April 26, 2018

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2018: Editor’s Choice

 

Chickens! by Marion Clarke

Image: “Chickens!” by Marion Clarke. “The Visitant” was written by Marietta McGregor for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2018, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

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Marietta McGregor

THE VISITANT

We never found out where she came from, our hen. One morning she was just there, in the back yard. That was one of the times when only two of us, Mum and I, lived in that house. One of the times when Dad had gone off, we didn’t know where, driven by demons we couldn’t imagine. It happened at unpredictable moments. Something would set him off, he’d start drinking, and he’d disappear. We had the house to ourselves. Life settled down a bit. I’d go off to my Seventh Day Adventist Primary school each day and hurry home, glad to have Mum to myself.

And then someone else came to live with us, this plump, glossy Black Orpington, gentle and sweet-natured. She loved a cuddle, and would sit on my knee, crooning soft warm chicken songs for hours while I stroked and settled her feathers and babied her as my special doll. She had a whole repertoire of contented burbles and trills. Sitting with her warm bulk on my knee I felt happy, protected. I wondered who she was, really.

I found out much later that chickens make about 30 different sounds. We’d do well to learn their language. I tried murmuring her talk back to her, which she seemed to like, arching her neck under my hand, fluffing and resettling herself. I don’t remember how long she stayed with us, I only remember the pleasure of having her there. One day she wasn’t. There were no signs of pain or mayhem—no foxes in Tasmania in those days. We thought she must have moved on to warble to another family.

My father came home later that year. He’d been in a War Repatriation Hospital for some time, and looked ill and tired, the emphysema beginning to cave in his chest. We never saw the chicken again.

a handful of mash
that ache for something
different

from Ekphrastic Challenge
March 2018, Editor’s Choice

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Comment from the editor: “To be honest, every time I encounter a haibun, I read the haiku first; I can’t help myself. The haiku here is wonderful, in a wonderfully inexplicable way. You could probably write an essay on how ‘that ache for something new’ is like ‘a handful of mash’—and there’s no doubt it is. That sense of juxtaposition is the power of haiku. And then I read the prose, and what a moving and honest story that turned out to be, too—and again perfectly juxtaposed with the haiku, which I read again thereafter. This is an exemplary haibun, and another example of a poet turning a single image into its own entire universe.”

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April 19, 2018

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2018: Artist’s Choice

 

Chickens! by Marion Clarke

Image: “Chickens!” by Marion Clarke. “Wildflowers” was written by Paul T. Corrigan for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2018, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]

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Paul T. Corrigan

WILDFLOWERS

The farmyard is not a schoolyard.
The hens are not teachers.

The cottages are not classrooms.
Their doors, although as red as alarms, are not emergency exits.

Although hard from being walked on, the path is not anger.
Although taloned and full of testosterone, the rooster is not a shooter.

The boulders are not bullets.
The wildflowers are not students, splashes of clover, dollops of poppy, ribbons of milkweed, blooming, bursting from swaths of rye, alive.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
March 2018, Artist’s Choice

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Comment from the artist, Marion Clarke: “From the innocuous title, ‘Wildflowers,’ to the final word, ‘alive,’ via a series of negative statements, this poem really struck me. The pastoral scene depicted in the painting is effectively juxtaposed with terms that might be used to describe a school shooting. Vocabulary such as ‘alarm,’ ’emergency exits,’ ‘shooter’ and ‘bullets’ are all the more arresting in such a bucolic scene. Terms employed in painting such as ‘splashes’ and ‘dollops’ made me think of spilled blood, particularly since poppies feature in both the painting and poem. I found it clever how the poet lulled us into a false sense of security through the image and the title and then in a quiet, assertive voice (much like that of a teacher) the reader is presented with a totally unexpected scenario. And of course that word ‘alive’ resonates long after reading.”

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