Thank you to everyone who participated in the Ekphrastic Cats contest! It is such a joy to be part of this wonderfully creative and curious community. We are always amazed by the variety of ideas and approaches taken by participating writers. It is a joy to read your entries.
Choosing is a much more difficult task. All of the finalists were chosen blindly by The Ekphrastic Review, and our esteemed guest judge, tm thomson, who did the difficult work of choosing the winner from the short list.
A big congratulations to all of the poetry finalists and to Sandra Fees, the winner. Sandra's piece is first, followed by the others in alphabetical order.
Guest Judge's Note:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the poetry for this contest. It was not only fun but enlightening as well, seeing all the approaches to each piece of art, approaches I never would have thought of—a letter from the artist, the perspective of a young woman going through puberty, a prehistoric father’s description of his son, the cave artist. Reading these poems and others for the contest has widened my own poetic horizons and given me quite a bit to think about. To write poetry, one must read poetry, ingest poetry, savor the poetry of others, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.
Thank you so much Taunja for your wonderful input!
Ekphrastic Cats Poetry Finalists
The Undercoat, by Laurel Benjamin
Weapons of Crass Destruction: Portly Bard
Daydreaming, by Sandra Fees
Cats of Chauvet Cave – (France) c. 30, 000 BCE, by Ronnie Hess
Vanity, by Lynne Kemen
My Sweet Tigre, by Jackie Langetieg
Pyari billis (sweet cats) and the dire fire!, by Anita Nahal
Herr Katz Calls on Fraulein Kitty, by Jane Salmons
The Puzzle of Cats, by Margo Stutts Toombs
If Cats Wore Ball Gowns, by Julene Waffle
Carl Kahler’s Letter To His Sister, Inge, 1891, by Debbie Walker-Lass
Tom's Time Museum, by Tricia Cimera Whitworth
Ekphrastic Cats Poetry Winner
Daydreaming, by Sandra Fees
Read the Ekphrastic Cats Flash Fiction Finalists here!
try telling the cat
huddled in a bowl)
that you cannot
step into the same
or try telling yourself
you cannot toe the past
that the dandelion clocks
cannot keep time
that the curved lemons
& apples on the small
indigo table are not
that love lost
cannot be found
it comes back to this:
three red fish
the cat dipping a toe
& this, the water
we swim in
Sandra Fees has been published in SWWIM, River Heron Review, ONE ART and other journals. The author of The Temporary Vase of Hands (Finishing Line Press, 2017), she lives in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The question of the embroidered cat
never came up in our forgiveness
though I knew each of us
a throat-full. We’d worn off
most pleasures, tried not to
respond or seem pellucid
scouted in detailed brush work
what we could of the sparrows
fluff of feathers between
the cat’s teeth.
broke before I knew you,
the truck ploughed into
your ribs, breaking them
all. You resembled the cat’s
tabby stripes, I’m sure. Longed
to sleep curled up,
but pain within chambers
of a pomegranate didn’t allow.
But this is all an attempt
to forgive ... (or whatever) - show
One day I examined the cat’s ears,
blood vessels like a road map for
where we’d gone or could have
ventured if we had agreed. But really
the lines simplified as trees mattered
more to the cat’s life than ours,
branches to hang from and trunk
to claw. Cats, as they grow older
unclouded even with cataracts
eyes that can’t hide like a court jester’s
rituals like the undercoat
fine down, and the paws.
Just waiting. And we, with our own
undercoat, more visible, less
fine, an awkward forgiveness.
Laurel Benjamin is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, where she invented a secret language with her brother. She has work forthcoming or published in Lily Poetry Review, Flash Boulevard, Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women's Poetry, South Florida Poetry Journal, Trouvaille Review, One Art, Ekphrastic Review, Midway Journal, MacQueens Quinterly, among others. She is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers, and holds an MFA from Mills College. She is a reader for Common Ground Review. Find her at: https://thebadgerpress.blogspot.com Twitter at @lbencleo Instragram at cleobenjami
Weapons of Crass Destruction
Where siege was laid to mind and soul
that wile could conquer and control,
attack was made on core belief
by victor and irreverent thief
of dignity when cats abused
were grimly as munitions used
to horrify in fortress walled
-- by heresy to leave appalled --
the hearts far more afraid of wrath
that would forever stalk their path
as furtive, ghostly fang and claw
of retribution raking raw
the body that was disinclined
to halt the war on god maligned,
where faith was not the love that feared
the deity that it revered.
