shepard fairey








gustav dore

our boys

death and burial


Thursday, October 18, 2007


is more trustworthy than Glad, that gone-in-a-minute fuck. Give me
strength against shade, I ain’t no frolicking puppy, I’m no wet-nosed
youth, nor ordinary dipshit. They say watch out, pride coming before
a fall and all, but where’s the strategy in sucking hind tit. So, I’m going
long. I’m going where the fear is, where you cry for your mama

and nobody answers. I don't want to be a hardass but I’ve got to
cut my own furrow, one that turns up the snake before it gets up
your leg, one that speaks my crooked mind true. I’m a fallen
angel, and that’s a fact. I went where no one ever goes. Christ,
you should have seen their shit-eating faces. Even a fallen angel

kicks ass among a bunch of skull-fucking demons.

In The Air

it was as if always they’d known how it would go on;
the grand nieces and nephews were long dead. How
they’d hung on to life no one could imagine. Anyway, they did,
year after fucking year till everyone else was gone.

That’s when he looked at her; she was right beside him.
Gray, sucked in a little—not much—a bit, enough to register
the passage as a weight pulling at the face’s lift towards
something that would make it all worthwhile.

Baby, give me a leg up, show me the wool. A faint scent
of what we’re about has been barely perceived by the
mass of men, you can hear them below, gathering with
their axes and ladders. Tell me true, darlin’ is it love for me

that turns your clock, that digs into you and stays forever.

My Mother Ruined Me

for vegetables
that’s for sure

but I’m good at
brushing my teeth.

I never clean my room!

I do bathe frequently
and I value authenticity,

not its imprimatur.

I’m a drug addict
a pervert and a wino

but that’s my doing,
not my mother’s

Write Like A Bastard

love like a truck. Lick the loadstone with regularity
at first, then speed up. I got wisdom’s never been written
nor even repeated, I know how to write a score. I know
the last thing ever will be you gasping your love.

And I know how to load the implement, hand her over, there,
shorty. I went down early in a dirty fight, liked it there, thought
I’d avoid a passle of mischief staying out of the way like that. Then
she come along with her needs and issues and cunt and all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I’ve Become Estranged

from all persons
I’m not exaggerating

it’s a secret martial arts technique

it’s the space in matter is
what it’s made of

it’s what runs the stars

it’s what gathers our thoughts like silver arrows
and nestles them gleaming among
the plush roses of the heart

as if
they could at last
be birds

Mean Grip

Bowed across a bridge about to go was a man, one man,
one woman beside him, one child lithe of limb; in back
the death procession barely moved, moted eyes cast down,
but I watched as they slid somehow brisk across the field where
were strewn the enemy dead of both sides. All were handsome,
all were young. All were dead, as I said. I didn’t say how the woman
had a faraway look about her as her skirts brushed the grit
from the already heedless faces. The kid was down the road.

The glistening silvery tang broke like icicles all over our laps,
what could you say? Hit me again with the medicine, medic,
I knew your shortfall before I asked, so don’t give me your
fucking mercy. Give me a reason not to wring your scrawny neck
with one good arm. If there is one. The smoke from their foundering fires
bit at the eyes so fair strong, you could barely make out their broken line
where they’d stood till they’d fallen, rags blown off a line, tumbled
into a tale writ mainly in horned callus and sweat.

Here Lies Harry

he could stay for a drink,
he couldn’t tarry. Then,
one more, then he’d go.
Well, another for the road
was all it took to take
Harry beyond any of our
poor helpless hearts’ ways
to help him. So he died.


they came by with gruel which I disdained having been raised on meat
starch and vegetable. I grew exceedingly thin before fall reached winter,
I fell in a faint before my girlfriend when I was released. She generously
brought me to her sumptuous home which you see before you here. I wasn’t
long for this world when she saved me, I was off the fucking track and

headed straight down, as in smelling the smudge. Heat rises sure enough and
it was up my nose into my brain before I could get the cloven hooves tied off.
Later, I was waiting for a grape being peeled for me by this same gal,
the one from the movies, the brunette with love on her breath and
my finger digging in her for pearl. She’s a honey.


through where we’d already been enabled us to get a reading
on where we were headed, I didn’t need no psychic to tell me

we’d been here before, it wasn’t willing then either,
this smacks of suffering, that incessant gnawing

by the living of its own internal parts, the disappearing into
what had been, but now just wasn’t. There was only this

one shining thing, with my name on it, and yours.

