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Monthly Archives: May 2022

2022 0528 ray liotta

field of scenes
(to the memory of ray liotta)

rest in performance
ray liotta
shoeless joe
and pesci’s con

in memoriam
next year’s oscars
will be saddest
when you’re on

you were un
believably believable
sleazy stalker
sweetheart friend

when that curtain falls
it’s tragic
fade to void but
love won’t end.

2022 0526 something to look at iii

Since “Abstract Expressionism” is too history-laden and just doesn’t seem like a good fit, I’ve come to call my not-quite-representational drawings and paintings my Something To Look Ats. They are visual experiences, celebrations of what art supplies can be compelled to do.

With that in mind, O Viewer, see what you want to see and don’t worry about what you are supposed to see. If it reminds you of something, that’s natural, and also unique to you. Another person will be reminded of something else.

2022 0523 ak15

Part of love of country includes acknoledgment and ownership of its failings. My country, the United States of America, has a shameful record of gun violence against schoolchildren. It goes back decades. And every time a fresh incident heartbreakingly occurs, the sellers and fanatical owners of guns trot out the same arguments, including “Guns don’t kill people–people do.”

Well, that’s nonsense. Guns literally WEAPONIZE people, enabling the evil and deranged to do far more grievous bodily harm than with just about anything. The gun makers strive to make the guns effective, and that includes ease of use, kill capacity, and, thanks to gun lobbyists, convenient to obtain.

The drawing I made today isn’t pretty. It is meant to not be pretty. This is an ugly side of my beloved country, and I do not wish to prettify it.

Our lawmakers have been more driven by profit motive and campaign chances than by common sense and true care for constituency. I have no money, no political influence, nothing but a voice and the heartbreak that drives it now. So this post is the utmost I can do. Readers, please, if you have the ear of lawmakers, please urge them to do the right thing and not the sleazy, money-grubbing thing.

Once again Elizabeth Valenzuela renders in poetic form a true slice of struggle and fulfillment in the world of the Unhoused.

Taylor
by Elizabeth Valenzuela

The woman met Taylor
During her visits with Dale at 
Affifa’s Adult Family Home

He sat on the front porch every Sunday
Reviewing the Sunday Advertisements
A magnifying glass in his hand

But still wearing his only pair of 
Eyeglasses
Both lenses shattered and yellowed with age

Dale would sell him one cigarette for a dollar
When Taylor asked him for one
But only if he was feeling generous

The woman started handing Taylor
Cigarettes behind Dale’s back
Sometimes one or two cigarettes and 
On special occasions
A full pack

In return Taylor
Who always had a pocketful of
Werther’s caramels
Would slyly pass her a caramel
When she walked past him on her way out

After Dale died
The woman continued to stop by and see Taylor

He had never had a visitor in all the years he lived there
Having been previously unhoused
This is how the friendship started and it 
Continued after James moved into
Dale’s old room
Serendipity in action
Déjà vu on display

In December Taylor showed her an ad
A remote control race car
He said he was Saving money to buy one

Santa brought him one for Christmas 
He and James played with that remote control car

Then Taylor had a heart attack

He was taken to the hospital 
He was unresponsive
He was in a coma for many weeks
No family came forward

The Hospital petitioned the Court to remove
Life support
Only the woman that stopped by for a daily visit
Stood vigil by his bed

The day the Court Order was issued
They transferred him to another room
And with him his photo
And information the woman had posted

So the hospital staff
Would know that Taylor was loved

The next few days
The woman sat by his side
Gently holding his hand
And telling him that she would be there if he lived
And that he would be ok
If he went
Toward the love
That was Waiting for him
On the other side

That it was all good
That he was loved

He was perfectly still in that hospital bed
Machines had been unplugged two days prior

One tear fell down his face
Silence
As the woman leaned in
To kiss his forehead

The next morning when she stopped by
His bed was empty

James and Taylor at Affifa’s Adult Family Home playing with Taylor’s remote control car
Taylor Doughty

2022 0514 wake time rest

Wake (TIME) Rest

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow…” Roethke

What a restless Night!!! Oh, dear
Ah, well–we will persevere
Keep the fate and make the mess
Ever hoping ever blest

Afterword: What does it mean to keep the Fate and not the Faith? Adam Clayton Powell, long ago, said “Keep the faith, Baby…and spread it gently.” My late, great Outlaw Uncle, Paul, sent me a condolence note in 1983 after my father died, and he hand-wrote “Keep the faith Gary” in it. Keeping the Fate is as close as I can get: keeping vertical, plugging away for betterment, trying to enjoy and engage and become to create the best Fate I can. Here’s hoping you also do joyful Fate-Keeping, Friends.

