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One humble member of my mother’s collection of her son’s ceramic works is a joining of two clay techniques, Pinch-Pottery and Wheel-Throwing. A Pinch Pot is often the first vessel a fledgling potter will make. Take a racquetball-sized ball of clay, stick your thumb in it, and gradually expand the interior by pinching, pinching, pinching the clay between your thumb and your other fingers. Don’t let the hole you first made with your thumb get too big. As the wall gets thinner, use fewer fingers, and for final refinement thumb and index finger only. Wet and smooth the lip. Don’t fret if the lip is a little uneven. It is more charming and organic that way.

Now you have a a bowl for a goblet. For the base, take another little ball of clay and center it on the wheelhead of a potter’s wheel, just like you’ve done dozens (hundreds per year) (thousands by now) of times. Raise a little cylinder with no floor. Spread it out a bit at the.base, collar it in up the stem and flare the lip. Smooth the lip with a bit of wet paper towel, or a chamois if you have one, while the wheel is still spinning.

Bisque fire the pieces separately. Don’t glaze the stem. Dip-glaze the bowl with clear glaze and carefully set it on the stem, and only handle the goblet by the stem until it is loaded into the glaze kiln. The glaze on the bowl will fuse bowl and stem together.

This goblet was made early on in my potter’s journey, perhaps as early as 1989. A goblet I would make now, using the same amount of clay, would be maybe 25% larger, and would not be so topheavy. But my new goblet, though more practical, would be less whimsical. The old goblet is sacred to a time, and my mother liked it enough that she put it on her bookcase across from her recliner, where she wouldseeit every day.

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A fellow member of my Poets All Call group, a bright and imaginative man named Joseph Arechavala, wrote a poem and posted it to our group yesterday. I found the poem contained a metaphor for Truth that was apt . . . and I also felt compelled to respond. So I wrote a poem too. I have Joe’s kind permission to post our exchange for all the Blogoverse to see, and that will come soon, but first I want to share a drawing I just made, based on the fact that Joe is using a Groucho Marx headshot for his avatar. I thought it would be cute to draw Groucho and one of my own personal heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, shoulder to shoulder and smoking their tobacco products of choice, thus:

2021 0225 grouch kurt

JOE:

Truth is elusive
Like a woman
Standing in the distance
The sun outlining
Her beauty
A woman who
You know will
Never walk towards you
But will remain
A vaguely fair form
In the far away field
And you will
Walk towards her
But never
Come close to her
And you will weep

****

GARY:

Let me be your wingman Joe
Truth’s elusive this I know
She knows EVERYTHING you’ve done
Stuff for spite and some for fun

She has more than one big sister
I suggest you date one mister
Luscious Evidence will show you
Family pics of Truth–you know you

Could do worse than date Deduce Me
More plot twists than I Love Lucy
You’ll be challenged to decide
If you want Truth by your side
Or for a bride
With Lies denied

One more sister makes things clearer
That is Truth’s twin sister Mirror
Gaze deep DEEP into her glass–
TRUTH–she’s HERE!!!
–to Kick your Ass.

Whoops.
Sorry.

****
Gary: Joe, you have captured an important aspect of Truth in your poem. I am grateful. And I hope you see, for all my clowning, an important bit of Truth in mine, mainly that showing an interest in phenomena related to Truth does bring us closer to Truth Herself.

Joe: Gary Bowers It just feels good to finally be writing again.

Gary: Joe, I would love to do a blog post on this exchange of ours. May I have your permission?

Joe: Sure. Post the link so I can read it.

Gary: Will do, my friend!
****
A couple of things before I go. First, Joe and many others in our group are suffering from writer’s block. I think the pandemic has something to do with it. So his comment about feeling good to be writing again is a hopeful sign to me.

Second, this is not the first instance in poetic history wherein one poem inspires another. Christopher “Kit” Marlowe wrote “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” in the 16th Century. One year after it was published, none other than Sir Walter Raleigh wrote “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” a fitting response (snub) to the Passionate Shepherd’s overtures (lusty). And in subsequent centuries other poets wrote poems inspired by the original, and in the 20th Century those two sly dogs Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker both took a whack at it. So History is not by any means being made by Joe and me, but what matters to me is that the creative spark was ignited by Joe, and then I got ignited as well, for a pleasant journey to deeper digging.

Not less than six years ago I was a front desk clerk at Sedona Winds Independent Living Retirement Community in Sedona, Arizona, USA. One of my minor chores was to recycle paper menus into scratch paper. I would often use that paper to compose acrostic poetry.

Today I found a work in progress on one such scratch-paper piece. The piece is not a perfect rectangle, and that may disconcert some, especially those with at least a touch of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Let’s be charitable and playful and say that this is a little life lesson in not taking anything for granted, including right-angularity.

