2013 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 11

For today’s prompt, we’re going to write ekphrastic poetry–or poetry based off another piece of art. In the past, I’ve provided paintings, but today, I’m picking photographs (for something a little different). You may use one of the images below or choose your own.

Sam Taylor-Wood (via The Picture)

Sam Taylor-Wood (via The Picture)

T S, "Hakuna Matata, 1" (via 1stDibs)

T S, “Hakuna Matata, 1” (via 1stDibs)

Mikola Gnisyuk, "People in Trees" (via Baibakov Art Projects)

Mikola Gnisyuk, “People in Trees” (via Baibakov Art Projects)

Robert Dawson (via Amy Jackson blog)

Robert Dawson (via Amy Jackson blog)

Here’s my attempt at an ekphrastic poem:


We looked for the people,
but they were nowhere to be found.

Their houses crumbling beside
the Red River, we checked the ground

and spotted their shadows.
They were hiding in the leaf-less

trees. They climbed higher
until they transformed into giraffes

flying through the clouds
no longer bound to the earth.


Workshop your poetry. Click to learn more.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and the type of poet who will turn to art when he’s stuck in a rut. He’s the author of Solving the World’s Problems and a former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Check out more poetic posts here:

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

276 thoughts on “2013 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 11

  1. Jezzie

    The typhoon struck as
    I cowered in the basement
    waiting for the storm to pass
    And at last
    it was all over.
    My home was in ruins.
    Of my family I had no news.
    I stood on a chair
    to get better views,
    but all I could see
    above the clouds of debris
    were men who had climbed
    to the top of the trees
    and the giraffes who still
    stood above it all.
    And I fell,
    as the chair tipped over.

  2. Glory

    All Gone

    It came from nowhere
    the fierce biting wind
    that blew and blew,
    along with rain
    throughout the day
    through the night
    until all was as if it had
    never been, only
    the sodden ground,
    the empty derelict house
    and the dead strewn across the
    muddy plane.

  3. alanasherman

    ehphrastic poem

    Approaching Storm
    (watercolor–Milton Avery)

    Wind tossing
    leaves, everything not nailed
    down is moved,
    lifted. The day
    darkens and a solid gray
    wall settles in above me.
    I sit back
    the relentless buzz
    in my ears
    drowned by trees
    clattering. A strange light takes
    over, spills in through the windows.
    We are all babies
    when storms prowl.
    Ziva’s nervous grumbling
    makes me remember
    other torrents.
    I’m happy
    to sit here despite
    what tempests bring: roses
    shaken loose, trees uprooted.
    I count the seconds
    between sound
    and flash wondering
    how long it will be until
    we can rest again.


  4. bjholmes


    Frozen in time for futures to see
    of four generations looking back
    my granddaughter, daughter, my mother, and me.

    Happiness and smiles on all our faces
    for next generations to wonder
    the thoughts we were thinking as we stood in our places.

    The hope for the future in the smallest of all,
    and arms of protection from the wisest
    surround the me and my daughter standing so tall.

    Four generations
    each with their own
    thoughts of the past, the present, and the futures unknown.

  5. seingraham


    It was the flood of the century, everyone said
    And I felt foolish at first, worrying about the zoo
    But the more I thought of the place
    built on an island, and the waters rising
    ever higher — the sicker I felt —
    But it seemed like all was well, at least
    it seemed that way until I heard about them

    Them, being the giraffes, the gangling goofy
    big, lumbering, spotted, long-necked mammals
    that have no distinctive sounds and ugly black
    snake-like tongues…They, it turns out, really
    hate change, and aren’t too fond of cold and wet
    Imagine, as I couldn’t help doing, how these
    almost domesticated ones must have felt,
    locked in their pens, with no fresh water or food
    appearing for days and days — it ended up being
    over a week — and no light at night, which they
    were used to, no human voices or touch
    which they were also used to…

    I couldn’t help picturing these gentle giants
    with their long-lashed, doe-eyed faces
    Looking so perplexed — and they can
    I’ve seen them — looking askance when
    the male lions are upset and making
    their grunting noises that can be heard
    all over the zoo; I’m betting there was lots
    of that going on, amongst other perturbed
    animal sounds…

