“Upstate” by Marc Alan Di Martino

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2020: Editor’s Choice


Impressionistic painting of old industrial buildings

Image: “The Old Paper Mill” by Denise Sedor. “Upstate” was written by Marc Alan Di Martino for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2020, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Marc Alan Di Martino


Start with a brief description of the town:
its sagging thoroughfares, its battered clock
tower. Places like this exist for trains
to falter through. Have you ever lost a sock
in the wash? Here it is on Mrs. Owens’
clothesline, drying in the rust-ruined sun.
Wormholes connect us to outposts like this,
main drags so proverbial in their want
they must be paintings. What else can capture
the hot charred candy center of a soul
so beaten it whimpers beneath the rod
of time? As if some wicked, wastrel god
playing a prank, tossed snake-eyes with trick dice,
punished creation out of boredom. Twice.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
June 2020, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “I’m always a sucker for a sonnet, and like most of the best in the form, the final couplet is just wonderful. But I’d already fallen in love with this a few lines in: ‘Places like this exist for trains / to falter through.’ What a great description of the Rust Belt, which Denise Sedor’s painting so poignantly captures. That line and that great verb choice, ‘falter,’ took me straight back to my childhood in Western New York, and all those almost forgotten towns along Routes 5 & 20.”

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