Dear Readers and Writers,
Thank you for joining us for this ekphrastic challenge, with Frida Kahlo's painting as prompt.
We received a flood of submissions this time, with a record number of new names participating, and many of you sending three or more pieces at once! Clearly Frida's art struck a chord.
Just a reminder for those now joining us and also for the tried and true blue among you, we will no longer be sending out "sorry" letters or "yes" letters for the challenges. This is not about being impersonal- we value every ekphrastic voice! It is a way to save time in order to allow us to continue having biweekly challenges. We receive between thirty and three hundred submissions for each challenge, so that means sending a lot of letters! You will now see whether your piece is posted or not on the Fridays that the responses appear, one week after the deadline.
A word about the selection process: we strive to strike a balance between acknowledging the regular participation of our ekphrastic family members, to showcase and welcome new voices to our pages, to show off literary excellence, and to present a variety of perspectives on the artwork. There is also the subjective taste of the editor, and even more circumstantial considerations like how much time she has that week to post. In this case, we selected a larger assortment than usual, but still didn't come close to the number of pieces received.
The goal of these challenges is to inspire ekphrastic writing, and to write ekphrases. This is true whether or not the results are published in this forum. We are grateful for your participation, and love publishing as many as we are able to every other Friday.
Our special request to every one reading this: on behalf of these writers, please share The Ekphrastic Review on your social media, in your newsletters, on your literary blog, in your reading club, at your next poetry workshop. It just takes a moment to fire off a Facebook post. This is a major gift to the writers on our pages. Thank you.
If you haven't joined us yet for our biweekly challenges, look for the link above that says Ekphrastic Writing Challenges to find the current prompt. We curate a wide variety of visual art to inspire poetry, flash fiction, and prose. This is a wonderful way to get creative, discover more about art history, and find your writing move in new directions. We welcome you whether you are a bestselling storyteller or just looking for a new way to stretch your imagination during quarantines.
with love, The Ekphrastic Review
Juda didn’t know exactly when the dynamite would explode. On this night, he’s awake on top of the canopy while she sleeps below. His bones shake. The dynamite is hot. Flowers held for years are brittle. She dreams of bread loaves resting quietly on a platter. And the vines grow, embrace her head, and cover her body like a warm bath. And yet, the leaves are fragile, roots easily torn, an everlasting weep scraping the edges of sorrow. Juda drops a hand to her sleeping face. A vine wraps around his wrist, and with a tug, his hand breaks away. Among the green leaves, his palm and fingers dissolve. Juda sighs and waits. On the gravestone: Ere sin could harm or sorrow fade, Death came with friendly care. The opening bud to Heaven conveyed. And bade it blossom there. Until the day breaketh and the shadows flee away.
author's note: The epitaph is from an 1878 child’s gravestone found in Glenwood Cemetery near downtown Houston.
Maryann Gremillion is a writer and educator working with elementary schools, teachers, and nonprofits to build transformative communities. She taught elementary school for fifteen years in Houston where she discovered a passion for creative writing and integrating fine arts in content areas. Maryann also worked for twelve years as a writer-in-residence and then program director for Writers in the Schools (WITS) in Houston. Her work has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Glass Mountain, Teachers and Writers magazine, and several local anthologies. She is excited to complete a book chapter about working with teachers and writers in the WITS Collaborative.
I am sure she is a woman. Why else would she pick flowers from my field, want two pillows for her head, mirror me in sleep. If Death were a man, he would lie on his back, imperious, or face away, having had his fill. Through the years she watched as my dancing youth tangled in vines of day-to-day. Only my dreams dance now. My bones, like hers, are held by tripwire sinew, the peril of joints. One day soon, she will find a vase in my cupboard for the flowers she picked. They will have no need of water.
the withered blossom
understands the barren earth
ravens paint the sky
Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Misfit Magazine, Rusty Truck, Ekphrastic Review, Third Wednesday, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has two poetry collections published by Kelsay Books, I lost summer somewhere and Today and Other Seasons. She blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.
