Ekphrastic May: Heist

by Jen Payne

I drove the get-away car that day,
left it on idle in the parking space
closest to the electronic OUT door
of Porter’s Grocery there in Alpine.

It was a bright Texas day, hot,
the car angled in shade enough
for a clear-on view of the lobby,
bulletin board, handbills, and tacks.

We’d scoped out the joint before,
cased the aisles for jerky
and a bottle of wine for dinner
back in Marfa at the Thunderbird.

There was a nice patio
outside our room with blue lights
like the alien spaceships
you could see there sometimes?

Funny things in that part of Texas:
spaceships and meteors,
a roadside Prada shoe outlet,
Chinati’s take on art, and ours.

Ours was her, Viva Terlingua!
in her sunset-red cowboy hat,
hand-strung turquoise beads, and
that witty West Texas smile.

It’s a smile that says just about all
you want to say about West Texas,
about the wild Trans-Pecos
and its wide expanse of stars.

It’s a promise of whiskey at La Kiva,
or hot coffee while the sun rises
over Terlingua and Study Butte
over Big Bend and the Rio Grande.

It’s a smile that remembers solitude,
the promise of oddity and isolation,
of community, maybe, companionship —
two friends on the road laughing.

It’s the awesome sound a car makes solo
on a nighttime desert highway,
or peeling out from the Porter’s,
Viva Terlingua! rolled up in the back seat.

Viva Terlingua! was featured on a 2010 poster from the Original Terlingua Chili Championship. The artwork is by Texas-based artist Frank X. Tolbert 2. You can see more of his amazing work on his website, here. The Original Terlingua Chili Championship ( link ) was started in 1967 by his father Frank X. Tolbert Sr. and a group of local men. Special thanks to his daughter, Kathleen Ryan, for filling in these details on a recent serendipitous Saturday.

Ekphrastic May: Eagles Mere, Summer 2020

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

Eagles Mere, Summer 2020
by Gwen Gunn

the porch is cool at the Reily Cottage
modestly named for a place with ten bedrooms
on a lake in the Endless Mountains

our family has outgrown
any one or our family’s homes
so each summer we now meet here

relic of nineteen century summer retreats
in a town where the Sweet Shop
the Book Nook……are social centers

some of us boat and swim
some of us read and talk on the porch
shaded by ancient hydrangeas

the young ones are coaxed from digital to board games
to group singing……sung by varying talents
we take turns to finish a complex puzzle

even the family living in Denmark joined us
until this summer none of us now can meet
since outside the cool porch a hot danger lurks

Ekphrastic May: Sea Turtle Breaking Through

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

Sea Turtle Breaking Through
by Carol Altieri

Swimming and pushing hard
through the daily tightness
of lock- down restrictions,
I can never stay in place.
My blood is always stirring.

A whirling chaos of daily life
not knowing who will live or die
Time is stretched to infinity.
I need to smash through
the sheltering in place
tease clean oxygen from the air.

My swimming turtle is not slow,
taking forever to get anywhere.
She must be vigilant
watch out for predators
and escape from a sea lion-
to find a home
on a sandy beach and look for a safe
place to lay eggs.

She did not burrow like a clam
on the bottom of the ocean.
Instead, she smashes
through the roaring blue-green waves.
With her bright determined face,
she is strong of heart,
breaking through all setbacks,
knowing time is running out.
If she arrives on the sand
she will haul
herself up the beach at night
and lay her fragile eggs.

Ekphrastic May: Stairway to the Stars

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

by Juliana Harris

All the paintings in my home
have great personal meaning,
either because I know the artist,
or they were gifts for a special occasion.

But one painting in particular
has special importance to me.
The picture of a young child
climbing a ladder to reach for the stars.

This is part of a mural
my then three-year-old grandchild
helped create for a project
at her nursery school.

It makes me smile
each time I look at it.

Ekphrastic May: Cotton Candy

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

Poem by Daniel Goldberg
Painting by Abraham Albert Goldberg (the poet’s father), 48″ x 33″.

Cotton Candy

Upon her birth no name was given, but
I always called her – “The Cotton Candy Girl”;
Forever, she had her place of honor
In the entrance hall of my parent’s home,
Just beyond the doorway threshold,
Watching all the comings and goings,
The guests, the parties, the children growing.

