Zen and the Art of Smelly Sock Placement

It isn’t just that among the tulips, the matching
Napkins and scented candles, the wedding
China and newly shined floors, I left
Yesterday’s socks in my fancy artwork bowl.
Or even that in all the conversation amongst
Crystal and wine, silk frocks and fine
Cuisines, the subject of clothing and feet
Never once arose. Invite your guests
With care, my friend, but even this moral,
Howsoever neat, is not the regenerative end
Of this Easter tale. I’m hardly a novice at
The epic fail, but I’ll tell you this: if you arrange
Your evening like a still-life, every spoon
And plate, cushion and salad fork and knife
In intimate accord almost musical, the memento
Mori that keeps it real is, of all things beautiful
And true, the most brutally essential.


Flowers in One Sitting

Pabbi would buy flowers whenever he could.
At home this was an expensive and not often
Done thing. Elsewhere the very streets beckoned
The colours were rich and the prices were good.
Mom could take anything green to her heart
And in her hands it would bloom just to please
Her, and on her table it would blossom into
Art. The kids, one summer, brought bunches
Of wild lupin, blue as ceramic jugs, home
From their wanderings. Their grandmother
Found bowls and vases and white watering
Cans in which they lounged, nonchalant
In their riotous glory. You could say
It’s a family story. My inept floundering
When it comes to things beautiful and bright.
It’s a good thing I get the shadows right.

Courage #9 – Still Life: A lockdown poem

The trick lies in the highlights
You set them in strong. Pure
Dazzling bright whites. To shoulder
The weight of the darks. Take care
To register what you see only. Not
What you know is there. The shape
Of all seen through each, shapes
The sense of all.
Stillness lies in the eye of the beholder.
Things move apart to come together again.
The beauty is all in the transitions
The glow the shimmer the shine the glitter
The overlay of time on space. And when
Memory is all there is to work from
There is still life still colour still observance
Still courage in grace.

Burnt Sienna

It appears I’ve always lived in raw umber
With just the right amount of jesso. The
Canvas of my life lying under the
Colours of a palette mixed just so. Each
Shade a version of grey – luxurious oodles
Of white changed by a tiny dab of black. I
Wonder at the palette knife smoothing it
Down, not too sharp, no need to hack and
Carve away the artificial bright. They say
It allows the painter to create the many
Shades of light. I get it, I think. Until the time
That we run out of umber and use burnt
Sienna instead. My sleeping skin has turned
Blue. It is dazzling, not like skin but wine.
Suddenly it looks like anyone’s arm but
Mine. Maybe I should have painted by
Numbers, stuck with bases of raw umbers,
Lived dumb and painted dumber. Anything
Rather than confront this blue skinned person –
My raw-umber life’s burnt sienna version.