The day of the dead of night
has made this bed where my body lies,
caressed by soft fabric
like ribbon round a bomb
a life wired together and fused
from pieces of the aftermath
If you close your eyes, you’ll see my veins
embroidering the air between us
the nerves too extend in every direction
while pain and pleasure open and fold
like powerful wings
that can lift even the broken
The world will be astonished
when innocent bouquets
high in the azul,
and seed expectant clouds
What falls from them
will soothe the aching throats
of desert roses,
make them blush bright red,
make thorns appear on stiffening stems
sharp enough to draw blood
I will use it
to colour my lips
so that when they open
to speak of the agony
of St. Sebastian, of every martyr’s suffering,
out too will fly birds, butterflies
and your name, my love.
Morgan Reed has worked in industry in the Midwest, education at the Sorbonne, and fine art painting in California. With a lifelong interest in foreign cultures, he has also done research, interpretation and translation in many languages. Poetry has been part of his life since childhood; he recently returned to writing it.
At the Walker with Family, The Dream, and Other Paintings
—an art exhibit in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mexican
artist Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954)
We stood in the Minnesota cold, though your insides warmed with family
beside you. As the line moved forward, a sense of kinship
and goodwill joined the gathering. Today, we’d witness the landmark
paintings of a mestiza master. Throughout the rooms, energy surged
as the confluence of moxie and brokenness stirred the emotions of viewers.
Colourful costumes and beribboned braids brightened near the angst
of tangled thorns and spattered blood. Cats, monkeys, and parrots
aligned her, as hearts, leaves, and roots defined her. Uncommon artwork
for the times, Kahlo conformed to a divergent style, amplified a hybrid
persona, distilled a visual language of physical and psychological pain.
Her collection offered totems of strength, touchstones of truth,
championed ideas of equality. After the exhibit, we sat in the museum’s
lobby. Wearing your engineer boots, the kind with harness and square toe,
uncommon footwear for the times,
love and unity filled your being—until the chill of the mockingbird noted,
you’ve always been different, just like Frida. Had you driven over 100
miles to hear his wife’s jeering warbles? Your internal harmony dwindled
to dissonance. Even so, you altered your interior music, and as it lifted,
shifted, you sang, thank you, I consider your words to be quite the compliment.
After all, you’d driven over 100 miles to honour the life
and the work of an artist you admired, to be with your brother, the sibling
who understood you, just like he understood Frida.
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, WI, 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.
Gilded by Death-Dream
Death awaits as we float
Past the dreams of yesteryear
In delicate vine, dearly
Intertwined with those
Dreams and nourished by
God’s omniscient plan for
Your life and mine
Carole Mertz is celebrating the new year with the publication of her first full-length poetry collection, Color and Line. She's grateful to The Ekphrastic Review for providing most of the stimulus to write in 2020. (Two-faced Janus looks backwards and forwards.)
My nemesis, already we are sleeping together, dreaming of a field of lilies, flying above the house in clouds, our bones wired together by dynamite. I try to stay alive but the earth keeps burying me with vines. I paint green but am gessoed over. I lie down in peace but am evacuated by nightmares. If the bed is charged, you are in it. If one sleeps under a yellow blanket of pain, death is near. If the moon is white, it has teeth. Bite me. Then allow me to sleep.
Mary F. Morris
Mary F. Morris lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her poems are widely published, appearing in POETRY Magazine, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, Boulevard, Arts & Letters, Southern Humanities Review, and The Los Angeles Review. She is the author of two books of poetry, Enter Water, Swimmer (2018) and Dear October (2020) published by Texas Review Press through Texas A&M University Consortium. She received the Rita Dove Award for Poetry and was invited to read at the Library of Congress for the "Poet and the Poem" program, which subsequently aired on National Public Radio. Additionally, Morris received Western Humanities Review, Mountain West Prize and the Discovery Award of New Mexico. Mary graduated from Oklahoma University and continued to study poetry at Long Island University. She has written book reviews for D.C. poets and taught poetry locally and nationally. www.water400.org
Is Dream Relief...?
Is dream relief that sleep has sought
from endless pain by waking wrought
as remnant of a circumstance
upheaving fate by random chance
of moments unaware that led
thereafter to forever dread
that life could never be again
the expectation it had been
now having to be redefined
as time despised by soul confined
in purgatory of its art
to languish as a sullen heart
whose compromise with dark of night
enables but illusive flight?
Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Kahlo & Rousseau
The lion loves the way her nails shine.
He licks what he believes to be her claws.
And where the moon informs their primitive connection
(a gypsy, sleeping, guarded by a lion)
the light is shimmered, incandescent, haloing
his mane, her hair, and the face of a silent mandolin.
The canvas has no vegetation, its horizon
slate, unfinished, a background that resembles
the surface of the moon: with figures
noble in their isolation, free as girl and lion,
and the mandolin, in silence, a song about to happen --
tender as a ballad
and primal as the lion's need
Rousseau has shared her savage dreams...
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Her book, When Dreams Were Poems, 2020, explores the relationships, often ekphrastic, between art and poetry. According to the Hayden Herrera biography, Kahlo was influenced by Henri Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy.
Frida sleeps and the blanket greens around her.
Tendrils stretch to body warmth, along a train
of roots that would wander regardless of ground
yet keep their place within themselves. Such
is Frida’s way—the ways of fire and heart--
the way of leaf’s fire in dreaming’s coolness,
for blood boils hottest in an iron pot left at night
while thoughts steep, covered over a low fire.
The skeleton lounging in the canopy above her
watches her and knows well what is cooking,
for they have often tasted of this brew together
and dipped her brush in it, tracing blank canvas
with chrome yellow, scarlet, magenta—blooms
spreading through the skeleton’s gapped ribs
to decorate his breastbone. Roots beneath them
stretch and dig as they would in earth—sage
electric in its urge to blossom, as if to caress
dynamite in explosive growth. The neediness,
firm and cavernous as the air pockets in bones,
pours in purple, liquid as paint across hillsides,
and lets Frida breathe deep and untroubled--
a world uncovered far from the yellow blanket
and mahogany four-poster yet fully one with it
in the breeze that grazes her slumbering cheek
and guarded by eyeless sockets that know all--
the fullness of night where the skeleton’s eyes
would turn and focus—while tamarind teases
its faint sharpness, simmering beneath a pot lid
accompanied by a mineral tang suggesting blood
that will loop and whorl onto canvas after dawn.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is upcoming from Tebor Bach Publishing.
Frida Kahlo's The Dream, (The Bed), 1940
A two-tiered bed rides a riotous sky. Frida sleeps below, a skeleton above. Both recline on their sides, face us, heads pressed on two pillows. The skeleton hugs a dead bouquet to its heart, legs skeined with dynamite, mouth a breach of barbed teeth.
Yes, life is rife with rancor and ruin. I dream of dying: high on a cliff edge, the car’s front-heavy engine tips me into the canyon—nonstop velocity—my voice, breath snatched.
Frida, all the times you skirted death. Here, you paint yourself snugged under a blanket radiant as flames, safe in the embrace of a green vine, leaves so close you inhale their peppery zest.
Or is this your funeral pyre?
Karen George is author of five chapbooks, and two poetry collections from Dos Madres Press: Swim Your Way Back (2014) and A Map and One Year (2018). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Adirondack Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Salamander, Stirring, and Tipton Poetry Journal.. She reviews poetry at Poetry Matters: http://readwritepoetry.blogspot.com/. Visit her website at: https://karenlgeorge.blogspot.com/.
Ay, Diego, what you have done to me.
All my broken life I have loved you
and hated you, jealous of your other
women, your health, your growing success.
Yet I, too, am living my life.
But when I sleep, I dream only of death.
My old friend who’s followed me for years.
It’s only a matter of time, he whispers,
you’re a time bomb: tick tock tick tock.
But Diego, it’s you who sets the fuse.
It’s always been you.
Barbra Nightingale has six chapbooks and two volumes of poetry with small presses. Over 200 of her poems have appeared in national and international journals and anthologies, such as Grabbed, Jet Fuel Review, Rattle, Narrative Poem of the Week, The Florida Review, Kansas Quarterly, Kalliope, Red Hen, Sliver of Stone, Many Mountains Moving, Barrow Street, The Apalachee Quarterly, and others. She is an Associate Editor with The South Florida Poetry Journal, a retired professor, and lives in Hollywood, Florida, with her two and four-legged menagerie.
