focus unfocused mobius strip

Mobius strip – foto Smith

Past Lies and Poverty

Old wonders shrink, grow tame in time
The new fear hangs on
In quiet desperation, quit of desire
Like the shadow of a crowded
Culture in which each
Declare their innocence
In straight unfocused silence

It is there
The smell of unwashed
Dishes smug in the stench of our
Unclean shame
Like a salesman’s underbreath
Fishy, stale
The deep teal, the tiled resonance

Of hungers on top of hungers

— Smith, 1985

Dead End (not!)

Dead end – foto Smith

Had to choose this poem because it’s my only one mentioning “dead end” and I really wanted to use the Dead End foto above.

Tried & Traveled

After I died
in my dead end drinking
twenty years ago
it took
three days intensive care
six months of Nyquil
to beat the alcohol,
cocaine to kick the Nyquil,
poverty to kill the cocaine,
valium to get off grass,
and weed to beat it all.

Tried most anything to get off me.

Now it’s one cup cowboy coffee
Costa Rican strong
each morning
and hope of toke or two
to take me through the month.

But what I really want is
copper brain wire
direct to pleasure center
battery hooked
finger on button
blaze of white light.

— Smith, 4.17.2011

Be 21 years sober next month, and stopped daily coffee month ago. Down to free range grass whenever it glows by.

Things change slow, but at least stumble in right direction.

This poem goes back to a study 3-4 decades ago where the mad scientists let rats decide how much of certain substances they wanted by allowing them to press a level whenever they desired a dose. For food the rats pressed until they were full. For alcohol they pressed until they got drunk and quit. For cocaine, they pressed much more often but still went about their life of drinking, eating and greeting. But when they put a wire from the electrical switch directly to the rat’s brain pleasure center, the rats kept pressing the button over and over with no stopping for food or rest or water until they dropped dead.

I wonder if they tested them for caffeine. I gave coffee up a month ago and have written only one wee minor throwaway poem since. Perhaps the rats also stopped writing after they lost their stimulant.

I’m thinking of taking up coffee again now that I’ve demonstrated my will power to myself. But not alcohol . . . 21 years abstinence is just too long to give up. If I drank now, it’d take me until I was 87 to reach 21 years sober again. I’ve never reached 21 years in my life before because I had my first drink when I was 12, started drinking regularly at 20, and seriously at 30. Finally drank myself to death at 45 and quit. Out of all the drugs I’ve done, alcohol was the hardest to beat, followed closely by Nyquil. Coffee is also a hard one to beat. But coke, speed, pills, etc were easy to stop. Grass I can avoid but don’t want to . . . every now and then go up to a year without smoking with no trouble, but always come back because we’re comfortable, friends for life.

White heat, white light – foto Smith

MaiNtENaNt 6: A Journal Of Contemporary Dada Writing & Art

MaiNtENaNt 6: A Journal Of Contemp[orary Dada Writing & Art
cover collage by Mina Loy 1882-1966 – foto Smith

I have a collage in MaiNtENaNt 6: A Journal Of Contemporary Dada Writing & Art published out of NYC.

I was expecting a self-produced chapbook, but what arrived today is a top-shelf professionally printed professionally edited fantastic book full of worth, mirth and surprise . . . IF you’re into Dada — most of the art contains words and much of the poetry is experimental and enigmatic, but a good read nonetheless.

MaiNtENaNt 6 is 6.75″ x 9.5″, 130 pages, featuring 123 international writers and artists (six of whom I know) and may be purchased at

The magazine is called MaiNtENaNt in honor of Arthur Craven, an idol of the Dada and Surrealism movements who was born in Switzerland in 1887 and disappeared off Mexico in 1918 — thought to have drowned at sea trying to sail to Argentina to be with his poet artist wife Mina Loy, whose artwork graces the cover.

Wikipedia on Mina Loy:
Born Mina Gertrude Löwry (December 27, 1882 – September 25, 1966) was an artist, poet, playwright, novelist, Futurist, actress, Christian Scientist, designer of lamps, and bohemian. She was one of the last of the first generation modernists to achieve posthumous recognition. Her poetry was admired by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Gertrude Stein, Francis Picabia and Yvor Winters, among others.

Wikipedia on Arthur Craven:
From 1911 to 1915 he published a critical magazine, Maintenant! (“Now!”) which appeared in five issues. It was gathered together and reprinted by Eric Losfeld in 1971 as J’étais Cigare in the dadaist collection “Le Désordre“. The magazine was designed to cause sensation and in a piece about the 1912 arts salon he criticized a self-portrait by Marie Laurencin, remarks which drove her lover and influential modernist critic Guillaume Apollinaire to fury and a bid for a duel. But his rough vibrant poetry, and provocative, anarchistic lectures and public appearances (often degenerating into drunken brawls) also earned him the admiration of Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, André Breton, and other young artists and intellectuals.

I’m honored to be in the magazine; even more pleased that the editors came across my work in and emailed me asking me to submit. I would have been heartbroken had they’d rejected me after that.

