“Grave of a Tourist Trap” by Hannah V. Norman

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2018: Editor’s Choice


What Once Was by Bryan DeLae

Image: “What Once Was” by Bryan DeLae. “Grave of a Tourist Trap” was written by Hannah V. Norman for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2018, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

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Hannah V. Norman


We visited the hotel
and it was a tombstone now.
We had stayed as
sunburnt sunglass laden
tourists when it was
beachside property,
and then it was swallowed by
the dunes and became a relic.
The tour guide made
up something about it
featuring a ballroom
and library—as if it was
a palace—but I laughed
because it had been a few decades
but I remembered the
ballroom had been
converted to storage and
single rooms. Things become
more glamorous when they
are relics, the palace the relic
of consumerism and sunburn,
the empty perfume relic of
her wilting like a flower, only
not so sweetly, the stack of papers
a relic of his devotion, the grey
half moons under his eyes and
the rivers bulging under his skin.
I think the manager still lives on the
top floor, and laughs to see us
trying to climb a wave of sand,
trying to convince ourselves that
the past was beautiful, simply
because it is

from Ekphrastic Challenge
July 2018, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Usually I’m drawn toward the more strange and surprising takes on an image—I like it when the poet finds some dimension of the artwork that I didn’t see myself. This wasn’t the case with ‘Grave of a Tourist Trap,’ which is a good representative of the consensus view: an apocalyptic future that can barely remember the past, extreme climate change expressed or implied. Several other poems even used the same trope of a group of tourists visiting the ruins. But Hannah V. Norman out-wrote them all, with vivid and precise details, an interesting turn in every indispensable line, and an ending that’s just so aphoristically true.”

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