Moleskine: January ’17

It’s good to keep sketching fast, whenever I get a glimpse of inspiration, to just draw rapidamente, faster than I can think of what’s wrong.  It’s good to act despite my fears, to just do without attaching judgments.


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In Blue Hawaii

Just got back from a quickie across the ocean.


Stayed up on the northwest tip of Kamehameha’s island.


Had a nice room with a patio view of a lush hillside.


Got to spend some time at the beach.



Went to see some touristy historical sites.


Took a hike through a lava-locked pikupa forest.


Checked out the Kohala coast.



Watched Venus rise over palms.


Had to come home much too soon.


More September Sketches

Successfully sketched every day this month.  Early in the month, sketched two or three pages a night, making shapes and shading them.  Over the past week, sketched one page each day.


A friend emailed a group selfie from his family trip in Sicily.  Loved the classic background and their happy faces.  Just had to sketch it.



Sat in the bath and looked long and hard at the faucet and the shower nozzle, at the bed frame and bandanna-covered lamp.  Started to imagine the scene on the page, how it divides into thirds.   That’s me in the tub on the far right, in the bedroom closet’s mirror reflection.



My office desk was a mess, as usual.  Had a choice:  Could either clean it up or sketch it.  It’s still a mess.



Was late, hadn’t drawn all day.  Just about ready to crash, forced myself to draw something — anything.  Then these pens caught my eye, sprouting from the mug like the chopped stalks of a strange garden plant.



Parked outside this barber shop before picking up my son from school.  Did a quick sketch, then followed up with a photograph.  Early the next morning, before dropping off my son at school, left an anonymous copy at the barber shop.



Saw this crow in the supermarket parking lot.  Loved its defiance, its standing boldly on the wires meant to keep the birds off the lamp.  Snapped a quick photo with my phone, then sketched from that at home.



When I first thought of sketching stuff, I thought of sketching old Victorian buildings here in San Francisco.  I just love looking at them.  Had a few minutes before an appointment, so scratched this out in pencil, then finished up at home with a photo.


This has been too much fun!  Can’t wait to start sketching October.


September Sketches

Got really committed to drawing this month.  Started watching Alphonso Dunn’s excellent art tutorials on You Tube.  Then just started sketching stuff — stuff around the house, mostly stuff in view from the couch:

Looking up…


to the right…


to the left…


Then started sketching stuff at work:

Looking up…


to the right…


to the left…


Then started sketching outside stuff:

Mission & Cortland in Bernal Heights…


Dahlia Garden in Golden Gate Park…


The yellow tinge comes from my scanner…


Sometimes it happens, sometimes not…


At first, everything was sketched with a plain mechanical pencil.  Then I got some archival-ink pens…


I love how the ink makes things pop.  Some shading stays in pencil…


I can also print things out and add color:

My son’s middle school in crayon…


Dolores Park, too…


I like drawing.  It clears my head of words.  It centers me in whatever I’m sketching.  I move my hand in rhythm to my breath, follow my heart, and ignore that little voice in my head that says I can’t draw.  When I can’t ignore it, I just agree, then go on drawing one breath after another.

Three Welcomes (Sorta)

Barcelona Old Man

Many thanks to *82 Review for publishing the following poem in their Fall 16  4.3 issue.

Tres Bienvenidos

                           —Barcelona triptych, 1980

1)  Pensione Viejo


Corner room with noon-blue walls

   peeling plaster, thin twin bed

      old wood dresser, stuck dresser drawer


Across the courtyard, canary in his cage

    old man, too, staring from his window sill

       old brown jacket, old brown cap


When I bid him Buenos dias

    he tip-taps out his cigarette

      pulls the shutters shut


2)  Muchachas no Tocas


 Up the Rambla, down the Rambla

   city locals selling country crafts

      wooden tables, rickety stalls


Spanish girls strut by, thick dark ropes of hair

   eyes tagged only on merchandise

      flowers and seashells, candy and clothes


I ask the price of a white gauze scarf

   girl behind the table yanks it from my hand

      spats at me in CatalanNo, no toquis!


3)  Lluevos no Quieros


.Sidewalk table, white-coat waiter

   unfolds a fancy café menu

      basket full of sticky rolls


I order café con leche, plate of scrambled eggs

   sit back and watch the promenade

      parade of tourists, vagabonds like me


.The waiter brings my breakfast

   scrambled eggs over easy

      cup of coffee a cup of tea


Three Paris Poems

Champs-Elysees 2

Much thanks to Forage, an online poetry presence, for publishing the following three poems in their July 2016 issue.

