The Good Neighbor Award

My neighbors’ dog continued to bark
Until I thought that I’d go stark
Raving mad,
Which if you know me,
You’d certainly know
That I certainly don’t have too far to go
Stark raving mad.

Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf
Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf

Their place looked empty and no one was home
And I’m sitting here trying to write this poem
And nothing rhymes or makes any sense
And if you know me
You’d know that the sense I might actually make
Might actually be an actual mistake,
But the only rhyme I can possible make is:

Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf
Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf

My normally normal blood pressure, I think
Was starting to rise and although I don’t drink,
I found myself quickly
Approaching the brink
Of considering an option
Like a high-octane concoction,
Since the barking has changed the equation
This is officially a special occasion.
But if you know me
You’d certainly think
That certainly I
Must certainly drink
A lot.
But I don’t.

Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf
Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf

But maybe…

Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf
Arf-arf, arf-arf, arf-arf

This might be a good day to start!

And then
Is when
I wrote
The note:

Your dog’s barking like crazy
And it’s driving me nuts
And now I’m worried that you
Might think I’m a putz.

But I’m sure you’ll forgive me
This point I’ll not belabor
And mention instead that it must be said
That you are the very best neighbor.

Finally I pushed the send button
And she responded immediately
Gracious and kind and very concerned
Just as sweet as I know her to be.

The barking did cease.
No palms were greased.
No one called the police.
And my talent increased
(OK—that was stretch,
So nobody kvetch!)
But if you know me
You know I’m so happy to be
Right here at home
Writing this poem
In such heavenly
Heavenly peace.

Illustration Credit: http://www.quickmeme.com, “Driving Dog: Let Me Put it in Bark”

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Tomorrow Today Will Be Yesterday

 

What would I do
With all the time
That I waste every day
Surfing on line?

Maybe I’d see
All that dust I ignore
That settles on tables,
The lamps and the floor.

Maybe I’d notice
The refrigerator is crammed
With mashed potatoes gone moldy
And blue furry jam.

Maybe I’d finally get a handle
On closet control
And rescue the closet from
Its sucking black hole.

Maybe I’d hear
The birds chirp and squawk,
Shut down my computer
And go for a walk.

Maybe I’d wash down
The front porch chairs
And make the porch look like
Its caretaker cares.

Maybe I’d stir from my stupor
Before my chin hits my chest,
Get up and actually go to bed,
Stretch out and get some rest.

Maybe I’d cook something
Nice for ex-friends
And we’ll laugh, hug and celebrate
And finally make amends.

Maybe I’d even realize
That right now can sure seem long
But tomorrow today will be yesterday
So I’d best move myself along.

And maybe I’d write
A poem every day
Without fearing I’ll run
Out of good things to say.

And maybe I’d actually
Post it on line
Where you’ll read it and wonder
If you’re wasting your time.

Illustration Credit: “Wasting Time,” http://www.mydailymusing.com

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I’m Already Against the Next War

Nobody wants the immigrants
That our bombs create
We only know that when we’re scared
Our first response is hate.

We attack a sovereign nation
Who’s killing people wrong
So we drop our bombs to kill some more
Just to show them how it’s done.

But bombs can make things better
For our warring sides here at home.
Now Repubs and Dems can get together
And plan a proxy war by drone.

Eating steak tartare at Mar-a-Lago
While wreaking havoc with no shame.
Making deals with others’ lives is fun
When your skin’s not in the game.

Humanitarians and Barbarians…
Who is who and who are we?
Both vying to claim the cold comfort
Of a Pyrrhic victory.

Killing for a “moral” cause
Keeps our hands and souls pristine.
But in the end, dead is dead
And our noble charge obscene.

Illustration Credit: “Perpetual War,” by Anthony Freda

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Filed under National Poetry Month, Perspectives, Poems, Political Commentary

Le Pain Quotidien: Getting a Rise out of a Crummy Poem

 

Give us this day our daily bread
And let’s hope that it’s really quotidian.
Just in case you should happen to fall on your head
And you happen to cross the meridian
That separates carbs from things that are not,
Then I’d suggest something Euclidian.