Each night I remove
The bones and wires holding me together
Rest them carefully upon my catafalque
Give her pillows
Thrust lilies into her hands
And climb in below.
Poisonous vines creep
Drowse and tangle me
While their hand patterned leaves
Press me down.
But those vines leave my bones alone
They are what has survived, after all,
And this fleshy soft self must sleep and
Dream, while my bones keep watch
Scaring who might comfort me:
Lover, saviour, friend.
Pick away the little black barbs
Entangled in my covers
Peel back the suffocating leaves
And touch my creamy linen gown
So soft across my shoulders
You wish you could smother this nightmare
With your fists
Without hurting me first.
Lucie Payne is a retired librarian who has spent the past 25 years encouraging others to write and is now taking up her pen and writing as much as she can.
As Frida floats in and out of consciousness, her lover is waiting. She shrugs him off, tugs her blanket higher, stiffly shifts, closes her eyes, drifts….
Somewhere, a monkey chatters. Vine leaves bud and unfurl, wrapping themselves around her. Silky tendrils stroke her hair, finger her shoulders, soothe her neck, ease her headache. From the vine’s roots, life pulses; its green leaves bind her broken body. When she wakes, she can be strong: her mouth can gasp air, gulp rain, pray for miracles. Maybe then, her frame will climb volcanoes. Maybe then, she will arise from her wooden bed and fly. A parrot shrieks. Frida’s bed lifts, tilts and soars, taking her and her lover above the rainforest.
Up here, the sky is purple with smudges of bright blue. The sun is rising. It is cold. Frida shivers. Clouds swirl pink, mauve, charcoal grey.
Her lover is chalk white. He is born of bits of paper. His skin flakes. His bones are brittle. He cannot shiver. He rests on top of her heavy bed. He has brought her pale flowers. His flowers will soon shrivel. She cannot see her lover, but she senses he is there. He moves with her on a breeze that rocks their bed gently, this way and that. He cannot feel its sway though she can. Her bones nag. Hummingbirds vibrate.
Such beautiful birds! Beneath her, under a steaming canopy, a rainbow of artist’s colours. She will paint a bird of paradise. Her brush will shape swallows, parrots, hummingbirds. She will place exotic flowers in her hair. She is a bird of paradise. In her pillows, fine feathers.
In his pillows, her ashes. His skull rests on her ashes. His body is highly strung, about to explode. Shock waves bounce. Into a burst of gunfire. Into earthquakes, air raids, red hot lava. Into bombs falling. Into a bus jolting, crashing. She screams in agony....
Warm sunlight hits her blanket. She stirs, yawns, stretches, aches. At her door, a monkey scratches. She opens her eye lids, stares at her bed’s canopy. Her lover is still there.
She knows he wants her now. She laughs, declaring he can’t have her. She’s cheated on him once and she’ll do so again! This morning, the sun is strong, and her spine can stand the pain. While she can breathe, there is so much she wants to say, there is so much still to do. Above all, she needs to paint.
Death will have to wait.
Based in the UK, Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing flash fiction, poetry and short plays. Her work has been published online by various websites including The Ekphrastic Review, Words for the Wild, Another North and Failed Haiku. The Ekphrastic Review has nominated one of her flash fictions, “Four Horses, Two Friends, One Postcard” for Best Short Fictions 2021. She tweets @rambling_dot
Were your mares ever cumulus,
but mistified as logic gone,
fogged unities of place and time,
no rhyme or reason to the plan -
or ancient fears just played again?
Why clouds aswirl
behind bed floating curlicues,
the turned four posts above that drowse,
except that suitable, assumed;
for dreamy theme acceptable?
Can this be independent mood,
mexicanidad without old pains,
invading past, mestiza mum,
mixed blood at heart of surreal,
The dead alert, an awkward bone,
’sif propped up on olecranon,
explosive marrow-stiffened legs.
Forgotten Jacob, pillow stone,
no ladder for the upper bunk,
no rungs ascending up above,
but comfy, death in tree of life,
dem bones companions of the free.
