before vanishing, the straight, beautiful line
follows earth’s curvature. By morning light,
it takes them back to the fields.
Carrie Albert is a multifaceted artist and poet who lives in Seattle. Her poems and art works have been published widely in journals and anthologies, including Up the Staircase Quarterly, Grey Sparrow Journal, Foliate Oak, Earth’s Daughters . . .
End of the Day, Pueblo, CO
We walk the path to the synagogue
where early in the week
a young man new to town plotted
to bomb where a neighbourhood worships
where immigrants from all over the world
came in a new century to work in the steel mill.
For the first Shabbat people packed the sidewalk
windows open so they could hear
chairs inside full of believers and those not.
Never again was it as crowded except for today
says the rabbi as we raise our voices in song
He is not who we are, not in the beginning,
not ever since.
Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and France. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
Before the Boom
Sleep-walkers to the day’s end, they push
their burdens eastward into darkness--
barrows laden with Earth’s black wealth,
the oily filth of Venezuela
seeping & spilling in ugly ruts
across a shadowscape.
No sounds but a clogged protest of wheels,
sighs of women, bone-weary,
or low rustles of clothing heavy with tar
after a day’s drudgery at the oozing lake:
pumping, pumping by hand…so some rich man
in a colonial hacienda can quaff his gran reserva;
so he can laze & strum
a jangling blue guitar, lord it over those
who mint his money from the sludge;
so he can sneer at broken men
in patched jackets—can scorn them
like the overseer who wears a vulture’s coat.
Still sleep-walking to sunset, at last
the workers dump their loads. They turn
beside glittering canal waters, mirror-still,
toward the dreaming west:
to where evening rest awaits them
under a troubled autumn sky.
A published novelist between 1984 and 1996 in North America, Australasia, the UK, Netherlands and Sweden (pen-name Elizabeth Gibson), Ballagher is now writing poetry rather than fiction. Her work has been featured in a variety of magazines and webzines: Words for the Wild, Nitrogen House, the Ekphrastic Review, South-East Walker Magazine, Far East, Nine Muses, and Poetry Space.
I’ve learned to love the walk to work. It’s a Pittsburgh walk, past buildings covered in black soot, a small playground, tiny houses that one almost doesn’t notice but for a couple of cats who sit on a porch, waiting to be let in. I’ve been forcing myself to go on foot because it’s good for me, and as I travel the same few blocks every morning at 8 and every evening at 5, I’ve noticed a change. The sights are becoming a part of who I am. I have formed an intimacy in my solitude, not with people but with things: a brick in an arched wall, the wind. I love the faint hint of cold that hangs on the small front steps as I pass by. I don’t know how this change took place, but for the familiarity of the Maple trees, the riot of Zinnias bursting towards me from the edge of a wall, as if I share with these streets a secret that is mine alone.
Winter is coming. I got up this morning in the dark. After coffee, after the news and a piece of toast, a faint light appears. I leave my house. The sky is grayer than in spring. Soon the late sun will vanish. I’ll walk home in the dark. Strings of tiny lights have been wrapped around the lampposts to ward off the gloom. There is something sad about the twilight. I watch myself, a relatively small figure, making my way through the sky as night falls.
Shawn Kent started writing in her spare time while she raised two children, sold real estate, finished her BA, studied Buddhist meditation, and choreographed for a women’s dance group. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and completed an MFA in nonfiction. She is now part of the Yang Gang, volunteering for Andrew Yang's presidential campaign.
Ghazal for Emilio Boggio’s Fin de la Jornada
Factory hours finished, workers trudge the rutted road.
Freed of industry, its drudgery, they rejoice on the road.
The Oise reflects deep sunset, blue ripples, rose-pink, gold.
Green fields vivid, red-tipped photinias hedge the road.
Impressionism glows at day’s end near Auvers-sur-Oise.
Baudelaire’s paint the modern world echoes down the road.
Women push carts—parsnips, blue cabbages—into town.
A houseboat hugs the shore. The river companions, the road.
In the distance, the pathway’s bleakness narrows, disappears.
Suffused with light, the vista broadens, envelopes the road.
Reeds and grasses, sandy patches, follow the river’s bank.
Walkers come and go, water shimmering beside the road.
