Constellation: Ekphrasis is a community writing project.

Help us form our first online Constellation by submitting your original piece of writing inspired by a piece of art, music, film, or a sound.

Read our submission guidelines and then send us your work and watch the constellation on this page grow star by gorgeous star!


Submission Guidelines

Submissions to this Constellation are closed. Thank you to everyone who contributed!

We accept previously unpublished poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and hybrid pieces up to 500 words long.

All submissions must include a link to your inspiration so we can share it with our readers.* We cannot accept image files, only links. Thank you!

The fine print | We will publish accepted pieces on this website. You retain the copyright to your piece. We reserve the right to choose which pieces to publish, and to make minor edits to content and style.

* Here are a few places to look for online inspiration:

  • MoMA online collection

  • Peabody Essex Museum online collection

  • SoundCloud music and sounds

  • Spotify music

  • St. Johnsbury Athenaeum online collection

  • Storm King Art Center online collection

  • Vermont Art Online

  • 500px photos

  • AVA Gallery: Off the Wall

  • BandCamp music

  • British Library sound archive

  • The Clark online collection

  • Hood Museum online collection

  • IMDb: Internet Movie Database

  • Library of Congress photo archive

  • The Metropolitan Museum online collection

After El Anatsui’s “Hovor”

El, I’m eating white rice for lunch

and it’s in a styrofoam container
which I will throw out as soon
as I’ve finished eating.

I’m eating it with a can of diet coke.
It’s a tall can, as if it were something more
than a diet cola, as if it were something
that could make me dance.

I know I shouldn’t drink it, El.
I know that while I think of you,
imagine myself floating on an ocean
of gold, a stage play of waves.

—Kristin Maffei

Kristin Maffei is a New England-based poet and copywriter. You can read more of her work at her website.

Katherine and Petruchio
After Robert Braithwaite Martineau’s 1855 “Katherine and Petruchio

Shrew, your bearing is erect, stay true
don’t even honor Petruchio with eye contact.

Good girl, Katherine! Keep it low: if this goes
the way they want it to, it won’t end well for you.

Katherine, look to your chains!
Even your hair is bound with pearls

from your neck to your feet, pearl ropes
run your length. You are cut in half.

You can’t see it from where you’re standing
but from here it’s very clear. The first half

won’t even look at Petruchio, but the other
half can’t stop thinking about him.

Do his dumb compliments pop into your head when you’re looking in the mirror?
Does his idiot face mess with your thoughts?

Petruchio stands in front of an ornate wooden door—
that’s your way out, take it!—but his hand

is on the handle. Behind you a topless woman
shivers in her marble, leans-in to a man

we cannot see. Behind all this is a tapestry, where
the figures walk with their gaze all the way down.

Katherine, look behind you—
they are mourning your freedom

while Petruchio looks straight slick. He gets
all the light, in his green and white puffy shorts

over bunchy tights. He is all teeth
and whites of his eyes, he’s even got a highlight

on the perfect pink fingernails of his one bare hand.
Yes, he’s removed a glove. The bad hand

is coming. Katherine, it’s not too late!
Grab the sword—he’s got it in his belt—just take it.

Show him that you know the game!
Make the player confess, then cut out his tongue.

If you don’t do this, he will brag to his friends
when he starves you, calls you his shrew:

Another word for tame is broken.

—Rena J. Mosteirin

Rena J. Mosteirin is the co-author of Moonbit (punctum books, 2019) an academic and poetic exploration of the Apollo 11 guidance computer code. Her novella Nick Trail’s Thumb (Kore Press, 2008) won the Kore Press Short Fiction Award, judged by Lydia Davis. Her chapbook Half-Fabulous Whales (Little Dipper, 2019) explores Moby-Dick through erasure poetry. She is an editor at Bloodroot Literary Magazine, holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and teaches creative writing at Dartmouth College.

 You Tell Me You’re Okay

After “The Farewell,” written and directed by Lulu Wang

Your tumors. They missed you,
so they came back for you.
Just in a different place,
crawling under your collarbone
and creeping around your neck.
Spreading. And. Spreading.

You tell me you’re okay
when I ask about your hospital visit,
and then you ask if I’ve been well.
If I’ve been eating and exercising.
I say yes and yes.
Not telling you I’ve been stuffing down
two dessert plates every night,
just to stop the cry from my throat
and failed because I realized
tears can be silent as I sat in the library crying
after a week of keeping to myself about
your condition.

Something called chemotherapy,
something you’ve had before,
the hair falling, lungs too weak to even cough,
the white hospital bed, the robotic nurses,
the blinding light. The doctors. The exams.
The clear tubes and tubes and needles in your thin skin.
The papers. On clipboards. With words. Relapse.
You tell me you’re okay.

Karen Zheng

Karen Zheng is a first-generation, queer, Chinese-American college student currently attending Dartmouth College. She studies English and Creative Writing.

After the painting by Van Gogh on the cover of an exhibition catalog

When Van Gogh painted the woman in the red dress—
who may have been young,

but for the garish paint—
unnaturally thick red lips and rouge pot cheeks;

who may have been old,
but for the flatness of her breasts,

her cinched waist—
a villainous green turban

compressing her head—
he did not love his life. No. Maybe

his model didn’t love him or her life—
both of them at the end of one or the other.

It’s there in the shriek of paint,
not a kind stroke for either of them.

No matter how long you live with it,
it’s a surprise.

Many times, I thought to take it down,
remove it altogether,

but the rented flat is more hers than mine
and something about the tilt of her head,

not the fan half furled in her left hand,
not her right arm, elbow jutted out,

wrist barely brushing her waist,
not her one thick brow (the other hidden

by the turban) practically drawn
straight across her face—those rouged cheeks,

none of these, but the beseeching tilt of her head
makes her human.

