ArtFest 2014

Well, wish me luck. Tomorrow I will be

At ArtFest. It is at the downtown park

In Paso Robles. If you come you’ll see

Me giving interactive demonstrations

On carving and designing wood block prints

To tens of thousands. (I exaggerate

Of course.) There might be some who come to see

The sixty artists and their art. I’ve got

The patter down. I think.

“Come one and all!

Discover for yourself the pleasure you

Can find in carving wood. Just step right up

And soon, you’ll be amazed what you can do.

The greatest printers in the world will come

To you for inspiration and to learn

What they’ve been doing wrong. And all you need

To spend is thirty minutes. Half an hour.

And surely you can take this little time

To master everything you need to know

About the art of carving, and design,

And inking up the block and pulling prints.”


It might be fortunate that where I’m at

Is off the beaten path, and while the show

Is going on I will be lucky if

Occasionally someone happens by.

And even luckier if all they want

To know is where the porta-potties are.

Be Still My Heart

I used to ruin Shakespeare for my kids.

You know the one I had to have them read—

The one about a girl my student’s age

Who falls for Romeo, an older man

Of sixteen years. I’d ask my freshman girls,

“How many of you think you’re old enough

to fall in love and marry? You’re the age

that Juliet was when she fell in love,

and married, and was dead within a week.

And gentlemen, in two more years will you

Be old, mature enough to take a wife?

Be willing to support a kid, leave school,

And work a forty-hour week and then

A second job while all your friends are here,

Are going out for sports, or at the beach

While you are at your nothing, dead-end jobs?

So here’s the plot: mature sophisticate

(that’s Romeo) is certain he’s in love

with Rosalind. With who? You heard it right.

He’ll die without the love of Rosalind.

He’s never met a girl like Rosalind

(Be still my heart!) until he notices,

across a crowded room, fair Juliet;

and then he says that Rosalind’s a dog,

and Juliet’s the only one for him.

You know the rest. Within a week they’re dead.

So, now you know the plot, let’s read the play.

Organic Gardening

Well, yesterday was spent in pulling weeds,

And digging weeds, and getting rid or rocks.

And why? So I can grow organically

Some stupid plants who’d die without my help;

Without the extra fertilizer, care,

And water that they need to live and grow.

The fertilizer is organic, so

Don’t tell me that I am a hypocrite

For saying I’m organic. Well, I am.

It isn’t cheating. You would have to be

A nut, a leftist nutcase if you thought

It was. I mean, come on. Just read the bag.

It says it is organic on the bag.

“Our freshly aged manure balanced by

the perfect ratio of N.P.K.

to make your plants the envy of your friends.”

And next, I guess, you will be telling me

The little Roundup that I use to kill

The stubborn weeds . . . I know. I know.

It’s not organic either. Well it is.

It says right here it will degrade. So there.

Don’t say I’m not organic, ‘cause I am.

Just look at all the weeds I pulled by hand.

You’re Not? I Am?

I heard again the other night the phrase,

“I’m not a racist . . . but.”

I wonder why

they think I will agree with them when they

decide to point their big fat buts at me

as if their breaking wind’s a pleasant smell

I should appreciate; that they’ll convince

Me just how fair and balanced they can be

If only they will say the magic words:

“I’m not a racist.



Just saying that I’m not has made it so.”


It is a most compelling argument

But still, I wonder if the smell would be

The same if I would label garlic rose,

Or said that vinegar was peppermint.

If saying it will make it so, then I

Am rich and handsome, young and very wise.

Lazy Bums

Today I visited with Robert Frost,

But not the Robert Frost of Kennedy’s

Inaugural, and not the piss and fire

Poet who worried, when he heard that Carl

Sandburg had died, if he was number one

At last. The Bob I met with still was young

And only known in Derry. He’s the one

The neighbors knew as lazy—sitting on

His porch when there was hay to cut and bale;

A lazy bum who’d rather sit and dream

And waste his time with words than get to work.

I listened to the wind and whippoorwills.

He hadn’t anything to say to me,

So just like him I sat, a lazy bum

Enjoying doing nothing in the sun.

The Potato Eaters

When “The Potato Eaters” came to town

I got up early to be first in line

To see them, but there wasn’t any line.

I had the painting to myself; alone,

Without a crowd of people pushing me

Along, and docents urging me to walk

A little faster just as though

To linger at the painting was a crime

Or at the very least a waste of time.

But no one was around, and so I stood

And looked and really saw the people there.

I owned the painting for that little while.

But then a group of people came, and I

Was told to move along so they could view

The masterpiece and hear the docent talk

About the use of color and the bold technique.

But did they see what was in front of them

While they were chattering amongst themselves

About their dinner yesterday or what

The options were for eating lunch today?

Artist’s Statement

I’ve gotta keep it simple and concise,

But still, an artist’s statement is supposed

To say enough about me and the way

I work, my motivation, background, thoughts,

And reasons why I work the way I do

That the prospective buyers buy my prints;

That people reading it will think my prints

Are just exactly what they really want

To hang above their couch, or in their hall,

Or even, if they want, a bathroom wall.

But what is it I really want to say?

I’d like to talk about the process, write

About the way it feels when wood just seems

To carve itself, and how it holds a line,

And why the mountain cherry of Japan

Is better than some other kind of wood.

I’d like to mention European pear.

It’s harder, holds an even finer line.

But what I want to sell are prints, not wood.

Perhaps I ought to mention just how long

I have been carving and been making prints.

“You’ve heard of Guttenberg? Well way before

He started setting type . . . .” No. That won’t work.

What is it that I care about the most?

What do I want to say? I carve and print

Because really I like to carve and print.

I guess I will be satisfied with this.

It may not help me sell a single print,

But aren’t the prints supposed to sell themselves?

My artist’s statement’s done. It’s back to work.