#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Thirteen. 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 Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, David Cohea, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, Dave Garbutt, Merril Smith and I, plus those who react to the images on the day, as we explore images from folktales.

F 1.13. Selkies 220px-Faroese_stamp_585_the_seal_woman

F 1.13. Selkies 220px-Faroese_stamp_585_the_seal_woman

F 2.13. Blood Carriage. Death Coach

F 2.13. Blood Carriage. Death Coach

F 3.13.. Sin-eater

F 3.13. Sin-eater


My tongue has been too long from water
so forgive me if this song sounds barren.
Mother salt is the skin hidden from me
these days of wicker brogue—brambled
and scorched as an old abbot’s tongue.

One forgets the abyss when chained to hours
linked by the copyist’s shallow course.
Years have kept me far inland with only
this wet fetch of tears for a grievous sea.
No splash of laughter, no crashed ceruleans,
no curve to goddess into volupt swells.

Just acres of cracked homestead, harnessed
to a plow the quill harrows in furrows
seeded to gloss tinsel from manuring vowel.
If I have powertail, it drives an empty hearse;
if slick sides slide, flush walls double the curse
of vespers droned over the whispering dead.

So forgive me if there’s no water, no sea to shore,
no dark eyes looming in a wave’s hallowed roar.
Sight in such conditions of long servitude
can only fade to dried white margins,
the desert’s abyssally hollow plain
stretching as far as verses can go.

Still at night I linger in this chained stall
peering through a whisker of wall crack.
With just that much of the wet night’s vowel
I sing to cold seas I’m coming black.
I’ll connive back the seal’s sable cloak
and fade every page with silent downstroke.

Selkies are from Hebrides folklore, seal-folk who become human by shedding their skin. In folklore of the Faroe Islands, silkies are humans who have drowned. Once a year on Three Kings (Epiphany), the selkies come out of the sea to dance for one night. One year all of them jumped back in the sea but one, a seal woman whose skin had been hidden by a man. She is forced to live with him as husband and wife, and they have children. She manages to get her skin back and returns to the sea with her children, but years later the man kills them in a hunt. She curses the village of Mikladur, saying they all will end up drowned in the sea.

-David Cohea

Selkie Ashore

I left the sea
For the love of a man
The joy I have had
Is a handful of sand

Let me lie on the shore
Till the sea eats my bones
Though I yearn for the deeps
I can never go home.


I lie dreaming in deep places.
I see your face,
my lady of the seashore.
When the moon changes
I’ll return to you.

-Yvonne Marjot


Stone-round loaf. Rolled aside
and the notch of clavicle more empty
cup than cave. Your ferment poured
forth three days gone and nothing
walks from any opening. I break
the crust: this caul, this placenta,
leavened by task. Protection. Filter
to sop the sharpness that sustains
a life. Some bread is iron, blood-wit
to the tongue and some burns craters
of salt. The heat of regret raises
all dough and none escape it. I eat
and somewhere, a soul swallows.

-Ankh Spice – 13/10/22

Sin-eater seeks Apprentice

It’s a job, the food is simple
but regular, more in winter
as you’d need. Stay thin
keep quiet, they leave me alone, it suits me.
I worry though, there must be successor
or I’m done, keep sins between us
out of the balance, keep them alive,
with the living, unconfessed. Are they heavy?

No, but there’s slowness, a shunning of light
and a hollow in the stomach, wait
for an angel’s knock in the night.

-Dave Garbutt

Sin Eater’s Repast (F3.13 Sin-Eater)
It was a grubby and unpleasant meal,
his wide-eyed gusto disgusting.
He slurped and sucked and slobbered,
gulping gobbling shoveling
each bite into his toothless gob.

Old Henry’s corpse moldered beside him.
A bag of bones and rancid gristle, fetid.
Splattered with grease and sauce,
it dripped gravy and cream
in a parody of pleasure.

But such a meal!
Tumescent sausage bursting hot juice
Stewed tomatoes, wet and glistening
Potatoes leaking salt and butter
Rounded mounds of warm bread

Smacking sunken lips,
The eater consumes Henry’s sin,
spewing it forth in noisy slaver.
He screams with gluttony
chortles with greed.
cries tears of lust
and spits hot seeds of wrath.