Sandi Stromberg is a devotee of The Ekphrastic Review’s challenges, which combine her two loves—art and poetry. She has won awards for her ekphrastic poems, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, had her poetry read on NPR, and published in newspapers and many small journals and anthologies. Her translations of Dutch poetry were published in the United States and Luxembourg.
End of the Journey?
At last we see home,
that dear white house
with its hearth
and soft sofas,
homemade corn bread,
our mother’s kisses.
Or is it a figment
dissipating before our eyes,
a legend lodged
inside our heads
that doesn’t exist anymore?
We stumble in the mud,
bellies empty, throats dry,
as the trees weep
and the road lumbers on.
Helen has been published on several online sites such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, Red River Review, Barren Magazine, The Drabble and Sukoon and loves reading The Ekphrastic Review. She now lives in England after many years in the Middle East.
Chameleon at the End of the Day
Long walk from Caracas
alongside the river of fool’s gold across
an epoch from the haçienda
once rich in chandeliers and protocol where
a stench of federal corruption
tarnished tongue, pen and palette
burnishing a once vibrant culture
rich resources wasted, squandered
as the meek pasar agachado
set to inherit little.
Through environs of Paris and Genoa
through embers of Corot, Pissarro, van Gogh
towards le jardin des cinq sens
the end of the day, the journey
of a chameleon again departed
while voluntarios arrive brave
vulnerable from the usurper rampant
clandestine behind doors
for to feed hearts of the hungry in
a nation full of shortages.
Who will follow?
Who will traverse?
Who will bridge over troubled waters of
Caracas’ unending darkness?
But at confines of Auvers-sur-Oise
no longer pasar agachado.
notes: pasar agachado : keeping under the radar
le jardin des cinq sens : the garden of five senses at Pontoise, France
voluntarios : volunteers
Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions in Europe and North America. His poems have featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He is particularly inspired by ekphrastic challenges. In September 2019, he was featured writer for the Federation of Writers Scotland.
We all eventually come to that place –
the vanishing point –
as we get closer to the horizon.
In the end we are indistinct,
each a dark silhouette, man or woman,
rich or poor, known only to ourselves.
There is comfort in knowing that we all walk
side by side, even if unaware, and yet flowing
inevitably toward that unknown place.
Along the way to remind us
there’s a river, silver-blue like catfish
glowing with last light, and a boat –
or perhaps a pub or a house –
someplace to rest, or just float
awhile before we must move along,
rejoin the flow, pulling carts
of whatever we can’t yet leave
as we trudge the rutted road.
Betsy Mars is an LA-based poet, educator, photographer, and newly fledged publisher. Her first release, Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife (Kingly Street Press) came out in October, 2019. She is a travel and animal enthusiast, a lover of language, art, and a believer in humanity. Her work has appeared online in numerous publications, as well as in a variety of anthologies and the California Quarterly. Her chapbook, Alinea (Picture Show Press), was published in January, 2019. Both books are available on Amazon or through the author who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Have Traveled
When the horse halted the wagon,
the parrot fell out.
The horse sniffed yellowing grass,
and the caged parrot toppled
onto the mud caked road. I had not owned
the bird for very long.
Fragile and young, it sang a little
as I begged for fruit that I suspected
women wheeled ahead in carts.
The horse gnawed grass blades, then lifted
its head to eye workers walking,
and Venezuela, I cried standing,
always wanting to own a house,
not floating on a river like this,
but near a good market as the horse started to neigh.
Oh yes, this precious land, a rifle shot could knock
an animal instantly dead. I imagine two lines,
crisscrossing from eyes to ears,
magnum point in slightly above
sweetly, gently, and then we could eat
for us, for the country. I will drive
my belongings, my sweat into the nation’s head.
The sun-white river had a metallic taste.
The horse wanted to drink as she grunted
at the parrot, thin behind its bars.
John Milkereit found poetry at his local church in Houston in 2005. His poems have appeared in various literary journals including The Ocotillo Review, San Pedro River Review, and the Texas Poetry Calendar. His second full-length collection of poems, Drive the World in a Taxicab, was published by Lamar University Press in September 2018.
The House Shimmered
The house shimmered
As it was wont to do
They had been walking so long
It hardly mattered
That the road and the water
Had transposed themselves
A way is a way
And any road will take you there.
