Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Truth is a River

The Smile of the Flamboyant Wings
—Painting by Joan Miró
—Today's Poems are by Neil Ellman, Livingston, NJ


(oil painting, 1953, by Joan Miró)

Better not to touch
the waves of a boiling sea
but skim above them
like an albatross
with flamboyant
outstretched wings
and move with the wind
sing of their victory
over time and tide
darkening the sun
with their feathery smile—
better to soar above the fray
than to feel the spray
of a malevolent sea.

—Painting by Joan Miró


(oil painting and pencil, 1924, by Joan Miró)

Cloistered in my hermitage
surrounded by the toys
I have collected
in the hope that I would die
with them       my diversions
my trinkets       tin soldiers
animals stuffed like memories
in a pillow case
beneath the head of the child
I was       I am alone
as I watch them fade
their arms grown weak
and falling off—
what an irony it is
that they should die
and I should be alone
with their remains
in this my afterlife.

 Pierrot Lunaire
—Painting by Paul Klee


(watercolor, 1924, by Paul Klee)
Pierrot performs a pantomime
of loneliness       at the midnight hour
his only companion the moon
without a light her own
but imitates the creases
and the secrets of his face
while he duplicates
her valleys and her seas
as if he knows the mysteries
behind her gaze.

Always apart       always lovers
in each other’s eyes and heart
they share an orbit around the sun            
that gave them union
and deprived them of their light.

 The Search for the Truth
—Painting by René Magritte


(painting, 1963, by René Magritte)

Truth is not a line
like a crow’s
from here to there
without a deviation
but a river flowing
to an unknowable sea
and meandering through
an impenetrable land.

Truth is (or was)
erratic        eccentric
as unpredictable
as a nighthawk’s flight;
it is what it is
or how it seems
to an inquisitive eye
through a telescope
or microscope
searching for something
that will never be      more
than illusion       and less
than the refraction of light
on bits of glass
at the far end of a kaleidoscope.

 The Last of the Mercenaries
—Painting by Paul Klee


(watercolor, 1931, by Paul Klee)


In the War of Independence
he fought for the British side.

As a Ghurka boy from Nepal
he swore allegiance to the British Crown.

The French Foreign Legion recruited him
from the gutters of Paris and Dijon.

In Africa and Asia
he fought for anyone willing to pay.


He died somewhere
and lies without a coffin
or stone to mark the place
so far away from home
where no one knows his name.

—Painting by Roberto Matta Echaurren 


(painting, 1955, by Roberto Matta Echaurren)

You can see inside my soul
as if looking at an X-ray screen
and listen to my thoughts
as if they were spoken to you alone.

You can hear me speak the words
I could not speak
unless were placed upon my tongue
by another’s hands.

Intervision makes me seem
more real than I really am—
a shimmering image on a sheet of glass
a face without a name
with the substance of the air:
an empty substitute for a being.


Our thanks to Neil Ellman for this fine ekphrastic breakfast that he has sent us this morning! Neil’s newest chapbook, Of Angels & Demons: The Art of Paul Klee as Poetry, now available from LuLu ( or Flutter Press (


Today’s LittleNip:

Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.

—Clive Barker,
Days of Magic, Nights of War




 —Cover of Neil Ellman’s latest book

Celebrate poetry by reading, reading, reading, 
and then going over to the CSUS Writing Center 
 (Calaveras 128) today at 6pm for the “First Edition” 
of a new reading series, Sac State of Poetry,
 this one featuring Jason Shapiro, Stuart Canton,
and Phillip Barron, plus open mic. Scroll down to
the blue column (under the green column at the right) 
for info about this and other upcoming readings
in our area—and note that more may be added 
at the last minute.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.