—Nadell Fishman

Nadell Fishman's collection of poems, At Work in the Bridal Industry, was published in 2011. Ms Fishman's new collection, Traveling, Traveling is as yet unpublished. She divides her time between central Vermont and New York City.

After “El Suicidio De Dorothy Hale” (“The Suicide Of Dorothy Hale”) 1938, by Frida Kahlo

She could have lived so many lives.
She could have married a man who grew eggplants. She could have sparkled
like a diamond.

She did emit some sort of magical waves, a gentle electricity on a hidden frequency that put people at ease.

When she spoke with you, it was as if a sparrow had become your friend. A small beautiful creature whose soft eyes and earnest voice lulled you into a pleasant trance, made you feel special, necessary in this often rough world.

She is probably sparkling now,
in some other dimension, turning
and sparkling, round and round, her tiny points of light falling on all who need them.

—Denise Parsons

Denise Parsons is author of the novel After the Sour Lemon Moon. She lives and works in San Francisco, California. Learn more about Denise at

The Ladies
After Sande Stockwell’s “Three Graces

They sit, in a sacred circle of three,
exuding pure joy just to BE.

Celebrating each’s presence;
sitting as garden gnomes,

cross legged, naked in all glory.
A pure connection to Earth

is the story they tell to any passerby.
Planted as they are on the ground,

like cabbages, lumpy and round,
one with arms raised to the sky,

their song of laughter
a pulse that beats in our chests.

Telling us, relax, rejoice,
we are all in our element.

—Marjorie Moorhead

Marjorie Moorhead has found voice and community in poetry. She lives in a river valley, surrounded by mountains, at the NH/VT border, which she considers a sacred nest.


 Late Painters: Matisse
After Henri Matisse’s “La Gerbe

When his hands could no longer hold a brush,
Matisse turned to paper and scissors. “painting”
with cold metal carving heavy gouache
like a knife through butter, shearing shallow
reliefs. The liberation of image from paper.
And my left hand, too, betrays me, mysteriously
cramping, twisting like a snail in a shell. No relief
but to pry my fingers back into the shape
of a normal hand. And so the dance goes on.
Confined to chair or bed, Matisse’s “seconde vie”
lasted fourteen years, as he learned to use white
as a negative space, working paper like a sculptor
cutting through stone. This is where I’d like
to be working, reducing the buzzing complicated
world to its pure essence, ridding myself of
arabesques and complexities, summing up
the dance of my life in simple forms.

Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker is a poetry editor for Italian Americana and author of nine books; Some Glad Morning, Pitt Poetry Series, is the latest. Her awards include the Best Book of Poetry 2018 from Poetry by the Sea, the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships. Her work appears in a variety of anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature.

Talking With Your Hands
After Rembrandt Van Rijn’s “Homer Dictating “(1663)

“What are we to do with Rembrandt?” —Svetlana Alpers

Lit up by the story of an endless war
Homer recites the ancient epic poem
His eyelids sore, his hooded sockets dashed
Mouth opened to chant to his pupils
A thin gold line enhaloes his forehead
His large hands speak in rough strokes
One grasps a walking stick, one blurs in the air
Light clarifies his right shoulder
The painter tells us, We are in his hands

It’s not only the image Rembrandt gives us
Of the poet telling us about Achilles’ shield
It’s paint in 18th-century yellows and browns
That he cut quickly with a palette knife
And Homer didn’t write the words
He reports what he heard from the gods
Someone wrote the words down, somebody translated
And then the painting burned in a fire
Once you could see a scribe poised, listening
Now it’s only two fingers holding a pen

I love the parts in which we hear voices
People singing arguing calling saying vows
Dogs barking cows lowing lions roaring
Gods, heroes, people talking to each other
About what’s left behind when gone to war
Until we forget we’re listening to a story
As we’re reading a 21st-century book
About people dancing working grieving
Everyday my friends say, What are we going to do?
Telling a story about war with our hands

—Camille Guthrie

Camille Guthrie is the author of three books of poetry. Diamonds, a new book, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2021. She teaches writing at Bennington College and lives in Bennington, Vermont.

 Body of Work
After “Body of Work,” by Graeme Murphy (Australian choreographer)

If I could clothe myself
again. Shrug
jeweled solitary—
create a glove-sure sense
of fit.

Slim but not taut,
jade beaded or pearl,
close cut like glamour.
Rich color—
draped just so and just so.
And texture: Strong—
like stretch or kick.
No sign of sag
or pill.

—Courtney Cook

Courtney Cook is a reader, mother, writer, and Vermonter—in chronological order, more or less. You can read recent(ish) examples of her book reviews at the Los Angeles Review of Books and find her at C00kshop on Instagram.

The Way it Was Was Like This
After “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

-for Shirley

The way it was was like this:
it was 1950 and you were living in New York City
and sharing a room with your mother. Sure,
the address was good.
But you had to get out of there.
It wasn’t until the starched sailor appeared at your doorstep
that you began to go out. You dressed up.
You went to places like the Stork Club and drank Coke
out of a straw.
You curled your hair and ironed your taffeta.
You wore high heels and silk stockings.
He liked the way the bodice clung.
You go out and the streets of New York are filled with soldiers
back from the war, back from college on the G.I. Bill,
their faces a little bit worn, too old for college students.
Every night when your guy was back on leave, you went out.
You never tired of this. Your high heels clicked on the sidewalk
in a reassuring way.
When you got home, your mother was asleep.
You said goodbye to your sailor and climbed the stairs at 381 Park.
Your neighbor Sol Lustbader,
back from the war in Germany,
left the door opened a crack
and when you passed by, it clicked shut.
He knew you were home. He watched out for you.

