Three Poems by Neil Ellman

Aged Phoenix

(after the drawing by Paul Klee)

Aged and aging faster and faster
than it can flash its wings
the ancient phoenix
once impervious to flames
has lost its feathers
no longer able to fly
beyond mortality’s reach.

What a sorrowful sight
is the bedraggled bird
leaning on its cane
and squinting in the sun
without the strength to fly
or reason to live
another five hundred years
to die again.

One Who Knows

(after the painting by Paul Klee)

One who knows
the eagle’s life
from nest to death
the span of its wings
and power of its flight
its migration’s course
from north to south
on thermal waves
from lakes to streams
for sustenance
knows the essence
of a human life.

One who knows
the path of life
in an eagle’s wake
knows the meaning
of the stars
as they cross the sky
and sink into the sea.


(after the painting by Paul Klee)

There was a time
before the makeup,
floppy feet
and ironic frown
that I walked among
more common men
who spoke
without exaggeration
of their faces and their limbs
seeming peculiar
in their normalcy
as life around them
came apart
and the world grotesque.
It was only then
that I took to motley,
and pancake masks
for them to see
what they became—
I, a clown,
like every man.


Neil Ellman, a poet from New Jersey, has published more than 1,500 poems, most of which are ekphrastic and based on works of modern art, in venues throughout the world. He has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net.

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