The Secret

had been discovered deep within 1.06 x 10 to the
twenty-third billion tons of exploding hydrogen.
No one else had thought to look in the nuclear core of

the Sun. The only One.
What could be more obvious?

Possessing a mind every bit as devious in upending order
as a craps-shooting Creator, betting it all, because he can,
I simply interpolated his original extrapolation of our basic

need, minus the obfuscation.
I get that it burns.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Another Time

I knew would come. Another lift up over the twisted beeches
on the far side of the hill. The dark side where the sun only
slants in a parody of generosity even a flatlander like me could see
through. I’m ankle deep in a deer pond with a mission on my mind.

The first time I went up the hill the old ones marked me for
their own. Roses it was, now only thorns, and those gnarly
silver knots that they use like arms, if not legs. I was halted
in my progress by a gentleman cloaked in gray. I couldn’t see

no face, a stingy sun was sucking up to the town folk, it felt like
sleet slashing my face, but that was just them fucking beeches
feeling feisty. I had my bags, my seeds, I’ll grow in woods where
no sun is welcome, I’ll let the dark close in around me.

My Alarming Judgment

could be easily overlooked. It has been before, which was a good
thing when I couldn’t hit the near side of right with a pool cue.
I did try exactly that stunt one time. Fortunately I missed. And
I swear it won’t happen again.

Where was I before I was so fucking wise? Down every shit-sluicing
opportunity I’ve found a new low. So far, I can’t break from what’s been.
Why does everyone know my name? And, tell me, sister-never-to-be,
where’s your filial piety if you’re with this outfit?

I’ve seen latrines with more decorum and august majesty. Still,
I’d go for you even beneath a shitter. I ought to know, having
been there. That’s literally, ma’am, I’m not proud to admit.
It was that old dirty job that somebody had to do. Like the rest of

this that’s marked me so vilely.

Trying To Make A Spark

catch hold, somewhere, trying to grab that golden rail which might
put me on top of my game again. Busted out instead and meager leavings
are all that remains of the winged chariot I was driving last week.
That motherfucker was a ride!, I’m saying. I nearly couldn’t buck its
current like it wanted. I nearly caved.

But like a champ I stepped up. For a while I was sustained
by its arc, for a while I was somebody, now I’ve got to have it.
Give it to me, let me be the one to say it in sky—or blood, dirt,

or stone. I’m truly worthy now. I admit, before I was not what I should
have been. It’s not my fault, though, you know. People have gone
to great lengths to subvert me. You know only my assaults, my bendings
of the tired into tricks that won’t pay up front, that want
on their own to know their name is written along your arm,

or under your lip. Well, the wine-dark sea still rolls. The cerulean
comes to my call. I’ve bare begun my mark across these centuries but
were I to die this very day, I’d go well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Chimney Fires

are always a surprise
like the clap
less so herpes
which may be
a life sentence
but hey, it beats AIDS

Powerful Poetry

yeah man
feel my muscle
see me bleed
it was hot
or anything
else you can think of
I just want to
be where you breathe

I Was Once Accused

of being incapable
of beginning a sestina
without saying fuck

which is so ridiculously untrue
I can hardly mount a defense

in fact I can’t

so believe what you want
history will bear me out

Up From Mud

and out of Babylon
spitting fire
we came
with our ears open
and eyes
fresh as a babe’s
to see if it was true
God had come down
and he was in the park
illuminating people
left, right and center
which I didn’t want to miss
give me the shortcut anytime
I don’t care if it works
just give it to me
well. it didn’t work
until the next time; I tripped.
it worked then

Encounters With The Mystic

were legion
everyone had
spirit guides
up the wazoo
what made her ass special
was her
that’s all
pass the peas

The Dogs

looked to us
for guidance

finding none
nor reassurance

they all ran off
when we ate one

Dang Me

if they had,
you wouldn’t be reading this;

woman, did you weep
when you thought I was gone?

maybe I don’t look like so much
on the outside,

and it’s probably true
that I’m a cruel and lying coward;

I happen to be working on just that little thing
at exactly this moment;

what’s my deadline?