—Dede Cummings

Dede Cummings is a writer, award-winning book designer, publisher, and commentator for Vermont Public Radio. Her poetry has been published in Mademoiselle, The Lake, InQuire, Vending Machine Press, Birchsong, Connotation Press, Mom Egg Review, Figroot Press, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Green Mountains Review, Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poetry, and Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection. Her first poetry collection entitled To Look Out From was the winner of the 2016 Homebound Publications Poetry Prize and was published in the spring of 2017. Her second poetry collection, The Meeting Place, was published in spring 2020 by Salmon Poetry. Dede lives in Vermont on a dirt road, in a solar-powered house her husband Steve Carmichael built, where she designs books and runs Green Writers Press.

The Dream
After “Dream” (1945), by Marc Chagall

I’m done with “love”—I think I’ll take a nap,
or that, at least, is what I’d told myself,
but then I fell into the deepest sleep
and dreamed you there. I was beside myself
with joy—how to say? … Oh, floating on air
as if we two dwelled within a miracle—
wherein I visioned all that I hold dear,
the city, the Seine, Paris!, her Eiffel
Tower, that azure sky, the full moon a kind
of halo holding us as you held me,
plus your bouquet—cottage roses, lupines,
what else? I heard a fiddler’s tunes, the beat
of drums? a dancer’s clogs? or horses’ hooves?
Oh Love, my heart it was, all woke for you!

—Mary Elder Jacobsen

Mary Elder Jacobsen’s poetry has appeared in storySouth, Cold Mountain Review, Four Way Review, One, Green Mountains Review online, and elsewhere, including Poetry Daily and the anthology Healing the Divide (ed. by James Crews). A recent winner of the Lyric Memorial Prize and a recipient of a Vermont Studio Center Residency, she lives in North Calais, Vermont, where she works as an editor, a sometimes illustrator, and a Co-organizer of Words Out Loud, an annual reading series held at an unplugged 1823 meeting house.

Daddy Hand
After Lucien Freud’s “Man With a Feather (Self Portrait)”

What of my hands these rough slatterns?
Lingering vowels strung nightly
from dance floors and copper-topped bars, wherever
we elide defenses in tatters and drink. Sullen boredom
emitting world or slurring word, every subject abject, gaudy bleat.
Left is the heavy, the shepherd, opener of doors, books, asks and bye-
byes. It replaces the ledger
on the shelf. It doesn’t wear the watch –
no temporal hampering for the left hand.
Time pulses, testing rightness.
It doesn’t lift fork to mouth or stir the boiling meal.
It will not sign its name.
It does not need a name.
On the desk, it lies flat, anchoring the rest, sprung
thumb flexed and definite.
It can wait.
This hand was once the go-to; it will be again.
No more stammering, no more
lost, no more thanking.

Celia Bland

Celia Bland is the author of three collections of poetry and the co-editor of a collection of essays on the work of Jane Cooper. She works at Bard College.

The Loneliness of the Sentence
After “Paper City and Ghost Modernity,” by Manish Nai

The sentence is authored/authorized. A fixed thing broken. I am befuddled trading sentences. Much of what I call sentences are easily silenced. The speaker is often a downer. The speaker is a fuddy duddy.

I wonder about where to place sentences. I break stuff. Someone fixed the things I broke, did not blame me for breaking them, and passed me. Before this I went to the school of fuddy duddy.

In the time of famine I focused on profits. I looked at things that were beautiful and my contemporaries thought beautiful so I had beautiful contemporaries.

It is the next morning. What is something controversial I am doing now that might be seen in a more favorable light in the future?

It is the next morning and I rebel even though all the ways to refuse are removed. I ask about blue and the answer is what job. I lust obsolescence.

What’s the pathway to wealth for supporting characters? How do I marginalize perfection? Home is where immigrants watch the show Nailed It.

Essays are animalistic urges and shyness. Don’t marry an essay. My invisibility comes from a locus of unnaming. Essays are scribblings on the walls of

we two are alone.
we are two alone.

Opening is where birth damages. It’s the lack of hiding, there is undoable in the act of being born. What the maverick teaches is the opposite of learning. People who make things known are mother’s son, father’s daughter, sister’s mother, daughter’s brother. I figure out, took off, run into, my body as a translated.

You don’t look like the
language you’re supposed
to speak. Writing entangles
to others.
The gods gifted me
malfunction early. My
parents are not psychologists.
I chose a name easy to
pronounce because I intend
to travel. More than oil,
everybody avoids sugar.
Having cash, not having cash
doesn’t matter. Running cash
through the system makes
come home and money.

An essay is someone who doesn’t go with the program. Like my mother’s snack drawer. I mourned my brother long before he was gone.

What is it about love that dares the self?

This is not the place I grew up. This is not the border, or my borders. This essay is not what happened to me. This essay is not about what happened to something or could be a part of something. This essay is about misquoting somebody. A placeholder.

—Rajnesh Chakrapani

Rajnesh Chakrapani is a poet, filmmaker, and translator. He received an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where he wrote his collection of prose, Brown People who Speak English. In 2020 he will be a Fullbright Fellow to Romania. His work is out or forthcoming in Asymptote, Lana Turner, Speculative City, Triquartarly, Word Thug, Sequestrum, and Crevice. He teaches at Bard College.

After "White Tulips" (ca. 1920), by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

There is a woman I admire who never throws out dead flowers. “It breaks her heart,” her mother explained, “so I do it for her.” I brought The Admired Woman flowers so I could throw them away for her. Something about life cycles, acts of service. Something about being able to make sadness disappear felt so heroic.

Just before Easter, someone I loved and hoped to love for a long time died. I wasn’t thinking about anything but dust and dirt, the feral hadn’t even left my eyes, when a beloved friend dropped off white tulips. “Those were our flowers,” I told her, fighting tears on the phone. When she asked, I couldn’t remember why.

