Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is That a Poem In Your Pocket...?

—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

(after the painting by Franz Marc)
—Neil Ellman, Livingston, NJ

in the beginning
before men made handprints
on the walls
before they struck flint for fire
and walked upright without a tail
before tyrannosaurus rex
tyrannized primeval times
before amphibians
crawled to land on fins
growing arms and legs
before the coelacanth
before the trilobite
before bacteria—
blue horses grazed
on primordial grass    
and protostars
raced through the sky
on Pegasus wings
and Centaur winds
even before
the earth was born.


(after the collage by Nils Karsten)
—Neil Ellman

It made riddles from sand
the Who or What it is
asked Why and When
of ever it lived

     “Am I a lion? A man?
     The pharaoh’s face
     carved from limestone
     eroded to ambiguous curves??

     Why do I stare
     Into empty space
     with bewildered eyes
     glazed by the wind
     my haunches
     anchored to the past?

     Am I the king of cats
     or slave to kings?”

It sits and wonders
Where, How, What
the name of it
if ever
it had a name.


(after the painting by Francis Bacon)
—Neil Ellman

Distorted, distended
some disease of the flesh
or mind, I am an else,
another thing less miraculous
less than what I was
if ever I was the face I saw
my veneer
refracted in the molten glass
I see tortured metamorphosis
of taut to dripping flesh 
my inner self becomes
another face—
I wonder if he has a name.

 On the Rooftops
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

(after the watercolor by Camille Rose Garcia)
—Neil Ellman

I, witch
they, the elements of my enchanted life
earth, air, fire and water
the phases of the moon
we, together take revenge
brew beauty and eternity from chemicals
bat-wings, lizard-feet and dragon-claws
pounded in a porcelain bowl
boiling in a cauldron pot
ours, my destiny in fairy tales
yours, bewitched.


(after the painting by Florence
—Neil Ellman

See me
in a darkened room
lifting off the floor
hovering, armless,
no mouth to speak
but eyes to see you
as you sleep
I see inside
your shrouded head
in the creases
of your thoughts
and hidden dreams
you know my name
as well as yours
the spirit
of who you are
my essence
from your womb—

Now you lay you down
to sleep
and pray the Lord
your soul to keep.


(after the sculpture by Hiroshi)
—Neil Ellman

Your shoe is your skin
translucent at first
transparent after it speaks 
revealing the secret what
of who you are
a foot, not quite a foot
but bone and ligament
your soul, sinewy cold
repeating old arguments
of leather and tongue—
you are a foot, the who
of what your are
disguising, avoiding
never able to hide
behind diaphanous words—
you are a foot without a skin
and nothing more.


Our thanks to today's contributors for National Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day. Neil Ellman returns to the Kitchen after being featured on Sept. 6, 2012; type his name into the search bar at the upper left of this column for more of his work and a photo of him. 

As you know, today we're all supposed to carry copies of favorite poems in our pockets to hand out to friends and strangers. In these days of the Internet, there is no shortage of material available to download!

I hope you realize that The Book Collector is having a 30% off sale of all poetry during the month of April; I have been remiss in not posting info about this. Debbie, the new proprietor, has made some subtle but helpful changes in the store, and I hope you'll get down there this month to see them and to take advantage of the sale.

And kudos to Steven Colbert for reciting poetry with Caroline Kennedy on his TV show this week. They even talked about Homer!


Today's LittleNip:

—e.e. cummings

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
and inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.



—Photo by D.R. Wagner