“Eco Echo: An Oldster’s Tale” by Devon Balwit

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2016: Artist’s Choice


Photo by Suzanne Simmons
Photograph: “Trespass” by Suzanne Simmons. “Eco Echo: An Oldster’s Tale” was written by Devon Balwit for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2016, and selected by Simmons as the Artist’s Choice winner.

[download broadside]


Devon Balwit


old man remembers
before we were here

what it was like there
he says listen before he forgets

old man says green breathed
bulged into food

took sun and made air
reached unfurled hung down

old man says green lived
that got under nails

in dirt stuff
hid things that crawled

old man says green was noisy

mouth blowing tiny

happy or warning
he shows me

old man jumps off furniture
trying to be light

like green’s singers
but he can’t lift up

old man says green
cold made it brown

changed color
heat yellow

old man says it spoke
he rubs his palms

went hush hush in fast air
and makes them whisper

old man says green held him
hid in its belly

that he climbed on its shoulders
gathered its scraps

old man makes me feel
green was like that he says

knobbed knuckles and toes
but rougher and stranger

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2016
Artist’s Choice Winner

[download audio]


Comment from the artist, Suzanne Simmons, on her selection: “’Eco Echo: An Oldster’s Tale’ both surprised and haunted me. The notion of a world in which green is obsolete and yet people remain to describe it required a leap that I was willing to take—the old man convinced me. His descriptions of green are vivid and personal; he remembers green the way we remember lost loves. The words ‘eco echo’ fit well with my image because the photo is not a double exposure but a reflection in a windowpane. Like reflections, echoes are similar to their sources but not identical; they’re more mysterious. In the last two lines of the poem the old man asks his listener to feel his knobbed knuckles and toes, as if his efforts to describe green cannot compare to the felt sense of it, as if he could pass that knowledge from his own body to another’s. The poem left me feeling parched and thirsty for the color of new grass.” (website)

Rattle Logo