The Artist Marianne Visits Her Home Country
She sees us as bent and our houses as tiny and crooked
and our burdens as clear and clean and white
and our mountains as child-simple peaks
and calm rounds
and our colours as plain ones
and if two of us stop to gossip
(sure we will walk with more grace than these old ones)
and if the artist simplifies the place she visits
and wonders away the changes
and paints us primal as her own infancy
well, then let us laugh inside our black disguise
and let the old ones snicker over the simplicities
for they know more than bent backs and burdens
and let us, old and young, pity the one from away
who smooths her confusion with clear outlines
and primitive figures
and lovely light
for the sun will set with its own chosen gleam
and the water will carry the day's dirt down
and the artist will leave us, poor soul, and God bless her.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, the author of three poetry chapbooks, one full-length poetry collection, a mixed genre collection, and two novels. Her latest poetry collection is Through the Fracture in the I: Erasure Poetry; her most recent novel: The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh. Her most recent literary adventure: being guest editor for the Yves Tanguy Ekphrastic Challenge here at The Ekphrastic Review. Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: http://shirleyglubka.weebly.com/
In black and shapeless hooded shroud,
so well you cloak the souls avowed
to selflessness of sacrifice
accepted as demanded price
of house well kept...and home well made...
that stand as works of art displayed
akin to those of brush and oil
you too create by loving toil
bestilling life that is their gift
to heart they warm and soul they lift
to be the like of such as you
who give the world its timeless view
of burden to which they have bent
becoming stairs of our ascent.
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
I thought I only saw my soul while working in a field at night.
And then as I read Rumi- the lakes appeared - the sky cleared and the fish and foul
Spoke in languages known only to them.
The fog lifted and the fields became hallowed.
My soul declared itself to me.
Sandy is an award winning poet-actress and filmmaker. She is the recipient of the Autism Society of America's Literary Achievement Award. Individual publications include: Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press/Formidable Woman. Tuck Magazine. Writing in a Woman's Voice. Connecticut River Review. West Wind Review. Her chapbook, Soul Poems, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her documentary film, Silent Journey, is streaming on: www.cutv.ws/storyteller/Sandy_Rochelle
Wer Kennt Den Weg?
(Who knows the way?)
Last night I had the strangest dream
(wo)men in black walk the line
goin’ down the road feelin’ bad
death and hell a half a mile a day.
Wide open road against the wind
25 minutes to go time and time again
burden of freedom flesh and blood
sixteen tons, a wound time can’t erase.
These are my people, they’re all the same
class of ’55 the vanishing race
hard times comin' just about time
memories are made of this.
Return to the promised land
just the other side of nowhere
for the good times just one more
no one will ever know
Monteagle Mountain, a thing called love
if it wasn’t for the Wabash River
a certain kinda hurtin’
over the next hill, over there.
No setting sun, ring of fire
strange things happen every day
the very biggest circus of them all
funny how time slips away.
Wer kennt den weg?
This poem was created using Johnny Cash song titles.
Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions in Europe and North America. His poems have featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He is particularly inspired by ekphrastic challenges and enjoys the songs of Johnny Cash.
the sin eaters have turned their backs on us,
departed for their flaming mountain home
to purge. they’ve retrieved their wooden bowls
and plates. in white sacks gathered the salt and crumbs
of corpse-bread— loaves that sopped our lusts and lies,
the myriad murders our hearts desired— then
retreated from our boarders, forsaking us.
no longer can they stomach what they’ve witnessed
across the great river, beyond the walls we’ve built.
the weakest pitied the glut of guilt denied
when we pass. a shame, she says. a waste.
MEH is Matthew E. Henry, a Pushcart nominated poet with recent works appearing or forthcoming in The Ekphrastic Review, Amethyst Review, Longleaf Review, The Radical Teacher, Teach. Write, and 3Elements Review. MEH is an educator who received his MFA from Seattle Pacific University, yet continued to spend money he didn’t have pursuing a MA in theology and a PhD in education.
Instructions for Heavy Things
Write the words you cannot form with your mouth on a piece of paper. Stare at them until they speak to you, until they tell you something about your suffering.
Gather the womenfolk together. They are made for burdens such as this.
Put all sorrows and the dead in white sacks to be purified; transmuted.
Tear the delicate dresses from bodies unclean with grief.
Cloak yourself in black raiment. Rub your face and eyes with ashes.
Let your shoulders bow beneath the weight of their cargo. Know that your back will break.
