Belted in red this
Your gift sir from
A fine day
Spans my waist
At the point
This waist a pontifex
Like a priest but
Bears what once
Only to soldiers and
A sign of a
From blood and
Now secured and seen
From one hemisphere
A roll of
Near a thinly cracked
Where whispers of a
Become the language
Of trees and
A cracked window
The best you can
In a weighted
As you are
That is the history of
The language of
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.
Lovers in a Small Boat
“Meet me tonight,
at our secret hideaway.
Let us hide, once again.
Hide; like old times.”
“I’ll come, dressed as a bride.
And you, my groom.
Around my waist, will be tied;
The red ribbon.*
In my hands, I will be
Our oars are tied,
And boat; restrained.
Together we will board.
Together we shall float.”
“We’ll say our vows,
We’ll say ‘I do’.
Then in our deep kiss,
Like always; we’ll drown.
Only this time, never to be found.”
“Our little gifts,
Our first kiss,
Our fights and laughs,
Our hurried goodbyes,
The never-ending stream,
Of sparkling dreams.
-Our memories and longings
Are all rooted in this place.
Let’s hide right here, forever;
From this town.
Let’s draw upon ourselves;
-The Ultimate Veil.”
“Hush now, my darling,
Do not waste your breath.
Take a bite of this blossom.
And give me a kiss…
Share with me, this concluding misery.
Let’s close our eyes,
And never open again.
Come, wipe your tears.
Let me hold you tight,
Till we make it to the other side.
Life did us apart,
Let this poison marry us
As the two ascended,
Hand in hand;
To this grisly melody,
The Mighty Moon danced.
*In some cultures, a red ribbon around a bride’s waist, is to symbolize a Virgin or a One-man woman.
*Daturas are white poisonous flowers.
Maraam is a Business Student from Pakistan. She is an ordinary girl, who finds literature a way to both tap into her real self, and to express her view of the world and beyond. She aspires to become who she once wanted to be, and encourage others along the way.
Love, A Discourse
In this backlit Bayou
on lamplit water,
on lovers enshrined
in moody green hues.
Swoon and swoop
and surrender; silence
He kisses her like an art -
and she a muse, enthralled.
This stolen moment, a dalliance
better thought of.
Vampire devouring her soul?
It is night, and his face is sharp;
and her fallen frame frail
in the murky light.
Romantic heroine distress?
Another Ophelia, you suppose.
Or Psyche succumbing
to Cupid’s charming kiss.
Romance rendered real
in classic passionate pose.
to momentary beauty.
How, in a drowning world
love is a boat (small or not)
keeping us afloat.
Or in a floating, frivolous world -
love is the drowning deep
we so desperately seek.
Siobhán Mc Laughlin
Siobhán is an English and History graduate from Ireland with a passion for reading and writing poetry. She has a MA in Creativity in Practice and facilitates a creative writing group in her local area. As well as writing poetry, she enjoys blogging about it and other writing matters on www.a-poem-a-day-project.blogspot.com. Her other interests include art, music and cats. Her poems have appeared online on Poetry24, The Ekphrastic Review and forthcoming on The Honest Ulsterman.
kiss me wildfire
and robin’s blue egg. kiss me
in your mismatched socks.
kiss me in pain, in hunger,
or in mystery, whichever
comes first. kiss me under
the dragonfly’s hum, over
raspberry cream pie, against
debussy’s sonata. kiss me stupid.
kiss me, fool. roughen my mouth
like this august fervor. the sunflowers
will turn away to blush.
Grace Q. Song is a high school junior from New York. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, DIALOGIST, Crab Creek Review, L'Éphémère Review, Into The Void, Frontier, and [PANK],among others. A 2019 Best of Net nominee, she enjoys listening to ABBA and Yoke Lore.
The river of your departure was
relentless and its surging currents
rushed past much too fast. No gleam lightens
the hollow gloom that consumes me. Dreams
ebb – murmurs in reeds, fingers brushing
my cheek as if you’d never let go.
No-one bolsters me. No lips anchor
mine now in this vortex without you.
Where is the moor of your limbs, the hold
of our symmetry, our sweet duet?
Helen has been published on several online sites such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, Red River Review, Barren Magazine, The Drabble, Sukoon and the Ekphrastic Review. She lives in England after many years in East Africa and the Middle East.
She would sooner drop her guard
than the antique lace hankie she clutches
along the lip of a snug boat moored
in mystery. His professed love, deep as
these shallows. Her pink satin ribbon,
trawling the depths. His firm hand
upon her neck, a willowy stem supporting
petal-soft lips. Their first kiss sown
by her open gaze. Her left arm, taut,
the right, succumbing to the whiplash
curve of his shoulder. She leans in.
A demur surrender or false modesty?
Sinuous lines blur. Swaying reeds give
with the crush of their docking boat.
