Art and Literature

Art and Literature

Welcome to the "poetry corner" of my website. While I enjoy writing and art immensely, I often have little time left in the day after working on other activities. Occasionally, however, I do get a chance to write an essay or poem or render a piece of digital artwork. Change and light are my main literary and artistic themes, respectively.

I do not post my photography here. I maintain a separate gallery, Myopic Photography, for my photography to avoid cluttering this portfolio.


Morning's Light

Morning's Light

Tranquility can often be found in the simplest of things.

Date: January 9, 2004.

Sunrise Over Mt. Terragen

Sunrise Over Mt. Terragen

The world doesn't stop moving, whether or not you do.

Date: June 19, 2003.



This is free verse, but this is among the purest expressions of who I am, and what I feel right now does not fit to metre:

I swim against a prodigious current,
and I know that I must falter.
It draws me towards the fall,
the inexorable fatal plunge.

But each stroke I take,
I count a small victory,
a stand.
For my right to exist.
For the betterment of the world.
For those who came before me.

And for everyone,
who has ever screamed,
defiantly at the heavens:
"No! There is a better way!"

For them,
For us,
I swim against the current,
because I am right.

Date: February 25, 2008.



(That photo on the right is one of the most powerful I've taken. I call it "Free". Click on it for a larger view).

Essence, 6/19/2009

I am a scholar,
but not an academic.

I am a learner,
but not a student.

I am a leader,
but not a demagogue.

I am a humanist,
but not a philanthropist.

I am a developer,
but not an engineer.

I am a visionary,
but not an artist.

I am a thinker,
but not a philosopher.

I am a worker,
but not an employee.

I have the essence of all,
the rigidity of none -

And therefore I am free.

Date: June 19, 2009.

Photography Portfolio

Photography Portfolio

I set up a photography portfolio on Behance, then (because Fotomoto's download fees were unacceptable) implemented a custom stock photography cart and checkout system using Paypal.

Date: June 13, 2012.



The cobwebs of age settle lightly on our discarded days,
though we tread heavily on the once-fertile fields of our youth;
the world marches heedlessly on.

Lambent moments flow together like quicksilver,
echoing unfulfilled promises and false hopes.
And the breakers of time crash indignantly upon our mighty plans,
and gulls cry their mournful laments,
and the strident thrash of the ocean sounds like keening.

I stand silently upon the shore at dawn,
The sun's first radiance dapples the horizon
rousing the rosy-gray twilight, yawning, from its slumber.
For a moment or an eternity, I stare into the sea.

And I witness the solitary crash of the waves,
and the lamentation of the gulls,
and the piecewise erosion of all we hold dear.
And as the sun's effulgence stretches eagerly across the sky,
I begin to understand.

And when I had seen enough,
learned enough,
and came to comprehend the holistic justice in the cobwebs of existence,
I fashioned a boat and began to row.

Date: January 26, 2014.

The Green Valley

The Green Valley

The most beautiful scenery is nothing without a viewer to marvel at it.

Date: December 30, 2002.

African Sunrise

African Sunrise

No one can stop the sun from rising.

Date: June 4, 2007.

The Colors of Dying Dreams

The Colors of Dying Dreams

Highly personal and forgotten in my notebook for nearly a year, this is a poem that I wrote during my first full day in Philadelphia:

Gray skies
Swaddled over the city,
hiding what lies beneath:
Bustle, noise, crime, pollution,
and the echoes of dying dreams.

Black rage
At those who trapped me here,
forcing upon me the greatest sacrifice
that I may serve the common good:
the price of dying dreams.

Green fields
and golden sunsets
were the piper's price
when he may have given life,
freely, to dying dreams.

Red and white,
betrayal and hope,
but in the end,
red wins.

Date: August 28, 2006.



The end of one thing does not preclude the beginning of another.

Date: December 31, 2007.

The Close

The Close

The close of a mixed year and hopefully the start of one in which things begin to turn around.