    Did you know there are many varieties
    of giraffes in the world…and all of them
    endangered of becoming extinct?
    Some can only be found inside the pseudo
    protection of zoo enclosures
    and many cannot be found anywhere at all
    now…hunted or starved off the earth already

    In my dreams these long-legged ones
    from the flood gallop silently as if racing
    with eternity; they look peaceful.
    I get the impressions they think they’re
    winning; I hope they are…

    (inspired by T S Hakuna Matata)

  6. bjzeimer

    The Great Appalachian Migration

    It was in the forties when Ben came home
    from the war and married Nellie.
    Not wanting to spend the rest of his life

    in the coal mines, he took her and the children
    and their Uncle Roy and left West Virginia
    for Ohio. There wasn’t anyhouse waiting,

    but he loaded up everything they owned,
    anyway, along with an army tent,
    bought the last lot on the Boulevard

    on Big Darby Creek and he and Roy
    put up the tent and Nellie made a home.
    He got a job hauling concrete

    earned enough for a meager living
    and to buy concrete blocks and lumber
    a few at a time, carried water

    from the creek to mix mortar and mud
    watched the walls go up. Nellie
    sewed curtains,clothes and bed sheets,

    cooked three meals a day with
    rolled oats, potatoes, beans and apple
    butter and bread. But, on Saturday

    night, he brought home a case of beer,
    took his bow and fiddle down
    from the wall. Roy played the jug.

    Nellie and the girls did the
    Hillbilly Stomp ‘til the floorboards shook,
    and none of them ever looked back.

  7. Amy

    Of the Trees

    We are extremities of our environment;
    products of our place.
    We dangle from the intrinsic notion
    that we will always belong


    No matter how far we stray,
    how scattered we become.

    I am a leaf, pitched across
    the rolling miles;
    cast from palpable roots.
    But I still feel the genuine pull;
    I still hear the warbling whistle,
    calling me home to


  8. Yolee

    Times Square Kiss
    The fine sailor kisses
    the girl in white with his
    hands, arms and mouth.

    She is a hostage to fortune
    pinned to his home
    sickness, coming and land.

    The city folk sandwiched between their hot soup.

  9. Yolee

    Times Square Kiss

    The fine sailor kisses
    the girl in white with his
    hands, arms and mouth.

    She is a hostage to fortune
    pinned to his home
    sickness, coming and land.

    The city folk on sandwiched between their soup.

  10. dandelionwine


    As people in trees,
    as leaves of light,
    we inhabit a vertical world
    first to embrace the sun,
    and in blazing brilliance,
    last to let go.

    (in response to Mikola Gnisyuk’s “People in Trees”)

  11. julie e.


    There are things she understands
    like, he must have the upper hand
    and final words are always his
    that’s just the way it is
    There are things she believes more
    like there’s no point in keeping score
    and in a marriage when you choose
    to win, you both will lose
    She’s getting to a better place
    and finding balance, seeking grace
    she looks for things to fill her cup
    and keeps on growing up
    But some things she will never get
    like why her love can’t cover it
    and help his broken soul to mend
    maybe someday when

    she can hover in midair
    and not think twice of being there
    when people grow on sapling trees
    swaying in the breeze
    when giraffes grow up to the sky
    and duck their heads as planes pass by
    that’s when she will comprehend
    maybe then.

  12. deringer1


    His skin is bronze and his hair is white.
    I gaze at his portrait every night
    and wonder who he is.

    White mustache and beard define the face–
    his smile is faint, but just a trace
    of humor shows.

    Above all, though, it is the eyes
    that fascinate. They seem so wise
    and yet inscrutable.

    Those dark eyes seem to follow me
    and I can’t solve the mystery
    that graces my wall.

  13. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    The House

    I always wanted
    a little house by the seashore —
    a house with a red roof,
    a house built up on stilts
    to make a cellar underneath,
    big windows in every wall,
    so I could look out
    at the billowing sea
    and the grass on top of the cliff.

    I always wanted
    a house on top of a cliff,
    overlooking the sea.
    And somewhere back from the edge,
    behind it, there must be
    acres of thick rainforest.
    Maybe this house
    is somewhere in North Queensland,
    in a space I haven’t found.