I arranged the flowers in a vase and backed away like a dog out of a haunted kitchen. I thought I could carry on with my sadness without their interruption, but the tulips whimpered that first night. They shook. They waned with the moon.

I woke with dawn and rushed them to the window. I poured my own water into their vase. Their opening was ceremonious, fanfare in hyperspeed. I asked them to slow down and enunciate, to imagine everyone in the room naked, if that helped. They were bone white like an extraction. Never mind the sun’s greedy steamrolling into another day. It was me and the dozen newborn lives I’d inherited. I had their long swan necks and their rolling leaves. The light was beside the point.

The next night, when they bent, I swore, they screamed. They stood there, filling the air with something dark purple, and wept. I wanted to take their sadness away. I thought I would never fall asleep, but morning didn’t mind if I was well rested. Resurrection felt vulgar and my head buzzed with the obnoxious birdsong of hope. I did not want to feel optimistic.

I wanted to stay in the warm, wet soil and in lieu of living, begin decomposition. I rushed the skeletal remains of the tulips to the trash behind my building in a white nightgown. A trail of petals fell on the musty hall carpet. I was a ghost haunting an angel, a madwoman locked away, a magician’s assistant, the groundskeeper of my own longing. I was a brokenhearted woman in her pajamas next to a heap of trash on Easter day.

—Erika Veurink

Erika Veurink is a writer living in Brooklyn by way of Iowa. She is receiving her MFA from Bennington College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Entropy, Hobart, Tiny Molecules, and x-r-a-y.

Chas. Codman, Minor Landscape Painter
After an exhibit in Portland, Maine, of a 19th century Portland-based artist, Charles Codman


The lack of glazes that might have deepened
lake scenes or the pearly tinges of his clouds
more suitable to South Seas than New England,
like whorls in the ear of a woman in Fragonard
her skin nothing but pink, alabaster, and butter.
The brace of women, one twirling a parasol—
repeat in paintings for estates and public places—
then tiny sloops confront identical directions
whether painted on canvas or on wood.


The boulders transparent as clouds behind them
Figures who camp on river islands tiny as ones
in microscopes or dioramas, who beckon or stretch
beneath white tarps that are leaden hair-fine strokes.
Game smoking beneath torrential background.
A few feathers in the hair, not strokes enough
to designate nation or clan. As bricks dissolve
in mud, so mountainsides dissolve in pearly skies
that are mental refuges, barriers to real ones.
As I move to actual landscape alas it’s picturesque
as swirling half-moons rendered on black velvet
peddled at some country fair or sidewalk art show.


Because an estate holder wanted his lands graced
with swans and the template of women twirling parasols
and with tiny sloops to try the barely agitated water,
the wind moved, but water wouldn’t budge by wind.
The water reflected the trees, which were not poplars,
the water reflected the women with the parasols
and white Hellenic dresses, and the swans were reflected.
The scenes were rendered on wood, with cornucopias
framing the scene, in which the features were reflected:
scattered acorns, fruit and flora in commemoration—
calla lilies and pine cones, other fruit to be identified.


Rarely can I recall a dream with accuracy,
whenever I do, they’re jumbles of nonsense —
just the past respliced into juxtaposed ribbons.
But I must be thinking in these Piranesian castles,
walls that double as dams on the Androscoggin
where people skinny-dip in familiar places
with the unfamiliar tints of pearly skies
and pearly clouds doubling as pearly gates.
The dream is a grain of sand in an hourglass
but inside sprawls a time of infinite extension
that the shifting gears of a milk-truck interrupts
as skinny-dippers on the riverside, Anabaptists shed
of hippie-peasant dresses, tell me the water’s just fine.

—Scott Penney

Scott Penney lives in Chelsea, Vermont.

After “Untitled,” by Paul Resika

White stucco house, taller than wide,
two windows and a door,
like a face, like a person startled
and saying OH,
like a person wondering why
the white bull is turning away-
perhaps he is watching his mate
nursing a newborn calf
balancing on wobbly legs,
or hears the rumble of thunder
beyond the blue-gray mountains,
or is just resting for a moment
on a sea of orange poppies
under the bleached sky.

—Andrea Gould

Andrea Gould began writing poetry seven years ago. She is a member of a women's poetry group in Central Vermont called FLOW. She has had poems published in The Jewish Women's Literary Annual and The Mountain Troubadour.

 On Rare Flowers
After “Lilacs,” by Henri Matisse

Selfish mother
Withholding lover
Narcissistic catoptrophobe

Why must I want so much, so
Deeply, so

Sometimes I wake up before the sun
My heart racing with all the questions
I’ll never get answers to

The world is green
And I am in search of blue, you
In my dreams

You shimmer, translucent
At the edges
An omen

Which is worse:
Throwing out flowers before they wilt or
Holding on to a dead thing?

Arielle McManus

Arielle McManus is learning as she goes and writing one liners from a tiny, sunlit bedroom in Brooklyn.

Art Is Where You Always Return To
After “Number 10, 1949,” by Jackson Pollack

What do you see?
Let the picture pulsate.
Let it work on you. Let it spread out, let it wrap its arms around you. Let it embrace you, filling your peripheral vision so nothing else exists, or has ever existed. Or will ever exist.
Let the picture do the work, but work with it
Meet it halfway.
These pictures deserve compassion.
They live or die in the eye of the sensitive viewer. They quicken only if the empathetic viewer will let them. That is what they cry out for. That is why they were created.

This scene takes place near the opening of the John Logan’s play, Red, between Rothko and his assistant. A short time later the artist asks the young man’s favorite artist, wanting the first person that springs to mind.

The answer immediately given: Pollock.

Rothko’s begrudging reply: It’s always Pollock.