A cloth of gold in house of blue,
her frame, first scene through louvre door;
but pride of space, a nation state,
the local girl made good with art,
our story colours justified.
To her small bier with overwood
veneer to carry skeleton,
as if hers is a truckle bed,
no tiers at stake, for all is one,
won accolade, afraid of none.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had some 250 pieces published by 40 publishers - on-line poetry sites, including The Ekphrastic Review, printed journals and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Is this the painting?
The one that inspired the phrase
Sleep like the dead?
But then again…
What is slumber
if not a battle with death
where the victorious
meet the new dawn
Nivedita Karthik is a graduate in Immunology from the University of Oxford and an accomplished Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance form) dancer. Her poems have previously appeared in Glomag, Society of Classical Poets, The Ekphrastic Review, The Epoch Times, Eskimo Pie Literary Journal, The Poet (Christmas issue), The Sequoyah Cherokee River Journal, Bamboo Hut, and Visual Verse.
He Waited For Her
He waited for her when she was stricken with Polio—thinking surely she would come soon—but somehow she pulled through, and was left only with a slight limp. He didn’t mind the limp.
He waited for her to finish school, watching her involvement with the Young Communist League and even the Mexican Communist Party.
He waited for her as she was impaled by a steel handrail when the bus she was riding on collided with a car. He began to grow impatient when she again survived after weeks in the hospital.
He waited for her when she married Diego Rivera—and shook his head as he watched them take up residence in two separate houses. He knew she needed space, and he knew he could offer it to her, if she would only leave all the chaos and cross over.
He waited for her as she suffered her husband’s infidelity with his younger sister, and many more in the future. If she only knew that he would love her forever.
He waited for her as she followed her dreams to Paris, where she was transported to a show in an ambulance and carried in on a bed, from which she addressed the gallery guests.
He waited for her as she returned to Mexico for solo exhibitions and a lifetime of fame, all while suffering continual pain. Why did she endure it when she could come be with him? What was this obsession with pain?
He waited for her as she miscarried the child she longed for, thinking surely this would be her last straw.
He waited for her as her father died, hoping that would encourage her to run to him.
He waited for her—often turning away not to watch—as she painted horrific self-portraits, displaying her traumatized body in surrealistic images.
He waited for her with a bouquet of flowers, but he wasn’t sure how much longer he could wait. He knew he could end it whenever he wanted to, but he didn’t want the explosion to frighten her.
He waited for her—it felt like an eternity—but what does that even mean for someone in his situation?
He waited for her embrace, when she finally—and reluctantly— agreed to join him. Or maybe she wasn’t so reluctant, for she had been embracing him all along.
Susan Cushman is author of three published books--Cherry Bomb (a novel,) Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s (a memoir), and Friends of the Library(a short story collection)—and editor of three anthologies of essays. Her seventh book and second novel, John and Mary Margaret, will be published in June. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Cushman has lived in Memphis since 1988. She also has numerous essays published in anthologies, literary journals, and magazines, both print and online. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and read more about her work on her website: www.susancushman.com.
The Day of the Dead
I see you now, made real at last,
welcome, embrace you. I had thought
I would be afraid, but I am half
way towards you.
You bring an end to an aching life,
already have my toes.
Why should the rest of me
be afraid to follow.
You bring me joy
your bones tied with fireworks,
a feast of the dead, just for me.
We will explode in flames together,
make such an exit, my bed
a pyre of Catherine wheels and fire
crackers, rockets’ golden trails lighting
my way out of this body’s prison.
I have lain too long to linger
silent beneath the ground,
candles and headstones,
Diego lecturing me or telling
of his latest love.
Burn me, burn me now
take me with you
in a rush of flame.
Rennie writes poetry, flash fiction and reviews. He lives in Kent.
Colores y Dolor
Frida dreams of walking the Paseo de la Reforma in purpled light, fingers spread across her pregnant belly like the thin branches of jacaranda, unaware that death will claim her children.
She dreams of the white vinegar scent in her father’s darkroom, the murmur of her mother’s prayers. She is young, light-hearted, surrounded by her sisters. She is whole, but not for long.
