September 2, 2016

Three ekphrastic poems by Neil Ellman: "Gaze of Science," "Aeolian Harp," and "Land of Lemons."

Neil Ellman, a poet from New Jersey, has published numerous poems, more than 1,000 of which are ekphrastic, in print and online journals, anthologies and chapbooks throughout the world. Each of these poems are ekphrastic, which is a poetry form that is a vivid description of a work of art. they are based on paintings by Paul Klee. In each case, the title of the poem is also that of the original image.

gaze of silence.jpg
Paul Klee, German, 1879 - 1940
Gaze of Silence (Blick der Stille), 1932
Oil on jute

Gaze of Science

(oil painting by Paul Klee)

Science gazes, studies, compares
analyzes and measures
the universe with light and telescopes
the mind with probes and words
as if they were the only ways to know
beyond the tip of its nose
and focus of its eye.

Its mind can only understand
what it touches and sees
in the circles of a tree,
the arch of stars across the sky,
life through a microscope
and crash of particles upon a screen.

It can only know what it knows
or thinks it should
but never the answers it seeks
and never the meaning of a tree.

Paul Klee, German, 1879 - 1940
Aeolian Harp, 1922
Watercolor & Ink

 Aeolian Harp

(watercolor and ink by Paul Klee)

Without my hands
I play the Aeolean harp
when the wind is right
and the spirit moves the air
from east to west
and back again
from the firmament
to earth
to make a music
never heard
a music never known
in the circles of a tree
or the quiet of the rising sun

I play the harp
as if it were my own
when it belongs
to the gods alone
and the music from their breath
but not from me
a simple musician
without an instrument
or a song to play.

Land of Lemons.jpg
Paul Klee, German, 1879 - 1940
Land of Lemons, 1929
Watercolor and gouache

Land of Lemons

(watercolor and gouache by Paul Klee)

In the Land of Lemons
there is a sourness in the air
and on the tongue.

People breathe the bitterness
of their lives
and speak the language
of despair.

They taste the harshness
of the rind and commonplace
as if it were a meal for gods

as if their lives mattered
(if at all)
less than their dreams
in a world of trials, ordeals
and tribulations
where the only commandment
is to survive.

In the Land of Lemons
lemons grow
on lemon trees
rooted in the mind.

~Neil Ellman

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