You Shouldn’t Have To

kill yourself to write a poem
fuck what could be easier
repeat after me

my mind is a musical instrument

it thinks mainly in rhyme but
strictly in rhythm

however you spell it
it drives

These Are My Death Poems

here I lie
under stone
mud and grit

I’ll probably
get used to it


is fine by me

those shits
don’t ask permission

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Any Time At All

the smoke from their fires rose and
twisted across the sky,
in the distance, you could feel

thunder. We fed the horses and
clawed down some jerky and laid down
to rest our bodies if not our souls;

we were all dead by morning.

I mean, I guess we were; the new morning
never came, I mean, it didn’t seem to,
at least not for me, so I
naturally assumed that

we’d been murdered in our sleep
by wild Indians;

is that wrong?


My faithful fans once again get to sink their hungering into our unknown scribe (if you misssed Ch. 1, see September posts), again from these lost pages spilling around my feet

2. Cops and Rooftops


Sterling Dew

My parents pretty much let me do whatever I wanted when I was fairly young. Maybe they really trusted me for some strange reason, or maybe they didn't think they could stop me. Anyway, I started going to NYC all the time for punk and hardcore shows when I was about 13 or 14.

Jeffrey had a car and a license and was always ready for a road trip. We would all pile in whatever shabby beater car he happened to be driving and take off to the city for days. Our punk scene was so small at that point that the bands we wanted to see would never make it anywhere near us. The real shit was going on in the city as far as we were concerned and we wanted to be a part of it.

Agnostic Front, Cro-mags, and the Bad Brains were blowing up like crazy at that point, and there were a whole new slew of bands that were popping up left and right. Bands like Underdog, Killing Time, Sick of it All, and Leeway. These bands didn't even have records but they had an incredible energy. We wanted to see that kind of stuff so we had to travel. Sometimes we would hit shows at the Anthrax in Connecticut on our way down, drive to NYC beat up and bruised, crash out, then wake up for the Sunday matinee at CBGB's and do it all over again. It was always an adventure.

Jeffrey was not exactly the best driver. He also was not quite right in the head. Getting in the car with him was always an experience in itself. Sometimes it could be scary. But one way or another, we always managed to arrive safely. Maybe missing a muffler or dragging a gas tank, but safe. His driving style, though, did tend to attract the cops for some reason.

They pulled us over three times on one trip, and that was just the beginning. Jeffrey insisted it was because of the sticker on his car that showed a skeletal cop beating up a punk and said "Aggression," but the truth is he was all over the road due to his over-active mouth. Nick was with us too on that one, and Pauline and her boyfriend Daniel.

The first cop who pulled us over, somewhere in New Hampshire, was a real dick about it. He fucked with Jeff about the sticker and about the way we looked.

"You guys headin' for a Halloween party?" he sneered. "Bit early for Halloween isn't it?"

We drove out of that one with a $125 ticket.

I've never been very fond of cops. When I was about 3 we lived in Florida with a bunch of hippies, in a small commune-like situation. One day the cops raided the place and seized a small amount of pot. The woman that had it was a friend of my mother’s. She had a son who was about my age. They took him away from her and didn't return him until the next day. That kind of terrified me. I don't remember it but I do remember hearing about it and being afraid that they might return for me. The thought that anyone could take me away from my mom was horrifying at the time.

It was years before I learned all the other neat things the cops could do. I never really got into too much trouble, but cops are like the chicken pox, there is only so long you can avoid them.

Somehow I managed to sleep through being pulled over the second time, and during the third I pretended I was sleeping. I was sick of questions. Jeffrey managed to talk his way out of getting a ticket by telling the cop he already had one. Eventually Jeff was able to deliver us to our destination, but not before he had told his life story to every cop in the northeast.

The five of us were staying on 6th Avenue at this guy Larry's house. Larry was an older guy who was friends with Nick’s parents. He was out of town and had agreed to let us crash at his house, clearly unaware of what we were capable of. It was fairly nice but like most NYC apartments, it was not much more than a box.

