#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Two. To celebrate the launch of my new poetry collection “As Folktaleteller” I am downloading 93 folklore art images, 3 per day in October and asking writers to write poetry or a short prose inspired by one, two or all three images. Please join Gaynor Kane, Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, Kyla Houbolt, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, Chris Husband, Eryn McConnell, Dave Garbutt, Merril Smith and I, plus those who react to the images on the day, as we explore images from folktales.

F 1.2 Faes Riders_of_th_Sidhe_(big)
F 1.2 Faes Riders_of_the_Sidhe_

F 2.2. Earth Spirits Gnomes Heinrich_Schlitt_Gnom_mit_Zeitung_und_Tabakspfeife
F 2.2. Earth Spirits Gnomes

F 3.2 _La_llorona__de_mandera The Weeping Woman

F 3.2 _La_llorona__de_mandera The Weeping Woman


The Aos Sí ride out

They left the holy ground to walk
the mortal earth, their voices like
the wind, and starlight on their brow.
From hollow hills with stony sills,
from blackthorn, among rowan rings,
they ride the night, eyes piercing bright,
and what they seek is at my breast.

Sleep quiet, little one of mine,
the fairy folk ride storm and tide,
their horses foam-maned, tread the waves.
Be still, I hear their voices call,
you listen, gold that calls to gold,
and I can only hold you tight
and hide your brightness with my hair.

-Jane Dougherty

Timeless They Ride

I find I cannot open the sun.
People cut off their hearts
to try to stay clean. But I remember
a time when my feet would sink
into the earth while walking quite
firm upon it, and along with
the things of the day I would also be
companied by graver splendors,
visible as mist or as sudden
horses a-sparkle. They would not
speak to me but this one phrase:
Farewell. Welcome. They gave it
a tune. It put me to sleep then.
Now, waking, I see them again.

-Kyla Houbolt (inspired by F.1.2.)

Each minute the old battle

Steaming the flanking sea
and its withers. Nine waves maning.
A cauldron sounds its bell, empty
and washing ashore: each note a hollow
of bone and rising its judgement of sap
through the stave. How I would grow you armies
for the fight, lend this long arm of land
and the sharpened water relentless.
Your forehead in sleep like a fetching
keel, the wrinkle of light as day after day
unveils. Gold-feathered morning, its bargain
of rest. Hooves beat beyond the rib, crescent water,
and old belief shudders its tent around us. I begin,
again, scraping salt sweat from the hide.

-Ankh Spice – 2/10/22

La Llorona (inspired by 3.2, La Llorona)

They call you the weeping woman
And I wonder, La Llorona
What is it you weep for?
Why do your tears fall so fast,
Weeping woman?
They say you cry for your children
And that I can understand
A grief like that would rip my soul
Entirely in two.
They say that you killed those
Small children for whom you weep
And perhaps this is why you
Are doomed to roam as a ghost

They say that you chase the living
On a horse, or on your feet
Or in a horse drawn carriage
They say that you warn against
Bad behaviour
They say that one sight of you
Can be fatal

They say you have many faces
That when a person enquires
After you, and offers assistance
When they hear you weep
That you turn to them with
A changed unearthly visage
The face of a skeleton
Or a metallic horse head
Or worse, with no face at all

They say that you are the storm
That you drowned your children
That you kill bad children
That you come after the rains
That you weep for those children
Who you discarded in the water
Of the canals when they were born

But they all say that you weep
La Llorona, O Weeping Woman
And I wonder if one day
When I walk alone at night
If I will hear you weep
All alone in the night
Garbed in white
Mourning your lost children.

-Eryn McConnell

F2.2 Gnomish Whimsy

A dazzle of sun glazes the glass
spraying droplets of quicksilver and gold
adrift to daze the gnome’s wary eye –
His gaze a gasp inhaling the frog’s distress.
As she strains against her cage, bereft,
her glamor slowly becomes undressed.
And to his gimlet eye he espies -sigh-
a river nymph bespelled and held.
Whose alchemy is this to encase one of the fairest race?

The woodland awaits. What enchantment is nigh?
The orb bird falls silent, blue flowers go soft.
The wind holds its breath, roots fail to suck
For something is blooming beneath all the muck.

Yet the woods feel ripe and wondrously fraught. For veiled
within this tangled weald, mysteries unfurl, marvels revealed.
The gnome’s weary brow unfurrows and smooths as he
drinks his wee dram of pond water booze,
and there within his fairy draught
A vision unfolds of chicancery caught
A human lad, ungainly and artless
with pockets damp and filled with debris
Captured the frog, unaware of the glamor
And lets it go – he’s called home at half three.

-Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen @boscoedempseu

Beware (Inspired by all three images: F2.1. F2. 2., F2.3)

On Halloween, the fairy folk ride
glide on steeds, that shine and glitter
and they as well, but beware their shimmer
and their beguiling queen with gold-spun hair

whose honeyed-scent drifts in the air,
stare not, and never take her hand
as she will take you to her land
where minutes drift ever-sweet and light

as decades here pass out of sight.
But on Halloween, take extra care
of all spirits, vengeful and fair—
who wander as the sun grow dimmer

gnomes mostly benign, though some are grimmer–
there’s La Llorona who wails and weeps
and seeks to keep
your children for hers, dead and gone.

Await the dawn
especially on Halloween,
do not go into graveyards, and don’t be keen
to display courage in haunted places, or the woods.

Don’t stray into the garden—understood?
when midnight strikes
run from shimmer, shadows, and all the ghost-like—

sometimes, things are not what they seem—
sometimes they are—no matter how bizarre,
truth may come in dreams. The unseen, seen.