Date: December 31, 2008.

The Phoenix

The Phoenix

Waking in an aimless, formless gray mist,
the flame within me begins to gutter.
Immobile -
chained by fog of crystal and velvet.

One blast of sunlight would vaporize it, free me,
diaphanous chaff before a superior power.
Alas, unforthcoming -
I knew it was my appointed time.

I protested:
It has no form, no structure! How can it hold me?
But it has volume.
I cannot contend with infinity.

Now the mist presses in with a will,
whispering promises of nothingness and the end to all heat.
Smothering -
It recognizes me, and is intent upon its prize.

My vitality can no longer sustain me,
Ashes gather around me, a legacy of the flame that once burned so brightly:
My memories.
Defenseless, I accept dissolution.

I feel the layers of my being stripped away,
without a sound or a shred of dignity, fading forever into the abyss.
All grows dark...
All fades away...

The world turns to fire.

Date: August 28, 2009.

Almost to the Top

Almost to the Top

Not much higher now...

My second render.

Date: November 13, 2002.

Evening in the Mountains

Evening in the Mountains

What's around the sunlit corner? We'll soon see!

My dislike of raucous parties can be inferred from the date of this creation.

Date: December 31, 2004.

Is it the Nile?

Is it the Nile?

No, it isn't.

This one is a proof of concept. There's no message, but it's nice nonetheless.

Date: November 21, 2002.

Once More Around the Lake

Once More Around the Lake

Hold on to your memories. They alone transcend time.

I hope one day to return to "the lake"; it is a beautiful place that my render fails to capture adequately.

Date: November 22, 2002.

Misty Mountains

Misty Mountains

This was a study on atmosphere and haze. It came out rather well.

Date: August 29, 2005.

To Be Free Again

To Be Free Again

However effortless it may seem, greatness always comes with a cost.

Date: March 5, 2006.


The Gift

This is a poem referring not to any one person, but to an archetype - primarily the one I call the Protector, though parts apply to the Tutor (my own type), the Artist, and the Philosopher. If you're interested in the system of type theory I'm developing, feel free to email me, or you can wait until I get around to writing something up on it and putting it here.

The Gift
By Michael Barnathan, 12/01/06

Ere gloaming fell upon the world,
and darkness on his breast,
a man defied it, flag unfurled!
And gave gifts unto the rest.

And gifts he gave, though he had none,
and gifts he gave, and received but one:
Not fame, nor love, nor luck, nor health,
nor peace, nor sight, nor faith, nor wealth.

No, in service given, none returned,
first to help, first one spurned.
The gift he had was the one he yearned:
That everything he gained was earned.

Date: December 1, 2006.

Reflections in Sunset

Reflections in Sunset

As promised, I revisited "And I saw my Reflection". Rather than simply changing the sky, I changed the entire scene to take place at sunset.

Date: January 3, 2007.


A New Year

A poem to commemorate the new year:

"Sunrise daubbed in pinks and blues,
purple and vermillion hues,
spring larks, jays, and sparrows all,
singing proudly new day's call.

Midday's sun shines o'erhead,
Much to say, but left unsaid.
Summer's children laugh and play,
heeding neither time nor day.

Evening brings relief from woes,
end of work and just repose.
Autumn's leaves turn green to gold,
and whisper what the future holds.

Night brings with it calm and ease,
bringing day to sweet surcease.
And all of winter's ice and snow,
can't dim the ruddy fire's glow!

A new day.
A new year."

Date: January 8, 2007.


The Scientist's Lament

This is a poem in part meant to express the frustrations of The Tutor, my own archetype, but also to express my frustrations against the reality of performing science. Lots of stuff gets in the way of doing research that really shouldn't:

"The Scientist's Lament" - 2/5/07

My brilliance sparkles like effulgent flame
midst the lambent moonshine
sanctified in wisdom, crowned in accomplishment,
yet never to challenge the sun.

