“Memoria” by Merlin Ural Rivera

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2016: Editor’s Choice


Photo by Suzanne Simmons
Photograph: “Trespass” by Suzanne Simmons. “Memoria” was written by Merlin Ural Rivera for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2016, and selected as the Editor’s Choice winner.

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Merlin Ural Rivera


The Moskvitch left the garage twice a month.
Grandpa would turn the wheel in white gloves
and he would whistle a sad tune until
we reached the mad forests of Bulgaria.

The minty car stood on a small glade,
imprisoned by pine trees, bees and yellow linnets.
My brother looked for mushrooms
as I lay on the grass and swilled the marrow of
the trees, drunk on sinewy leaves.

Grandpa smoked a few Rodopis to the bone
and looked ten minutes younger
as his worries flew off curtain by curtain.
Branches twisted like ugly black cables and
sieved the light that touched us as gently as a night nurse.
We knew that this trip was not for nothing,
that we would return to the dark garage in the city
with a few slimy-capped mushrooms and
ears full of crickets.
The dead leaves stuck on the Moskvitch tires
would bloom on the cement for two confused seconds
and we’d know peace would elude us
until that whistle flew high against the sky.

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2016
Editor’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the editor, Timothy Green, on his selection: “Simmons’ photograph fills me with a sense of dreamy nostalgia, but it was a disembodied nostalgia, until I read this poem, which finally gave that feeling a home. I loved the ease of the voice and the vivid details, especially Grandpa smoking himself ‘ten minutes younger.’ It’s a delightful poem, worthy of the photograph.”

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