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Unbroken #42: 
Devils Have the Best Tunes: The Ekphrastic Issue

Kathryn Jones

The Art of Ascent

Rothko Chapel

after the Rothko Chapel, a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas, opened in 1974 and named after Mark Rothko (1903-1970)

I enter your octagon this morning. Sit on a bench surrounded by your shadowy planes. Meditate in this holy space without religion, without crosses. You designed it so nothing distracts the mind, no boundaries, no museum walls, no glare from windows, only a soft glow from the skylight and floating rectangles of deep purple and black — absorbers of light, color of night, ancient caves, charcoal and burnt bones, sealed tombs, holes in a skull, holes in the universe. The silent sanctuary invites contemplation of life, death, eternity, whether there is an eternity. You painted fields of muted color to speak of peace, freedom, justice — such anarchy in a world of bright red killing fields. You created this for us, left the obelisk outside purposely broken, severed yourself from the physical, left your body so you could float in this space. In the stillness you created, I rise to meet you.


* * *


Ladder to the Moon


after Ladder to the Moon, 1958, Georgia O’Keeffe


Tonight I will build a ladder to the moon, climb high above the Pedernal, anvil-shaped mountain rising high above the desert that Georgia O’Keeffe painted so many times God told her she could have it. I can touch the moon, the stars, find my place in the cosmos, my constellation cruising across the galaxy between dusk and dawn. Then, when the moon falls beneath my earthly notched horizon, I descend, draw the ladder back down to the arid land, fold and carry it with me across the broken landscape until evening. Then I make my escape again, unfold the ladder, climb the rungs, bask in the sun’s icy reflection, touch the goddess face on the orb, absorb its light so I can face another orange dawn and fire in the sky.


Kathryn Jones is a poet, journalist, and essayist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, numerous literary anthologies, and in a chapbook, An Orchid’s Guide to Life (Finishing Line Press), and an upcoming collection, The Solace of Wild Places (Lamar University Literary Press). She lives in Texas.

Olga Dermott-Bond

Interior/Exterior Landscape

























© Mona Hatoum / Photo © Tate (Andrew Dunkley)

after Interior/ Exterior Landscape, 2010, Mona Hatoum

Her joints are spent springs, strung across an iron bed. She can’t remember what real food tastes like. In each meal she finds a hair, feels each thread’s sliding cut down the back of her throat. She wants to tell someone how once she could shape cratered moons with her bare hands, how her body gleamed like a Cadillac. She wishes for the curse of work that once made her strong, tries again and again to herd the dust into something recognisable, but the wooden floor is treacherous and slips under her like cold satin. The world is shrunk to a straitjacket of half-light and a windowless desk. How she craves a forest, the warmth of someone else’s mistakes, dapple of sun. She is a nest of arthritic clicks, dull-shelled hobble. She knows she won’t escape this birdcage, narrow bars locked tight. Closer still, she senses all the little guillotines of hours and minutes she has left, their blades hanging just above her head.


Olga Dermott-Bond has had poetry widely placed and published, and has written two poetry pamphlets; apple, fallen (Against the Grain Press) and A sky full of strange specimens (Nine Pens Press). Her first full collection, Frieze, is published by Nine Arches Press. Originally from Northern Ireland she lives in Warwickshire.

Isaac Sleadd

El Paso

after All-too-human, 2023, Paulien Dubelaar, from the photography series Amor Fati, see here


I no longer look behind to see you smiling up the trail through the sun-cracked arroyos on the ugly side of town, where roadrunners snatch up lizards on their final days to turn their meat into bird meat and send their souls to wherever it is that lizard souls go. I no longer ask for two dessert spoons when the jericalla comes or, on good nights, reach out to feel your tidal breath, your sharecropper’s back. But when the town is still and my eyes flash open to splintered bones beside the lake, a ruined hand, blood jellied in the sun and a smile from the wrong man I long for your outstretched hand, clam white against the sky, sharp angles miming for a drag of my cigarette as I stand naked in the courtyard, fear sweat leaving on the wild west wind as the first bird of morning sings drunk into the cosmos and I scan the darkened windows of the barrio searching for signs of life running deep enough to see you here, despite the obvious, to hear the thrum of fugitive dust against my chest as I shrink and turn, back to my clown bed where I dream that our tears will soon keep the dust down.


