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My friend Patty W sent me a link to a YouTube video “to occupy your mind.” I welcomed the distraction. Bad news of many kinds has been quite blustery lately.

But Gary Lachman, proponent of what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “New Thought,” offers far more than mere distraction. In the video he did a brilliant analysis of how Donald Trump’s disregard for facts, and action on behalf of “alternative facts,” is an example of the effective use of what Lachman calls “Chaos Magic.” The real-world example Lachman gave was when investors were checking what was happening at one of Trump’s construction sites, back in the day. Though literally nothing constructive WAS happening, knowing the investors were checking, Trump had an earth-mover methodically digging a hole on one side of the site, and depositing the dirt on the other. The investors, satisfied that work WAS being done, went away.

Long ago a dear friend of mine warned me about my pessimism. “Thoughts are things.” Lachman repeated that wise advice in his video. He says we are all capable of Magic, but must beware of how we wield it.

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My Big Brother from Another Mother, Bob Kabchef, shared my poem “vapor trail” with his readership today, prefacing it with a description that tickles me: “The guy’s a veritable volcano of virgin verbaciousness.” Thing is, though, volcanic though I may be sometimes, I owe a lot to Bob throwing title prompts at me, during a weekly event that I produce for our Facebook poetry group Poets All Call. Yesterday he offered a bouquet of titles, three of which were

Eloosive
Pasta your prime
I never knew that

Funny how the mind works. “Write a poem, Gary” will yield brain fog, confusion, and unproductiveness. But “Write a bunch of poems using these titles, Gary” and I am off to the races. I cranked these out in less than an hour.

Eloosive

The loosely-jointed burglar
Squeezed thruogh the junkyard’s crevices
A dog much like a murderer
Was also on the premises
A silent lethal frothing beast
With much adrenaline released
His mission: see the thief deceased
But Burgle-Man was wily;
The challenge made him smiley.

He topped a mound of carcasses
Of Ford and Studebaker
The doggoe climbed sans barkuses
To make the thief meet maker
But slipped on chrome, an effort-ender
The thief said, “Thank you, Freddy Fender!”
He knew the dog would change his gender
If given half a chance;
Best leave this scrappy dance.

The thief slunk out of sight, and grabbed
A carburetor, slinging
It to a heap away, which clabbed
And rung a tone for zinging
And Hellhound was beguiled away
And our eloosive thief ran très
Vite to the fence and up, to sway
Atop, and yelled “Yoo Hoo,
Au ‘voir, O Doggie-Poo!”

Pasta your prime

One minute on the microwave
Another on your lips
A lifetime in your fat so brave
Engirdling your hips.

The pasta you so willfully
Devoured in your youthfulness
Metabolized so skillfully
And vanished, in all truthfulness,

But as the decades drift on by
We slow, we stroll, we’re no so spry,
And pleasures stir and goodies fry
And sing a glutton’s lullaby

Inveigling in its rhyme,
Your ribs are Pasta Prime.

I never knew that

I never knew that
Nor did I know this
Nor the other thing
But it’s not for lack of trying

And sifting through
A lifetime of Thisses
And all those Thats
And the host of Other Things

For that particular That
This specific This
And the like-no-other Other Thing

That we all wonder
And whisper
And worship
About:

This Unknowable
That Indescribable
Other Thing
On the Other Side.

****

Many thanks to my Big Bro Bob, who is a fine and expressive poet in his own right!

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First came the houses on the horizon, then the blossom, then the stairs, then the figure going down the stairs, then more stairs, then Lady Liberty, then Lunkhead the Holy Barbarian. But the blossom needed a flower pot, and the pot needed an Easter Island head. By that time I knew I had tapped into a dream-making machine, though I was awake. Therefore I inscribed it, and then signed and dated it, but then a bird and an aloft cow and an elfhead begged to be added. Done, done and done.

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Though it is undated, and may be reworked at a later time, this drawing is essentially done as of today, January 17, 2022. Today is Betty White’s 100th birthday. Betty is no longer with us but her legacy of empowerment for women–she led by superb example–and reverence for animals is alive and well.

