Six Poems by Neil Ellman


(Ellsworth Kelly, painting)

All there is is red
nothing more, nothing less
the color of creation
beginning where beginnings end
ends begin
in the heart of silence
a silent heart
nothing at all of ambivalence
when red is red is red.

The Wounded Bird

(after the painting by Salvador Dalí)

Fallen, discarded
from her mother-nest
separation wounds, offends
scatters feathers
on migration’s path
neither tern nor tanager
neither live nor dead
plummeting forever
in abandoned space
she survives
her wounded pride
to become the mother
of her race

Night World

(after the painting by Richard Pousette-Dart)

In the world of night
black cats crawl
shadows cast shadows
never seen
only the owls
hooting at the moon
and poltergeists
rapping scraping
on the wall
can make their
presence known
where everything visible
all possibilities
the moon itself
in this world
of the blind at night
the blind seek answers
in their fingertips.


(after the painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat)

this advertisement for my self
1. smoke me
2. wash your hands with me
3. eat my ambivalence
4. drink my soul
paradise eludes
Madison Avenue
on the streets
where madness reigns
5. believe in no other
6. be a brother
7. don’t be deceived
by me
I am a brand
and nothing more.

Colored Paper Image III

(Blue Black Curves)

(Ellsworth Kelly, work on paper)

This, my carapace
This, the arch of my back
this gathering of bones
my home, retreat
among the years
this, where I belong
the curvature of time.

Stay, You Must

(Yves Tanguy, painting)

Stay, you must
(as I say you must)
if you dare
(I dare you to stay)
has no consequence
other than contempt
for me
my passion
is a snake
coiled, unyielding
stay, here
(I demand)
in this land
that god forgot
with me
forgotten too
where you belong

Profile: Neil Ellman

Three Poems by Neil Ellman

Na Hale ‘o Walawi

(after the installation sculpture by Patrick Dougherty)

On these hibiscus islands
floating in a blue-green pond
a wild thing grows
a monkeypod tree
with twigs and sticks
with strawberry guava
and rose apple saplings
woven around its frame
like old skin on a dying man:
such a creature this is
that inhabits a Sendak world
in the shape of extinction
waiting, withering
without its mate?


(after the woodcut by Helen Frankenthaler)

In the flower
and willow world
the reigning
empress of desire
for centuries
holds court
she rules the realm
of lesser men
and greater gods.


(after the silkscreen by Helen Frankenthaler)

Tangle of sticks
pieces of string
this incubator
where downy
white displaced
by wings
and soar
as the wind.

Profile: Neil Ellman