Isaac Sleadd divides his time between Antarctica and Alaska, where he works to protect the environment. His writing has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Reflex Fiction, The Antarctic Sun, and elsewhere.

Sara McClayton

The Spinner

after Alchemy or the Useless Science, 1958, Remedios Varo

In the blue dawn the states align. The spheres and elements unite to create the world. Some mica, mixed with water and the breath of clouds. Some iron, swirled with stardust. The auric filament extends from the soil to the sky. I spend the mornings churning mysteries of gold. When the steam rises black as pitch, I adjust my crank. When the iron melts green, I switch to lead. But when the men come with numbers in their eyes, I hide my wheel. I flee to the boundary beyond east and west. At the edge of the earth, where the land meets the sea, and the sea meets the clouds, I spin the world. And the steam rises blond as wheat.


Sara McClayton is an educator and writer in Baltimore, Maryland. She enjoys spending time with her husband and dog, exploring the outdoors, and teaching and practicing yoga. Her poetry is upcoming in Ink in Thirds and Neologism Poetry Journal.

Joanna Theiss

Spell Jar





















after The Spreading Tree, 1901, George Clausen


We stuffed our panties in a jar, sealed the lid, and dropped it into the hole Daddy dug. Jessi promised this would make love come to us but I didn’t understand how our tulip-patterned Hanes could summon love like I pictured it, with princes and roses, with girls in glass coffins. When Daddy rolled the magnolia’s rootball into the hole, the cracking jar shattered the prism the three of us cast in our new backyard, Jessi and me in dirt-stained white dresses, Daddy hauling us into the toolshed and washing our mouths out with pumice soap, as if a buried jar were as evil as a curse word. I can’t say if the spell worked for Jessi but I do know the taste of love when it comes to me. Bitter froth on my tongue. A scouring

grit at the back of my throat.


Joanna Theiss is a writer living in Washington, DC. Her stories have appeared in Chautauqua, Peatsmoke Journal, and Milk Candy Review, among others. She is an associate editor at Five South. In a past life, Joanna worked as a lawyer. You can find out more at

Sarah Tate

Because in grade school









after Nighthawks, 1942, Edward Hopper

some girl with pigtails as lethal as cutlass blades made fun of her shoes. Now, she shoves loneliness down her throat behind a cherry wood counter, surrounded by guys with hats who complain about five cent cigars. She never wanted to be another shadow in downtown Manhattan, doused in red like blood on a war knife. Maybe she woke startled at midnight, wanting a bologna sandwich. Maybe she saw her toddler levitate in his stroller that morning, and the suburbs could no longer shield her from the way her room smelled of smoke and wine. Maybe she ran, hobbling away with only one high heel on her left foot. Once, when she was younger, she saw her future latched to a table with tubes and wire, but she ignored it — that carcass she perceived with a third eye. Before, she discarded her shoes to breeze through vacant lots, and she wasn’t afraid of tattoos. She was pretty, with ginger hair fit for the pictures and legs as sinewy as rivers. She spent the next thirty years making sure to pluck the few stray hairs at the end of each eyebrow as soon as they grew. But memories crumble under recall, and the guys with hats don’t drift towards her with a mothish obsession. A streetlight flashes bright white outside. The color, like bone, falling in sheaves as thin as spears across the dark asphalt. Tomorrow, she thinks, she’ll stumble to the forest and live in the trees.


