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Featured Guest Poet Ellen Bihler

Artist in a Box

The taut muscles of each folded leg,
perfect contoured nose,
pouty lips, fashionable hair,
shrunken to the size of canned dreams.

Surrounded by your creations,
you were beauty, boxed.

His robe drags open
to familiar flesh,
draped indifference, tugging.
Husband? Daddy?
Does it matter now?

Her shadowed chin forever resting
on a hand so large
it would collect
every living, exploding cell.
Her eyes hint at disappearing
and then she does.

His arms thrust the small form
upward like an offering.
Brushstrokes of light on
my infant face
and nowhere else.

The canvas behind you
a blurred metaphor
of your mother?
your older self?
A box within a box?

Even now you opt
for the structure which never shelters
you. Artist, mother, woman
who could not leave.

March, 2001

Ellen Bihler's Questions:

I've never posted here before, so please bear with me.

My questions regarding this poem are as follows

1) Is it clear that the 4 indented stanza's each refer to a different painting?

2) Is the description in the first stanza of my mother's appearance irrelevant to the rest of the poem, or does it work?

3) Do I adequately take the reader from point A to point B (does the poem adequately explore why she is a "woman who could not leave"?

Dear Ellen, First of all, let me indicate that I a novice poet, having written 70 poems, but with no formal education in this area. I have 30 year of experience as a professional communicator...and so learned "on the street". Therefore, I apologize if my comments are amateurish, but they are honest and written from the perspective that I am willing to learn. In response to your questions:
1. I had no clue that the 4 indented stanzas referred to a painting in the first place. On re-reading several times, after reading your questions, I could not find a descriptive phrase that would lead the reader to envision a description of paintings would follow.
2. I enjoyed the most, your introductory stanza, and next two lines, I thought, "Oh, this is interesting"....And then the indentation came and I lost where you were going....Initially, I felt that you were going in the direction of an absence of artistic freedom, or rote art..vacant of genuine creative expression....Was it important your intention to establish that the person described was "your" mother....this was not clear if it was.
3. I got lost on the trip from point A to point B. I did see A and B...but the four in the middle....did not connect the points....nor did they or anywhere else indicate rationale for being "boxed". Did this have to do with a marriage reality...or was it intended to address absence of creative freedom somehow.
Ellen, that is all I have. I hope that these comments are useful to you. And I hope that my lack of experience in, or understanding, of poetic expression, has not somehow missed the message and constitute only dumb comments.
Bernie Malach

USA - Sat Mar 24 10:11:02 2001

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