Janette Schafer is a poet, playwright, nature photographer, part-time rock singer and full-time banker living in Pittsburgh, PA. She is a Chatham University MFA student in Creative Writing. Her poem "What we want to remember about this river" won the 2019 Laurie Mansell Reich/Academy of American Poets Prize. Her play Mad Virginia won the 2018 Pittsburgh Original Short Play Series. Her writing and photography has been published in numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers.
This is the City
This is the City speaking its wordless
blue, weight of silence we all understand
when moonlight spills over. This is the blossom,
how, often in our trials and errors, regret lifts
nostalgia as petals. The way our women
hoist sacks like voiceless wombs.
Men’s faces don’t show
but we see. We hear clinks and ruffles, lamplight
of madness slashing shadows. Houses are the new
watchers, windows eyes that have forgotten
the tortured shapes. Desire curves like a rib,
in night’s ribcage the shimmer that’s never been.
Mothers have a word to keep, garbed in the same
shades of the raven that left. They carry freedom’s
burden along the slope, headed to where they
turn. I propose that the next city we build must
rise from our most successful trial: that leaders face
the firing squad after completing their term.
A previous contributor to The Ekphrastic Review, Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, the Philippines. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including New Verse News, That Literary Review, The Lyric, McNeese Review and Star*Line, nominated for the Pushcart, Best of the Net and Dwarf Stars awards. His printed collections are Meditations (Alien Buddha Press), Songs from My Mind’s Tree, and Multiverse (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), 50 Acrostic Poems (Cyberwit, India), and his politically-progressive collection, In the Donald’s Time (Poetic Justice Books and Art). His first speculative poetry collection, Pan’s Saxophone, is forthcoming from Weasel Press.
Socks go missing and, like him, never reappear;
ink from a pen that leaked
unwritten words in your pocket
will always leave a stain.
As will the usual giveaways:
lipstick on collar an alien shade,
grease, grass, sweat
the laundress’s refrain.
In the nursing home,
someone else’s bedclothes
return and you no longer notice
or care. Your father’s sweater
no longer carries his smell.
Mother’s shirt, dried on high
returns two sizes too small,
shrunken beyond recognition.
You wonder what to do
with those fuzzy booties
that kept your son’s feet warm,
such small items no one but you can understand,
the weight no one but you can carry.
Betsy Mars is a Connecticut-born, LA-based poet and educator with degrees from USC which she puts to no obvious use. Her work has recently appeared in The Rise Up Review, Writing in A Woman’s Voice, and Panoply, as well as in a number of anthologies, and the California Quarterly. Her first chapbook, Alinea, was recently released by Picture Show Press.
As this place at the foot of the mountains
moves from dark into day,
black-clad women bend under
bone-white bags draped over shoulders.
Stealing people’s dreams along the blue avenue,
these shadow babooshkas
grip filled sacks in their left hand,
holding our reveries like bales of cotton.
One kneels at the road’s shoulder, having dropped
her duffel, revealing her face
from beneath a sooted cowl
had any vigilant villager been aware.
Another stops, stoops to scoop back
the spilled contents but worries
after the distance lost by the delay
as a trio of dopplegangers
trudges past, bringing their bounty
to the realm of Morpheus
where demons can gather
to dine on our evening’s fantasies.
Bill Cushing lived in several states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico before moving to California. He earned an MFA in writing from Goddard College in Vermont and now teaches at East Los Angeles and Mt. San Antonio colleges, living in Glendale with his wife and their son.He’s been published in Another Chicago Magazine, Brownstone Review, Metaphor, and West Trade Review. Two of his poems have been featured in the both volumes of the award-winning Stories of Music. He was named among the Top Ten L. A. Poets in 2017 as well as one of 2018’s “ten poets to watch” by Spectrum Publishing of Los Angeles. Along with writing, teaching, and facilitating a writing group (9 Bridges), Bill has also been performing with an area musician in a collaboration they have named Notes and Letters, which is available on both Facebook and Youtube. His book of poems, A Former Life, is scheduled for a June release from Finishing Line Press.
The Widows’ Laundry Day
Wrapped in black loose dresses, shawls,
they stumble out from hovels under
heavy loads of soiled clothes
of soiled lives.
Out the village they trudge
to the riverbank
where, together they will pound
each item until stains disappear.
Even the sacks will be whitened
As these women, while they work,
Women old before years mark
them as ancient,
talk and think and thank
God that at least they have each other.
In these days they live alone
without husband, fathers, brothers
Upon the rocks, they share
soothing words, their while strong hands
rub out the memories of harsh days, harsher men.