But what’s geometry to do with bread?
Only to take measure of all that is said
And to find the angle that’s least obtuse
Just to find any facts that could be of use.

Bread doesn’t smell bad
Nor bleed nor cry
And it won’t make you fat
If you don’t eat it fried.

Cold or hot,
Toasted or stale,
It’s the solid form
Of beer and ale.

So I don’t understand
Why bread you’ll eschew,
And curse those poor carbs
While swilling a brew.

But everything is relative
Or at least that’s my perspective
And as you can tell, I’m a zealot of
Making twaddle more connective.

But at the end of the day,
It’s safe to say
That a day without bread
Is a day that I dread.

Photo Credit: smileyland.com

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The God of the Wind

The God of the Wind has spent a sleepless, storm-tossed night,
Hard at work, sinking a ship or two, here and there.
Today he is as busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.
Not knowing where to unleash his unfocused rage,
He writhes and thrashes in spastic gyrations,
Grabbing at frantic starlings that pepper the steel-grey sky.
A tormented soul, he rattles our windows,
And shakes our walls to their very foundations.
He makes airborne those things not meant to fly.
A spoiled, angry child, hell-bent on a binge of destruction,
He rakes his giant fingers through the tree tops,
Delighting in every limb he snaps
And every tree he rips out by the roots.
He must have coughed up a lung or two
Knocking down every garbage can in town.
He blows up shirts,
Exposing hairy belly buttons and poochy love handles.
He blows up skirts,
Revealing things we’d rather keep under wraps.
He blows hats off heads,
And grit and sand into babies’ eyes.
He plasters big sheets of newspaper against chain link fences and
He snags plastic bags on trees.
All of out spite, you know?
Even the nagging crows get their comeuppance
As he dives between their little strutting black birdy legs
And puffs up their feathers in precisely the wrong way
Just to wound their false bully pride.
“There, take that,” he blusters.
A frenetic peripatetic
Bringing brass knuckles to a slugfest.
Everyone’s invited.

Illustration Credit: terraoko.com, “Stribog, God of the Wind”

 

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The Cruelest Month is Surely Not April

 

The cruelest month is surely not April
Because thinking so would prove me unstable
For insisting that sunny skies should hide from our view
The brewing of storms with the grayest of blue,
Lightning bolts piercing a dark burgeoning sky,
And a miraculous clearing caused by the eye
Of a treacherous storm as it hustles by.

If storms don’t delight but rather befuddle
Then we must never had found a most suitable puddle
Before which we’ll peel off our shoes and our socks
With wild abandon we’ll run along old wooden docks
From which we’ll jump screaming into a lake
Whose dusty thirst has been slaked by a downpour of late.
We’ll shake ourselves off like dogs from a bath
Squishing mud through our toes up a slippery path
Where we’ll fall and laugh and ruin our clothes
And withstand icy cold blasts from a garden hose.
As we’re wrapped in towels, we’ll shiver with coldness
And the Dry Ones will marvel at our stupid boldness.

Surely April seems cruel to those who hide
And peek through the blinds to glimpse outside.
But I still take issue with that ridiculous claim—
April isn’t cruel—it’s simply not tame.

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

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Interview with Artist Jean Capalbo: Inside the Magic

“Jean,” by Craig Chattin

Jean Capalbo is a world-class artist who just happens to live right here in Shandon, Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, Craig Chattin (a retired technical writer and editor, formerly of Aiken, SC), and their two dogs, Willie and Luke.

Craig and Jean are avid travelers and enjoy camping and being out in nature. Jean is a native South Carolinian, but has lived in Los Angeles, California, and most recently, in Sedona, Arizona, where she was active in the local arts community.

Primarily a painter, Jean has revealed herself as a sculptor, to the amusement and amazement of her friends and family. The top of the garden wall of her home features guardian spirits residing in Jean’s recently-created cement chickens, brilliantly captured in mid-peck-and-strut-mode.

