“Joy” by Melissa Madenski

The Kitchen Goddess by JoAnne Tucker, painting of woman in orange dress dancing in a frying pan

Image: “The Kitchen Goddess” by JoAnne Tucker. “Joy” was written by Melissa Madenski for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2023, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Melissa Madenski


I used to say I felt like I was
running to catch a train,
a toddler in one arm, our boy
hanging on to my jacket.
I used to say we ran on marbles
reaching for the train handle
in the days after my husband’s
sudden death. Our boy would say,
You’re holding my hand too tight,
it hurts. I wouldn’t allow
our daughter’s feet to touch ground.
Anything could happen.
Then, one day, at the kitchen window,
I looked out and watched our children
play baseball with spruce cones and sticks,
the dog leaping and twisting as cheerleader.
And I mean this.       They shone.
Shrubs behind them dropped glitter.
The air bristled with light.
The brilliant forest throbbed.
And it lasted.
And we danced away
from that train.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
February 2023, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “The best ekphrastic poems expand on their source image, pushing the experience in a new direction. ‘Joy’ does that by finding all-too real grounding for the rich symbolism of JoAnne Tucker’s painting. Rather than describe the woman dancing in the frying pan, the poem describes the emotion she represents—and through the otherwise unrelated metaphor of the train. As a result, the poem enriches the painting while the painting enriches the poem, as if the two pieces of art were bound in their own dance together, exploring the complex transition from the darkness of grief back to the brightness of joy.”

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