What a thing to have though
A house full of light
That wavers and flickers
With your breath
In and out of being.
A bat of the lash
A turn of the neck
Just like that
A whole new wing appears
And how can it be odd
To see it feathered and ready to fly.
Holding the breath now
A whole dining room near the back
Shadows itself out
Does it move to another’s dream
A sigh returns it
This time even grander
With a large palladium window this time
And the hint of a fern shadowed there.
A house that shimmers
Hardly needs care.
Maybe a bit of dusting
Mint for the windows
Lavender for the sheets.
Creatures of air do this work
The dragonfly and linnet
Bees of course
And your own diaphragm.
Pass right by with their levels
And plumb lines.
Hardly aware, or are they?
The houses of dreams
Are in their lexicon
Even if unbuildable
With all the walking ahead.
Still, a way is a way
And any road will take you there
Even the road
That seems to be
In a place so wrong
That nothing found there
Can be right.
Except that shimmer
In the corner of the eye
Caught as the breath
From inhale to exhale
Along the river, on the river,
In the river, above it
That house there
Do you see it?
It is yours.
Kate Bowers is a Pittsburgh based writer who works for a large public school system by day. She has been published previously in The Ekphrastic Review and is a compulsive reader of anything with print on it. So if you find her staring at you oddly, you're probably holding something she can't quite read. Or, she just likes you. Kate is a trained improviser, loves to swim, and is a big fan of gardening and life.
End of the Day
weighs down boots,
as legs strain in the fight
Must keep up
don’t lose the crowd
don’t lose the light.
Darkness brings demons
the river always shines
like glass it catches every molecule,
draws the eye to its glowing sheen,
teases with oil-on-water
The Orinoco sprites mock
a home waiting cold and empty,
a cooking pot with little to fill it.
They tempt with brightness, colour,
a promise of peace.
A myriad of hues seduce me,
their magnetic attraction
removing the hunger, the cold,
Rosalind Adam is a Leicester, UK, girl, born and bred. She is the author of three children’s books published, including The Children’s Book of Richard III and her poetry has been published in both anthologies and poetry sites. In 2018 she won the G. S. Fraser poetry prize and was awarded a distinction for her Masters in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester.
The darkness had been with us for so long—a lifetime for the younger ones among us. Born after The Leader came with his rallies and promises, they had never known a time of light. Most could see through him, could see the evil that lurked within him. But all it needed was an opening, and enough were willing to allow it. Our world was grey and black. We whispered, never sang.
But now—suddenly--the sky was singing a song in colored light—blue, gold, pink--a symphony of brilliant hues. What could it mean? We leave our houses, walking to greet it, and one-by-one we join in a joyous hymn. We had forgotten the melody for a time, but now all recalled it, even the babies sang.
Merril D. Smith
Merril D. Smith is an independent scholar with a Ph.D. in American History. Her poetry and stories have appeared recently in Rhythm & Bones, Vita Brevis, Streetlight Press, Ghost City, Twist in Time, Mojave Heart Review, Wellington Street Review, Blackbough Poetry, and Nightingale and Sparrow. Visit her at merrildsmith.wordpress.com and @merril_mds.
End of the Journey
Sunrise or sunset is a trifling question.
Sixty-eight years is inconsequential.
The roads were muddy with rain in the fall and hard with ice in the winter,
people journeyed together in the heat of summer
and we separated in the cold spring.
Sunrise or sunset is a trifling question.
Whether Sunday or Friday no longer matters, and
gazing to the east or to the west is immaterial.
He arrived with the sun on his face,
and we separated in the cold spring.
Amy Lynn Hess
Amy Lynn Hess earned her undergraduate degree in theatre and interpretation from Central Michigan University, her Master of Arts in theater history and criticism from Ohio University, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Hess has been teaching English in the Atlanta area since 2008 in addition to editing and publishing the Gypsy Daughter Chapbook series.
I am one of you now,
Member of a small tribe.
I haven’t joined the ones
Walking home, darkness
Catching up to them,
Half the light left in the river.
There was no other way to paint
The song they sang, the drum
Of boots struck against ruts,
The held note, a boy’s soprano,
That made the birds fly away.
