Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2021: Artist’s Choice
Image: “The Blood in the Veins” by Rachel Slotnick. “Revelations” was written by Sean Wang for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2021, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.
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When she left she was already shadow,
the jet black smudge of history
blurred by the cataracts of 93 years
(or 95, my father said people lied
to immigration, when a year could mean a lifetime
lost). She had a joy
burning through paper skin and bamboo bones like a lantern.
Her cold hands covered in brown spots like an overripe banana.
She was fixed to her bed
by a pair of bad legs and a crinkled back.
Some nights her favourite operas and fried noodles
would only gather the flutter of an eye
and she would recede back, back into some past
purring in her head like the tumble of a washing machine.
It would get quieter, just the ticking of the fan
spinning above, time whirring through air.
She woke/slept, a dusk of days.
The last 5 years flickered train-like,
the sleek pulses of blinkers,
a throbbing twilight of fireflies.
Her train had left, and I stood waiting
at the station, the track gaping through the ground
swallowed by the wall, a denture-less mouth.
But I remember when
the room was bouncing with pitchy singing,
the kitchen burning with spices and bossy orders,
and you, the voice and echo.
I believe, in those days where you would stare
at the ceiling, the glazed eye of a fish in ice,
you were seeing
some slice of heaven spread before you,
the pocket of sky you wait in.
—from Ekphrastic Challenge
September 2021, Artist’s Choice
Comment from the artist, Rachel Slotnick: “After reading ‘Revelations,’ I couldn’t shake its spell. It peers through the eyes of the dying in a way that confronts the limitations of living. Here on earth, we look up at the stars and long for there to be a heaven. This poem speaks to the loneliness too many of us have known in the hospice room. It pinpoints the ache of outliving someone, of being left behind, and being tasked with remembering.”