That night we ran into two guys we knew from home, Eddie and Luke. They had their van parked right in front of our building. It was strange to run into them in the city by random chance, but New York is like that. So many paths cross its beaten track, at one time or another, and for so many different reasons. The motive for these guys was coke, I believe. That was long before I had gotten into hard drugs, and I wasn't really interested.

We sat in the van and smoked out, yet again. That was cool for a bit, then the crazy kids started huffing this reddish-brown liquid out of a small vial and things got ridiculous. They were really into it for some reason, but it just gave me a headache. It was like sniffing nail polish to get high. It took me about twenty minutes to convince them that skulking in a van on the side of the road sniffing fumes out of a vial was no way to spend an evening in New York City

Dragon Ale was only one dollar for a forty-ouncer in the city back then so you could get fucked up for very cheap. I couldn’t buy beer in NYC until I was 16, so Jeffrey had the job. He collected a few dollars from each of us and went to stock up. We then crowded into the apartment and proceeded to get smashed. It was summer and it was hot. The air conditioner in Larry’s apartment was not working and cold beer seemed to be the only relief from the heat.

Before long they were after another cheap high. “Whippits”, the cheapest high known to man, headache guananteed. Whippits were little canisters of nitrous oxide that they used for batching up whipped cream and stuff like that. Back in those days they had “Optimo” shops on every block in New York City. They were little head shops that sold tobacco, pipes, bongs, and of course, Whippits. There must have been thousands of them.

Whippits were not like the medical grade nitrous that they give you at the dentist, though. We used to get huge five-foot tall tanks of that shit for parties at the commune when I was a kid. I remember sneaking hits out the tank with Nick when we were about 8 or something. We would run into the tank room, grab the hose from the adults, who were too fucked-up to stop us, huff down as much as we could and stagger out of the room giggling. Nick would look at me, still holding his hit in and say:

“I’m going out of my skull man,” in a husky airless voice, and we would both roll on the floor with laughter for a few minutes, then jump up and go do it again.

It’s fun being a kid because you feel safe and secure. I did anyway. Everyone is pretty much on your side, and just tries to keep you from hurting yourself. You don’t have to worry about a lot of crap. At about fourteen that innocence starts to get beaten away by all the bullshit. Of course, that doesn’t stop you from doing stupid shit.

Whippits were definitely stupid shit. After a couple 24-packs I start to feel like I’ve been holding my face over a campfire or something, just roasting in the heat. Sometimes, if I did enough I would pass out and have little dreams. At the time they seemed long and elaborate, but I was never out for more then a few moments.

When I was younger my friends and I would try to get that feeling from hyperventilating. This kid Wayne who was a bit older then us showed us the trick. One person would squat down for a few moments and breath in and out heavily. Then when the time was right they would stand up and another person would grab them from behind and squeeze their chest just below the ribcage. It made you see stars, feel faint sometimes fall over, but it was a little bit like a nitrous high.

One time a few of us were doing it in the parking lot at the commune. This one kid Ren had never tried it before. After breathing for a few moments he stood up fast and Nick grasped him around his chest. Nick squeezed and Ren’s face went into a stupid looking grin as he went out.

It wasn’t uncommon for someone to pass out while hyperventilating but usually the person holding them up has enough sense to let them down gently. Unfortunately for Ren, Nick didn’t possess that kind of sense. He let go and Ren fell like a rock to the ground. His body remained straight and erect as it tipped over and his forehead collided with the dirt. We all gasped in horror. I didn’t think he would get back up.

Nick ran to his side and checked to see if he was alive. We had heard some horror stories about a guy who died hyperventilating, so naturally we feared the worst. The blow to his forehead was no laughing matter either, but damn, it looked funny.

“Ren are you ok?” Nick was shaking him gently.

“Uhhhh, you prick” Ren groaned. ”you were supposed to catch me.”

“Sorry man.” Nick pleaded. “I didn’t realize you were out.”

“Yeah right.” Ren snapped irritably as he staggered to his feet.

As he turned around to face us, we all fell dead silent again, though only for a moment. Stuck right in the middle of Ren’s forehead was a shiny green Mountain Dew bottle cap. We all burst into laughter when we saw it.

