sky light

sky hole – foto by Smith

We attend a monthly poet’s workshop called Rufus where 6 to 12 of us gather at a coffee shop and each read one poem to the others, whereupon they ask questions and offer suggestions and criticisms.

Didn’t have the time or inspiration to write a new poem this month, so I took one I’d written and blogged in Croatia in 2006 and hadn’t seen since, and revised it for the better. It made me realize I have a couple dozen poems I wrote on our journey and blogged and then never saw again that might be worth revisiting and revising.

In Time and Tide

The sea takes color from the sky
The sky water from the sea

In sharing shore rhyme and reed
Feed and flow form to need

While we

Unfertilize skies with lies
Mime death’s unliving power

Bleed need greed unheed
Knot dead our daily hour

So what’s it to be

The cabbage and the cauliflower?
Or cemetery ceremony?

 – written Liznjan, Croatia 11/20/06
    revised Cleveland, Ohio 9/26/09
    Steven B. Smith

dead penny – foto by Smith

car crash, customization by smith

car customization and foto by Smith

This is one blog I’d rather not have been able to write.

I’ve been promoted from Corporal Clumsy to Major Bummer.

I got our car clobbered two hours ago; smashed the left front fender, bent the hood, totaled the headlight, loosened the bumper.

I’d driven over to pick up some sesame Chinese chicken for lunch and was waiting for traffic to leave the restaurant. A pickup in the opposite lane was trying to turn into where I was and we waited on each other a good while. Finally I looked at on-coming traffic, found none, looked back at him, thought he motioned me to go first, and pulled out WITHOUT LOOKING AGAIN first and SMASH, a pickup coming the other way clobbers me. Totally my fault.

I back up back into the restaurant, start to look for our insurance papers, and the guy who hit me comes over to see if I’m alright. Tell him it’s my fault and we have insurance. He laughs and says he wasn’t hurt and neither was his pickup, just a couple scrapes on his rubber bumper, that it’s up to me if we report this at all. Our insurance just covers the other fellow, not our car, so we don’t report it. (I called the police station to see if I were required by law to report the accident and they said no, as long as the other guy is happy, don’t worry about it). He offers to drive me home, but I say I think I can drive it home so we pull the smashed fender away from the wheel, I shake his hand and thank him for being so nice, and away I go.

Come in and tell my wife what I did, how stupid it was, and that it was entirely my fault. She puts her head down in misery for awhile, then says it is what it is and starts trying to make me feel better, says that I’m not to blame myself and shouldn’t worry about it, that she’s fucked up cars in the past in parking lots herself.

Drove it over to our mechanic and we’re awaiting an estimate now, see if we can afford to get it fixed or have to find another cheap used car.

I’ve felt gloom and doom all day for no known reason, like I had to report to the Principle’s office or something. The weather is gray, cold and rainy, and the laundromat this morning was extra TV loud with The Price Is Right game show and Drew Carey blaring unpleasantly away, and the laundromat attendant snapped at me for sitting on the clothes folding table as I tried to get as far away from the TV as possible so I could read my book.

Not a good day. Can’t afford the loss of the car and can’t afford a mess of money to get it fixed so will sit here and brood until we get our mechanic’s report.

The good thing in this is how nice the guy who hit me was, how well Lady is handling my stupidity, and that no one was injured. And I’m glad that it happened to me rather than to Lady – I’d rather have her unsuccessfully trying to console me than vice versa. Also good I could drive it home and over to the repair shop, and that no drugs or alcohol were involved. Gotta take the bright spots where I can find them.

I’ve been down a wee bit lately as the days become grayer, wetter and colder because I dread the upcoming Cleveland winter – we managed to miss the 2006-2007 winter by being on the warm Adriatic and the warmer Mediterranean, and we missed the 2007 through 2009 cold weather by living in southern Mexico.

This is Smith, reporting from Stupidville, looking around, hoping the Fool Killer’s occupied elsewhere.

car customization and foto by Smith

excerpt from criminal

Lady and I in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper 9.23.2009 – foto by Larry Roberts

Turns out Lady and I did have our foto in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for reading G20 protest poetry… I found it doing an internet search. I love the internet.

