Cap'n Jack Mueller 1942-2017

Wednesday night is like all the other nights 
Too far from dawn
To be taken seriously.   - JM

You got a good weird on you.  

Thank you.   Is that an olfactory observation?

Thus began a friendship between us that could only be described as peculiar, delightful, dysfunctional, entirely rewarding.   Jack was the quintessential San Francisco poet in the sixties and seventies, but lived his later years in the small mountain town of Ridgway, just a couple of hours away.  He was my drunken muse, my night owl companion, my hedge fund, my kin, my smoking buddy, my cautionary tale, my poetic opposite, my introverted reflection, and my friend.  

He crossed over the river yesterday.  I had seen him the night before, and wished him safe passage. 

I miss him already.  

Who will watch the stars when we have been folded into the earth?

Pack wood and carry water, old friend, and may the horse, and the rune, and the chickadees be with you.  

I'm watching the soundless Dalai Lama
And listening to Buddy Holly.

I should have been born a cigarette
With a drink of sweet water.

Maybe I was the "should have been" to come,
Or maybe just one more simple form

Of animal fun. 


And Another for the Reaper: Rest in Peace, Robert W King, 1937-2017

We are wise, or old. We can afford to laugh.  - RWK
Bob was loved by many Colorado poets.  He was a poet who took his humor seriously, a journeyman, a wordsmith, a professor of English at UNC, curator of the Colorado Poets Center, and he was a dear friend.   A few weeks before he died, he asked me to say some words and read one of his poems at the service in celebration of his life, in Loveland.  Poets in the area who knew and loved him are invited to attend.  The services will be held at The Rialto Theatre, on 4th Street, Wed., May 3 at 4pm.  


In a Dark Time One Reads Nothing but Heather McHugh

What He Thought

For Fabbio Doplicher

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the Mayor, mulled a couple
matters over. The Italian literati seemed
bewildered by the language of America: they asked us
what does “flat drink” mean? and the mysterious
“cheap date” (no explanation lessened
this one’s mystery). Among Italian writers we

could recognize our counterparts: the academic,
the apologist, the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib. And there was one
administrator (The Conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone
narrated sights and histories
the hired van hauled us past.
Of all he was most politic--
and least poetic-- so
it seemed. Our last
few days in Rome 
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?) to whom
he had inscribed and dated it a month before. I couldn’t
read Italian either, so I put the book
back in the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans

were due to leave
tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant,
and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till,
sensible it was our last big chance to be Poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked

“What’s poetry?
Is it the fruits and vegetables
and marketplace at Campo dei Fiori

or the statue there?” Because I was
the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think-- “The truth
is both, it’s both!” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest
to say. What followed taught me something
about difficulty, 

for our underestimated host spoke out
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:

The statue represents
Giordano Bruno, brought
to be burned in the public square
because of his offence against authority, which was to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government
but rather is poured in waves, through
all things: all things
move. “If God is not the soul itself,
he is the soul OF THE SOUL of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him forth to die

they feared he might incite the crowd (the man
was famous for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask
in which he could not speak.

That is how they burned him.
That is how he died, 
without a word,
in front of everyone. And poetry--

(we’d all put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on softly)-- poetry

is what he thought, but did not say.


In Which the Poet Investigates the Mysterious Many-Armed Beast of Social Media

Results are mixed.  But generally the town squares of the day are square, or straight, or off the charts oracular, (and circular), intensely bent, or comfortingly bi-polar.

Twitter is built for brevity, but goes on and on and on.  It has the distinct feel of a house of footloose gremlins and their prickly spawn.  It's scarcely populated by poets, and those poets who are present tend to be the ones who object to Facebook on principle, and more power to them.  It's well suited to those with a quick wit and a pulse on the entire planet.  A particularly good place for the well-read, the clever and the curmudgeonly. And your basic egomaniacal ignoramus who doesn't know it.