With a belch and foul wind,
the sin-eater puts down his bowl at last
and grins a greenish grin.
Evil ingested, sin digested.

Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen

Selkie (Image, 1.13, Selkies, Faroese Stamp)

She shed her skin,
to walk on sand.

He took the skin,
then took her hand.

She bore him children,
but could not withstand

the call of sea,
the waves’ command

to find her skin,
to leave the land—

and then one night, she found it,
my mother walked across the strand,

abandoned us and father’s plans
for true heart’s call, left cold northland.

Now in every seal we see her,
her eyes set in sleek selkie fur

My heart seemed without a beat
like a frozen drum

yet now it stirs and feels complete
as the sea-wind whispers, “come.”

-Merril D Smitn

Sin-eaters and Selkies

Among the sins that they ate, would there have been
the sins of freedom and otherness, the imbrication
of animal and human, the sin of water-wisdom?

Would they have spat out the pagan bones
with the soft fur, the fish scales that shone in dark places,
tenderness, the glow of skin touched in love,

the entwining of bodies, forbidden handclasps?
Would they have swallowed seal-call and grimaced,
salt seawater and the taste of raw fish?

Perhaps, if those things of another age,
before the sinful darkness fell, had ever asked
forgiveness for their wild magic.

-Jane Dougherty

Bios and Links

-David Cohea

is a retired newspaperman who lives in Central Florida USA. He publishes poetry on his blog Oran’s Well (blueoran.wordpress.com) under the screen name of Brendan. He also runs earthweal.com, an online forum for eco-poets. His self-published poetry collections include The God in the Tree, Letters to a Dead Shaman, The Beached Wings of Heaven, Allegiance, Over Here: Poems of War in Peace and a three-volume collection of selected poetry titled Seahorse, Waves and Shores.  

-Yvonne Marjot

is a lost kiwi living on the Isle of Mull. Poet, author, librarian and escaped botanist: her poems are intimate and personal, and often link the natural world with mythological themes. She is especially fond of selkies.

-Jane Dougherty

lives and works in southwest France. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, the Ekphrastic Review, Black Bough Poetry, ink sweat and tears, Gleam, Nightingale & Sparrow, Green Ink and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She blogs at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/ Her poetry chapbooks, thicker than water and birds and other feathers were published in October and November 2020.

-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.

-Spriha Kant

developed an interest in reading and writing poetries at a very tender age. Her poetry “The Seashell” was first published online in the “Imaginary Land Stories” on August 8, 2020, by Sunmeet Singh. She has been a part of Stuart Matthew’s anthology “Sing, Do the birds of Spring” in the fourth series of books from #InstantEternal poetry prompts. She has been featured in the Bob Dylan-inspired anthology “Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan” by the founder and editor of the website “Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art” David L O’ Nan. Her poetries have been published in the anthology “Bare Bones Writing Issue 1: Fevers of the Mind”. Paul Brookes has featured her poetry, “A Monstrous Shadow”, based on a photograph clicked by herself, as the “Seventh Synergy” in “SYNERGY: CALLING ALL WRITERS WHO ARE PHOTOGRAPHERS” on his blog “The Wombwell Rainbow”. She has been featured in the “Quick-9 interview” on feversofthemind.com by David L’O Nan. She has reviewed the poetry book “Silence From The Shadows” by Stuart Matthews. Her acrostic poetry “A Rainstorm” has been published in the Poetic Form Challenge on the blog “TheWombwell Rainbow” owned by Paul Brookes. She also joined the movement “World Suicide Prevention Day” by contributing her poetry “Giving Up The Smooch” on the blog “The Wombwell Rainbow”, an initiative taken by Paul Brookes.

-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. www.MudAndInkPoetry.art 

-Kyla Houbolt’s

first two chapbooks, Dawn’s Fool (Ice Floe Press) and Tuned (CCCP Chapbooks), were published in 2020. Tuned is also available as an ebook. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Had, Barren, Juke Joint, Moist, Trouvaille Review, and elsewhere. Find her work at her linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet. She is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

3 thoughts on “#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Thirteen. 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 Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, David Cohea, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, 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 13 – Jane Dougherty Writes

  2. Pingback: Folktober Challenge, Day 13 – Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

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