What geometry in this equation. Art or
artifice? Do I hear his quickened breath,
her sigh? Mythic ardor suspended.
Margo Davis is a retiree with wanderlust. In fall 2018, she toured major Madrid and Barcelona museums, Malaga and the Alhambra. In 2019, she was awarded a writing residency in Italy. This year's residencies will be in Budapest and Assisi. Her home base is Houston.Twice nominated for a Pushcart, Margo is partial to ekphrastic poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, What Rough Beast, The Fourth River, and The Houston Chronicle.
Past Life Regression of an Artist's Model
All that was missing was the moon
and swans in Praha,
the river Vitava flowing flowing,
art in the heart of Bohemia
when I was too young to understand
why you told me to put on a white dress
with a pink sash and whisper ravissement,
my body pressed against the length of you --
eyes closed, lips open -- your hand
cradling my throat...measuring
what I was to be in the future. The dance
was over, and there was no movement
in the water rushes,
the river lapping gently at the boat sides,
the spirit of Proteus rising
in the silence of the soul.
Onstage, swan feathers had trembled,
the false lake shimmering like shook foil;
There was no boat to hold me thus,
my hair with strands of age and light
sheer as luna moth wings -- a ghostly
platinum in the moonless night -- my body
clinging to the ledge outside the tower window
(Sleepwalker, you would call me)
surviving in what was left of the wetlands
south of Camelot in another country
as the Lady of Shalott passed by;
as the dark knight rode from the black forest
and I was Psyche in your arms,
the muscled horse beneath us, you
with dark hair fallen on your brow,
the face of a boy who could have been my first love,
or the young Yeats, trying to grow beyond
the mystery of the afterlife, a canvas
filled with what we could never escape:
the gypsy fortune teller at the Cafe Slavia,
her eyes the color of wild hazelnuts,
the way she looked up from my palm
as the waiter tried to stop us
although it was inevitable,
my lace handkerchief returned
from the place where I'd dropped it
at his feet; then the boat,
The Lovers who never left the dock,
the hard knot of you, almost
in pain, crying out against me
for the waking
shudder of pure release --
winter bursting into spring,
the relief of romantic heat
on the cool cement floor
in the downstairs hallway
of my grandparents' house
built into the limestone cliffs
above the creek in Austin,
a paperback book of poetry
open in my hands -- Bronte,
the Pre-Raphaelites, Tennyson --
the snakey assonance of Swinburne;
outside, foliage growing to the water,
island grasses where The Lotus-Eaters
could not swim into consciousness
as you painted me in plein air, dipping
your finger in a small, white bottle
filled with poison, touching it to my lips,
to my breast where the white dress
had been spread open like angel wings
as your tongue traced lifetimes
of daemonic love;
as you picked me up
like a wilted cabbage rose
and carried me into a studio
where you'd left the lights on
in that haunted, beautiful house
with a Victorian Valentine on the mantle,
fields beyond the garden wall
climbing the hills behind us
as you dressed my body
in the sinuous lines
of bittersweet passion
floating in shadows,
vulnerable and wistful,
seductive and provocative
(tempus fugit -- momento mori )
time flying by like long hours of love,
the boat swaying gently in the cattails,
our lives illustrated by canvasses
everywhere around us
creating me over and over
as I created you -- I wanted you --
words inside me as naked and alive as you
must have felt as you painted
the woman I was, and could never be.
Laurie Newendorp's new book of poetry, When Dreams Were Poems, has two of the poems selected by The Ekphrastic Challenge. Her ekphrastic poem was chosen for The Ekphrastic Poetry Prize, Houston Poetry Fest, 2018. "What surprises me, on Valentine's, is how little I've changed, writing a poem with the spirit of Pre-Raphaelite art, which I've always loved, imagining the women of that age as myself, different this year only in deviating from my usual Valentine pattern, writing a humorous short story."
Lovers in a Small Boat
As we swoon on these board seats, your hands
at my throat and waist, one of mine gripping
your shoulder, the other braced on the cold gunwale
to press my face to your face your kiss
your lips your lips your lips, your suit rumpled,
my dress a wreck, both of us given over to this,
we can hardly hear the calls from the shore –
the derisive hoots of my child and your child,
catcalls of our exes, ambivalent sigh of your dear
late wife – and are scarcely aware of the muffled
ding of texts from my lonely dad, your baffled
brother, our lovelorn friends, that accompanies
our blind journey, so determined are we
to let the fire consume us, bootlessly.
Laura Cherry is the author of the collection Haunts (Cooper Dillon Books) and the chapbooks Two White Beds (Minerva Rising) and What We Planted (Providence Athenaeum). She co-edited the anthology Poem, Revised (Marion Street Press) with Robert Hartwell Fiske, and her work has been published in journals including Antiphon, Ekphrastic Review, Los Angeles Review, Cider Press Review, and Hartskill Review. She earned an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers.
