Neil Ellman, July 2013

Mare = Ballerina

(after the painting by Gino Severini)

She rides the waves on pirouettes
and swells of foam
leaps of blue adagios;
she glides across the stage
her bare feet barely touching wood;
her fingers reach the lights
and hold the sun in hand—
she is the sea, it she
eternally rippling in her skirts
the ebb and flow
of sea and she in time
on pointed toes.

Extinction of Useless Lights

(after the painting by Yves Tanguy)


I am the lord of hollows and caves
the guardian of secret crags and crevices
cut from limestone terraces
I am the alchemist who turns flesh to salt
and salt to granite acolytes
I am the prophet who sees
into the oracle’s dark mouth.


I am deceiver and deceived
trusting no one but myself
creator and created
by no one but myself
walking the earth and universe
with no one but myself.


Whatever doesn’t sing my praise
is heresy—
silence it!

Whatever doesn’t shine on me
Is useless light—
extinguish it!



Velocità astrata + rumore

(after the painting by Giacomo Balla)


At the speed of sound
at the sound of speed
the speed of light’s
relentless speed
at the sound of red
and blue and green
at the edge of white’s
indifferent sound
of cymbals clashing
gray on brown
chasing speed
without remorse—
then motion caught
in endless now
by time in black.

Shadow Country

(after the painting by Yves Tanguy)


Drawn into a wild architecture
of leafless trees
lush monoliths growing from seed
then rotting in their place
into the forest we go, bewitched,
following breadcrumbs and charms
the scent of dragon-fire
and siren-song of nymphs
past fallen colonnades
and the statues of beheaded kings
lured, alone
we enter a near-familiar world
of shadows casting shadows
of their own
among the ruins of a past
and future life
we wait to be reborn.

Small Dream in Red

(after the painting by Wassily Kandinsky)

In my hemi-demi-semi-sleep
my dreams
where the what-so-always-was
of seems
I hear the when-not-never-will
of screams
in darkness redder-redder-still
that turn the dragon-night-to-light
in streams
of smaller-smallest hope
and seams
in shattered always-ever time
perhaps-perhaps-but-maybe-not .



Twice nominated for Best of the Net, Neil Ellman lives and writes in New Jersey.  More than 700 of his poems, many of which are ekphrastic and based on works of modern and contemporary art, appear in print and online journals, anthologies, broadsides and chapbooks throughout the world.  Among his eleven published chapbooks, nine are devoted to ekphrastic poetry.

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