“Big Red Rooster,” by Jean Capalbo

Not all of Jean’s artistic renderings are that “concrete,” though (pun intended!), but as with her cement chickens, there is a spirit of playfulness in so many of her paintings as well. Aesthetically, her colorful paintings are delightful flights of fancy, but a closer look often reveals a story layered with experiences and emotions that make us all who we are because of and in spite of it all.

Her work has been exhibited at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, Sedona, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California.

My thanks to Jean Capalbo for allowing me to post this interview here, and we both hope that you enjoy reading it.

The Interview

How would you describe the kind of art that you make?

I like to think it shows a celebration of life. I guess it’s mostly whimsical. I often end up weaving a story within it, so, sometimes it’s narrative. People have told me that they thought a painting was an illustration for a book, so, sometimes I guess it’s an open ended, whimsical narrative that could be called magical realism. Even when I’m doing a dog portrait, I like to think that I’m telling his/her story.

What is your favorite medium and why?

Lately, when it’s warm outside, it’s concrete. I had made some concrete chickens for my yard a while back and last summer I was inspired to increase the flock. I did a raven as well. There are so many concrete formulas, some resulting in very smooth detailed work, which mine are not. For paintings I prefer acrylics, which are the most forgiving.

How and/or why did you begin to make art?

I’ve been making art since I was a child and was always encouraged by grown-ups.

What are your favorite pieces of your own art and why?

“Beneath the Surface,” by Jean Capalbo

I have two favorite pieces that are both autobiographical. The first I painted after my first husband died in 2006. It is “Beneath the Surface,” which was done for a themed show in Sedona, “All That Has Passed Lies Not Far Below the Surface.”

The other one I painted when I moved back to South Carolina from Arizona. The house we bought here had been closed up for a couple of months before we could move into it. When we arrived, there were bugs—big roaches—living, dead, or dying all over the place. I had forgotten all about bugs since I had been living in a dry climate for so long. I was horrified! What had I done? That painting had my alter ego teetering on a tightrope above a jungle mired in buglife. It was not pleasant. Later I put an umbrella in her hand and changed the bug part to trees and foliage. What was interesting to me was, without the umbrella she seemed terrified. Adding the umbrella changed her expression to one of happy surprise and wonder without ever touching her face. That one I named, “Sometimes It’s a Tightrope.”

“Sometimes It’s a Tightrope,” by Jean Capalbo

How do you know when a piece is really finished?

I don’t. Even with the concrete I just have to stop.

What kind of reaction from people who experience your art makes you the happiest and/or the saddest?

When I’m painting someone’s pet and they tear up and say that I have captured their dog’s essence. That makes me happy. Or when someone smiles real big as they are looking at something I’ve done. I know my art is not for everyone, so I am not bothered when people pass it by now. That used to disappoint me.

Where do you get your ideas for your art?

Out of my head, for the most part. I had a professor at UCLA who had us cut out from magazines or newspapers images, colors, anything that attracted us. Then we’d make a collage and then use that total image from which to make a painting. It never ever comes out like the collage since the critical mind takes it over. Sometimes I’ll start like that.

“The Rooster,” by Jean Capalbo

Chickens and birds seem to be a recurrent theme in your work. I’m sure there’s a story there, right?

The chickens or birds are all about freedom. I often portray women in flight or women with birds. The idea of taking off, freeing oneself from constraints—self-imposed and otherwise—is appealing to me.

There was a time when some fellow artists and I did an art show fundraiser for an abused women and children’s shelter. The inspiration for my painting for this went back to my childhood when my family would visit my aunt on her farm. One summer there was a rooster who terrorized me. I let that rooster ruin my usual good time of running around the farm because I was afraid the leave the porch. He was always in the yard, ready to attack. Now I was bigger and stronger than that rooster, but I gave up all my power to it. So, in this case the bird did not represent freedom for me!

How do you deal with criticism?

