Monday, April 16, 2018

Before the Word

The Last Sound
—Painting by Ibrahim El-Salahim, 1964

—Neil Ellman, Livingston, NJ

(after the painting by Ibrahim El-Salahim)

It is said there is no sound in space
no vibrations of matter dark or light
for ears to hear the murmurs of the universe         
as galaxies implode, explode, collide
and stars are born and die in silent grace  
and yet we listen for their final prayers
as if they can be heard
across the galaxy and time
above the silence of their dying hours.

 Ocean Within
—Painting by Kazuaki Tanahashi, 2011

—Neil Ellman

(after the painting by Kazuaki Tanahashi)

In every ocean an ocean within
and within it a current spiraling down
through infinite seas and unfathomable depths
to a world where only luminous creatures live
without a breath or sound or moment in the sun.

In every person a person within
and within him a prayer falling from Heaven
through endless lives to the center of the mind
where there is no light
and thoughts forbidden as is the sun.

In every atom In all of space
smaller particles smaller and smaller still
as they circle down to the place of their birth
where all that remains is a single word.

 Another Storm
—Painting by Salvador Dali, 1946

—Neil Ellman

(after the painting by Salvador Dalí)

No illusion, no delusion
no apparition, no mirage
the wind makes shapes
from sand that murmurate
like birds as real
as we imagine them.

Every thought creates
a new reality
without the substance
of a whisper in the dark.

Every thought contains
the particles that become
our world.

If it is goddess we see
she rules our world
as surely as does the sun.

Before the word
the thought
that made the sky and earth.

 Another Storm
—Painting by Lee Krasner, 1955

—Neil Ellman

(after the painting by Lee Krasner)

We thought it was just another storm
one of many that comes when the sea
Is heated by the sun
and the winds catch bounding petrels
in their claws.    

Another Sunday, another prayer,
another squall to bring us the holy water
we thought would come
when we prayed for rain.

But it came like a serpent
with its tongue on fire
and its tail whipping the air
in circles and leaving a sacrifice
to the gods of disbelief.                      

It came, it left
on knife-edged wings
and our lives remained the same
waiting for another storm
salvation in its claws.

 Let Any Flowers Bloom
—Painting by Roberto Matta Echaurren, 1955

—Neil Ellman

(after the painting by Roberto Matta

Let any flowers bloom
wherever they may
whenever they will.

Let them grow in fertile soil
or from the cracks
in concrete walls.

Let them live as stars  
and catch the currents
of the air and waves of gravity

as if they were fish,
birds and bits of light—
anything they wish to be.  

For just another moment
let them spread their seed
within our minds

and let us memorize
their scents and the colors
of their skins.

Let them be
whatever they think they are
in their brief lives.

 —Photo by Caschwa

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

When there was
something to fix
my old man turned
to a printed manual,
a step-by-step
guide to get it

It may have had a
Table of Contents
and/or an Index
in any event there
were pictures
to go with the

Even if a task was
laid out over several
pages, one could
mark the page and
know where one was
in relation to the entire

That was in
the old days…
Now we get the
World Wide Web
which generously
shows us infinite

How wonderful it is to
not only know which
screw to turn which way,
but to also view curious
details about the person
who invented the

 Canada Family
—Photo by Caschwa


There had been endless love
and even a solemn oath
all of which was cast aside
like a broken toy soldier

Let the game go on, it is
Us against Them forever!
True warriors only fail if
they run out of enemies.

Stick ‘em, poke ‘em,
spit in their face, show them
who’s boss, don’t muddy your
shiny boots with why we have

fancy expressions like
“Rule of Law” to deter Patriots
from their rightful calling to be
lost in the joy of battle.

 Canada Swimmers
—Photo by Caschwa

Today’s LittleNip:


Sorry, honey, I forgot your name
You mean, this isn’t Tuesday?
I come from a long line of Dehesas,
but some people just call me nuts

My greatest strength is bitter tinnins
Age:  6 to 24 months
Sex:  monoecious
Career goal:  start small, fall, grow tall


Many thanks to today’s poets for their poems and visuals! Carl Schwartz lives near the river, and he makes the most of it! We’ll be seeing more of his photos in the future, and of course his poetry. Neil Ellman is an ekphrastic writer, so we’ve included the paintings that inspired him. For more about those painters and their works, go to:


National Poetry Month continues to be a busy one in this area, starting this evening at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm, with book releases by Thomas Mitchell and Jeff Knorr, plus open mic. On Wednesday, CSUS will feature Cynthia Linville and Tim Kahl (plus open mic), 3pm, in the Special Collections Room of the CSUS Library.

Thursday will be busy, with Third Thursdays at the Central Library in Sacramento at noon, then a Spanish Poetry Reading at Sac. Poetry Center, 7pm. At 8pm, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento presents features and open mic; also at 8pm, Poetry in Davis presents Stella Beratlis and Dana Koster (plus open mic) at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis.

On Friday at 6pm, the third of Sac. Poetry Center's NaPoWriMo Generative Workshop Series will meet at SPC, hosted by Bethanie Humphreys. Then at 7:30pm, The Other Voice Poetry Series in Davis goes all "open mic." This is a fundraising event for the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter of Davis. There will not be a cover charge, but they will be ‘passing the hat.’ That's at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis library, 27074 Patwin Rd., Davis, hosted by James Lee Jobe. And on Saturday at Sac. Poetry Center,
9:30am-1pm: Writers on the Air features Mary McGrath and Tim McHargus reading, plus open mic. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

One further note: July 21 is the deadline for the 2018 Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest; see for details and entry forms.


 —Photo by Caschwa
Celebrate the poetry of new life!

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