“Trompe L’oeil” by Juliet Latham

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2019: Artist’s Choice


Floating by Betsy Mars

Image: “Floating” by Betsy Mars. “Trompe L’oeil” was written by Juliet Latham for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2019, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Juliet Latham


What if the retina
jolted by a light
sent its obligatory signal

to the brain and formed
a woman
and that woman is me

a floater
which my doctor tells me
can be very normal

just a fiber clump
in the vitreous gel
that inhabits the eye

I learned early
this trick
of suspension

how to dart away
from any gaze
held too long

just until
it is unclear

if what you watch
is the world you have left
or a tunnel you might enter

the things an eye
can see from this height
my mother’s face

hiding poison
only meant
for me

the lover on Chestnut
all charm in light
bullets by dark

business trip, an elevator,
strange man’s mouth
doors sealed hard

too many floaters
and a flash of light
is an emergency

my doctor says
I’m high risk
for retinal detachment

quizzes me on symptoms
to see if I’m listening
I tell her acute episodes

of imaginative replacement
floating, looking out
when I should be looking in

the presence of any magic
holding up the body
in lieu of trust

perhaps she’s warning me
about blindness because
she doesn’t know

I’m floating here
beyond her pencil of light
asking if this eye

is all there is to see.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
March 2019, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Betsy Mars: “This was a unique opportunity to be on the other side of the selection process, and I am hereby swearing to never again second-guess anyone’s choice. The range of subject matter, style, and length was breathtaking. A gutsy, succinct very short poem vs. a heartfelt and well-written three-pager. Some touched on the futuristic aspects of the image, some took the vibe and went with it in a more indirect manner. It may have been the most arduous work I have ever done outside of childbirth. I admired all, but in the end chose this because I love the extended metaphor and the way that the poet blurred the line between the literal and the symbolic. The sense of alienation and detachment was so palpable in the writing. I have felt that kind of out-of-body experience when looking at my own life, and I think the poem aligns so well with the emotions conjured by the image. Plus, I am mildly at risk for retinal detachment.”

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