Friday night Lady K and I read at the 3rd annual writers celebration at Visible Voice Books. Each year they choose one author and invite writers and poets to celebrate in voice. First year was Jack Kerouac’s On The Road; second year was Charles Bukowski; this time it was Hunter S. Thompson.

Everyone but Lady and I read from Thompson’s excellent output, but she and I read a few pages from our memoir of my life: CRIMINAL by Smith & Lady. Figured it was fair because I’ve done almost as many drugs as Thompson and was giving him a pretty good run in the alcohol race until I drank myself to death 18 years ago. Plus I’ve got him beat on two outlaw counts – he never shot up for 30 years, and never served time for armed robbery.

Here’s what Lady read (pages 175-177):

My brother and I moved in together in ’76. We didn’t have any money and had to decide what was important. Alcohol won out over milk and sugar, so we started drinking our coffee black. To get more alcohol, we tromped through snow to empty lakeside summer cabins and kicked in the doors. It’s not as easy to kick in a door as it looks in the movies. We took guns, drugs, alcohol and what not. Our friend Jones sold the guns. I was having fun, but I was definitely going the wrong way.

The first night we moved in together we got stoned and wrestled, goofing off. We were trying to claim the house for ourselves. Cat was on his back on the floor with his knee up. I tried to pin him down, his knee against my ribs. I slowly sank an inch down, breaking my rib. It was the most gentle breaking imaginable. The hospital gave me codeine. I took a lot.

Pappy didn’t yet know his manual laborer was broken, so at five in the morning Cat and I went to pick up my replacement, Jones. Heading back, me driving, my brother kept shouting, “Faster, faster!” I kept saying, “Where is it, where is it?” looking for the driveway. We weren’t yet familiar with our neighborhood. I pulled around an older couple at ninety miles an hour. Just as I pulled back in front of them my brother shouted, “There it is!”

I stomp my foot on the brake, turn the wheel, and the car flips over onto its top and skids through the driveway, across the lawn, and stops six feet from the house, upside down.

Rolling it squished the top, popped the windshield out and slightly twisted the frame. Jones drove it over to a tree, jacked the car up opposite the way the roof was bent, wrapped a chain around the roof, tied the chain to the tree and kicked the jack out. As the car fell the chain jerked the top back where it was supposed to be. We epoxied the front window back and bondoed the driver’s door shut.

Jones had an easy loose attitude toward vehicles. He had a Jeep without brakes. He’d drive it through the woods, stoned. To brake, he’d downshift, and to stop, he’d run into a tree.

Later I was out of work and hadn’t been making my payments. I’m sitting on my mother’s trailer porch when these two guys drive up to repossess the car. I tell them, “There it is.” As one walked over toward it I said, “Oh, you have to get in the passenger side. We bondoed the driver’s side shut.” He looked at me, shook his head, got in and drove away.

After they repossessed my car, I needed wheels, so I bought a 1977 750 Kawasaki, 450 lbs of metal with an incredibly huge engine. After I signed the papers, the salesman took me to the motorcycle. You should have seen his face when he realized I had never been on one before. He was torn because he was worried about me and concerned, but he also wanted to make money, so he showed me how to turn it on and work the pedals. I practiced going around the parking lot several times, sort of got the hang of it and took off up Route 37. Four miles later, the bike died. I didn’t know anything about mechanics. I didn’t know anything about the bike. I didn’t know what was going on. A guy stopped and showed me I hadn’t been using the main gas tank and had used up my reserve instead.

I start back up 37. It’s a gorgeous summer day. Route 37 is a two lane highway going north through Michigan. It’s up and down and up and down with all these gentle dips. There’s a lot of traffic because it’s a holiday. I’m on my first motorcycle ride ever, feeling really good. I’m zipping past all these cars. I look ahead, and it’s clear. I figure I can pass about seven cars. I pull out and I’m going a little over a hundred miles an hour when this car pops up in front of me, out of one of the little dips! I can see the driver’s eyebrows go up, I’m that close.

