“A Duty to Look Beautiful” by Patty Holloway

Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2020: Editor’s Choice


Painting of armless Roman statue and a blue bowl on a pedestal

Image: “Blue Bowl” by Liz Magee. “A Duty to Look Beautiful” was written by Patty Holloway for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2020, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Patty Holloway


Yes, armless is harmless. That’s how we want
our women to be. No attachments, free
from holding a job or babies they’ll flaunt,
free for only this life of luxury.
They’re really quite bright; they soon come to know
their only duty’s to look beautiful.
We take care of everything they need. So
they have no stress. We keep them moveable—
we put them in their place, and there they stay.
This one’s very fond of the blue glass bowl:
two vessels cracked though not in the same way,
but both denied the prize they long to hold:
Sweet water slips away from the basin.
No hand to hold for the lovely maiden.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
August 2020, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Everyone loves a sonnet, apparently, and this is another great example of why. So much is packed into these fourteen lines, which arc perfectly into the surety of the final couplet. One of the main tasks of poetry—and all art, more generally—is to change the way you look at the world. After reading this piece of modern mythology, I’ll never look at ancient statues the same again.”

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