-Merril D. Smith

Her story is told in many lands
of conquistadores with their grubby hands
tugging the thread of her history
forging a legend to which she cannot refute
monstrous allegations of infanticide
tales of fear and dread following her into eternity
destined to walk amongst their children
to punish and admonish
to catch their breath
on fear of death

Given her past so cold and dark
Falls square at foot of patriarch

-Chris Husband (inspired by F 3.2.)

Elemental (Inspired by image F2.2 Earths Spirit Gnomes)

He’s cornered in the cradle of a reclining chair
reading the paper and drinking Antiquity whisky.
The nurses have been overzealous, he has more bandages
than mummified Takabuti but the liquid continues to leach
from his legs, puddling on the floorboard, soaking into the walls
and above him mould is growing, blooming and feeding
the animals he talks to. Snails spiral outwards—across the walls
leaving trails like a network of arteries around the room.

Forget-me-knots have burst through the boards
at the base of the bariatric bed. His face is wrinkleless,
a happy side-effect of the collagen-full slug slime
applied under cover of darkness, except
for soft lighting emitted by plump glow-worms
that spin new hair on his head and his chin.

As the room becomes increasingly damp, his body is preparing
to return to the earth. His lungs and laneways are filling up
with loam. His voice is gravelly, and grit is blocking his intestinal track.
And yet, in all this degradation there is gentle luminosity
for he and his surroundings are pearlescent, silvering, precious
metal from earth’s crust swaddles him, even disinfects the catheter.
He folds the newspaper at the racing section,
removes the bookies biro from behind his ear.

-Gaynor Kane

Pipe & Toad

They don’t make good pets,
but just soak the bramble leaves
in their poison! You forget all
the news, the harebells
that need plucking and drying.

There’s never good news is there?
The Garden’s mowed!
The compost heap dug out!
All the Dandelions down!
Thistle’s capped, the fungi strimmed
and it’s a constant fight for concealment from cats.

Mr Toad—keep still—
give it up—a drop—another puff—
No regrets!

-Dave Garbutt (inspired by F 2.2.)

The Aos sí go by

We patrol our places
We, the Good People ride,
wary we watch
for the Hawthorn hacker and flailer,
the meadow cutter and chewer,
the stone-wall-breaker,
the straight road-builders
that insult our grass and birches and peat
with scars, hardness, black melted-rock!

Beware, we patrol our places
do not gouge or drain our meadows
our hedges, touch not, touch not.

From our home under the hill
we send floods, we shrink skins
we carry away the cutters, the tractors,
make barren the fields,
make barren the Impolite People,
and madden the cattle, make dumb the sheep,
and hungry the Raven.

Impolite People—our scream will split you
ear from head
eye from brain
leg from hip
and hand from switch.

-Dave Garbutt (inspired by F 1.2.)

Bios and Links

-Eryn McConnell

is a poet originally from the UK who now lives in South Germany with their family. They have been writing poetry since their teens and is currently working on their second collection of poems.

-Gaynor Kane

from Belfast in Northern Ireland, had no idea that when she started a degree with the OU at forty it would be life changing.  It magically turned her into a writer and now she has a few collections of poetry published, all by The Hedgehog Poetry Press Recently, she has been a judge for The North Carolina Poetry Society and guest sub-editor for the inaugural issue of The Storms: A journal of prose, poetry and visual art. Her new chapbook, Eight Types of Love, was released in July. Follow her on Twitter @gaynorkane or read more at www.gaynorkane.com

-Dave Garbutt

has been writing poems since he was 17 and has still not learned to give up. His poems have been published in The Brown Envelope Anthology, and magazines (Horizon, Writers & Readers) most recently on XRcreative and forthcoming in the Deronda review. His poem ‘ripped’ was long listed in the Rialto Nature & Place competition 2021. In August 2021 he took part in the Postcard Poetry Festival and the chap book that came from that is available at the postcard festival website. https://ppf.cascadiapoeticslab.org/2021/11/08/dave-garbutt-interview/.

He was born less than a mile from where Keats lived in N London and sometimes describes himself as ‘a failed biologist, like Keats’, in the 70’s he moved to Reading until till moving to Switzerland (in 1994), where he still lives. He has found the time since the pandemic very productive as many workshops and groups opened up to non-locals as they moved to Zoom. 

Dave retired from the science and IT world in 2016 and he is active on Twitter, FaceBook, Medium.com, Flickr (he had a solo exhibition of his photographs in March 2017). He leads monthly bird walks around the Birs river in NW Switzerland. His tag is @DavGar51.

-Merril D. Smith

lives in southern New Jersey near the Delaware River. Her poetry has been published in several poetry journals and anthologies, including Black Bough Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic,  Fevers of the Mind, and Nightingale and Sparrow. Her first full-length poetry collection, River Ghosts, is forthcoming from Nightingale & Sparrow Press.  Twitter: @merril_mds  Instagram: mdsmithnj  Website/blog: merrildsmith.com

-Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen,

a retired teacher and children’s library specialist, considers herself an adventurer. She has meandered the country in an old Chevy van and flown along on midnight runs in a smoky old Convair 440 to deliver the Wall Street Journal. She is a licensed pilot, coffee house lingerer, and finds her inspiration and solace in nature in all its glorious diversity. Loving wife and mother, she makes her home in the wilds of Portland OR.

4 thoughts on “#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Two. To celebrate the launch of my new poetry collection “As Folktaleteller” I am downloading 93 folklore art images, 3 per day in October and asking writers to write poetry or a short prose inspired by one, two or all three images. Please join Gaynor Kane, Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, Kyla Houbolt, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, Chris Husband, Eryn McConnell, Dave Garbutt, Merril Smith and I, plus those who react to the images on the day, as we explore images from folktales.

  1. Pingback: Folktober Challenge, Day 2: Beware – Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

  2. Pingback: Folktober ekphrastic challenge – Jane Dougherty Writes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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