“Choosing a COVID-19 Vaccine — the Three Prisoners Problem”, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm., 2021.
From 1957 to 1980, Martin Gardner had a monthly column in Scientific American magazine where presented mathematical games. One of these games was the Three Prisoners Problem. Here is the problem explained in Wikipedia:
“Three prisoners, A, B, and C, are in separate cells and sentenced to death. The governor has selected one of them at random to be pardoned. The warden knows which one is pardoned, but is not allowed to tell. Prisoner A begs the warden to let him know the identity of one of the two who are going to be executed.
“If B is to be pardoned, give me C’s name. If C is to be pardoned, give me B’s name. And if I’m to be pardoned, secretly flip a coin to decide whether to name B or C.
“The warden tells A that B is to be executed. Prisoner A is pleased because he believes that his probability of surviving has gone up from 1/3 to 1/2, as it is now between him and C. Prisoner A secretly tells C the news, who reasons that A’s chance of being pardoned is unchanged at 1/3, but he is pleased because his own chance has gone up to 2/3. Which prisoner is correct?”
In this 24th self-portrait I create a new problem and dilemma: given the known and unknown information regarding COVID-19 vaccines today, which vaccine do we choose in order to better survive the pandemic?
Here the images resemble cut-outs that are cocooned within a violent and haphazard mass of white noise. The questions are many, and the possible consequences are yet unknown. Should I take a vaccine, or not? And if so, which vaccine is the right one (and the safest) for me? The whiteness promises hope and security, but the internalized drama is almost overwhelming. The seemingly unfinished background of the painting is by no means uniform. The sharp edges from the palette knife reveal both urgency and random underlying patches of darkness, both of which threaten to challenge the assurance of science. The message is clear: “Time is short. Humanity is at a crossroad. Choose your fate, and live or die with the consequences.”
Poems, painting and photography by Adam Donaldson Powell.)
Photo: Adam Donaldson Powell
Differentiate dream from vision: I heard a voice
telling me it was
in whispers become fingers insistent each
a separate story in whispers become
a hand coming to rest assurance
on my brow smudging wrinkle away from shadow
Shadows become whispers
sliding into sleep, dreams descending
to a new crescendo to vision turning
on its heel and reminding
in whispers as indifferent as relentless
as ocean waves
going about the business of being ocean waves.
SPLASHING whispers gone amok;
red paint SPLATTERED on white sailcloth …
one green eye and one brown
talking with one another
but without seeing;
leaving me DISJOINTED but not perplexed.
My dream-catching whispers are now
quite rambunctious and I’m feeling rather
GASPING for words on the edge of an eternal
moment for moment
flirting with smothering cobwebs …
TURN ME LOOSE!
You’ve shown me more than my whisper can digest.
You’re falling far … far past the point of
being in love with yourself and
I want to cry more but
my tears have given way to
HOARSE, LICORICE WHISPERS.
Turn me loose … turn me loose …
A pale oyster-moon has just slithered past
the sweet nothings and penetrated my inner ear
STOP … PLEASE
“Speak softly,” my conscience says.
There is no room for doubt in such proximity and
waking hours spent running and arranging
and defending and
composing and planning and
Sometimes I think that our sounds don’t
really match anymore … a mad woman running from place to place in
sensible shoes falling
asleep on buses and subways snarling
at old ladies coming too close with their
If only men
could bleed for love
as only women can … perhaps
then I could surrender to your whispering.
You do still hear me, don’t you?
LARGE BIRDS’ MOUTHS open and shut, open and shut in silence.
You stalk my emotions, steal my words …
(Openings rest there near rapture.)
SHHhhhhhhhhhhh…….”Don’t speak,” you say.
Fuck off …
Meanwhile an honest feast takes place
in the moonlight.
Just because you’re not actually being
followed doesn’t necessarily mean that you
don’t have a right to be PARANOID.
Hey! Are we talking about your experience
of my words … or mine of yours?
CRASHED but nobody noticed my shadow mingled
swiftly yet another meek
among their own; they went right on eating.
I just want to SCREAM In silence.
All I do is salvage the remains and begin
again A Broken Child
teeters with epileptic balance
down along the sidewalk. Paranoia reduced to one
crystal fragment fractured and reeling in
each collecting and then returning
in its own fashion. I can’t
catch up with it: it shifts
quicker than I can move quicker than
the frenzy of my thoughts. Shiny white minnows fly
into sight like mirrors, now gone
TIT FOR TAT this for that Heads
Nodding in implied
Consent PUPPETS not the thing like
the thing itself. We accept this deception
and ravenously A broken room and all the while
the heart beats a dogged rhythm.
I get spooked when you corner me inside myself;
especially when you whisper those seductive,
unspeakable psychological assessments
against my ear-drum …
tango-like rhythms bouncing
in a stilted, jerking fashion
I follow your lead
’round and ’round, closer and closer until …
Our precarious showdown brings us
face-to-face with insecurity and dream.
An orchid unfolds an insistent
pink petals distended …
endings mute into beginnings …
Screeching, flamebreathing dragons soar low over
violated plains of brainmatter.
As silk upon iron.
confused but undaunted as wings span
a trembling distance
Fires of fear incite waves of internal uproar to sear the
ulcerated lining of delicate abdominal tissue, while
glowing corpuscles ferry hysteria into distended veins
and scorch alarmed nerve endings
… crops fail, dams break, control centers malfunction …
eyelids clamp shut in retreat from the horrors
of imminent disaster but optic darkness is cruelly
marred by vermillion blotches — proclaiming realization
of all that was dreaded yet intuited
Unprescribed; an estimate of
mute yet yearning finger
tips trembling search. Desist (as)
and as the war-drum heartbeats of
a million Amazons prepare to vanquish
my masculinity with insecurity at its
first indiscretion, I load my tongue with
silver arrows …
Darts soaring swerve and distort
Falling short to collapse
mid-flight. One lone note
And mercilessly catapult the words ‘I love you’
against your brazen shield and prepare to fall —
into the fiery ashes of countless charred impulses
raining heavily upon furrows of creativity;
cultivating retrospect with expectation.
Tests timbre tone tenacity. Yawns
and swallows seeds of hope.
One lone orchid
unfolds out of my throat
an insistent vermillion.
Our whispering draws to a close …
the stillness of space around us
empty of airflow and sound;
all confirmed by the syncopated
racing rhythms of my own heart …
unaffected by the rotation of the Earth
while breakdancing clouds laughingly roar
with all the grace of
And there our whisperings remain,
rather indistinguishable from the multitudes
and dulled by disclosure and dessication.
Je m’accuse … je suis tombé(e)
(IMPLICATED ..AND FALLING)
Openings rest there near rapture: A pale oyster-moon
has just slithered past the sweet nothings
my inner ear: je suis tombé amoureux. (
Implicated and falling in love …)
BIRDS’ MOUTHS open and shut open and shut in silence;
one lone orchid unfolds silver arrows
loading for flight.
Je suis tombé amoureux de ton chuchotement
A hoarse licorice whisper on the edge of an eternal
moment for moment shiny
fly into sight
like mirrors, now gone missing.
Copyright Adam Donaldson Powell and Diane Oatley, 2005 “Whispers” (a dialogue for two voices) had its world premiere in Kathmandu, Nepal (at Gurukul Theatre) in 2006. Diane Oatley is a poet, writer and dancer. She is also the author of “Swoon”, published by Cyberwit.net in 2005.
“WHISPERS” IS PART OF MY BOOK ENTITLED “THREE-LEGGED WALTZ”. ORDER “THREE-LEGGED WALTZ” AND SEVERAL OF MY OTHER BOOKS FROM CYBERWIT.NET OR AMAZON.COM
This is the final painting in my COVID-19 painting series chronicle. While all «endings» of pandemics are qualified — due to the ever-present possibility of re-occurrence or new viruses/new mutations, the survival and future of Humanity is dependent upon science, technology, perserverance … and, of course, abstractions such as Hope. Hope is a universal conceptual archetype — not necessarily directly connected to any known entity or individual … and it is therefore represented here as a visual abstraction in the intellectual and sense-oriented «feel good» category — expansive, yet ordered; spiritual, yet not confined to religion; and inspirational, yet mysterious.