Writing from Art

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.