Curiously Colorito

By Anthony Ivar Colorito

Category: Life Experience (page 1 of 2)

Sauvie Island Beach


The tugboats are working overtime as the viral pandemic seizes the city. I watch the red and white craft stacked upon itself, built up onto five levels, and piled backwards in its squat dutiful power, like some toy boat found in a child’s playpen now come to life on the quivering river, charged with pushing a massive rust-colored barge, shoving this enormous tanker, from behind along the otherwise quiet expanse of the Willamette river.


Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Jefferson loom in the background. White-capped monstrosities of rock and dirt pictured in the air and surrounded by the blueness of the Portland sky, present like an indelible backdrop to all the mundane fears huddled and momentarily allayed here on the beach; the peaks also unreal and dense with the fantasy of art painted in a dream, almost palpable and intimidating from a distance but, through their inertness, never fulfilling the scope of their imposing majesty.


We both sit on a grassy knoll just above the sandy beach abutting the river on Sauvie Island. A blanket and two towels have been laid down on the grainy grass and we both sit quietly for a moment simply observing the couples with children and the dogs all overlooking a two hundred yard divide of river-water separating us from the other side. I set down my leather tote filled with picnic foods and lay my satchel and colorful sweatshirt behind me as a pillow.


Sher decides to test the water and she kicks off her leather foot-thongs and quickly jaunts toward the water with the brisk urgency that defines how she addresses what is before her. I watch her petite shapely derriere wink and shift as she approaches the river’s edge and she immerses her feet in the water. I can tell the water temperature is cold. She shuffles back as her feet take on a sandy paste peppered with dirt. Her majenta toenails gleam through the tan and black coating, her feet reminding me of breaded chicken breasts, coated with peppered flour and breadcrumbs ready for the fryer.


The tugboat and the object it has been toiling behind glide down the flank of the river and disappear around a bend. Waves wash up gently on the shoreline. Several people are out today disobeying “stay-at-home” orders. Dogs on leashes pull their owners towards other dogs, children with colorful Hawaiian style board-shorts fill pails with wet sand and young couples bask and playfully entwine with each other on towels spread out under the sun.


I look out across the river and see densely huddled pines inched close to the shoreline. The trees are short in height and all remarkably straight and uniform in posture with the occasional bend in the crooked branch but astoundingly and homogenously uniform and these secluded brethren crowd in on themselves and guard some sacred secret within their cascading palisades of green life. Directly in the front row there is one tree with a bright green sign nailed to its trunk. If anything is written on it, the words are imperceptible.


A white ski boat with black highlights motors by blasting its tower speakers. This act of self-aggrandizement seems lost in the clearness of everyone else’s intentions to escape from annoyances and impending questions arising in recent weeks from a crisis at hand. High-pitched children’s voices soon overcome the dissipating growl of the boat’s departing engine and the music fades quickly like a Parisian police siren losing the tenor of its grip on sound over the elongating distance.


There have been a rash of warm days during what is usually a cool, rainy month in Portland. The population has been told to stay in doors and not mix socially. Parks and outdoor attractions have closed their access. We visited this beach three days ago in the late afternoon and as evening ushered in a cold wind we realized we were underdressed and vowed to return in a day or so. The beach was deserted that day. Today is a different story. It is Friday and people are out in droves all with similar ideas, yet there is plenty of space and it is refreshing to have not been barred access or told the beach was off-limits. In addition, the people-watching is excellent today.


The afternoon elapses quickly before our eyes; that lovely phenomenon where two souls together, connected and bonded by so may commonalities, are fused in a moment where there is no time to look up, or look after, or think about and not a sliver of anxiety or fear arises and so time passes in large chunk-like intervals instead of increments and then before long we realize the time has unfolded so rapidly that it becomes immaterial and lost in the poetic intervals of a dream we now have for ourselves.


After we share a late lunch of croissants and smoked salmon with savory cheeses and raspberry jam, we read for a while, then sleep briefly, and then read some more. The dreamy warm air around us, and the moisture from our skin along with sweet smells of breath, all conspire to elevate the day as it drifts into evening. A breeze cools the curves and contours of Sher’s exposed skin prompting her to nestle closer for warmth as the air feels heavier and the clock approaches 6:45.


The evening sets the table for a new mood and as others fold up their blankets and rinse sand from their children’s plastic pails, we find ourselves locking eyes and exploring within each other an already blissful connection that is now amplified by a moment rendering us both speechless with gratitude. Around the periphery, reluctant kids pout as parents throw bags over their shoulders and trudge the hill of sand to the staircase. A yellow Frisbee glides by tilting sideways as it cuts through the clear air and blue horizon.


Sher now rolls back onto her right side with her eyes closed in meditation. I marvel at the curve of her hip and the proud flounce of her bottom as my eyes climb into the network of branches tattooed on the elaborate tree marking her entire back. There is a darkness to the ink embedded under the skin, texturing the bark of the branches, that lets in the lightness of her flesh tones, a rippling of light accentuated by the subcutaneous hills and valleys made by her scapulae and the protuberant spinous processes hidden and all along her thorax.


I roll onto my back and watch. I look straight up above me into the unfathomable infinity of blue space. A sky writer pierces the sky with a white, linear plume of exhaust. I watch as the concentrated density in the blast of writing uncoils from its straight-line imprint slowly thinning and widening into gaseous entropy and blending with the myriad shades of blue owned by the sky until the trail is a vague mist and then nothing but blue with the vestige of what ultimately seems like a smudged cloud.


I pick up my novel and read, shielding my eyes from the waning sun with the book. It is about a man named Ove, a cantankerous old Norwegian man whose behavior as a pedantic curmudgeon is spawned by grief after the death of his wife. He lives in a black and white world ruled by propriety and dogma. He is nothing like me but I find myself loving him and caring about him and empathizing with his foibles more than I would expect. The sentences are short and concise, filled with economy and populated with an array of the spiritual that comes through what is not said. The abundance of simplicity surrounds me on all sides. My reading slows to savor the expansion of what is written into the sacred nature of the unsaid. I ponder the value of silence. I feel overcome by a strong desire to drift aimlessly on this silence as a mission towards finding only the necessary words for the moment.   If the words do not come, I aim to bask in even more silence.


I now roll over onto my right side and see Sher still engaged in her own version of the solitude we have been culturing together. I watch as Sher’s rib cage rises and falls with each breath. I notice all of her subtle unconscious movements: her neck tilting and toes flexing. The almost imperceptible wind caresses a few strands of her hair into an ever so slight elevation that may be static energy. Her hair takes on a slightly darker shade of reddish gold in the dim light of impending evening. I see the impression the bikini strap makes in her back as it winds around to support her breasts. I feel like the same force that coaxes strands of her hair apart also stimulates the goose flesh appearing on her thighs. I reach over and touch the soft angle where her thigh graduates into the curve of her derrier. I try to barely touch her skin but the erotic charge moves swiftly into my fingertips causing me to look even closer as if it might be visible.


Two almost empty containers of raspberry jam sit atop a paper bag that contained two croissants. An oily package that contained three varieties of smoked salmon lies on the blue and white striped beach towel. My beige Converse all-star, high-tops with Andy Warhol Campbell soup cans emblazoned on the sides of the canvas sit with untied laces on the grass spotted around the plastic toe piece with moist dirt. Next to them a pair of silver-framed, mirror-lensed aviator sun glasses sit on an oily napkin sprinkled with croissant crumbs. There are croissant crumbs all over the towels and an almond croissant in its plastic wrapper sits uneaten next to red-handle knife. A burgundy leather tote bag sits on the grass with a package of chex mix, nuts, two apples along with an unopened deck of playing cards.


Sher is now on her left side facing me. She is reading Demian by Herman Hesse. She takes a break and also stares at the red and blue replicas of soup cans on my Converse sneakers. Our eyes meet and we smile that secret smile between two people who realize they have something most people don’t have and pine for while never finding it. The river is now calm and no boats are in sight. The tugboats have finished their work for the day. Another family packs up their belongings and walks along the sand with their grade-school aged boy. I look over at the green sign nailed to the tree on the other side of the river. I ponder the other shoreline once again and notice there is no room for people there as the trees have crowded right up the edge of the water. I still cannot read what the sign says.


The Inebriation of Panic

I decided to sit in the glare of the sun on my deck and paint. The canvas was spread on the table and the colors mixed on a dinner plate with brushes soaking in the grey water that filled a coffee cup. I first mixed acrylics to a golden chartreuse and spread the butter-colored paint with a sponge. The background seeped into the pores of white, becoming an ambient pallid light turned yellow and amplified by the penetrating sun. The air around me was fresh with the smell of pine and geese squawked in the reflective canal.

People were home. There was a palpable dis-ease in the air. Ambient panic charged the light and eyes on their decks watched me as arms swept brooms and busied their anxieties into mundane serving-sizes of productivity. The soft, tedious repetitions of days fractured into swaths of time shredded by fear. The population was house-bound, quarantined in a collective blast of terror hiding their mouths and hands from segments of invisible DNA attacking human systems.

Still, the sun spoke as if all was ok. The openings and refusals of flowers, the gaiety of dogs and the biwinged bendings of bird’s arcs proceeded with normal flow. The gases in the air infiltrated lungs with a timing and density that betrayed sinister undercurrents.

