In the Santa Rosa Hills (ekphrastic poetry challenge)

Artist: Dan Shepley (Used with permission)

Our mountain life is simple, as a country life can be.
Around here, I know everyone, and everyone knows me.
I’m there at their beginnings, and sometimes at the end.
I am a nurse, a counselor, a soldier, and a friend.
I dearly love my work, although it barely pays the bills;
I am the only midwife in the Santa Rosa hills.

There are no steady hours, and the job’s a marathon.
Last night I pulled a midnight shift and went to sleep at dawn.
I guess I’d keep my clothing cleaner if I were a clerk,
But midwives, cooks, and undertakers never want for work.
Although I have no family, besides my teenage son,
The village kids, through middle school, I caught them, every one.

And now young Ana runs to me; I see her down the way.
It’s time, it’s time, she says to me; the baby comes today.
I saw her mother yesterday, amid the market throng,
Her smiling face and swollen belly, seven months along.
I fear it is too early for the babe to have a chance,
The tiny thing condemned by an unlucky circumstance.

There is no time to worry, for there is no time to waste.
I gather up my bag and hurry with her in her haste.
A funny fact of life is that it never goes to plan.
I must deliver Ana’s baby brother if I can.
As long as there are children born to families, as God wills,
Then I will be a midwife in these Santa Rosa hills.

Writing prompt: Ekphrastic poetry (describe a work of visual art)


  1. I love this story within a poem. Interesting take on that picture.

  2. Oh, interesting! To weave the tale of a midwife from the hills into a poem for the painting is very intriguing.

  3. I like how your poem gives context to the girl running in the distance and the look on the woman in the forefront's face. The form this is in gives her words a carefree, sing-song tone to it, like she doesn't take things too seriously. It contrasts pretty starkly with the importance of her job and the medical issues she must face regularly.

    1. I had the exact same thought about the sing-song tone while I was writing it. I wasn't sure whether it would work or be too much of a contrast.

  4. This was my favorite line: But midwives, cooks, and undertakers never want for work.
    All hail the simple human truths.

    I wondered how you were going to capture the paintings "worried" brow. You wove an entire tale in a poem.

  5. This felt like a very familiar rhythm to me. It's reminiscent of much of the WWI/WWII poetry I've read originating from small country towns in Australia. I think it's the intimacy, the sense of community that you establish in the early stanzas and the sing-song meter that Nate referred to. In the last stanza the rhythm feels a little forced, a little clunky, but otherwise I think you've done a nice job of conveying the painting.


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