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment...
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.
Cats of Chauvet Cave – (France) c. 30, 000 BCE
He had such a keen eye, my boy, and a hand that from the moment he could
sit erect would draw images in the clay. I knew he was destined to be taken
into the cave, to hold charcoal in his hands, use the walls as his sketch book.
Only a few were given the chance. Half of his life in the light, half in darkness,
straddling the scaffolding, torches the only illumination as he worked.
And sometimes when the cats came to prey, he would steel on his haunches,
notice the jaw line of one, the muscles of another rippling along its flanks.
He sketched them over and over. Sure, he drew other animals – bears and hyenas,
wooly rhinoceros butting heads, defining their territory, fighting for a mate.
But the land was his story, his sacred task to chronicle it, teach the others.
He did the unspeakable, leaving an imprint of his hand. He had a sound
for a name, no reason for an alphabet. But his blood runs through time.
Poet and journalist Ronnie Hess grew up in New York City, and earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a reporter and producer for CBS News in Paris, and a freelance writer reporting on political, social and cultural issues for The Christian Science Monitor, The Milwaukee JournalSentinel, and more. She is the author of many poetry chapbooks, and two award-winning culinary travel guides, Eat Smart in France, and Eat Smart in Portugal.
She won’t assimilate, needs no therapy.
Fake interest in others, mirroring with mirror.
Fleeting glance to be sure she’s gotten glimpses.
Cheeks, face, posterior plump.
Black cat peers at painter. He’s seen enough
of his mistress preening. He can out-stare her,
lick his paw, be nonchalant.
Lynne Kemen lives in Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than a Handful was published in 2020. She is published in Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Fresh Words Magazine, Spillwords, Topical Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, and Blue Mountain Review. Lynne stands on the Board of Bright Hill Press. She is an Editor for the Blue Mountain Review and a member of The Southern Collective Experience.
My Sweet Tigre
I am sick of being a girl with a uterus.
I lie here on Grandmother’s sofa, cramps
roiling through my stomach.
My friends all dance, laugh, and flirt
with the senior boys who always show up
at the Sock Hop before a game.
Peter will look for me but turn to Glenda,
aptly named as a witch. If I could throw off
this golden robe, I would be out the door--
who says girls have to stay home every
month of this curse. This is only bearable
because of sweet Tigre, her calm head
on my arm, enfolded in my warmth.
Her claws sheathed she purrs and plays
with the fringe on my wrists.
Last week going to Teresa’s for a sleepover,
red candy-cane P.J.s under my arm,
Gram made me put them in a bag,
said it wasn’t seemly to have night
clothes showing with a boy in the car.
It might give him evil thoughts. Oh Gram
evil thoughts are the most fun of all.
Jackie Langetieg has published poems in journals and anthologies and won awards, such as WWA’s Jade Ring contest, Bards Chair, and Wisconsin Academy Poem of the Year. She has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has written six books of poems, most recently, poetry, Snowfall and a memoir, Filling the Cracks with Gold. www.jackiella.wordpress.com
Pyari billis (sweet cats) and the dire fire!
Go to sleep, pyari billis, the world is on fire. Dire. Almost always.
Mice sprint. Pyari billis squint. Tom-Jerry’s a cartoon. Fire simmers. Dire.
Whistledown's pamphlet's out. Pyari billis, whisper, “Dire, fiery trickster”.
Pyari billis, gossip alone. Classics are dire and fired up. Not tired.
Unslept. Still impish. Not Blimpish. Dire fires to douse for pyari billis.
* Pyari billis: Means sweet cats in Hindi
* Lady Whistledown: A character in the Netflix series, Bridgerton who writes a pamphlet on society scandals
Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP is a poet, professor, short story writer, flash fictionist, and children’s writer. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington D.C. Her poems and stories can be found in national and international journals in the US, Uk, Asia and Australia. For more on Anita: https://anitanahal.wixsite.com/anitanahal
Herr Katz Calls on Fraulein Kitty
After "Amulet" by Ted Hughes and The Bouquet by Sophie Sperlich
Within the gilded drawing room, the elegant chair.