At first slowly, then quickly, an inebriation overtook reason. Panic sold commodities and jobs were in jeopardy as schools closed parlors where viruses exchange codes. Then, restaurants and cafes closed up shop and traffic dried up while necessities were cleared from store shelves awaiting a plague. Stories of looting began as delusions took hold cancelling material comforts in a future where homelessness and starvation became the rule.

Still, the geese spoke in jovial tones and the bees prepared for a normal spring and plant-life flourished in a background of abundance bereft of fear, devoid of nightmarish futures that were now certain to come in that searing originality only human minds can portend with the nurturing of thoughts that inevitably transform into truth.

I choose to act as a counterbalance to all this. To paint and write and subscribe to a-here-and-now that is immovable, indelibly emblazoned into a shield of present calm. If I subtract the irrationality of human nature from the mystical equations manifesting in the aesthetic scenes before me, then a protective species of artful immunity forms the bulwark I require against the frail human invasive forces that far outweigh any viral infestation.

The Playground for Critics

I spend time observing people’s manner and personality wondering about motivations often absorbing content with only half an ear.


Does everyone else also have a preoccupation with form whether it be listening to others or listening to oneself?


It all seems silly since prisms often slip through the barbed interface between the act perceived by others and the planned motivation for the act revealing spectra of unaccounted for offerings that are the playground for critics.

Smog and Menstrual Blood


“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”

Dylan Thomas



During my sleep that night and while I was waking up, I felt something erasing. The unexpected erasure of a glimpse into a future that was otherwise indelible. Everything gotten and all that was going to come was taken away. I saw cancelled eyes. Someone’s interior was missing.


It happened inside of dream logic. I believed I was having many recurrent images and sensations over many years.   Something was playing interference with my last dream before awakening.   This dream tricked time into a surreal elongation while I dreamt it. Like a phantasmagorical hall of mirrors the dream itself multiplied my perceptions. It felt like a repetition over my whole life. It was true I only had this mischievous dream during sleep once.   Through the magnitude of imagined multiplication I knew something vital had changed.


Within this state I felt offputtingly calm and sedate. It was the pre-awakening phase and I was transitioning into my arousing consciousness. I felt the sensation of dread one experiences when the dream carries an overwhelming sense of being real. My awareness had not yet peaked up above the Sandman’s cloud enough to realize that I was not on the firm soil of reality.


I was in an unfamiliar place where several cars were parked. There was a hillside with residential homes all around and cars were stacked up along the road and in a wide driveway.   I noticed that two nearby houses belonged to neighbors I recognized from years ago.  Oddly, the driveway with cars led to the property belonging to my ex-wife; but her house was not there.


Many people I knew gathered on this vast slopped lawn. Fellow medical students from the past, high school friends, football teammates, colleagues from work, recent acquaintances, mentors, professors, together with their dogs interacting normally. Few of these people had ever met one another. This was a group that could never mix. Now, in the morning mist of a dream, these beings were stuck together out of time.


They stood and walked on this plot of grass drinking beer, pitching footballs and tossing tennis balls for the dogs.   The activity all took place where a house once stood.   Now, while dogs ran and jousted, a view opened up and laid bare a limitless expanse to the horizon. Every obstructing structure to the west was removed.   The cascade mountains and the ocean were now visible from a densely populated location in the Portland suburbs.


Neighbors stood outside their homes. I recognized them all. Each one had lost weight. They were all emaciated and gaunt, diseased and cancerous appearing.  It was a global failure to thrive in this community alcove. They stood motionless all absorbed in the activity on the great lawn. All the neighbors, in their apparent state of starvation and terminal wasting, remained fixed in a state of ramrod-straight posture smiling and waving while making unbroken eye contact with me.


I pondered the impossible view. I saw a great vacancy.   There was an opening where it did not belong. The sky changed to an ox-blood color. The mountains in the western cascade were abutting the ocean and I could see waves licking the snowcaps. The sky kept changing color. I felt warm and I began to sweat.

I noticed that three of the cars in the driveway belonged to my children.   Staring straight ahead each child was sitting in the driver’s seat in his or her respective vehicle. None of them acknowledged me or made eye contact. Their skin looked synthetic with a plastic sheen. They were crash dummies.


Suddenly, and as the sky changed, the dogs stopped performing their antics and became still as gargoyles. Tongues out, these animals were captured in stop-motion freeze-frame while visible warm air circulated through their snouts into the bracing atmosphere. The guests, continued walking and talking as if the world, to them, was unfurling in a casually unconscious state of normalcy.  It seemed I was the only perceiver of bizarre alterations in reality.


The mahogany sky expressed creases and folds of gray and Alaskan blue. Light penetrated the sides of my view as street lamps turned on in the darkening mid-morning. It was an eclipse by a low-hanging moon obstructing logic and reason, stretching a tarp of sadness over hope.


Eras blended bringing unfamiliar souls together to ease the dream towards its tragic refrain.  A soul has left the present moment’s grasp opening a crevasse into time’s loop ushering in an alternate hypnopompic reality. Before attempting to cope, dreams offer alternate explanations where elastic, volatile versions of truth set the heart down slowly into the waiting abyss of loss.


The arc lamps brightened as the eclipse propagated darkness. One of the neighbor’s homes was constructed entirely of Italian-style stone. The owner, with his skin hugging the bones of his face like a stocking, eyes missing, was standing near his garage. One wing of his house was deconstructed with the outer stonework absent and the naked frame exposing a skeleton of wood. I peered into his living room.   His wife, vanishingly thin was standing unclothed and reading a magazine. He stood proudly in front of his home oblivious to the open-heart rendering of his interior and his unclad wife. All around the interior while his spouse stood motionless, furniture lay scattered and toppled over in a kinetic storm of slow-motion movement.   The insides of the house were about to hemorrhage into the open spaces of the growing horizon.



At the edge of the home’s exposed wing a worker kneeled.   He swung his arm in an arc of motion simulating hammer blows onto a strip of bare wood. There were no tools or nails, nor signs of hardware, just this man dressed in prison-striped overalls, focused and sturdy in his posture, swinging an invisible hammer. He was the only person nearby who was not in the throes of vanishing emaciation.  His arm bounced with each swing like he was holding an inflatable child’s mallet. The raw wood, chalky like desert bone started to crumble as his invisible swings continued.


There was not a shadow or cloud anywhere. The noon low light, operating with an absent sun and the moon still rising into the red-rock sky, chiseled angles into all life forms. The real became statuesque. All was frozen.   Beings and animals were sculpture. A thudding sound reported from the blows of the invisible hammer. A being was rubbed out. A life was over. A thudding continued incessantly transforming into a buzzing sound. I was then awakened by the buzzing of a phone call.




It was a call from an unfamiliar number that hung up before I could answer. Then a text message:

“Dad, answer, call me quick, it’s an emergency.”

I dialed the number.

“Dad Mom is dead.”

I heard my son in the background

“Dad Mom is fucking dead, hurry, please! Come quickly.”




A young woman wakes up with her boyfriend next to her. She is in her mother’s house, in the spare bedroom enjoying time away from Los Angeles and work. She wakes up and watches the calm breath rising in an out of him. His young wisps of beard, untrained in the art of abrasion, gently shift with each breath. She kisses him and wonders if he will remember the gesture.


After putting on her robe she walks to the kitchen to make coffee. It is eleven thirty in the morning. The television in the living room is on. An empty wine glass with lipstick on the rim sits alone in the sink. It is now almost noon. Where is her mother? Where is the dog?


She walks to her mother’s bedroom and sees the door ajar. Inside the room, the bed is empty.   The sheets are in pointed, edgy unmade piles that only restless sleep creates. The bathroom door is wide open and peering around the corner she sees a foot protruding from the bathtub with toes pointed down.   There is no water in the tub.









A muffled scream

Drops of black blood

Smudged on the tile

Skin torn on the pewter tub

Dry bristles of black-rooted hair

Stalks of jagged hate

Kiss the bottom of the drain


A deafening scream assails the house. Her boyfriend runs. She is in the bathtub cradling her cold bruised mother’s cheek in her hands. There is no reframing this reality. This is no parallel universe found in the seams of a meditation. No one is dreaming.


It felt like there would be no more sunlight. The room was drained of all hope. The dog was also in the tub at her feet. He had been there the whole night and morning, lying hungry and thirsty, unable to leave what was no longer there for him.


Tears drained down her cheeks and her boyfriend’s eyes welled up. He went to embrace her but she pushed him away. She kept shaking her mother’s head trying to wake her up.


There had to be a way, a way to still connect and find out what happened or at least say goodbye but she was not ready to say goodbye never imagined she could be in a cold gray tub with morose purple cheeks in her hands instead of the bright morning eyes of her mother asking the same invasive questions that made her blush only now she wished so much for the worst moments with her mother even a tortured toxic fight now would be like love caressing her torn-to-shreds regret about all those things she said but didn’t mean and the weeks of not talking followed by the hugs and all the secrets still hiding that she was going to share over the family time during upcoming dinners that would now never happen because all she was and all she would ever have with her mother was taken away this morning in a icy instant before she could gather everything she wanted to give back to her that now will have to sit like a deep fiery blacksmith’s hammer banging away inside her heartbeat in a sea of desert sadness that will only dissipate in small bits over a very long time.