It’s true. It always comes back to Pollock. Think of that happy place your brain takes you to when things get too much or life just won’t let up. For me it’s the MFA in Boston, the Art of Americas wing. Specifically: Number 10, 1949.

And all of the above directives apply when I am standing there. I am close, but not too close, lest an alarm arise or a guard come to admonish. It fills my peripheral vision, becoming for a bit my whole world and the rest falls away. I sink into the spaces between the paint drips; in awe that there is texture, that he included bits of materials like sand and glass. That one could use different types of paint so that the sheen and finish play off each other in sharp contrast. Standing there I feel this connection to the hand that held the can that dropped the paint. I sense the fervor, the energy, the dance of paint that led to this specific creation. The through line from artist to buyer to museum to me.

Art is what calls to you. It’s what occupies your thoughts and allows you to stand there and take it all in, for as long as it takes. Seconds, minutes or hours. Looking with more than your eyes. Giving yourself over to the experience as you quiet your mind and inhabit an image or a melody or the arrangement of carefully chosen words. It’s the place you always want to return to.

What a gift just to stand there and bear witness. The size and orientation of the piece (nineteen feet long and only eighteen inches high) instill in me a need to open my arms wide. It doesn’t embrace me as so much demands that I open myself to it, to give over the hurriedness and tempo of my life and exchange it for a new one. To emulate the back and forth see-sawing of paint covering canvas. A new, hushed rhythm to be matched.

I can see it in my mind’s eye—though it may be overly sentimental—a fond remembrance of an old friend until we’re in company together again. These days comfort comes in all forms. When it arrives, I open the door and usher it in.

EM Reynolds

EM Reynolds is a librarian/bookseller in Vermont, who likes to discover the tiny extraordinary details of life through a camera lens.Visit her on and her latest venture, which focuses on the wonder to be found in picture books,

After “Entrance of the Masked Dancers,” by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Her aqua tutu and red beaded bodice
were a shimmering blur as the two
ballerinas exited stage, heated and breathing
heavily from dizzying pirouettes and jumps.

She could hear the crowd’s applause
and paused for a moment to accept the
praise, only to notice the elevation
of sound now rising.

The masked dancers in gold
and white capes, lifted the spirits
of the crowd into a crescendo that
was noticeably louder and more
vigorous than what they had received.

Perhaps the hidden face is truly
a mystery that conjures imagination
and fills the soul with inquisitive glee.

—Jesse LoVasco

Jesse LoVasco is a poet and artist who currently published the book Native with Homebound Publications and finds poetry to be her grounding anchor during these times.

Les Nympheas
After “Les Nymphéas,” by Claude Monet

When I step back, dancing
brushstrokes find each other,
meld into flowers and leaves.
Roots and stems sway underwater
like a choir, waves churn
and beat against me,
recede, beat again,
ancient blues and greens
beckon, suck me back to mud.
Slick, I curl and uncoil,
snake through lilies,
aware of each echoing breath,
tumble down, spiral to the surface.
On shore Monet chats with God
about how atoms became dust
and water, and dust and water
became stone and grasses and snakes.

—Charles Barasch

Charles Barasch’s book of poetry, Dreams of the Presidents, was published by North Atlantic Books. He lives in Vermont with his wife, the poet Andrea Gould.

What is Truth?
After “Wheatfield with Crows,” by Vincent Van Gogh

Truth is a fine-spun rainbow obscured by shadows. Truth is a gossamer veil between you and another. Truth is a light so blinding that once exposed to it your vision can never recover. Truth is something to tell slant, whispering it softly into the bells of waist-high foxgloves on a misty Scottish morning. Truth is what you would share if you were able. Sometimes truth is masculine and sometimes, feminine. Truth is justice magnified. Truth might possibly set you free from the scalding prisons of gossip if it was broadcast like sweet corn kernels in a crow-free field. Truth is impermeable, immutable and a lie. Truth can be hard as a diamond or soft as new fallen snow. Truth is what you rest your head upon at the end of a long, busy day; a silken pillow scented with moss and roses. Truth used to sustain angels, but now it is the property of those with forked tongues. Truth is what your mother whispered to you in the long months before you were born and what your father left in the right-hand pocket of his tweed overcoat for you to find in the silent dawn. Truth is love, beauty and Oz.

—Keyan Kaplan

Keyan Kaplan is a retired educator who lived in Brooklyn for 35 years. Now she lives near the Long Island Sound. She has earned a puzzling collection of diplomas from various NYC and NYS colleges and universities. In addition to teaching and tutoring, Keyan has been a licensed massage therapist, a nanny, a museum guide and a chambermaid. She has sold books, toys, children’s clothing, contemporary crafts and antiques. Her poems have appeared in Art in Science (Dartmouth College) and The Peterborough Poetry Project.

The Ink Well Spilled
After "The Pink Studio" (1911) by Henri Matisse

Because lunchtime had long since passed; Because summer light moved across tinted windows until the green urn fell into shadows near the blue brocade where gilded flowers climbed around a body loosely sketched; because the changing screen was carved with single-stemmed pink roses that gazed at the mauve carpet beneath stacks of abstract nudes near the yellow floor crossed with blue that marked the spot next to the long bench with a green velvet cushion where the model had posed all morning: the Pushkin Museum in Moscow closed all color behind oak doors.

—Lisa Mase

Lisa Mase is a lover of earth's changing tides. She is a nutritionist, folk herbalist, translator, and poet homesteading with her family in Central Vermont. Her poems have most recently been published by Silver Needle Press, Press 53, the Long Island Review, and the Dandelion Review.