Against the elegant chair, the silk parasol.
Next to the silk parasol, the taffeta shawl.
On top of the taffeta shawl, the fur trimmed bonnet.
Beside the fur trimmed bonnet, the pressed Morning coat.
Above the pressed Morning coat, the waxed whiskers.
Below the waxed whiskers, the manicured paw.
Clasped in the manicured paw, the ivory envelope.
Inside the ivory envelope, the billet-doux.
Around the billet-doux, the bouquet of pink roses.
Beneath the bouquet of pink roses, the royal blue ribbon.
Above the royal blue ribbon, the expectant eyes.
Behind the expectant eyes, the gilded drawing room.
Jane Salmons is the author of the poetry collection The Quiet Spy, just released from Pindrop Press. She writes and publishes poetry and microfiction, studies and teaches in England, and creates handmade collages.
The Puzzle of Cats
Haiku for A Crossword Puzzle
My first feline love
Gentle seal point Siamese
Too mild for trailer life
Gorgeous passion cat
Fierce protector of our home
Held us together
Fluffy Maine Coon
Saw me and jetted to our home
Sweet, sweet Lysander
Gray tuxedo cat
Peed in all the wrong places
But we still loved him
Bringer of kittens
Found a safe home for her kittens.
Michelle, my bell
Small tuxedo cat
Imitated other cats
Such a sweet kitty
He knows how to get his way
My heart is hostage
Siamese An Asian cat.
Othello A Shakespearean tragic character
Maine The name of a state in the US is part of the name of this breed
Percy The nickname for one of the heros in Greek mythology.
Michelle The title of a Beatle song.
Cyrano A literary figure with a sizable nose.
Cappuccino A hot beverage of espresso and steamed milk.
Heart The part of the body that pumps blood.
Hostage To hold someone against their will.
Protector A guard
Lysander One of the lovers in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Kittens Baby cats
Tuxedo Black and white cat
Margo Stutts Toombs
Margo Stutts Toombs enjoys writing, performing and filmmaking. She performs her monologues at Fringe Festivals, art galleries and anywhere food and beverages are served. She was the flash fiction winner for the Ekphrastic Sex contest, with The Care and Feeding of Your Penis Tree.
If Cats Wore Ball Gowns
The gossips lie in wait in the corners of the ball room
and mewl of feral hunters just arrived,
of gibs and moggies, without money or title,
and mollies who sit stiff-backed on satin settees.
Young tomcats prowl the room
looking for entry into this game of cat and mouse.
Dams purr in tight colonies, curl their tails
in calculation, competition, flexing their claws.
Sires twitch their whiskers, let this glaring of cats hunt
while they discuss mice in the walls and rats
on the streets. They take bets on what morsels
will be left in the bins outside the kitchen.
And then the queen amidst queens in this clowder of cats
poses in the center of the room.
Her pedigree has taught her how to swish her tail,
how to tilt her head, how to walk in a way
that says mystery and confidence and “I don’t care.”
She must have learned how to send invisible
invitations, pheromones floating through candled
air and pretend as if there is no plan.
She walks one paw in front of the other,
glides to the dance floor, all eyes
on her, the sheen of her hair, the jewels
of her eyes, the silk and fur of her dress.
She pretends not to notice
that everyone has noticed.
Julene Waffle, a graduate of Hartwick College and Binghamton University, is a teacher, a family woman, an animal and nature lover, a business woman, and a writer. Her work has appeared in The English Journal, La Presa, Mslexia, The Ekphrastic Review, The Non-Conformist, among other journals and anthologies, and her chapbook So I Will Remember. Learn more at www.wafflepoetry.com.
Carl Kahler’s Letter To His Sister, Inge, 1891
Enclosure: (Rough sketch of cats) entitled “My Wife’s Lovers”
My Dearest Inge’,
Greetings from San Francisco!
Can you imagine how it feels to be a God?
Laughing aloud to myself in a room positively crammed with cats-
Inside every cat a personality assigned to them by yours truly!
My benefactors- my ben-e-cats, will provide nicely for us!
The interpretation I submit will be far beyond The Johnson’s
Imaginations, it will be even richer than they are!
