Friday, July 23, 2010

A Poem by Billy Collins


My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I go about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants, and a pot of cold tea.
Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
Completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.
Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.
Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.
I should mention that sometimes I leave my penis on.
I find it difficult to ignore the temptation.
Then I am a skeleton with a penis at a typewriter.
In this condition I write extraordinary love poems,
most of them exploiting the connection between sex
and death.
I am concentration itself: I exist in a universe
where there is nothing but sex, death and typewriting.
After a spell of this I remove my penis too.
Then I am all skull and bones typing into the afternoon.
Just the absolute essentials, no flounces.
Now I write only about death, most classical of themes

in language light as the air between my ribs.

Afterward, I reward myself by going for a drive at sunset.

I replace my organs and slip back into my flesh

And clothes. Then I back the car out of the garage

And speed through woods on winding country roads,

Passing stone walls, farmhouses, and frozen ponds,

All perfectly arranged like words in a famous sonnet.

Quote from Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

"Since I cannot mend the book, I must add to it. To leave it as it was would be to die perjured; I know so much more than I did about the woman who wrote it. What began the change was the very writing itself. Let no one lightly set about such a work. Memory, once waked, will play the tyrant. I found I must set down (for I was speaking as before judges and must not lie) passions and thoughts of my own which I had clean forgotten. The past which I wrote down was not the past that I thought I had (all these years) been remembering. I did not, even when I had finished the book, see clearly many things I see now. The change which the writing wrought in me ( and of which I did not write) was only a beginning - only to prepare me for the gods' surgery. They used my own pen to probe my wound......I looked at the roll in my hand and saw at once that it was not the book I had written. It couldn't be; it was far too small. And too old - a little, shabby, crumpled thing nothing like the great book that I had worked on day after day......There was utter silence all around me. And now for the first time, I knew what I had been doing. While I was reading, it had, once and again, seemed strange to me that the reading took so long; for the book was so small. Now I knew that I had been reading it forever, quick as I could, starting the first word again almost before the last was out of my mouth.....and the voice I read it in was strange to my ears. There was given to me a certainty that this, at last, was my real voice....there was silence in the dark assembly long enough for me to have read my book out yet again. At last the judge spoke, "are you answered?"
"Yes," said I. The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered.....'to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that's the whole art and joy of words.'"

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The Half Known World by Robert Boswell

Robert Boswell says:
"a percentage of researchers genuinely believe that
humans do not really learn anything ever; rather we
spend our lives discovering inborn capacities. ...
If we don't learn then we merely discover the range,
complexity and limits of our wiring....what we
seem to be doing as writers (he infers) is
listening to a story as it spins itself out..
perhaps when we talk about the pursuit of
truth, as writers often do, we're talking about
the ability of the writer to make contact with
that pure narrative wiring, to successfully
ride the native circuitry."

Matrimonial Honey

Matrimonial Honey

Here I have taken four pieces of birch, carved
away the negative space to reveal the images
signifying a Season of Rain, a Season of Moon,
a Season of Promise and a Season of Bloom. After
rolling the carvings with ink and stamping them
onto a paper called kozo, I embellished the
printed designs with hand applied ink and watercolor.
The bees are the result of myriad stampings of
one small carving of a bee. The paper was then
married to several layers of toile and sealed with
three pounds of beeswax.
In the Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift,
wherein an argument ensues between the spider and the
bee, Swift describes the bees as follows:
"These bees have chosen to fill their hive with honey
and wax thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest
of things, sweetness and light."
In terms of dedication, pursuit, protection,
trust, desire and longing, we are all married to
something or someone. Unless the bee is married
to the flower it's wealth of honey is never realized.
And yet, it takes two million bees to make a
pound of honey. Rather than enlist assistance by
by making heroic statements the honeybee does a
dance. Her language essentially hangs on the
alphabet of dance. Dancer or not, wouldn't it
be lovely to use our bodies to bear such a
message of goodness and light as to evoke healing
music to be orchestrated in others?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


July 1999 (Excerpted From The Color of Grace, Tonia Triebwasser/Baker Books
Things Unfamiliar

By mid-morning, the sun is a hot kettle. I feel it through the walls. It has sent a blast of steam through the shingles and into the attic. I scurry about the yard looking. Somewhere there is a hidden pot, boiling dry on a red, forgotten burner. A heat storm. That’s what the experts called it last night. Nineteen days (today makes it 20) of 100+ degree weather. I am stuck in a season of heat. A universe of technology and still no one can find the burner and remove the pot.