She dreams of lips bruised blue, the men and women who speak of love in Russian, Japanese, and English too. And there is Diego, of course, whispering in the tongue of heartache.
She dreams of windows on the bus, the leaves of ash trees turning black against the setting sun, until the crash, the shattering glass. And afterward, she remembers only pain.
She dreams of Casa Azul, its yellow table, azure plates and crimson cups, her books, paints, brushes, and the iron ribs of her wheelchair all turned to dross, but when she wakes, there is art.
Gay Degani has received nominations and honours for her work including Pushcart consideration and Best Small Fictions. She won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. She's published a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). She occasionally blogs at Words in Place.
What Our Chivalrous Bones Desire
We are not our bones, whole or broken.
We are brilliant, tender brain. We are
gut sorting things through—absorbing
what nourishes, letting go what doesn’t.
We’re what our chivalrous bones desire,
what they protect and serve and want
to see blossom while we lay dreaming,
tangled in pain and vine, roots plunging
past our feet but no further, forgetting
where they go next or why or how.
Bones watch while we sleep, listening
to blood beating through the chambers
of our hearts, echoing rhythms older
and wiser than we. Blood remembers
we must dance to feel ourselves rooted.
Bones know they can carry us through
anything. We are not our bones, whole
or broken; we are brain and gut and
flooded chambers pulsing. But our bones
have always been there, waiting to lift us
up, waiting to lead us through the dance.
Paula J. Lambert
Paula J. Lambert of Columbus, Ohio, is the author of several poetry collections including How to See the World (Bottom Dog Press 2020). Recipient of two Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards and two Greater Columbus Arts Council Resource Grants, she owns Full/Crescent Press, a small publisher of poetry books and broadsides, through which she has founded and supported numerous public readings and festivals that support the intersection of poetry and science.
Leaping Through Cloud Cover
While threaded vines entwine
and embrace my sleeping moments,
another life awaits me.
A glorious green earth,
floating days of passion painted on canvas--
every day is a miracle.
Feather-like, and hovering just out of reach
is this next world.
Eyes wide open,
it watches over me,
holding a bouquet of flowers in my name.
I safely dream below.
Without braces or casts,
my unfettered body will dance,
a great leaping through cloud cover--
no fear of landing.
Visible through the mist
is the shape of my wellness,
a garden of infinite growth,
a firefly spun from gold.
Cristina M. R. Norcross
Cristina M. R. Norcross lives in Wisconsin and is the author of 8 poetry collections. She was the founding editor of Blue Heron Review (2013-2020). Her latest book is Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Cristina’s poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in: Visual Verse, Your Daily Poem, Right Hand Pointing, Verse-Virtual, The Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. She has helped organize community art and poetry projects, has led workshops, and has also hosted many open mic poetry readings. Cristina is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day. Find out more: www.cristinanorcross.com
She is not ashamed of this journey, of the clarity that permeates her nightmares. Suspended in the immensity of her self-contained world, she is neither sorrowful nor despondent. Will she die? The answer is always yes.
Her bed is open to all experience. She covers her repose with silences implanted in air, stitched into her shroud with currents of endurance. Her thoughts, not restricted by time or place, are an intricacy of wordless energy, undistorted by her body. Her bones sit outside her being, hollow, merely a paper mache effigy filled with earthly premonitions of disintegration.
We treat the afterlife with reverence, but what if it is only an intensification of sleep?--isolated, set adrift from awakening with reliquishment—an unraveling of all dimensions, a surrendering of secrets, a profusion of the roots and tangled vines of dreams. A mystery of unembodied breath. An invisible imprint that redirects the narrative into nothing but naked astonishment. World without end.
inside, feathers form
light, stars, impossible wings--
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/
Like the princess cursed
To sleep a hundred years
You lie immobilized
Vines curling around your body
Like ivy scaling a stone tower
A strong but living net
That cradles you but does not
Stop your breath
While in your captive dreams
You know no gentle kiss can wake you
That nothing but some sudden violence
Will break your frozen state --
And if no one comes to light the fuse
And set you burning
You will die back to bone
The dry and faded flowers
Of your bride’s bouquet
Close against your breast
Mary McCarthy is a retired RN, poet and artist, who finds Ekphrastic work a perfect fit for her love of words and images. Her work has been included in many journals and anthologies, lately in The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, and The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette C. Luzajic. Her electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, is also available as a free download from Praxis magazine.