Reaching out with mind's grasp,
for greatness and new truths,
striving ever to reach further,
but returning empty-handed.

Set apart from others,
separated by an irreconcilable gulf,
which no thought can ever bridge,
always isolated.

Seeing always what can be,
yet powerless to change.
Visions wreathed in grandeur,
impotent before life's vicissitudes.

Training always, learning always,
does our study anneal,
or destroy?

We are the scientists,
our own bitter enemies.
Fighting against all humanity and circumstance,
to bring hope to those who do nothing.

Oh, let it not be so!
Let us revel in the joys of our knowledge,
instead of brooding on its limitations.

Let us reach for the sky, together,
and together take hold,
and for the whole world work wonders!

Let us embrace,
and be embraced in turn,
by the people that we serve!

Let us dream,
and create,
the visions glimpsed in silent epiphany.

Let us free ourselves,
our learning,
and our knowledge.

And let us live.

Date: February 5, 2007.



A poem ripe from its inception / brooks no delay of its expression:


Is it necessary that we must suffer?
Can not the flame of talent forge skill,
except upon the anvil of doubt?

Does no path to valor run unerring?
Must we hack our way through bracken,
ripped mercilessly by the thorns ere we emerge?

Must vision blind us?
That those who see what can be,
are forced to endure the world's ills as they are?

Need a merciful climb be so steep?
When those with selfish intent glide to power,
yet altruists must struggle for every inch?

Must ill befall those who wish none upon others?
How may the inequities of the world,
reward the wicked and condemn the just?

Yet we are forged,
tempered by our own sweat,
and made into masterworks.

Yet we emerge,
scathed, but unbroken,
to see sights others will never know.

Yet we alone see,
in a world of darkness,
we bring forth redeeming light.

Yet we climb,
knowing the mountain,
we will never fall.

Yet we survive,
rising above condemnation,
to transcend all inequity.

the road is long and tortuous,
but it must be traversed.

It forms thinkers,


Date: July 29, 2007.

Glacier Point

Thumbnails: 1 2

Glacier Point

My heart too is frozen.

Date: December 31, 2006.


Where Maslow Becomes Dabrowski - Transcendence and Tribulation

The first of my planned writings to reach completion, probably because it's the only short writing.


Bridging Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs and Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration, extending the latter to include a fuller (probably complete) range of psychological development through the addition of a sixth cognitive level, fitting Maslow's "transcendent experiences" into Dabrowski's Theory, and rethinking the very concept of self-actualization using diachronic reasoning. Only 3 pages long; a testament to how good Dabrowski's theory already is.

Date: November 7, 2007.


I am Steel

Emergence from dark times has given me a sort of adamantine exactitude of purpose. While the central question I pondered in the past two "dark" years was "why must we suffer for our accomplishments?", the question I ponder now is more along the lines of "how can I achieve my purpose in a world unready for and unworthy of it?" The key change in attitude is that I no longer see myself as a victim of circumstance. I now realize that society's decisions reflect more on its own worth than mine.

"I am steel,
obdurate and unyielding.
Battered by the ages,
tempered by their cruelty,
I am steel.

I am iron,
intransigent and steady.
Only time can rust me,
Only death can ruin me,
I am iron.

I am zinc,
welded and annealed.
Bonded to my purpose,
Naught will ever loose me,
I am zinc.

I am diamond,
untouchable and rare.
Lesser wills can't scathe me,
They tear in the attempt.
I am diamond."

Date: December 25, 2007.


In Defense of Arrogance

In this paper, I argue the unconventional notion that arrogance is actually a good thing, both for the individual and for society. Indeed, it drives most of society's advancements.

Date: February 6, 2008.




Gail Wynand is perhaps the single most interesting character in The Fountainhead. His past shows a hint of the same great promise found in Roark, the protagonist, but he reacted very differently to the incompetence, suppression of greatness, and enshrinement of mediocrity he found in society. Rather than persist in his own creative vision, to prevail in the face of all obstacles, he abandoned the concept of ideals in general - he gave the public the trash they wanted, and as such, easily achieved great success, but only at their whims. He thus became a servant.

