This stunning painting stirred all kinds of emotions about beauty, women, family bonds, and secrets. Thank you to everyone who wrote something for this challenge, and everyone who submitted stories or poetry. It is always tough to make a selection, but such a joy to know that art inspires so many words.
Just a reminder that as of this year, you want to look right here, one week after the deadline, to see if your work was accepted. We aren't sending yes or sorry notes for the biweekly challenges any more, because the consistent schedule of the posts allows you to easily check in. This is in no way meant to be impersonal- we simply want to reinvest the time taken to write hundreds of notes in keeping the challenges running, opening up new contests and projects, and spending more time posting on social media to promote your works.
Whether your work was chosen this time or not, we are most grateful that you are part of The Ekphrastic Review.
If you enjoy art, poetry, and fiction, please share The Ekphrastic Review. Posting a favourite poem or painting or these challenge responses on your Facebook page or mentioning us in your blog or newsletter helps bring new eyes to our wonderful writers. And that is our raison d'être after all.
Until next time,
She held on to her sister for what seemed to be an eternity. Frozen in time and expression, devoid of love, she longed, no… cried, to be removed from this tableau. Even though she loved her sister, she yearned to free herself from this still canvas and launch herself into the world. But no, her brother held the brushes and condemned her with his own greed and arrogance. Alas, she succumbed to his pride and became forever silent and still, admired and critiqued by the curious masses.
Ellie Klaus was born and raised in Montreal. She has lived different selves over several decades: daughter, wildlife biology graduate, vision quest traveler, family life educator, president (of her son's school committee), friend, confidante, lover, wife, mother, caregiver and now caregivee, if there is such a word. Each has contributed to a different perspective of living, of life. The pieces of the puzzle are evident and coming together, although the final image is yet to be revealed. So, writing has reemerged as a creative endeavor to release some of the angst that arises from living a confined life, or any life for that matter. She has a poem entitled 'Bones' that appears on NationalPoetryMonth.ca April 9, 2020 and poems appearing in The Ekphrastic Review.
She is looking at the mirror
When I stand next to her
No one knows who is who
It is a guessing game all through.
In the hospital one would be tied
A thread to identify among us
Who was the first to see the world
Five minutes ahead of the sister.
As we grew we learnt the pranks
Of exchanging clothes and fooling the friends
None got it ever right
Each time to our immense delight.
We wouldn't take sweets and gifts
Until the sis share too was visible
At schools professors erred
Who was in the class and who wandered.
The embassies interchanged
When the visas they stamped
The ultimate yet to come with one married and
The certificate in other's hand.
We would pretend
To be the wife of other's husband, raise disbelief
Among friends and anger the waitress at the restaurant
Until the other pair also came.
The fun to continue we wish and pray
The heartstrings tied through the umbilical care
Fed by one placenta for months nine
We now live a single life of one soul and mind.
Abha Das Sarma
Abha Das Sarma: "Being a mother of twins, it was fun to write for the art titled 'The Two Sisters' by Théodore Chassériau. An engineer and management consultant by profession, writing is what keeps me happy. I have a blog of over 200 poems (http://dassarmafamily.blogspot.com). My poems have appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spillwords, Verse-Virtual, Sparks of Calliope, here and elsewhere. Having spent my growing up years in small towns of northern India, I currently live in Bengaluru, India."
The Chassériau Sisters
were taken, swept down lean streams of consciousness.
As if swallowed by the vacant swirl of routine,
sisterhood was exchanged for washtubs and wringers.
Would Papa be disheartened by the submersion?
After all, he was a progressivist, believed in women’s
suffrage and advocacy. He’d mentioned the fragility
of pearls, how the strands can twist and tangle
within the keeping of Sus scrofa. As a discerning man,
he’d wrapped his daughters in the insight of red flag
awareness. Still, after he died, the sisters
rushed into romance, to the altar, moved to the United
States, and immersed themselves in the seeming fog
of chores and domestic life. On occasion, they’d imagine
an easier path, one that included necklaces, claret-colored
shawls, and pleated bodice dresses. Yet, given the vision,
resilience, and intelligence of these women, they found
delight in the daily praxis, beauty in the floral pastels
of aprons, peace in the clothesline-breeze, comfort
in the call of song sparrows, and in the rolling echoes
of the local river. In 1871, the sisters discovered
Hog Heaven.* In celebration, on their Papa’s birthday,
they’d decided to gussy up in their timeworn necklaces,
claret-colored shawls, and pleated bodice dresses.