I leave the road going over one hundred miles an hour, in the air. At one point–this is just so magic peaceful–I’m upside down in the air, my feet are up over my head, my hands are below my head hanging onto the motorcycle bars, the motorcycle’s beneath me, and we’re flying. It’s so peaceful it’s almost like it’s slow motion. There’s no panic, no nothing. Then I think, I don’t want to be holding this motorcycle when it hits… and I let loose. There’s no sound. I don’t feel a breeze. It’s like I’m in a silent movie, a slow motion silent movie.

The bike hits. It lands in meadow field. Later on, I hit the grass and roll over a lot. I get up and find three tiny scratches on my side. I walk to the bike, pick it up, no damage at all. I look up. Everybody on the highway had stopped and were looking at me. I wave to them, yell, I’m alright, and drive home. That night, one of the rare times I play poker with my family and friends, I can’t lose. I mean, I knew I couldn’t lose, I was totally charmed.

– excerpt from CRIMINAL by Smith & Lady.

We’re looking for a literary agent and a publisher to help us get this 102,000 word memoir published.

oh the places you can go – foto by Smith of Seuss art

the mattress factory

Mattress Factory pitch black room with black light mist – foto by Smith

Before we came back from protesting the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, we stopped by the Mattress Factory, a two-building museum of installation art which I’d been avoiding because I’d thought it was the Andy Warhol Museum, since Warhol called his studio The Factory and they’re both in Pittsburgh.

You get off the elevator in the main building on the second floor and step into pitch black – have to walk by touch. Followed the wall around to a to a dead-end room with nothing in it, so followed the wall back around to a second room in which a large section of the wall was cut out and filled with a milky soft-white almost black-light mist that’s there yet not there that makes it impossible to see distance or dimension – it’s like dying and seeing the afterlife on the other side.

The third floor is an infinity mirror regression room flooded with deep violet almost black light, mirrors on all 4 walls and the ceiling, polka dots on the floor. Through an open door there’s a second brightly lit mirror room with white mannequins with red polka dots on them. Delightfully cheery, candy for the eyes, but the endless infinity can play with your equilibrium.

The fourth floor was a simple room with a hardwood floor into which had been cut out a long slanted oblong which leads through an irregular plastic tunnel to the outside where you could see a metal garden table and 2 chairs in the backyard across the alley. It’s hard to see from the foto, but the top of the oval is flush with the floor.

There was a courtyard with stone steps and doorways that lead nowhere and a wooden chair you could sit in surrounded by growing grass 4 foot tall, all bathed in electronic bird-like sounds.

The second building was four floors and a basement given over to a dozen or more local artists’ installations. One documented his failed suicide. Another was an interactive Jesus of Nazareth Crown of Thorns Ring Toss Game. The basement was dark with odd geometric forms containing lights that turned on and off and changed colors in response to eerie electronic music.

My favorite was going up the stairs to the 4th floor when I grasped the banister, jerked my hand back, grasped it again and laughed when I realized there was running water flowing down between the banister and the wall which had gotten my fingers wet.

There was a room of dozens of antique dolls, family fotos, memorabilia, sacred shrines and a TV sitting on the bed showing the probably now dead grandmother who’d had all these dolls and mementos in her house.

Further down the hall was a mechanized office desk stapler that kept attacking some sheets of paper that were blowing in the fan breeze.

Another room made you sit and pedal a floor bicycle to generate a shadow light show. The next was filled floor to ceiling and almost wall to wall with a massive cement-like sphere. The last room was an old kitchen they’d left as it was except they’d raised the floor at least three feet so the kitchen ink top was 8 inches off the floor — old, off and eerie.

It was a mostly playful place, except for the documented failed suicide, and the aftermath fotos of that looked painful.

