By Martin Altman

Making Images

By the painter’s brush                                                               
An image is born as picture before it’s born as speech, 
But in a cloud of pictures,
The infant wails until the fog lifts, and
The crowd speaks to him through a veil of sounds, and
The image of speech inhabits him.

But if every object must be made into an image, then
The eye is the river to the dark sea on which
Visions are exchanged for speech.

And though there’s still coherence
When a mother gives the breast, and
The back hand, too,
An icon is demolished; 
If the image of the woman is the mother of the man,
How many shards does he become?

Fragile as fog

Egg when penetrated
Sperm when absorbed
Die in the act of unifying;
Their consummation
Forms a self that could not be conceived,
But conceived, can’t conceive itself.

Rain, dew, frost contains the self,
Day-break’s gray-blue light, not mind,
Inhabited by images others have conceived,
Ghosts wandering in our consciousness;
And yet we think we own them,
The pseudonyms inside us.

Self is ephemera in air,
Not just image and shadow,
But shadow’s shadow, reflecting, refracting,
So if the bare scintillation of light
Stands between face and mask,
The fleeting being stays anchored to a fleeting hope.

Night Vision

Luminous lamp turned off,
And there’s night;
Though darkness is, and has seen its face
In God’s face for an eternity,
Before the lamp switched on;
And His mind and all things contain
The gene for darkness, and
Flowers bloom under the forest canopy.
If He at one with darkness conceives of light,
Then darkness must retreat behind every rock,
Until the sun has set.
We’re made of the dust of shattered rock
And the dark beneath it,
Our home and resting place.


And darkness was ingrained,

And He brooded on the empty sky,

And the egg cracked,

Then two embers, Dream and Nightmare,
Cognates coalescing around the broken egg
Celebrate their origin and go their separate ways.
A trace is on their face or DNA.

There’s no air in dream or nightmare,

But one is out of her mind,
So holding the breath is ecstasy.
The other is too much inside it,
So taking a breath is ecstasy.

An ember in a womb of ice fears the ice will melt,
An ember in a womb of light fears it will drown in light.

Darkness seeks the Mother who
Stirs the pot of hellish flames.
The Father’s great red eye
Observes it all.

About the Author:

martin altman

I was born and raised in The Bronx, graduated from Lehman College (CUNY) with a B.A. in English, and worked in New York City’s Garment District for 40 years.  Since 2010 I have lived with my wife Joyce in Chicago.  I was Featured Reader at The Café and at TallGrass Writers Guild in Chicago.  I have been published in Outrider Press, Red Ochre, Blue Minaret, Aethlon: Journal of Sport, Light: A Journal of Photography, Penwood Review, and an LGBT magazine Off the Rocks.  Being a stutterer from childhood, a major concern of my poetry is speaking and hearing, breathing and cessation, connection and isolation, and silence.