I found myself sitting on her bed, in her bedroom, for the first time in five years with her dead body on a stretcher next to me. It was night. I watched her head resting motionless atop the expanded stretcher on wheels with cross hatched aluminum struts holding her up like cadaveric art on a horizontal easel.


It was an impossibly delicate task to stare at her motionless body. I was fighting off embattled feelings of sadness shock, relief and guilt-tinged anger. I got lost in the thought of her last gasps for air as if those desperate gulps toward ambient oxygen with her heart stopped were fueled by my hate.


Then a feeling of hope like a rainbow cataract watched for a rise in her breast. I was looking for only a few resourceful alveoli that had circumvented death’s march and were still capable of even a reflexive capture of residual wind that could sweeten her dark lips.


Beyond the darkened, ruthenium ceiling and the windows holding out the dense night, the gray sky seemed kind and gentle with a low moon as memories stacked upon each other and merged into dreams. The room was lit only by a moonlit glow bathing all the surfaces and angles of her face.


There were no longer any lines or expression marks. The spreading crows-feet that framed her eyes like fiery cracks in the pavement were gone. The skin that surrounded her coffee bean brown intimidating eyes was newly cemented over. I thought of a freshly repaired square of sidewalk cordoned off with the patch still wet with that soon to harden shield of gray paste that is so tempting to carve one’s initials into.


I wanted to carve a rose, draw it with a stick, on that soft patch free of the lines that seemed to bloom from an inner mine of intolerance while she was alive.

A blanket was pulled up to her neck. I only saw the lifeless face that in death carried with it a peace and posture of loving kindness I had not seen since the early days of our meeting. I pulled back the blanket to expose her feet and her right hand.


Now her body was front and center. The attitude she carried in life, heavy footed, bold, directly in your face, like a swarm of bees surrounded her, was all gone now. I expected something to drip from her mouth, a new smell, a fugitive memory still within her creating an aura or novel expression. No, it was all serious layers of death keeping the remains silent. What was in her was no longer there.   Her body was already buried.


It started to rain. Suddenly a hard rain caused incessant dripping from the gutters and drops attacked the windows like gunfire. The streets flooded suddenly and so rapidly that it seemed no rain was lost in the plant life and on the tops of trees.


She was bereft of that substance that permeates the body’s systems down to the molecular level; devoid of the fuse that animates the flower. She was turning into concrete; the rigors of death. The electric presence driven by the sun and the movements of waves had a short lamp-glow for her. The limp extremities no longer pondered movement.  The once hyper-sensate digits of her hand were still aligned perfectly. Phalanges buttressed against each other, accustomed to over stimulation now longing for a simple touch, to make a comical gesture, or to raise a finger in anger.


Like an angel she was fugitive spirit wondering why her pent-up warring feelings had an outlet no longer. What was so contiguous with her will, so connected, yet out of touch, with the corporeal world had no further material manifestation. Was she hovering somewhere in the room helpless to have a voice? There was no longer the ability to experience the hard smoothness of freshly blown glass or the abrasive pain of a skinned elbow. Pain and its attendant suffering became an abstract thought.   Bodily pleasures, now impossibilities, would soon be forgotten.


As her spirit moved toward eternity over the ensuing minutes and centuries, values and qualities applied to sensations would dwindle into dreams. At best the sensations would be palpable in the strange neural connections of vivid dreams. At worst, insensate nightmares would repeat where mammalian episodes became locked away in an unconscious vault of the soul inaccessible and beyond reach for eternity.


I watched her now.  I thought of the last months of our marriage before the chaos struck. During life our eye contact had begun to elicit anxiety. Pieces of that anxiety were now part of a mist hanging in the air of the room.  We rarely slept together. In nighttime sleep she hid on her side with pillows around her head walling off her body. I tried, on some nights, to watch her sleep yet I rarely caught a glimpse of her true exposure. She guarded tightly what she refused to reveal. All was covert decay of self-image and loathing. Sometimes in sleep the myriad caverns where she hid her true expression opened briefly then quickly darkened.


I was the riser before dawn and so I turned in early at night. She climbed into bed while I was deep in dreams.   While she was just starting to fall into a deep sleep, I awakened and left. Pillows partitioned us in sleep and my dreams trudged as much distance as they could from hers while she found her hiding places where nocturnal anxieties were less corrosive than the hysteria of her days.


When I looked at her somber, elegant mouth, now closed, I thought of smog and menstrual blood. I stared at the soft skin. I thought of a flesh-colored stone. I stared at her Grace Kelly nose perfectly feminine with its upturned tip; the nose I fell in love with. Her eyes were relaxed and closed under lids lashed like trapdoors continuing to imprison the anger inside her.


She lay there, dry tongue put back into her mouth, with its bristles shriveled, plasma stopped on the tracks, no adrenaline to the heart, receptors no longer triggered by the third rail. A dense slowness occupied the air over her face. I thought of clogged sludge coagulated in every artery, vein, arteriole,, venule, capillary , and lymph vessel backed up like curdled milk as the evacuated lungs supinated in mid-expansion, collapsed and emptied themselves of life-giving air.


Her lungs were accustomed to intentionally inhaling smoke. I imagined smog still restlessly coursing through the corridors of her chest cavity smudging black stains like graffiti over the inner terrain of the body’ cityscape. Smoke dimmed the lights through life and dried up the menstrual blood while tears and hormones fought their battles.


I sat and contemplated her face in death. Youth was departing while beauty mounted a mature evolution. The body had bolstered itself and hormones tried to redefine and upgrade her being for a vacant future. I wondered how she was snatched off the planet hours ago. What did her mind think as she walked and fell into the empty bathtub. There was no mystery left in her face. The stone-polished texture of the expressionless skin around the apertures where the nostrils started their embargo of oxygen now seemed to announce an acceptance of her fate.


Turned over and repeated another way, those openings into her balanced, sculpted nasal passages, mourned the lack of airflow while the hidden spider-hairs inside stopped clinging to microscopic matter. Their job was done. The soft wind of respiration rested its sad hand and those two lonely openings became vacant caverns like all the rest.   There was no more hiding.


All the myriad jobs within her physiology, the flawless efficiencies, still far from being completely understood, were stunned into silence. How does such a precious and incomprehensibly complex system simply shut down? How is it possible that such a necessary entity, with such a fierce embrace of the power of consciousness, can disappear without mounting further rebellion? The mourning collective is out there in shock wondering. Is there not something left that is capable of some element of preservation? There must remain a small piece of what flees; something still to communicate with. It begs for supernatural reassurances.


How can there not be some neural circuit, an aspect of her soul, some tortured spiritual proboscis, a finger, a conjuring, an emanation that can rise up in demonstration countering back into the real world with the reserve and fight still left to connect with all those left behind staring off or holding their head in the grip of their disbelieving hands?


How can all the operators flee the scene at once? A soul with all its ideas and love and feelings and abstract contemplations tight-roped to a scientific clock comprised of biological efficiency cannot, with its paralyzed mainspring, shut off all that others can see connecting this spirit to the divine. Certainly there are cords and fibers and spiritual channels still working, unwilling to punch-out, unwilling to leave no trace, and allow the remaining forces of love to wring their hands in the dark.


I became paralyzed with these questions, unable to reconcile what has become a commonplace aspect of the cycle of life, yet death still stands in the distance unassailbly shrouded in the same confusion I felt as a child when I first contemplated it.


A lambent, ghoulish light continued to glow in the room. The moon was intentionally hiding. I was starting to experience bizarre overlapping sensations.

I heard the sounds of light, the smell of flowers became visible in the room’s glow. Smog painted the walls with her terminal darkness while blood dripped into the plaster cracks like a joker’s smile. My sensations exchanged data with emotions and an uncoiling happened releasing my insides into the stillness that was too much for the moment to hold behind its dam.


Swelling hopes for the past met their grief-stricken progeny now kneeling in pain. The tightrope connecting these two worlds slackened. There would always be an obscure connection but it was too painful for these dueling worlds to co-exist and see each other while time stopped.


Overtures of romance and kinship

Fought through the growling mob

Where tortured feelings

Strike at the balance-wall

While unfulfilled promises

Fight through the barricades

Bombing desires

And regrets

With blows of broken glass


Billowing up

And finding soft peace

In the acceptance of surrender


I made my amends to her ghost. The floor vibrated under my feet. My boots with thick socks inside felt caught in marshlands and mossy waters. The carpet sunk under me. I was losing my footing. I saw an hourglass. There were iridescent colors of coral and abalone in the sand collected on the bottom.


I took one last look at her mortal countenance. There was a constitutional hardness to her face that added to the emotionless silence left in the room. I felt the hallowed caverns she began to construct while she was alive. Those places that served as her dark refuge. I saw the jagged rocks and bear-crawled over the prayer-stones to find those private rooms where she started to die, a little at a time, while she was still alive. The spaces she might have found solace in where cell by cell she decomposed slowly while waking, slower while sleeping. A process no one else noticed. I tried to find those secret places, see them and say another prayer and maybe now, she had left all those entirely and had no reason to ever return.




