Piece in Ekphrastic Review

Thanks to the editors at Ekphrastic for finding room for this horse piece. The subject is one I researched for my last novel, so I’m pleased it rang true. You can read all the chosen work here.


At first, they had a Mistress of the Animals, those Black Sea peoples, the plains and horse peoples of Asia Minor. They passed on their heritage from mother to daughter and they brought husbands into the maternal home. The Mistresses watched over their charges, offered grain and wine not blood, made whole, nurtured. The Mistress of the Animals was flanked by lionesses. Nurturing huntresses.

Did the horses notice the tipping of the world when the Mistress was replaced by a Master, when the lioness guardians grew wings, talons and cruel beaks? Did they feel a change in the hands that held the reins? The plains were as wide, winters as hard, but the hands, were they as gentle?

The winds that swept those antique plains swept away the tenderness. We reap the whirlwind now; horses bear heavier burdens and cruel bits. They race and jump and dance, carry children in endless circles. They obey, their eyes on the whip, noses sniffing our recycled air. There are no horse dreams in this brave new world.

Poets on the shores of the world’s fringe wrote in the sands of the foaming shallows, in the stars that march across dark hills, of how the world has changed. Utterly. We snatch at the whirling debris, listen for hoofbeats.


Visions: fiction in Ekphrastic Review

I’m pleased to have another short piece of fiction in the Ekphrastic Review.
You can read all of the poems and short stories here.


The abbess dipped her brush in the crimson and carefully dabbed in an eye. The monster winked at her. She filled in the other eye. Black pupils bored into hers, and she turned away for a moment to clear the vision. She had been gifted with visions since she was a small child and they called her Hildegard. The name had faded, but she had the visions still.

Her fingers itched to continue. Paint us. Give us life. There was more crimson needed for the demon’s tongue. The abbess added three tiny brush strokes. She had been worried that the visions were sinful, but the archbishop had encouraged her to set them down in her books. Not sinful then. But disturbing. Distressing sometimes.

She changed brushes. Ochre. The prince’s breeches. The monster’s head was between the prince’s legs. Why did he have a demon in the place of his manly parts? She sighed. An allegory possibly. Men’s urges. Though the times were reasonably calm, even if the English were still fighting one another. They had no king, hadn’t had one for as long as she could remember. And the Pope was calling for another crusade.

The abbess looked at the red-eyed monster, black, hair like serpents. Evil, but not a Saracen, she decided. They worshiped one god, not like the Heathens. They were simply fighters. It was their land after all. The men fought and the women prayed. It was the same the world over.
She thought for a moment about the Saracen women, praying, cloistered and veiled just as she was. But in their houses, fountains played in colonnaded courtyards, and birds sang in cool shaded gardens. Their husbands and fathers watched the stars and made maps of the heavens. Did their women watch too and wonder with them? She would have done, if she had been able. She hoped her Saracen-sisters did.

She had never known her own sisters. Hildegard had been given into God’s service when she was too young to remember, and her occupations had always been those of God’s handmaiden. She had been observed night and day. Protected from evil.

Green this time. The Serpent with a woman’s face. The Serpent always had a woman’s face. It was God’s will. She paused, the brush poised above the tiny puddle of verdigris, thinking of a clear desert night, a deep black sky alive with stars, a jackal howling.

In a deft movement, the hovering brush dipped instead into the oak gall ink, and the abbess gave the Serpent a neat black beard.


I wrote these two poems for the Ekphrastic prompt and didn’t send them in, thinking they probably weren’t what was required. You can read the entries here.

Kohbar of Mithila, painting by Padma Shri Sita devi. Contemporary rendition of traditional Mithila style painting. Photo by Sumanjha1991. CC BY-SA 4.0


The sun shines today

Suns shine for you today,
and the lotus root springs high and virile,

and every moment of this day and the next
for ever and ever amen, the faces will watch,

and you hope they will smile,
not at your pleasure

but at your head bowed in duty
to the tall and mighty lotus root.

Make is swell and quiver, and the sun
will beam on its sprung seed,

or cover your head in the ashes
of consumed dreams
and weep for your lost wings.

A warning

Beware of smiling faces,
of tossed wishes and showered petals,
teeth bared in smiles of complicity
and thoughts only of the coming feast.

They are not for you, child,
they are for the respecting of tradition;
your desires, your pleasure
weigh less than a feather in the balance.

You are a bride not a woman
not even an adult, a child
with no mind of her own,
no right to choose.

Pick a face (they are all the same),
wear it on this day and forever,
painted and moulded like a mask
to cover your fears and your tears.

Short story in Ekphrastic Review

The painting prompt for the Ekphrastic Review challenge was a blue horse painting by Franz Marc. Anyone who knows my admiration for Marc won’t be surprised that I was duly prompted. Lorette asked for short fiction, which is what I wrote. You can read Horse Dreams here as well as all the other entries.