Some say Böcklin dreamt the Isle of the Dead
and spent the rest of his life trying to paint it.
Some say each snowflake sets out to reproduce
a dreamflake, but the clouds are careless copyists.
Nabokov said the Isle on a wall is part of
every Berlin home, like a roof or running water.
Maybe Böcklin’s dream is dreamt by each of us,
even if they’re his initials on the cave-tomb’s door.
Maybe I dreamt a poem once, at least its contours,
and have spent the rest of my life trying to write it.
Maybe every poem is really the same elegy, the same
suicide note, reflected in a shattered funhouse mirror,
leaving you, me, anyone to pick up the pieces.
Each pearl conceals a grain of sand—but try to find it.
Of course, Böcklin didn’t paint and repaint the Isle
to realize his undying fixation, his dream of death,
but to satisfy his patrons and their commissions,
his landlords and their past-due notices.
And maybe this was never about the obsession
of the painter, the poet, the clouds, but of each of us
and our insatiable hunger for pattern, for meaning.
And maybe you can tell me: do we ever find it?
Daniel J. Pizappi
This poem was written for the surprise ekphrastic I See a Darkness challenge.
Daniel J. Pizappi grew up in New York’s Hudson River Valley and currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is a PhD student, Managing Editor of Grist: A Literary Journal, and co-editor of Kentucky Writers: The Deus Loci and the Lyrical Landscape (Des Hymnagistes Press, 2016). His work has appeared in Your Impossible Voice, Burningword, and The Schawangunk Review.
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