Now, as day’s light slips away into darkness,
work complete, hands reddened,
numbed by cold water
they help each other tie up the sacks of clean, damp
clothes to carry the home where
each again alone, will dry their collected items
strung across rafters, chairs, ropes in front of
puny fires. After delivering the dry,
they will wait, alone, in their hovels until
again it is time to gather their clothing, that of neighbours
on the next widows’ laundry day.
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She has written ekphrastic poems for The Ekphrastic Review, Wilda Morris Challenge, Ashmoleon Museum and others. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Lake, Postcard Poems and PRose, Peacock Review, Creative Inspirations. Her blog, for short story writers, What Editors Want Your to Know is at www.joanleotta.wordpress.com. She has been a featured performer in many schools, festivals, and museums.
Remember Only This
By the gloating rocks once its refuge,
The sun wallows in scarlet rages;
Glovers at the ticky-tacky cages,
Who feel naught of the coming deluge
From the lurching stream that knows no rest.
Each ripple is a Mont Blanc unsung
With snow-hunches grown out of dark grace,
The cragginess of each jagged face;
Burnt with the weight of burdens unflung,
More formidable than Everest
Blades of grass growing out of cement,
They ever knew passion, knew the pain
Of lorn oaths broken oft and again;
Thus Marianne from her Sherwood rent,
By the dripping of socks found her quest
As her sister shed a skin of ice,
And tucked it under an arm to walk;
Glided on water in flesh of chalk,
To see her crush pigments like head-lice,
Wring back stolen blood with savage zest.
Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in The Mojave Heart Review, Third Wednesday, Brine and a number of other literary journals. Studying life, languages and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her. Blogs: https://hibahshabkhezxicc.wordpress.com/ and http://languedouche.blogspot.fr/ Twitter: @hibahshabkhez
Women in Black
The woman haul sacks across their backs, filled with lives,
heavy with bones, the smell of blood and earth captured
in white fabric but which, over the course of their trek,
seeps through cloth, until memory outweighs contents,
and the wish for purple tomatoes, with their taste of sun,
overrides thoughts of water or rest. The women trudge
one after another in a line until the earth beneath them
groans, as sole becomes soul and penance wears soil hard,
then smooth, then carves a rut for which only memory
knows anything close to the reason. Field becomes town,
becomes birch grove guarding town, white-barked, mute
and observant as the black-clad procession, too crammed
to talk with words neither spoken nor heard, but wished
and pushed back as vanity, tactile as cheese or bread
but beguiling as jam—and perhaps erosive in absence
as jam’s presence on teeth. Birches watch the procession
and quake, not swayed by wind, but by a tremor
from the heaviness contained in sacks as the women pass.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based poet, writer and photographer and an MFA Poetry candidate at California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Rockvale Review, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His poetry chapbook, Colors the Thorns Draw, was released by Desert Willow Press in August 2018.
Women in Black
Staring up at the stars,
I gaze into the past –
where my childhood memories
still dance beyond the moon.
I never could see the shapes
astronomers join into constellations,
but I find patterns familiar to me.
On this cold night, the stars pull
me back to Russia, to the women
in black. I never could tell one
from another. To be honest, I didn’t try.
Their sameness captivated me.
Whether 25 or 70, they shared
the same weary shoulders and dark
shrouds. Their symmetry of motion
turned washing clothes at the river
into a hypnotizing choreography.
I missed them in winter when the river
froze. By October, darkness would fall
before dinner. As the women
hurried home, they faded
into the sky. The white bundles
on their backs glowing like stars
as they passed our windows.
Alarie Tennille’s latest poetry book, Waking on the Moon, contains many poems first published by
The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com.
Drawn by monotonous magnetic pull
the women in black,
the hunched and the hungry
are dragged down into indigo seas
carrying mis-shapen moons on their backs
traipse, toil, rub, cleanse,
rinse, wring, fold, roll,
laundry swelling, waxing expectant.
They do not complain
the women in black,
the hunched and the hungry
trudging slowly in single file
howling in silence like wolves in the tide
their violet voices silenced by mountains
windowed cells hauling them back
calling for curfew, return to the cage.
Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry and literature since childhood. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in Great Britain and internationally. She is presently editing her work for an anthology and enjoying responding to ekphrastic challenges. Alongside poetry, Kate enjoys art, dance and playing her growing collection of guitars and ukuleles!