Facebook is great for cats and memes and pokes and winks and those who like to engage, argue, and express their deepest fears, not with blood, or sweat, or ink, but with link upon link upon link.  It's the hub of social media, it's got the boomers by the short hairs, and it knows it.  And it shows.  Already it looks tired of itself.  It's always seemed to me a missed opportunity for creatives and carnies and poets, who tend to turn into sales people when they log onto facebook.  For all the material, and of course there are exceptions, there is very little real riffing or spontaneity, or dialogue.  Or creative weirdness.  But its familiarity and safety is its great virtue, and even a cloistered old poet enjoys stopping in now and then, comforted to find so many loved ones sharing links amongst themselves.  Or with themselves.

Snapchat is for YOLOs who toast their bodies and their beers without a modicum of fear, secure in the knowledge that everything disappears.   Although the Snapchat world is about stimulation and gratification and cartoonization, it's the most zen of the digital town squares out there.  Everything evaporates as soon as it's seen.  The caption, (the koan?) is king.  And the name of the game is fleeting.  Live in the moment, it seems to urge.  But, like most things zen, it's mostly pretty reductive. I confess I didn't stay long.  Best suited to the hungry yoot and the hungry ghost.  

Pinterest is excellent for horders on a budget.  It's eye candy, stimulating, and briefly satisfying.   Its distinctive feature and primary brilliance is that is puts buyers directly in touch with artists.  Facebook has no such feature, and is poorer for it.  In the world of Pinterest, every image 'pinned' to someone's board contains a link which leads directly to its source's contact information -- whether the artist has an account or not.  I've sold more work and had more inquiries from Pinterest sources than any other, and I've never had an account. A good place for visual artists and crafty types selling their wares to establish a presence.  Strangely enough, one's poems also end up displayed on Pinterest, particularly if they're short and deceptively cheery.

Periscope is awkward, terrifying, and weird.  It has promise, of what I am uncertain.  I didn't spend much time investigating, but it appears best suited for the brave, the bizarre and the ultimately shameless.  

Vine has the attention span of a gnat, which I suspect is its allure.  Another one designed entirely for the yoot. 

Instagram is all about aesthetics.  It seeks clarity of vanity, is not opposed to hilarity, and is very short on biography. The aesthete, the eccentric, the architect, the traveler, the juggler, the healer, and the obsessive compulsive are equally at home there -- so long as they take mighty good pictures of what they do. And post them sparingly.   No albums with 55 pictures of grandma's birthday party.  One artful photo of grandma fallen asleep in a dusty beam of light will do.  Skill is the name of the game. At a glance you can see what an account is about, and what its tenor.  All language here is visual, and the grid of the thing can be shifted and viewed with remarkable ease.  Only on Instagram can a meticulous artist create a mural with an interface that appears to be a grid.  The look is sleek and the thing is fast-loading, (they don't call it insta for nothing), and it has the best photo editing/enhancing features I've encountered.  No links.  Speak for yourself, it seems to say, sans words. It's the only of the digital town squares I investigated that hooked me, and my account remains intact.  Some of the best, most creative political commentary I've found were on Instagram, and they were wordless. No sharing beyond its borders, which is a real pity. Best suited for creatives, perfectionists, reductionists, and escapees of any kind. 

Meanwhile, down in the ravine tonight, a bunch of neighborhood cats, deprived of all social media opportunities, are having themselves some kind of orgy. 

Many campfires, one fire, indeed.  


Belle Turnbulle (1881-1970)

Only the drift of tameless folk,
Tough in sinew, tough in bone,
Knit in their outlandishness,
Long endure by naked stone.

from Will Boil Too Early, The Ten Mile Range Belle Turnbulle 

A few dear poet friends and I will be discussing Belle's work at the Breckenridge Creative Arts Center the evening of Friday, April 21.  More information can be found here:  rANGE

Turnbulle, who lived in Breckenridge for the last 30 years of her life, came to speak the dual language of mountain and mining: 

Mountains were made for badgers, Probus said,

And badgers for the mountains.  And so long
As I can claw a tunnel, with the strong
Smell of the ore beyond, I shall be led
To sink my pick in holes unlimited,
To rummage in old stopes and raise the song
Of victory too soon, all laid along
Hellbent to crack a granite maidenhead.

