DaguerreoTyped #14: Photo Prompt Ekphrastic Response by Devon Balwit

Devon Balwit responds to our monthly historical photo prompt with her poem, “Shake the men out.”


“Shake the men out”

like salt and pepper over Europe,
and finally, we are noticed,

handed a blow torch, a soldering
iron, as if we needed a tool

to flare bright indignity, to put
two and two together. Thank you

for the chance to take our heaviness
and give it wings, to rise

above tenements and soapsuds,
to tower in cirrus and cumulus.

We won’t disappoint because
we’d never betray ourselves, used

(as we are) to carrying the world,
shoulder-slung and squalling.

DEVON BALWIT lives scarily close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. She has six chapbooks and three collections out in the world. Her poems have been published in The Cincinnati Review, apt, Posit, Cultural Weekly, The Timberline Review, Fifth Wednesday, The Free State Review, and elsewhere. For more, see her website.

Each month, Alternating Current Press presents an ekphrastic challenge for writers and lovers of history: We feature a different public domain historical photograph, and ask writers to respond to it. There is no wrong answer, and no set style guidelines. Poetry, prose, hybrid, fiction or non, experimental — Anything goes that has a history bent. The best responses will be published on The Coil two months after each challenge. Check out our homepage for your chance to participate in the current DaguerreoTyped historical ekphrastic challenge, and read all of the past archives here.