Tell Me There’s an Artist

Tell me there’s a painting left not aiming for the earth –
A brush not tilted dirtward, swapping mockery for mirth.
Tell me there’s a sculpture left that isn’t undercarved –
A chisel dulled by shallow cuts and subjects heavenstarved.

Tell me there’s a canvas left that’s backlit by some glory –
A fabric for the telling of ambitious human stories.
Tell me there’s a poem left that isn’t ripped apart –
A song that ends connected to the blessing of the start.

Tell me there’s an artist left not driven by deceit –
A human servant building from the places incomplete.
Tell me there’s an artist left who knows his human error –
And tell me there’s a layman left who’ll view it as a prayer.


8 thoughts on “Tell Me There’s an Artist”

  1. I really enjoy your work.

    I wrote this for my niece a few years ago.

    Astronomy For Beginners
    For Moo

    Lying on my back, out in the snow,
    Infinity above, infinity
    Below, and me—quite comfortable—zipped-up
    Inside my olive snowsuit, I loved

    Exhaling. Slowly. Emptying my lungs.
    Watching my breath swirling in the sky.
    It chills me now. How coldly, and how boldly,
    I’d rid myself of everything I held

    Except the joy I took from frozen tears.
    The crystals at the corners of my eyes
    Were like the stars I saw, bright with promise,
    Shivering with silver laughter. Those nights.

    Those stars! We liked exchanging presents, in the sense
    Of tenses. Now and then. Stars made the dark
    More understandable. Like a map. Like this:
    A present for the future, shall we say?

    I’ll show you how to turn it to the date—
    Any date that you desire—so long
    As it is night, and dark and clear enough
    To pick a pattern out of all of that

    Chaos overhead. Look over there—
    That belted hourglass shaped like a man.
    That is Orion. Turning and returning
    To his quest. The Sisyphus of the sky.

    Night after night, Orion chases them—
    The Pleiades. They’re pretty. They might be
    Anything you’d give your life to touch
    But know you can’t. Things that are intangible

    Are kinder in the end. They touch us all
    The same. They give us hope. Love is like that.
    Like music or perfume. Love is nothing
    You can forget. It’s something you can sense—

    Pine and peppermint, perhaps a color
    Shifting softly in a pale aurora:
    Joy and tears and snow, a background glow
    That never will entirely disperse.


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Eric.

      Your poem is excellent, I’m sure Moo absolutely loved it. It’s playful, sincere, and neatly contained. I hope it’s not your only poem.


      1. Thanks. No, it’s not the only one. I publish a lot, here and abroad.

        I used to book poets and run a reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. I live in PDX now. Doing the Montaigne thing now. Avoiding the scene. Reading a lot of classics, writing and thinking.


        1. You avoid the scene, I scramble to find it. Sort of. I get glimpses, go to readings, etc. And I’m not sure how much I like it. I don’t hate it, but neither does it draw me irresistibly in. Still unpublished, except for two dubious selections by Seattle University. But I don’t think they were digging through piles of submissions, either.

          I’d like to read more of your work.


          1. The poetry scene is pretty easy to get into, although you need to be a little shameless. Find an open mic and network with the people you meet there. Maybe do some micro-reviews of books you like. (Bad reviews earn you no friends.) Poets are very vain.

            I ran a small journal for a while, too, in addition to my hosting and scheduling readings in NYC. I met a lot of writers around the world through this. This allowed me to couch surf from NYC to Berlin to Dublin to Abu Dhabi to Tokyo to Manila to Singapore and finally land in PDX when I tired of traveling.

            Read widely, write consistently, and edit brutally—like a Civil War Surgeon—with a saw and a shot of whiskey. And submit, submit, submit. Do not be discouraged by rejections. Editors really crave good poems. Success isn’t all about who you know and who sent you. Though there is some of that.

            Here are links to three different places I have published.





            1. Thanks for the links. Those are very good poems.

              The thing I need to do more is submit. I’m too selective about it, always trying to find just the right place to send my poems, which ends up meaning almost nowhere. Gotta just close my eyes and carpet-bomb. I’ve entered a few competitions, then realized, after reading the winners and the journals they’re published in, that it’s almost exclusively people who are already widely published, award-winners, tenured professors, etc. Just have to embrace my place at the bottom a little more honestly before creeping upward.

              So much of the published poetry, and the poetry being read at readings and open mics, is also, almost 100% identity obsessed. Especially here in Seattle, where it all sounds like a bunch of white people yelling “I’m not racist!” and everyone else yelling “yes you are!” It’s a bit of a turn-off.


              1. There is a definite hierarchy in the poetry world. It’s like the mob: Who are you? Who sent you? The major journals show a preference toward people in academia, PhD and MFA types. The competitions are mostly rigged in favor of known quantities. Or whoever happens to be #trending. I know because I know the judges.

                It isn’t hopeless though. I know a bunch of people who have made it. Genius grant winners, Stegner Fellows, and the like. Some have had best selling poetry books. So don’t give up hope. Be patient, be persistent.

                Racism, sexism and homophobia are really hot topics for self-flagellation. Colonialism, too. Pretty much every political cliche current has its own little crying corner in the spoken word world. It is worse on the West Coast than the East Coast. And worst of all in the US than anywhere else on Planet Earth. I lost most of my poetry buddies when I refused to get with the political program after 2016 and join the #Resistance. It was a clarifying moment.

                I got kind of depressed and thought about all of the work I had done to help some of them. This made me very sad. I thought about stopping writing for a while. But I didn’t. I dropped out of the scene on social media and focused more on reading and craft, re-reading the classics, and publishing abroad. I was much happier coming home at night to Catullus or The Arabian Nights or Borges or Rilke or Elizabeth Bishop than I ever was sitting through dreary readings by Millennial non-entities. Soon, I found my niche. And my writing improved. I am putting he finishing touches on a new book and have another two in the works.

                If I were you, I would try submitting to a few places like The New English Review, Soft Blow, maybe Tincture. New English Review might take some of your essays, too. (I am thinking in particular of efforts like your Instalanche essay, which brought me to you.)

                Also, you might like the link below. My friend gets poetry listings from Duotrope and forwarded this one to me. I am going to submit. You might be interested, too.



                1. Well, as a stay at home dad, I’m not sure I qualify for that last one. But they seem like a lighthearted bunch, so I’ll probably throw something at them anyway. Whine about the plight of the domestic male, etc. I’ll see what I have for them.

                  Thanks for the other sites. I’ve submitted to NER and softblow, so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t think TIncture exists anymore.


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