“Illuminated” by Sherry Barker Abaldo

Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2016: Editor’s Choice


Image by Arushi Raj
Image: “Light” by Arushi Raj. “Illuminated” was written by Sherry Barker Abaldo for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2016, and selected by Timothy Green as the Editor’s Choice winner.

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Sherry Barker Abaldo


Like they said in art history, it isn’t the object we see, it’s the light. Impressionism and calotypes. Try to paint the pitcher using only orange, blue, white. Somehow all the hours in dark rooms staring at slides taking notes on stacks of index cards led me to you. Up close everything is geometry: giraffe spots, turtle shell segments, the pattern of mud as it dries ‘til it cracks, the intersection of soap bubbles. Your skin is as intimate to me as the skin of an orange. And as mysterious. Your skin distant as the skin of the sea. You with your ridges, rills, dimples, reaches, legions of pores. How did you ever land in my bed? We chased light as long as we could. Touched as the jet lifted off. Long gleam of beach, lace waves spun away like the ground under a carnival ride. Breathless. Shine of a seed. You asked what those leaf things children stick on their noses are called. I said helicopters. Winged seeds. You noted the freakish drive of all things to reproduce. On Maui the divemaster zipped my breasts into neoprene. My favorite thing was watching you come out of the water. I could pick you out of a crowd. Hibiscus petals under my burned feet. Thorns hidden in sand. My eyes poured so full of light I had to close them.

Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2016
Editor’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the editor on this selection: “This month’s image was so completely open to interpretation that the poems could have gone anywhere—and often they did. ‘Illuminated,’ though, goes somewhere that feels so intimate it could be the back of your own hand, with details so vivid and precise they must be real. The poem dives headlong into a deep reverie, then delivers a flawless ending with that final sentence.”

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