“A Thousand Possible Clouds” by Valentina Gnup

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2017: Editor’s Choice


No Name #2 by Ryan Schaufler

Image: “No Name #2” by Ryan Schaufler. “A Thousand Possible Clouds” was written by Valentina Gnup for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2017, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Valentina Gnup


Go find a pencil
the world is a terrible first draft.

When you write a story, you have choices—
horizon, chickweed, loneliness,

a copse of trees harbors soldiers
stealthily as a virus invades a body

or holds redwoods, gentle as grandparents,
collecting their centuries in a map of pale rings.

Listen, a foghorn beyond the fields
moans like an animal suffering

the sky has surrendered its hours
or exploded into a thousand possible clouds.

The children on the road far behind you
have lost their parents, their country—

someone got too greedy
someone believed he knew what was right.

Or they’re your children on that road
carrying home blackberries to make cobbler—

cut the butter into the flour, stop to kiss
the swirled crowns of their heads.

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2017
Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green, on this selection: “This amazing poem by Valentina Gnup seems to describe the mood of the painting by naming only what isn’t contained within it—all the things off-frame that we aren’t able to see. The best ekphrastic poems often operate tangentially, after a leap of separation from the visual content that creates the same effect as the cut that bridges disparate parts of a haiku: the poem is both completely a part of the painting and completely not. Gnup crafts this special kind of schism perfectly. I’m sure the children are there on the road, just off-frame, right next to the cow that sounds like a foghorn. What’s more, I read this on the 4th of July, and somehow, almost magically, all of Summer 2017 America is contained in the painting, too.” (website)

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