“Modern American Gothic” by Stephen Harvey

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2017: Editor’s Choice


La Familia by Lisa Ortega

Image: “La Familia” by Lisa Ortega. “Modern American Gothic” was written by Stephen Harvey for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2017, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Stephen Harvey


Fresh from the feathers of our mother’s womb
and nursing at her daffodils in bloom,
my baby brother swings around the shoulder
of our flat-affect father. Three years older,
I wear that paisley Easter like the fringe
of my pink shawl while holding to the hinge
who held us all together. Time erases
everything—the faces from our faces,
all shadows, the ground and background sky.
Our father loved us when he didn’t try;
dead language for lyrics, he couldn’t name
the thing he wanted to; left us the same
blank expression, a longing to belong.
The shirt he gave us off his back was song.

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2017
Editor’s Choice

[download audio]


Comment from the editor on this selection: “There’s a reason that the sonnet has so long been the most popular English poetry form: The combination of brevity and natural music make it the quintessential poem. Those attributes are on full display in this couplet sonnet by Vanderbilt anesthesiologist Stephen Harvey. The poem serves as a unique and insightful character sketch, while also featuring a few of the best single lines I’ve read all year—that last line in particular.”

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