Monday Feature: Bird Pong–More Ekphrasis from Michaela Kahn

Bird Pong – More Ekphrasis

I had so much fun working on the ekphrastic prose poem for last week’s blog post that I wanted to try again. I’ve used another of Leonora Carrington’s paintings, “Bird Pong.” It’s oil on canvas, painted in 1949.


Bird Pong

Celia has invented a new game. “You must tie the birds onto the paddles, Annabelle, you see?” she says, showing me her tidy Highwayman’s Hitch around the hummingbird’s leg. “Otherwise they’ll fly away.”

It’s a subtle insult, the sort I’m used to, the kind I’m meant to smile away—like the ugly partridge-shaped feather hats the courtiers have taken to wearing, or the swan consommé served at tea by a witty hostess, or the feather boas the children have taken to using for their games of tug-o-war.

And so I dutifully smile and brush my hand down over my white-feathered body, smoothing the ruffled places. When one of only six marriageable princesses in Reallia is born with feathers, the kingdom takes it as an affront to its honor. They blame me for the feathers. They blame me for never having scoured them off. (Not that I never tried. I’ve used pig-bristle brushes, silver combs, hemp rope, pumice stone and finally my own sharp nails. At thirteen I plucked myself bloody, only to have the quills poke through skin again.) Since they blame me, they take liberties. Jokes, barbs, small jibes … I’m still royal, so they are careful never to say or do anything they can’t explain away as careless oversight or loving jest. But I ask you, are a million small cuts, inflicted daily, really any better than one deep gash?

Celia explains the rules of “Bird Pong” and smacks her hummingbird down into the first wedge of the table, scoring five points. She squeals with laughter. The poor bird hangs limp at the end of her line. The children, who’ve come to see the horror, start to chant, One, two — Hummingbird fly, snap and catch the fine bright eye. Feathers whirl through the air. I gently urge my own hummingbird to fly down to the second wedge. Celia flings her bird so hard it slips the knot and crashes against the wall. Three, four – blood on the floor, chant the children. Celia reaches into the cage for a replacement bird. I pull my own up into my hand and stroke its tiny head. Five, six, Hummingbird die – snap the neck and eat its eye, the children cackle.

Through the window, in the garden, I see my sister Origina flirting with Gregor. He bends down and plucks her a cabbage rose. A giant pink one. Gregor and I were betrothed before we were born. But of course no one felt they could enforce the betrothal, not when my feathers didn’t disappear by the time I was fifteen. My father was indignant about it (he doesn’t want me on his hands the rest of my life) but he needs the goodwill of Gregor’s father Orloff. Origina puts a tiny pink-skinned hand onto Gregor’s chest.

Celia has slapped her new bird down into the next three wedges. It flutters, dazed, trying to get away. I hold my hummingbird up to my mouth and whisper to it, pull the slip on the Highwayman’s knot on its leg. It darts free, a blur of green and red, flying up, down, here, there, then it speeds off, straight at Celia’s face. Her laughter turns into a shriek.

Seven, eight, the children chant, Hummingbird Gate – in, out, over, through, better look out, its coming for you!

San Miguel of The Sanctuario de Chimayo by Cheryl Marita

San Miguel of The Sanctuario de Chimayo
Cheryl Marita

San Miguel, your colors  bright after 185 years of
 vigilance,  nurturing us as we sit beside you,
 our prayers entrusted to your judgment scales. 
Jose Aragon carved  wings to cradle you,
and we, the pilgrims who kneel in this pew at your feet, are cradled in your gaze.
I sit here craving to know  Jose’s love and devotion of two centuries ago.
I have come as a farmer in 1850 after stealing a calf from my neighbor,  my children  starving.
I have come as a mother in 1885 after burying two of my children trampled by their horse.
I have come for your blessing as a new wife, dragging my drunk husband by the collar.
I have come as a soldier, back from WW I without my leg.  I come in disgust of war and my body.
I have come as a veteran of WW II, sobbing, shell shocked, surrounded by my wife and daughters who            want me to forget, but my mind dwells with the boys who died in my trust.
I have come as a nurse from Vietnam, staring at you in hatred.  How could you allow the pain of all those  beautiful teenagers, as their shattered arms and legs were amputated?
I have come high on heroin after the gulf war, where I learned how to soften reality with a needle.
I have come as a believer, knowing you stand strong, victorious over Satan.  You can hold me up as I pray  for strength to run away, again, from the evildoer who fathered my 5 daughters.
I have come as Satan, to be close to you in combat, hoping that you are indeed stronger than the slot   machines that steal my children’s dinner.
I have come with questions and prayers, begging for a word, a sign that there is a spirit who can bolster  me in this frail humanness I bring to your feet.
I want to touch your wooden feet,
feel light from your blue wooden eyes,
hear comfort from your red wooden lips. 
I will sit in the pew and wait.
                I will come back.
I will. 

Blue Gorilla: Ekphrasis Poem by Jane Tokunaga


Blue Gorilla
Metal Sculpture, Recycled Car Door Panels
13 Ft. Tall Seating
By Don Kennell

You lounge on the hard winter ground in the Rail Yard Park,
watch the traffic on Guadalupe Street, in Santa Fe,
sit thirteen feet tall and use a busted-off yellow car door
with the City of Española insignia as an armrest,
your body is all used car door parts –blues and grey, silver and black,
riveted together into a loose patchwork,
your face crowned with baby blues– patient, alert, waiting.

What are you waiting for?
People like me soldered into their cars to break free?
A ride to the Philadelphia zoo?
They won’t appreciate you there, I can tell you,
you are a wild creature of recycled auto parts
from Espanola, the capitol city of junk cars in northern New Mexico,
you have been culled from acres of prime wrecks that are slowly
decomposing into the rust and dust of the high desert,
you have family here — the man who made you, the men who gathered your metal skin
and helped mold you together– we are good at patching folk back together here,
like the woman in Albertson’s parking lot who pounded and riveted
her busted passenger door back onto her little grey Honda
and created a work of art along the way,

We have cowboys and construction workers here, farmers, and guys who work for
state government, who transform into gorillas each weekend as they drive
their Harleys and Yamahas, tricked-out cycles and hogs
up towards Colorado or down to Las Cruces,
or just slowly up and down the Alameda.
We are strong and we accept you giant ape, just as you are,
you can stay as long as you want
and I just want a photo here–
Do you mind?
–of me and you Big Boy.


Libby Hall’s Two Poems from SITE Santa Fe

about to forget — berni searle

red, rust, smoke
clusters of people – mourners
burns and  dissolves to ash on the wind
caught in the encompassing clouds of grief
caught as clouds move over and thru the groups
Is it air or fire?
Until they appear as figures of ash
on a seared and cold landscape



Mourners gather on a hillside
Fiery clouds, burning grief
Ashes scatter in the wind
So cold, barren, lifeless

Fiery clouds, burning grief
You seem  to sleep
So cold, barren, lifeless
You’re so very cold and dead.

You seem to sleep
Where have you gone?
You’re so very cold and dead.
Not now…not now…not now!

Where have you gone?
I search your unseeing eyes
Not now…not now…not now!
Eyes of blue glacial ice

I search your unseeing eyes
Unthinkable thoughts live
Eyes of blue glacial ice
How can you be dead?

Unthinkable thoughts live
A baby’s curls, a pair of glasses, some photos
How can you be dead?
Clouds pass, winds blow, gone….gone

A baby’s curls, a pair of glasses, some photos
Mourners gather on a hillside
Clouds pass, winds blow, gone….gone
Ashes scatter in the wind.

–Libby Hall