The birthing was onerous and constant. The nightly quotient had to be met, though what would happen if it was not was never said. A line of silent women completely covered by their black robes toiled every night. Only their lifeless eyes could be seen. Though who watched them? It was unclear; however, those who resisted, even by a look, vanished. It was never remarked upon when someone disappeared because they were drones, indistinguishable from one another. They did not live; they merely existed, in limbo and without hope—until they didn’t. Over and over again, they carried their bundles down the shadowed streets to feed the beast. The birthing of such vast amounts of hate took time and dedication. The process had been going on for decades--maybe longer--but the end was in sight. Soon the rainbow sky would be completely covered, and the task would be completed.
Merril D. Smith
Merril D. Smith’s poetry and stories have appeared recently in Rhythm & Bones, Vita Brevis, Streetlight Press, Ghost City, Twist in Time, Mojave Heart Review, and Wellington Street Review. She is an independent scholar with a Ph.D. in American history, and she’s written numerous books on history, gender, and sexuality. She lives in New Jersey and blogs at merrildsmith.com.
It could be a dream,
a nightmare even –
the way the Greek chorus of houses,
one so much like the other,
white like thick cream,
list into the prevailing wind –
the way they are crammed
like too many teeth in a mouth.
I spread a rich gouache of blue
under your feet, but the early dusk
in this high-shouldered valley
deepens and changes each hue
before we can know it.
Your ink-black procession
winds itself ant-like
and grimly focused
across the page.
I want to shout to you – shed
the black habit of indenture,
the dress of labour,
the bent, grief-stricken back, drop
the sun-bleached white sacks
hinting at purity and innocence.
They are filled with nothing
that will help you.
I want to shout – lift your eyes,
take in, those last radiant rays
crowning the mountain tops.
Barbara Ponomareff lives in southern Ontario, Canada. By profession a child psychotherapist, she has been delighted to pursue her life-long interest in literature, psychology and art since her retirement.
The first of her two published novellas dealt with a possible life of the painter J.S. Chardin. Her short stories, memoirs and poetry have appeared in various literary magazines and anthologies. At present, she is translating modern German poetry.
The Labour of Longing
We carry burdens like the babies who left us.
We can’t measure weight beyond the redness of reality in upturned palms,
the reconciliation of blood that curses and courses
downstream or screams its scarlet stain.
Our bundles sway like the men who left us.
Imagined promises and threadbare clothing curl our backs.
Our hands are cracked birch boats cresting in the cone
of dusty light where the mountains lick the houses.
“Fall and rise,” they whisper to the wind.
“Soak or sear?” they wonder without expectation.
So what of the dank scattering; the jealous shushing stream?
Only here our mothers shake loose secrets
and let words feast on fear. Here stumbles are solitary
and our sisters slap away tears because
we are told hope cannot be divided equally.
We cannot own the voices we carry.
Words are labor and loans; and what do we have to give
besides our quick as poison pace and hearts hard as pebbles
where everything is made heavier?
Jennifer R. Edwards
Jennifer R. Edwards: "My name is Jennifer R. Edwards, MS, CCC-SLP. I live in Concord, NH and am active in the Poetry Society of NH. I work as a Speech-Language Pathologist in schools and skilled nursing facilities. I'm happiest reading, writing, teaching, or spending time with my husband, children, and my old Boxers. My poem published in The Poet’s Touchstone (Fall 2018) was nominated for Pushcart Prize XLIV. I have previously been published in Mountain Review, won the Johnson State College Poetry Contest (high school, 1997), was a featured NH author at the Wind in the Timothy Poetry Festival (2015), won honourable mention for PSNF Feb 2017 Contest. I attended the University of Vermont where I studied writing with coursework with Prof. David Huddle. I am on Facebook, Instagram at jenedwards8 and twitter @Jennife00420145."
Women at the Stream
The river—narrow, the expanse women walk—wide.
Hooded, draped in black, white what we carry
on backs or knead with hands.
In the Caribbean, down hills denuded of trees,
laundry is balanced on the head,
the stoop to rice in the field.
Where do we sing? Where do we stamp our feet
so the walls of Jericho tumble down?
Where the Eden of low growing fruit?
Where the bright other than sheets we wash clean?
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 Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press), and Wildwood (Lummox Press). Ride the Pink Horse is forthcoming in 2019. With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
Sunshine in Black and White
By marriage and need they accepted the seed
which they bore in due course without undue remorse;
some singing, some crying, some dying while trying.
In peasantry raiment of dulled whites and blacks
and bedecked not with jewels, but full, heavy sacks,
the burdens of life bent the strongest of backs.
Not working in mines, but a household assigns
daily tasks without measure, routines without leisure;
men toiled for their earnings while women hid yearnings.
The strength of their youth becomes stronger with age
though it’s stiffened by toils in which they must engage,
with just faith, hope, and family’s love to assuage.