The New Light

I sit in the same spot every morning with my coffee and my thoughts.  Vito lies at my side breathing in the stillness.   Books sit face down with open spines, exposed to my markings, waiting for light to lift the words up into me.  Wristwatches are nearby recording time, some in sync with the now and others stopped during a forgotten moment. 

I set down a turquoise carton of coconut water and watch the sun, rising through the glass doors, play with the topical reflections I see shifting from the simple cardboard container into memories of blonde sand and seductively leaning palm trees.

Next to the arched books sits a cylindrical leather case with small tools inside.  The leather is cracked brown cowhide.  This is designed to hold pencils and pens, a child’s receptacle for school.  I use it to hold small screwdrivers, spring-bar tools, case-back knives to fix watches.  There are also a host of tiny surgical tools taken from other settings like forceps and hemostats and polishing tools with abrasive edges. 

 The tools are all collected in this cracked brown leather case with worn ripples, aging seams and wrinkles around the patina where antique beige stitching holds. The new light comes in and cuts new dimensional interest into the character crevices of the leather shining back alternating matte textures and burnished edges.  The tool case leans to one side with its top unzipped revealing the black and red plastic handles of its contents.

 There are many imaginative tools used to extend my hands inside there.  Art is extending the hands into a new domain.  Rallying thoughts migrate and actions form in the fine-motor memory of my hands.  The space where hands reach and extend with a tool, brush or pen unlocks an unconscious barrier trapped within.  Oceanic clusters in unconscious dreams marry tangible shapes and words to mold and admire.

The leather holds on to the new light.  Tools are secure. The day enters over my shoulder through the glass.   I see beauty in the worn edges and the cracks that remind time to tell me again to appreciate what surrounds me.

The Raw Sign of love

I spent the morning talking and sitting and reliving memories.  Intrusive memories. Memories of her printed on that gruesome day, into writing, into hope, into a calling where I woke up surprised and bedevilled by a morning calling from Paige caught in a fright: “Dad,!  Mom is dead.”

My son’s voice in the background, “Dad please come quick Mom is dead.”

 The statements were  expressed by adults , my kids are adults, they don’t really know that they are adults and they are mired in childhood, enmeshed in a permanent childhood that their mother created  and made seem like it would prolong well into adulthood, a sea, a volcano of love , an engorgement that overcame childhood, and made the child feel like childhood persists , it never ends, it is like a carousal with mom circulating above, and the never ending  perception of being cared for is like a God in and of itself.  A Goddess where choice ventures in and takes hold, yet mother still has a stranglehold where adult choice comes hard like the concrete stoops and stairs firmholding in their awestruck being.

I am enveloped  in the great turmoil of a husband leaving Karen.

Leaving the mother

She forgot who provided for her.

She became an undying mother who forgot her kids are kids and once they are gone she only has the mate whose started it all, and she forgot that deeply and made it her passion to continue her motherhood at all costs.  I resented her for not having gratitude or the basis of what made her motherhood flourish.  I hated her,  I hated her with no excuses.  I hated her for not acknowledging me as the provider and rewarding me sexually for my hard work.  I had a major fucking resentment and I wanted to cheat but I did not.

I still had my pillars of  belief and I felt strongly that she was many things to me: 

she was many things to me

I let the hate taint everything

I let my Italian emotions embroil her passions

I let hate disregard the good

We carried hate into a new level of incomprehensible love turned into a new latitude that any compass would redirect to a colony of ultimate hope. 


Fervor is rekindled faith and inwardly we both knew that merciless hostility was the raw sign of love.


My children’s mother.

The one who they only know

The one who disappointed me on so many levels.

The mother of my children

The one I disregarded



As the ideal that makes me unsafe


Disruptive to the nines

A codger

A pure Christian

A reluctant agnostic

A God fearing man

A surgeon

An athlete

A spokesman for AA

A hypocrite

A full-scale hater

A man who judges

A man who loves

A parent

A man who hates his plight

A spiritual man

A man who loves all women

A man who won’t take shit

 A man who erupts when it get to be too much

 A man turns around and loves who he hates

Because hate is the other side of love and it means love is  stronger than ever

In the end I am a man who is nothing

Be my friend or not I’m here as a man, here to be viewed and that’s it. 

Failure is a Funny Ghost

Failure is a funny ghost I saw as a child

It lurked around corners at dusk

When the fields and courts darkened

The air got heavy and the world felt different

Like it was ending…

Then my mother’s voice sounded like an alarm

Telling me to get in

If I pretended not to hear, my father whistled

The original two-minute warning


There is trouble out there on the dark streets

In the blind spots between the arc lamps

Streetlights like willows locked in prayer

Yellow paint onto cracked pavement

Exposing hidden bolts and pieces of greased metal

Jewels accidentally thrown to the curb

Sewers with pink balls and other treasures

I would lie prone and peer between the grates

Then at dusk trouble stalked the corners

From around the block past brick stoops

A new element unearthed when the sun fell

It hid from the familiar

On the dark squares where the arc lamps blinked

I pretended not to hear my mother’s voice

A glimpse of failure knocking

That peculiar ghost that I remember

It gave a chill and would come back in a dream

The dream where I walked home at night

And the block was the same without my house being there

Then I felt the cold wet skin of failure

 The bottom

The teasing apart of what is irretrievable

From  what is the gift from the forced dream

And there was a lot of failure in it

Not like anything I felt before in everything I did

Until the bottom took everything with it

Like flypaper falling and careening back and forth

Against and onto the precious attachments in life

All of it went down the storm drain

What I protected and worked for stuck to it

It all went down in a tumult

Through an imperceptible crack in the pavement

As the body blows hit

And took me to my knees

All my creations

All my personal preservations

Dissolved in that clear amber liquid

As I pretended to stand tall

Silently while my insides cried for help

And the force that pushed me past people

Got weaker and started to feel tears

And limp while I tried to walk straight

My vantage point formed soft edges

The burnished corners of a sepia photograph

Harmless and torn

 Stained black from a secret flame inside

A brown-out takes the air back to memory

With the feeling I get from an old photo

The warmth of looking at childhood

With a lens that tells me forgotten stories

From a time when I existed only in photographs

Where I never know if that is really me

Unless you tell me I wasn’t someone else and yes

Wearing a medal on my grade school coat

When I didn’t know what life was throwing at me

There was only pure existence and keen perceptions

And time that slowed into frozen moments

Captured in the butterfly net of childhood reverie

A mantle of surprise

Like a wave splashing my eyes everyday

Faces and voices and hands in three dimensions

Disconnected from words

Those sounds only put into the air for needs

Like the shapes of cumbersome clouds above

And giant ants working in sidewalk crevices

All this felt real

While people forced me to witness their confusion

And it made me shy to the world

It was all an experiment

I didn’t ask questions

Attention to small things was full throttle

And failure had no name

Along with the greased bolts and pieces of broken machines

Cast into the street with the pink rubber balls

And treasures caught in the sewer’s grasp

Like my own memories

So much felt out of reach back then

Inside the unyielding childhood desires

And the want was so strong everyday like crushing waves

While failure wondered what I would call it

And nothing stuck to it yet

Because this was just a rehearsal and a trick

In front of the curtain

All day until the sun went down

Then the mood shifted at dusk

And something changed

Felt different

The air got heavier and caution crept in

Nervousness like cat’s whiskers

Discovered the instinct of failure inside

As darkness covered the basketball courts

Now it wasn’t obvious what to do

The force of testosterone’s headstrong surety stepped back

And scared a new way in

Trouble stalked the corners from around the block

A new element unearthed itself

It hid from the familiar

On the dark squares of the pavement

Where light from the arc lamps blinked

It was the reason your mother’s voice came out now

I pretended not to hear it

A glimpse of failure knocking

Masquerading as sudden intrigue

A cryptic shadow of excitement

In the forbidden mysterious landscape

And as I look back on those old photos

The black and white streets with brick stoops

All carved into my memory

Every chisel and hammer blow on the cave walls

Yet I’ve seen them in magazines and almanacs

As I dared myself to court failure

Meet the fleeting ghosts that had no heart

In all this I had it so good

The warm house with wood paneled study

Orange shag carpet

Sony Trinitron color TV

Comic books piled high

Storing my own vivid secrets from life

Into a part of myself who was very different

From my parents or other people

A slice of soul that didn’t match up

With anyone

From school or the streets

I couldn’t see the mindset

Doing, beating, winning and trouble

So I split myself in two

While I watched from afar

And the other part hesitated and analyzed

And pretended to be part of

Failure was having others notice the difference

Deep down inside the jokes, the lies and bragging

Into the future where the façade crumbles

And that boy in the pictures remembers the man later on

Who still watches from afar and sits squarely

In one seat, one arena, one station

An authentic friend not always permanent but

Present and accepting of failure as a teacher

The Asylum of Self-Centered Fear Transforms to The Infirmary of Elusive Joy

“If we were incapable of humility we would be incapable of joy, because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible.”

Thomas Merton “New Seeds of Contemplation.”



Take me down to the infirmary

Lay me down on cotton sheets

Put a damp cloth on my forehead

Lay me down

Let me sleep

I know the whiskey won’t soothe my soul

And the morphine won’t heal my heart.”