The Hall of Curious Faces
After Rocks From the Japanese Museum of Rocks

What tumble river carved me,
eye bags that list toward sadness
when sunshine dries my tears

What rolling down a hill
on the sharp crest of yesterday
brought my nose into focus

What upside down slumber in mud
sealed my lips against the days
that are sure to come in moments

No ears? And the hair of moss
coming on again, shriveled
this summer, now the rain.

You found me again, sedate
in the river of these days.
Do not shelve me.

Leave me here to look.

Tricia Knoll

Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet with a big enough "thing" for rocks that she raised a daughter who became a geologist. Knoll's work appears widely in journals and anthologies.


This is Your Hometown
After “This is Your Hometown” by Madge Evers

You have wakened not out of sleep, but into a prior dream, and that dream lies within another, and so on, to infinity…

- Juan Luís Borges

I know a woman who makes art from mushrooms,
sets the spongey caps, broken from her wooded yard
against paper and waits. The dropped spores build
a reverse image – façade of the fruit itself, delicate
sepia tone copy she sprays with fixative, frames.
Aren't mushrooms already art?
Blooms of fleshy color, unexpected divas singing
in skirts of vermilion or tangerine from the dim
vault of the earth, or fluted white wings alight
on dark bark suggesting everything
from the mysteries of the deep sea to the lover's tongue.
The artist takes the variety
Stropharia rugoso-annulata—"king stropharia,"
its called, "wine cap," its purple-brown nobs common,
edible—marks the paper once, twice, three and four
times, lifting the same mushroom, setting it down
again, creating repeated pictures that blur or fade,
revealing or hiding the fertile gills, more or less
of the shadowed hood – reflections reflected,
a kind of mise en abȋme, art within art within art, a term
that literally means "placed into the abyss."
And who hasn't been there? Hasn't felt
themselves lost in infinite layers? Set down
in the center of an unending chaos that divides, alters—
who we thought we were covered over by another us
we almost but don't recognize? Am I the woman
clutching her womb, sobs hemorrhaging from her throat?
Who is the child staring with my eyes, her father stolen
from this world?

Which is why I buy a print called "This
is Your Hometown," eight images from one fungus,
changing and ghosting itself to prove there is always more,
life rumbling over us, the self—its many versions.
The double haunts.
Turning to see ourselves looking back, we think
our minds gone. Yet why should it be so? The mushroom
is nothing if not about multiplying, all those
microscopic seeds flung to willing substrate, or,
as the case may be, the paper below.

—Kathryn Petruccelli

Kathryn Petruccelli is a bi-coastal performer and writer with an MA in teaching English language learners. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Rattle, River Teeth, SWWIM, Literary Mama, Linea, Ruminate's blog, and others. She is a past winner of San Francisco's Litquake essay contest and was a finalist for the 2019 Omnidawn Broadside Poetry Prize. She is at work on a poetry series based on the history of the alphabet. More at

Women at Windows
After “Heat Wave” by Kadir Nelson and “Young Woman At A Window” by Salvador Dali

I am not the kind of woman to put her body through
a window. My mother would say, you are not a girl
that frames nicely. A smartypants, I wanted to be a
necked beauty with a psychedelic popsicle, a puckered
cocoa dog, silk sailor dress lingering above my knees.
A girl at a sill bubbling lips and nipples, biting off wind
like a plum. For the rest of us, meaning me, the fumes
of exhaust, sludge on papered gutters, plastic blondes
stained puce. Whomever rolls past the window looks
at me never. Ever. Gray, thinking now of gray, perhaps
I always was. I do not remember goosing or fondles,
but even slack thighs find a way into bed, percussive
slats and silky slopes, nights glowing whispers. I chose
one, I see what could happen. I was unfit for portraits:
girl gone gray as a pigeon, girl with the body of a door.
I slam, I lock, I crack open. Wide, wide, wider.

—Lisa Furmanski

Lisa Furmanski lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two sons. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, Gettysburg Review, and more.

Lamentations Upon the Death of a Nation
After Robert Rauschenberg’s “Retroactive I” 1963

“Oh, it’s a fine and useless enterprise trying to fix destiny.” —Kingsolver

I was ten.

The nation had just witnessed a riderless horse, a reversed boot,
a black-veiled widow with her children in blue.
Wide-eyed, we stood at attention
before black and white television images,
but our hearts sagged like London Bridges.

Why has the young and beautiful fallen? And in such a tragic way?
Was this his destiny? Did he sense it?
How about hers? Is it ours, too?
How will the kids spend Christmas? What will Santa gift them?
Will she smile again? Will we?
Why did the light go out at this moment? Is the new frontier still an option?
Dare we skip rope, play hide and seek?
Will ooo eee, ooo ah ah become a dirge?
Will the nation crumble? How about our world?
Does the man in the moon cry now?
Surely heaven exists. Or is it like Camelot?

The cortege passed. We understood.
We would never be young again unless –
unless Merlin effects a magic spell or
the Round Table dubs another pure of heart
to rekindle the torch and seek the Holy Grail.

Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it, her major themes focused on family, place, and faith. She says she feels compelled to write, to give testimony to the past and to her heritage. She has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, in Silver Birch Press, in Poets Online, and in Heart of Flesh Literary Journal.


 Cosmas and Damian
After “The Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian” by Fra Angelico

“Things are called beautiful when they are brightly colored.” —Aquinas

If not this monk's painting, then there are no marvels.
A shoulder's width of wood, powdered lapis and egg

through five centuries—what his eyes gathered of light,
what his heart beat it to, what his hand made

with the least of tools. No marvels but the elements
and we use them right to extend ourselves.

That our hands are in it, healing hands, lover's hands,
that we spend ourselves for nothing

like the martyrs in the picture: landscape like a shroud
over something terrible, a circle of insurmountable clouds.