The earnings of men must be counted on, then,
to earn the day’s bread, keep a roof overhead,
but the women bake loaves as they tend to their stoves.
In the dark before dawn daily chores were begun,
and when daylight had passed there were more to be done,
but their valleys stayed green in the warmth of their sun.
Ken Gosse usually writes light verse with traditional metre and rhyme but has departed somewhat for this ekphrastic challenge. First published in The First Literary Review–East, his poems are also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, The Ekphrastic Review, and other print and online collections. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.
A ‘Heideggerrian’ Take
The dirt of fields cradled in comb of soles' crunching touch,
dew of dawn labours extinguished in yawn of yellowing sun,
long limbs grasping to trickle down darkening plough tracks,
orders etched structuring days stretched meandering long,
sleeping sound now over shoulders’ glancing into darkness.
Footsteps plodding under watchful gaze of gloaming settling,
tucked beneath mirror of urban ivory, rows of piano keys:
glaring, leaning howls of gaping domino mouths to feed -
eyes signing Liminal Highways between Day and Night.
Junctions where marble sacks crumble to tissues on the floor,
anonymous hoods caress backs, boots kick into dusty corners,
bruised leather carrying exhaustion, wrinkles mapping tomorrow
lost now in whirling steams of bubbling broths:
Women in Black no more.
Tom Pryce was born in 1993 and read Theology and Religious Studies at The University of Cambridge. He holds an MPhil in Philosophy of Religion, focusing on Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida. His poems have appeared in Notes, The Ekphrastic Review, and at exhibitions in Cambridge. When not used for poetry, his mouth is usually found shouting at football and/or drinking ale. He can be contacted using @tomprycepoetry or via tomprycepoetry.com
Keep walking, she says in front.
Eyes down, pack heavy on my shoulders, I do as she says. Feet blistering, muscles weak, body aching, I somehow muster the strength to lift my foot and set it down in front of me over and over and over again. I don’t know how long it will take to be out of sight of the town, but I dare not look behind me for fear of losing my balance. Somewhere in my sleep-deprived and exhausted mind is the voice of logic and reason, telling me I need to let my body rest, to catch up on days of missed sleep and meals I had forgone in favour of sitting silently among my slumbering caravan these last few nights, staring at the night sky and struggling not to vomit at the thought of what I was about to do. About what I had done just hours before, about what was in the pack I carried-
No. My subconscious, addled and shocked as it was, shut down that train of thought immediately. Do not think. Just keep walking.
I keep walking.
Minutes or hours passed. I can’t think clearly. My eyes are drooping, but my mind is horribly awake. Voices, voices everywhere, screaming and howling and begging. I am aware of what a bad state of mind I am in, how my judgment and emotions are going haywire from the lack of sleep, but the voices are muffled by static. An unpleasant white noise, constantly buzzing in my ears like furious bees and scraping metal.
The voices sound like children.
Keep walking, the one in front says. I keep walking.
Put one foot in front of the other. When will this end? I am so tired, to tired to think. So I try not to. I try not to think about what we were escaping, what we had done.
I try not to think about the child’s corpse in my bag.
I collapse to my knees, unable to go further. The white static in my mind is creeping into my vision, making things blurry and vague. It is not until another woman kneels in front of me and does the simple kindness of wiping away my tears and helping me to my feet that I realize I am crying.
I look into her eyes. They are as dark as the moonless night sky. As black as our robes. As black as the sins that stain my soul like blood.
She cups my face with her soft brown hands. Keep walking, she says.
I keep walking.
Alexandria Edmonds: "I am a freshman in high school with a passion for writing. I used the image alone to help me create this story. I love sports, writing, 90s and early 2000s rock music, writing, reading Brandon Sanderson, and writing."
5/10/2019 11:38:34 am
Thank you very much!
5/10/2019 02:03:54 pm
I am even prouder of making the cut this time out based on the number, quality,and variety of images that were birthed out of this particular prompt.
5/10/2019 04:45:00 pm
Exquisite poem by Alarie Tennille. Tying the women to the heavens is inspired! I enjoyed her Women in Black very much.
5/10/2019 06:10:14 pm
Thank you, Sylvia. Thanks also to Lorette Luzajic and The Ekphrastic Review for the challenge and for publishing my work.
5/10/2019 05:18:50 pm
I’m so pleased to have my poem included. What a wonderful collection of great poems and powerful images!
5/10/2019 09:35:01 pm
Joan Leotta, I appreciate the imagination of your interpretation of the "widows' laundry days." I've seen your work at Wilda Morris's blog. Thank you for this poem.
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