            David Lowry and Cracker



There is an aggregate critical mass of adversity reached by the alcoholic in his search for spirituality. While alcohol remains his higher power, this leads him to a misguided morass of despair as addiction redoubles it cunning powers and a self-centered fear rules his way of thinking.   Unless humility can peak above the serrated waves one lands in an asylum where the end result of self centeredness is one step away from death.


This asylum can feel powered by good intentions. The surrounding selfishness is so deceptively integrated into every daily belief that the addict cannot find his way out of it. It feels like being a soldier hemmed in by a dense circle of bayonets paralyzing mind and body.   The end result is a blind alley bereft of empathy, humility, and acceptance. Despair descends as a twin to loss of hope and with this manner of thinking suicide feels like the only choice.


There may be moments of happiness. Happiness being the instant gratification the mind drums up at the expense of deeper feelings of the heart. Manufactured moments of transient elation quickly disband into the next search party on the lookout for more superficial pleasure.


Before long the mind has created many subsidiary addictions in search of the dopamine charge in its many forms. The alcoholic shifts obsession from one setting, one framework to another with the same clandestine energy dressed up in myriad guises. A secret shell game with the world that harnesses and unleashes self-centered fear again and again and I know this because as long as thinking marches along like this to the beat of unreformed character defects the same thunderous karma scowls down from the sky and I continue to wonder what happened.


And so I enclose myself inside an asylum of my own design like a hunter believing he is tracking a skillful prey, when in truth, I am locked onto a carousel of fear chasing the tail of my own obsession. This obsession leads to a dead-end of instant pleasure that once used up cascades into destruction of all that is precious to me.


There is just a little more pain to be described here for emphasis because this is potentially my fatal flaw. Like many alcoholics I have a blind spot so precisely vacant that produces a rapid process of forgetting the events which tarnish my recollection of the pleasurable effects of alcohol. My experience is biased in the most deviously dangerous ways by my disease which leads me to believe with the deepest of my heart’s energies that alcohol is as necessary for me as food and water and the clean air around me taken into my hungry lungs with each life affirming breath.


This locked-in state of belief that alcohol imprints on my mind keeps me revolving around this gyroscope and joy remains ever elusive. Until I think of myself less, and get out of my own obsession and focus on other people’s needs and desires I cannot see or feel God’s grace and my heart cannot grasp joy. This gift of joy which spans a wide spectrum of emotions high and low, fulfilling and sad, beautiful and bruising;  all shapes and descriptions of feelings exist as I am guided and taught by the currents of life’s swirling pressure and elegance real and authentic;  a world of poetry and music that grabs me and forces me to wring my hands to the sky as I learn to love all souls and all forms of feeling and I kiss a new serenity and the embrace of my heart by God comes at the most surprising moments like an unexpected gift.


This all turns into an array of gifts that replicate and keep coming and that place me into a connected culture of loving compatriots who derive joy from giving and before long the depth of my heart’s growth embodies and lives in a new, let’s call it infirmary, a place to heal,  with loving men and women living selflessly and free.



Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker Give Fans Their Best at the Aladdin Theater in Portland

I was fortunate enough to witness two of the most original bands of the 1980s and 90s at the Aladdin  theater in southeast Portland on December 27th.  The classic Brooklyn, Portland venue  hosted “Camper Van Beethoven (CVB)” and “Cracker” in all their esoteric and quirky brilliance.  Both bands were created by singer, song-writer, rhythm guitarist David Lowry who brought his authentic, unaffected voice full of whimsical poetry, punchlines and stories about banal suburban living.  The energy and momentum both bands brought to the stage was impressive and by the time it was almost midnight, fans emerged onto the moonlit Friday night streets having gotten more than their moneys worth.

The sonic beauty of CVB was on full display with a myriad of ethnic melodies borrowed and integrated into rock n roll numbers haunted by Jonathan Segel’s electric violin that sometimes threatens to take over.  With its multi-faceted influences, CVB exists in a trippy universe with poetic lyrics, electric violin solos along with Greg Lischer’s legitimate  hard-rock guitar riffs that are just as capable of incorporating Led Zeppelin fragments as traditional sing a longs that produce a feeling that the atmosphere has morphed into a Celtic or Yiddish ritual.

CVB opened with a gypsy-inspired instrumental number that transitioned into the obscure but emblematic “Seven Languages” from  their third album.  They proceeded to feature several numbers from their iconic “My Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart” and progress to another instrumental improvisational piece that included two homage riffs to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and “Dazed and Confused.”  Their sonic power and absurd lyrics generated a momentum that built to psychedelic heights on stage that indicated they have lost nothing of the sound and sensibility that made them so fresh in the mid to late 1980s.  Lowry and CVB were able to effortlessly mine their alter-egos from a very different time and engage the audience with an immersion into an authentic reproduction of their sound so beautifully displayed so as to produce the feeling in the audience that very little time had actually elapsed since the creation of these genre-defying sonic gems.  They finished with “Take the skinheads bowling,” which caught the standing room only audience in a rambunctious sing a long mood cementing the smiles on the old faithful.

After a short intermission, “Cracker” picked right up where the mid-90s began with a shift to a more mainstream rockabilly sound envisioned by David Lowry and the unmistakable sounds of Johnny Hickman’s lead guitar, with Jonathan Segel trading in his electric violin for synthesizers.  The sonic nature of “Cracker” is quite a departure from “CVB” largely due to Hickman’s home-on-the -range, rockabilly, cerebral-country, surf-flavored sounds produced from his idiosyncratic ax.  This departs from “CVB’s” esoteric, ethnic, acid-inspired aural brillinace, yet when David Lowry picks up the microphone, the close cousin relationship between the two band becomes clear.  It is refreshing to see that, though, “CVB” is Lowry’s first real commercially successful child (their were several other preceding garage bands with comical names) he had the creative vision to evolve past the limitations of ‘CVB” for a more widespread appeal yet one remains convinced that the true artistic vision is never compromised.  It is as if “CVB” dispersed from the stage, and the same David Lowry picked up his rhythm guitar and transmitted a sound with the avant-garde elements from “CVB” that maintain the same general infrastructure while dressing up the music for a whiskey-two-step bar in a modern western town.

Cracker’s” set list ranged from urgent, upbeat,  country-inspired  rock with a decidedly alternative bent to slowed down melodious ballads where Lowry picks up the electric acoustic twelve-string for a warmer sound.  Johnny Hickman’s unmistakable sound ushered in a  more poppy raw energy while maintaining the poetry of the lyrics and expanding into a series of songs consisting of: “Get off this, ” “Big Dipper,” and “Euro trash Girl” which pushed the crowd onto the makeshift dance floor in the aisles and adjacent to the stage.  The band ended with a  Dylan song that paid respect to “the Big Lebowski, ” and just as a hair of disappointment arrived in my mind having not heard “Take me Down to the Infirmary,”  “Cracker” re-entered the stage for an encore delivering a version of this gorgeous song that I took with me, singing in my head,  all the way home.

The Equine Semen Diver

Trump was talking more than usual for some reason and it was charging up the dogs that were also vocalizing and chasing each other aggressively on this dry chilly night. The sky was more expressive this evening spilling its red and blood-orange streaks across the horizon as the sun was setting.   Spring sunsets in Goldendale were spectacular and tonight the clouds were whispering as the gentle breeze spread out their dense cotton upholstery all over the majestic sky. Expansive splashes of rusty magenta dripped Pollack-style onto the sky’s ruthenium darkness while topping the yearning pines.


I walked along the dirt road from the house to the barn and in the midst of the quiet the lines of a poem echoed in my mind:


There was a moment in time

When I felt the pull of rural loneliness

With sun-parched dust in my vision

Calling under the guise of freedom


Coaxed by fear

Coaxed by love

Into a new blueprint of the soul

To live the Cowboy life

My heart wrapped in chains

By the pull of rural loneliness


I walked to the main barn to clean the last of the stalls and feed Carson, Trump and Sara when I realized Trumpy had been fed and he was reacting to his mother, Sara.   A couple of stalls away, she was showing signs of being heavily in season. Trump was low on water and he had already demolished his alfalfa and grain and was now irritatingly kicking at his least favorite grass-hay. Trump was a yearling whose insistent and prolonged nightly monologues were audible all the way to the house. He was always louder and more vocal than the other foals that year but when they were all separated from their mothers, Trump kicked up a verbal fuss of such dramatic insistence that he sounded like a reverie trumpet some nights.   Then, when time passed and he seemed to slowly forget about his mother, Trump began to employ his vocal prowess as a domineering tactic with the other yearlings and pretty quickly after his first birthday it was clear who was boss. It was then, around springtime that the name stuck. The fact that he foreshadowed the November presidential election was simply comic relief.


When Trumpy saw me he did his usual shake and buck and then quieted down as I entered his stall and gave him a vigorous scratching over his right shoulder blade. He liked that every time and after I fed him a couple of treats and let him rub my chest with his teeth in return, I let him know that his remaining hay was all he was going to get tonight. His powerful teeth had worn a hole in the chest flap of my Carhartt overalls. This was a sign he was reciprocating my shoulder rubs and letting me know he wanted to scratch my back in return. He walked over and quietly finished off his hay as I surveyed the other horses


Trump’s buddy Carson was a genetically blessed palomino yearling quietly chewing his alfalfa in the next stall. Carson was the most elegant foal I had ever seen. Right after he was born he walked instantaneously and within a matter of days had a prance so majestic and organically prodigious that his natural athleticism clearly set him apart from the rest of his contemporaries. Carson was also gentle and soft-spoken like his namesake, the wise and subtle neurosurgeon who became Donald Trump’s republican rival for a short period of time that election year.








