Old Portrait of Me In Hat


2007. Acrylic on canvas, 18 X 24″ Reynolds Collection

Copied from a pencil drawing my daughter did of me when I was a fast cook with a Walt Whitman hat. Don’t forget to read December, out in paperback now.

Here is an old poem I wrote back when she drew pictures of me:

Nobody Wants a Bird

And as I point out to her
a fake wonder
Two birds flying
with sticks in their beaks
I know she knows I’m false—
that I can’t really mean
all that is wonderful
and real red and yellow.
How do you break
something this beautiful?
Can I warn her
without the obvious
“Just turn to channel nine dear?”
You think it’s funny,
not at all serious,
but I can’t take my mind away
from the desire
to believe
birds are wonderful creatures.
I want to believe.
Frogs are living right
A warm sun gives them food
and a home in muck and green.
I want to believe that comfort
is death,
and space
and eternity
know no more magic
than a lemon.
I want life to be this sweet
this sour,
(I’m stretching my arms wide now,
pulling muscles
straining my face)
I want real agonies and real joys
not little spits
that lie to her straight-faced
and immediately think
of dinner, the new job,
your friend’s coming suicide,
will they like me?,
how many days until Christmas,
car insurance,
joint cement,
why the dog chewed a milk carton…
“Look at the birds
with the sticks honey.
They’re making a nest
for babies.”
That in Rochester New York
riding out of a museum parking lot.

The bird—
the grace and truth of being real.
Look at us liars and fakers
and child and bird haters.
Can you get a number that high
to weigh the metal and cement?
Listen you,
smelt all the iron and steel
plastic and paper
rubber and wallboard
paints and petroleum
sad faces and human fat—
Cool it to a mass
twenty miles high
and your fat head wide,
but that worthless half nest
of a bird home still
has more weight on God’s scale
than this stinking crap of car parts
we call the common good.
Throw one lie to a child
on top of the heap
and you get
a dead kid
on top of more machines.
The only crisis in our puny little pocket existence
is the ignorance of birds.
Everything else can be
our own small fault,
wallet boy!


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