So, three blogs on poetry, protest, and art out of a day and a half 260 mile round-trip adventure in Pittsburgh. That’s only 87 miles and 12 hours per blog. Not bad.

it is now
…maybe an idea of art?
fotos by Smith

hum job

Military Hummer parked in front of the Hilton Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA – foto by Smith

My invisible fantasy MySpace friend Herbert asked to see more of the velvet rope the Army Hummer was parked in front of. The velvet rope is in front of the Hotel Hilton, which paid for a gigantic welcoming banner to hang from the front of the hotel. I find the military vehicle parked in front of their welcoming mat most ironic.

The 6 fotos below are bits of our Pittsburgh hosts’ house. They’re both poet activists and as you can see from their Stop The Draft poster, they’ve been at it a long time.

fotos of our hosts’ house – fotos by Smith

g20 protest and poetry

G20 Summit Pittsburgh PA Sept 2009 – foto by Smith

Just got back from the G20 protest and poetry reading in Pittsburgh – cops and fuzz and Army and State Troopers and National Guard and Military Police and more and more cops everywhere interspersed with Military helicopters flying overhead, Army camouflaged Hummers, sirens, Military convoys, police on horses, police on bicycles, police barricades, and police boats patrolling the three rivers.

We went downtown to the park to read poetry and found ourselves in the midst of 40 police standing around 5 Greenpeace activists who were arrested for unrolling a banner. Unrolling a banner? When did that become a crime in America, the land of free speech?

It started to rain so we huddled under a long white tent, but the police decided to follow us in with their 5 prisoners. One cop suddenly turns to me and demands in an ugly voice what I’m doing there. “Getting out of the rain,” I reply. “Well go away,” he orders me. I’m in a public park getting ready to legally read poetry and I feel like telling the asshole that not only am I within my legal rights, but I was under the tent way before he was, but this time I keep my mouth shut and move away from him, but take their foto, wondering if I’ll be arrested for improper use of camera.

After the rain stops, 8 of us stand in a circle reading political poetry to each other and the cops. An ACLU woman comes up and hands us each pamphlets on what our legal rights are (fortunately reading poetry in a public park is one of them) and what to do if arrested. Newspaper people come by and take our names and pictures, and the next morning we’re told Lady and I have our pictures in the newspaper, but we can’t find it online and forget to buy a paper copy, so I don’t really know if this is true or not. Other folk come by and ask our names and purpose, including some lawyer for a government agency, and I gladly give them each my name and the name of my poetry book I’m reading from. With all the cops and military and show of force, we become paranoid at all these folks asking who we are, which is the purpose of it all to begin with, or at least I believe.

Didn’t accomplish much, but did exercise our Constitutional rights, did irritate the police a wee bit, and did feel a little cleaner inside for speaking out against obvious Government/Corporate evil, so not a bad day all in all.

G20 Summit Pittsburgh PA Sept 2009 – fotos by Smith



Worry is the crux of a lever that I use to destroy myself, an internal machine of twisted mirrors, no way out signs.

There’s always a way out. There’s a metaphysical spaceship, a perspective with self loft, a bootstrap antigravity easy machine. It works moment by moment pebbles. No thought, or thought with grease. Thought without pain.

But don’t I have to think the cliff again? Take the cliff on the day of the cliff. Do not take the cliff when it is not the day of the cliff.

There’s a brain without pain trapdoor into total sensory stimulation/annihilation of thought. Complete self forgiveness. Free to be a fool, an uncredentialed you, a gentle you. Sheriffs’ badges hurt.

Hurdles hurt. May hurdles be blissful and easy, free to pick up and try again.

Let’s all become happy human failures. Thoroughly fail, then set yourself on fire. Be reborn, a baby from a monk. Purify yourself with dirt.

Let’s abandon the *burden* of progress. Instead, we’ll physically *step* there. I believe our salvation is physical, rock by rock.

The body sweats. Honest aging, not a baby in a braincase, not a coddled precocious immature adult. Eat your sense of specialness. Eat and be easy, walk and be free!

Be real! Dissolve yourself on TV. Rage like a monk on fire or do it back room, hari kari. Integrity–suicide. Self-immolation cigarette burn acid test. Integrity in self loathing, rage. Cannibalize yourself to *show* society…

Roaming heart on the radio range. Highway fantasies–caravans–that it all means something, pavement is new *and* old, the physical commute is an interior one. The reliability of my engine is security. Its drone is a mantra. Ownership is freedom and slavery. Here and there, anywhere.

