Two Ekphratic Poems

Greenland by Judith Appleton ©2014 Judith Appleton

Greenland by Judith Appleton
©2014 Judith Appleton

Land of Ice

Hyperborean form—frosted
by pastels, disturbed by shadow
strands—calls unending dusk-dawn
in sacred colors. An indeterminate
matrimony desires fire inside
a wood cabin, order restored
where upheaval emerges
from swells against the sky.
Yet, the stroked shape and
blended palette structure
a syntax of blood, a semantics
of nerves inflaming lonely
twilit-snow, liminal moments
of memory with promises of
maize-tinted nourishment,
hope from the midnight sun.


Dead Sea Cave by Judith Appleton ©2014 Judith Appleton

Dead Sea Cave by Judith Appleton
©2014 Judith Appleton

A Philosophy of Stone

Aleph-tav—alpha-omega—as an inception
of mud swells along architectonic vaults
and girdles a basalt grotto-door that swivels
from a face adumbrated by place. Luster
and umbra texture worlds, lambent reality
perceived as words over matter. Perhaps
here we contrive Plato’s trace, a slight hint
of volcanic certainty steaming out of grasp.

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Flash Surrealism

Programming cultural DNA

The troglodyte tree emerged from its cave exactly when three lights lit the evening sky on the New Moon that fell before the birth-month of mother owl. Just a hatchling of course, in her first month, and a growth to maturity away from motherhood—but she arrived in the world as an archetype of herself. The tree prepared nesting branches, anticipating need layered behind an urge, urgently rooting its words to the future. A dance of hikers climbed out of the wadi, cars lost in gloom when the sunset faded, but they failed to notice the rhymed shout of the waddling crow or the emergent present of a deciduous hermit. Shadows slid like blackhole-mercury over rocks to escape the leaden footfalls, but caught the corners of eyes just enough to pull at small fears caught in past anxiety. Branches snapped in bushes to the counter-rhythm of hikers’ hearts as the circadian cycle wheeled around the corner into mythic headlamps. The schism parts a sea of rock that waved out from the mud under great heat and pressure, a rift that shifts semantic considerations into syntactic synapses sparkling with possibility. The owl mother raises her brood in the arms of the old woman while the dark ink-stains test the psychological nature of night in Rorschach irregularity. The hikers dream strange narratives disrupted by correspondence to rather than with, while the flight of lava spans only a second of memory, seconded by the sergeant-at-arms who grew tired of standing at attention. The rhetor no longer senses anything and begins to tongue language into a frenzy of aurora borealis framed by a moonless expanse above a dwindling plain, matted with a white foam of stars. Thus, a scroll, parchment from a cracked amphora, unrolls a story about raptor rapture, tree delight, and generations of sublime song—a cultural blueprint that makes us (again).

Cultural DNA ©2015 Michael Dekel

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Flash Fiction

Why she was late for dinner… Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

Why she was late for dinner…
Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

 Why she was late for dinner…

A bag falls to the sidewalk, glass shatters, wine spills—a ghost woke and walked by her, a forgotten moment now scented by shiraz evaporating on hot cement. These days she simply shrugs off such occurrences—hidden minutes pour out along her path wherever she goes, a seam split in a pair of too tight jeans, she supposes, a transcribed protocol. The specter turns, grins at her, a hungry leer that imagines he knows her sexual desires but reveals by its grimace that he remains clueless even about his own fantasies. He would try to turn her brown eyes blue, given the chance to experiment on her. He turned into the middle of the street and disappeared as though around a corner. She looked at the splashes of maroon around her. A painting fell out the window of the third floor of an apartment building, tumbling end over end, revealing Rorschach images in light green before cracking on the short garden wall near the entrance and bouncing to a stop at her feet, where the canvas absorbed the wine stains. Port-wine birthmarks stain her inner thighs just where the smooth skin begins to tingle when she wants to kiss a lover. She picks up the bag, carefully sliding the broken shards back in, and throws it out in a trash receptacle on the corner. With her hands empty, she calls to explain that she will arrive late for dinner. When she enters a liquor store to buy more wine, she meets an old girlfriend. Her friend tells her that she had died in a car accident a few months before and recommends the merlot—mellower than the shiraz. Dinner turns out well, a warm meal with good company and lots of laughter. She doesn’t tell anyone that she sees the past dancing in the shadows, the present always remains a bit out of focus, and the voices speaking to her and only her come from the future. She just appreciates the mellowness.

Wine Bottles 4 Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

Wine Bottles 4
Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

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Yesterday—a poem of remembrance


in Pansy Bradshaw’s memory, may it be for a blessing
for gary, as he grieves

Parents of an infant girl
prayed in thanks at the Kotel
after so many years believing
they “didn’t merit” a child—
the weather nice, reasonably
warm for October.

Bradley Shaw z''l aka Pansy Bradshaw Selfie ©2014

Bradley Shaw z”l
aka Pansy Bradshaw
Selfie ©2014

                                 At the light
rail stop an angry man turned
the wheel and sped his car
into people waiting.

The three-month old girl
sprang into the air when
the car her stroller struck.
But she did not land—
only her clothes fell down
like white, dropped petals
on the table-cloth.