And men of war may hoot and presidents

Rock down the chutes to hell, but I'll be going
Soon as a patch of mountainside is showing.
Soon as a bluebird settles on a fence,
Two shall string out and beat it up the trail,
A jackass first, a miner at his tail.  


In the meantime, here on the edge of the world, it has been a quiet morning.

In Which the Artist Goes to the Opening and Attempts to Paint in Public

Colorado Canyons Gallery and Gifts

The good people of the Telluride Mushroom Fest have asked I design their T-shirts this year.  I'll also be vending original works at the event:


Writing Motherhood, edited by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

These good folks in Ireland kindly asked permission to reprint "Flowers, for my Mother," a small piece of mine which first appeared in Poetry, in their new anthology, which is available now:    


And a Touch of Justice

Shawnee Rayne


Bibliotherapy and the Beautiful Barrio, by Joy Rulier Sawyer

"I soon realized that a movement from self-expression into craft—into laboring to revise and polish abstracts into sensory specifics—is what eventually results in the most personal insight and transformation. This is exactly what so many writers and poets have known intuitively for years: that such literary crafting can actually be life-changing."

Library of Dreams


Herman Hesse:

On Breaking the Trance of Busy-ness

From the pages of Rattle

I remain grateful to Tim for supporting my work, whether it be some shameless doggerel or something a little more felinesque:

The Question Ever

I Have Been Counting my Regrets 

And Szymborska Says;

"Let's take the wings off and try to write on foot, shall we?"

Wislawa Szymborska 

And Roethke says:

"I long for the imperishable quiet at the heart of form."  

AM Juster serves up Sleaze and Slander

"Potshots at the sacrosanct are always welcome."

Real irreverence is so refreshing:

Kurp on Juster 


A Text Book Case and The Hudson Review

A small poem of mine from The Dark Gnu, my third book, will appear in Literature, an Introduction to Poetry, Fiction and Drama, edited by Dana Gioia and XJ Kennedy.   I believe this will be my first appearance in a textbook.  If you blink you'll miss it.  The poem, including the title, weighs in at seven words.  


Two new poems, The Summit and What You've Been Given, appear in the current issue of The Hudson Review.  Not to be missed in this issue is Logan's essay on ED and A Formal Feeling:  


My Moses, my Jackal, my Ishmael

The beloved and cantankerous one has taken a fall, and was found to be unwell. He's been in hospital, teetering on all manner of medical edges, for some two or three months.  It would surprise no one to hear he is not going gentle.  Perhaps he has promises to keep. Perhaps he's just a stubborn ol git.  I am convinced he is alive by sheer will. Though his body is riddled with illness and he is quite weak, he mostly remains lovable, quotable, and puckishly horrible.  


by Jack Mueller

Physics has lost its walls
Coincidence is overworked
And history bleeds internally

Each complaint has less validity
Than the one preceding
Lust wobbles the planet

Light leaks outward toward the sun
To feed its bright indifference
Little by little, water leaves Earth

Leaving kisses as slow torture
To parched lips, oceans
As giant calligraphers of silence.


Best American Poetry/Videlock

Well, hell, my rather lengthy litany on birds, "Deconstruction", which first appeared in The Hopkins Review, and has been nominated for a Pushcart, has also been selected for inclusion in Best American Poetry, edited this year by Natasha Tretheway.  This will be my second appearance in BAP.  One is grateful for larks, loons, and good fortune.    