    Poor house,
    is it waiting for me?
    When I built it in dreams,
    did it grow up fully formed?
    How long has it waited
    there on the edge of the cliff
    with the ocean below
    and the forest behind,
    The Green Grass of Home underfoot?

    Poor house,
    it has waited too long; it has crumbled.
    I never went and found it
    and now I am old.
    The roof has lost its paint.
    The steps to the front door
    are falling away,
    and the door itself is gone.
    The wind blows through.

    Perhaps it is not too late.
    Perhaps one night,
    in the middle of a dream,
    I may rise;
    I may follow a path
    through wilderness,
    guided by clouds.
    With love, the old waiting house
    restored, will welcome me in.

    In view of the recent poetry plagiarism scandals in Australia, let me point out that the reference to ‘The Green Grass of Home’ is an intentional allusion to a nostalgic song. (Although in that case, the word ‘green’ is repeated.)

  14. shanezie


    Too long spent in trees
    leaves the people’s minds rotten;
    leaves a home forgotten
    and decrepit. The people stand in trees,
    faceless above the freeze. They stare
    at snow to see the ice unending. They glare
    at what once was home, with heads
    lifted like giraffe, they see the dead
    land where the sea receded. The maelstrom leaves
    the home a rusty shell. The people refuse to leave
    their trees. They are safe in
    their trees. They remember when
    the girl froze to the walls of their home.
    She could not make it to the trees, so they left her alone
    to swim forever in shadow on their walls.
    Her memory recalls
    a time when home was home, before
    grass grew in to carpet a rotten floor,
    before the swallowing sea swept in and they were
    forced to leave for trees to see above the sea. Sure,
    the ice has long since thawed and the swallowing sea
    receded. Sure, they know that they must seek
    the mountain seen above the trees, but
    the people refuse to leave their trees. What-
    ever waits beyond the sea below the trees
    requires belief, and the people refuse
    to believe. How can they choose
    to leave behind the safety of their skeletal leafless trees?

  15. JRSimmang

    I was away from the computer yesterday. Sometimes, it’s nice.
    So, in order to catch up, here’s my ekphrastic, inspired from La Sagrada Familia, located in Barcelona, Spain, and quite possibly one of the greatest devotions to God on the planet.



    I grew up
    with the Lord’s prayer.
    To see the
    words, inscribed
    in everlasting metal,
    I change my Amen.

    -JR Simmang

  16. Amanda Oaks

    The History of Love Between One Kiss Lock Closure
    After Red Purse, a painting by Vladimir Kush.

    We hung open like a jaw waiting to be threaded
    to our belly. It was winter. There were not enough workers
    to fill the third shift so the factory would close down
    just before midnight. All the underpaid seamstresses
    filed out to their warm beds & we were left to shiver
    through the night. I would count the minutes until sunrise
    just to see your face before you opened your eyes.

    I would have done just about anything
    to kiss the cold condensation
    off your cheeks.

    The day she stitched us to our blood-red
    body, she was trying to hold back her tears.
    Something about finding a paper trail
    to his infidelity. Credit card receipts,
    ATM withdrawals, a cell phone bill.
    She missed a stitch out of sorrow.
    Lined our guts up all crooked.
    She left her broken-hearted fingerprints
    inside & out. They lived forever
    in all of our corners.

    The first time we kissed
    we were all arms.
    Fumbled into each other
    with too much friction.
    Time would smooth us over
    & time was all we had.

    We actually believed that nothing
    would ever come between us.
    We were all tight embrace
    beneath the slick wrap of resilience
    that new love so often brings. Promises
    were made the night before Thanksgiving
    but we knew what was coming.

    We knew.

    Black Friday:

    Their hands were earthquakes.

    We split open at our fault line
    for the first time in over a year.
    Aftershock after aftershock after aftershock
    we held onto each other. Determined
    to make it through

    until he chose us.

    Had us wrapped right at the counter.
    We left the mall riding under his arm.

    I looked at you & said,
    Here we go, love, here we go.

    We waited under the red & green glow
    of the tree, through their argument
    after Christmas Eve dinner, boxed-up
    & priming our lips for her hands.