An old man-nanny
fell for her, in Montana
I think it was. His body
collapsed to earth. His
spirit grabbed hers. He
carried her into the sky
as his brain bled for her.

Digital art from Michael Dickel-selfie by Pansy Bradshaw ©2014 Bradley Shaw z''l

“appwerk” from selfie I sent Pansy z”l
Digital art by Pansy Bradshaw ©2014

He turned blue, grew
wings and flew—a
violin under his chin.
A goat standing on
the roof of a yellow
shed saw.

           A small red bird
rested on his shoulder,
the air filled with color—
speckled bubbles,
sefirot of an artist’s
imagination contracting
and expanding to burst.

The weather was nice
for October and his love
for children too great to let
her fall. It was the only
thing that he could do,
one last painting that
he wanted to give you.

"kafka past warhol..." ©2014 Pansy Bradshaw z''l

“kafka past warhol…”
©2014 Pansy Bradshaw z”l

Bradley Shaw, aka Pansy Bradshaw was a writer and artist—I had published his poetry as co-editor of Voices Israel (36) 2010 and participated in a project where he did his “appwerk” art with a selfie I sent him (shown higher up in this blog). He worked as a nanny to make his living. I’d met him briefly once when visiting our mutual friend, gary lundy, in Dillon, MT, but most of our friendship came through email and FaceBook. He died 23 October 2014, after collapsing and suffering a brain hemorrhage. This poem is for Pansy’s memory, and for gary as he grieves the loss of his friend, his love. The photo and “appwerk” / artwork on this page are copyrighted—©2014 Bradley Shaw / Pansy Bradshaw—with rights reserved for his estate and may not be copied or reproduced without express permission of his estate. Chaya Zissel Braun, a 3-month old infant, was killed on 22 October 2014, when a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem drove his car into people waiting at a light rail stop near East Jerusalem. 

Mourner’s Kaddish

The following is a Jewish prayer (Pansy was Jewish), in Aramaic, said by those mourning to memorialize the dead. Its text praises and celebrates Creation and does not mention death or an after world. It does ask that the Creator make Peace for the world.

Mourner's Kaddish

Mourner’s Kaddish
Click image
for English transliteration and translation


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Poem: It wasn’t the sharks

During stormy weather and when it was clear…<br /> digital art ©2014<br /> Michael Dickel

During stormy weather and when it was clear…
digital art ©2014
Michael Dickel

It wasn’t the sharks

I lost myself, drowning in waves of sunshine and fear.
During stormy weather and when it was clear,    I dove
underwater to stay out of sight—that is, until sharks came
that one lonely night.   They struck at my legs  and  I knew
I couldn’t walk. They struck at my throat and I wouldn’t talk.
They drank from  my blood  and pissed in my  beer,    but it
wasn’t the sharks that I came to fear          while    drowning
in waves of sunshine and fear. It isn’t the sharks that I fear.

The sun burnt my skin, so I dove in:      the waves drove
the fear   into my heart;   the deep     left me    gasping
where there wasn’t any air; the sand tumbled round
me like I was some rock.   But I was not   a boulder,
nor some small stone—I was just a bit of flotsam
floating alone. Sailors didn’t notice me. Fish
couldn’t see. Then the rhythm of the waves,
blues of sea, captured me that fateful day.

It wasn't the sharks that I feared digital art ©2014 Michael Dickel

It wasn’t the sharks that I feared
digital art ©2014
Michael Dickel

The winds began to blow, you’ve heard it
before, how water rose into a horrible roar,
how the pounding surf shattered the shore,
how cliffs shifted out of the way, and more, all
disappeared into the abyss, all on that hateful day—
the day I dove down and the sharks were not there,
the day I dove down    faced demons   in a mirror,
the day I dove down    and lava         began to flow—

—from the mouth of a poet,    from a singer’s body,
lava does not flow. The cracks in the crust opened
below the floor of the sea      when the waves rose
and I decided to stop singing,    to write no more
words when that fateful day tore   into my soul
and showed me what I feared,     that monster
knocking on the door.   It wasn’t    the sharks
that I feared, that wasn’t my plight. I feared

So I dove in digital art ©2014 Michael Dickel

So I dove in
digital art ©2014
Michael Dickel

the bite of my own teeth      into the flesh
of the sea—   the sea     that tossed me
from continent to continent,    the sea
that lost me      when I couldn’t get it,
the sea that taunted me         to play
in the surf,   to linger awhile,    while
its riptide did its worst—that I would
tear it apart and have no more excuse.

It wasn’t the sharks that I feared, or the sea
crashing around.    I found      that I was afraid
without excuses     I would be saved from myself
and would succeed at last   in being,          just being,
if only for a day. That’s what I learned that particular
way, being stuck in the water, drowning in the sand,
finding my way back        where there once had been
land. It wasn’t the sea or the sharks, it was just me.