Sarah Tate is a writer, poet, and life-long student of literature. Her work has appeared in Calla Press, Amethyst Review, Grand Little Things, and elsewhere. An avid coffee connoisseur, she currently lives and works in rural Virginia.

Linda Eve Diamond

Epilogue to a Distant Marriage























after Spirit, 1885, George Roux


Startled by sudden music from an empty room, the widower rushes in and finds his wife all aglow at the piano. Frozen by cascading chills, he watches from the shadows. She appears, to him, more spellbindingly beautiful and musical than ever before. He wonders if it’s all that ghostly glow or if, in life, he’d simply stopped noticing as she and her music played in the background of his life. He didn’t realize how much he’d tuned her out until suddenly the music of her — voice, footsteps, puttering, pattering, chattering, piano fiddling and singing off-key with absolute glee — stopped. But how is she appearing now and why has she returned? Is it possible, he thinks, she’s still angry enough (over some little nothing, he’s sure) to haunt him? No, he decides, more likely she loves him too much to let go. Listening to her as he’s never listened before, he tries to decipher her lyrical selections, rhythms, tonal shifts, broken chords and more as musical messages, love notes from beyond. He wonders why she doesn’t look at him but then realizes she must be overwhelmed with emotion, with wanting to touch him, to kiss him, to hold on forever. Of course, he thinks. He understands. But it never occurs to her that he might, now that she’s in this formless form, be able to somehow see and hear her. Just as it never occurs to him that she’s come back for her piano and for the music — that ever-uplifting connection that she’s always been able to count on to keep her spirit alive.


Linda Eve Diamond’s award-winning poetry has appeared in journals, anthologies, festivals, galleries, and art walks. Her most recent book is The Art of Listening: An Anthology of Listening-Themed Poetry and Visual Arts, a free collection with more than 60 inspiring contributors, and is available here. Her website is

Ella Wong

On Lines













after The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883), Carlo Collodi


We make our daughter from craft glue and wood. We give her only the best; her chest is a mahogany coffer, and her eyes are amber stars. We carve her fingers from oak and ash and linden, the trees for strength and mourning and love. We want her to have everything. So we whittle at her limbs, her lovely high cheeks, we rub her joints with tangerine oil. When she blinks at us and stands, we clap. We hold her hands and tell her she is a princess, a fairytale, a dream come true. She touches the string at her elbows. We teach her to dance for the village girls. When she is five months old, in the night, the fireglow scraping her angles, she tells us she’d like to twirl by herself. Just once, she says. Without you holding my strings. All by myself. We count our coins and hush her. When you’re older, we promise, now let us help you. The children are laughing and waiting. The next performance is soon. We take our daughter’s thin glinting wires and bring her to her feet.

* * * 

Three am


after Doomscrolling (2023), an animation by Ben Kovach, see here


3am is the latest trend. Soft nights, city dark, the clock beating like a heart and the neon pop of texts, conversations you don’t want, essays you lie are unfinished, a fan slow shunting long shadows across the room and you can feel the hot air blading the back of your legs. Everything happens at 3am. Nothing happens. Your phone is on caps lock and your friends are on coffee like they are every night. They send you quizzes: what’s your aesthetic, au, monster. (dark academia, pirate, a winged shadow demon.) An ad starts blaring and you spam the mute button. The clock beats slower and the texts dribble down as you watch them go sluggish while brushing your teeth. By 4am you switch off the lights and listen to the hum of cars in the night, feel for the short side of the blanket with the blue spewing across your pillow like a tech cough. You have forgotten to take off your glasses. The floorboards have eased as if finally allowed to breathe, and when you close your eyes there is one final ping from your phone and you try, so hard, not to pick up.


Ella Wong has a constant craving for writing and omelettes. She has trouble categorising her work and gets irrationally happy whenever someone reads it. You can find her published in Popshot Quarterly and forthcoming in Frogpond Journal.

