In the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Concho River Review, two ekphrastic poems can be found one after the other. First is “Abraham Preparing to Sacrifice His Son” by David Denny about Marc Chagall’s “Abraham Preparing to Sacrifice his Son, According to God’s Command,” and the second is “Telephone in a Dish with Three Grilled Sardines at the end of September” by Paul Dickey about Salvador Dali’s painting which the poem is titled after.
Denny’s poem describes Chagall’s piece and then slides the focus out of frame, to those not pictured. The speaker states, “[ . . . ] while the men / play out their little dramas of heaven and earth, / it’s those left out of the official portrait that make / the real sacrifices.” Denny then paints a picture of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, imaging the heartbreaking grief one would feel seeing her husband “tie her beloved boy to the saddle, / tuck his best knife into his belt.” I enjoyed this focus on the emotion the portrait fails to include.
Dickey’s poem questions the meaning of Dali’s painting again and again, walking us through the detail as his attention slips from one to the next. While Denny focuses on what’s not in the portrait, Dickey becomes focused on discovering what is presented to us and what it means.
These two poems work as great companion pieces for one another, well-placed within the pages of this issue.
Review by Katy Haas