She sits sweaty, disheveled-
a fortunate soldier after the fray.
Muscles in grip of lactic acids,
hair appears as wig covering masculine jaw.
Glorious after the trade-
a dance for a baptist's head.
Victorious with ceremonial sword
presented with bowl of drippings.
She could have done it
herself, all sinew and physique.
Appearances being their own currency,
let a simple man do a simple job-
elegant energy best expended
on classical forms.
The ornate box on which she sits
contains no surprise-
velvet pillow cradles
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 Burning House Press, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal, Fishbowl Press, 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.
When Herod interrupted,
bullying the lithe young lady
to request some reward,
Salome told her mother
I find everything I want
in dance, so you pick.
An hour later, Herod handed Salome
a platter bearing a bloodied
severed head- what the hell,
she thought, I dance, damn it.
I want to dance, that is all!
Old John’s fresh ghost
must’ve sensed her passion, fierce,
pure as his own, for his crusty lips
parted and blew forth a tempest
that swept Salome away.
Old storytellers say
she wanders now, dances in trees
come stormy nights…
Oh Salome, the black sky
flashes gold. I see you, come to dance
outside my rattling window! I will never
interrupt. Your hair slings water
as you pirouette! The wind
sings wild melodies.
Your feet rise and sweep,
bare and free.
J. Federle’s writing has been acquired by The Threepenny Review and The Saturday Evening Post, among others. For a decade, she edited technical writing—engineering reports, medical studies, business proposals… this career spiraled into the madness that now enriches her fantastical (often ghost-riddled) prose and poetry. Born and raised in Kentucky, she earned her MA in 19th-century Romantic poetry at the University of Bristol, England. When not haunting library aisles, she travelled Europe with a handsome Peruvian; they’ve since married and flown off to South America.
Queen for a Week
The painters have always used
as their stepping-stones
while building themselves
of artistic glory.
"Be a queen for a week,"
they have panted in the ears
of the homeless and the starving
Marias, Jeannes, Marguerites,
Annes, Alices, Mildreds, Ediths,
and Florences to name a few,
and only a few have turned
their offers down.
The girls have enjoyed the thrill
of stripping down before the "gentlemen"
and putting on the dresses
usually borrowed from the near-by shops:
to be returned after the week is up.
The girls have enjoyed their glasses of cheap wine
and the plates of cheese, bread, and fruit,
and after a few days,
many have fallen in love with the fancy slavers
since slavers the painters have been,
nothing more and nothing less.
But in the hearts of the painters,
love has not been present:
Adam has not found his Eve.
After a week,
the painters have already been focused
on the next
and while the heartbroken
Marias, Jeannes, Marguerites,
Annes, Alices, Mildreds, Ediths,
and Florences to name a few
have been crying and beating on their doors,
the painters have been panting in the ears
of the other homeless and starving girls:
"Be a queen for a week."
Paula Puolakka (1982) is a Beat poet, writer, and MA (History of Science and Ideas.) She has landed first and second in the poetry and short story contests and challenges held in the USA, Israel, and South Africa. She has also been awarded in a few essay contests held in Finland. Her latest work can be found through, for example, The Reader/Author Connection (May Issue #5 & November/December Issue #8), Woody Guthrie Poets (the "Speak Your Mind" poetry contest anthology,) Arts Quarter Books, Jerry Jazz Musician (Fall 2019 poetry edition,) and The Voices Project.
Salome by Regnault
How much would you pay for a dance
If you were a king? Anything you want,
Said Herod to Salome who wove
A spell with her veiled almond eyes,
Hands that fluttered like butterflies,
Hips that hypnotized.
I want the head of John the Baptist
She said when done. Well,
An oath is an oath, Herod sighed.
In Regnault’s Salome,
a boyish girl, or a girlish boy
doesn’t give a fig
for the fate of a saint,
the knife she cradles
will bring her mother
his head on a platter.
Ed Meek has had poems in The Paris Review, the Sun and Plume. High Tide, his new book of poems, is coming out in 2020.
Over the ages you have intrigued us.
We have taken to art to depict your charm,
your sparkle, our fascination like the pull of
north and south magnetic fields. We have
dramatized how you seduced the leading
men of Galilee with dance, how Herod
Antipas, frenzied with wine and wantonness,
offered you half his kingdom, how you
demanded more; you, bent on blood.
After two thousand years you still dazzle.
Here you are on canvas, sultry, rosy-cheeked,
shimmering in gauze golds, your dark tresses,
shadowed face and half-smile as mysterious
and beguiling as the gem-eyed serpent bracelet
coiled about your upper arm. With one hand on
hip, the other resting on ivory-hefted knife
sheathed in red, you tout danger, a readiness
to pounce, a willingness to do the dirty work.
You pose, poised for power, as wild and barbarous
as Dionysian fertility rites.
But could we be deceived? Might you have been
simply the lioness’ cub, a damsel distressed, the
pawn moved on the chessboard by a cold,
calculating, grudge-holding mother? Were you
caught in a snare like a moth in a spider’s web
when you called for the prophet’s head upon
Oh, but no matter, Salome.