The sculpted purity with a muscled back

The shimmering mane joined

To the oiled leather and hooves

With ungodly blonde beauty

Awestruck by feminine idols

Embracing me into a new frame


Carson busied himself with his evening feeding while I topped off his water and pondered the stark differences in temperament and personality between these yearlings descended from the same father.  I rarely went up and affectionately touched Carson. He was wary of anyone and didn’t really crave the human contact. He received the same hugs and love as any of the yearlings after they were born in an effort to socialize them but after that he went back to solitary status. When he was separated from his mother he took it in stride and within three or four days Carson was poised to interact and spend time with Trump and other mares. Some of his innate independent nature and desire to learn from other horses helped stabilize Trump during his difficult days of separation anxiety.

And it continued…


I knew nothing of the western sphere

Alien to the hay stacked range

With dreams of riding bareback

Awestruck in in the glow of cold night pines

Urging quiet out of savage tempests


During the first weeks of Trump’s life, I would go into his stall to hold him. I would enter with Sara carefully eyeing me and trying to block my approach to Trump. Once I calmed Sara down, I cornered Trump and talked to him in a soft, kind voice. He was fearful at first as I loomed over him and walked in his direction. He repeatedly sprinted away and nestled by his mother’s breast. I would patiently stand and continue to talk as I chose one side to walk around and, of course, he would run the opposite way to the other corner of the stall. Both Sara and I would then walk towards him, and after a period of this game Sara became aware that I was being friendly and she began to help me push Trump into a corner so I could interact with him. Once he was in a corner with Sara on one side and me on the other, I knelt and wrapped my arms slowly around him in a giant hug and used only as much force as necessary to hold him still.   He struggled and wriggled in my arms and whinnied and reared up while I held him, then he stopped and relaxed. I talked to him directly into his ear and he started kicking up resistance again as I held him. After close to a minute where about half that time he was still I released him. After letting him run and check back with his mother for a few minutes I hugged him again, this time a little longer and I was met with less resistance.


This became a daily ritual and each day was not always met with progress but after a month I would honestly say that Trump looked forward to these sessions as much as I did. It became a game, after a while, that I might play with a child like hide and seek. When I think about the pure fear he manifested the first time I approached him, I wondered if Trump would ever let me touch him. Now, the bond I feel, in some ways is uniquely stronger than one with a child. A foal has no trust at all for any other beings except the mother, let alone a large, alien appearing human being from another species. The joy I feel while he holds still in my arm and conveys a sense of safety and attachment really stokes my spiritual fires. Now he hears my footsteps and even if he cannot see me he indicates his own excitement in my presence, and to experience that kind of trust turns many of my so-called human “friendships” into superficial and meaningless affairs.


Carson continued to ignore me while I cleaned his stall with a pick and wheelbarrow, then I went over to Sarah’s stall. Sara was a broodmare who delivered Trump last season and based on her tail-raising behavior and “winking” she was most certainly in heat right now. She was one of eight broodmares awaiting fertilization by Ice this season. Sara was also a very skilled barrel horse and she travelled well and performed admirably at races and rodeos but she had fallen to four or five on the depth chart. Being a female with her genes made her prime broodmare quality to mate with Ice and I often dreamed about the other foals that would arrive next year.


Could I live this Cowboy life?

Soaked in the sun baked clay

Molded by a new hand

Struck by the dry gusts of daily dreams

Dusting the realms of a changed life

Into the foreign arms of a certain love


The main barn where the yearlings and broodmares were housed had eight stalls and a connecting door to the arena. When the weather was cold and if it snowed, the yearlings would be released into the arena with a mare or two, not their mothers, to comfort them while they ran to the point of fatigue. It was during these sessions that the bonding between Trump and Carson began. Carson challenged Trump to run harder and faster and Trump challenged Carson to play and have fun and interact. With the help of the mares as well Trump was feeling more relaxed in his own skin and Carson was opening up to contact with other horses and humans.

Eight broodmares lived on the ranch now. Six had been there for many years and two had just recently come over from a ranch in Redmond. They all were quite unique with the one commonality that each and every one had paid their dues. Most had worked hard as barrel or cattle horses and were deemed good stock to breed and carry on the future generations. With the equine gestation being longer than that of humans the strain on the skeletal structure from carrying multiple foals over many years really took its toll. Peaches a bay female broodmare now in her twenties could barely walk towards the end of the gestation, the joints around her hooves collapsing into valgus deformation. Now, being spring, the prime breeding season, all the mares were in heat and even the gildings were acting up as a response. It was time to harvest semen and my gratitude ran deep concerning one factor, that I was a willing assistant for fertilization and that the semen harvesting duties landed squarely on the shoulders of the “Sperm Lady.”

Time is lost as broodmares bloom

And burdens are forced upon these

Selfless prophets of the future

Carrying larger loads of kindness

Until gait is stricken and limbs give way

All the dogs followed me to the main barn.   Their interest was never satiated and when any human ventured out to the barn, there was bound to be a novel set of circumstances ready to occur that had not quite ever coincided before in their own short histories. Buster, or Bustoza as I called him, was the senior, highly intuitive, wise and communicative boarder collie. If there was one dog that functioned as chairman of operations and was knowledgeable about all the up to the minute comings and goings on the ranch it was Buster. Buster ordered around the other dogs and all the humans and his methods of communication were profound and varied. I once tabulated over thirty different tones and tenors of barks and howls verbalized by Buster to represent the different commands he issued or the opinions he disseminated. And that was just in one day.

Buster was always first to realize something or someone new had breached the perimeter of the ranch. Joey the young miniature Australian Shepherd was a close second and it was usually Joey who pointed out what or whom was now within the confines of the property, but that was simply Joey’s speed allowing him to track down an intruder faster than the other dogs. The fact was, Buster always picked up on the scent or the sound first and knew to rapidly dispatch Joey to the scene. The other dogs were all quite perceptive, except for the black lab Diesel who loved chewing rocks, and they all swung into action immediately at Buster’s behest.


The other dogs had gathered by the exit of the south barn where Jesse was finishing up his work.   All the dogs were intent on heading over to main barn where I was and the brood mares were housed and eating. Being isolated from human contact and having more interaction with the domesticated animals on a ranch led to my mind anthropomorphizing both the dogs and horses much more than I otherwise would.

This was a place where a great deal of thinking was done. Cowboys are poets of a minimalist strain of language that exits the lexicon and swoops down like a hawk picking up only vital instruments of survival. The need for excessive language is trimmed away and a critical action or feeling is peeled and turned over in the hand until the description is part of an animal’s hide or the majestic horizon.


Thoughts were meant to exist inside the mind and not out in the open air or on a computer screen. Every once in a while things happened and events conspired to overwhelm the basic daily edifice of non-verbal understanding. It was then that mining for a word or dredging up a feeling became necessary as a warning or an alert in the midst of a steady stream that carries the stoic understanding and resilience to address what the day brings.


Out on the hillside by the vacant blind

Where the deer believe they hide

Apples and pears express the sweet fermentation of sunlight


Angst holds court in the singular landscape

Clutching me as loneliness finds its portal

A hidden opening in the corner of the sky


It seems that homes and intentional structures don’t really belong here in this landscape. They feel so transient amidst the permanence of the mountainous shoulders and the looming pines and rocky canyons with everlasting rivers. People try to root their homes down with heavy tile floors and concrete fortified with rebar steel.   What is dotting the vast expanses of barren land seems superfluous and out of place. Like a bivouac during heavy bombing or the wasted words on a pure white canvas meant to remain white while waiting for wordless music.


Language becomes replaced by intuitive gestures and other non-verbal means of communication. This infiltrates the house and alters ways of communication among the few people in the area. The need to communicate eloquently and with verbal prowess in this environment is supplanted by an expectation that everyone pick up on the myriad methods of non-verbal expression. A lack of perception or an unwillingness along these lines leads to loss of closeness and intimacy with others, notably a close partner or wife, in this context. The repeated displays of non-verbal pleadings that remain unrecognized turn to resentments. These resentments lead to further gestures highlighting the loss of dependence on words for conveying what is in the soul.   Some people require that their responsibilities and the desires of their partner be spelled out while others fancy a partner that looks and understands using skills that translate a host of hunches and secret desires into a clearly understood reality


In this centuries old task

Where words are of no use

There is a Body-English touch

To the horse’s flank

The urgent rub of the prominent scapula

Connected to the gilding’s heartstrings

That brings on a new friend


Where language no longer flourishes in the open air, there is a cartography of the heart that creates the longitudinal lines and meridians that map those interior expressions of feeling that have trouble coming out as well. I defer to the animals, notably the dogs, to instruct in the regard that is second nature to them and difficult for humans to grasp fully. When I become confused and conversation at the wrong time is a fool’s errand, then a good walk with the dogs helps me brush up on relationships.


Hierarchies and pecking orders among dogs and horses is a fascinating study in socialization. It starts with the innate characteristics and personality traits of the animal. Does a word exist for the character quirks and traits of an animal that would be described along human lines? Again, the tendency towards anthropomorphizing rears itself.


