“PTSD” by Bill Glose

Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2016: Artist’s Choice


Painting by Alexandra de Kempf
Photograph: “Family Matters” by Alexandra de Kempf. “PTSD” was written by Bill Glose for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2016, and selected by de Kempf as the Artist’s Choice winner.

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Bill Glose


He loves these make-believe moments in the morning
when everyone pretends to forget the night before.

His wife, June, in her green dress gathering up papers
before heading into the office. His daughter,

cross-legged in front of the TV, a cartoon sponge
dancing on its plasma screen. Outside in the snow,

the flutelike whistle of an oriole hearkens the coming sun.
Too early and too cold for Janey to wait at the bus stop,

so they squeeze into this shared space like a mouse
pressing beneath a door jamb. For just a moment,

he almost believes that this snapshot, this image
pulled from Better Homes & Gardens,

is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but.
But then he notices           that the papers

June is fiddling with           need no organizing,
that Janey,           still as a cemetery monument,

has resurrected the teddy bear                     she’d outgrown
years before,           and a question slithers

through his torso,                     through the gaps
between organs,           those spaces

without names. The unanswerable Why?
whose tail he can never quite grab.

With each tick           of the wall clock’s metronome
resentment stacks another block

within his throat, a tower that begs
every black thought to climb up and leap out.

Knowing a mind can fracture
into a thousand-piece puzzle

whose seams                     refuse to snap together again
never stops the picture           from shattering,

knowledge buzzing like a mosquito in his head.
Buzz           buzz           buzz

and then           that familiar stab
into a juicy bit           of amygdala.

He launches           off the couch,           screams,
stabs the air,           wields the prongs of his blame

like a pitchfork.
When all he loves has emptied

from the house,           when the drum of blood
has slowed its cadence to a crawl           and silence

rolls over him like a fog,           memory will rise
like a zeppelin nosing toward a black clouded bank,

toward everything
he’s tried so hard to forget.

Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2016
Artist’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the artist, Alexandra de Kempf, on this selection: “As an interpretation of my work and as a story with no end. No end to the PTSD, with which my husband, my child and I, are still struggling. It is not as dramatic as we have seen sometimes on TV. At least no blood has ran. But reality can be very subtle. There are no more weapons than words, a sharp tongue and the noise. But the wounds are visible, and the scar tissue too. Thank God, words can heal, too.” (website)

For more information on the poet, Bill Glose, visit his website.

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