September 30, 2021

Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2021: Editor’s Choice

 

Rosetta Stone by Emily Rankin, dolls and other items swirling in large ocean swells

Image: “Rosetta Stone” by Emily Rankin. “Griefsong Heard at Sea” was written by Shannan Mann for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2021, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]

__________

Shannan Mann

GRIEFSONG HEARD AT SEA

She opens her grief as one guts a fish,
nimble and clean, a blade sheened in red.
Don’t let the ocean break you when
you cannot swim. Everyone can swim
until they drown. See, bodies bloating violet
against the surge of each wave, beating
and remembering slivers of a life held
shut like eyes flecked with dreams
of little girls gathering beached shells
under the expanse of a rhyolite sky, singing:
I am a still creature suspended in time!
I am a still creature suspended in time
under the expanse of a rhyolite sky, singing
of little girls gathering beached shells
shut like eyes flecked with dreams
and remembering slivers of a life held
against the surge of each wave, beating
until they drown. See, bodies bloating violet.
You cannot swim. Everyone can swim.
Don’t let the ocean break you, when,
nimble and clean, a blade sheened in red,
she opens her grief as one guts a fish.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
August 2021, Editor’s Choice

__________

Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “I accidentally read Shannan’s note on the poem before sitting down to compose my own, and now I’m stuck trying to find a way to explain it without repeating what she already said so eloquently. I’ll include that here. All I can add is that the palindrome form is extremely well done, with new meanings and great lines emerging from the reversal. And that I’d characterize the juxtaposition, both in the poem and in the painting, as that of a child splashing around joyfully versus adulthood’s endless struggle to stay afloat within the maelstrom of responsibility. O that we could all swim backward in time.”

Shannan Mann: “Emily’s painting filled me with what initially felt like two mutually exclusive things: a sense of playful innocence and a forlorn ache for everything lost to time. Then, as I continued to explore the artwork, I saw how these two feelings connected. Grief can make us look back and forward simultaneously, madly searching in the ocean of our memories for glimpses and pieces of an innocent time. This is also why I framed this poem as a palindrome. The past sometimes overtakes the present, filling it with grief yet in that very present we can harness the joy of the past and rise above our pain.”

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