Two days ago I briefly served as a Docent for the Glendale Arts Council, spending the afternoon at Sahuaro Ranch Park welcoming visitors into the Fruit Packing Building, where the Council’s 58th annual Juried Fine Arts Show was in progress. After I had done my duty I took a long hike to my friend Martin Klass’s house. Before I had gone a mile I was walking past a mini-flock of sheep, and I stopped to take pictures, and some of them left the flock and came up to the fence, thus:

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I was subsequently compelled to write this about our encounter:

no baa, no humbug

out the gates of sahuaro ranch park
and east on mountain view
west of fifty-first ave
reside livestock
including sheep
who were clumpingly champing on grass
bout fiddyfeet from the chainlink

and were so bored
that a pedestrian with a phone cam
was a welcome distraction

and three nay four
came up to the fence
to say hello
and mouth-grab dry leaf from the links

they were mellow
matter-of-fact
and i hope not disappointed
that i gave them only
murmurs

Two days later, rereading the poem, it seems to me that it sounds eerily similar to the “voice” of William Carlos Williams in his famous poem “This Is Just To Say.” I gratefully acknowledge his influence.

As for my own poetic voice, in the form of the acrostic poem in the image above, here it is, transcribed:

risk disk

ruminate in fleece array’d
indolence: it’s toujours gai
sacrificial-lamming desks
keep it pesky–add some pesk

And the image, which was sketched and calligraphed on a card approximately 3″ by 5″, is a rather muddled blend of at least three faces. the central face is that of the ewe in the photo, the one on the right. It is flanked by a couple, one of whom has one hand on top of the other’s, though that is nearly impossible to see, what with the superimposition of ewe-face and poem. There MAY be a duck’s profile helping the ewe’s right ear do double-duty, and there MAY be a grinning clam doing the same with the left ear. (In this surreal Image-Universe, clams are every bit as sentient as were the oysters in Lewis Carroll’s famous poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”)

I say MAY be, because this image is preliminary to a much larger drawing on the same type of paper, but with 32 times more square footage. (Inchage? [smiles]) I hope to spend at least a week on the larger, more elaborated, less murky drawing. It is inevitable that I will find new things to say and draw to honor Betty White and her love for all creatures, which is ancillary but vital to this image. (Notice how the sheep is saying “Happy Heavenly Birthday, Betty White!) I love the idea of having some small part in continuing the divine Ms. White’s earthly mission. And so, inspired by the example of mypoet and professional-organizer friend Michelle Frost, today I made a modest donation to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Friends, I urge you to make some donation to some animal-advoicacy group today.

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“Everybody’s gonna tell you it’s not worth it,/Everybody’s gotta show you their own thing./You may try to find your way up around it,/But the need for Love is still the same…” Jackson Browne, “The Times You’ve Come”

The word dimension is slippery. It seems to mean something like “an aspect of something that it must have in order to exist.” But it also seems to mean “property” or “measure.”

As wire “quadrifoaled wireframe,” this new one was built one dimension at a time, but note that the implied distance with a size difference has already added a third dimension, so that the folded paper/space unites the three dimensions in what may be argued a fourth dimension. There is an outside-the-grid consideration with the text elements “year” and “ning,” which when fused become “yearning.” The distance between the two word-components is analogous to the distance between the two human beings depicted in the image.

A few decades ago the Phoenix Art Museum had an exhibit showcasing the work of Alexander Calder, who became famous for his Mobiles and Stabiles. The show included vodeo footage of Calder playing with doll-like circus characters he’d created from wire and cloth, and he was delightfully playful with them, e.g. making a growly lion-noise. The show also had some drawings of his that I at the time thought absurdly minimal and simple-minded. I remember muttering “He’s getting away with murder” when looking at a piece of newsprint of perhaps twenty square feet of area, upon which he’d drawn an arc across the width, and then placed a second arc near the middle, above the first arc and with points touching down near the fist arc’s crest. He might have drawn the arcs in a total of five seconds or so. Absurd, right? But he was demonstrating how quickly the human mind will convert the least pattern of line into anythin from a mountain sunrise to a close encounter of two spheres. In so doing, he informed my drawings, including this one.