The sisters were fortunate to have experienced a broad
range of living, to have adapted to and thrived in variant
spectrums. Grateful to have been raised by an impartial
father, the sisters knew the significance of women,
the value of the sisterhood as a visionary entity.
Their Papa would have been proud of his daughters,
their strength, character, and democratic patch of Idaho bliss.
Jeannie E. Roberts
*Hog Heaven: “There's no official explanation for the origin of the term. The Merriam Webster folks say it's American and the first print reference dates to 1945. But in 1871 the founders of the town that would become Moscow, Idaho, named their patch of land Hog Heaven, Idaho.” ~ “Hog Heaven – in Poway?” by Matthew Alice, July 17, 2003, The San Diego Reader
Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. She enjoys spending time outdoors, listening to the birds, and taking long walks. She’s authored four poetry collections and two children's books. As If Labyrinth - Pandemic Inspired Poems is forthcoming in May 2021 from Kelsay Books. She’s listed in Poets & Writers and is poetry reader and editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. To learn more, please visit www.jrcreative.biz.
The Two Sisters
My sisters have wandered the terrace
talking in whispers, under shawls and parasols;
smelling the blooms and brushing off flies,
thick as thieves in their secrets.
I may just be an eye, but see what I should–
Adele’s disappointment in love, her wariness
and Aline’s dependence and stubborn resistance
to the same fate of lonely maidenhood.
My master taught me to render skin like porcelain,
and fabric as a bright flow of colour,
which helps, but cannot reveal the vulnerable
or focus my restless need to look again.
I cannot paint the soul or working mind
and must wait for the skills to match ambition
but while I still have youth and vigour
I will use these years to seek and then to find.
Martin Rieser is both a poet and visual artist. His interactive installations based on his poetry have been shown around the world. He has developed mobile artworks using interactive text and image for Leicester, London and Athens and exhibited the Third Woman Interactive film in Vienna, Xian and New York. He has published in Poetry Review and the Write to be Counted anthology, Magma Magazine 74, Morphrog 22; poet of the month for Poetry kit; was longlisted for Primers Volume 3; shortlisted for the Frosted Fire pamphlet competition for the Cheltenham Festival in 2019; shortlisted for Charles Causeley Poetry Prize 2020; and Artlyst Art to Poetry Anthology 2020; was runner up in The Norman Nicholson Lockdown Poetry Competition 2020, and is published in The Unpredicted Spring 2020. He runs the Stanza poetry group in Bristol.
The Two Sisters in the Louvre
It vexed me no end that we were often mistaken for twins. That the years of experience and maturity that separated us went unrecognized by so many casual observers gave me heartache, for though I loved my sister dearly, we had taken very different paths in life, and I was unseemly in the pride I took in my own.
What did the eye apprehend in our presence? Two women of age. My sister levels her gaze serenely at our audience, secure in her position, but less sure of my own; she grasps my arm firmly, an attempt to hold me back from a die already cast. She refuses to acknowledge the pale rose at my hand, pinned there this very morning by Sophia, my love. My sister’s willful blindness is tempered by fear, I know. But it is still an effort and a heartache to withstand her resistance.
From the throngs who crowd us daily I understand that things have changed. I might have been afforded the comforts of transparency had we been of this wild age. Instead, I dream, and accept the tender mercies that are my due.
Carolyn R. Russell
Carolyn R. Russell is the author of The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen, published by McFarland & Company in 2001. Her humorous YA mystery, Same As It Never Was, was released in 2018 by Big Table. Carolyn’s new YA dystopian thriller, In the Fullness of Time, was published by Vine Leaves Press in March of 2020. Her essays and short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, Flash Fiction Magazine, Club Plum Literary Journal, and Dime Show Review. She holds an M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University, and has taught on the college, high school, and middle school levels. Carolyn lives on and writes from Boston’s North Shore.
We will always be together,
said my little sister
if she felt lonely
or if we were sad.
I would give her a hug
to comfort us both
we will, we will.
We will always have each other
always walk together
even if broken into little pieces
even if distorted by pain
we will pick up the pieces somehow
and put them back together
even if they’re re-arranged
even if not in the same places
we will still be us
and walked away
from each other.
