“The Climb” by Jeffrey Bean

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016: Editor’s Choice


Photo by James Croal Jackson
Photograph: “Go Your Own Way” by James Croal Jackson. “The Climb” was written by Jeffrey Bean for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016, and selected by Timothy Green as the Editor’s Choice winner.

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Jeffrey Bean


Sunlight cut a path. We slouched
as we climbed it because we felt huge
in this place without trees. We shut
our eyes, pictured the flashing undersides
of leaves spun by wind. The hill crackled
where we walked. Dust blew down it
like shed skin that stuck to our skin
until we turned the color of rocks.
The hill led to other hills, the sky
swelled and deepened at the peak.
The clouds and our hair tumbled
and bulged. At night in flapping tents
the money in our pockets felt
like useless weight. No stars. No
grass. I dreamed of a cloudless sky
glinting with coins. I dreamed
I touched the faces of the couple
we followed all day into the distance.

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016
Editor’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the editor, Timothy Green, on his selection: “Like the best ekphrastic poems, ‘The Climb’ turns an artist’s image into metaphor for something new. Like the best poems, ‘The Climb’ expresses that metaphor intuitively, so that the revelation is more felt than understood. In this the height of campaign season in the U.S., I couldn’t help but see the poem as political, as the climb to be one of activism and social evolution. In that reading, too, the ambiguity fits.” For more on Jeffrey Bean, visit his website.

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