“The World Beneath” by Devon Balwit

All of Us by Lou Storey, a complex pastoral landscape of simplified images of towns and fields with a quilt-like quality

Image: “All of Us” by Lou Storey. “The World Beneath” was written by Devon Balwit for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, April 2023, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Devon Balwit


Peel the disappointed world
back to its precursor—a child’s
town of bright primaries, streets
where the sun finds no impediment
and the wind none richer,
none poorer. No one suffers
or dies there—not even one
invisible dog sniffing the blue
salt air. The boats in the harbor,
the phone poles, the hills
and the houses all speak
a language before language,
that tuneful hum above
the shapes in a board-book.
There even shadows hesitate
to fall, mother nowhere
in sight, the afternoon lazy
and long.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
April 2023, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Megan O’Reilly: “As the title indicates, the poet imagines Lou Storey’s colorful and complex piece as depicting a ‘precursor’ to our current world (‘the disappointed world’), a more pure and essential civilization, and after viewing it through that lens, I can’t see it any other way. I found the language here to be irresistibly interesting, effortless lines that so aptly describe a place that doesn’t quite exist but is simultaneously more real than reality. I was particularly struck by ‘the houses all speak / a language before language, / that tuneful hum above / the shapes in a board-book,’ which I interpret as an incredible expression of the primitive way we experience the world as pre-verbal children, and a passage that will stick in my mind for a long time.”

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