“Stepfather” by Anna Cianciolo

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2020: Artist’s Choice


Alcohol ink drawing of two circles overlapping in greens and browns

Image: “Conflict Resolution” by Aurore Uwase Munyabera. “Stepfather” was written by Anna Cianciolo for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2020, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Anna Cianciolo


Two rings.

The man who answers
your call
has a soft, Texan drawl.

Mom is out. He asks
how you are doing.

You think: Dad
must have had a
Midwestern accent, but
for forty-some years you failed
to notice, and now you can’t
his voice, like Dad couldn’t
remember you
in the end.

The Texan man makes mom
coffee, and
they drink together,
on quiet mornings, before
or bowling
or packing lunches for the poor.
Once, in haste, they left

two rings

on the table. For their wedding,
you painted them
one “Mr.” and one “Mrs.”

The Texan man knows you
and he both love
peanut butter, and (Mom,
if she would let him!)
he would give you the jar
and a spoon, and
you two
would eat it together, like kids
eating ice cream.

People say: Dad
would have wanted Mom
to be happy, probably
like the Texan man’s wife
would have wanted him
to be happy. But
those loved ones

have passed
on, and survival is the matter
at hand—gripping
what’s left of a life with
a hole in the middle, and
throwing it out

to each other,

two rings.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
July 2020, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Aurore Uwase Munyabera: “It was so hard to pick just one of these poems, but ultimately the one that really stayed with me was ‘Stepfather.’ It truly embodies the theme and meaning of ‘Conflict Resolution.’ The poem lyrically tells a story of conflict with death and embracing a new member to the family and in the dialogue of getting to know and love the new situation, there’s conflict resolution, with two rings symbolizing individuality fusing into unity. This poem is brilliant and beautifully written. I’m humbled and truly honored that my painting inspired this work.”

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