Rue de Tessier

                                                                           —Paris, 1980

When I first sky her, I’m all eyes

   a hovering hawk, hedonistic high

       itchy skin aflame, wings open wide


I welcome her, unsuspecting mouse

   I’m in, I’m out; around, about

      our image on the mirror clouds


Soon, my hunger flies away, my bloodied beak

   I look to my wrist for a reason to leave

      desire now an empty cup of tea


Parisian Park

                                                       —April 1980

Alone in a city of choices

   culture, croissants, corner cafes

      two thousand years of touristry


Still, no baguette can satisfy

   if I cannot just sit and feed

      quiet on this weathered wooden bench


One small bite soon invites another

   all become familiar, all the same

      each contains its craving itch for more


A finch alights on the edge of my bench

   cocks her hooded head, blinks an eye

      feathers ruffle up her throat—she goes


I’m mired by these daily hikes to night

   my search for food, my thirsty mood

      send the oceans, wash me home to sea


Still in Paris

                                                             —May 1980

Ducklings on the river Seine

   small beaks safe behind a drake

     and me—no one to follow


Along the bustled Champs-Élysées

   people bump and humble me

      makes no difference where I go


My father must be home across the globe

   painting or pounding inside the garage

      pruning his backyard garden


I could pluck a pistol from my pants

   taste its barrel, suck its bitter rind

      no one home would ever know


I pause my hunger, shut my eyes

   poked and nudged, ignored

      a stone in the bed of a river.


Inside / Outside

Decided to draw the other night while watching the Giants game on TV.  (Click on images for a larger view.)

Initial Sketch

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Partial Outline

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Complete Outline

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Had the gardeners come and clear out the wheat field that’s been growing in our backyard all year.  Looked so nice, parked myself on a chair and did a little doodling.

Initial Sketch

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Final Draft

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Tapping Unknown Talent

So I’ve been drawing now for a week.  Each time I start, I’m afraid I won’t be able to actually draw the subject.  I arranged a banana, apple, and garlic clove on a curved platter, then looked at the arrangement for a couple days, certain I could never capture its image.  I was absolutely certain I couldn’t do it.  Finally, I just got to work and started sketching.  After an hour, I had this (click on image for a larger view):


Today, with the SF Giant’s enjoying the best record in baseball at the All-Star break, I decided to draw a baseball glove. Again, I was certain I couldn’t do it.  Convinced!  But then I went to work.  Here are the stages of development.

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Initial Sketch

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Final Shading

So often in life, we listen to that little voice of doom telling us we can’t achieve our dreams, can’t  satisfy our desires.  This week, I’ve discovered that my own little voice never goes away, never shuts up, not even when faced with these surprising results.  Makes me wonder:  How many times in life have I let that little voice hold me back from fully expressing myself?  Too many, I’m afraid.

No Michaelangelo

All my life, I’ve wished I could draw.  For some reason, I never thought I could.  Now that I’ve got time this summer, I took an online drawing course.  Turns out, drawing’s not that hard!  Just takes some time and a little concentration.  Doing it, it’s nice to slow down, to breathe in rhythm with the pencil, to focus on something other than myself.  Here are my first few attempts. Click on the image to see a larger view.




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Roman Cats

Rome Four Girls 3

Many thanks to Red Omnivore, an online literary magazine, for publishing the following poem late last year.

Gatti Romani

                                                  —at the Roman Forum, 1980

The ancient stones, the uncut grass

  skinny feral cats arching bony backs

    mincing for mice, nosing for toads


I’m part of a pack of five loose strays

  we, too, prowling; only not for lunch

    we nose for bowls of adventure


Brazilian shorthair, royal Persian snob

  two Texas tabbies mewing out meows

    and me, their teenage tom-tom up a tree


Dogs who chipped and chiseled earth

  who sweat to raise these crumbling walls

    they haunt us here like last night’s rain


Like four felines posing by a column

  clawing the air, shaking tawny tails

    our own fossils chiseled into film


Passports packed and visas stamped

  we leave our footprints on a path

    we cede another century to cats


Crimes Along the Côte d’Azur


Many thanks to Route 7 Review for publishing the following poem in their May 2016 issue.

Crimes Along the Côte d’Azur

                                                                                —Spring 1980

My trespass takes me to the harbor

 big-rock jetty, cool-blue bay

  Monaco behind me, shiny gold

   casino coin glittering in sunlight


Yachts roll in, wealthy drunks aboard

 chopped duck liver, sparkling wine and cheese

  I’m chewing cheese myself—Smiling Cow

   stolen from a store this afternoon


Same as stolen glances, half-nude tourists

 olive-oiled breasts topless in the sun

  me a thief like those Arabs yesterday

   snapping secret photos in Antibes


The train to Nice, a woman sleeps

 we alone in our cramped compartment

  bar of English chocolate in her bag

   gone before she bats an eye:  Merci


I slip away from the hillside hostel

 sleepy village porches early dawn

  on one, a basket—cold milk, fresh baguette

   I snatch it like a furtive photograph


Down by the one-clock railway stop

 I peel the paper lid, lift the chilly top

  five dumb pigeons watch me break my bread

    they peck at one another over thread


One Prayer

One Prayer

Many thanks to Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine for publishing the following poem:

