“The Balcony Collapses and I Become a Bird” by Rebecca Valley

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2016: Editor’s Choice


Collage by Thomas Terceira
Collage: “Metamorphosis 2” by Thomas Terceira. “To Lose and Catch the Trail” was written by Rebecca Valley for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2016, and selected by Timothy Green as the Editor’s Choice winner.

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Rebecca Valley


I can’t remember the question, exactly.
It was August, dead season,
the only blooms fat and angry
and dead if you tried to touch them.
I had tiled the floors with geography.
Angelo was white and useless in the heat.

Next door, the fields were on fire.
We would watch the rain not falling,
the bodies of teenagers rolling in the dirt.
Down the road the earth had pulled apart
the asphalt into a deep crevasse that children
flipped quarters across, back and forth until
one went clinking into the darkness.

Angelo was sure he was dying.
He hiked his shorts up his blue calves
so the sun could heat his thighs.
I was too busy watching the squirrels move,
evolving rapidly to flit from branch to branch
like birds, stretching their extra skin.
Angelo had asked me something

about the forecast, maybe. I didn’t respond.
He was so high and certain. That it would rain eventually.
That our bodies would collapse, but only after a suitable
number of years together. I let a glass of water sweat
a translucent ring into my skirt and ignored him.

What did I know? That a fault-line could open
underneath you and swallow everything.
I pictured it again and again: Angelo’s blue legs
clinging to the veranda. My body
sprouting the thick black wings of a devil-worshipper
from the sore nubs of my shoulders.

Birds so big and elegant and easy to become.
I emerge, hollow-boned and tongueless,
shedding loose coins in the dark.

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2016
Editor’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Terceira’s busily vibrant collage generated a record 347 poems, so choosing the winner was particularly difficult this month. What made Rebecca Valley’s poem stand out, though, beyond the many beautiful lines, was that it managed to become as cinematic as the collage itself, each image a part of the scene, and also a part of a mysterious plot that we can only barely know as brief witnesses to the lives of the characters. She took a compelling work of art and created an equally compelling poem, which pairs with it perfectly.”

Comment from the poet, Rebecca Valley: “I loved the arid landscape in this piece, and the use of collage to disorient and transform the characters.” (website)

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