Some Ekphrasis

A while back, I took a trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum to check out a photography exhibit and try some ekphrasis—writing about art.  Unfortunately, I neglected to write down the photographers’ names when I wrote about their photos, and a quick Google of the photograph titles came up with nothing, so all I’ve got now are some poems without the inspiration.  You’ll have to imagine what the photos might look like.

1. “He Stands As If Defying the Squalid Circumstances in Which He Lives”

As if,
as if—
as if those two words
say anything about the smell
of burnt salted herring
in the kitchen where the boy’s
mother cooks for eleven children
screaming in their wooden chairs.
The youngest will be dead
before the summer ends.
No one will notice
or care if they do.
And they will remain there in the house
that falls in pieces until
no one is left.
Smoke rises, vanishes.
The vats of pulp
make paper
soon covered in words.
And that paper too, it melts
into age, as if it would rather
be undone than record
these things.
What do we know
about a boy who stands
Only what his face can tell:
eyes, a mouth, skin.
We know his body,
and the violence done
upon it.


2. “Waiting for the Girl Show”

They pooch their plump asses
front and center
cock their hips
lazy, inviting,
clothes too tight
on pillowy thighs,
one foot forward
hands akimbo—
the men who stand
for the girls.


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