What A, 2006 b&w book version + original – foto Smith

Rain forest man

See ya later alligator – foto Smith

The alligator above kept swimming underwater as close to a group of small school kids as it could get. The children were clustered around the glass and the gator would swim low and come up with its snout resting against the glass the child was pressed against; when the kid moved on, the gator glided directly to the next child. . . always picked the smallest child too — oh did it want to interact with its viewers.

On Monday the Cleveland Zoo is free to Cuyahoga County residents so we only had to pay $5 to get into the Rain Forest. What a delightful place for child and adult, although one has to try and forget the animals that so amazed us were kidnapped from their jungle homes and put in fancy cages for our education and edification.

The light was too low to get many fotos, but here’s a taste.

Rain Forest at Cleveland Ohio Zoo – foto Smith

Dead Cat

me on left, brother Cat on right, 1981
(not my hair, not his glasses)

Lady’s done the final edit on my memoir and now it’s down to formatting, so it should be out in a couple months.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter titled “Dead Cat.” Cat was my brother, 11 years younger. He committed suicide in 1987 at the age of 30.

~ ~ ~

My father’s long distance phone call woke me up. “Vince shot himself,”
Pappy simply said.

“He’s alright, isn’t he?” I croaked.


Cat killed himself in 1987. His wife had left for a rock musician and Cat had just bought a new pickup truck he couldn’t pay for. Thirty years old, doing too much speed, coke and alcohol, and irresponsible with money, he drove the new unpaid pickup to his wife’s parking lot while she was at work and to teach her a lesson blew his brains all over the back of his truck bed.

I didn’t think it through, but my folks didn’t have the money to bury him. At first I didn’t even consider going out to the funeral. Why should I? He was dead; my presence wouldn’t bring him back. But my coworkers insisted my family needed me so I flew out and it turned out they were waiting for me to take care of the details. I drank a lot of alcohol, snorted some crystal, yelled at my sister in a drunken rage and paid for the cremation. A week later they mailed Cat’s remains to me in a cardboard box.

I kept his ashes in that temporary box marked CREMAINS for eighteen years. I’d ask folk, “Would you like to meet my brother?” and hand them the box.
After his death, I started to hear a periodic chirp in my studio. I tried to trace it down as it slowly became more frequent and insistent. I’d sit in my chair, drunk, and wait for the beep, trying to aurally and visually plot where it came from.

It came high off the wall in front of me so I took my ladder over to the wall, climbed up, sat atop the ladder and drank and smoked and waited for the next beep. It’d reoccur halfway down the wall on the other side of the room so I’d move my ladder over there and sit and drink and smoke and wait. This went on for a week.

One night I was way beyond normal drunk and thought, this beep started happening right after Cat’s box of ashes arrived. In a flash I realized this is my brother’s soul trying to contact me from the other side. He needs my help. I decided I had to save his soul from wandering, so I lay fifteen of his small art pieces around me in a radar dish circle to capture the soul. I figured he would enter the art and I would break up the circle and a portion of Cat’s soul would remain in each piece.

It didn’t work. The beeps continued

Desmond Velcro dropped in. As a college DJ, Desmond was intimately familiar with sound and he listened to the beep. My living room consisted of a four foot high by eight foot wide pile of what some might consider trash with little paths in, around and through it. Part of the pile extended under the kitchen table in the center of the room. Desmond dug down into that portion and pulled out a smoke detector still in its box. After years in the pile, its battery had gone weak and it was beeping for me to change it.

Sound travels in a straight line—it had hit the underside of the table and reflected over to the wall where it bounced back to my ears. Wherever I was listening to it was above the tabletop, so I always heard it in the wrong place.

~ ~ ~

Sound and Water

water is sneaky. also patient, and insidious.
it’ll beat against you for thousands of years
in big waves
until it smoothes you down
or breaks you apart
or it’ll lie still in quiet pools
and insidiously work
on the weakest




and moving…

and then

when water does
slowly sneak inside
and lies in wait

it can FREEZE and EXPAND with


(so water is sneaky,

while SOUND is slippery

(and sneaky)

slip slides off every flat surface

double or triple slip slides..


from here
   to there

(so you think what came from   there
came from

SOUND plays tag with yer ears
and lies
a lot.

in destructive force,


whereas water
wears away…

– Smith & Lady, 2008

Excerpt from
Stations of the Lost
A true tale of
armed robbery, stolen cars, outsider art, mutant poetry,
underground publishing, robbing the cradle, and leaving the country

by Smith & Lady
to be published by Lady’s The City Poetry Press this summer.

Cat – collage & foto Smith

Lessen Zen lesson

Red hot Smith – foto Smith

Red hot? Ha! Right now I’d be happy with luke warm. Gave up coffee the first of the month and just coincidentally (I hope) stopped writing poems at the same time. Longest I’ve gone between poems in 3 years.

Not only that, but I’ve little to say, which makes daily blogging problematic. Been showing foto montages lately to try and fake folk out.