Like a sphinx she stood, gazing out silently,
Her blue eyes always in rapt contemplation,
Her Mona Lisa smile always hidden
Behind her pink cloud of sweet confection,
Her crown of golden tresses, silhouetted
Against summer’s rhododendron leaves.

By my father’s hand she was given birth,
Not in brush strokes, but in smooth enamel layers,
Brought forth with creative spark and fire,
Somewhere in the faded memories
Of the long forgotten past,
Standing watch over life and death;
To me, she was always, just there.

She has come to live in my home in Guilford,
Familiar as ever, one to the other,
And like the welcoming Island Colossus,
In her hand she holds a flaming pink torch,
Lighting the way to hope and promise.

My mind is now drifting, to apple crisp
Septembers, the Guilford Fair, the Flying Wallendas,
The colorful whirling lights of the dizzying midway,
Oxen pulls, steak and cheese, sweet Cotton Candy.

Ekphrastic May: A Wave

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

A Wave
by Ed Walker

more than a hat
or a warm coat
on a cold day,
a gemstone or glad-well,
a bucket of oats
a cloudless day

she arrives from heaven
and peels open her heart
for we mere mortals
to feel her mountains and streams, and rivers
of her million mile journey
to offer us the chance of a dance,
if we accept, to become one with
wind over water, light of stars,
sunrise and sunsets, her tidal pull,
before and after quenching our thirsty searching souls

Ekphrastic May: Sharing a Room with Two Other Women

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

Sharing a Room with Two Other Women
in a print by Leonor Fini
by Patricia Horn O’Brien

From their alcove in the far wall
these women oversee my room. They calculate
the angles and arches my living etches
in its held-in space.

Damp hair wrapped in a towel,
the towel unwound,
Elbows and breasts.
The mirror’s response.

They have numbered my ribs,
the hinges of my spine.
Nights with lovers.
Nights alone.

They memorize my dreams,
their ridiculousness.

Their contents totter then slip
into dreaded water. Persons. Houses.
Silt follows. Daylight bounces
off the water’s surface.
………………………………….My room

is full of familiar objects.
I ask what shall I have for breakfast.
Shall I wear a flowered skirt?

Have I come a safe distance?

The women only pose more questions.
One, her nakedness revealed
yet held by a half-opened door,
appears to be bringing a gift.
A pink puff of something.

The second waits at a dressing table.
Her hands, poised gray spiders,
are arranged before a topography
of vials and glasses.

Perhaps one woman is the other’s memory.
Their gaze enters my hallway, mine
the narrow black recess
behind the two other women.

Ekphrastic May: Le Bal à Bougival

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.


Le Bal à Bougival
by Sharon Olson

Is she more noticeable in his arms, or more forgotten?
We do not see his eyes beneath his straw hat,
but we know they burn.

The red trim on her white dress excites him,
his hand wants to slide from its grasp on her waist.

They are hardly moving but their steps are powerful,
he leads her even as they stand still.

All the while she watches the watchers,
knowing they are seen as lovers,
as invisible as a couple, but worth a few stares.

He is my sister’s husband,
she is laughing over there beneath the trees,
and does not suspect us as the others do,
strangers throwing us a strange eye.

We are full of cold beer, caught up in the dance,
and the way he holds me I am staggering.

My left arm thrown over his neck
leaves my right side open.
This is something he knows well:
not to press too hard or smother,
but to leave part of the body untended, waiting.

I bought this poster of Le Bal à Bougival by Renoir when I was a teenager and hung it in my room in the early 60s. By now it is yellowed on the borders but I framed it to be able to keep hanging it in my present home. The first time I saw the painting in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was when I was well into my forties. I wrote a poem about it in my thirties and it was published in my book The Long Night of Flying.

Get Ready for Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Poem in Your Pocket Day takes place every year on a day in National Poetry Month. On this day, select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

It’s easy to carry a poem, share a poem, or start your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event. Here are some ideas of how you might get involved:

  • Start a poem giveaway in your school or workplace
  • Urge local businesses to offer discounts for those carrying poems
  • Post pocket-sized verses in public places
  • Memorize a poem
  • Start a street team to pass out poems in your community
  • Distribute bookmarks with your favorite lines of poetry
  • Add a poem to your email footer
  • Post lines from your favorite poem on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest
  • Send a poem to a friend

Poem in Your Pocket Day was initiated in April 2002 by the Office of the Mayor in New York City, in partnership with the city’s Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to participate. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.