Ranier Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

Maybe I am traveling, like some secret ore, 
through the hard veins of a mountain, alone.
And I'm in so deep that I see no door
and no distance: nothing but a single core
that draws in all things and changes them to stone.
I don't have much wisdom about misery. 
The darkness has made me smaller, it's true. 
Are you the one solid enough? Come, break through, 
so that all of your touch might happen to me, 
and all of my tears might happen to you.

(from The Book of Hours)

translation Paul Weinfield

Paula Tatarunis: The Lam's Tough on a Goil

My extended essay on the works of the recently deceased poet, Paula Tatarunis, appears in the current issue of Mezzo Cammin:  

The Lam's Tough on a Goil, Paula Tatarunis


Leslie Monsour

The Education of a Poet 

By Leslie Monsour (b. Jan. 25, 1948)

Her pencil poised, she's ready to create, 

Then listens to her mind's perverse debate
On whether what she does serves any use;
And that is all she needs for an excuse
To spend all afternoon and half the night
Enjoying poems other people write.


Sylvia Plath

God, how I ricochet between certainties and doubt ! 

E.B. White

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. It it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.   - E.B. White

In Which the Ram with an Attention Span and a Gnat Scan the Horizon

“So good to be back in your life, my friend!”

But ....you never left.


Many scientists are unaware that materialism is an assumption.   They simply think of it as science, or the scientific view of reality, or the scientific world view.  They are not actually taught about it, or encouraged to discuss it.  It’s simply absorbed by a kind of intellectual osmosis.   - Sheldrake


Upcoming: Spontaneous Color, Spontaneous Rhythm


 I'll be teaching a class through the Art Center at the Blue Pig Gallery here in Palisade on Saturday, Feb 11.  For information, please visit:

Wendy Videlock: The art of Spontaneous Creation


Because Wine Country, Palisade


#palisadecolorado #wine country

Our Foot's in the Door: In Which the Doodler Doodles Shrooms for Festival Merch


#mushroomart #telluridemushroomfest


In Which the Night Owl is asked to tell a Story

The Trumpian, a Holiday Tale

September and October were surprisingly good months for selling art in the valley.  In preparation for the cold months, the poet had hoarded away her income in order to purchase, finally, carpet for the living room.  

And so it was that just a couple of days after the election in November, two young carpet installers arrived at the house.  On the sizable shoulders of one of them perched a large, imposing boom box.  The poet assured herself that this was no imposition, that she was an open minded sort, that she could listen to, or suffer through whatever kind of music were to ensue.  

She hadn’t counted on the unmistakable, mind-numbing sound of Rush Limbaugh, his voice yet more shrill, more hyperventilated, more bloated and full of certainty than she remembered it, blaring through the house -- and straight into the center of the weird, disembodied, bourgeois wound the election appeared to represent. 

Hey, guys, she begins, using her best half apologetic, half self-righteous voice, I can listen to just about anything...but Rush Limbaugh...I mean, come on...

One of them laughed uncomfortably, the other, the carrier of the monstrosity, said nothing as he ambled over to the thing and casually switched over to classic rock.  

There is no moral to this story.  It hardly matters that both the poet and the bringer of the monstrosity seemed to lighten, or perhaps recognize a shared sense of irony when a few minutes later, having both by now secretly identified the other as The Enemy, Come Together, (Right Now), sifted through the house.  Nor does it matter much that as the morning progressed, the poet found herself out on the front stoop, sharing a smoke with the young offender, discovering his particular story, his sense of humor, in short, his obvious humanity.  The uncle in prison, the little sister with Downs, the legacy of addiction he can't seem to shake, (who can?), the layoffs in coal, legion in the area, which brought him to the unlikely trade of carpet laying.  