Violent delights have violent ends.
Death at last stalked you to a frozen river
and cracked the ice.
Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it, her major themes focused on family, place, and faith. She says she feels compelled to write, to give testimony to the past and to her heritage. She has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, in Silver Birch Press and in Heart of Flesh Literary Journal.
After my golden chiffon slips,
his eyes narrow, he gasps, and his
throat clenches, unable to mutter oh god,
like an umlaut. He offers half
his kingdom—gold, still buried, ripe
vineyards, and fields of fighting men to fill
Southern Galilee’s beds of silk sheets--
and yet, I only ask for one man’s head.
In my dressing room of honey
and apricot, I don’t gloat my prize.
No blood, no ringlets belonging to the Baptist
scrunching like caterpillars, no furrow-stem
brow, or solemn tongue. The evidence
is in my taut feet. My platter holds a scimitar
encrust in gold gilt. My platter holds the glint
of a gibbous moon, and in that moon, sits the black
thistle over my shoulders, and a smirk, and in that smirk,
is my sheathed tongue. You expect alchemy
to boil from my mouth, to glean a nest of cocoons
for my room of yellow silks, but look how my platter
fills, and holds room for more.
Miguel A. Soto
Miguel A. Soto is the Book Review and Website consultant for Jet Fuel Review. His work has appeared in 30N, EFNIKS, Rogue Agent, and other literary journals. He is also a fellow for the Wolny Writing Center.
(John neither ate
His head severed
In step with sin
Knife in hand
Dripping holy blood
The loathsome deed
The party’s over
Carole Mertz writes essays and poetry, with several works published here at The Ekphrastic Review. She is the author of Toward a Peeping Sunrise, a poetry chapbook. Other recent works are in Main Street Rag and Into the Void.
The Dance That Made Me Immortal
First, let me be clear. There were no
seven veils. The Bible doesn’t even name me.
Yet, I’m not allowed to die.
I’m a woman with a reputation.
At the time, I was just a young girl, trying
to please Herod, my stepfather.
He called me out, impromptu, giving me
my first glass of wine. (They never tell you that
in the stories.) And when I stood, bowed,
and started to move, my body curved itself
into a swan, then a bird in flight. Lost
in the trance of dance, I didn’t stop
until the music did. It was one moment
in my life, but it labeled me for centuries.
Trying to please my parents, Herod
by dancing, my mom by asking for the head
of John the Baptist. She tended toward
cruelty when she couldn’t have her way
with a man. So here I am now in the 19th
century as Henri Regnault paints me, weary.
His idea of what a Middle Eastern girl might
have worn in my day. One foot arches seductively
above a slipper. And there’s plenty of décolleté.
At least, he gave me a smirk to offset such
a wanton costume. Do these men who imagine me
in ballet, opera, plays, paintings, poetry think
about me as anything other than an erotic object?
Or about the meaning of my name? Sa-lome, two syllables,
not three, from the Hebrew "shalom" for peace,
or "shalem" for whole, complete, the perfect woman?
Sandi Stromberg was a professional magazine feature writer and editor who now enjoys writing poetry. She served on the board of a poetry press for ten years, has been nominated for a Pushcart prize, and had her poetry read on NPR.
Dance of Destiny
A self-satisfied smile,
Smug and carefree,
Perhaps a trace of imperial majesty
Tinged with some boredom,
A face about to greet the frozen expression of John the Baptist,
Fiery glee, burning
Eyes, pebbles of coal
Half-covered by hair,
Surrounded by wrinkled drapery,
Etched in silver,
Crinkling with the austere allure of jewels on your dress,
But that you long to escape,
These gilt confines,
Too much for any mind,
All aglow with life
Lying in wait,
With that triumphant cocked arm,
A wily sleeve trickling past the shoulder
In unkempt contentment.
Ready to dance;
A platter, fit for a king,
Salome ruffles the carpet,
Holding the velvet sheath,
Shrouded in mystery,
Unslippering her restless feet.
Proud to pose for a portrait
To glorify your golden deeds
With their metallic shine,
Like that smile most sly,
Absorbed in time,
Just a moment
Above the richly-patterned Persian box,
Just like we’ll never know
Behind that smile
Kathryn Sadakierski draws much of her inspiration from art and nature. She is passionate about combining her love for language with her appreciation for the beauty of art through ekphrastic poetry. Kathryn graduated summa cum laude from Bay Path University with her B.A. in Liberal Studies, and is currently pursuing her Master's degree.
what is this trembling,
these lines of unreadable script?
why does every image waver
unfixed, falling into its surroundings?
the drunken movement of feet,
the silhouette, illuminated,
shadowed, a dark form
girdled by an aura of intense light--
repelled by the afterimage,
the nakedness of what is not quite there--
always uncertain, these layers
of unveiled mind left untethered
to the movements of the body--
the dance that finds only the precipice
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blogs, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/, and see more of her work on her website http://kerferoig.com/
Desire Is a Mule
Desire is a mule
Working for you for twenty years
Just for the chance to kick you once
When you’re not looking
And never where you expect
With a foot so soft, arched, petite
As a dragon’s mouth is wide.
