KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Tanka Prose: 736 words
in [1]

Get Up and Dance:
An e-Collection of 15 Ekphrastic Tanka Prose

by Charles D. Tarlton
[1] Artifact With Steam (2019) by Ann Knickerbocker

Painting: Artifact With Steam, by Ann Knickerbocker

This is a revision of my “St. Ives” painting which, although abstract in form, seemed
too realistic. The earth and sea are still in charge, but the overlays are
more passionate here...the way I feel about “place.”

—Ann Knickerbocker2


I woke from a nap on the flight back from Dublin to Boston and looked out the window. We were in thick clouds and I could barely see the green navigation light at the end of the wing that flickered as bits of mist raced by in front of it. Thin mist raced over the top of the wing and disappeared, like the froth from a mountain stream slipping over the rocks. The steady light from inside the airplane fell across the wing closer up, while slowly pulsing white light seemed to come from somewhere underneath the plane. The light from the passenger windows was reflected in the cloud vapor and made it seem that the plane was surrounded by something thicker, heavier, and more mysterious than just clouds. We were in the middle of some matter or force that kept pace with the plane’s 600-mile-per-hour speed.

the commonest things
perplex the eye at high speed
short, tall, heavier
lighter, fast and slow, closeup
or far away transfigured

they commonly use
mist or fog in rock concerts
to create something
out of the ordinary
mystical transformations

have you ever seen
football played in viscous fog
the passes come out
of nowhere and disappear
cheers let you know they were caught


Take a simple experience: for example, pulling into the gas station, filling up, checking the oil, paying the bill with a credit card, remembering to wash the windshield, and then driving away (did you remember to replace the gas cap?). While all this is going on, you are aware of details, the specific moves and gestures of even simplest action. Each step and partial step in the process is clear and separate. But later, when you’re walking the dog around the block and thinking about a logical problem in the paper you’re writing, if you unexpectedly ask yourself whether you bought gas or not, the recollection fractures and blurs, some small aspects sharply focused, the others cloudy and vague. The coherence of the experience is gone forever.

the blue surrounded
by its attendant fragments
the E taken from
an Elle cover, a page torn
from a notebook’s square collage

like experience
one thing effaces what was
before sharp and clear
now muddied in fog, ideas
fade and contort, drop from sight

small as they might be
messages can be garbled
before the sentence
is complete. nothing is clear
not after much less before


Suggestibility, undaunted by fear of proving
foolish, is essential to art love.

—Peter Schjeldah3

With a kind of love for contending forces and formations, the field of battle here between the artifacts and the steam seems to be a place of half-formations, of ideas that once uttered wrench themselves away, content with mere suggestion. The weightier of the structures hangs down to the left, the lighter flight-borne images, unfinished in any real sense, nevertheless can fly. Perhaps the smaller, more refined group chooses elements from the thicker, weightier batch and draws them over, lures them across for refinement. Then the pile of rough shape and color on the left must be raw material for the heavenly revisions undertaken on the right. There is an energy of struggle and contradiction and color here giving the painting life, like a coiled spring in a watch pushing forward millisecond by millisecond.

revisions of mood
give life to the day-by-day
there’s only so much
to see, hear, and try to do
so go take another look

things we say we know
are made up, of course, of bits
and pieces. splinters
we try to reassemble
giving the world coherence

but a sharp eye sees
not only what is seen, but
what was intended
and rushes away with it
a treasure spirited off


1. Artifact With Steam (mixed-media painting: acrylic, ink, collage, brown bag, monotype, watercolor on canvas; 36" x 48") by Ann Knickerbocker, whose blog and galleries are available online at:

2. Quotation by Ann Knickerbocker is from her online gallery:

3. Peter Schjeldahl, “The Spectacle of the Spectacles” (The New Yorker, 4 June 2016); link was retrieved on 17 June 2019:

Ann Knickerbocker
Issue 12, Summer 2019

Please visit for details about the artist, and links to her galleries and her blog Artist in an A-frame.

Charles D. Tarlton
Issue 12, Summer 2019

is a retired university professor of political theory who lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife, Ann Knickerbocker, an abstract painter. Tarlton has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006, and his work is published in: Abramelin, Atlas Poetica, Barnwood, Blackbox Manifold, Blue and Yellow Dog, Cricket Online Review, Fiction International, Haibun Today, Inner Art Journal, Jack Magazine, KYSO Flash, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Prune Juice, Rattle, Red Booth Review, Review Americana, Shampoo, Shot Glass, Simply Haiku, Six Minute Magazine, Sketchbook, Skylark, Tipton, and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.

He is the author of Touching Fire: New and Selected Ekphrastic Prosimetra (KYSO Flash Press, 2018). He has also published a poetry e-chapbook in the 2River series, entitled La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra (a free translation of Neruda); a tragic historical western in poetry and prose, “Five Episodes in the Navajo Degradation,” in Lacuna; and “The Turn of Art,” a short poetical drama pitting Picasso against Matisse, composed in verse and prose, which appeared in Fiction International.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Featured Author Charles D. Tarlton, with six of his ekphrastic tanka prose and an interview with Jack Cooper, in KYSO Flash (Issue 6, Fall 2016)

Notes for a Theory of Tanka Prose: Ekphrasis and Abstract Art, a scholarly paper by Tarlton residing in PDF at Ray’s Web; originally published in Atlas Poetica (Number 23, pages 87-95)

Three American Civil War Photographs: Ekphrasis by Tarlton in Review Americana (Spring 2016)

Rowing Home, Tarlton’s ekphrastic tanka prose on the watercolor by Winslow Homer, in Contemporary Haibun Online (January 2018)

Simple Tanka Prose for the Seasons, a quartet by Tarlton in Rattle (Issue 47: Tribute to Japanese Forms, Spring 2015)

La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra: Improvisations on Pablo Neruda’s Macchu Picchu, Tarlton’s e-chapbook of a dozen poems, with the author reading several aloud; chapbook is also available in PDF, with cover art by Ann Knickerbocker

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