Here is what ended up being the back of a drawn trilogy of acrostics:

2021 0224 menu half

It is likely, though not certain, that I created this menu on Microsoft Word, as another minor clerk’s chore. I did most but not all of them while working the 3-to-11PM shift. My instructions for the menus were to open the previous day’s menu Word doc, do a Save As with that day’s date as part of the name, and then change only those particulars that were different with the current day’s menu. If I’d removed the quotation marks from “Rolls upon Request,” which I would have if given the latitude, I would be deviating from orders. I would also have made the upper-case boldface D “hidden” text, since it was an indicator of which menu in the master book it was, and not necessary for the dining room patrons to see. But mine was not to question, nor deviate.

One perk of the job was that they fed me the meal of my choice, and a master chef was running the kitchen, so Goody-Goody Yumdrops for me while a Sedona Winds employee. I miss that, but not too much, because in my current job I often get a complimentary meal, depending on the Manager of the Day’s decree.

Here’s what is now on the other side of the menu.

2021 0224 squander lust

Before this morning only the acrostics and the endwords of each line were there. So, in collaboration with my younger self, I have finished the Squanderlust acrostic, including a spot illustration of a superhero wannabe in Virtual Reality being held aloft by a ridiculous VR bird, and have started spot illustrations for Ponder Pantry and for Wander Wanter. Both of those will need cleanup and zing.

Or not. I haven’t decided whether the image is better off being left for another six-plus years. I gained a lot when I did the work this morning, but I lost a galaxy’s worth of fresh possibilities. Squanderlust is now set in cement. The other two might be better off wandering the Quantum Multiverse for creation patronage. (Rationalization for being not up to finishing, most likely!)

Squanderlust

Suppressive superheroes blush when donning mask & cowl
Quiescent polymorphs are given choice of fish or fowl
Unvirtued VR simulcastswell suit the parvenu
And one soul’s U of A might be another’s ASU
No self-respected citizen sets forth till s/he assesses
Desiderata such that Uberjoy outweighs the stresses
Enteric eschatology gives faithful fold a Lyft
Remaining to be seen is if there’s Substance to the gift

A long time ago the phrase “wretched excess” was in vogue. Those with Squanderlust seek such. I think we all get a touch of Squanderlust from time to time. 🙂

It being Tuesday, I did my Title Tuesday feature for the Facebook group Poets All Call. This time round my fellow moderator Genevieve Lumbert offered three of her own titles as well:

The Great Falling Away
inertia
hope

My thanks to my lifelong friend. These titles helped me write some poetry that went beyond puzzle-solving and into exploration of matters of the heart.

Here is how I responded.

The Great Falling Away

A clumsy man heard surf
Felt love
Listened to a story about cowhide
Flung over a cliff
And kissed a woman soundly
And kissed a woman softly
And kissed an opportunity
Goodbye.

We don’t always fall down
Like Lucifer.
Sometimes we fall away
Like a vagabond
Or a brisk wind
That shifts direction.

Sometimes a man dies
With a private chamber of sound kisses
And tender sentiments
Still in him.

inertia

the clutter of a litterbug
a scattered realm of shame and love
a stutter step a tale of woe
of habits formed that won’t let go

the butter of another’s lust
unshuttered cluster’d stars unfussed
pull/cull the interstellar dust
and slowly come unwound

the mainspring of eternity
is neither wild nor full unfree
mere cutlery manipulating
flesh of roasts anticipating
guests to sink their teeth
and flee
or saunter through
infinity

hope

we are vertical
and we breathe.

so let us believe
life contains a goodness
our thirst to slake,
the warm embraces
we want to make,
the hikes and climbs and jousts
for whish we roustabouts roust,
the heldhands nightwhispered
plans d’evasions
we wish to conspiratorily make
and then unleash…

hope like a sprig of a sprouting bean
makes a fat man long to lean,
makes two journeys intersect
and lovelorn halves
at last
connect.


This morning Alberto Rios, an Arizona Poet Laureate, posted a link to an article he’d written, an exploration of what the phrase “magic realism” wants to mean. It’s a wonderful, if (necessarily) meanderful, think-piece, and so here’s a screen print for those who want to know where it is:

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As improbable fate would have it, I’d just re-acquired a bowl I’d made in early 2007 and subsequently given to my mother, who went to the Great Beyond on December 11, 2020, and whose former home is being prepared for sale.

