Nicole Tallman

I’ve always enjoyed ekphrastic poetry because it combines two of my loves: poetry and visual art. So, for this issue, I asked two local poet friends to join me in responding to paintings by Miami painter Carlos Antonio Rancaño. Their poems are featured alongside the paintings that inspired their words. 

Carlos Antonio Rancaño was born in Miami to Cuban/Panamanian parents. His work is saturated with bright, warm colors and his sharp, rigid brush strokes form a pedestal for the subjects in his work. 

Macho as Object, as Still Life, as Portrait

By Caridad Moro-Gronlier

—Inspired by Carlos Rancaño’s A Blind Eye

The way he bares 

his brunette chest 

seems geared to impress 

with all he reveals, 

but beneath my stare 

his bold undress 

guards the skin

he keeps concealed.

I want to know 

the rooted scar 

beneath the rose 

ink bloom, 

raise the guardrail 

of his arm 

his guarded gaze 



By Jen Karetnick

—Inspired by Carlos Rancaño’s Guard Down

Haven’t we always expected an upstanding

blossom to mask the sprung lip’s gush

of blood? From the beginning, flowers 

stoplighted disease, death. Pollen was found 

with Neanderthal skeletons 62,000 years ago 

in caves in Northern Iraq, petals thrown 

at the end of every match in 688 B.C. Olympia, 

when both opponents swaddled their knuckles 

in the cured skins of animals, bereft of fur 

but feral with metal spikes like spider eyes,

though only one left the stadium alive. Today

we can uproot the rose from the modern cestus,

red for power, dominance, danger, or white 

for optimism, fresh as a punch. Uncurl the fist 

as if steaming a dress shirt free from wrinkles. 

Unzip the Velcro from the wrist, rip the interior 

foam from the leather cradling it. Bring back 

Jack Broughton’s stuffing of horsehair

in plain brown gloves, then refurbish the hide 

of the stallion for which it had been slaughtered. 

Hungry ghost, the horse will chew hay, far from 

Mongolia, which harvests 900 tons of tails and manes 

every year. Ride it to Las Vegas where Greek rituals 

are still enacted by just-formed men who believe 

the rules of mortality don’t apply to the youngest 

among them. Pluck the cup of booze from the hands 

of the referee and replace it with the scales of judgment, 

along with a license. Let him stop the Fight Night 

“for charity,” concede there’s no altruism in brain damage 

and allow the frat brother, unequipped, to graduate the ring.

Between The Lines

By Nicole Tallman

—Inspired by Carlos Rancaño’s Between The Lines

If a painting is a poem, then paint

with the light. Light like the nakedness

of truth. Of the lightest touch of a hand

or a brush. Of a woman in a vulnerable

state or an ecstatic gaze. Aren’t they

one and the same? We’re all waiting

for something that will never

come. If I lie alone on the cold wood floor,

the sun always comes to find me. I can

never block her out. Soft light. Warm touch.

Black curtains or gauzy white. The sun

shines through to say: Just stay a little

longer. Lie in my blinding white light.

I say: Make of my body a shadow,

not a cross. Touch me. It’s not my time

to die. And between the darkest lines

of a body, of a canvas, of a page

in our lives, let there be

a little touch. Let there be

a little light.

More from Issue Two

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