May 27, 2021

Ekphrastic Challenge, April 2021: Editor’s Choice


While Thinking About Snow and Ice by Jojo, image of intersection lines on a chalkboard

Image: “While Thinking About Snow and Ice” by Jojo. “White Spots” was written by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, April 2021, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco


Sometimes you look for something else.
A corner where there might be rust.

An eyelash width.
A speck of dirt.

How you can use a poem’s words to keep
your distance.

Put a man there, in the picture, just
to see.

(You Google it and see a thousand
small attacks: the man a hacker now, a hood over his face.)

It is too much.

You change tacks and think of sugar,
silver tongs to lift each cube.

Whiter than


The space around

Next you see an envelope, lose
it again.

You wonder if there is a Rorschach test
for love (of course there’s not).

You think of how a friend said once she couldn’t tell
when you’re in love.

The more you look, you see the frayed
spots, little

You stop to breathe.

You think of wings, or long wide

You remember this past winter, flying snow
geese, in a sheet.

How you could see the things you wanted to see

there (if you had looked).
How they slept next to the highway

in small heaps.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
April 2021, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco has won the Ekphrastic Challenge five times now over the seven years of the series and seems to be a master of the short line. She wields them like a scalpel, carving deeper into the image with each quick stroke, exposing unseen details and revealing the mysteries that lie beneath.”

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October 29, 2020

Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2020: Editor’s Choice


Painting women lounging and swimming in a pool in the head of a bluish figure

Image: “Pool Head” by Pat Singer. “In the Dream-Pool” was written by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2020, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco


All summer long,
the pool was closed,
and I swam

Glimpses of aqua
through a fence.

A neighbor’s

Mouthwash blue.

The thing with dream-pools is
you never get to swim.

The thing with dream-pools is
they all mean something else.

When summer ended, the need passed
like an old pet, drifting
somewhere, like the wildfire smoke, or souls.

I thought of towels I’d sewed my name on,
how they one time seemed important.

In a dream-pool, I am floating,
silent blue in sheets around me.

In a dream-pool I am safe,
cleansed of whatever

came in with me,
my skin tight.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
September 2020, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the Editor, Timothy Green: “Interestingly, both this poem and the artist’s choice throb with the losses of the pandemic while looking through a fence that isn’t in the painting. In this case, the closing of the summer pool becomes a kind of obsession, haunting in its absence, as so many things are. There are so many memorable lines here: ‘The thing with dream-pools is / you never get to swim.’ That will stick with me.”

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April 30, 2020

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2020: Editor’s Choice


photograph in black and white of concrete stairs with children drawing in chalk

Image: “Cour des Voraces” by Kenneth Borg. The haiku was written by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2020, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco


eats our chalk drawings
one day older

from Ekphrastic Challenge
March 2020, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “The very first winner of the Ekphrastic Challenge was a haiku, and it’s nice to have another haiku here six years later. As with most great haiku, the power comes from the tension between the two universes on either side of the cut—the children with their drawings and the viewer, watching through a lens of nostalgia, and with the awareness of mortality. The result is a profound micro-meditation on the nature of time and its illusions.”

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September 19, 2019

Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco


If my neck is my second
face, what is my knee?

Does this top ride up too much
when I bike in?

How do you learn, at first,
you’re getting double chins?

People say, when you’re a woman,
you’ve lost weight!

People say, it ain’t that bad, and
I don’t think that much

will fit,
when you buy bricks, when you bought

bricks at least ten times
in the same car,

when you know that
they’ll fit just

How do you know
when all the bricks will be

When I was young I swam
at school, hearing my breath
make frantic

bubbles, watching how the line
of tile jerked back and forth.

I would see how my arms blurred

just like wet paint

would think of songs that I could play
when I got home

would feel the tight
and the slow ache

and I would eat
and eat
and eat

to fill that pool.

from Poets Respond
September 19, 2019


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco: “This is responding to the story about the high school swimmer who was disqualified from winning her meet because her suit rode up. It made me think about double standards for women, and about how it feels like you just can’t win.”

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December 28, 2017

Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2017: Editor’s Choice


Wind-Blown Meadow by Phyllis Meredith

Image: “Wind-Blown Meadow” by Phyllis Meredith. “Surf Days” was written by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2017, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco


Surf days
when you said
nobody goes
on new adventures
anymore and
so we drove
out to the coast
and watched the tiny
waves do
to the shoreline, sat
on rocks
and drank the beer
that I had stolen
from my roommate, left
green bottles
blinking sun back
from the sand.

In the photo
that I pinned up to old walls for years
and then stuck
in the center of a book, I see

your hair a question mark, your

the darkness curled up inside of a shell
the world around you

with lines and gray, but most of all just

so very young—my best
best friend

the smartest
kid I ever knew, some
kind of god

who lifted sand
and sent stars flying

How did we love and hurt and care
and turn to nothing

after that?

from Ekphrastic Challenge
November 2017, Editor’s Choice

[download audio]


Comment from the editor on this selection: “Quite simply, this poem felt the most emotionally honest of all those we received this month. I can see the scene at the beach and this photograph tucked into the speaker’s notebook, even though I know it really isn’t there. An entire world is constructed from the image, and because it feels so real, the longing feels real, too.”

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November 12, 2017

Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco


the man who wrote me
all the letters about love
when I was nine the man
who stared at me in math
class through the window
masturbating the man who
cupped his hand real quick
around my ass when I walked
by the man who followed
me one time on the bus
home the man who followed
me one time in his car the
man who chased me till
I ran into a church to get
away the man who followed
me one night outside the club
telling me that he would fuck me
the man who pushed me
down until I couldn’t breathe
the man who stood outside
my house till I got home the
man we laughed at in the
car with his junk out how

at first I had thought it was just a tool belt

from Poets Respond
November 12, 2017

[download audio]


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco: “The fact that Roy Moore has not (as of this writing) left the Alabama Senate race despite the fact that he is almost certainly a sexual predator, coupled with the fact that he still stands a good chance of winning, inspired me to write this. In some ways, my experiences with predatory men have been pretty minor—I’m lucky. But everyone I know has had experiences like these (or much worse), and this is a huge problem. Also, this is not even a comprehensive list of what I have experienced. I feel like we need to keep talking about this. It makes me so angry that being a sexual predator doesn’t preclude one from holding office. It means that people who vote don’t think this matters.” (book)

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January 31, 2017

Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2016: Editor’s Choice


Image by Chelsea Welsh
Image: “Caught in the Days Unraveling” by Chelsea Welsh. This haiku was written by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2016, and selected by Timothy Green as the Editor’s Choice winner.

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Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco


the whole house full
of lost hair

Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2016
Editor’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the editor on this selection: “Many poets saw illness and grief in Chelsea Welsh’s photograph, but none were able to distill that mood into its essence like this little haiku, which in its brevity speaks to the swirling silence that often follows tragedy, and encourages reflection on the words ‘stillbirth’ and ‘still life’ themselves.”

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