In the late light with its perfect witness, one of the brothers
in the road on his knees still, tall as a pike

or a poplar though his head rolls in the wild mustard,
and up from his neck that thick jet of blood,

blind but alive still,
beat, beat on.

—Brian Collins

Brian Collins is the author of The Rath (Solo Press).

Go Ahead
After "Sparkle" by Franziska Furter (2018)

Nurse your anger and will a garden to seed. Harvest
nothing. Let the whole plot rot with no plans to collect
the pits and pods. Let the allotment crack and empty,

while you watch from the creaky rocking chair that mars
drywall at rails and apex, scratching permanence. Makes
as much sense as purchasing a star that some poet or lover

stares at, happily, unaware of your ownership. In short time,
a breeze will undo your monument, and let fly tufted seeds
that look like sparkler heads all light and show (how

they burn our retinas, leave the opposite of a shadow), drift
through chain link or board fence, far beyond the cul-de-sac
where you sit, to a new spot where someone else sits,

wonders at the gift as it begins to grow, at a seed that holds
no memory, where it came from or the marks in your house.

—Michele Parker Randall

Michele Parker Randall is the author of Museum of Everyday Life (Kelsay Books, 2015) and A Future Unmappable, chapbook (Finishing Line Press 2021). Her work has appeared in Nimrod International Journal, Atlanta Review, Tar River Poetry, Southampton Review, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Central Florida.

 Vanitas Vanitatum et Omnia Vanitas (Vanity of Vanities and all is Vanity)
After “Vanitas” by Edward Colyer, c. 1600

Often it is a small snail shell, empty
and brittle that I look for first,

or the recently extinguished smoke
clamoring past the drapery

heavy as remorse. But neither are here.
Instead, all that curls are the edges

of musical pages, the nautilus-tipped scroll
of the violin, the bronzed femur polished

like a door knob, the urn
with serpentine handles sitting

like a crown upon the pile of all
that reminds us that we are

human. My eye must slow down.
It settles on the skull that like the sun

around all else revolves.
It is toothless, save a few, a kind

of chapel whose mouth is the door
which holds entry to all I thought I needed

to know: pulvus et umbra sumus,*
but outside the museum on a midday walk

I have no shadow. I kick at the dirt
on the road but nothing is revealed

and it is then I realize have disappeared
or maybe I never really existed.

*we are dust and shadow

—Didi Jackson

Didi Jackson is the author of Moon Jar (Red Hen Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, New England Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. After having lived most of her life in Florida, she currently lives in South Burlington, Vermont, teaching creative writing at the University of Vermont. Visit her at or @didijacksonpoet on Twitter.

The Old Man
After “Old Man Sleeping, Carmel” by Johan Hagemeyer

Meera arrived at the cafe off the piazza just before noon. She sat at one of the little metal tables in the terrace and looked around for a waiter, smoothing down her hair. Jack wasn’t there yet, but then she knew that he wouldn’t be. He was never early. 

    There was no one else outdoors, just an old man with a newspaper and a scruffy dog laying at his feet, tied to his chair with a length of rope. On his table, a bottle of wine in an ice-bucket pooled condensation and a cigarette trickled grey smoke from an ashtray. An air of loneliness hung around him like a distasteful odour. 

    A bell tinged as the door of the cafe opened and a waiter with curly black hair hurried towards her. Even under the shade of the canopy, she could feel the weight of the sun; little droplets of sweat were forming between her shoulder blades, descending down the contours of her back. The waiter handed her a menu and poured water into her glass from a silver carafe. 

    ‘Tu sei –,’

    ‘I’m waiting for someone,’ she said. 

    Her Italian was poor but the waiter seemed to understand and went back inside. The old man rustled his newspaper as a slight breeze kicked up dust in the square and carried a fragrance, musty almost, like flowers wilting in the heat. 

    Meera opened the menu but she didn’t look at it. She watched the people coming and going from the shops. An old woman with a wicker basket over her arm, a businessman in a grey suit with a mustard yellow tie – wading slowly through the bleached noonday light. She took a sip of the water which was tepid. Still, it felt delicious slipping down – it seemed to still the fluttery feeling inside of her – a feeling like a laugh caught in her throat. She felt it whenever she was with Jack, or even when she thought of him. When would he come? She rolled a small pebble around beneath the toe of her sandal, smiling to herself as she planned how they would spend the afternoon.

    After a little time, the old man got up. He snuffed out his cigarette and untied the dog, which stretched its front paws and looked up at the man with fondness.  He paused when he came to her table, smiling down at her in a constrained way, as a person might smile at a funeral. She worried he was going to ask to sit down. She could see his blotchy, wrinkled skin – the pastry crumbs caught in the course grey hairs of his beard. His body smelled stale, like something gone off.

    ‘You wait for someone?’

    ‘Yes, he’ll be here soon.’

    The old man bent down and patted his dog’s head. Then he sighed and reached inside his jacket, pulling out a folded piece of paper. He handed it to her, dabbing at his forehead with his sleeve. ‘He will not come,’ he said, and sighed again.

She looked up in surprise but the man was already moving away from her, crossing the square with his little dog, two dark shapes against the bright glare of the sun.

Danielle Charles-Davies

Danielle Charles-Davies is a freelance writer and photographer from northern Michigan. Her work has been published in Taproot Magazine, Kindred Magazine, and The Simple Things, among others. She blogs about mood-inspired cooking at


In The Light, A Love Story
A Golden Shovel*
After Tự Tâm' by Nguyễn Trần Trung Quân

The èrhú pierces the guzheng. The minstrelsy, shattered
Was never meant to play. Things end. Daybreak crowned into
Noon as if the glare wasn’t moving. As if the umbra pieces,
Evanescing, weren’t cyclical. Were permanent. The
Imminence of dawn shadowing dusk, and the wind
Is gentle to us, lover. Can you hear the soft melody? Has
The babel toppled our piety? How dare our worship be whisked
Away as if trivial. How dare the entity grieve. Go away,
Luminary, nourishing radiance in unholy sorrow, our
God has approached and departed with a promise
To return. And she, sheparded by the music, sets her boat
To the sea and descends to forgotten cities, Gliding
Past refracting light as if a star, little by little, rounding
The earth. And in the gloom, there is still light. Look up.
The sun has left herself with us. And these fragments
Will escort bodies to misremember legends of
Forefathers. They unlearn earthborn names the
Way moss veils gravestones to selfhood as if… waning?
No. Sculpting… the mountains to tether the moon.