The woman slept her longest sleep,
where rose and honeysuckle grow;
she slept a sleep so still and deep,
she never woke for rain or snow.
About her bed, the brambles grew
and grew, till even renard sleek
found not a wily passage through,
in summer bright or winter bleak.
The woman slept her strangest sleep
and dreamed of silver, owl-winged light,
a dream so sad it made her weep,
a starry river in the night.
For though she slept yet conscience woke,
inside the wood beside the stream,
and knew, though not a word was spoke,
she was no more than Talos’ dream.
Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, The Ekphrastic Review, ink sweat and tears, Nightingale & Sparrow and Brilliant Flash Fiction. Her poetry chapbooks, thicker than water and birds and other feathers were published in October and November 2020.
Because I Am So Often Alone
"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone; because I am the person I know the best." Frida Kahlo
I dissimulate sleep like
a hesitating heart burrowing
deeper into singular.
How fewer breaths are needed
before the bone man appears
with his arms full of latent,
wilting lilies, legs loaded
with dynamite? Would the charge
momentarily wake me?
I will give you my eyes
if you withdraw your
You are not my canopy,
nor I your corpse.
My corset is metal,
and yours is bone.
I can open mine,
There’s a copse somewhere
in my mind’s making
while I mend,
where creepers re-weave
the body’s wiring,
into branchlets that reach back into life.
My four posts are trees,
supporting this thought:
I’ll be reborn
Barbara Black writes fiction, flash fiction, and poetry. Her work has been published in Canadian and international magazines and anthologies including the 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Award anthology, The Cincinnati Review, The New Quarterly, CV2, Geist and Prairie Fire. She was recently a finalist in the 2020 National Magazine Awards, nominated for the 2019 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and won the 2019 Geist Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. She lives in Victoria, BC. www.barbarablack.ca, @barbarablackwriter and @bblackwrites.
Frida Kahlo’s The Dream, 1940
There are black spider monkeys
a black cat and hummingbirds
It happens in your dreams.
It happens in your pictographs
your poems and letters:
“Diego. I’m alone.”
There’s no magenta, no madder,
A papier-mâché skeleton
on the canopy of your bed
the skeleton awake and watching,
where these androgynous
vines and roots that wrap around
oil on canvas
at Casa Azur in Coyoacán
past a walled courtyard
wooden easel, hog hair brushes
la heroína del dolor.
Magical realism, folk art painter.
This dragonfly buzz.
Small blue dragonfly.
This is the hospital door,
the hospital walls:
all those in their full body cast
all embroidered huipil blouses
bearing traces of paint and ink
dropped over a steel corset
all reinforced metal bars
all miscarried embryos.
They say: Let go!
Some say: Cut your hair.
Wild animal hill,
the land on which your people lived.
There is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Prickly pear cacti, yucca, and calla lily
the pomegranate tree.
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.
Saturday October 31, 2020
at home amongst sweet heather
like a pearl in a cluster of blossom
to suffer torture through frailty
by late October on the edge,
she senses a breeze caress
from a different direction
ready for to carry her high
steady as she goes
bedecked in a cotton nightshirt
pure as her heart
of pink floribunda,
she wears a necklace of gold
symbolic cross of belief
of life after Earth
prays silently for salvation,
delivery from a pain
from head through her torso
from morning until night,
relief under her orange throw
woven from frolics and adventures
as legs stretch through an existence
of seven decades, and more
while prone on her left
with eyelids tightly closed,
at peace with the world
while she drifts through the ether
with the tree of life her celestial guide
en route to a tomorrow
far beyond this domain
dreaming of eternal love
and those who proffered love,
for there were many, and more
but no fear, no regret
with physicality evaporated
for by Sunday morning; gone
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 a member 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.
Woman Aside from Sleep
If the dream is bigger than the woman lying
how does the canopy hold?
How do the bones coalesce?
I am more than sleep
would never contain explosives
never harbour flowers.
