DaguerreoTyped #9: Photo Prompt Ekphrastic Response

Elisabeth Kinsey responds to our monthly historical photo prompt with her flash piece, “Harbor.”


I gotta hand it to her. She left this time. I get up and notice the quiet. The couple downstairs are fightin’, but the dishes are silent in the kitchen. The whiskey bottle’s still out on the counter, and I can hear my own thoughts.

“Shirl. Shirl?” My mouth is new. “Shirl!” I open the wardrobe. Gone. Any sign of a woman’s pump or dress is missing.

I smell the daisy of her perfume.

Business as usual. That’s the right attitude. In the streetcar, my stomach growls. No breakfast or food smells, except the blond wiseguy eating a hot dog at eight a.m. I adjust my hat and clear my throat. He continues eating like he’s sittin’ in his own kitchen.

At the harbor. I look up to the eighteenth floor and imagine I see Carol, sipping her coffee with that terrible gurgle.

“Not today.” For some reason my teeth clench and I release them.

In the opposite direction, the peer veers around the water. My feet walk that way, unsure of where to follow.

I smell exhaust and dead fish and daisy. She’s stuck to my suit.

I’m halfway around the water. The city isn’t my city. Glare hits its windows. All those people don’t know who I am. I don’t owe them. I don’t owe them anything.

The water chops at some wiseguy’s sailboat. Hope it hits that tanker. Hope she’s got to Long Island by now. Or wherever she always said she wanted her goddamn dreamhouse.

Elisabeth Kinsey received two degrees in Creative Writing and is ABD in her PhD at University of Denver in Literary Studies where she is focusing on the Female Bildungsroman and Narratology. She is published in Women in Nature Anthology, Greenwoman Magazine, The Rambler, Emergency Journal, Wazee Journal, Apogee, and Literature Today. She teaches at Regis University and the University of Denver. She is probably the only person who doesn’t ski. She is working on a memoir and a Creative Nonfiction-Hybrid craft book that attempts to delineate the relationship between memoir, identity, and fiction. Find her at her website, read her blog, or find her on Twitter.

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. All work is considered for our Charter Oak Award for Best Historical and for publication in our annual Footnote: A Literary Journal of History (only if selected), and the best responses will be published on The Coil the following month. Check out our homepage for your chance to participate in the February DaguerreoTyped historical ekphrastic challenge, and read all of the past archives here.