Birthday by Marc Chagall

There’s been talk about writer’s block. I don’t really have a cure, but I know that every time I visit a museum, I leave with a poem. On Sunday, it was the MoMA. I went to see the Van Gogh exhibit, and then I went to say hello to my favorite painting, and then I found myself in front of a wall of Chagalls. This one particularly struck me. I couldn’t remember having seen it before. I kept thinking “fish husband.” I realized the man’s a ghost, but still I thought, “fish husband.” I was determined to write a poem about a fish husband. But this is what I came up with. No fish husbands. Just ghosts.


I cannot tell a lie I want a whole long line
of admirers to stand outside the window
of the Chagall painting in which I live.

I want them to have crossed over many
rooftops, through grey and snowy weather,
arms full of stars and frozen roses.

I want wise men for admirers. I want horses.
I want cellists and rabbis and stained
glass menorahs for admirers. When they come

and stand beneath my window I will ask them
have they suffered? How much and for how long?
I cannot tell a lie I cannot make up my mind.

Every night they stand there and yet every
night I light the candles, close my eyes,
and wait for my husband to fly above and in.

5 Responses to Writing from Art

  1. I never realized the man was a ghost… still, I’ve always loved Chagalls and that painting in particular.

  2. zoë miller says:

    beautiful poem!

    and it is funny, because the children i teach are now learning about chagall. they love that the animals in his paintings are often doing human things and they are recreating the man playing the green violin!They are also obsessed with the idea of painting on pajamas, because they found out chagall painted on pajamas and table clothes when he first moved to paris and couldn’t afford canvas.

  3. Shane Michael Manieri says:

    Wasn’t the van Gogh exhibit so inspiring? I love the way he uses brush strokes to accentuate light and shadows.

    And can we talk about the Pipilotti Rist: Pour Your Body Out exhibit for a moment: spell binding!

    Yes… I love ekphrastic poetry. And I love your poem, Leigh! Thanks!

  4. Mario says:

    Beautiful Leigh.
    I know this painting, and it’s one of my favorites as well. ;-)

  5. sandysays1 says:

    Tough subject, but provides an interesting introspective. Visit my blog at:

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