The winds began to blow, you’ve heard it before, how water rose into a horrible roar, how the pounding surf shattered the shore… digital art ©2014 Michael Dickel

The winds began to blow, you’ve heard it
before, how water rose into a horrible roar,
how the pounding surf shattered the shore…
digital art ©2014
Michael Dickel

The day I dove down and the sharks were not there… digital art ©2014 Michael Dickel

The day I dove down and the sharks were not there…
digital art ©2014
Michael Dickel

It wasn’t the sea or the sharks, it was just me. digital art ©2014 Michael Dickel

It wasn’t the sea or the sharks, it was just me.
digital art ©2014
Michael Dickel


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Flash Fiction: Moshe’s House in Space

Sand-filled abandoned house

“These sands end time here, the last to flow through the hour glass…”

The following flash fiction responds to a prompt (the photo above) from the Short Story and Flash Fiction Society, for their second flash fiction contest; the story is 392 words, not counting the title (or this blog-post introduction). Moshe is our son’s name, he is three (almost four), and some of the story did come from bits and pieces of stories he tells us. Moshe is a Hebrew name (משה) that in English is Moses. Despite all of this, the story is completely fictional. We have not, as yet, met Pollaydowen. The story:

Moshe’s House in Space

Before, no sand swept through, no water splashed—a beach at driving distance, yes, but a long, long walk away. Before the three-year old’s stories, which I only half listened to: he was born in clouds before dinosaurs were alive; he died; “But now,” he said, “I’m becoming alive again.”

I remember a story he told me one morning. I thought it came from his dreams.

He told me he knew a dinosaur with bright blue feathers and skin in the day. At night, he said, it turned wooly and gray, to keep warm. The dinosaur had a name, Pollaydowen. I thought, what an amazing imagination my three-year old son has, what colorful dreams.

He had other stories, about his house in space and all of the animals that lived there with him. How he had a farm at this house. He went on and on with details—listing every animal we saw at the zoo, on farm visits, in books, on videos, on the internet; listing all of the plants and flowers he had heard of; listing creatures great and small in his lakes and seas. How did he know all of them?

He insisted we should visit his house in space.

Then changes came suddenly, not slowly, as even the most pessimistic predictions held. One day news report said the sea covered beaches even at the lowest tides. The next week, waves washed across roads. Houses washed away. Whole neighborhoods could barely evacuate before the surf swallowed them.

The water washed sand over everything. The ozone layer shredded. Paint bubbled and peeled on cars, houses, government buildings. Everything and everyone aged.

Sand dunes blew across where a road had run in front of our house. The house looked like fifty years of neglect.

The last day, my wife and I heard my son speaking in his room. And another voice.

We went in. A bright blue flash turned toward us.

“We have to go,” my three-year old calmly explained, “now.”

“These sands end time here, the last to flow through the hour-glass,” the blue lizard-creature, Pollaydowen, added.

As we left the house, we trekked through hills of sand.

We returned once, to see what had happened. I left this note for you, scratched in the walls, just in case anyone remains. We have an ark.

Ark-2 Digital Art from photos and sidewalk chalk

Digital Art from photos and sidewalk chalk
©2014 Michael Dickel


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Leonard Cohen turns 80

Aviva and I were married in June, 2007, in Jerusalem. I began this poem a week after the wedding, although it still perhaps is not yet finished. On the occasion of Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday and the release of his latest album, Popular Problems, though, I am posting the current iteration (Popular Problems can be ordered on iTunes). Happy birthday, Rav Cohen. #LeonardCohen80

The Uninvited Poet


We invited Leonard Cohen to our wedding, but never sent the engraving.
So he arrived on a bright plastic disc in the car and the band played Hallelujah
near the end of the evening.


                                                      Did I mention that the view from the promenade
swept over the wooded valley of a monastery near an Arab village
to the walls of the Old City perched above?


                                                                                   On the crest of a hill on another
the separation wall snakes its way along indifferently.


Aviva’s ginger hair framed her face, a picture frame around us both,
as the photographer played postmodern. We stuck out our arms
through the frame, and it made us laugh so hard tears came to the eyes
of the crowd.


                          A father, a brother, two daughters, a mother accompanied
us to the Chupa. Aryeh danced, celebrating life, as did Mordechai, born
Michael, now a soldier. Rivkah and Julia joined Ya’el to move in a line
around us as we danced, husband and wife, for the first time,
in the Taverna on the Tayelet in Jerusalem.


                                                                                     The guests all sang Hallelujah.


Perhaps an old monk would have come, a poet may have greeted us
warmly, his voice deep and laugh full-throated.


                                                                                           Seven blessings later,
after we’d swum in the Mediterranean Ocean, our bodies rose in waves.
I hope that you are happy, whoever you are that reads these few lines
scrawled at the beach.


                                            Aviva and I threw out the flowers my daughters
arranged so nicely. The petals started to fall; the water had begun to turn.
The memory lingered—well it was only a week, then—of how beautiful they
were, but the thought lasts forever.


                                                                    Jazz plays in some dark bar
and we sway to the rhythms we call love, but the musician knows it is
the poet who came as the wedding guest we never invited.


my good friend, Mr. Cohen—though we’ve never met, should you have
felt the urge that June to attend a wedding in Jerusalem, then now I
invite you to come play us a tune.

Digital image / art of Leonard Cohen

Happy 80th Birthday, Leonard Cohen



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