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This fabulous painting, “Reef,” was created by my artist/writer/poet friend Richard Bledsoe. He posted it on his Facebook timeline and I commented that it had a nice “Hey, let’s put on a show!” feel to it and asked him what his asking price was. He messaged me the price privately, and I told him that was a bargain. Sold!!

So yesterday Richard and his wife and soulmate Michele met me at the Fair Trade Café, right off the Roosevelt light rail stop in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, to transact and snack. We all had bagels. Richard and I had ours with jalapeño and hummus, and Richard and I had coffee. Michele, whose heart goes out to all animals, especially the unfed and/or distressed, fed torn-off bagel bits to the birds (Sparrows with just a touch of Ravenous Vulture). In an hour that seemed like five minutes to me, we talked about mushrooms, psilocybin, Robitussin, flies, distressed kitty-cats and birds, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Richard’s work as an upper-echelon Small Business Accounts Complaints Department for a major financial institution, Michele’s work with adults on the autistic spectrum, painting from memory versus painting from a photo source, loss (Michele’s father and my father both died of heart attacks at 49), and my wish to include them in my Volume III of my “Eminent Poets of Greater Phoenix” series. I left rather abruptly (“Welp, got a train to catch!” and by running some I was able to board just before the doors closed) with the heartening feeling that Lifelong Romantic Love is not only possible, but manifest in this vibrant pair of lovebirds. The life that they have forged together is truly thrilling to behold.

Richard Bledsoe

Richard has a thoughtful, incisive blog about art, artists, art history, and art philosophy. Here is a link:

https://remodernreview.wordpress.com/

Michele Bledsoe

Michele has a website for her work with autistic adults. Please visit!

https://www.seedsforautism.org/

This year I have resolved to take more time with my drawings. With this drawing I turned my resolve into reality. I have worked on this drawing for several days. I stopped when it seemed not to benefit from further fussing. I do suspect, though, that when I look at it later I’ll see a few things I will want to fiddle with–but I won’t; this one stands as is.

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A few days ago I got on the stage of a Phoenix bar, Gypsy’s Roadhouse, to perform seven minutes of poetry, at the request of, and in celebration of the birthday of, my friend Russ K. I was happy to be there, and honored by the request, but the superb performers who had preceded me could not get a rise out of the audience. And I did worse than they did.  The ONE time I got the faintest rise out of this tough crowd was an ad lib. I was in the middle of a set of words about cats, in one of my series of “CATastrophic Cat Acrostics,” and I came to the word “Anhedonia,” and I stopped. Looked at the crowd. “Raise your hand if you know what Anhedonia is.” No one raised a hand. “It is the Inability to Experience Pleasure.” Waited a beat. “You know, kind of like what you guys are going through now.” And I got a micro-laugh.

Other than that, it was zilch, zip, zero, and I psychically limped off the stage, yielding it to the next victim. Some nights are going to be like that, if you dare to take a stage.

But it was a valuable experience, humbling and character-building.  And it inspired this page. Please note that the things I have people say in my cartoon above did not happen at Gypsy’s Roadhouse that night. But I have heard the equivalent of every single one of them in my four-decade experience in bars, grilles, nightclubs, and lounges. Bar ladies DO get hit on rudely. People DO verbally abuse family members over the phone. Other people talk incessantly during a person’s act; so on so forth.

And some bars are magnets for extreme behavior. One of my favorites, not too far from my apartment, has been known to have crime-scene tape around it more than once.

TOUGH Crowd

They eschew the esoteric
Ostracize the sweater wearer
Upsy-daisied Jericho
Goes the Confidence, laid low
Having thus been woh’d, whoaed, woed