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Vagabond Press, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com///www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
Les Deux Soeurs
Adele on the left and Aline on the right at first appear to
Be twins, despite their decade apart. Theodore, an artist of deft hand, invites
Closer inspection of his siblings, the scarlet frippery aside, one notices
Differences in the two beauties,
Even though great effort was taken in matching the duo to
Fabricate the illusion of a
Genial duo, the artist was playing a game,
Harmonious relatives, closely spaced, with the self-same
Intelligent eye gaze,
Just a few differences emerge on the page, the
Keen expression of Adele, on the
Left, contrasts with the
Magisterial regard Aline projects
Neutral, yet with Oceans of turbulence behind her eyes
Pernicious and with agency,
Queenly elegance shines through her countenance while
Repose and tranquility are etched on the face of her
Sister, the similarities manifest as a noted quality of
Transcendence, deep wells of joy and sorrow
Underneath the formal pose, and also an air of
Verisimilitude, offering the viewer a glimpse into
Womanhood, the portrait steeped in the seriousness of
Youth in the age of Romanticism, somber yet sprightly,
Xena's standing upright, Chasseriau paired
Zeal for his subjects with unconventional flair.
Debbie Walker-Lass is a writer and poet living in Decatur, Georgia.
The Two Sisters
can you feel my heart beat
your dad called us the twins
not sure when or why
our penchant for pashmina
voracious appetite for books
dangling earrings or necklaces
do you ever read a poem and think of me
the times I want to tell you of this new music
still all these years later
my missing half
DeAnna Beachley teaches U.S. History and Women’s Studies at the College of Southern Nevada. Her poetry has appeared in Thimble Literary Magazine, Red Rock Review, Parks and Points, and the Kenyon Review Blog, and in Sagebrush and Silver: an anthology of Nevada Poets. Her work has won awards and included in an art/poetry exhibit, A Room of Her Own at the Left of Center Gallery.
Each leans on a sister, on furniture
and tradition...pose on demand.
One already taken, the other perhaps
promised to a different culture, world.
The married woman sees the future,
her sister wishing on a blooming rose.
Habit, expected as an impromptu visitor.
Emergency plans swish into action.
Dressed in earthy reds, seriously
portrayed, these women are honest,
undecorated, warm, richly upright.
I feel fear, for them and all before/after.
Sold off to propagate human contracts.
Irene Cunningham has had many poems in many magazines and anthologies over the decades. Hedgehog Press published a poetry conversation between her and Diana Devlin – SANDMEN: A Space Odyssey. She has three poetry collections available on Amazon, lives by Loch Lomond in Scotland, and is editing a novel or two.
Against Flocked Green Wallpaper
We dress not in draped burgundy and puckered earth
but the yellow and pink and blue of cotton cloth
trimmed in lace.
We walk down New Jersey Avenue after Labor Day
no one else on the three blocks to Bayshore Road
until the bus picks us up for school.
We sing songs to each other as if it is night
and the piano is being played at Smitty’s Bar
across the street from our house.
We of dark hair and blue eyes and shoes new
every fall worn out by spring when we swim
at the end of Fishing Club pier.
One of us is blind, her arms wrapped in mine.
One of us harbors a key. One sports a rose.
One of us will leave and never return.
Kyle Laws is based out of Steel City Art Works in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Uncorseted (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2020) Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence coauthored 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 and one for Best of the Net, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Germany. She is editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
We Could Be Twins
I am older, taller, my hair is darker, my skin lighter. Even so our parents sometimes dress us in matching outfits as if we're flip sides of a coin. Perhaps we are. We speak a secret language choreographed to rapid back-and-forth movements no one else can follow. At night we sleep surrounded by Cinderella scenes captioned in French--la bonne fée, la citrouille, la voiture, la pantoufle de verre—plastered on our bedroom walls. When we can’t sleep, I shapeshift my fingers into shadow snakes and frogs and rabbits as my sister’s pile of stuffed animals and wide-eyed dolls looks on. Afterwards, we tumble out from under bedclothes and tiptoe down to an empty kitchen where I scramble eggs to fill the voids in our stomachs. We work in tandem, my sister holding tight to the hem of my nightgown as I melt a dollop of butter, listening for the telltale sizzle before cracking eggshells open on the side of the pan. The warming scent of oil engulfs us. Delicious, my sister says, heavenly. Or maybe I just imagine this as Carolyn tugs my gown to let me know she really means hurry, hurry, we don’t want to get caught, do we?
Looking back, she tells me how lost she always felt without me. You were my eyes, she says. No, no, no, I think, you were my heart, my soul. You were my voice, I tell her.