Shallow Water, Deep Breaths
She truly doesn't know which she wants:
For his kiss to be eternal, if not unending,
or for him to be her first demon lover,
to populate her dreams with little deaths
carried through by his sinister hand
caressing her throat before continuing
down, along the body aching to be new,
revealed and permanently changed.
She knows the Tennyson by heart:
Another woman, different boat and river,
forsaking her life to abandon the tower
bordering hopes for a lover's kiss before
surrendering all to sleep forever alone.
That isn't the plan tonight, any of it,
except this boat, this river, this real man.
Her fantasies are finer than old legends.
Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since 1965.
Kiss on the Water
She’d seen him around. That dark lock
of hair so daringly falling over the left eye,
pushed back impatiently, sometimes
blown up, lower lip forward. She’d observed
him. She’d lusted, even though
she hadn’t been sure what lust was.
A small town, she from the manor
house. Well protected, always
accompanied. She had to find a way.
He’d seen her too. So white, so blond,
so unattainable, so prettily dressed.
Always accompanied. He lusted
after her. Knew exactly what lust was.
He had to find a way.
He’d brushed past her. Hardly touching.
But a note went furtively from his hand
to hers. She escaped through the back
garden, pretending to go for a quiet
evening stroll. Seven pm under the footbridge,
the note had said. Her heart pounding
she stepped into the skiff. When he kissed
her, hidden from curious eyes by the reeds
and the bad light, she learned
what lust was.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and three poetry collections, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals. Her latest full-length poetry manuscript, The Rain Girl, has been accepted for publication in June 2020 by Blue Nib.
The Trouble with Rowing a Boat Across a Pond
and Stopping To Embrace Your Lover
Love is no duck soup—that boat tips over
when he shifts his balance.
Her powdered blue and tan dress,
the commissioned one that took eons
to sew, will deflate into the reeds.
Then her hand will grasp the dock post
more desperately than his shoulder.
Is he a soldier that could not
wed anyway, for sex weakens,
the Romans said long ago?
So much easier now to just drive
down the freeway to a sturdy lounge,
and deliver the black latex corset,
size XS, which she wanted from Etsy.
I might have won her over more
when she took a selfie with Snoopy
smiling on the gift bag. And how much better
to know the only water is at the bottom
of an ice bucket that supports a bottle
of Veuve Clicquot Rosé champagne?
No pestering yellow glow from a window
in the background or worrying
about spies behind any trees.
The waitress reserved the V.I.P. booth
docked in plush red velvet with shutters
half-closed, the dimmer light bathing us
in marine blue and violet. No need
to ring St. Valentine, for this demon love
becomes a lemon dove with shiny horns
that bangs against my heart’s thin hull.
John Milkereit is a mechanical engineer working in the oil and gas industry who lives 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 in 2016. His most recent collection of poems, Drive the World in a Taxicab, was published by Lamar University Press.
Before the launch, encomium,
assumed fare suit for season’s mood,
and illustrate for secret cards -
why my unease, discomfiture?
Reading romance or demon power,
ask who or what is at the heights,
emotion, power of love displayed
or dominant ascendency?
This separate the lads from lass,
in what they see, or choose to view,
and on which side might dare to be,
some gilt enhanced or guilt betrayed?
I wonder, one neck-gripping hand,
another, tense, seeks gunwale cloth;
is one in charge, or charge in both,
a supplicant or slave entwined?
The mastery, line sinuous,
said compliment, or complement
to devil lover - even pair?
In dusky shade, her flesh must cool,
unbalanced strain, skeletal thrall,
I fear abuse is, hear, laid bare,
pink ribbon, pinned to prize displayed -
is small boat universe, or cell?
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by over a dozen on-line poetry sites, including Ekphrastic Review; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines & Vita Brevis Anthology. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
In a small boat
on the midnight lake
held close in arms
strong as the clamp
of a steel trap
you seem to faint
in the swoon of love
gone pale and still
as a white ghost
a drift of fog and moonlight
to push away
your small hand
braced against the rail
his hand set firm
beneath your head
keeping your mouth
sealed tight to his
as he stoops to your lips
with a raptor’s kiss
that takes your breath away
Mary McCarthy is a writer and artist who spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many on line and print journals, and she has an electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis magazine. Ekphrastic writing is a particular and new favourite for her.
Education Of Pre-Pubescent Teens
We hid behind bulrushes
(as all young teens do)
inquisitive in extremis
as a punt veered to the bank
him and her
ceased heavy breathing
(surprisingly they didn’t).
They blurted out nonsense
(as ancient adults do)
tears flowing like rain
in their life full of sorrow
saving each other from death
him and her
arms clasped around torsos
mouth to mouth resuscitation
(surprisingly they did).