Buster was in charge of the entire campus and all the other dogs. Batman, an overweight, highly intelligent miniature Australian shepherd, was the only dog allowed in the house, therefore he considered himself guardian of the interior living quarters. Joey, another Aussie, was Batman’s offspring, and he was a lean and fast watchdog, who covered and flew around the ranch like a hawk, riling up any deer or coyote that ventured too close. The pair of black labs Diesel and Fish were happy to be here and went along with anything while Chuck the chocolate lab was the Cary Grant of dogs, polite, caring, lean and elegant with a desire to please and look good.


There is an authenticity to the dogs and each one could be depended on to follow through by manifesting their personality strengths and weaknesses in a given situation. This form of honesty forms mutual trust with dog and owner even though people have trouble aspiring to the same level of authenticity.


Once over at the south barn with all the dogs I checked on Taylor and Ice as well as Otis the old cow horse, blind in one eye who was the best roping training horse for the kids and any young rider. Patient, understanding and unflappable, having seen it all, Otis never got riled or over excited. His skeleton was breaking down and it was Otis who taught me which chiropractic manipulations worked best. I could sense his pain yet he never refused work.



Taylor was a champion barrel racing horse, now in his late thirties and in the twilight of his career. He was still racing and he realized that he was the most accomplished horse on the ranch yet he was feeling his age. As a result his performance schedule had become more restricted and its possible he was losing a step or that certain edge that only the limelight and buzz of the crowd at races can sustain.   He still had his moments in the sun, but two younger gildings were ready to surpass him in the next couple of years. Taylor was the most affectionate horse on the ranch in addition to being the tallest at seventeen hands. He was given the special treatment of a king: King Taylor. He was like Jim Brown at the end of his career, a step slower but physically just as imposing as he was in his prime. His stall was twice the size of the other horses and he was fed special hay, special alfalfa, and special grain.


It is unusual for a tall stallion to be as successful as Taylor in the world of barrel racing. I compare a barrel racing horse to a running back in football.   A wide receiver is akin to a racehorse. The best running backs are strong and agile and fast but usually not exceptionally tall. The ability to change direction quickly and on a dime is valued more than straight-ahead speed in both barrel horses and running backs. Height for a racehorse or wide receiver is valued as is straight-line speed, where simply outrunning the competition is the main objective. Barrel racing, like a running back cutting into a hole in football, requires a lowering of the center of gravity to make a very rapid turn while in a low flexed-limb position. Tall humans and tall horses have a higher center of gravity therefore it is more difficult to accomplish this with top speed.   That said, Taylor was not limited at all by his height and though not overly common there have been some great running backs who are taller than most.


I loved Taylor. I felt like he and I had a long-term friendship but I really only knew him for four years.   Some days I would save cleaning his stall for last.   After I finished feeding him and cleaning his stall I would simply relax with Taylor and brush him and give him some of the chiropractic manipulations I had learned. I talked to him for hours at a time and I believe he could sense my moods. I shared my thoughts with him. Taylor listened when I spoke to him, and sometimes I would have moments of inspiration during the time I spent with this horse. He was more than a horse. Most horses don’t look directly at you. He looked me in the eyes. He would look up and show me where the weather was changing. He was exceedingly sensitive to the weather. If I was around him I could tell just when it would rain or snow.


He had a great deal of soreness that he didn’t express to others and I would massage spots in his lower cervical spine and back that needed to be treated. I never saw him lay down, and I often wondered what my body would feel like if I rarely took the weight off my legs. He and I connected on a profound level even though I did not ride him and in the evenings as the sun was setting, I could sit in his stall and while observing him my mind would take turns of poetic flight and my imagination would sculpt out new terrain that I wouldn’t have time to contemplate while occupied with work. There was a meditative trance I found myself activating when I sat with Taylor. It gave me access to my unconscious terrain and an awareness of the vast reservoir that serves art and the spirit, similar to the unseeable distances at the horizon that can be known by turning away from the mind-numbing work in the world and focusing on the sheer beauty that is served up as a gift to the eyes.


Taylor’s stall, and maybe Trump’s, were the only horse’s living spaces where I would pull up a chair and sit for an hour or two after all the chores were completed and simply read a book or write in a journal. With Trump it was to continue his socialization maturation process but with Taylor it was because he taught me about life. Taylor inspired me by being an authentic individual. Everything I watched him do was fascinating to me. Simply chewing his hay and grain, the way he would shift his weight while standing to take the stress off one side for a while, his reactions to sounds and subtle changes in his environment. To understand anatomy and to watch the contraction of a horse’s massive sinews and great chains of muscle gave rise to thoughts of Rodin and Greek mythological creatures. I became enthralled with a world where communication did not involve words, where sensations ruled and were noticed acutely and obeyed at all cost.


A horse has the eyesight of a bird of prey and often they are the first to notice a coyote or deer before the dogs hear or smell the new guest. While people constantly say what they don’t mean and lie about their feelings most of the time, a horse is deadly honest. I would carefully watch as Taylor paused and stopped chewing and slowly looked up into the distance. Was it a change in the weather, an animal approaching the barn, a sound coming from miles off, or was he pausing to process a sensation that he was not sure of? In a world of social media and ego and false selves projected onto the great collective computer monitor spewing lies and fantasy, a horse is anointed a saint of honest goodness and pure curiosity, a beast of burden whose function is not as vital as it once was, but a survivor who is a forever available comrade to humanity no matter what the request may be.


There was an otherworldly feeling the first time I stood next to a horse. These animals are not like dogs or cats and the sheer massive muscularity of these beasts is intimidating. They are domesticated yet have a wild nature that is contained and repressed and at any moment ready to erupt into fierce demonstrations of unchecked power. I never realized their affectionate natures and the intuitive love they feel and freely give if they have trust. Most people move abruptly and carelessly around a horse. This disturbs them and creates nervousness and distrust. A horse does not realize its power but if one is gentle with movements and gestures a horse is capable of calmly returning its most gentle tendencies.


I followed heartfelt wanderings

Away from structure and surgical tedium

Into a tempting vibrancy

Ruled by love’s escape

Aspiring to embrace new horizons

Fooled by the new rush to fantasy’s ridge

Feeling the new overtake the senses and grow

Never to be more authentic


A woman who thrives on horses abides by a different set of rules with the man in her life. The horse will temper her experience and she becomes accustomed to the sensitive, moody nature of a horse. She wants to please the horse and she hopes the horse will take a loving approach to her, but there will be uncontrollable moments of erratic, and sometimes violent behavior manifested by this animal she has bonded with and entrusted with her life. There is a tremendous degree of respect for the horse. She can’t imagine acting in a way that would disrespect or hurt the horse. Though the man, for the most part, does not pose the violent threat to her that the horse does, her experiences with the horse lead her to express her admiration and respect in a similar way towards her man. There is an understanding of the purity both men and horses have in the arena of battle. The man and the horse want to give their all, and often will give their life for the woman, so there is this inherent gratitude a woman feels if her man is honest and authentic and genuine, even when it comes to dirt and sweat and the foul odors of competition that are manifested by both horse and man. A woman learns to appreciate the effort of the horse over perfection. She understands fallibility and certain layers where communication may not be possible. There is a singleness of purpose that horses demonstrate that is seen in men with strong personalities and understanding this quality in a horse creates empathy towards her man. A woman who loves a horse, appreciates the stark differences between a man and a woman, and as a result craves the musculature and embrace of her man.


These thoughts usually rise up and dwell for a while without being verbalized. In this outpost of wild lifestyles marrying the modern with the Sooner’s sense of straddling savage inroads, comfort and domesticity wave quite as different flag.   The western fringe feels like being part of something that real cities have lost in the turmoil of overlapping neighborhoods and the redundancies of an imagination gone stale. A part of something that always seems to fall short and away. When reality can’t match fantasy and you find yourself falling into a world of dreams unfulfilled, hopes dashed and sirens calling back a thunderous yearning now redirected to where it all started. Only with nothing there in an arena with no prisoners except yourself left to regain the footing of a new life that now takes with it the deep scars etched inside the outer shell of joy, a hopeful scaffold aligned with a God-consciousness carrying all the love and lessons that an imperfect passion can bestow.


And then there was Ice. Ice was the lone stud on the ranch, a palomino male specimen, who had all the goods any quarter-horse owner could desire. He stood sixteen and seven tenths hands tall with a sandy coat and a platinum blonde flowing mane that blew in the wind as he raced around his large outdoor pen. The musculature around his gaskins and shoulders prominently contracted as he pranced impatiently waiting to be fed. All horses are muscular but Ice had prominent coils of lean muscle where other horses have very little and his legs were aligned to perfection.

Ice descended from an extensive lineage of barrel racing champions as well as racehorses and was capable of setting records if he wasn’t assigned to the task of breeding some of the finest competitive quarter horses on the west coat. Ice was fed more alfalfa and grains than the other horses and his metabolism easily processed his caloric intake. He also had a daily regimen of all the best antioxidants and seeds and oils to maximize his genetic potential. He lived over in the south barn with mostly gildings, aging cow horses and other young males away from the broodmares and Phillies. He seemed to be calm and even-tempered but I was always cautious around him.  You can never be too careful around a stud horse. If one were to watch Ice breed it will give anyone pause and having witnessed that level of violence most inexperienced individuals would not venture close to that horse. Once when he was a couple of years younger he bit a ranch hand on the side of the face with no provocation and no warning as the ranch hand was simply walking by a little too close to the stall.