Margaret Dornaus holds an MFA in the translation of poetry from the University of Arkansas. She recently had the privilege of editing and publishing a pandemic-themed anthology--behind the mask: haiku in the time of Covid-19--through her small literary press, Singing Moon. Her first book of poetry, Prayer for the Dead: Collected Haibun & Tanka Prose, received a 2017 Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America, and she received a 2020 Best of the Net nomination for her haibun “Late-Night Inventory.” Her poems appear frequently in national and international anthologies and journals, including Contemporary Haibun Online; Journeys 2015: An Anthology of International Haibun; MacQueen’s Quinterly; Red Earth Review; The Lindenwood Review; and The Red River Book of Haibun.
The Two Sisters
That’s me, the younger sister,
Looking at it now, from this angle,
my sister's eyes come into focus
and maybe imitation was
the sincerest form of
annoyance, and who asked me
to join her in this portrait anyway.
She never asked for me
to be here or anywhere
and it was hard, I’m told,
having me in the picture
how it somehow forever
knocked her off centre.
Alone, she might have
been smiling the way
she used to smile
in those early years
when she loomed
so large over me.
I can see her now
the clenched fists
the joy in her eyes
at making me cry
the games she’d play
to make me disappear.
Linda Eve Diamond
Linda Eve Diamond’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Grey Sparrow Journal, The Ekphrastic Review and The Ekphrastic World, and Fresh Fish: Textile Artists and Poets Respond to Underwater Life. Her website is http://LindaEveDiamond.com.
Of course, all these years on
I can see the contempt, the
reluctance and the forced
acceptance of our friendship.
Back then I lived for you,
through you, in spite of you.
Up on a pedestal far above
what I could ever hope to be.
The scholars agreed; they would
list your attributes, praise your
handwriting and your talents
while I grew plump and dumb.
The rose you were given by a beau.
Just one of many who came calling:
my plain countenance overlooked
in favour of your allure.
I hung on for as long as I could.
But like rope frays and sets the
boat adrift, I too let go and
watched you float away.
You didn’t look back.
Gaynor Hodgson has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Lancaster and worked in publishing in Manchester and London for many years before putting a bookmark in that part of her life while she raised a family. Her stories have been published in some strange and diverse publications and she once found herself masquerading as a journalist for a sports magazine. Thankfully that’s all in the past and now she’s finishing her memoir, starting a novel, and filling any gaps with poetry and flash fiction. She’s mainly to be found in North Wales wearing wellies, covered in hay and holding a cup of (cold) tea.
So like their mother. A clot of envy is to be
expected, a caveat of crimson,
a crimp of dressing gown pinched tight
at the wastrel, a gem of desire long buried.
Dig. Find an empirical knowledge emerald
in its duality. One was as diabolical as a brood
mare, thick with wishes. There was never
a shortage of sneering or carnage
of roses underneath a smothering of beetles.
We’ve an untidy amount of loss to wash
through. Knees to wood. Gloss over the scraping
and hacking backfired in a state of wander.
One was amiable as a child, then fruitless.
Question the mirror that responds only
with repose, as if the finger at your lips is
not your own. A rareness of actual angels
flapping, all wings and tangle. A coven
of two, twisted branches dripping the same
treacle. Poor girls, I thought someone might say,
but there was nothing left to burn.
Crystal Condakes Karlberg
Crystal Condakes Karlberg is an assistant to the Librarian at her local library. Previously she has taught middle school, high school and college (mostly English classes). Her work has been published by Oddball Magazine; Rust & Moth; The Museum Of Americana; as well as The Ekphrastic Review.
To Chasseriau Regarding The Two Sisters
Against such green in crimson rose
your sisters struck the perfect pose
apart with arms that intertwine
as witness to their fate's design,
the years that would remain between
the bond of souls so clearly seen
as limbs and fruit of common tree
that destined beauty each would see
as mirror in the other's face
so growing into mother's grace
-- for one the way she used to be
the other future soon to see
and both forever made aware
of brother's love at which they stare.
Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Scarred But No Longer Scared
Arm in arm
joined at the hip and cranium
admitting their guilt
joint and several
but offering no excuses
proffering no evidence in mitigation
en route to the gallows
resigned to their fate
yet under claret cloaks
deep scars remain oozing
with the poison they wish he swallowed
when they were pre-teens.
Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical free verse. He has achieved success in poetry competitions across the British Isles and North America. His work has been published by many literary magazines, anthologies and webzines in the UK, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Kenya, USA and Canada. Since 2018, he has been part of The Ekphrastic Review community particularly enjoying the fortnightly challenges. He is a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland for whom he was a Featured Writer in 2019.