If that’s grown-up life then
I’d rather remain a child
without dæmons in my domain
or cavorting in a small boat
screeching “Yes!” for salvation
him and her
no mouth onto mouth
no toppling into rivers
(surprisingly they would
then again, perhaps not).
Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. Of late, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges. In 2019, he was a Featured Writer of the Federation of Writers Scotland.
Did Psyche and Eros Know?
An erotic link,
head to torso
leaning across his leg
clutching her innocence
in white lace against
the boat’s wooden side.
Water that alchemists,
could turn into wine.
Kisses that lure lust
release her to him
ii The Simple Act
Our third date,
cars illegally parked
side by side. We stood
in the dripping heat, caressed
by humidity. Middle-aged,
divorced, children grown. And he did
what I wanted.
I hadn’t told him. I didn’t know
what was missing from the lost
marriage until I saw
the made-for-tv-movie. The film’s
slow motion, like foreplay. The actor
cherishing the woman before him,
an unexpected move
that made me hunger.
As we moved toward each other,
my lover-to-be dropped
his keys to the ground and embraced
my face. Inched
his fingers down my neck
circling it then moving
deep into the dark brown
thickness of my hair and drew me
to his lips.
Sandi Stromberg has had poetry nominated for a Pushcart Prize, been featured on NPR, and juried in the Houston Poetry Fest eleven times. Her poetry has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Red River Review, Illya’s Honey, Colere: An Exploration of Cultural Exploration, among other small journals as well as several anthologies. She especially loves these ekphrastic challenges that combine her love of poetry and art down through the ages.
Two Dozen Mallards Quack
Dusk in covert cattails
bulrushes obscure flat-bottom rowboat
docked at wharf in damp decay.
Clouds of black flies bite
exposed necks. Mosquitoes penetrate,
buzz with greedy syringes.
Mouths gulp like bluegill,
search for beneficial bacteria
among tangled roots below.
Two dozen mallards quack,
mocking a desperate pageant
in frog slime
yearn for release, and the hunt,
under parlour-light refraction
organs, other than clutching hearts,
stir. A handkerchief ready
to shoo fly, or offending passion.
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His frightening book of verse, Spirits for Sale, is available on Amazon from Pskis Porch Publishing. Some of his work found a home here, and in other publications such as Burning House Press, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal, Fishbowl Press, The Blue Nib, Red Fez, Spillwords, Nine Muses Poetry, and Jerry Jazz Musician. Jordan is an editor at Red Fez, and a regular guest editor at The Ekphrastic Review. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To see more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com.
the futility of time
misty twilight falls around them,
the soft glow of first love,
as the mountains look on
all that they have seen,
illumined by a spark of hope,
feeling like the moon smiles beneficently
just for them,
the reeds, dusted with gold
from the porchlights
whisper knowing musings
amongst themselves, laughing melodically,
as they sway to the music
of twinkling starlight around them.
reflected in the pond,
pastel hues like that of her dress,
a ribbon of rose,
the kerchief clutched in her hand
the crickets coo,
the heart sighs in a breathless flutter.
the boat treads a fine line,
drifting on a glass pane,
it matters not.
the heart is a fragile instrument,
rarely content in its loneliness,
restless in rhythmless days,
it is too alive to remember
the ache of
glass shattering, being broken.
love is the light that
shines forever, always remembered
it is better
to be embraced by its warmth
than to never see the sun,
to never know
the buoyant wings
of a butterfly,
beauty for a moment
is suspended forever,
in the heart
like stars in the sky.
dividing so many eternities
into seconds and minutes,
minutes and hours,
dates on calendars,
observations made by the clock
in these eyes,
time matters not.
so we think not,
two hearts beating
the twilight falling softly,
just a whispered word,
unobtrusive and sweet
music drifting slowly
the reeds laughing
stars waiting breathlessly
in the purple blankets of sky,
the summer evening
is gentle as lace around the shoulders,
scrawled around them
like ribbons of silk.
Kathryn Sadakierski’s writing has appeared in The Bangor Literary Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, Nine Muses Poetry, Teachers of Vision, Dime Show Review, The Decadent Review, and elsewhere. She graduated summa cum laude from Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts with her Bachelor of Arts degree, and is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree.
Scarcely screened by reeds
she has fallen in the body of the boat
her suitor’s hand on her neck
she leans on the rim
seeks to kiss away his lips -
blurred waters only
allow for shameful rowing off
at the perilous heaving – would they
have looked on
if the woman had pulled one oar
to re-establish balance?
Petra Vergunst is a poet living and working in Northeast Scotland. Her writing deals with the multiple ways in which we understand, interact with, and relate to the world around us. In her long, narrative poem Embrace (Lulu Publishing, 2017) she investigates her relation with local woodlands.
The Ekphrastic Review
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