    The first time she took us out was on a weekend trip.
    Her cousin was getting married. That little black dress.
    We sat quivering on her thighs all the way through dinner.
    We were almost forgotten on a barstool after
    too many drinks— just to be thrown
    across the hotel room floor
    before they made love
    on the sheets.

    She loved us. She did.

    But she shoved every godforsaken thing
    between us. Our body— fat with too many pennies,
    scrunched up tissues, the too-heavy key set
    with four keys & six key rings. That horrific perfume
    that would make you sneeze. The too-tall wallet
    she would cram into us. Sometimes our arms
    wouldn’t touch for days .

    The hairbrush: a bed of nails.

    That time she was all rush
    & threw in an uncapped pen,
    blackening our souls.

    The night she was mugged, the police found us
    across the street in an alleyway. I will never forget
    the sound of her heart pounding against us
    before her attacker snatched & fished around
    in our insides, the blood charging through his veins
    rattled with desperation.

    When her granddaughter ripped us down one side
    she was out of breath with fear as she folded us
    in half & pushed us to the back of dark drawer.
    Why she chose to leave us apart, I’ll never know
    but that was the first day of our 30 year separation.

    The first years were the hardest. I heard you
    crying night after night & I knew, I knew
    the rust would have to be brushed from our limbs.
    I knew our reunion would not be smooth.
    We sat inches from each other unable to touch.
    After awhile, there was nothing but silence between us.
    We had no words left to exchange. We told & retold
    all our stories. We prayed for a natural disaster,
    a clutter-free purge, a new job, a loving set of hands,
    her death.

    Until the day time settled down into us
    just enough so we were able to reach
    each other’s finger tips. Lightning bolts.
    Tidal waves. A fuckin’ tornado of hope
    raced through all of our stitch holes.

    The day they moved our prison cell
    to the other side of the room,
    they never removed the drawers.
    His back was out for a week.
    Stupid assholes.

    When she died, they all came
    to help him clean out the house.
    The air was so thick with sad chaos
    that we choked on it through our pleas,
    though our begging that one of them
    would would find heart enough to snap us
    back together.

    We hoped that the tear down our trunk
    would be passed over by all those eyes
    swamped in grief. We wondered
    if we would be deemed decent enough
    to escape the landfill.

    Our first kiss back together
    was full of thorns. We aged apart.
    Our kind’s worst nightmare.

    Our thrift store stint
    was like a second honeymoon.
    We spent the rest of our days kissing.
    Prying fingers came & went
    & came & went— searching
    for loose change, love notes,
    tiny treasures that our heart
    could no longer hold.

    We swam in that bin fully present,
    dreaming of nothing
    but each other.

    Every morning, we would admire
    our imperfections. We would thank
    each & every one of them aloud
    for keeping us

    We laughed at the attraction
    holding together the magnetic locks—
    oh that young love. We watched
    how they fought too hard
    to stay together— how they
    held on too tightly
    until they ripped their seams

  17. Other Mary

    I continue to be fashionably late, but here it is:

    We cling to the familiar,
    to what we know,
    long after we know
    it no longer serves us,
    no longer is true.

    We cling to the familiar,
    because we have done this
    for so long,
    to pry our fingers away is painful.
    Our hands are adhered,
    seared to the surface
    of the obsolete.
    And in tearing them away
    we leave
    raw, bloody layers
    of ourselves

    We cling to the familiar,
    because we do not know
    what else to cling to,
    and the thought
    of empty hands,
    of free falling,
    with nothing to hold on to
    terrifies us.

    We cling to the familiar,
    because we know it,
    because imagining something else,
    something new,
    is hard,
    and we are lazy.
    We resist when we can simply cling
    to the familiar.

    So we do.
    We cling to the familiar
    long after
    it has become

    And it’s also on my blog here:

  18. Tracy Davidson

    To Van Gogh, On Viewing ‘Sunflowers’

    Were you happy
    in your yellow period
    among sunflowers
    before the blues took hold
    and turned your mind to black?

    Did the vibrancy
    of those petals cheer you,
    their showy heads
    full of life and a joy
    you could only dream about?

    Did you dare dream
    that this simple still life
    would be famous,
    that your name would be known
    and praised for centuries?

