“Self-Doubt” by Tamara Raidt

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2021: Artist’s Choice


Waste by Lynn Tait, photograph of a sunset with smokestacks in the distance and the silhouette of a bird

Image: “Waste” by Lynn Tait. “Self-Doubt” was written by Tamara Raidt for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2021, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Tamara Raidt


I am not a real poet says the poet
writing about birds and images.

A bird, fluttering in a made-up
horizon doesn’t wonder if it belongs there.

I am not a real bird says the bird that is
a figment of the poet’s imagination.

The evening sky has a peculiar way
to be torn in pieces while still

making sense: take this as the best
example of how human life is made.

Have you asked yourself
who is watching the picture?

If not you, the bird. If not the bird,
you. Between both stretches

a moment of hesitation named
sea. This whole scenery may be

taking place in the synapse
of a painter, but the brush hits you

harder than the axe the frozen sea;
then, one sane instant brings clarity:

there is no bird, just a dark spot
on the retina that you wanted to mistake

for something else. It isn’t the sea,
it is the memory coming back

unwanted in the shape of the sea.
The ones who have suffered

will see it differently: not a bird,
but a plane and towers on fire,

it is true: trauma hits in waves
of salt and sulfur.

Take this as a token for the uncertainty
lying in things. Take this as

the ultimate image of self-doubt:
an ethereal setting of a sunset,

and a poet, in the body of a bird,
wondering if he belongs there.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
July 2021, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Lynn Tait: “What a difficult choice! I wish I could have chosen them all! Very surprised my photo art prompted so many relationship poems especially about mothers. I expected more poems focused on climate change and the environment, yet I ended up choosing ‘Self-Doubt’ with its sense of isolation, questioning one’s purpose, one’s identity in general and as a poet, reminding me of Zhuangzi’s dream of transformation but much darker. What is real, what is imagination? Can one believe what one sees? Different views, different perspectives, the suffering and uncertainty of life. Where do I belong?”

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