Monthly Archives: September 2015

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A few dozen people said goodbye to Richard Sterling “Dick” Wilkinson last Saturday at the Chapel of the Phoenix, Arizona Church of the Beatitudes. Some days prior to the service Florence, Dick’s wife of 64 years, asked me if I would like to say a few words, and at the service my remarks followed those of Dick’s daughter Patty. What follows is an approximation of what I said, since I didn’t write out my comments beforehand.


I live near 35th Avenue and Northern. I walked here, though I was offered a ride, just to tell Dick a joke. (I’m hoping his awareness is present.) It’s a knock-knock joke.

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Aardvark who?
Aardvark a thousand miles for one of your smiles.

Dick had a beautiful smile–dazzling, brilliant. And he had a GREAT handshake: firm, connected. It was like completing a circuit.

I only really had one conversation with Dick–but that conversation lasted more than 20 years. Every time I would leave him after we talked, I’d shake his hand and say, “To be continued.” Next time I’d see him we’d pick up where we left off.

We talked about all kinds of things. Dick in particular liked to talk about his days on the farm. One thing that made Dick one in a million is that he was one of very few people who could claim a genuine Cowlick. Dick had to milk a lot of cows, and he was perfect for that job too, patient and gentle as he was. One day one of his grateful clients expressed her appreciation with the application of her tongue to the back of his head.

There’s a song by Steve Goodman, who wrote “City of New Orleans,” written about his father. Karen [Dick’s other daughter] would never let me perform it, or even recite it. She didn’t want to hear anything that would even hint of a world without her father. But there is some overlap between Steve Goodman’s dad and Dick Wilkinson. They both flew over “The Hump” of the Himalayas in World War II, though Steve’s dad was in a C-47 and Dick was in a C-46. They both worked in the automotive industry. But Dick didn’t go for cheap cigars, and he’d rather hear a corny joke than tell one. Still, there is one line in the song that perfectly describes Dick Wilkinson:

“No one ever knew/A More charming creature on this earth/Than My Old Man.”

I’m so grateful to Florence and Patty for making it possible for me to see Dick one more time, earlier this summer. Apparently they showed Dick, who’d been having memory issues, photographs of people, and he went, “No–uh uh–don’t think so . . .” but when my photo came up he said, “Hey–I know THAT guy . . .”

And we had a great visit, a normal visit, though Dick’s hair was a little wild. It reminded me of many years ago: I’d given Dick a book on the collected writings of Bertrand, Lord Russell, because Dick reminded me of him. But never had Dick looked like Bertrand Russell more than the last time I saw him, with his hair that way. “Hey, Dick,” I joked. “it’s Saturday. Relax! Let your hair up!” Dick laughed–he got it!

And when I left him, just like all the other times, we shook hands and I said, “To be continued.” And, you know–I can’t wait till it IS continued.

Thank you.


a bad case of evening

dawn is many hours away
and some of us won’t be here when it arrives

that’s another definition of “evening”
some die to make room for the newly living
some are born to replenish the livestock

the surface of the earth spins mildly toward and mildly away from the sun
and every hour the sun is 65,000 miles closer to the midst of sagittarius
as the earth-moon duet makes its helical ellipsoid in gravitational thrall
but we are stuck with our surface-bred notions of “sunrise” and “sunset”

and each sunset seems to say a goodbye
each sunrise a “ready or not, here i come”

but not every sleeper wakes
and not every awakening is welcome

now the colors of the evening are going to grayscale
drivers of absurd automobiles force-activate artificial light
and some of us wish henry ford had stood in bed
and cracked his skull on the ceiling
and fallen safely back to
the notion
of mass production
nicely knocked out of him

weariness is a mule
unbudgingly souring thoughts
and the mulish weary body wants to stay put

“you’ll feel better in the morning”

“thanks for the sandpaper”

Some months ago I was at a thrift store and found Barack Obama’s DREAMS FROM MY FATHER for a dollar. I bought it but didn’t give it a serious look until this week. Now I’m at the point in the book where he is attending Occidental College in California. He has been through a lot, including life in Indonesia.

Some months ago I began a drawing. It was a good start, but demanded time-chunks I was reluctant to give to it. It lay fallow.

Some days ago I stumbled upon a website of the former Nina Rogers, classmate at Glendale High School and wedding guest at Joni’s and my wedding. She is now a wildly successful photographer and scenemaker in Vancouver. We have traded emails, and when I described a book of mine that is “finished” but just lying around waiting for me to prepare it for printing, she gave me the secret to her success in four short words:

“Finish what you start.”