  19. MichelleMcEwen

    Falling Apart

    I am drawn to things
    falling apart

    like boys with broken 
    hearts like 

    tattered quilts like wind
    battered screen doors like

    boots with the heels worn
    down like an overcoat

    on its last leg like blue
    notes like the shanty house 

    down by the river
    with the singing 


    *Inspired by the Dawson photo

  20. Cin5456

    Sorry for posting late. Drove over 450 miles today, and it’s still Monday in Calif.


    I came to see Old Sequoia,
    found him betrayed, apathetic.
    His beard and mustache drooped
    in an Entish way. He said the air
    and the water poisoned his Earth,
    his life as with all life, suffering
    Man’s legacy of pain.
    In deep contemplation he told of
    the ill-health of Life on Earth,
    devastated, soon dangerous.
    I approached in compassion
    to stroke the frown he wore.
    I sought to bring hope, lift
    his worn spirits. I related
    recent sights in my travels.
    But, if a being of solid wood,
    rooted to the earth could
    cry, I would have seen.
    I spoke of walking back country lanes,
    hiking in tall places, my visits
    with Natural Gaia. Not the least
    relieved of his lethargy, he related
    the state of his wood,
    and the poisons seeping
    in his sap, creeping,
    into his leaves,
    settling into his veins.

    This was known to me.

    At the confluence
    of southern rivers, we fished.
    We heard high pitched squeals.
    An Amazon River dolphin bobbed
    in the waves, beak pointed skyward.
    I asked why he cried. His reply
    tightened my throat; my chin wobbled.
    He led me to a sea change, where
    black water pollution met
    thick, silted brown runoff,
    at the confrontation of two rivers.
    His high pitched scream was
    his appeal to all the powers
    for justice, but he had
    no hope of answer.

    Photo 1: http://i.imgur.com/W8QUz96.jpg
    Photo 2: http://i.imgur.com/aVT6Itg.jpg

  21. cholder

    inspired by Robert Dawson photo

    decrepit domicile of a forgotten era
    blighted by the sea
    testimant to time
    rhetorician of antiquity decide
    bleak beauty
    rusty relic

  22. cholder

    inspired by Roberty Dawson photo

    battered ruins of a forgotten era
    blighted by the sea
    a testimant to time
    rhetorician of antiquity decide
    bleak beauty
    rusty relic

  23. Broofee

    Suicide forest or revolt

    This Mikola guy
    Made a photo that I’m supposed
    To cover with a poem.
    Black and white forest
    With people in the trees.
    It looks as if they
    Hung themselves
    Fed up, I guess
    With life.

    I guess I’m being overly
    But that’s not my fault.

    The Philippines,
    The suicide bombings,
    The school shootouts
    All that you read in the news
    Is it making you feel positive about life?

    Another family losing their house to a bank
    Another old lady without enough money for food
    Even two workers that got hurt cause
    Their asshole boss sent them to do construction work
    During a storm.

    That’s all there is,
    At least all I notice
    When I open the news
    And then this Mikola guy’s photo
    Comes along
    And desperation is all I can think of
    Bunch of desperate people fed up with all of this.

    Everyone complains
    Life is hard today
    More than ever
    So what are we to do?
    Hang ourselves in suicide forest
    Like they already have in Japan
    Or maybe
    Just maybe
    Start a revolt
    Take matters in our own hands
    And stand up for ourselves like those workers
    In Chicago
    All those years ago.

  24. Broofee

    Suicide forest or revolt

    That’s all there is,
    At least all I notice
    When I open the news
    And then this Mikola guy’s photo
    Comes along
    And desperation is all I can think of
    Bunch of desperate people fed up with all of this.

    Everyone complains
    Life is hard today
    More than ever
    So what are we to do?
    Hang ourselves in suicide forest
    Like they already have in Japan
    Or maybe
    Just maybe
    Start a revolt
    Take matters in our own hands
    And stand up for ourselves like those workers
    In Chicago
    All those years ago.

  25. Jacqueline Hallenbeck

    – after Sam Taylor-Wood (via The Picture)

    I don’t envy her beauty, her youth or her hair
    but the way she balances herself on that chair.
    I am not one to moan (must avoid the Lord’s wrath).
    She most likely hit the floor in the next photograph.