For My Sister Margaret
Let me grab you by the wrist and show you...
Footprints of untamed words carelessly lost and lovingly refound,
Fossilized phrase fragments sorted & tagged for analysis,
Unclaimed messages shaken from poplars on the garden pathways at Delphi,
Ancestral faces loitering on subway platforms, flickering by on trains,
Gestures in the park reminiscent of Euripides & Wilde,
Lovers in flight, dishonoured by love itself,
Rhymes on scrapyard walls etched by Beowulf & Blake,
Maps of familiar streets trod long before coordinates and compasses,
Gods denied last rites by priests who never believed them,
Vaguely inaccessible hopes and wierdly plagiarized dreams
and sung in the dark.
Or do you feel the same?
Do you still remember our vows?
To never discard the keys to unknown doors,
To never ignore the slender neck and pock-marked face of a sunflower...
To always bear witness to the sadness of the hands of clocks,
To never disparage the broken thread of a child's homespun knot...
To never tear the transparent skin of dreams at the break of day.
To never betray...
Or do you feel the same?
as if a thin film of tracing paper lies between my living and yours,
so fragile it will rustle when you manage to slip through,
to let me know that after all these years, you too have found
the secrets encoded in the marrow of all things living or dead,
to let me know that after all these years, you too feel
the tender kiss of the inalienable sorrow of seers who would be blind
as one year swallows the next...
I know you do.
Tale Four: Tyrrhenian Sea
You take the train from the village of Cefalù to find your husband, who suddenly left. You and your daughter travel to Baarìa, your husband’s hometown, where there are ceramic shops just like in Cefalù. He has brought back secrets of the art, but no one will tell you where he is. You learn he already has a fidanzata. Miceli Zallust, a short man. Glasses.
“Bāb el-gherid,” the “gateway of the wind”. Baarìa. Land that descends toward the sea.
La straniera! You know you will not be accepted by his Sicilian family, but your daughter will be. Walking the narrow cobbled streets away from Baarìa, you get lost in a lemon grove by the water. Your body is found, shrouded with a black lace veil and clay. Which your daughter uses to create pottery, a wheel-thrown water jug with scarlet roses.
Ilona Martonfi is a poet, editor, curator, advocate and activist. Author of four poetry books, the most recent collection is Salt Bride (Inanna, 2019). Forthcoming, The Tempest (Inanna, 2022). Writes in journals, anthologies, and seven chapbooks. Her poem “Dachau on a Rainy Day” was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. Founder and Curator of Visual Arts Centre Reading Series and Argo Bookshop Reading Series. QWF 2010 Community Award.
A Choice, Not Denial
The day you found it
you could not look me in the eye
knowing I would know,
a sister’s sixth sense.
Found, as if you’d stumbled across
a semi-precious stone
not a 5cm malleable lump
palpable beneath finger and thumb.
Did you think it would vanish
with the flick of magical dusk?
That you’d wake to find it gone,
smooth tissue restored in womb?
I saw the darkness, the linger.
Could you not feel the creep of it
spread, eating holes in your core?
It would not be ignored.
Nine months to create a life,
nine months to lose one.
No treatment, a choice not denial
still, I could not look you in the eye.
Kate Young lives in England and has been passionate about poetry since childhood. She has had success with poems published in webzines in Britain and internationally. She generally writes free verse and loves responding to art through ekphrastic poems. Her poems have appeared in Ninemuses, Ekphrastic Review, Nitrogen House, Words for the Wild, Poetry on the Lake, Hedgehog Press and a Scottish Writers Centre chapbook. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
Dear mum and dad,
we know you will always have
at heart all bests for us and
we appreciate, are grateful,
Yet, the sea scares her us,
fast-moving waves, sand
everywhere, foam facing up
to leave our hands freezing
dead white fingers holding down
the shawl that never seems to ply,
that stays soaked forever.
We do like us all together, the smell of sea
maybe, the surge running over the rocks.
Still - this spell's not ours, too much silence
between the crash of two waves, too much salt
however sweet the sandwiches and cakes.
Enough beauty holds an afternoon park.
Warmly, Adele & Aline
Kate Copeland started absorbing stories ever since a little lass. Her love for words led her to teaching and translating some dear languages; her love for art and writing led her to poetry...with some publications sealed already! She was born in Rotterdam some 51 years ago and adores housesitting in Spain at the moment.
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