At times we can’t tell what we’re looking at.
It could be this or else it could be that.
A beautiful young woman? Or old hag?
Do lines run parallel or zig and zag?

Two silhouetted faces face-to-face?
Or is it just the outline of a vase?
And is that spiraled line continuous?
Or just concentric, falsely sinuous?

Is that a green oasis or mirage?
A space too large or small in a garage?
Is one of two lines longer than the other?
Or are they equally the same? Oh, brother!

Perhaps our lives are riddled with confusion
Because the world is riddled with illusion.
For could it be that what we think we see
Is only virtual reality?

We like to think we always see things clearly,
But there are times the best we see is “nearly.”
As if creation’s beauty is so fetching
Because we’re in an M.C. Escher etching.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, Dwell Time, Light, Deronda Review, The Road Not Taken, Fevers of the Mind, Sparks of Calliope, Dancing Poetry, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse. He was honored with being chosen as the winner of the 2021 SCP International Poetry Competition.

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10 Responses

  1. Roy E. Peterson

    James, you have captured those pictures of illusions brilliantly that I often see on social media. The longer I stare at them the more they switch from one virtual reality to the other. Excellent poetic concept and verbal enhancement!

  2. Paul Freeman

    A weird coincidence, but today I started writing a prose piece on the prompt of ‘queue’, in which someone finds himself queuing and walking forever down M.C. Escher ‘s famous steps.

    You’ve captured these famous illusions well, James.

    Oh, Brother!

  3. Brian Yapko

    James, a unique subject, some very enjoyable poetry and a good reminder to double-check what it is we think we see. There is indeed a world of difference between “clearly” and “nearly.”

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Mr Tweedie, this optical trickery is fascinating. I have often seen many images and was not aware that they were attributable to Mr. Escher. Thank you for a most entertaining and informative piece.

  5. Stephen Dickey

    Very enjoyable! I’m a sucker for M. C. Escher. I’ve wondered whether the Dutch language helped him along in his art—its word for ‘storey/floor’ is the same as its word for ‘deepening’—verdieping. If you ever find yourself in The Hague, his house in the downtown has been turned into a gallery. It’s worth a visit.

  6. Tonia Kalouria

    Who knows what to believe anymore, any time, anywhere about anything? Great metaphor!

  7. David Watt

    James, you have chosen a fascinating subject for this poem, and written it so well. A great reminder that reality is not always what we see.

  8. David Whippman

    Your poem complements Escher’s work nicely. I remember discovering him in a sci fi magazine in the late 1960s. Now you’ve put the words to his imaginings.

  9. Rachel Lott

    It’s always fun to watch my middle-school students analyze optical illusions in logic and philosophy classes. Do illusions discredit our senses or not? I really like the directions you go with this poem, James.

    “Perhaps our lives are riddled with confusion
    Because the world is riddled with illusion”!


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