Nor does it matter much that this bringer of the monstrosity, the caricature I mean, the one who carries Rush Limbaugh around on his shoulder, became, over the course of a smoke, a sensitive, articulate kid with a story and a tragedy of his own. It makes no difference to the world that that the anxiety ridden, middle class client who couldn't tolerate a little talk radio, had a husband in coal, that he was one of the few hanging on by his fingernails, with a mortgage and a kid's tuition hanging in the balance.  It doesn't mean much to anyone that the old poet chose not to tell the young man that financial self-interest be damned, the husband and many of his colleagues in the industry had voted against the T-rump.  No, that part didn't matter at all, for she'd lost all interest in proving a point, or scoring a point, or landing on the right side of anything, and so it seemed, had he.  She had resumed, perhaps, her natural place in the grey areas, in the in-betweens, at the cross roads and along the fringe -- or as some would say, on the fence -- distrusting, yet again, (for the lesson arrives again and again), her own ideology as a lens of any clarity through which to perceive the world.   

It is I suppose, an anti climactic story, one of questionable merit and of little interest to anyone -- except perhaps to the two of them, an awkward pair at an awkward moment in history, muddling through their own prejudices and suppositions, addictions and predicaments.  

Well, perhaps it also mattered to  the old goat, munching his feed and participating, somewhat reluctantly, from across the street.  



In which Michelangelo Speaks

The smallest feline is a masterpiece.    


Says the Artist

With the cat 

I generally 

stalk, hiss, 



A New Gaggle of Crows

The cold has descended, and with it, what appears to be a new gaggle of crows, the chickadee and the falcon, the coyote and the row deer, and redtail and owl in abundance.  By this time last year, a golden eagle had established a presence along the length of the canyon.  One can almost hear the collective shuddering of the mice, and the quail, and the rabbits huddled in the undergrowth.

Yesterday I trekked down into the ravine and filled the feeders with seeds and nuts, and felt a thousand tiny eyes upon my every move.  And still, they waited until dusk to emerge and feed themselves, somewhat frantically, some hours later.   The raptors aren't pleasure-cruising this time of year, and leisurely, social, noisy dining is out of the question.  The summer affords safety in numbers; winter is a different algorithm entirely.  Even the goats across the way bleat in the afternoons right on cue, but with less conviction in the thin air.  Big ol rumbling raccoon that's made a vocation of crossing  the road (over and over again), finally got smushed at the bottom of the hill towards town.  An undignified death, to be sure, but at least he's spared the winter months.  And that's not even mentioning Lane next door with his welding machines gone quiet, and Leesa down the road, who lost her husband and her horse -- or Murray, whose water well went dry back in August.

 It's hard times for everyone in coal country.

Literature, in my experience, does not console, and isn't meant to.  - Hecht

Meanwhile, the poet is asked to speak on "current events, rhetoric, and a world gone awry with greed and shameless stupidity".  As though either were a  mystery, or new to the world. 

The poet mumbles something about being raised on Dostoyevski, Hesse, and Mad Magazine, and has grown accustomed to the crude and the absurd, has in fact come to expect it.  This elicits a conspiratorial giggle from the inquisitors.  Thus satisfied, they settle in.  The poet goes on to deliver a poem, which does not console, and isn't meant to, and which nobody in the room quite hears, (another occurrence  to which the poet has become accustomed), save one scrappy wayward soul who calls himself the friend of a friend of an old woman who gave birth to the prophet of Melon.

How many readers does a poet neeeeed, asks the hermit of Log Hill.

One, replies the poet, as though need were a thing with feathers, and crows were a child's counting song.


some days later, the poet witnesses a virtuoso cellist.  She is obliged to say It wasn't really a witnessing, but the boarding of a frigate.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear is the mind of winter.

The Owl

By Edward Thomas

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved; 
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof 
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest 
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof. 

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest, 
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I. 
All of the night was quite barred out except 
An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry 

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill, 
No merry note, nor cause of merriment, 
But one telling me plain what I escaped 
And others could not, that night, as in I went. 

And salted was my food, and my repose, 
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice 
Speaking for all who lay under the stars, 
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.