January 24, 2015

Ekphrasis Challenge #2: Editor’s Choice


Untitled by James Bernal


Michael Hallock


The hands and feet are still alive, I guess,
Or else the man calls for another sheet,
Or maybe death just breeds a carelessness—

What here we might call an offhandedness.
If such a scene can be snapped from the street,
Then hands and feet can still survive, I guess.

Who waits behind the walls? Where’s the distress?
What story are they waiting to complete?
Or maybe death just breeds a carelessness

That means not to dishonor, but confess
We feel first for the nearest heart whose beat
Our hands and feet are still alive to guess.

How clinical, yet human, nonetheless.
We would do more, but have our fates to meet,
Or maybe death just breeds a carelessness

This naked shot has managed to compress:
One busy soul, the other, obsolete.
The hands and feet are still alive, I guess;
Or maybe death just breeds a carelessness.

Ekphrasis Challenge #2
Editor’s Choice Winner

[download audio]


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green, on his selection: “This winter’s photograph generated a wide and wonderful range of poems, conjuring everything creepy, from alien autopsies to hermit crabs in a fish tank—but the timelessness of this villanelle made my hair stand up more than any other interpretation. There’s something about the detached sadness of the speaker, an acceptance of the inevitable moment when each one of us will become obsolete, that’s very haunting. Plus, I’m a sucker for form, and this is a form played perfectly.”

Note: This poem has been published exclusively online as part of our quarterly Ekphrasis Challenge, in which we ask poets to respond to an image provided by our current issue’s cover artist. This winter, the image was a mysterious photograph by James Bernal. We received 294 entries, and the artist and Rattle‘s editor each chose their favorite. James Bernals’s choice was posted last Saturday. For more information on the Ekphrasis Challenge visit its page. See other poets’ responses or post your own by joining our Facebook group.

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