“What?” Ren snapped. He was now quite annoyed.

“Dude, look in the mirror.” said Nick.

Ren bent over and peered into the rear view mirror of a nearby car. His cheeks turned slightly pale as he looked. He stared with a blank expression for a few seconds then a morbid look crossed his face, only to be replaced by a stupid looking grin. He began to laugh and we followed his lead. We then pried the bottle cap from his head leaving nothing but a bloody imprint on his forehead.

Naturally, we were excited when we realized that you could get a better version of that high, simply by buying these fancy little cartridges and sucking them down out of a balloon. It was all so much easier. Of course, they still made you black out and fall down half the time, but that was half the fun.

By evening we were on our sixth box of whippets. Nick, Eddie, Luke and I had gone up the roof of Larry’s building, which was fairly tall. I don’t know how many stories it was but the people below looked like ants from this height. If they had looked up they would not have been able to see us. We sat for awhile, inhaling balloons and dropping the empty cartridges to the street below.

After awhile you start to build up a tolerance to nitrous and you have to do more and more to get high. Luckily you could fit quite a few into a balloon. I put four into one fat pink balloon and prepared to inhale. Frost poured off the end of the balloon where the nozzle was frozen shut. I grasped it with my warm fingers until the ice melted, then quickly huffed it down. I was able to finish it in four breaths despite the fact that it was swelling near to the point of bursting.

I stood up just before the rush hit me, only to find that my legs were a bit confused about the location of the ground. I lost my balance and tumbled to the floor making a loud crash. They all laughed at me. We smoked out, yet again, regardless of the fact that the nitrous made us completely immune to the weed. We could still try.

Before long the weed had been consumed and we were forced to turn our attention back to the whippits. I had just done a double balloon when I saw a light flash quickly by in the corner of my eye. It was gone so fast I could not even be sure that I had really seen it. I heard a loud shuffling sound that could have been footsteps, and then . . .

"Don’t move motherfucker." The voice was not loud or overly hostile despite the owner's remark.

I felt a point of pressure on the back of skull. My heart skipped a beat as I realized it was a gun. Its cold barrel was pressed against the back of my shaven head which was swimming in a nitrous-induced daze. I had no intentions of moving. I didn't think I could. I was too busy fantasizing about how my brains would look splattered all over the roof if he pulled the trigger. Maybe a few pieces would make it over the edge and land on a pedestrian or two. I kept these thoughts to myself and before I knew it was yanked roughly to my feet.

"Put your hands against that wall" a voice said calmly.

The realization that these were cops actually brought some relief. I had half expected to see some crazed, gun-toting junkie or an over-excited tenant intent on protecting his building. Either one would be likely to shoot us. The cops probably would not. Besides, all the pot was gone, and whippets were fully legal.

I did as I was instructed and leaned over, putting my hands on the four-foot-high brick wall that separated me from one hell of a fall. Far below people scurried to and fro like ants gathering food to bring back to their hill, every one of them in such a rush. I wondered briefly what each of their lives were about and what drive possessed them to race along so madly.

Rough hands patted me down and riffled through my coat pockets, dragging me out of my thoughts and back to reality. I was relieved that I had left my bowl in the apartment. It's always a good feeling knowing you are clean when you're being searched, pulled over, or even talking to the cops. It makes you so happy that you just want to help the kind officer in any way possible.

"Here, officer, let me empty my pockets for you." or "Please, officer, don't trouble yourself, I'll put these handcuffs on myself." It feels great to be innocent.

On the other hand, if you've got some shit on you, you're fucked and you know it. And you know the cop knows it too. You feel like you have a sign attached to your forehead that says "CRIMINAL", and you wonder if any loose drugs or weapons might be hanging out of your pockets. So of course you check, and then you wonder if the cop is wondering what you’re checking. It's a vicious circle that makes you appear at best confused, at worst guilty.

We had a close one this one time when Jeffrey and I were coming back from one of our "punk rock pilgrimages" as we used to call our trips to the city. We were in Jeffrey’s Pinto and we were hauling ass. He had this ridiculous stereo in there with like ten speakers and gigantic subwoofers. It was worth about twice as much as the actual car, which, like most Pintos, was a piece of shit.