Money spreads thin over distance. An option is to fling yourself out in a bucket without your social network support, a flying tree squirrel in the desert.

Signs and symbols of the road facilitate transplantation. They are spells: go here, careful, stop there.

The anonymity of the head, the brain capsule, a jail. Your partner in a bucket seat beside you.



me changing into my superhero uniform in a bank entry way – foto by Smith

Lady’s worried about humanity, thinks it needs saving.

So to ease her worry I tell her my secret identity, that I’m the superhero known as Moistman, Savior of Humidity.

No, no, not humidity, she cries, humanity!

Pshaw on humanity, they’re not worthy — I’m saving humidity!

(Being Moistman is mighty easy here in Cleveland City by the great Lake Erie:
Humidity: 76%
Temperature: 75°
Barometer: 30.09 in and rising
Visibility: 10 miles
Dewpoint: 66°
Wind: South 8 mph
Sunrise: 7:13 am
Sunset: 7:24 pm).

pimp-o-vision – foto by Smith

slouching bethlehem belly

our cat’s belly – foto by Smith

I captioned one of my fotos in yesterday’s blog “the center does not hold.” That’s a riff on the third line from this 1919 poem by W. B. Yeats that I love. Like it so much that I riffed on its last line in my poem Promise Land, turning “Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” into “Slouching Bethlehem belly.”

This Yeats poem seems truer today than when he wrote it – or perhaps in this world it’s always been true, always will be.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

— William Butler Yeats, January 1919

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Promise Land

Greyhound bound
To Tupperware City
Light like liquid Zen
Wars time tatter tight
As tight asses tie
Meat neat man to kine, kino
Contempt of course
Playing Plato’s barn

Blue bloods
Stabilize fish at 7
Mime the ma’am
Bamboo cathedrals
In wondrous disarray
Just outside real
Where the fat
Flee frantic
Fleece feed the poor

Competing EXIT signs
Dance specific disease
  Rude crude
  Plus tax
Bouncing Betty’s
Slouching Bethlehem belly
Slips on guilt
And splinters.

— Steven B. Smith, April 1995

Jell-O – foto by Smith

Exquisite Corpse – Facebook Collaboration

All for the love of cars
and fresh fruit

Would we wander the asphalt orchards
thinking we had participated in creation

Reach through blackened limbs to claim
our apple-prize but catch only vermiform

Once verdant leaves tumble to the ground
in a rusty and rustic downpour
their annual autumnal dance of death
with dappled patterns of faery moonlight
make crisp scraping echos
through the chill air
while shadows of shadows embrace
the exquisite corpse
and its growing of hair

My horror and fear
at my own shadow’s barren skull
belied the exquisite corpse
I loved so dear

This is where he lived–
in the cracks of the sidewalk
in between the solid slabs of
concrete and sandstone
brick and graveled paths

Alone upon shifting sandstorms
a mind’s eye in a hurricane shell
he sleeps in amulets of soft revolution
chasing the formless path

Then from deep within
a sound emerges
a tonal vibration

Slowly building to resonate
with wind and earth
the very grains of sand
move in tune with mind
with spirit
with being…

she was unable to suppress
her fart

It was noisy and foul of odor
not nullified by the burning wiccan sage

In the moonlight
the shadows stood before her
resplendent in their formless beauty
enveloped in smoke and fire
they danced…
and about her feet
the wadded discarded clutter
of a spent day blurs
the distinction
between wonder
and blunder

By Jayce Renner, Kerstin-Gmucs-Cawley-thornburg, Blayne Hoerner Murray, Susanna Schwacke, Jen Pezzo-Kerowyn Rose, Smith, Keisha Davenport, Dianne Borsenik, Mark Kuhar, Richard Hearn, Charlotte Mann, Chris Brooks, Rich Dustin & John Burroughs

Formatted by Lady K