I like criticism from people whose opinion I respect. I miss my wonderful critique group in Sedona which was made up of painters, photographers and sculptors.

What are your favorite tools for making your art?

I have a few favorite brushes. I mostly paint in acrylic, but still love the smell of oil. I also have some favorite things for mark making. There is a plastic filigreed placemat that I ripped up and have used for years. There’s only a little bit left that is not totally gunked up.

Who are your favorite three artists?

Oh, I love art museums and can be brought to tears looking at some paintings in person because I have stared at their reproductions in books all my life. Chagall is one. Bonnard is another favorite. I love the Fauvists/Post Impressionists like Matisse. I also love a lot of Latin American art, again for the bold expression of color, i.e., passion. For altogether different reasons I am drawn to Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, who were all women born early in the 20th century who are considered surrealists and lived storied lives.

Which three artists would you like to be compared with?

“The Birthday,” by Marc Chagall

I guess it would be most of the ones I mentioned before. People have said that what I do reminds them of Chagall, but I think it’s the lack of gravity there. You know, people fly.

What is your favorite art movement (realism, hyper-realism, surrealism, impressionism, post-modern, funk-pop, etc.)?

While I really admire modern movements like Super Realism and Photo Realism for their labor intensive dedication to detail (for example, Richard Estes, who is considered a founder of Photo Realism), my favorite movements are the old breakthroughs, in particular Post-Impressionism and Fauvism. They removed the limitations imposed on color and line, and in the process, liberated emotion and subjectivity. Artistic expression is about freedom, and that’s why these two movements are so relevant to my work.

When are you most creatively productive?

I don’t know if there is a particular time of day. If I get excited about an idea or something I’m working on, I don’t really think about anything else. I have not been known, however, to keep at something all night. I don’t like to lose sleep.

What do you think of the difference between what you want to express and the viewer’s interpretation?

I don’t care. Sometimes it can be very interesting!

Do you collect anything? If so, what and why?

My studio is filled with art materials, so I guess that is what I collect. Most anytime I hear about some new kind of paint or medium, etc. I want to try it. I even bought a kiln and potter’s wheel one time at a garage sale and played with that for a few months. Same with a rock saw, but with that I was afraid I’d saw off a finger, so it didn’t stay around long.

What is your favorite book and why?

I like crime mysteries that keep me up reading at night. I read a lot of non-fiction about social issues. Picking a favorite book is hard to do, but I can narrow it down to three: The Sound and the Fury, Moby Dick, and Anna Karenina are my favorites because they have rich, psychologically-complicated characters.

What’s the one piece of art from any other artist from any time period whatsoever that you could look at forever?

Detail of “Garden of Earthly Delights,” by Hieronymous Bosch

Nature I can look at forever. A piece of artwork…I don’t know, maybe “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” by Bosch. There’s a lot of stuff going on in there.

What is your pet peeve with the art world?

A lot of the art world is a lot of bull.

What’s the one art show you saw that really surprised you?

I was young and living in Germany teaching at a Department of Defense school and I took a bus to London over Thanksgiving and there at the Tate was a Post Impressionism Exhibition. It went on and on and on and I saw so many paintings I knew. It was the biggest and best art viewing experience I have ever had.

Where do you see your art going? Is it evolving, changing directions, becoming more eclectic, etc.?

“Jean & Craig, Willie & Luke,” by Gloria Talcove-Woodward

I have not painted in a while. In fact, this interview has inspired me. I have a good space full of art materials with which to play. I recently married again and married life is wonderful and very settling, so now I have the peace, if I can call it that, to let my mind wander and shut myself off up there. Craig understands. What I want to do is play with color. I had gotten stuck with a palette that didn’t change much and I want to change that. As for content, I don’t know. I have always painted my pets and I have not done my 9 year old, Willie, nor my newly adopted dog, Luke, who came with Craig. That would be an easy start, so, perhaps they will be my first project. When the season for mixing concrete ends, it might be time for a change.

 

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