He is the tragic hero of the book, an Achilles brought down by this single flaw, and I felt the need to write about him and others like him, imploring society, as always, to support their geniuses, even if it means less capable people might be left behind. You want to breed more Roarks and fewer Wynands.


Born out of his true estate,
a pauper with a royal grace,
tragic for his gift to see,
what could,
what should,
would never be.

It was always him against the world,
it never should have been,
he lost his purpose in the fight,
he lost,
he failed,
he let them win.

He gave his talent to a mob,
a skill they don't deserve,
he abandoned all ideals,
he thought
he ruled -
he served.

You don't deserve such men,
their servitude is cruel,
an engine of creation,
cannot burn such fuel!

You claim to value greatness,
and yet you praise the weak,
you see it as a threat,
it's confidence you seek.

And when that fails, you turn to force!
To keep these "sacred" bounds.
You won't improve yourselves,
so you've got to bring him down.

They're made to beg,
they're made to crawl,
they're never given help at all.

They're forced to hide,
to wear a mask,
to only take it off if asked.

And even then,
if try they would,
they're bound to be misunderstood.


If they succeed,
then so do you,
their efforts can bring you up too.

So stop the fight,
put hate away,
and if nothing else,
get out of the way!

Date: February 22, 2008.



This is a touch melodramatic. I'm not really this depressed.


"All my life is sorrow,
And all the world is pain
and I can count on no one
to set things right again.

Now winter's icy winds
do chill me to the bone,
but no one will console me,
all thoughts, adrift, alone.

The ashes fall upon the hearth
flames blasted by the gale,
I rue the day I left the shore,
towards unknown lands set sail.

For when I turned, my "faithful" crew
deserted me once more,
They'd have me caught in shoals
before I'd ever reach the shore.

For years I battled with the storms,
and wrestled with the gales,
for years I struggled all alone,
yet somehow I prevailed.

I traveled to a foreign land,
brought knowledge of it home,
but lo, my welcome was unkind,
I barely dodged the stones.

And so I set forth yet again,
bereft of kith and kin,
alone to face the next great storm,
and yet I know I'll win.

Perhaps this time I'll stay there,
prolong my next sojourn,
and keep the gifts my people missed,
the gifts that they had spurned."

Date: June 17, 2008.

The Sun Rises

The Sun Rises

And for another day, the darkness was turned back.

Date: January 2, 2010.


The Destroyer

The Destroyer

A shadow descends upon my path,
vast; illimitable.
My knees lock with fear,
for I know this foe.

"In the name of all that lives,
stand down!", I shout.
But he laughs.
Life is powerless against him.

Time, my ally, shields me.
For a blink, an instant.
But my barrier wears thin;
my enemy waits to pounce.

I confront the slayer of all,
anathema of the living,
to whom the cosmos themselves will ultimately fall.
And I fear.

The universal bane,
and my own personal destroyer:


Date: January 5, 2010.

Take Another Shot

Take Another Shot

You're still under par.

Date: December 31, 2010.

"To Be Free Again" - Sunset

Another go at "To Be Free Again", this time set at sunset.

Date: July 16, 2011.



Some say life goes by too quickly
But only on a schedule
When one day blurs into another
And monotony is all that's left.

Date: April 3, 2012.

And I Saw My Reflection

And I Saw My Reflection

The ocean is just about photorealistic. Unfortunately, the sky came out poorly. I need to revisit this piece at some point.

Date: December 2, 2002.

A Pastel Sunrise

A Pastel Sunrise

Do we become wiser as we age, or simply more encumbered by worldly cares?

Date: January 8, 2003.



Time is the flaw.

Date: December 4, 2006.

After a Much Needed Rainfall

After a Much Needed Rainfall

This was my first render. I am posting it here for the sake of completeness.