  26. bethwk

    People in Trees

    At the start of it we traveled through a fat mist,
    a couple dozen of us in the thick soup,
    and all was silent except for the light drip
    all around from leaf to leaf,
    and our footsteps on the ground,
    and then the huff and shuffle of our breath
    as we sped faster through the trees.

    It was not fear that drove us on,
    I know that now. Nor just the thrill
    of what we knew must come. Still,
    on we moved, and faster, through the birches.

    And then the murmurs of the others,
    the shift and scrape of feathers
    and the whoosh of the wind,
    and we were flying, a body of starlings,
    twisting and whirling as one through the trees.
    Like separate atoms of one single bird
    we flew through the morning
    and into the day.

  27. Domino

    Not Quite a Wreck

    It’s a patchwork house,
    surprisingly sound,
    though it looks like a relic
    of things lost and found.
    The roof is on piecemeal
    with patches and bits
    of rust covered metal
    and not so much glitz.
    It’s tattered and holey
    and looks quite a wreck
    but the glass in the windows
    are whole, without fleck.
    The paint job is lacking,
    the wood bare and free,
    and somehow remarkably
    reminds me of me.

  28. Jerry Walraven

    “Ghost in You”
    (Veterans Day 2013)

    These souls
    climb barren trees
    on their way to heaven,
    wondering why these last moments
    tethered to the Earth
    are as difficult
    as the field
    where they lost their lives.
    Then one steps on a branch
    which breaks
    under earth bound weight
    as it lands,
    it sprouts as a child
    carrying his name
    Weightless now,
    he feels the tree
    fall away
    and Earth

  29. carolecole66

    The Dark

    My doppelganger showed herself
    shadowed on the wall only
    when I sang or slept or felt
    my spirit slipping through
    the looking glass. This day
    she so enthralled me that I leapt,
    arms out wide embracing her.
    The careful trappings of a careful life
    toppled, and for one breathless moment
    I hung suspended there, not knowing
    if this earthly gravity would send me
    crashing to the floor
    or I would finally fly.

  30. Mywordwall


    There was nowhere to hide
    there was nowhere to run
    so they escaped upwards
    of whatever’s hunting them down
    there was fear
    there was hope
    there was anticipation of what they’d see
    they climbed higher and higher
    until they reached heaven
    and they were free.

    ~A poem inspired by Mikola Gnisyuk’s, “People in Trees”

  31. Julieann

    Since today is Veteran’s Day – I thought of planes flying in and above the clouds for cover. Salute to our brave men and special breed of people from WW2.

    Doolittle’s Raiders

    Heads high above the clouds
    Beauty unequaled
    On a deadly mission of

  32. mjdills

    it was time that melted
    while you spoke
    in smoky drones;
    redwine smudged your teeth
    and bluesky turned to black;
    i crept
    like a mouse
    (some might say rat)
    my small ear cocked in the direction of your murmurs…
    just to know
    (before the candles were blown out…)
    the chances, luck, the secrets of our destiny.
    my shadow slid against the wall
    and one of you said
    “did you hear something?”
    and the other said
    “it’s nothing”
    as if I wasn’t there…

    to see the photo of which this poem is based, go to my blogsite at:

  33. Sara McNulty

    Learning To Fly

    I turned to tango
    when jaded with jazz
    freestyle dancing,
    and ended the prim
    poses of balanced
    ballet. Seeking to soar,
    to leave the floor, if merely
    for a magic-carpet moment,
    I tight-roped across tops
    of chairs, which I now nudge
    with tips of toes, the white
    wall stained with the strain
    of my shadow.

  34. Benjamin Thomas

    The Art of Balance

    inspired by Sam Taylor-Wood (via The Picture)

    The art of balance a gift
    of poise, vision, and sense

    A harmonious synchrony
    of bone, muscle, nerve

    In blatant defiance
    of the laws of gravity

    And master of equilibrium
    Any movement is possible

  35. Benjamin Thomas

    Hiding Place

    inspired by (Robert Dawson photo via Amy Jackson blog)

    Some people push away memories
    Into abandoned shacks
    Bawdy and riddled with age

    There resides the rotting shadows
    Residue of forgotten reality
    Moldy remnants that never fully dissipate
    A storage house of pain not too far from us


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.