Timothy Nolan

Alice Made Tea





















after One Portrait of One Woman, 1916, Marsden Hartley


Gertrude Stein invited me for coffee, but Alice B Toklas made tea. Gertrude wasn’t having it, “what were you thinking Alice, he was invited for coffee, not tea!” I could hear Alice muttering something under her breath in return, but quickly interjected: “I like tea, as long as it’s not flavored with fruit or some cloying flower bouquet. This celadon brew will be perfect with the cardamom cakes your cook has put out for us.” But the air was thick with discord, the silence deafening, but for Basket’s snores. That was the poodle’s name. Alice thought he was so fashionable he should carry a basket of flowers in his mouth. I tried to change the subject. “Gertrude, have you seen “One Portrait of One Woman,” the “portrait” Marsden Hartley painted of you with a blue teacup sitting on a red checkered cloth? You know, the painter that made you proclaim: ‘at last an original American.’ I’ve heard so much about this odd-looking fellow from Maine. Did you know he writes poems as well?” But all she could talk about was Cezanne this and Cezanne that. Yes, his apples are undeniable, but they’re so French. I wanted us all to bond as Americans over this little-known artist. I wanted to feel that, like the infamous Gertrude, I too was in the know. But she kept talking and talking in one run-on sentence, at times repeating herself like a skipping record. When I captured Alice’s gaze, she rolled her eyes and silently mouthed, “she does this all the time.” Then she looked toward the tea leaves at the bottom of her cup like she could see the future was fraught. But I didn’t need tea leaves to tell me that Alice and Basket and I, along with the cups of celadon tea going tepid, were all just minor characters waiting in Gertrude’s wings. Someday we might make an entrance into the frantic scribblings her ink-stained hand dashed off into a leatherbound notebook, but probably not today.


Timothy Nolan (he/him/his) is a writer and visual artist living in Palm Springs, California with his husband and their rescue dog, Scout. He has exhibited extensively for three decades and his work is in the collections of the DeYoung Museum of Art in San Francisco, and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. He’s been a fellow at Yaddo, Ucross, and Djerassi. His poems appear in The Hudson Review, Fourteen Hills, Puerto del Sol, and Roanoke Review, among others.

Peter Anderson























after Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962, Andy Warhol


When I was sixteen years old I asked Andy Warhol to sign a three-foot tall Campbell’s Tomato Soup can I’d made out of one of my mother’s large cardboard canisters of All detergent. I covered the top with tinfoil to simulate the lid. Andy smiled when he saw me cradling my sculpture, signed it and said “neat.” He was in town with the Velvet Underground to show the film Chelsea Girls; I lived in a conservative suburb and the audience had been extremely hostile, so I like to think he was touched by my teenaged homage. Less than a month later my soup can was stolen from the high school art show. Over fifty years after this, I saw Lou Reed at a Laurie Anderson concert and because I’d had a few drinks prior to the show and was less shy than usual I introduced myself. He seemed wary of me at first, but after I told him the story of the soup can — I don’t think he remembered and I didn’t expect him to — he smiled and said “neat.”


Peter Anderson is a poet, performer and playwright living in Vancouver on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples. His work has appeared in Unbroken, duality, Sublunary Review, SORTES, Frigg, Best Microfictions 2022, and elsewhere. He was a finalist in the 2023 Raven Poetry Chapbook contest.

Unbroken is a quarterly online journal that seeks to showcase prose poems and poetic prose, both from established and emerging voices. We desire to give the block, the paragraph, the unlineated prose, a new place to play.

Unbroken is edited by Ken Chau, Dale Wisely, Katherine DiBella Seluja, Tom Fugalli, and Tina Carlson. Roo Black is founding editor emeritus. Our staff spiritual advisor is Dr Boyd Razor, Ph.D. (his lucky number is 25, his favorite number is 20 and he is prone to an occasional wardrobe malfunction). Our staff epistemologist/comptroller is Chen Kau. Our thanks to the contributors to this issue and all who submitted their work.  

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