Date: November 12, 2002.



This is a haiku (technically a senryu) I composed that summarizes much of what happened to me in 2007.

Make of it what you will. I've written many haiku, but this one is particularly poignant because of what it represents to me.

"How the world suffered,
from Hades' pomegranate!
Myself? An apple."

Date: May 15, 2007.


You Can Never Take the Sky

I actually had the idea for this since May 2007, but didn't actually write it until January 2008.

"You can take me from my home,
and toss me into strife,
or take from me alone,
my dreams, my hope, my life.

You can drive me to perdition,
or save me as you see,
or beat me to submission,
it matters not to me.

For you cannot take my freedom,
no matter how you try,
you cannot steal my past,
and you cannot take the sky!

You cannot take my morals,
you cannot take control,
you can't disintegrate me,
you'll never reave my soul.

You simply cannot break me,
and if you should ask why,
you can destroy my body,
but you can never take the sky!"

Date: January 9, 2008.


How I Try To Live

A life is a heroic thing,
to never throw away.
To cherish always, and to keep,
with meaning in each day.

To count the seconds as the years,
both always in your grip,
to know the price of time is dear,
and never let it slip.

To bring creation into being,
and move from mind to sight,
ideas to grapple with the dark,
and from it extract light.

To eschew the path that most would take,
as easy as it seems,
instead to forge your own new way,
on the power of your dreams.

To lift the burdens of another,
but not become his thrall,
nor seek to be his master,
to be a friend; that's all.

To always keep an open mind,
but sometimes ask for proof,
not accepting or rejecting,
just seeking out the truth.

A life is a heroic thing,
it's yours to use or give,
so treat it with respect,
so that we all may live.

Date: March 27, 2008.



Leaves fall within me
Each a roving band of wilderness
Untapped, untamed
Paths untrammeled to my heart.

Date: November 20, 2010.



I sat and thought.
Sat under the stout oak with its spreading leaves,
at the bank of a river
rimed with early frost.
Frozen - but not forgotten.
Waiting -
Spreading like a stout oak
on that frozen riverbank,
writing poetry.

Date: December 9, 2010.


Potential is not enough

Some more free verse, ruminating over the directions my life could have taken.

I could still do all of these things at once, if I were able to find the right sort of training.

I won't find it. But I'll create it - so this never happens again.

"Potential is not enough:"

I still occasionally stop -
and think,
"what if I could study algorithms?"
But that has passed.

My mathematical talent
What if it found
a trainer to match?
But that too has passed.

Could I render music,
imagined, inchoate, flawless,
upon the canvas of reality?
I suppose I'll never know.

Why is biology so natural and intuitive?
Isn't immunity a pattern recognition problem?
The biologists won't tell me.

Society, for all its quirks,
follows a set of rules,
intuitively, I know some,
but how to write them up?

"It shows promise, it shows promise, it shows promise."
And yet you leave it to wither!
Do you have any idea of the agony
of talent left untrained!?

Of vision divorced from realization?
Cut off, to goad, to promise,
and to crumble before reality -
over and over, illimitable!

This is the result
of forcing men to specialize -
we have unlimited potential,
but potential is not enough.

Date: March 14, 2008.


The Ninth

The Ninth

The world stood still at attention,
as the conductor raised his baton.
The last and greatest echoes,
of a man wrapped in silence!

On this day, history was made.
"Joy, joy moves the wheels!"
Our joy, yes,
but "can you sense the creator"?

It is our joy and his song!
"Endure for the better world!"
it shouts, not to us,
but to him!

For he may be wrapped in silence,
but we, we are the mutes.
He alone hears,
with the courage to follow.

Let the whole world rejoice,
that such was in your midst,
for in his recognition,
he does much for your credit.

Open your ears,
time grows short,
the music draws to a close.
Wake or be swept aside!

Wait no longer for the Tenth.
Create it.

Date: May 7, 2008.