some of us struggle our way out of the womb,
some of us get a free ride worthy of an emperor,
but all of us struggle always.

the struggle to get what we want
enables the struggle to know what we want.

we wrestle with angels, demons, trivial decisions,
and the loomers who want us gone.

one loomer is patient,
often near invisible,
sometimes as darkening as an eclipse.

just as you need to drink before you’re thirsty,
you must struggle before the loomer looms,
or you’ll relax
and be taken.

This celebration of Charcoal in its various forms was done not in charcoal but in pencil. Without proper charcoal paper, charcoal, a real chamois, at least two kinds of eraser, and fixative, it is unwise to attempt a coherent charcoal drawing.

I here galorify Charcoal with three acrostic poems and one drawing of four Charcoal incarnations:

charcoal 112014

Charcoal I

Carbon & gum arabic
Have a vine & dandy go
Add your dark and scarabic/A
Righteous DARK’ll Rock & Roll

Charcoal II

Could be it’s a stick with colic
Half a shadowed calico
Anti-talc or -tapioca
Rich rococo cocoa local

Charcoal III

Crackled screeches: cacophonic
Half a circle makes a halo
And a matador’s veronica
Robbing feedlots of a payroll

a gift from scotland
from my daughter:
the complete poetical works of robert burns
with lavish color plates

quoth the second paragraph of the introduction:
“By Jean Armour he had nine children,
but he fathered bairns
on Elizabeth Paton,
Jenny Chow,
Ann Park,
and Helen Armstrong.
Margaret ‘Highland Mary’ Campbell may have died in childbirth,
while Margaret ‘May’ Cameron took out a paternity suit against him
(though this was dropped after she aborted or miscarried).
In the context of his time, however, such behaviour
(and its consequences)
were by no means uncommon.”

can i get a holy moly?

monuments aplenty were raised bearing the name of robert burns.

tiger woods is paying for his profligacy
to the tune of many lifetime incomes in the middle-class range.
his swing is off and many think he is washed up.

as for william h. cosby, jr.,
i mourn the man i thought he was
who i now think doesn’t exist.

Five years ago Thursday I was watching Jack Evans, “the Godfather of Phoenix poetry” according to Phoenix New Times, co-host and perform in the Caffeine Corridor series, and I was fortunate enough to have pencil and scrap paper on hand and a ringside seat, so I did a sketch. That that was five years ago attests to the longevity of Caffeine Corridor, and of Jack.

Today I was delighted to see that Jack had made that long-ago sketch his Facebook avatar, probably in acknowledgment of the five-year anniversary of my sketch. Jack, you REALLY MADE MY DAY, doing this! Thanks so much!

jack 112009


done places, gone things

[Satan, to a newly arrived Chicagoan]
The trouble with you Chicago people is,
that you think you are the best people down here;
whereas you are merely the most numerous.
Mark Twain (“Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar”)

in our language of euphemism and shorthand,
first we get older and then we get old.
we go there and do that and get the t-shirt.
if we like it enough we go and do and get again.

when you’ve already been older and are heading for old,
life’s increasing limitations elbow their way in,
so you stroll along the strand rather than running tirelessly through it
on the way to something else,

or get quietly smashed instead of raising hell.
you turn in your young-person card
and start referring to young adults as “kids.”
in our language of euphemism and shorthand,

we “slow down” as we “get on”
though we tell ourselves “fifty is the new thirty”
and other nonsense,
and some of us take desperate measures:

doctors saw at the skin of our faces
or inject paralyzing toxin into it, or both,
and sometimes the masquerade works,
and sometimes it doesn’t.

we get offered “rewards” that are enticements
for the dispensation of our disposable and not-so-disposable cash.
we get mail about cremations and cruises
and we get fading music.

the cradle rocks and the grave is still.
in between, the speed limit will go from 75 to 15
and there’ll be a wiggly pointed line on a yellow background.
it is then that we find out what we’re made of.

Here quadruple acrosticism is pushed to its limit. Nineteen words are arrayed in four lines that yield four more words. Each row summons an image; each acrostical column is illustrated by contrapuntal images. Talismans is to Arcana as Secretariat is to Racecar. The two middle acrostics are the bookends of those four words, and the first word in every row ends in the same letter of the acrostic column next to it, and the last phrase of each row begins with the same letter of the acrostical column to its immediate left. Why all these strictures? My guess is I do it for the same reason Henri Matisse painted a green stripe down the middle of the face of his portrait of Madame Matisse. We’re pushing on something, seeing if we can get away with it, and seeing if it matters.

Curiosity may be satisfied by doing an Internet search on “matisse green stripe.” Meanwhile, here’s mine:


Some fine day I may push the envelope further with “spot/opts/pots/stop.” I’d be overjoyed if someone beat me to it, though. [rueful smile]

Recently my e-mail included an attachment of the cover of SANDCUTTERS, the quarterly publication of the Arizona State Poetry Society. The cover design is by Carol Hogan, and features a ceramic work of mine on the front cover, and a journal page of mine on the back. It looks like this:

sandcutter cover 111514

Naturally I’m thrilled about this. I’m no stranger to literary publication covers, but there have been so few in my artist’s checkered career that I am at most a casual acquaintance. I have designed the covers of two out of three of the chapbooks I’ve self-published. (My old and truest friend Steve Boyle designed the cover of SAVAGE SONNETS AND OTHER WHYS, and I here reward him by not featuring that cover on this post. I am a Stinker.) Here is the cover of my first chapbook:


Behind The Bird are thumbnails of some of the 600-odd journal pages I’d done, scanned and posted to the now-defunct website Eons.

To see the one other cover I’d done before then, we have to set the Way-Back Machine all the way to 1973, when I was an 18-year-old pup attending Glendale Community College. That year’s GCC literary magazine, The Traveler, featured my white-on-black portrait of my then-girlfriend. There’s awful clumsiness in the drawing, but there is also love. Here it is, courtesy of GCC’s Memory Project:

traveler cover 111514

Bob Dylan’s line from “Subterranean Homesick Blues” comes to mind: “Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift.” Forty years of covers and I STILL am on the day shift. [smiles] C’est La Vie–that covers it!


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