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it’s been a long time, but I think the clay body is Laguna Rod’s Bod, Cone 10, outside clear-glazed and inside glazed with Majolica White and allowed to coat the top inch or so of the outside. The glaze appears to have been applied on the outside by dipping, and on the inside by pouring, and then a quick lip-dip to mix Majolica and clear, and to add a coat of thickness to the Majolica’s lip and upper inside areas. The goobery trails of the white outside glaze are due to mixed glazes being more runny, whereas on the inside the glaze-thickness variant is thin where there are ridges and “veiled” where the dip overlaps. The bowl has a nice shape but is not perfectly symmetrical; there’s the slightest pinch in the lip, which with the jester’s-cap gooberishness makes the bowl rather clownish. But even more improbably, the potter incised the Greek symbol for pi on the outside, and white-glazed it. What was he/I THINKING?

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I don’t remember. If there is such a thing as Fate, maybe Fate took over and had me do that back then just so I’d happen upon it just as i was reading an article about Magic Realism by Alberto Rios. Fate also gave me this phone with its tranformative photoediting. Behold the same bowl, which through the “Cartoon” photoediting effect appears to be straight outta The Great Beyond.

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I had ten minutes before I would probably be late for the bus. I drew a hand, and its reachout aspect suggested an arm, so the arm ended up reaching for a moon, but we’ve all been there with that one, so do a series of spiraling spheres engulfing and whooshing through the outstretchedness, which needs more than an arm, so becomes a guy-or-not with spiked hair, communing with Infinity, and what original thing might we say about humankind’s communion with Infinity? Make it ten words or less, Bud. You have a bus to catch.

20210219_062011

I have been blessed to know a good many Susans in my life. One, a fuel truck driver, hiked Havasupai with me. One, a six-foot lawyer, had the assertiveness of a runaway locomotive. One, a sculptor, sold over ten grand’s worth of her wares in a single day. One, a department chair, decided to explore reducing the toxicity of the hydrocarbon-laden printing medium Intaglio. There are others, but we have a lot to cover here, because while there’s not a lazy Susan in the bunch, I bring to your attention Susan Vespoli, the unlaziest Susan of them all.

Susan is a poet. She’s also a teacher. She’s lived in Guam and in a cabin in the woods in Arizona. She’s loved and lost and lost and won and fought cancer and won some more and fixed up a house and sold a school. She has a website with the unforgettable domain name susanvespoli.com, where you will find out much more about her in her remarkable essay “Autobiography in Eight Hairstyles.” She has a Taylor Swiftian propensity for going into detail about past relationships, but in this hairstyle odyssey she nails down the best reason possible for doing so: “More lethal than bad food, bad drink, and bad exercise habits, more toxic than chemical exposure, is the act of not owning your thoughts or speaking your mind.”

And that is what makes her writings so valuable. She is showing you cinéma vérité with her poetry. You must believe it because it is immediate and it is real. Pardon the bluntness, but she’s not fucking around. She has been there and now you are going to be there too, no euphemism, no denial. No dancing. (She has said “I can’t dance.”)

So it was she who reawakened my desire to resume my “Eminent Poets of Greater Phoenix” project. Volume I was published in 2010. I did about two dozen poet/acrostic/portrait pages since then but never lashed them together into Volume II. Now I want to.

So, to rewet my feet, I have done the first one in over a year, thus:

2021 0217 susan vespoli iv

Susan Vespoli

Sure as RSTUV
She knows what it is to Be
Undeterred. The Truth she grasps
Speaks and makes her readers gasp
And Writes of Wildness gallop so
A hoofbeat rhythm helps her go
Now a Captain, now a Stray, she’ll
Nestle Life-blooms like a Lei

One more thing: She recently trounced me in Words With Friends, not for the first time, nor the fifth. Then in the next game she lobbed me a watermelon-sized Home Run pitch, using the word INNER so that I could make WINNER or DINNER or TINNER or some other, and get a triple-word score. I suspect she’s trying to let me win one. Hey, she’s an all-caps POET; she knows what she’s doing.

Not to be falsely modest; so am I. I flirt with her a little sometimes with some of the words I use–why not? It’s fun, and I’m harmless. In the game I show below, the one she got me good in, she played DUEL and I crossed it with LUV. If you’re going to Duel, do it with Luv. 🙂

2021 0218 wwf screen print

The house where my mother lived out most of her latter life is being prepared for sale, and that means a lot of throwing away and some salvage. Over the years I gave Mom quite a bit of artwork in the form of drawings, prints and functional and non-functional ceramics. Now she has no more use for them, and they wouldn’t fetch much if anything at an estate sale, so back to me they come.

This drawing in particular has me shaking my head in frustration:

2021 0218 still life with glass decanter

It has a lot going for it, and a lot going against it. At first it made me want to invent a time machine and harangue the early-80s twentysomething who was saying, “Done!” and signing it without dating it. “DONE??! What the Hell? It needs another hour. In an hour you could turn an Isn’t-That-Nice into a showpiece. Not a museum piece, you dummy, because you used cheap sketchbook paper and you DREW PAST THE WIRE BINDING HOLES. Don’t you CARE? Don’t you have any respect for what little talent you possess?!”