How does she become fillet?
How do the veins tangle into cords
that run the wires of oblivion?
There is much in the sky blocked by clouds
so much going on we do not see.
Where are the hands?
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 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). Uncorseted is forthcoming from Kung Fu Teachery Press. 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.
There Is a Sleep
with a line by Wendy Battin
As Frida sleeps beneath a rigid skeleton
rigged with explosives and clutching a bridal bouquet,
I remember a poet, also gone from this earth,
who left the words, There is a sleep that tells
every dream as a nightmare. Could this be
a marriage with death? The Mexican romance
with mortality, a nod to Day of the Dead?
Ah but, there is also the sleep of escape
from the ravages of polio, impalement
on a bus’s steel handrail. Among light
and airy clouds, Frida drifts in the solace of oils
and brushes bestowed by her father.
Her mother’s gift an easel fitted for her body
in its plaster cast. And the mirror above
the bed’s canopy, reflections that birthed
her self-portrait journey, her pursuit of images
imprinted on her psyche, touching her Mexican
soul. In painting after painting, she dissected
and re-envisioned herself with monkeys
and parrots, horns and nails, fissures, moonscapes,
forced feedings, a wounded deer, skulls with crossbones.
So many kinds of cruelty, so many kinds
of beauty. In The Dream, she allows herself
to rest, entwined by vines, uprooted, yet filled
with verdant leaves framing her face,
their earthy smell of rebirth. While above, Juda,
her papier-mâché skeleton, guards her
in the forever sleep of paint.
Sandi Stromberg has just been nominated a second time for a Pushcart Prize, as well as recently for a 2020 Best of Net by The Ekphrastic Review. Her poetry currently appears or is upcoming in The Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, The Ocotillo Review, Still the Waves Beat (ekphrastic anthology), Texas Poetry Calendar 2021, Words & Art (exhibition “A Counting”), Purifying Wind, Snapdragon, and Brabant Cultureel (The Netherlands). She also received Top Honors in 2020 for her submission to the Friendswood Library’s Ekphrastic Reading and Contest.
The Night I Lost Everything
Their faces suddenly popped behind a window. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, it seemed like a normal everyday conversation. Then, he gave her the I’m-all-yours look. My heart sank, literally. I kind of dropped it, like someone drops his only pair of keys in the sewer.
It was a long, movie-like kiss, as if he wasn’t kissing her for the first time. His fingers drifted on her soft neck and soft cheeks. Her skin, in contrast to mine, bounced back.
They noticed my presence but kept kissing and kissing, as if their lips were stuck together with super glue. I mean their eyes were staring back at me with their tongues still in, necks about to twist, a dreadful sight. I didn’t scream or anything, just raised my thumb up, in an ironic way, the "gotcha!" kind of way, or the "I fucking knew it!" way.
They raised their thumbs up too, still kissing. "Shit," I said to myself, "Shit, shit," and left their still, dumb-looking faces in the window frame, something scratchy starting to tickle my chest.
"Wait, where’s Lily?" I asked myself. Our daughter. Our daughter was on that trip with us too. How could I forget? What kind of mother was I?
I called her on her mobile phone but she didn’t answer. I called again. No signal. I rushed to the airport, she wasn’t there.
I asked a flight attendant, she cocked a tattooed eyebrow.
"My daughter! I must’ve left her at the Airbnb flat," I shouted, "somebody call the police, I swear, never left her alone before, she’s just a child, please, help!" I got on the plane all alone, wondering how on earth I had managed to lose everything; husband, child, dignity, overnight. I cried my guts out, tearlessly, next to an empty seat.
I woke up next to my husband, him sleeping next to me with an expression of bliss on his mouth.
The good thing with dreams is this: when they take something away, you can still get it back.
Maria A. Ioannou
Maria A. Ioannou is a writer based in Cyprus. She studied English Literature and she holds a PhD in Creative Writing (Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence in Research Award 2019). Her publications include two short fiction collections and a fairytale published in Greece (Emerging Writer State Prize 2012). Her short fiction "Pillars" was a Best Small Fictions nominee. She is currently an ECR Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Winchester.
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