Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Bum's Eye View

P. Green by Joseph Albers, 1971
—Poems by Neil Ellman, Livingston, NJ

(Josef Albers, screenprint)

On a green planet
green with age
the birds
in their verdancy
sing a green lament

green air               
green clouds
green lava flows
and beaches greener
than the shadow of the sun   

how green the seas
the land
how fresh in spring
and raw in fall

when every life
is green
and greener still
is death

green rivers, lakes
green glacial ice                  
green the snow that falls
on a summer day
while from afar   
how blue
the planet seems.

 Singer of the Cosmic Opera by Paul Klee, 1923

(Paul Klee, lithograph)

In perfect pitch
she sings of creation
as if it were her own
never wavering
from her conception
to the stage where
she would die alone
a swan, a whore
a pitiful maid
rejected by an audience
that like the universe
whistles its disdain
and exits in a rush.

 Animals Devouring Themselves by André Masson, 1929

(André Masson, pastel)

They are what they eat
and what they eat is they
the hearts of their enemies
becoming their hearts
and their tongues
more able to speak the unspeakable
and question the will of their blood
and their eyes more clearly to see
from another point of view
deeper and farther
from the hunger in their craws
without ever knowing
that whatever devours itself
becomes itself
and nothing more.

 Tomorrow is Never by Kay Sage, 1955

(Kay Sage, painting)

When tomorrow never comes
no resurrection, no messiah,
no apocalypse
no clockwork repetition of the tides
no reawakening of passions past
no reopening of old wounds
no new battlefields.

When tomorrow never comes
words of prophecy
are silenced by the darkness
of the sun eclipsed.

Always now, just beyond
Inevitability and faith
all things stay the same
all things languish, wither, wait
for the second coming of the sun.

  Black Fire by George Condo, 1961

(Barnett Newman, painting)

From red-hot
to orange, yellow, white
and then still hotter black
like a luminous star
that feeds upon itself
to quench its thirst for light
becoming flames so dark
they burn the tongue
and sear the heart
this life is little more
than light consumed
in the center of a fire.

 A Bum's Eye View by George Condo, 1985

(George Condo, painting)

From my perspective
with my point of view  
with myriad eyes
guttered as I am
under a cardboard sky
in the perpetual darkness
of my life
like an invisible black hole
in the contemptuous space
between the stars
I watch the passersby
oblivious to my place
In their brief universe
scattering pennies
for me to eat
when I want more
to feed my appetite—
in one end
and out the other
where I consume their world
and they become like me.

 Childhood of the Chosen One by Paul Klee, 1930

(Paul Klee, painting)

Before he could speak
the language of fish and foul
before he could bend
steel by and to his will
before he could raise the dead
and fly with the ease
of an albatross          
before he could spell
his name in clouds
he was just a child
who ruled his make-believe
of plastic toys and bottle caps
as if he were the king
who would rule the world of men
as if he were a child again.

 The Evil Genius of a King 
by Giorgio de Chirico, 1914-1915

(Giorgio de Chirico, painting)

Every word of his a law
every law a mystery without a shape
the way of gods and kings
we were absorbed
into the language of his will.

No cause, no consequence
his genius in malevolence disguised
as poetry and love
the monarch did what he was
born to do
and we were meant
to do as we were told.

With neither reason nor excuse
without conscience or remorse
the king decreed that we shall
turn to stone, skin to bone
without complaint—
and so we did.


Today's LittleNip:

 (Roberto Matta Echaurren, acquatint)
There is no reason in the sky
and even less below
but mere hyperbole and pretend
how the stars spawn gods
and monsters from shreds of light
shape myth from history
and myth becomes a faith
and faith dissolves to black—
no reason in the stars above,
below and in the eye.


—Medusa, with thanks to Neil Ellman today for his fine ekphrastic poetry!

The Stars Below by Roberto Matta Echaurren, 1965