So I have begun to take her advice. Here is the now-finished sketch, “some day,” flavored a bit with my recent reading of young Barack’s journey.

some day 091315

I have a lifelong friend (see “Foom-Bozzle-Wozzle,” parts 1 and 2) who has kept a watercolor sketch of mine, purchased by him for $2, above his commode for more than five years. It is in line-of-sight for any man facing the commode as he steps up to it to do his business. My friend says of the sketch, “It speaks to me.” Here is the sketch:

birds 090615

Birds and spoons have been my copilots in creation for a long time. After midnight last night, I began to sketch yet another bird. “Not ANOTHER bird!” I moaned, and a new triple-acrostic was born:

not another bird 091315

Nested dreamers rub a dub
Nooks & crannies join the club
Ocelots take no such stair
Often we bequeathe an heir
Trinkets coveted & loom’d
Taking comfort they’re undoom’d

For good or ill, there will be birds (and spoons) in this journal’s future.

the lazy poet shops for words in the index of GEOLOGY FOR DUMMIES
and “subduction” really grabs
it sounds a lot like “seduction”
and there’s a poem or two in that alone

but “extinction” then grabs
and doesn’t want to let go
and he’s dragged kicking and screaming
into the fossil record and evolution and tectonic shenanigans

and the poet learns that “How old is the sea floor?” is a trick question
that new floor is being poured 24/7/52/4.3 bill
and old floor sometimes rises in the ring of fire and elsewhere
or scrunches
or becomes crestfallenly entrenched
or is seductively subducted by the shovel-shoving landmasses

and then there is a blinding flash of the not-quite-obvious
in that “geology” means “study of the earth”
“study of everything from the solid core
to the liquid overcore
to the only-a-little-bit-liquid mantle
to the mantle-crust interface
to the crust to the surfaces sea and land to the air to the air-space interface
to heaven whence come the doomsday-making comets”

and the poet feels like the kid in james joyce’s “araby”
a pretender/fake/chicanerist/wanter
and reading 306 of the 320-plus pages hasn’t helped


sun of mind (braking with tradition)

o sun of mind thou’st shone thy final ray
you coalesced in gravitation’s grip
you fused and fizzed your hydrogen away

the balance held the nova held at bay
till fuel was spent and forces strove to rip
o sun of mind thou’st shone thy final ray

there is no cure for entropy they say
nor is there any way to fix & flip
you fused and fizzed your hydrogen away

an incantation does not grant a stay
an execution’s lethal rope or drip
o sun of mind thou’st shone thy final ray

the end of local history the clay
of livingness dissolves by fissile whip
you fused and fizzed your hydrogen away

and blast makes peace and endness is okay
when life gets bilious the more we sip
o sun of mind thou’st shone thy final ray
you fused—hey, this is unacceptable. Forget it. Fight! FIGHT! fight!

black bolt and karaoke fanboy 090215

Some time before the Jack Kirby show organized by Russ “Karaoke Fanboy” Kazmierczak, I mentioned to Russ that my favorite Kirby-drawn superhero was Black Bolt, leader of the diasporadic Inhumans. Later I found out that Black Bolt’s full name according to Wikipedia is Blackagar Boltagon. Isn’t that awful?

On my birthday Russ presented me with a Black Bolt action figure. (Russ has a thing for action figures.) When you push in his tummy (Black Bolt’s, not Russ’s) his arms come up, making his membranous sidewings flight-ready. For Black Bolt can fly. He can also use that tuning fork on his head to harness electrons, combining them with a mysterious, unknown subatomic particle that emanates from the speech center of his brain. (Black Bolt dares not join the Karaoke Fanboy in song; his unleashed voice shatters mountains.)

Sure he’s preposterous. But so was that clumsy-spoken, tablet-wielding, bush-talking Moses, on whom Black Bolt, I contend, is at least loosely based.

As for the Fanboy, here’s a double acrostic I did of him at the Cholla branch of the Phoenix Public Library, finding, to my delight, that I may return to the same drawing-on-scrap proclivity that served me in such good stead when I was working for Sedona Winds.

kf 090215

Kirbyphile & He-Man buff
Artist, songster, other stuff
A rustlin’hustler gives a damn
And breaks down doors with splinter’d jamb
O Action Figure–go deploy
O key to living: ROCK that toy

The transcription does not preserve the acrostic, but it’s more coherent.

Russ has a new chapbook out. He honored me by asking me to write the Introduction. Here is an excerpt from my introduction, but be warned: it contains at least one cussword.

William Blake cried in print I want! I want! and then Erica Jong quoted him in Fear of Flying. Philip Jose Farmer wrote “The Lovers,” a landmarkedly explicit work of science fiction, and he also wrote Image of the Beast/Blown, even more explicit, which features two of the weirdest and most frightening women you’ll ever care to read of. Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed,” which is heartbreakingly confessional and revelatory of the need and ache which drives us and drives us away. And Dorothy Parker wrote “Travel, trouble, music, art/A kiss, a frock, a rhyme;/I never said they steal my heart,/But still, they pass the time.” That Dorothy could do anything, including leading a horticulture. (“You can lead a horticulture, but you cannot make her think,” she answered instantly, after she was asked to use the word Horticulture in a sentence.) And she was rumored to have sent a message to her publisher who was nagging her about a deadline while she was on her honeymoon, “Too fucking busy, and vice versa.”

Into the midst of this pantheon of twisted romantics strides Russ Kazmierczak . . .