Desire dangles from the toe it covers
Ready to drop, but not quite falling,
The heel exposed, juicy and round,
Perhaps the unseen toes
Pebbled and succulent?
There’s that kick again.
Best worn in red
To the church of beautiful women.
The Comtesse d’Olonne,
A name most difficult to purify,
Went there as bidden,
and with scarlet feet
matching some of the magistrates’ own
mulleus calceus not otherwise purple,
A church full of desire
And plenty of kicking.
Afoot as well and dancing
Carried the desire of her mother
Plating it as a reward
For a dance done by her Salome,
A girl named peace
Who would just as soon have the platter
As the head upon it.
When a jackass and a mare get together
Cobbling a half shoe
Starting with the pointy end
Where maximum thrust is found
But never finishing truly
We know it’s there
Darkened or not.
In Dean Martin’s song
“Ain’t that a kick in the head?”
Desire takes hold.
He’s not wrong.
He just hasn’t seen
The foot slide in and out
Or the dagger toes curled round it
Still covered with satin.
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.
Once the Sword
Salome is who Mother wanted us to be--
jet black hair in gypsy curls flowing
over pale shoulders and dressed for the stage.
But she complained beginning in grade school
about what she called my Sarah Bernhardt ways.
It took years before I understood the reference.
She wanted the look not the voice in third grade
that could carry across the auditorium in a play
She needed us to invest in our appearance
because she thought attracting men would take
us farther down the road than we’d get on our own.
It must have been because she never drove a car
and that each man got in one and left her behind
one even pushing her out an open door on a curve.
When she came home with asphalt in her hair
and patches of scalp gone we listened but knew
what she could be like when she started to drink.
Because no one actually was as smart as she was
and those were times when it was better to keep your
mouth shut, sway your hips and swing a mighty sword.
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 eight 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.
I Will Dance
I smirk today to celebrate my last seduction--
dancing at the banquet wearing a gold gown,
thinly veiled by silk. And if I shall dance again
on Herod’s birthday like the motion of the sea
rolling back with mischievous clouds above Galilee,
will my mother send another request to behead
a man like John the Baptist, who said her marriage
was unlawful? I know you are proud, mother,
that I can entice these men by turning my body
endlessly in half circles. I miss the severed head
by the dagger I am ready to unsheathe.
For my next dance, no, instead I will ask for
more than a blood trail. I will want
half the kingdom. I am bent so far now,
exotic like an oriental chest,
and inside, a leopard purrs, ready to leap.
John Milkereit is a mechanical engineer working in the oil & gas industry in Houston, TX. His poems have appeared in various literary journals including The Ekphrastic Review, San Pedro River Review, and The Ocotillo Review. He completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, WA. His most recent collection of poems, Drive the World in a Taxicab, was published by Lamar University Press.
Rejecting her was not an option. And princesses
aren’t sluts. Wasn’t that what he’d called her?
She loved to show her body and when she danced
she felt lust streaming from the men who watched.
Even her father.
After all, they’d always used her.
The time had come to show them who she had
become. A woman. Empowered. In control.
She had learned in those small hours of many mornings
what it meant to be abused. She’d been five.
Her uncle came into her room, his robes undone.
Her father had insisted on the marriage.
Princesses don’t play. Princesses get sold.
Princesses become queens.
After her uncle it had been her cousin.
So far it had stayed in the family.
Then she’d seen him. Yochanan. And for the first
time she had hungered. She had lusted. He’d been
so beautiful, and he had taken exception to incest and betrayal.
The fool. Did he not know of the real world? She had offered
herself to him, and he had rejected her. She, Salome, would
have her revenge. His head on a plate.
Nothing less would do to wipe off the stain.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives Lima, Peru. Author of one full-length poetry collection and two chapbooks, her work has been widely published in mostly US poetry journals. Her latest full-length poetry MS, The Rain Girl, has been accepted for publication in June 2020 by Blue Nib. Her poem, ‘Old Love’s Sonnet’, has been nominated for a Pushcart by Shark Reef Journal where it was published in the Summer of 2019.
I Have a Certain Reputation
I hear your whispers: Salome the Slut,
Princess Prostitute, Prophet Slayer.
Despite what you’ve heard,
I had no sinister plan
before my famous dance.
A hundred times a day, I go back
to that evening, feel all eyes caressing
my body, know I can win some treasure
with undulating hips
and scarves that follow my curves.
I begin slowly,
use my graceful arms to say,
“Come touch me.”
I twirl and spin –
until Herod swoons, drunk with desire.
Women have no say
without using wealthy, powerful men.
My lewd stepfather revolts me.
I spot my turns a foot above his head.
He fancies I’m looking dreamy-eyed
at him, but it’s the Baptist’s eyes I see,
looking straight through me
to a dark place. I know he’s locked
in a cell below.
Herod offered me a reward.
Mother chose John’s head.
I got the blame.
I believe the Baptist knew
exactly what was coming.
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.
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