Sunday, February 22, 2015

Neil Ellman- Three Poems

Sounds at Night
(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

With a black cat’s shape
in a black cat’s night
it can still be felt
a spider crawling
on the skin
a shadow
passing through the walls
its wake
barely perceptible
like the pull of stars
but it can still be heard
scratching on the air
soft words
whispered in my ear
as if it were alive.


(after the painting by Joan Mitchell)

Not of a place or time
nor with the hard wood of reality
there are trees that grow
anywhere they wish
on barren, idle ground
and in consecrated stands
a consequence of mind
they can take any shape
have any color they will—
blue elms like soldiers in a row
against an obdurate sky;
red and yellow ash
fleeling from the wind;
some soft, leafless, reaching
for the sun;
others stiff, gray and resolute
like statues carved in stone—
there are trees that take
impossible shapes
and some of them are real.

Two Reasons Birds Sing

(after the screenprint by Robert Rauschenberg)

If for no other reasons
birds sing because they can
and must.
It is not as if they have a choice
to roar, grunt, maw, neigh
pant-hoot and bray
at the moon like mules;
or like machines, grind
hum, bubble, kreen and whir
and chugga chugga chug
to their potential mates.

All they can do is sing    
churree churree churee
tsweet tsweet tsweet
po-heet and cuckoo
every hour on the hour
of every day
as if they were a clock.

And they sing, of course,
because they must
for reasons of their own.

Neil Ellman, a poet from New Jersey, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and the Rhysling Award.  Close to 1000 of his poems, many of which are ekphrastic and written in response to works of modern and contemporary art, appear in print and online journal, anthologies and chapbooks throughout the world. 

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