Art was a gift
sent to the bottom
of a pit,
a pit
like Joseph’s.

It was survival,
it was salvation,
it was lifeline,
manna, breath.

It was maps
of worlds I
did not know,
and where
to go
within them,

that dwarfed
the one I did know
all too well,

in which I was
failure and
lost soul.

It was colour,
it was a new world
every night.

It was worship.

Every night
I sent
my bucket

my bucket
of hope
and need,

down into
the well
of myself,

deep, to where
it was lost
to sense.

And every night
it came back
filled with life,
real life,

people and places
and colours I
had not known
were there.

And every night
it healed me.
It restored me.
It bestowed
independence of
the broken world.

I threw away
my old eyes,
never to
need them

Art was Mother,
life ever-renewing.

And one day
I got up and left
the old life,

I said
I don’t need you

I don’t need
your vision
of me,

I can stand by myself,
thank you,
and walked away,

and confident
enough to see
what the world
might hold.

Poem by Max Reif

“Picassoesque,” a piece representing the inner male and inner female natures.

Meher Baba/flower painting - Poem by Max Reif

“The Healing Embrace”

Driven to Abstraction

"Wunderkind" painting - Poems by Max Reif


On a cold morning
I make my pilgrimage
to the temple of abstract
expressionism at the Met.

Awed by the vast
scale of the room
and canvasses,
I have to sit
to take it in.

I’m relaxing on
a cushioned bench
and Pollock’s river suddenly starts moving,
current rushing towards my eyes,
then makes a waterfall!

Nearby, a magician named Hans Hoffman
has left a million brilliant shapes
and smudges. They now, too
begin to vibrate, jump
their borders and have intercourse
with neighbour shapes, then babies!—
making colours no one’s ever
seen before, for me alone
as I sit and watch the show

and on another wall
Mark Rothko’s magic
phantom square becomes
landing strip for phantom ship,
identically-shaped but from
unknown dimensions.

Back outdoors I’m new-eyed
and the light creates before me
forms that mix and mingle: pizza, bagels,
brown skin, pink and black, subway, brick
and steel up to the sun, all part
of one another as
I triumph home.

images 1-4: Max Reif