I hide from the heat as I hid last January from the wind and the cold. The air conditioner runs equal time with last winter’s heater. Both climates smack of a conspiracy. I hose down the garden, hopping from shade patch to shade patch.

Tuberose does well in the heat. Its scent, delicate and far-reaching, bubbles up from a stiff wand of waxy white, clustered petals. I tolerate the heat long enough to breathe in a chest full of its scent.

With the sunset comes the buzz of crickets sounding like errant amperage crackling in a cave. “The coast is clear,” they buzz. “Come out, come out wherever you are.”

How can I resist? I bend close to the base of a climbing rose, digging in with my finger to see if any moisture remains in its hot bed. Nose to nose with a black and yellow racer, I spring back. The snake is calm. It stays fixed, wrapped like a ringlet around the thorny base.

The snake is said to be good for a garden, but I am not pleased by its presence. It has a suspicious persona. No arms, yet it can hang onto an ankle as well as a rose. It skin looks wet and slippery, but it is dry and rough. No legs, but it moves swiftly.

I escape the valley’s heat by visiting a friend on the coast. An old friend. When I arrive, she brings out a thick pile of letters. Letters we’ve exchanged through the years. I begin to read and groan. Much of what concerned me then, concerns me now. I had wished for more progress. I’m beginning to understand my childhood nightmares of going to school naked. They were not Freudian fears at all. They were warnings. Premonitions. This is what it is like to grow up. You have to be willing to show your self. Your whole self.

I once held a notion that a garden reaches a point of self-containment. I could not have been further from the truth. A mature garden needs constant intervention. Whatever I neglect finds me out. Points a finger. But my strength is limited as well as my time. The afternoon sun sits in a position that if I point, draws my arm into a Nazi salute. I refuse. The sun has tyrannized me enough today. I could dead-head the zinnas. Clip back the spirea. I leave it all for another day, go inside and thumb through the old letters.

After two hours, I am still reading, apalled at my own stagnation. The sun has dropped below the crown of the oak across the street. My front yard is immersed in its shade. I love that old oak. It stands on a lot destined for development, surrounded by a protective fence. “Come this far and go no further,” the fence seems to say. “Don’t need no water. Don’t need no spade.” The two things I can’t do without prove fatal to the oak.

Unlike the oak, I need shaking up to grow. My letters thrust my feet to the flames. They show me where I have remained compacted, desolate, unfruitful. Apparently, I am a late bloomer. I have a strong will. A thick skull. I need help. Divine intervention. I must not emulate Eve who at her greatest moment of need hid from God.

“The fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Through a Glass Darkly

This is one of the first in the Paris collection. The wash of yellow indicates promise but it is far off and muted. The four girls/women ban together, facing the light. They are armed, bare and vulnerable. If you look carefully, you can see how the woman in the foreground holds the edges of a gossamer gown, attempting to protect the others. Of course, she can't but she can tell the truth about the dangers, the lies, the distortions. The word in the lower right hand corner is love in Arabic. (The original is approx 9x12, its selling price is $300.00. The framed copy is larger (10-1/2x21" inside a pewter frame, black mat, which makes the entire piece 28x22", its selling price is $350.00)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Notice how she has ripped her dress
to shreds in order to lasso the bloom
and drag it to where she has the notion might be
safe. Which clearly it isn't.
All this is happening in the dark rain
of promise (rainbow sky in the background
behind the black leaves). AND she
is not glibly whistling along as if there is
no battle. There is. AND she KNOWS she is
on holy ground, thus the absence of shoes.
This is not me talking here, this is from John Eldridge's Book, the Sacred Romance. I find it noteworthy.....

The Wildness of God
We live our lives before the wild, dangerous, unfettered and free character of the living God..... Walter Brueggemann writes: The unknown Romancing or the Message of the Arrows- which captures the essence of life? Should we keep our hearts open to the Romance or concentrate on protecting ourselves from the Arrows? Should we live with hopeful abandon, trusting in a larger story whose ending is good, or should we live in our small stories and glean what we can from the Romance while trying to avoid the Arrows?

