Sonnet Challenge #18

A good friend is currently in a place that is unenviable, having been diagnosed with a brain tumor and then a lung tumor.  It seems that the lung tumor is, and the brain tumor might be treatable.  Yesterday she had to give a speech to her Toastmaster group about Uncertainty.  We were talking on the weekend about this and the fact that she had just received the copy of Busting the Bard that I sent, and I said I was always open to subjects for inspiration for sonnets.  So she challenged me with her subject ‘Uncertainty’, and when a sonnet promptly fell out of the end of the pen, she found inspiration to include it in her speech.

We stagger on uncertainty’s straight path,

a hodge-podge mix of dust and stepping stones

that zigzag through our lives and cut a swath

of chaos, for we know not where it goes.

Between the forest of many different trees

that hang low branches that might offer fruit,

succulent nutrition or poison’s tease,

and grow so thick that we cannot see through

to surety.  This path, these trees are set

and we must follow, gamble right and left

at forks, and clueless how to place the bet –

our lives – to flourish or to be bereft.

So flip the coin of vague uncertainty

the other side is possibility.


Poetry about my paintings.

Although I write poetry for my own paintings and have written poetry for the artwork of others, I had a first last month when one of the attendees at the reception at my joint show in the Glass Outhouse Gallery wrote a poem for one of my paintings.  George Howell wrote the following poem for my painting ‘Dark Mist Arising‘:

Smoke Tree

For Jeni Bate

Our eyes align

Along the horizon,

Prisoners of our feet,

Firmly anchored to the earth.


And the sky is a sigh

Of promise and release,

The free range of cloud

And soul.


You cut the skyscape

Into a stack of cards,

And rearranged the clouds

Mixed media skyscape painting

“Dark Mist Arising”. Mixed Media on panel 48×24″.

Sonnet Challenge #17

I seem to have spent so much time recently on travelling and teaching, there’s been little time to paint (except commissions) or write, though the most recent trip to the Phoenix area produced another eight sonnets which I have yet to even type up.  Nevertheless, even without prompting from something or someone, occasionally a poem will fall out of the end of the pen.

Happiness is a gray stick
A thick, gray, gnarly four-foot stick to hold

and lean on, when you have Atlas’s day;

warm wood to grip, not metal, when you’re cold;

a friend to prod dark paths and find your way

between elations clouds, chasm’s dark eyes.

Such is the stick of happiness, who prods

you on from gray dawn to a bright sunrise

with steadiness solider than carrot gods

that promise futures.  Happiness is now,

it takes tomorrow when it becomes today;

yesterday’s a less, not a furrowed brow –

or just a tale that we can laugh a way.

When you walk with the stick of happiness

you’ll go through life with more, and never less.

Sonnet Challenge #16

Quiver of Quotes came up with some interesting little used words, that piqued my interest for continuing the stream of sonnets.  The flow had taken a break after having finally surpassed (in numbers at least) Shakespeare’s collection.  Here was the one that came to fruition from The Quote’s list.  And thank you as ever to for giving me enough material!

Armillary Sphere

The mystery of an armillary sphere!

How does it work?  How does it turn around?

Rings built to represent what hangs in air,

or how it is positioned from the ground.

I wonder at the workings of the mind

that dreamed up such an engineering feat;

Ptolemaic turns on earth defined,

Copernican with sun at center seat.

Mankind has realized since he looked up

that stars revolve across the deep blue night

and puzzled at the turnings of this cup

and with the armil, tried to show it right.

Stargazers wonder at the skies so clear,

then track it with an armillary sphere.

Sonnet Challenge #15

This suggestion was ‘the frustration of a red light that never seems to change’.  It reminded me of an incident in the high desert when I was driving up to a show there.  I took a ‘short cut’, which turned out to be the shopping strip.  There was a light at every driveway.  I think I must have passed 30 or so lights.  3 of them were actually green.  I think two I got caught at twice, and one particularly badly time light I was behind it red 4 times.  But before that light, here’s a true story…..


The Long light.
I wanted to rush orange but didn’t dare,

my mirror shows a cop is right behind.

We’re at the light that’s turned to red and there

we sit.  And sit.  And sit.  And then I find

the light ahead’s red too, and one car waits

for nothing.  Just like us no vehicles cross

the intersection.  Green!  Ha! He still bates

his breath ahead on wheels that gather moss.

It’ll turn by the time I get there, that’s for sure.

Can’t race – the cop in tow – I thus proceed.

He’s green!  He goes….. but quickly red once more!

I feel the hopes of getting home recede.

We stand and burn gas, stress until we’re mean

at lights that take so, so long to turn green.

Cloud Appreciation Society Newsletter

I always love getting this newsletter whenever Gavin gets to writing one.  The vacations sound a little cold for this desert rat, but the necklaces and earrings on the ‘Buy Cloud Jewelry‘ page look like I might need to sent Santa some fake news about how good I’ve been this year….

How good? My cloud painting ‘The Road to Selfoss’ is on the front page of their website this month.   That’s not fake news!  It was painted from a photograph by my good friend Murray Foote.

Sonnet Challenge #13

“Mongolian Archers” is another of the challenges from Eric in Ventura.  I don’t know if Eric also likes bows and arrows (I suppose all guys are sometimes still in touch with that part of their inner 8 year old) but this was another topic that sent me to Wikipedia…

Mongolian Archers

The horn, the wood, the sinew form a curve.

Fit in the feathered stock and then – release!

The arched trajectory that we observe

was not invented as a thing of peace.

But games are where such archery is fun –

at the Nadaam we will compete at ‘sur’.

But short camel-hide baskets never run!

Our bows have been designed for hunting fur-

wrapped food, and shooting from your galloping horse –

distinct advantage over knights with spears

until development had run its course

and guns and bullets made the west our peers.

But if you’re hunted, if you are our prey

And you can hear that draw – away!  Away!