Alas, the smart-aleck kid from 1983 or so now looks me in the mind’s eye and says, “What about YOU, Gramps? You are STILL dashing things off, on cheap paper, eager as Hell to send them out into the world, STILL making Isn’t That Nices instead of Showpieces, much less Museum Pieces. The Sins of the Younger are visited on the Elder. Hypocrite.”

I try to muster a convincing argument. I am running out of time. My heart leaps unbidden around in my chest every so often, once sending me to the ER, where they sent me to a cardiologist, who wanted to do a test the insurance wouldn’t pay for, and did another test instead, which boiled done to “normal” with a nice ECG. But Dad went at 49, Grandmother Caroline at 44, Uncle Jim at 53, Grandmother Marguerite at 67. ALL cardiac cases. And I have too many things to do in whatever time I have left.

But the Kid knows I’m full of it. “Your Time Management sucks, Pops. You can and really need to CARVE OUT the time from your vast, incessant Frittering. So do it. Do it for the Kid here. He’s still here, ya know. Just wearing older flesh.”

Can’t argue with that. We shake hands, I the left, he the Wright. 🙂

[Friends, this is written in haste and may or may not be edited at leisure. Blog Post #2000, scores of posts hence, now has an ETA of December 2, 2022. These last 199 posts should see the conclusion on the n.e.s. series, the Rubáiyát in its entirety, and a dozen reworkings of the best of my drawings in acrylic paint form. Of course “L’homme propose mais Dieu dispose,” but also “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you still end up in the stars.” Meanwhile, this State of the Heart message, which I hope to obsolesce…]

to kiss and not to tell. ° “And the girls you offer champagne say Yes, ° And the girls you love say No, ° And your salary isn’t what it was, ° And you feel like the poet Poe.” ° Ogden Nash, “Elegy in a City Shambles” ° most people i know have been kissed ° at least a thousand times ° (less so lately due to pandemickal conditions) ° ° as for me i’m not telling ° but inferences may be drawn from this discussion ° ° the zap factor of some kisses is huge ° and blessed be those pairs who zap over decades ° for they are the fewly unusual zesters ° ° and woe and sympathy to those unwilling loners ° who receive and bestow kisses perfunctorily ° and scavenge memory lane for reminders ° that zappage has happened and might happen again ° ° modern suitors are often like…uh… ° auditioning actors ° who have much to offer but not ° in the eyes of the casting director ° who knows what she wants ° and sees what she doesn’t ° and is quick to thank ° and offer the faintest shred pf hope ° but even quicker to° upper-handedly call “Next!” ° ° the world is not alloronothing ° and scraps may be had while a feast is prepared ° but those kisses ° those electric kisses ° are the sirens of modern love ° and Romance ° is also defined ° as “falsehood” ° ° it is good to love ° but to love and not be loved back ° is an agonizing challenge ° ° hey though ° relax ° have a walk and a read and a workout ° use each day as a step toward true love ° and affirm and expect ° ° and you will be zapped ° and be eager to tell ° but it is more delicious o lover ° to kiss and not to tell

The Grief keeps on coming. A couple of weeks ago a former next-door neighbor died. I didn’t know him well, but I knew him when.

In 1971, when I was a high-school senior, this much-younger kid would knock on our door. If my mother answered the door, he would say, “Mrs. Bowers, can Gary come out to play?” And if I answered the door, he’d look up at me with a confident grin and hold up his play-catch ball and say, “Wanna play Catch?” That’s the way I remember it anyway.

And we’d go onto the asphalt of Glendale, Arizona’s Pasadena Avenue and toss a ball back and forth, our throws getting longer and longer as we slowly backed away from each other. He was pretty good at throwing and catching for a kid his age. And sometimes I’d say after just a few minutes that I needed to go do something, and sometimes it was relaxing and fun to just keep launching that ball into the accepting sky. But my recollection is that he was never the one to want to end it.

He was Jay Yeomans, son of Jay senior. Everyone called him Jaybird.

Now he is no longer among us. He has died, of an aggressive form of cancer.

I learned a little more about him after he died in hospice. For instance, he liked Jack Daniels so much that one birthday he got several big bottles of it as gifts. And here’s documentary evidence of that, courtesy of a mutual friend.

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I look at this picture and I see that bold kid again, asking an older kid to come out and play. My message to him in the Great Beyond, which charges no postage but offers no guarantees, is, “Farewell, Jaybird and Jay. I’ll bring a ball to toss when next we meet.”