—Daniel Crasnow

Daniel Crasnow is a multi-genre writer and scholar who recently graduated from Stetson University. He is gay and Jewish. He has been awarded a scholarship to attend the DISQUIET International Literary Program (2018) and was a resident at the DISQUIET Azores Residency (2018). His work is published in, or is forthcoming from, The Gateway Review, 30 N Literary Magazine, The Mochila Review, and more.


*“Shattered into pieces, the wind has whisked away our promise, boat gliding, rounding up fragments of the waning moon.”
—Tự Tâm, Nguyễn Trần Trung Quân

Vending Machines at Night
After the photography of Eiji Ohashi, particularly "Roadside Lights, Kutchan-town/Hokkaido"

I think they talk to each other
in a language covered in snow.
The errant pros and cons
of one high school romance or another
told in muffled squeaks and blips.
Like the blind seeing colors,
these sentinels stand guard
over our desires: imitations
manufactured to resemble
actual people, real food. The devices
we need to hold our lives together
for a few more hours.
Or until the next machine
is created that can cure us all. 

—Andrew Gent

Andrew Gent lives in New Hampshire, His first book, [explicit lyrics], won the Miller Williams Poetry Prize in 2016. He can usually be found at his website and on Twitter.

Yo Yo Oy Vey
After “OY/YO” by Deborah Kass

It’s Christmas time in Brooklyn.
My family slopes up Flatbush in a taxi,
slides by Prospect Park and around
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ triumphal arch
alighting at the eight-foot yellow YO
squatting at the mishmash gateway.

Beaux Arts granite gateway
aproned in glass on the lap of Brooklyn
and greeting us with a hip hop YO YO
splashed by swarms of yellow taxis,
auto-bees buzzing yellow, circle the arch
swimming through the slush of winter around

and again around.
We are tourists at the gateway
posing for pictures in the blazing arch
of the letter O. In Brooklyn,
almost Christmas, and travel is taxing,
But we are carefree, posers before the YO.

My sister comes the other way. OY,
the Williamsburg way around,
her Uber snaking by the line of taxis
cruising by stately gateways
in the Hasid’s side of Brooklyn,
beards and hats walk through winter to their temple arcs.

Greeting my sister, the yellow arching
Letters of an eight-foot OY
It’s all a question of approach in Brooklyn
All about which way around
A matter of perspective translates this gateway
From origin to origin. In her taxi

Drivers flow here on a river of taxi
music from around the world, arching
across oceans to get to this gateway.
Namaste, shalom, yo yo, oy vey,
Babel you hear around
from Pigtown to Spotless, the neighborhoods of Brooklyn

Where will you go from this gentrifying gateway in your yellow taxi?
Will home be Brooklyn or does here begin an American arc?
From oy vey to yo yo, will opportunity abound?

Deena Frankel

Deena Frankel is a writer, designer, and oral storyteller. She tells Moth-style stories at venues around New England including appearances on the Flynn Center mainstage and at the Boston Women in Comedy Festival. She writes poetry and creative nonfiction, paints in digital and analog media, and produces fiber arts in Burlington, Vermont.

On Keats’s “Touch Has a Memory”
After a line from“What Can I Do to Drive Away,” a poem by John Keats

We’ve awoken to dystopia, and it’s devoid of touch.

We picture a cinematic new day, ourselves emerging, squinting, from a darkened isolation into unaccustomed light. The sun of summer is almost here, but it is not light of which we’ve been deprived. It is touch. What is an equivalent gesture? Do our hands seize into fists, as a way to try to sensitize ourselves bit by bit to a no-touch universe? Do we wrap our own arms around ourselves, half-embrace, half defensive move?

Will the handshake be abandoned? I have shaken hands to say hello, to transcend gender norms, or simply to seal a deal. Gone. A handshake evolved as a means to communicate that a hand was free of a weapon. Now the hand IS a weapon.

Never mind la bise. La bise is dead.

In other days, I have laid a gentle palm upon the thighs of men I sought to seduce, or sensed their hands on me. Will that happen again? Will strangers ever be seated within an arm’s reach? How will we flirt?

Will I ever slip an arm around my students to pose for a photograph at graduation? Will such photos be sought anytime soon?

On a daily walk, I bend to pet a neighbor’s Dachshund who is straining on his leash in my direction. Or perhaps I don’t.

Shall we dance? Clearly not.

We wonder whether humans will find a workaround for their need of touch. The press of our hand to our heart as a substitute for the handshake is graceful, but isolated, a purposefully hermetic gesture. All of the tenderness of my greeting will remain in the space between my own hand and chest.

What will we do for warmth, when any pressing of flesh to flesh is gone? For unlike Keats, I am not asking for ways to kill the memory of touch. I have no wish to be that free.

Susan B. Apel

Susan B. Apel is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in various online and print publications such as the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Literary Mama, and Persimmon Tree, as well as Art New England, Boston’s The Arts Fuse, and Image Magazine. She writes regularly about the arts in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in her blog, Artful. She is an art correspondent for The Woven Tale Press and a former legal columnist for the newspaper Vermont Woman. She lives in Lebanon, NH.