Wednesday, July 06, 2016

We Are the River

Death for the Idea, 1915
—Painting by Paul Klee
—Poems Today by Neil Ellman, Livingston, NJ


(after the painting by Paul Klee)



It comes as suddenly
as lightning from a cloud.
Its spark ignites the mind.
Epiphany from a bolt of light.

The idea of an afternoon
along the river’s edge.
frogs jumping in the weeds.
the sun like shattered glass
through splintered trees.


The idea of it:
You and I together.
our feet in the water
toes feeling the bottom.
We are in the river.
We are the river, an idea.


Death comes too quickly
too much like
the first idea,
you and I together
gone as quickly
when the river stops.

 Machine V, 1960
—Painting by Hedda Sterne


(after the painting by Hedda Sterne)

In its wires and soldered joints
the sputtering leaps of electricity
from node to node
across the barren spaces
between the eye and mind

it senses
it sees
it remembers
it feels
it knows
and always knew

that its time would come
when the connections would be made
the wish complete
to go its separate way.

Old Man, His Head Two Paces Behind, 1920-21
—Lithograph by El Lissitzsky 


(after the lithograph by El Lissitzsky)

To be old
two paces behind the rest
two seasons out of synch
winter where spring should be
a tortoise lumbering
along a narrowing road.

To forget
even the names of his heirs
the children he named
for his forebears
who barely remember
his name.

To be left behind
one foot at a time
with every passing year
remembering more of yesterday
and less of now.

To be old
his head two paces behind
the rest of him
on its way
to somewhere it has never been.

 Red Again
—Painting by Sam Francis


(after the painting by Sam Francis)

Red again
and again and again
repeating like echoes
on the walls of time
how many times I say
that I am red
and you are not
how many times
that I repeat my name
as many times
as red repeats
in the colors of the stars
and shades of earth
I am
as red as pharaonic blood
Proxima centauri
and columbines
as red as you
and the universe are not.

 Twittering Machine, 1922
—Painting by Paul Klee


(after the watercolor by Paul Klee)

Is it a bird?  A machine?—
A sputtering jay
its cylinders out-of-synch
with its wings
unnaturally aligned?

Does it walk or ride
on uneven rails
or does it fly
against a north-west wind
to rust and die?

What critter is this
with the DNA
of a Chevrolet
and the armature
of a mockingbird?

Does it cackle, gobble
and crow
or just twitter and tweet?

 The Way Into Blue, 1934
—Painting by Paul Klee


(after the painting by Paul Klee)

Blue goes wherever it goes
In the blue light of a dimming star
along meandering rivers
ending in the sea
unnoticed through fields of anemone
horizonless against
the blueness of the night
merging on the blueness of the sky
filled with invisible light
so blue there is no color
other than of itself.

Everything of this world
is blue.
There is no way into
its blue geography
or out
no way to speak
in any language other
than of blue.

 When White, 1963-64
—Painting by Sam Francis


(after the painting by Sam Francis)

When white was the color
of the universe
and then of wedding flowers
the world was new
even newer than the yellow sun
while children played among the clouds
as if the whiteness of their time
would never end.

When white was the sound
of falling leaves
echoing their whiteness
as they touched the ground
while children played
like invisible angels
making their outlines in the snow.

It could be touched, then,
cold, implacable, harsh
the way of whiteness
as it consumed the spectrum
of their days
the children played
as if tomorrow would never come.


Today’s LittleNip:

Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?

—M.C. Escher


—Medusa, with thanks to Neil Ellman for today’s fine ekphrastic poems!

 Celebrate the poetry in art, and the art in poetry!

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