2022 0513 james headshot

Note: Both “James” and the preceding poem “Dale” featured in my last blog post are collaborations. Elizabeth Valenzuela and I have known each other for more than half a century. When I rented a car and made a road trip to the Great Northwest recently, Elizabeth arranged for my lodging in Seattle, and we had many conversations during my stay. Time and again, when Elizabeth told me of her work with the homeless (whom she calls “unhoused”–I probably will too once I get used to it), I thought to myself, “I really should have an audio recorder going.” Before I left Seattle I did a draft of the poem “Dale.” Elizabeth read it and made some important revisions, correcting errors of fact and providing more context, and contributed the photos of Dale’s memorial leaf and the pic of them both. Then she wrote a draft of “James,” adopting the style I’d used for “Dale,” and then it was my turn to revise, mostly for cadence and consistency with “Dale.” When Elizabeth asked me to post “James” to my blog I told her I would need to use her name, since she was the author. She graciously gave me permission to do so.

James
by Elizabeth Valenzuela

Two weeks after Dale passed
Dr. Goodman called the woman
Who had brought Dale to her

“Would you be willing to meet James
After you have taken the time to recover
From Dale?”

The Doctor had known Dale
When he was wild
Well before he became “Sweet Dale”
Under the woman’s care

The woman took a deep breath
And she said “I’ll meet him this week.”

So James became the new Dale.

James had no known  family
Unhoused
Body and brain ravaged
By Huntington’s

James was kind and sweet

He called the woman Hot Lips
(His ashes were laid to rest under an evergreen 
Perennial Salvia, commonly known as “Hot Lips”)

He smoked constantly

He walked away
From his new Adult Family Home
Any number of times
At all hours of the day and night
The police drove him home a few times

He loved all things baseball
The Mariners especially
But smokers were not allowed
To smoke at Mariners games

So James swore to stop
If the woman took him to a game
Had his last cigarette
Before he boarded the train

And got a Mariner’s Jersey and hat
And a seat at the game
And never smoked again
Never even had to be reminded of his promise

Back from the game
He was transferred to a secure house
Which was for Level 3
Sex Offenders

James was not a sex offender
But housing
For the terminally ill unhoused
Was scarce

The woman went to see him
Every other day
Put on a brave face
Made it clear
That James was off limits
And she was most definitely off limits

James was languishing
Forlorn in body and spirit

The woman found him another placement
That would provide hospice care
When the time came

(James Sparks’s final cigarette)

And James loved his new place
And thrived

The woman found James a program
That provided transportation
To an Activity Center twice a week
Where he found a girlfriend
Then promptly had to be medicated
To stop the hypersexuality
That is sometimes associated 
With  movement disorders such as his
Huntington’s Chorea

He was young and enjoyed this 
Time in his life

Then James needed hospice care

He died peacefully
Curled up on his side
Next to the woman
Who kept vigil

A van came at 1:00 a.m.
They put James in a black body bag
And he was gone

Afterword

About James: he was born in 1978, possibly in Pennsylvania or Indiana. His full name is James Hamilton Sparks.

Huntington’s Chorea is a genetic disease. If a person has it, their offspring have a 50-50 chance of getting it as well. The most famous American to be so afflicted was Woodie Guthrie. His son Arlo was spared his affliction.

2022 0512 dale and elizabeth

Dale

“Everyone counts or no one counts.” Michael Connelly

All day long the man was nasty
Spitting on the ground
Urinating on sidewalks
Obnoxious with cigarettes
Insulting
Cursing
With jerky motions

Now he was in a dark doorway
In Godawful clothing
On concrete
Cradling his head on a thin arm
His other hand tucked between his bony knees
For warmth

The woman had avoided him for years
Crossing the street when she saw him

That night she had quickly walked past him
But she looked back at him
From the safety of her car

She was pulled
To walk to him
To introduce herself
And to ask his name

“Dale, can I get you something?”

He was hungry and wanted pizza
Pizza with black olives and pepperoncini
And double pepperoni
And he told her where to get it

The woman hurried off into the cold night
She bought Dale’s pizza and brought it to him
And they stood in silence
And Dale was self-conscious
He would not touch his food till she was gone

Finally she told Dale she had to go
And Dale said,
“Will I see you tomorroW?”
And the woman said, “Yes.”

And many tomorrows later
Dale had an account at a coffee shop
And had been rescued from a ditch
And cleaned up after a winter
Spent in a porta potty

Had been evaluated
Diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea
Housed but still sleeping with his boots on
And approaching
His journey’s end

And his caregivers
Called him “Sweet Dale”

Earlier in their journey
The woman went
To get him something
And she took much longer
Than she thought she would

When she returned at last
Dale turned to his unhoused friends
And said,
“I TOLD you
She would come back.”

2022 0512 dale leaf