Poetry by Neil Ellman

Dragon Knows Dragon

(after the painting by Shiryu Morita)








Only a dragon knows another like itself

the brutal heart of it

beating to the rhythm of the same taiko

and sharing vengeful memories of villages

pillaged, burned and laid to ground.


Each can see in each other’s eyes

a murderous intent

and knows the purpose of their tongues

and flaming breath

red with the malevolence of their resolve.


A dragon knows another

as it knows itself

a soldier fighting for its kind

with its sword and lashing tail

like a flag

caught in the winds of war.

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Poetry by Neil Ellman

Wilder Shores of Love

(after the painting by Cy Twombly)











After the river is crossed

so many unspeakable words

so many excuses

so many photographs

torn and burned

chairs thrown

and mirrors shattered

on its wilder shore

no peaceable kingdom

no place for devotion

conciliation and love.


The other side is littered

with broken promises

fragments of concession

and accord

so little time together

and so much apart

we are left as creatures

of our inner wild.


You and I have crossed

the river too many times

but now with no way home

and nowhere else to go.

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Poetry by Neil Ellman

Departure of a Ghost

(watercolor/gouache by Paul Klee)

Paul Klee's Departure of a Ghost

Paul Klee’s Departure of a Ghost










The ghost of my other self

my inner self, my alter self

lives with me, shares my bed,

my life as if it were its life

a place at my table

within my house

as if it were its own.


it stays        it stays

whatever I might say

it lingers

like an uninvited guest

stayed too long.


I hear its disembodied voice

pleading for a place to be

alive like me

I know that it must go

and leave me to my life

alone        with a kind of peace

I had never known.


And then it disappears

my other self        a wisp of smoke

into the air

leaving me alone

the lesser of the two of us.

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Poetry by Neil Ellman


(Roberto Matta Echaurren, painting)

Selfinity, 1995. http://www.nordstamp.com/artists.dir/matta1.html

Selfinity, 1995









Infinity, self

the self in infinite shapes

of past, present and future selves

never quite themselves

yet always somehow

the same

as if the self = mc2

constant, eternal and infinite

as if there were only

a single time and space

in which the self

transcends its place

in the infinity of its time.

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Poetry by Neil Ellman


Artisoo Andromeda - Oil Painting Reproduction 30'' X 24'' - Andre Masson from www.amazon.com.uk

Andre Masson’s Artisoo Andromeda












The dragon-night, its smothering wings,

holds her fast, its tongue, embered

by the stars it eats, turns her skin

to smoldering coals, her soul to the stone

she has become.



No escape from this dark enemy,

none, nor even the light still tangled

in her hair, once a princess

now a servant to a basilisk, she

struggles to no avail.



Once upon a midnight time

Andromeda, set free, released

to wander destiny

her ashes scattered in the sky

dark star, to the naked eye.


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Poetry by Neil Ellman


(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

Yellow circle on a pale white background

Adolph Gottlieb’s The Aftermath

After the aftermath

a yellow sun

a blister on the skin of time

when time itself caught fire

and simmered in its throes

before the end

the rattle of its destiny

from tongues of light

a quiver, a yowl

then afterwards the sun

without a past

or after after-here

yellow in its solitude.


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Poetry by Neil Ellman

From WikiPaintings.com, Salvador Dali's Soft Self Portrait with Fried Bacon

From WikiPaintings.com, Salvador Dali’s Soft Self Portrait with Fried Bacon

Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon

(after the painting by Salvador Dalí;  found poem

based on quotations by the artist)

At the age of six

I wanted to be a cook.

At seven I wanted to be Napoleon,

and my ambition has been growing

ever since.

There are some days when I think

I’m going to die

from an overdose of satisfaction.

I don’t do drugs, I am drugs.

Take me, I am the drug;

take me

I am hallucinogenic.

It is not necessary… to know

whether or not I am joking

or whether or not I am serious.

There is only one difference between

a madman and me. The madman

thinks he is sane. I know I am not.

I am not strange,

I am just not normal.

I am Surrealism.

Salvador Dali as Mona Lisa

Salvador Dali as Mona Lisa

Self Portrait as Mona Lisa

(after the painting by Salvador Dalí)

I’ve shifted paradigms

so many times

my head reels

my mustache curls

I split my personality

the one who’s me

the others not

nor knowing where I stand

sinking knee-deep in a bog

or on solid ground

or if, in fact, it’s even me

believing that the earth

is flat then round

or, just thinking,

why not square

that the earth revolves

around the sun

or the sun around

the earth

or that there is no sun

why not

in a universe

one of many where

anything is possible

I am La Gioconda

or possibly not

I think therefore I am

or even her.

Self Portrait - Basquiat

Self Portrait – Basquiat


(after the painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat)

Do you know me, who I really was

or only as a photograph on the cover

of a dog-eared magazine?

You know the one, whats-his-name,

the kid with a spray paint can

and an appetite for death.

News at Five:

“The kid who banged Madonna

fucked himself in a rush

of heroin. Story at eleven.”

b., 1960, d., 1982

“The art world celebrates his life

and auction price

rising from his death”—

my resurrection of sorts

in a life of highs and lows

I came too close to the sun

and it burned my soul

a fateful black.

Now you know me, or you don’t.

No matter, man,

what goes up must come down.