We had that thing cranked up full blast as we raced up I-89 doing 80, which was fast for a Pinto. It was so loud that we never heard the crunching sound as the gas tank dropped down from the underside of the car and began dragging along the highway. We never even noticed until we were getting pulled over and Jeffrey killed the music. It was a miracle the tank had not exploded and killed us. The cop said that there were sparks trailing all over the road behind us and that we were lucky to be alive. He seemed horrified by the fact that we had not noticed our gas tank fall off because we were too busy rocking. This seemed to sum up all of his fears about our generation.

After a brief interrogation and a lengthy lecture he offered to give us a ride to a nearby motel. My first instincts were to refuse. My brain scraped and scrambled for a way out, but found none. In my jacket pocket, my sweating hand clutched a large glass honey jar filled with bright green, crystal-covered skunk bud, at least half an ounce. The jar barely fit into my pocket. I cringed in horror, feeling sick inside, as I climbed into the back of the cruiser, weed and all.

The ride was about ten miles but it felt like ten thousand. It was my first ride in the back of a police car. In my pockets my hands were sweating. My left hand white-knuckled the jar and forced it into the bottom of my pocket. I imagined it falling to the floor and spewing its contents out all over the car. I felt like puking. That blinking neon sign on my forehead was clearly reading "CRIMINAL," but officer didn't seem to notice. True to his word, he dropped us at a motel off one of the exits and gave us the number of a local mechanic. By the time he was out of sight, we were back up on the interstate, hitchhiking home. I don’t remember seeing the Pinto again.

Here on the roof, though, it was not like that. I had nothing illegal on me and I was not breaking any laws that I could think of. It felt great. I felt confident that I could explain the whole thing given the chance. However, it looked like I might not get that chance.

One cop still had his gun on me as another locked a pair of handcuffs tightly around my wrists. The metal was cold against my skin.

"How did you get up here" he asked shining his flashlight in my eyes.

"We took the stairs," I replied. I had not meant it to sound snide but I was sure it had.

"Cut the bullshit," the officer snapped, clearly annoyed. “How did you get into this building?”

“We have keys. We’re staying at a friend’s apartment on the 3rd floor.”

I couldn’t tell if he believed me or not, but his attitude seemed to warm slightly. He began to ask me a long series of questions, ignoring the fact that Eddie was being roughed-up by the three other cops. He could not help but mouth off at them and he was suffering for it. They spun him around and pushed him down onto the wall forcing his face out over the edge and cuffed his hands behind his back. He squealed a bit as the cuffs bit into his flesh.

“How do you like that, fucker,” the oldest cop snarled, grabbing Eddie by the shoulder and spinning him around again.

“It feels fucking great, man,” Eddie blurted out sarcastically.

“Watch your fucking mouth.” The cops gray moustache was bristling slightly. He slapped Eddie across the face with the back of his hand. Not hard enough to do any real damage, just hard enough to silence him.

Apparently I had the good cop and Eddie had the bad cop. That or I just had enough common sense not to piss them off. At any rate, he was pretty decent to me after I explained the situation to him. Still he made no attempt to stop his partners from roughing up Eddie. I had almost talked us out of it when a large bag of white powder fell from Eddie’s jacket pocket onto the rooftop. The cops were thrilled.

“Damn what’s that you got there?” The youngest was quite excited. “Looks like coke to me.” We were finished now and I knew it. This was it.

“I think you better take us down and show us this apartment now,” said “goodcop,” glaring at me with disgust. His eyes called me a liar.

Luke was being searched now and the cops’ treasure pile was growing rapidly. Weed (someone had been holding out), two more pipes, more coke, a knife, some strange vial of nasty-looking liquid. The pigs were stoked.

“Damn you guys are the real jackpot,” one smirked as he began loading all the evidence into a bag.

I looked out over the edge of the roof in despair. Twenty stories below there was freedom. I considered jumping. Traffic was moving smoothly on the Avenue of the Americas, no obstacles to hinder its flow. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be whisked away by its steady flow. To anywhere but here.