Here’s a low-key perhaps too laid back song. Took me 5 days to decide to blog it because I first listened to it on tinny laptop speakers and was horrified at how bad I sounded, but tried again with headfones and decided it was sort of okay. Certainly not going to get me on American Idle, but might get me kicked out of a karaoke bar. If nothing else it reminds me of Lee Marvin’s bad attempt at singing Wandering Star in Paint Your Wagon.

Here’s Lee . . . a blatant attempt to make me sound better by comparison: Wandering Star sorta sung by Lee Marvin

Peter Ball added a backing vocal to try to give some depth to my monotone vocal. Click here to play Zen Lessen sorta sung by Smith

Zen Lessen

Lessen Zen lesson to get where you’re going
Better cut the apple to bake the pie
Lighten your luggage in hope of enlightenment
Best break the hold of your precious pride

You learn and forget and forget to remember
Redo today what you last day did
Though yearned there is no rest before ending
No final curtain for reading last line

  The lesson is endless in lopsided lie
  Best learn that we’re all designed to fail
  Worst of the worm is this endless why
  The best is that it’s just one trail

Hocked to the yolk you’re all over uneasy
Already spent before they give you a dime
This now born of becoming tomorrow
Is sorrow for sorrow as sorrow declines

The All-is-All is, until it goes isn’t
The this of the that is the them of the those
Zen becomes then when am becomes ever
Or never whichever the whether allows

  The lesson’s unending illogical lie
  Circle work preprogrammed in frail
  The worst is worm of endless why
  The best is that it’s just one trail

Inside is outside and outside is other
The tone of the bell the shape of the stone
Easier to accept the pain of the udder
Than expect the circle to leave you alone

Either-Or more whore than moral gospel
Yes-No more damage than original sin
I choose All The Above in multiple answer
And dance at the byways as both ways I grin

— Smith, original poem 6.9.2010 rewritten as song 3.20.2012

Music, mix, backing vocal, recording by Peter Ball of Apartment One; lyrics, vocal Smith.

There are 41 Ball & Smith very odd songs available for listening and free download at

Grazing in the past – foto Smith

Working on healing systemic illnesses – new poetry series

We’ve been meeting with a friend to talk about what can be done in the poetry community regarding some of the most crucial and poignant issues of our larger community, and how to involve the larger community into a dialogue to collaborate on a vision towards which we can effectively work.

From my perspective there have been several reasons that have highlighted a need to somehow address and work towards a healthier global community.

  • A march I participated in in East Cleveland. We carried pictures of people who had been killed by some police. The sadness of this was driven home to me by the presence of family members of someone who had been killed.
  • The death of Nick Christie in Florida. He was masked, tortured with pepper-sprayed and denied medication by some deputies in Florida.
  • The beatings and pepper-sprayings of young people demonstrating in the Occupy Movement. One of the incidents is alleged to have led to a woman having had a miscarriage.
  • A recent shooting death of a person in Cleveland by some police officers. I think I read he was shot in the back but I might be confusing this with a different case.
  • Issues of respect from the people who are police and towards the people who are police. How do we address people politely in order to coax beneficial change rather than tease and anger and humiliate? (Example: recently I saw a photo of a donut hung from a string and dangled tauntingly in front of a policeman.)

So the initial impetus for this on my part was a sense that somehow all of this is based on relationships and community, and that the violence has been some kind of systemic illness in our community.

Some people have said that people who are police are only about protecting the assets of the rich, and that’s probably true from the perspective of some wealthy people, but I think that when people initially sign up to become police officers they are more interested in helping the community by protecting it. Perhaps structural illness contributes to the corruption and/or hardening of some police officers but I don’t think they go into the profession thinking “I’m going to protect the assets of the wealthy.”

I think estrangement has been the root cause of wealth disparity and violence. People who have been hoarding wealth have been doing so because they have not felt enough connection with community. And some people who have been victimized by this systemic illness have also been hardened to the extent that they have difficulty seeing the humanity of anyone who is wealthy or part of the police.

I am wondering how we can all become less estranged, and more part of the community?

Our friend organizes the NIA Coffeehouse, and on March 27 at 6 PM smith, me (Lady K) and John Burroughs are featuring. The theme this evening is “Poems of Power, Words of Life Against Violence and Brutality: Come Choose Life that We May Live and Live More Abundantly.” We invite you to join us (there will be an open mic) at 2555 Euclid Heights Blvd. (at St. Alban Episcopal Church).

And at this reading we plan to talk a little bit about a new series of poetry and spoken word gatherings, “BEING AT PEACE IN OUR COMMUNITY.”

Oyster Boy

Oyster Boy by Tim Buton – foto Smith

Ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more

Blue iron tree, Hooper’s Farm – foto Smith

Lady is going to start growing outside things six blocks down the street at Hooper Farm. Erich Hooper has generously donated a few rows of earth to get her started. Since she calls herself the Plant Kevorkian, this should be interesting. Going to grow tomatoes and things that please the bees. I will help her.

Hooper Farm – fotos Smith