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Ekphrastic Poems by Neil Ellman


The Painter Dreams About a Forest

(after the painting by Endre Bartos)

The Painter Dreams About a Forest by Endre Bartos



Even in the painter’s dreams

the forest seems unnerved

its foliage confused

by the seasons


turning the opulence of spring 

to the poverty of fall

green to orange and then to brown

life to death

art to dread and artlessness.


The painter dreams

that art will make it right

and with his brush in hand

turn winter into spring

and paint a testament to life.



a line, (a blue one)


 In Embrace of a Dragonfly

(after the painting by Endre Bartos)

In Embrace of a dragonfly by Endre Bartos



Should I, if I chose,

embrace the dragonfly

and make it one with me?


Should I, seduced,

by multiple eyes

and diaphanous wings



and lose my soul

to ambiguity.


Ensnared by love

I will, I shall

embrace my destiny


as a dragonfly

or whatever, wherever

it wants me to be.



a line, (a blue one)


Little Sun

(after the painting by Hannah Hoch)

Little Sun by Hannah Hoch



Too little to be

a deity

or fill the sky

with amaranthine light

the sun so little

in my secret sky

so awkward, so shy

a little child smiling

and asking why

it rises and sets

in the blink of an eye.



a line, (a blue one)


The Weird Show

(after the collage by Hannah Hoch)

The Weird Show by Hannah Hoch



To see the weirdness in the everyday

in automobiles, incandescent bulbs

and the tickety-ticking clocks of time

to see their oddity

in the side-show of a dream

look no further than a looking glass

to understand how weird we are 

how weird the image

of the image of a god becomes

something other than his plan

in a world inhabited by elves,

machines and cartoon strips

where everything is weird.



a line, (a blue one)


Incarnation (Raku)

(after the painting by Tadashi Nakayama)

Incarnation (Raku) by Tadashi Nakayama



As my first incarnation

I became a cat 

so obsessed with rats

that I ate their poisoned food

and died soon after that.


The second time around

was no better than the first:

I became a cuddle fish

drawn to my certain death  

by a length of string and plastic lure.


The third, fourth, and fifth

were much the same:

eaten by a crocodile

Shot from the skies

and caught in a hunter’s trap


And now I have become

a chicken in a coop

without the wings to fly away     

knowing I will die again and again

and never be a king.




a line, (a blue one)


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