My subjects stalk, slink, pander, groom themselves
(Although a girl is nicely paid to live-in and care for them)
Princes, princesses, a queen or two to be sure, but
Only one king, Sultan, The Imperial, regal feline and alas!
The bane of my very existence! I put him front and center as
Mr. Johnson told me Kate loves him best, as
She should! They paid over $3,000 for him!
The surly, preening little monster cannot abide me!
I’ve done my best to convert my feelings toward him from
Pure loathing to the reverence befitting the Norwegian God that he surely is,
At least until I complete this (LIFE-CHANGING!) commission-
Even though he swatted at me, claws out, and I barely
Escaped with my left eye intact!
Since then, I have been assuming a professional distance
I bet you’ve guessed Sultan thinks he is my God, and I say let him!
I will be laughing all the way to the bank, my reputation intact
Don’t worry your pretty head! I wouldn’t hurt that cat!
Even though he dipped his tail in my reddest hues!
Imagine the fuss, sister!
A courtly feline with a maroon tail!
It took an hour of frantic caterwauling to settle it- The poor girl,
(Her name is Tilda, rather plain) had to dip his tail in turpentine,
And wash it with soap many times over! Luckily for me,
Sultan was held firmly by Ben, a butler with wisely gloved hands.
Sultan glared at me the entire time, with I-hate-you-and-want-you-dead
Lust in his huge feral eyes.
Of course I have a favorite, one best out of the forty-two!
That is affirmative, forty-two cats, all hoarded up in a gilded room, but…
I’m here to paint, not pass judgment!
Can you spot the pretty one, near the clever butterfly I invented?
Gorgeous, fluffy and white, except for her back, which looks like Butterscotch
was spilled all over it!
Ginger, the most beautiful cat! When I was closer in, she sidled up to me
Purring her sweet little head off, rubbing against my legs with abandon-
And I bet you’ve figured out that Sultan wouldn’t stand for that!
Every chance he gets, he pins her to the floor! I’m helpless to stop it.
I wish feline lechery were a crime and that scalawag could be shut up
In a kitty-cat jail! Such a rogue beast is he!
Fortunately, this humongous monstrosity of a painting is coming along beautifully!
When it’s finished, (O, GLORIOUS DAY,) I expect to be able to pay off mother’s mortgage
While having enough of my largesse leftover to tour the RIVIERA with you, Inge!
SURPRISE, my dear sister!
Affluence! I’ve grown accustomed to the smell of it!
The thought of walking barefoot on that sugar-spun French beach has kept me going for
These THREE YEARS! It will all be worth it in the end, please agree now that I’ve let
The cat out of the bag!
Just pray that I keep my wits intact and don’t go after that irascible, felonious feline!
Your Loving Brother,
PS If the Johnson’s don’t like this painting, firstly, I shall destroy it, and secondly, my career will be for the birds! Please keep the sketch! Give our sweet mother a kiss from me.
NB: Kahler died in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, his painting survived. His work is said to be the greatest painting of cats in art history, and at 6 feet by 8 feet, probably the largest.
Debbie Walker-Lass is a literary essayist, poet and short story writer. Her work has appeared in several journals and magazines, including The Ekphrastic Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Haiku Universe, and Natural Awakenings, Atlanta. After a long career in Supported Employment and Mental Health, Debbie spends her time reading, writing, designing jewelry, and beachcombing.
Tom’s Time Museum
There’s joy in repetition. Prince
Tom touches my hand
in the Time Museum.
His silver paw is soft
and he purrs under his breath
as we wander through the rooms.
We discover the Girl with Orange Dress
by William Thompson Bartoll. The girl
holds her cat loosely, the way
I always have.
This was us, Tom says. I raise
my eyebrow and he nods.
Us in another life.
I laugh, tell him he looks nothing
like the cat in the painting.
He grins like a Cheshire, murmurs
I am in the orange dress.
I smile, ask him what number
life are we on now; I don’t remember.
Tom doesn’t answer.
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Her work appears in many diverse places publications. Her poem ‘The Stag’ won first place honours in College of DuPage’s 2017 Writers Read: Emerging Voices contest. She was a judge for a recent contest at The Ekphrastic Review. She lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois, in a town called St. Charles, near a river named Fox, with a Poetry Box in her front yard.
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