When I was still green in my ranch skill-set, I was finishing up on a rapidly darkening evening one early winter night and I entered Ice’s outdoor pen to retrieve the wheelbarrow that had been left there. As I opened his gate wider than usual he escaped. It was pitch dark and like a flash he was gone. He moved so fast it appeared that the minute he was outside the confines of his pen the darkness seemed to encase him and swallow him up and then there was pure air and darkness with me trembling in the surreal moment. I envisioned him making it to the main road a mile away and being hit by a car or simply disappearing.


I panicked and gathered help. I ran and gesticulated, and yelled the choice words of a man paralyzed by fear and helpless to act. . With the help of the others and the dogs we located Ice, assembled a makeshift long column of a fence with the portable components usually reserved for travel when a pen needed to be assembled on the road. This fence formed a corridor leading to his pen and with me on a four-wheeler leading and chasing him in the direction of this ramshackle fence pushing him toward the opening he decided to enter and hence he was back in captivity. I learned that the fencing is familiar to him and he desires the familiarity of enclosure, and it really wasn’t the stroke of pure luck I initially thought. While on the loose, however, he kicked over two outdoor water spouts and almost trampled two of the dogs who were aggressively trying to herd him back.


I savored this like tasting the fruit of a new song

A foreign lexicon of chores and muscle memory

But the jargon and base outline never took

The marchers assembled and vowed toward city lights

Curt hints about unrealized expectations

Cut through the terrain of my heart.


It was business as usual the next week and it was time to consider how we were going to fertilize all these broodmares. In the past, semen had been harvested by others, so-called experts in the field and it was time to learn how to do it ourselves. So we asked around and found someone willing to teach her technique. She came highly recommended and went by the moniker of “Semen Lady.”

The “Semen Lady,” also known as Doreen was a woman of sixty who resided on a small farm in Longview Washington. She owned three horses and about twenty acres with a barn and plenty of pasture for horses to graze.   Her main passion was breeding boxers. She and her husband were biologists and their livelihood had involved performing complex bench work research on genetic conditions affecting both horses and dogs at the Washington State Veterinary School in Pullman. She retired from this four years ago when they both went off on their own and moved to Longview. Her husband’s role in this was unclear.  She had a laboratory on site in her home and access to a variety of outside labs where she could send specimens to diagnose a host of genetic disorders or generate information she was incapable of detecting.. She also had many contacts willing to pay top dollar for proven performance horse semen.   She was more than willing to teach how to harvest, check for live sperm under the microscope and divide each sample into just enough to fertilize a mare, then preserve the specimens for storage and transport. Once we were back at the ranch the vet would assist with the actual fertilization process.


Doreen’s husband was wandering around the property with several of the dogs in tow. An overweight boy in his late teens wearing a red trucker style baseball cap and dirty unkempt jeans and a sweat shirt busied himself with a riding mower and appeared to be familiar with the dogs and the property. As we approached the barn the dogs knew to steer clear. There were cages aligned on both side of the modest ranch style house that was twenty yards from the barn. Each cage had a litter of puppies nursing. The dogs outside walking were males and they checked on the cages and had free reign to walk in and out of the house.


The barn was small with three stalls. In one corner was a large black padded cylindrical dummy approximately three feet in diameter and six feet long. It was wrapped extensively with duct tape and was attached to a wood frame stand that angled it upward. It resembled a typical football tackling dummy seen on a driving sled but the wood frame positioned it to resemble the hindquarters and back of a horse.


The stalls were empty with two being adjacent to the entrance and one positioned across from the dummy on the wood frame. The stall across from the dummy had a split-door where a horse could be inside with only the bottom half of the door closed allowing the occupant of that stall to be easily seen.


Doreen beckoned the boy to run into the house and fetch her some equipment. She familiarized us with the set-up and summarized what we were about to do.   I walked over to one trailer and placed a lead on Ice and walked him to one of the stalls near the entrance to the barn. Jesse, the ranch hand, did the same with Sara who was in the second trailer and placed her in the stall with the half door across from the dummy.

The moment Sara entered the barn Ice smelled her scent and began kicking the wall of the stall violently. He neighed loudly and in a more prolonged fashion reaching octaves and registers that were atypical. His neigh was different from its normal sound. Usually one gets used to hearing the ordinary sound a horse makes when it is separated from other horses.   This vocalization had a higher pitch and was a desperate screeching yearning sound that had a pathetically sad tenor to it.  I had not heard any of the other horses make a sound like this. It didn’t sound like fear, yet I became anxious listening to it and there was now a more serious pall that overtook everyone standing in the barn. Ice kept this up as Sara began to wink and raise her tail. I could see Ice rearing up over the top edge of the stall door.


The teenage boy, who turned out to be Doreen’s son, returned with her requested gear. He had a football helmet that one might buy for a child, shoulder pads and an extra large T-shit. There were forearm pads and knee pads as well. Doreen proceeded to dress and once she donned her outfit I couldn’t help thinking she looked like a confused grandmother dressed to go to a post-apocalyptic pick-up football game during a Mad Max film. Doreen then pulled out the glove. This was an interesting silicone condom tube that was long enough to accommodate a baseball bat and on one side of it a rubber glove was fused. She filled the condom tube with KY jelly and placed the glove on.


We all stood and looked at each other. Her husband was standing in the doorway of the barn and I glanced at Jesse as he looked at Doreen. Jesse proceeded to enter Ice’s stall and attach two ropes to his bridle. He exited the stall with Ice and threw me the other rope. Ice ran straight for Sara’s Stall and if I hadn’t given my rope a massive pull Ice would have hurdled the half door. We were instructed by Doreen to watch the erection forming on Ice as we controlled him. Controlling Ice with one rope would have required tremendous strength, however the pull of two force vectors at a ninety degree angle to each other kept the horse reasonably stationary as he reared up and continued his desperate neighing while his tumescence increased. Once Doreen approved of his erection Jesse and I united our vectors and pulled Ice towards the dummy while Ice kept his eyes fastened on Sara.   He suddenly moved forward towards the wood frame and reared up to mount the dummy.


Just then with a brand of quickness I never would have anticipated Doreen ran to Ice’s left hind side and slid on her flexed knees like a volley ball player executing a crucial dig. She forearmed him in the flank to let him know she was there and she inserted his erect penis into the large condom. Ice meanwhile started to slide off the dummy to one side toward Doreen as my pull on the rope was slightly angled and as the horse slid he knocked Doreen over. Ice landed on his front hooves as Doreen barrel-rolled out of his way. We allowed Ice to back up and venture closer to Sara’s stall and then resumed the ninety degree rope pull while Doreen readied herself and gave us the signal. This time I moved closer to Jesse and Ice again violently mounted the dummy tearing up duct tape as he tried to balance his front legs on the pad. Like a flash Doreen dove onto her knees even quicker this time sliding into perfect position and once again encased the male organ in the condom. Ice was now well-centered on the pad and his hips were thrusting powerfully and rhythmically while the side of his buttocks knocked against Doreen’s head as she gripped his penis with her hand and massaged back and forth and up and down the length of the shaft. After ten seconds of this Ice let out another gut wrenching neigh as his body froze into a paralyzed contracture against the dummy. Doreen continued to work away and I could see the bag filling with milky liquid. Doreen then released her grip on Ice and sped for cover as the horse seemed to seize into a stone-cold state of unconsciousness for a second or two. This was followed by Ice sliding off the dummy and almost falling onto his right side when he suddenly woke up, caught himself, and landed on his front hooves. Jesse released his rope and I led Ice back to his stall as the horse walked slowly and behaved like a docile animal that had no energy or strength left.

Harvesting semen from Ice was no easy task and in addition to being challenging and risky, it was on certain days, life-threatening. Once a sample was secured from Ice, four mares could usually be inseminated or if a breeder wished to acquire his semen a five figure fee was the cost.

Doreen emerged unscathed as did the rest of us.  The horses were packed up in their respective trailers and the drive back was uneventful.  I wondered why we didn’t just put all the broodmares out in the pasture and let Ice work his way naturally through each one.  Replication is a savage act in the world of horses and as mammals there is a little bit of Ice in all males of the world.  In the wild the mares that survive the breeding process are stronger and more genetically hardy than those who do not.  Breeding is as serious as life and death.  As humans it is part of our calling and heritage to try to find a way to manipulate the elegant set of reproductive criteria nature  has designed to best allow the genetically most advantageous horses to proliferate.  We say, no, I want more of this breed so God and the divine nature  that decides which animals are called upon to occupy the future races becomes muddied by the short-sighted expectations of those with the power to be just dangerous enough.  The fact that most people forget is that in a world where humans arose the great mastermind behind the curtain realizes this and all of our misguided human errors are already understood and planned for as part of the ever so natural evolutionary cycle that cannot ever really be manipulated because we are part of the grand scheme and not as special and unique as we think.   The human mind will never be capable of truly understanding the big picture.








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