One car, it seemed, was not content to flow with the current. Its horn blared out as it sped down a side street that connected with Sixth Avenue, oblivious, it seemed, to the people in its path. It quickly reached Sixth Avenue but failed to turn right or left. Instead it forged on straight ahead, plowing through the front window of a movie theater. Terrified screams mixed with sounds of breaking glass and twisting metal as people and smoke poured out of the shattered wall. Even after the death of the vehicle its horn continued to moan in protest. Numerous sirens joined its chorus as it barked out its final note.

“Guess what, boys” said goodcop. “This is your lucky day.”

They quickly un-cuffed us and hurried out into the stairwell. I could hear them thundering down the stairs for a moment even over the wail of the sirens. We all stared at each other in amazement.

“What the fuck just happened?” said Luke.

“I have no idea,” I laughed. “But the cop was right. It is our lucky day. They forgot the weed.”

We all laughed in total disbelief of everything that had just happened.

“So who was holding out?”

As Close As I Can Come To It

that’s where I’ll be, where the breath is drawn in through the heart, and seated
deep in a disappearing dot that never goes away. Where our names are all vowels
ending in glottal stop, surprise, or dismay; where not even the red fern can root,
there will be I, along by my cuse, a more low-down wench I’d never find
and I knew it.

Still, I’d been asked to provide suitable sport for one going grayer now
than the lowering sky over Akron, and there, my friend, is the pits. There,
not far out of town, ancient smelters go green and phosphor white in the
dusk of another man’s day. Not mine. Here, with you knelt between my knees,
smiling shyly, I begin to know

the true meaning of avocation versus work, it’s a calling, no argument. And no interruptions. Later, your cheeks looked rouged, eyes bright as two crystals
bigger than the whole damn world. Would we ever come up
for air? Or, break stride to say piss to whatever, whatever?
I don’t know about you, honey, but I’m hungry.

Woman say never meet a feller so down at the ground. Well,
I’m doing my best, chicken, I am.

--R Skogsberg


BigTown Gallery, Rochester, VT
Oct 6 – Nov 10

Need a reason to drive three hours into the heart of snow country before any snow even flies? Here’s five: VARUJAN BOGHOSIAN (constructions and collage), LAWRENCE FANE (sculpture), PENELOPE JENCKS (sculpture), NANCY TAPLIN (painting), and HUGH TOWNLEY (sculpture and relief). And one more: you won’t see this assemblage of artists exhibiting together anywhere but at BigTown Gallery’s Gallery Members Show (Oct 6 through Nov 10)—featuring artists selected from BigTown’s first three seasons, each showing new work and older pieces not seen in their respective solo shows.

In only three years, gallery owner and director Anni Mackay seems to have already fulfilled her mandate, that of bringing the best of contemporary fine art to central Vermont. This show not only reminds one of the quality of the work and the maturity of the artists that BigTown has been showing, it provides a wonderful opportunity for the public to see pieces by major artists interacting and resonating with each other.

Jencks, Townley, Boghosian, and Fane, all can be said to have “arrived” at the top stratum of living/working artists, that is, artists whose work is getting peak exposure even as it evinces a visible maturity of process. If, by that standard, Nancy Taplin (at 57, the youngest in this show) has previously been characterized as “emerging,” it is evident in the way her paintings strongly anchor what might otherwise seem a sculpture-heavy show, that she is arriving. Her Bulging at the Base (50 x 64 inches, oil on linen), seems pitched directly between Hugh Townley’s painted wood relief, Mendoda Summer (35 x 23 1/2 inches, painted wood relief), and Wendigo, his large free-standing mahogany piece (39 x 81 inches), almost seeming to form a bridge from one to the other.

Lawrence Fane’s Receivers I and Receivers II chart, as his pieces always do, ever new extensions of the delicacy expressible in wood. Yet they share with Townley’s work that hard-hewn physicality taken to the very edge of refinement. Seen in this context, these pieces seem, as well, to be fully worked-out three-dimensional details of the spirited expression of form so clearly marked as a concern in Taplin’s paintings.

Meanwhile, my favorite piece in the show is Varujan Boghosian’s Untitled (14 3/4 x 17 3/8 inches, construction), wherein a vaguely masculinely-featured antique doll’s head projects from the frame, crowning an otherwise formal portrait. The head looks out with a riveting penetration that seems to follow wherever one moves—a vision altogether too knowing, too all-seeing, despite the seemingly blooded bandage entirely covering its eyes.