One Prayer

                                                              —Jerusalem 5740

I wait my turn, the western wall

  white shawls muffling

    gray beards mumbling


I pen my prayer on a store receipt

  press it tight tween ancient stones

    tight among a hundred crumpled cries


Some rabbi grabs my elbow

  drags me to a cave

     straps my arm in leather


He chants a sacred melody 

  Adonai Elohanu, Adoni Echad

   one, we are one—everyone, everywhere


The crowd with its long tradition

  me in this thin tefillin

    this rabbi with his open hand


That early-morning Arab sipping tea

  demanding twenty shekels

    the pleasure of his plea


We are all echad—one prayer

  one crescent, one star, one sphere

Weekend in Portland

01 Amy

Went to visit my old friend, Amy…

02 Bridge

Beautiful day to cross Tilikum Bridge…


Checked out a store with lots of cool stuff…





Sorta felt like I was being watched…





Gorgeous architecture out on the street…


Lots of folks in sunny Ankeny Square…


Street performers…



A pro-capitalist communist…


Amy liked this guy…


I liked her…


And her…


Some were still celebrating St Pat’s Day…


Some had been celebrating way too long…


Way too long…


We went home to celebrate, too…


Ah… What’s for dinner?



Long-Tail Taxis

Long-Tail Taxi

Many thanks to Marathon Literary Review for including the following poem in their June 2015 issue.

Long-Tail Taxis

                                           —Gulf of Thailand, 2012

Overcast dawn, low tide gray
..long-tail taxis bob awaiting rain
….waters to rise, to start their day

Tethered to trees, long rough ropes
..sitting still as Buddha grins
….quiet squirrels in coconut trees

One boat fat with jungle fruit
..Thai flag flapping, edges affray
….suns and moons of salty spray

I am a squirrel at a teakwood table
..curry and rice and coffee consumed
….waiting, too, for clouds to clear

That girthy garden statue squints
..always aware of this one moment
….low tide, high tide, water waist or ankle deep

Sunshine Bungalow


Many thanks to Panoplyzine, an online literary journal, for including the following poem in their Summer 2015 issue.

Sunshine Bungalow

                                                                  –Koa Tao, 2012

No coo-coo clock, no digital chime
..no mechanical ring, no alarm
….nothing to nudge me from my dream

Only the sweep of garden leaves
..the blossoms’ breath, plumeria, weed
….my hammock on the balcony

Down the path, a match strikes a can
a knife chops chilis, oil hits a pan

One That Got Away

Girl in Venice

Thanks to Rat’s Ass Review, an online literary collective, for publishing the following poem in their Love & Ensuing Madness collection.

A Girl in Venice

                                                               —April 1980

Flocks of pigeons, people in a plaza

..camera shutters snapping souvenirs


You step into my long-lens view

..focused face, heap of hair


Then Ciao, Arrivederci…

..gone before I lift my eyes


Back home, I pin your sudden grin

..to boarded cork above my bed


Tell friends the story of your glance

..watch them bend with envy at your smile


Today, on streets in San Francisco

..I searched for eyes to dance with mine


Tonight, alone, our momentary spring

..blossoms on my tablet screen



Poem for Mary Beth Moore

Mary Beth w Journal

Again, thanks to Rat’s Ass Review, an online literary collective, for including the following poem in their Love & Ensuing Madness collection.

Red Bandana

                                             —Ionian Sea, 1980

Starts at a stoop, a souvenir stand

..red bandana falls to the floor

….one lost part of me reaches for another

……an ancient ferry crossing mythic seas


I sleep out on deck, me and the rain

..cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more

….icy pellets nip us as we dream

……we hold on tight to a red bandana


A photo of her fingers journal jotting

..sun-white pages, jeans and flip-flop feet

….that red bandana at the postcard rack

……her Texas Sally sidekick stamping beats


I should have left them alone to graze

..to follow their maps to convents, cathedrals

….that red bandana could’ve fallen all night

……cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more

Breakfast by Myself


Many thanks to the editors of Gyroscope, an online literary review, for including the following poem in their January 2016 issue:

Breakfast by Myself

                                                             —Pattaya, Thailand 2013

To start, I spark a cigarette

..remove my frames so I can’t see

….the stares of strangers passing by

……their kind, misguided sympathy


They must presume I must be sad

..sitting solo at a table set for two

….no hand to squeeze, no one to thank

……for sparing me their sorry stares


But I’m not blind:  I stare, too

..couples leaning back in wicker chairs

….some laconic, poking at porridge

……each alone devising their escape


Others gab, chatting up the rain

..jabber rolls like rice across the floor

….bored companions act amused

……grateful to be spared my sorry state


Yet I am not alone, not with paper

..not with more than fifty years of ink

….not with you a world or life away

……you now nodding—yes, yes, yes



Milano 1

Many thanks to Amarillo Bay, an on-line literary magazine, for publishing the following poem in their November 2015 issue.


                        —Easter, 1980

Most everyone’s gone for the holiday

or gone to church or shut away at home

the streets have surrendered to belfry chimes

to flocks of pigeons, swirls of last night’s trash

for lunch, we lick ice cream and save our cash

for dinner: steaming pizzas spiced with thyme

strange goat cheese, drizzles of oil from Rome

we eat, drink wine, and ask for more ashtrays

Years pass: I lose the urge to smoke but not

the flat image of that fat pizza man

his two fat sons and daughter, his thin wife

that day, we feasted: gluttons at the trough

some, instead, labored: blessing us with hands

with hopes they might attain eternal life