We looked through Emilio’s window,
Our faces are covered in his oils.
What binds us is delicate, hidden,
The reflection of his vision behind our eyes
Mulberry leaves for silkworms.
Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, The Delmarva Review, The Sow’s Ear, and Tuck Magazine as well as multiple other journals. She was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry and the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest and the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.
The bustle leaks through the ducts
last call for Flight 687 to Caracas
but in this airport meditation chapel
No phone calls
No shoes beyond this point
A prayer rug covers the left side of the room.
I pull off my boots and laugh at the memory
of an old traveler’s advice—
never walk barefoot on a plane,
the floors are filthy.
So many have kneeled here,
praying away the phobia of flying.
My fear is sitting still,
not in the air or this sterile room,
but inside the four sturdy walls
of the house where I wait
like the blue jay sheltering
on a branch of the old white pine,
ready to take flight again.
A woman in her eighties in the window seat
says she’s a widow from LA
she grabs my hand as the plane takes off--
just a quick touch is all it takes.
Oh perfect, look who’s here
mutters the old man on the aisle
with the beard of Moses,
from the court of the Pharaoh.
I try hiding in a magazine
while we sit inches apart
and ascend without thinking
of the five thousand years
between Icarus and jet lag.
Impossible, he roars,
bloodshot eyes ablaze,
He pounds the plastic tray table
and erupts in a coughing fit
that cuts him short.
We ride the sky together,
cutting through clouds
balanced between earth and space
by forces that do not yield
to poetry or prophesy.
He catches his breath and turns to me
in a voice quiet and serious as cancer.
Think about the humiliation of Joseph,
too poor to provide for his pregnant wife.
What kind of man relies on the mercy of strangers
when they see his wife’s swollen belly?
Each time he looks another man in the eye
and begs him to take pity, he’s a failure of a father
even before the birth of his child.
And only he knows the truth about his wife.
She must have been unfaithful, and she spouts
fantastic lies and delusions about spirits.
The shame of the cuckold is his secret.
That’s a test of love worthy of Job.
He closes his eyes and sighs.
I thump my chest with a fingertip
feeling for the beat of my too-small heart
as warm jets lift us to higher altitudes.
Six blackbirds on a high-power wire
far above a rail line below.
One flies off somewhere far out of sight--
do the others notice there’s a hole?
I’m on the platform, waiting with a crowd,
people that I’ll never see again.
What does it mean to be a lone blackbird,
here for a moment, then gone?
Worn by fifteen thousand miles,
I pause beside the old white pine
to gaze upon this midnight light
that traveled across galaxies,
four years at constant speed,
a pilgrimage from fiery dust
that enlivens, that awaits us.
Matthew Kohut has worked as a writer, teacher, and musician for twenty-five years. His poetry has been published in The Dreamers Anthology: Writing Inspired by Martin Luther King and Anne Frank. He is the co-author of a book on social judgment theory that has been translated into nine languages. For the past decade his work has focused on helping people communicate more effectively in high-stakes settings. He lives in rural New Jersey.
Tonight They Wear Dark
for Gwani and Sidi
A galaxy’s veins were stomped on;
the stars bled a circle; hues of sorrow
intense like the crowns of ancestors.
Perhaps, this wasn’t the space to have
spoken of horses that galloped on lands
with metal hooves – metal wheels loose-
rumbling on metal paths – the roads lined
with cherry trees that flourished and failed,
but the sky ahead never withered of season.
Even when the penumbral light glanced
at the earth like a betrayed lover, there
always was a tunnel leading to a shadow
that wasn’t ghost to lunar star-tides. It was
easy to read the codes on winds over cycles
of twilight, and love exposed forbidden hybrid
of science and emotion. When icebergs
became a renegade feature, they took
down opulence that threatened to over-ride
their grandiose. So they did, tearing into
steel with their blue-ice burning jealousy,
their regard for humans with a kind of love
that trapped them in liquid suspension,
as a memory so exquisite, so special,
their breathing forms embalmed to age
in a loop of that frozen year; fragile pieces
of their existence owned and devoured by
control – lover: saros of toxicity – but tonight
firecrackers would scurry to the sky
from the ocean; people would walk
on ebbing tracks, the soil cold as metal;
and people sinking in ice, thriving as dark
shadows, stories of souls converting to
ancestors – the stars, a soundless projection.