And in the finely expressed detail, even the colors, Boghasian’s collage work leads straight to Penelope Jencks’s studies in bronze from her Beach I and Beach II series.

Jencks’s pieces discard the sacredness that seemed to surround Giacometti’s similarly elongated works yet find their own hallowed ground in the intensely personal all-too-human portraits she achieves. Though clearly, achingly resigned to the physical, these pieces seem to succinctly capture the inner lives of their everymen, each displaying in form their own hard truth, as no other will ever know them.

This show will well reward any effort to attend it. Here, one experiences, to delightful degree, the profound chemistry, the multi-lingualed dialog, generated among mature works by differing artists when they get together.

Be advised, too, travelers, of BigTown’s upcoming Holiday Show (Nov 17 through Jan 15), featuring Joan Morris, fabric designer for The Lion King, showing Shibori fabrics overlayed with gold leaf; Liz Quackenbush, noted ceramicist; and Pat Dipaula Klein with abstract silk embroideries on linen.

--—R Skogsberg, 2007

Previously shown at BigTown Gallery, Rochester, VT

Monday, October 8, 2007

SOLDIERS: Photography—David Torcoletti

The Gallery at Mt. Ida College – Newton MA
Show: 10/23 – 12/9
Reception: Wed.,10/31, 5:00 – 7:00
Gallery talk with David Torcoletti and Denise Healy at 6:00

The extraordinary provenance of the photographs of Viet Nam War-era American servicemen in David Torcoletti’s show at The Gallery at Mt. Ida College, in Newton, confers an unassailable authenticity on their composite of image and effect. But though their visceral interface with the viewer emerges dynamically from an interaction and catalysis among the elements—context, effects, events—which, taken together, constitute their unique coalescence of complexity—each photograph has a stand-alone integrity from which no contextual element nor effect may be split off.

My first look had me reeling. The confluence of time and fate, the sweep of event smeared, as if randomly, across these young faces is quite too sad for words, if still no less than astonishing.

Make no mistake. These are not combat shots. These photographs have their origin in the hundreds of 2 x 3 inch b&w snapshots and 3 x 5 inch color Polaroids sent by American soldiers in Viet Nam to a South Vietnamese radio and television personality known professionally as “Mai Lan.”

Broadcasting to them for hours each night, visiting bedside in hospitals by day, she encouraged her listeners to send her photographs of themselves—and they did, by the hundreds, often signed, or with small notes of appreciation addressed to her; to one so endeared to them; one who, herself, would soon be forced to flee the geopolitical vise that was the unification of North and South Viet Nam.

Mai Lan escaped with only what she could carry, including a mere few of those hundreds of photos, and it was that passage from her war-torn country itself that marked them—and that brought forth this needful record.

Hastily stored, damaged by the elements in travel, in the effect of deterioration here’s a soldier whose face has been swept away—the crisp tunic, sparking insignia, and erect posture remain, as if he might return—here’s a group shot, eight or nine men, mostly smiling, young, insouciant, untroubled, one could believe. But fate has cut away its requisite percentage from their brotherhood, its vicious warping reclaiming any hope of recognizing who this one was here, or that one—someone once stood here.

The photographer makes no special claim of artistry for these photographs, attributing the power and complexity of the images to the effects of chemical disintegration and the passage of time. To that modest assertion, I would add the indelible imprint of the present moment accumulating context as it becomes history; that, and the keen eye and strong heart of David Torcoletti.

Mr. Torcoletti has said that in reproducing and enlarging these photographs (avg. 20” x 30”) he avoided creating any special effects—and that only to emphasize certain aspects of the image would he raise the contrast to spotlight a certain area of the degradation, or increase the color saturation to highlight an evocative stain or streak.

I’m thankful that Mai Lan, the donor of these images, and Mr. Torcoletti, by mere happenstance it seems, became acquainted, and that the artist had the remarkable eye to take in, as if in wide view, in those 2 x 3s, the symmetries translating these lives into the events they passed through; here is that record, one that in my view needs to be seen.


--R Skogsberg, 2007