Huis Clos


an ekphrasis on a painting by my daughter

How Bert and Ernie ended up in the psych ward
is not known.  Ernie, on the bed, is gibbering
while Bert is stoic. Nothing new there.  Their stripes
match the window bars which shield them from

the blue-framed German Expressionist jumble
of buildings beyond.  Each has his own column.
Each is flanked by his pal and his pal’s echo—
the wardrobe for Bert, for Ernie the chest of drawers.

Maybe Bert finally flipped at Ernie’s hare-brained bossing.
Maybe Ernie had it with Bert’s dogged prosiness. Maybe
they sent each other around the bend and into the same cell,
to drive each other bonkers forevermore, with No Exit.

Or maybe they sought—and found—a place of refuge.
Maybe they just decided that, quirks notwithstanding,
they still prefer each other’s company and friendship
to the alien world of the twenty-first century.


Phoebe Murer, whose painting is the subject of “Huis clos”, has a certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts