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this is an ekphrastic poem written for Sarah Curtiss’ art piece here.


she looked at me from across the room with such pleading recognition

that it flickered my own history to reflect hers

those crooked eyes bore into me

and i remembered myself in her former life

here she was craning her neck to set her uneven eyes

into my wrapped up paper face

her eye holes stared into my perfected façade

revealing the mirror we were for each other

i saw our stories unfolding same pages but different books

centuries apart in a moment all collapsing together

but the more i stared at her, the more she began to come apart

she split into pieces, and her lips became a jumble

her face blossomed a Picasso

and our stories split into alternate universes…

her eyes seemed lost and crazy to me now, familiarity turned to intractable madness

our ancestral kinship had met its end and diverged into radical eccentricities

she was trapped behind those Picasso eyes

while i feigned safety from

inside the square frame

of my paper walls

i’m watching you
stirring everything to a frenzy
your wires crossed
you don’t know which direction you are going

flinging up dust
and whatever else you can grab onto,
charging skin electric
frazzling nerves with your silent shrieks

everything you touch, you rock
push this way and back
inside you are wailing
wailing tremors of grief
outpouring bellows from some unspeakable blow

until you stop for a moment to get your breath
and everything sucks in the calm
before you roar out again
shaking us up, clanging our fists shut

there’s no one to console you
no prayers or offerings from
we powerless observers
who have lost the art of speaking to you
except to curse your outbursts

we shrink from your emotion
annoyed at your undefined rage
slink away inside
from your venting gusts

your siren only sounds
in the velocity of your pressure
your scream is hidden
inside your force

your howls are vagrant banshees
until maybe in a day
or in a few weeks
your grief will find its resting place

you’ll reach consolation, pull your breath back into yourself
and begin to dance your easy sway again
i will feel your soft breath on my cheek
and i will feel peace is here at last.

art, courtesy of janice rocke

our modern arrangement
can’t hold you
Holy One

jabbering to the Others
inventing scenarios
no one else can see

we don’t have a place for you
Seer of Delphi

you are disdained
at best pitied
there’s no place for you here
and your messages are scrambled

long ago, i imagine
you were the Sacred One
Shaman of the Clan
interpreting the Words of Nature
Channeling the Presence of Spirits

but no more can you connect the tribe
to the Other World
or act on your bestowed gifts
this world is too busy for that

the voices are confused
meanings misinterpreted
only the manufactured pills
can halt the lost Emissary
screaming in your ear
drugs fade and mutate the truth
turned to hideous lies

important never
to miss your Dose
Swallow your Stop
put your calling behind you

there is no place for it here

this poem won 1st place at the San Mateo County Fair 2013

Sad Sally by Sarah Curtiss, see more of Sarah's art & books at

Sad Sally by Sarah Curtiss, see more of Sarah’s art & books at

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