Perhaps God, as the Author of the Story we're all living in, would tilt the scale in a favorable direction if we knew we could trust him. And therein lies our dilemma. There seems to be no direct correlation between the way we live our lives and the resulting fate God has in store for us, at least on this earth. Abraham's grandson, Jacob, lives the life of a manipulator and is blessed. Jesus lives for the sake of others and is crucified. And we never quite know when we're going to run into the uncertainty of the part God has written for us in his play, whether our character has significant lines yet to speak or will even survive the afternoon.
(Again, this is from John Eldridge's, The Sacred Romance , 47)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Late Bloomer

The Late Bloomer
(44" x 60")
Watercolor and ink applied with a brush and a stick.
"Late bloomers are prone to caution,
to much reluctance. Late and bloom is a
curious combination, an inference that
something has bloomed but should have
bloomed sooner. Though blooming late
has its frustrations, it is better than not
blooming at all. After all, there is a certain
novelty in a truant bloom, a kind of triumph.
Late bloomers arrive on the scene once the
other blooms have departed."
(Watercolor copied onto canvas.
For Sale: $600.00)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spring Fever

She belongs in the War of the Seasons collection.
She is the same size as Winter Resisting Spring,
on rice paper. Enormous. (approx. 25"x35")
Unlike Winter, Spring is content and expectant,
having no inkling of the fast approaching
summer heat. Unlike the lot of
us who are in the midst of it.

Friday, July 16, 2010


(Thiis is cropped from the center a much larger painting)
In a season of acute uncertainty, the woman came first to my mind.
I saw her on tiptoe. I saw her shoes thrown over her shoulder.
I did not know where she was standing. The table I was working
on was just inside a window facing west. When I finished painting
the woman who was, at that point, floating on the white space
of the paper, the sun was low in the sky and a shadow from
the paned window and the Japanese maple leaves from the tree outside
surrounded her. I painted the shadows. Instantly, she stood before
an immense glass wall in dappled shade. Now the sun was even
lower in the sky and it was casting rainbows through the
beveled glass in my front door on the floor. I put the paper on
the floor and painted the tiny rainbows and then made the
rainbows into wings. Taking a break, I got the mail.
In my mailbox was a postcard from a friend in
Paris. She told me she had been praying Psalms 91 for me every day.
I did not take the time to read the Psalm, nor did I have it memorized
to know its comfort.

The picture on the postcard was an aerial view of the La Defense sector
of Paris, which is exceedingly modern and, in terms of romantic aesthetics,
not something I would ordinarily think of painting. However, in the
center of the postcard was what is referred to as La Grande Arche de la Defense
which was built in 1982. If one stands in the center of the Arche looking west,
one can see Napolean’s original Arch D’ Triumph. La Grande Arche de la
Defense is so immense that the entirety of the Cathedral of Notre Dame can
fit within its cube. Suddenly, I knew where the woman was meant to stand.
After giving her the solid foundation of La Grande Arche de la Defense,
I surrounded her with tiny buildings and narrow streets. Floating in the
surrounding air are motifs of my experiences in Paris. After the painting
was completed, I thought to look up Psalm 91 and read it with open mouth.
.....“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the
shadow of the Almighty.....He will cover you with his feathers, and under
his wings you will find refuge...”
(Unframed Original 22x36 $500.00)

Winter Resisting Spring

War of the Seasons

“Now you will have noticed
that nothing throws him into a
passion so easily as to find a
tract of time which he reckoned
on having at his own disposal
unexpectedly taken away from him.”

( The voice of Screwtape in C.S. Lewis’
Screwtape Letters.) Notice how fiercly
Winter in her icy garb fights to remain,
while Spring in the background patiently
lobs snoballs hoping to driver her away.
Sometimes Winter has stayed so long
she has taken on an air of entitlement.
But Spring will persist. The warmth is
driving Winter to the northern regions
to wait her turn at command. The
geese will soon have their wings free of
ice. (This painting is on rice paper.
It is approx 25x35. It is one of 4 but
can be purchased on its own.) The
framed original is $800.00. Because
of the intricate detail this condensed
version makes it difficult to see. I
would be happy to schedule a viewing.