Tag Archives: poetry

Since Life is unfair, and many of my fellow Arizona voters are delusional and/or stupid, the dedicated Katie Hobbs may well lose the Arizona Governor’s race to the predatory, vicious Kari Lake. That would be a crying shame. Ms. Hobbs is too much a shrinking violet to fight Kari Lake’s firebrand, slash&burn fight. But I appeal to every Arizonan voting in this election to consider helping Ms. Hobbs, who has worked from the ground up in state politics since 2011, become victorious and win the office she so more richly deserves than the insidious Kari Lake. The choice is clear: Decency or Indecency. Please vote responsibly, Friends!!

Katie Hobbs

Kate, she’s great, I Ah and OoH
And I V O T E D for her toO
Taking on that Witch that SloB
It has been an uphill joB
Ever low key never fusS

Ever decent–one of us


Murder, She Wrought
(a brief nod to Angela Lansbury)

Chalk that outline,
Call the cops,
Despite her chops
Stage and Screen and Animated,
Finds herself now Pearly-Gated.

Just as Calvin
Had his Hobbes,
Brooms have Sticks
And Beds have Knobs,
Sweeney Todd his scalpeled razor,
Angela had Occam’s Laser.

With it she sliced
Through our gloom,
Brightened beach
And parlor room,
Cut the diamond of her skill,
Set up legions for the kill.

That she would leave us,
Fell our crests
And sore aggrieve us,
Murder inadvertent wrought
Of our smiles, now that she’s not.

Rest In Peace, Angie.

needer needer needer
(First posted on my Facebook timeline)

every last one of us is a needer
oxygen, water
shelter from excess radiation
carbs, protein, fat, trace minerals
companionship (except for a haywire few)

some of us have needs symptomatic of wrong
for instance those who seek alcohol
to fill an unfillable well
and some have need of pistoning action
could be cars could be sex could be fistfights

my deceased younger brother needed needles
judging from the dozens of needles
found in his hovel and car after he died
and that need made him homeless for years
put healed abscesses on his flesh
that looked like put-out cigarette burn scars
gave him hep c and deep sympathy
for his sisters and brothers on the street
left him with a mouthful of dentures
and a need for the love of God and Jesus

he fought bravely and constantly
but with two major cancer surgeries
and unremitting agonizing back pain
he lost his war at the age of 62

and i his brother also have a war on
for i am his brother in addiction
mine involving cards and dice and a little ball
that rolls and clatters and ends up in one
of thirty-eight slots

i am winning the war now
but am no less a needer
and every day is a skirmish
every week a new battleground
every month one more tally mark of victory
or not

and you dear Reader
what sort of Needer
are you?

Here is a drawing I’ve been working on and off on for several days. It started as a study of chicken bones, and then the wishbones seemed to want to talk to each other and the Universe, so element by element the drawing came to stochastic life. It told me to have implied stories here and there, and I did my best to oblige. The last thing it told me was to sign it and stop, and think of it kindly as a possible future painting. It feels unfinished-yet-not, as if “in medias res” is essential to its being. If I do make a painting of it the strategy will be alla prima in bluish violet–maybe.

This post is titled “faux tableaux” because the implied stories are not part of a play nor historical description; also, with Faux being four letters and Tableaux being eight, the title lends itself to the Acrostic poetic form I have been specializing in for more than a decade. Usually I include the poem on the image, but the image is busy enough as it is, so I’m going hyperdimensional and letting it stand separately below.

faux tableaux

far-flinging tenancy undue
adds more to addled syn&tax – a
unit’s cubic aperçu
x-rays the law and says relax

Now, what does that all mean? Well, “far-flinging” might be referring to the implied Disc Golf game in progress in the image; but Far-Flung colloquially means a deviation from reality. Tenancy is an official melding of being and location. Undue implies both unexpected and unwanted. Put them all together and they feed the next line’s “adds more to addled syn&tax” with the made-up wordmash “syn&tax” having a first syllable connoting both Synthetic and Sin, the last syllable connoting both a surcharge and a burden, and the ampersand gluing them together. Meter and rhyme are preserved by the appended dash and indefinite article; read aloud, the third line would begin with “A.” “A unit’s cubic aperçu” shows both the glory and the shame of my quasi-acrostic construction. “Unit” was chosen because it starts with a U and yet must phonetically start with a consonant; otherwise “A” would have to be “An.” And “aperçu” was chosen to rhyme with Undue (though it doesn’t, quite, English speakers unfamiliar with French will impart the Ooh sound to the last syllable, and not the French U sound, which is “ooh” with a hint of “ee”) and also because I flat-out love the word, with its magic cedilla and its densely-packed meaning of “a comment or brief reference that makes an illuminating or entertaining point” into only six letters. As a composer of acrostic poetry I have leaned on “aperçu” often as a line-ending word. I don’t apologize. I’m grateful to have it to use.

The third line feeds into the fourth. “A unit’s [someone’s] cubic [adding a third dimension] aperçu [spoken perceptive observation] x-rays the law {analyzes codified custom] and says relax [things ARE chaotic but are not as gruesome as they seem].”

A classmate of mine recently disparaged me as a “third-rate poet” who does “weird drawings.” To my knowledge he does not write poetry at all, and by his admission he can’t draw his way out of a wet paper bag. (To his credit, he publicly apologized later, saying he was retaliating for some unkind remarks I made about his selfies.) The truth is I’ll take Third-Rate over Nonexistent, and Weird over Nonexistent as well, any day. No one else on Earth is doing what I am doing, the way I am doing it, and it keeps me sane and out of trouble to boot. Bonus! 🙂

2022 0714 poet composing

On my Facebook feed there was a post from a friend of mine saying to the world, “What are you up to? Send a picture!” And what I was up to was composing a poem. So I took a picture of myself staring into the Heavens looking for the words, and attached it to my comment “Composing a poem” on her post.

But the picture…it was different from the other self-portraits I’ve done. So I drew it in HB pencil, and for background put some of the words and some of the self-instructions I’d come up with in the course of composing “Bouquet of Bouquets.” Here is the poem:

Bouquet of Bouquets
Spring wildflowers in a jam jar
FTD delivery twelve long-stemmed roses
A deliberately clumsy Picasso drawing
Cumulonimbus clouds carved by fighter jets
Coffee-charged notes with the nails
Fireworks bursts frozen in time
Acne rosacea on Grandfather’s bulbous nose
Football players breaking from a huddle
The grins of Clark Gable and some of his pals
Arpeggios in a Bach fugue
A dozen cocoons cracking open
A troupe of ballerinas with emotional issues
May be empowering
And well-timed bouqueting
Spiritually swaying.


Just another day in the life of an oldish codger who every so often takes the pressure off the urge to express by looking into the Heavens, writing down stuff, and sometimes illustrating what he’s written.


the new shoes are good
but they will get better
when my feet teach them
to relax

shoes have a life cycle:
steady state
golden age
pronation sole
pebble sensitivity
trashcan farewell

if the shoe is not quadruple-E wide
“side-slopover” obtains

between “golden age”
and “pronation sole”

shod or not we get a feel of the Earth
through our feet
and the best shoes can sense the magma
churning away deepdown
and feel the energy
and draw power from it

the worst shoes feel wrong
disown the Earth and lead you astray
into that badly hicked town Blisterville
and her sister city Straitjacket

these new shoes are young promising pups
that keep the dogs from barking
whilst embarking

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.

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

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 
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
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.

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
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


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.