“Beer, Buoy, Boat, Board” by Devon Balwit

Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2018: Artist’s Choice


Back of the Beach by Karen Kraco

Image: “Back of the Beach” by Karen Kraco. “Beer, Buoy, Boat, Board” was written by Devon Balwit for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2018, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

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Devon Balwit


Above it all or just apart, you watched
from the edges, a half-smile quirking
your lips, not a smirk exactly,
for you weren’t disdainful, merely
speculative, trying to figure out
what we called pleasure, the dumb
joy of the simple—a can shaken
and bubbling over, the chill of sun cream
down the back. We sensed you there
but stopped inviting you closer.
It’d been years since you’d said yes.
We let you remain our opposite,
like an afterimage on the retina, the sun
spangling the river before lazing beyond.
We sensed you wanted to follow its meander
but didn’t know how. We’d have rested easier
had you disappeared, no longer having to imagine
how we looked to one not joining in.
But you had a role to play before we,
grown resentful, finally splashed you
from the shallows or flicked a half-chewed crust
to send you home. Then we began
the earnest work of reassurance—
our castle, our towel, our girl, our footprints—
briefly clear in sand.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
September 2018, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Karen Kraco: “Reading through these poems reminded me of the individual lenses through which we each view the world. Poets took this in so many different directions, with compelling voices. Picking just one was hard. I think I wound up choosing ‘Beer, Buoy, Boat, Board’ because it captures the otherness and separateness in the scene that led me to make ‘Back of the Beach.’ Although I had race in mind when I took the shot, the poem feels more universal, examining our discomfort in the presence of those who are different from or set apart from us, and our tendency to turn away from that discomfort.”

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