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her works appear in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent publications are Strange Horizons, Pedestal Magazine, Atlantean Publishing, Alban Lake Publishing, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Persian. She has also appeared in Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love, an anthology that has been nominated for the Pulitzer. More about her can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com
When Stars Outnumbered Streetlights
River and road wind along,
side by side. River babbles.
Road keeps its bored silence.
Laborers slog home
before darkness fills
deep ruts, twists ankles,
costs a week’s wages.
Downcast eyes and lives
seldom notice sunset shimmering
on the water. Just a few neighbors,
hypnotized by streaming light,
smile as they pick up the pace
Alarie Tennille graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She’s now lived more than half her life in Kansas City, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
Thoughts on the Way
Old, worn leather boots know the way home.
Through soot-black mud,
through grey gravel path,
they carry me. They know the way.
A long day’s work and the journey home.
Weary work and a long day of it.
The factory devoid of colour, a city of drab,
my entire day, and only this outdoor trek
a riot of colour before the night.
My old lungs wheezing in the thin air
are as thread bare as my patched woolen coat.
As over trodden as the muddy track.
As ash grey as the ruts of bicycle tires.
My old bones creaking like spokes in those tires.
My old skin roughened, weather-calloused,
like the rubber around them.
Soon I’ll pass the same black horse cart
I pass every day on the way home.
His hooves as tired as my feet,
but still we press our way along.
One day he will go by,
and I will not be here to meet him.
The last dance of summer fire is in the autumn sky.
The sinking sun is doused in a puddle on the side of the road.
The colors simmer in the cold creek flowing past.
The same verdant fields, the same azure mountains,
brushed with brightly- burning, falling day are rising as I pass.
Chani Zwibel is the author of Cave Dreams to Star Portals and Star Portals to Cash Registers. She is an associate editor with Madness Muse Press. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College. She was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but now dwells in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and their dog. Find her on Facebook.
They march alone/together
in the dark,
a scumble of humanity
wet with reality
after a day of
on loading docks,
amid raked dust
of horse stalls
and cartwheeled clicks
on cobbled roads,
a haul of coal,
toward the gleam
an earthy stew,
a fresh loaf,
stories near the stove,
a book read under
or kerosene glow--
harnessed in many ways,
free in others.
Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, Permafrost, I-70 Review, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere.
not towards something but away
from dying cattle and the cursed
land that only produces rotting harvests.
The blight had invaded one fresh spring
morning. The first green buds turned
black on the branches, April frosts killed
the new-born lambs, the women
gave birth to dead creatures
resembling the elf children
of ancient lore. Summer storms
took the roofs of barns, the hay, barrels
off grains and cabbage, pitchforks,
even ploughshares. Then came
the rains. Mould grew on the inside
of dwellings, beds turned into
the home of snails.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of Tangents a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the now defunct Goodreads monthly competition. There were other prizes. Recent poetry collections: From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949: A Child’s Journey and Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back. Her latest full-length poetry manuscript, The Rain Girl, has been accepted for publication in June 2020 by Blue Nib.
I lie here with a new mistress--
Salmonella, in an embrace
from which I will not be released.
Should I have starved,
rather than accept her generosity?
Much, malnourished travel
to study under draped expectations,
when all I want is to rip away
the fabric entangling me
in the family business.
I feel fortunate
to dip my last bristles here,
in France, where bright colour--
an imprint of personal style,
cannot be so easily valued.
This is the end of my journey,
not an impression of it.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His new, frightening book of verse, Spirits for Sale, is now available on Amazon from Pskis Porch Publishing. Some of his work found a home here, and in other online and print publications such as Fishbowl Press Poetry, Ten Million Flies, Burning House Press, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal, Califragile, and is forthcoming in The Blue Nib. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. Jordan is an editor at https://openartsforum.com. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com.
(at the) end of the day
what is coming
not through doors or windows
open or closed
what is coming
we are restless
we have covered our senses
blindfolded our vision
bitten our tongues so they
will never stop bleeding
what is coming
we think we know but we
have no idea
we think the earth will
welcome our remains but we
can’t imagine what
we are leaving behind
what is coming
we think we will travel
an infinite web
our souls into eternity
we think we can be both
always and now
what is coming
bones rising questions falling
on deaf ears
hands unable to open
clenching with teeth
to empty air
squeezing out every molecule
of light every seedling
what is coming
the mirror that reflects
a shade that cannot
what is coming
inside a camera
what is coming
the invisible landscape
that will never see
what is coming
the morning of the afternoon
the dark of the day
the shrinking of the infinite
Kerfe Roig enjoys playing with words and images. You can follow her adventures on https://kblog.blog/ .
María walks hand in hand with her parents on the muddy road. Mamá to her left, and Papá to her right. They are part of the many on this path who don’t have shoes for their feet, and only two small satchels to their name.
María looks down at her feet, caked in mud. She wiggles her toes and feels them move, but doesn’t see anything more than a tiny ripple in the mud covering them. It’s like she already has her own pair of shoes, but Mamá doesn’t listen to her when she tries to tell her. María doesn’t try telling Papá; he stopped responding to her three sunsets ago. He keeps moving forward, and keeps them all moving, as though if they were to stop moving he, too, would stop forever.
María and Mamá keep an eye out for a white dot on the riverbank. Mamá says that’s where they are headed: the white dot will grow into a house, and then when they reach the house, that is where their better life will start. No one knows exactly where on the riverbank the house sits, only that it appears to those who are most in need.
Along the road and the riverbank, tread other families who are looking for the same thing. Some ride on wagons, others on horseback. Many are walking, their feet caked in thick mud.
She wonders how the house decides who it appears to, and how someone determines that the house is theirs. María doesn’t want to bother Mamá any more than she already has, so she doesn’t voice her questions aloud. She merely keeps her eyes on the riverbank, like she had been told the previous day. That had been shortly before Mamá had become quiet like Papá had. Mamá still makes some noises, occasionally, when María talks, where Papá remains soundless.
After hours of walking, she spots the white dot on the horizon.
“Look Mamá! Papá!” She exclaims, and starts moving faster, nearly dragging her parents in her haste. After days of walking, they will finally have made it, to the end of their journey.
Around them, the other families start moving quickly as well. The white dot grows bigger, and bigger, until it grows into a small, modest house, with a green roof, standing partially in the river. Closer to the house, María can see more families quickly approaching from the other direction.
For the first time since their journey started, María is worried. There are so many families here! What if the house disappears before they get there, what if they do get there but aren’t chosen? She again wonders, more desperately this time, how the house chooses who is the most deserving.
María and her parents are among the first of the families to reach the house. Everyone stops right before the threshold, no one wanting to be the first to approach the building on the riverbank. The air hangs heavy around the group, before the front door slowly opens, and out steps an elderly woman, holding a misshapen shepherd’s crook.
All at once, every family starts clamoring, talking over one another as to why they should be chosen. The only ones who don’t talk are María and her parents. After only a short moment, the elderly woman raises her hand, and all at once the talking ceases.
She points her crook at a family far to the left, and María . The family hesitates, and then shakes their heads, clutching their son close to them.
The elderly woman repeats this with each family: some families she only gestures for one child, some she gestures for all children. By the time she reaches María and her parents, the elderly woman has a flock of eleven children, out of the countless families that had come. She raises her crook at María, and María looks up to her parents, who are staring unblinking ahead.
“I’m going, Mamá, Papá.” María says responsibly. She’s not tall enough to reach their faces, even on her tiptoes, so instead she gives her parents each a kiss on the hand she’s holding. “I’ll start our better life for us, and I’ll come back for you, to share it.”
Her parents don’t say anything, but María hears their blessing in her heart.
Letting her parents’ hands go for the first time since they started their journey, María joins the other children by the entrance to the house on the riverbank. The elderly woman opens the front door, and the children file into the house. Before María enters, she stops one last time, and looks back to her parents, standing unmoving in the mud. Behind them, she sees the trail of muddy footprints of where she had been, and how she came to be where she is now. She smiles, waves goodbye, and steps into the house, leaving behind one last pair of muddy footprints on a stone outside of the house.
Kira Kitchen is a current MFA Student at Chatham University studying Children's Writing and Publishing. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA.
The Ekphrastic Review
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