Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Me, the Bee Gees, and Books in the Basement

 

1977 Billboard Music Awards

Lonely days, lonely nights. Where would I be without my omen?

I think that’s how it goes. Down here in the basement, the sound of tiny paws scurrying within the heating duct, spiders in the west ground-level window, unsold books, unsold paintings, unsold greeting cards, all the company a young boy needs. And, of course, Barry, Robin, and Maurice. (And Andy)

My newest book – “Dictation from the Backyard” arrives today on UPS, they promise, 50 copies destined for collector status at some point far down the road, every page numbered incorrectly, off by one (not the loneliest number), allowable by a formatter glitch and yours truly missing the obvious on three separate “proofing” opportunities. You now what — I’m blaming it all on the nights on Broadway. Anyway, all these paperbacks spilling out onto the living room floor sometime the next few hours, potential magnets for dust, leave me rocketing with sadness and I’ll start a joke, and I’m thinking about stalking customers — “Well I had to follow you though you did not want me to.” As in, tag, you’re it.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wRM-t7wvF0

I’d take a room full of strangers, yeah, they’ll be another “Book Signing” up at Papccino’s if they’ll still have me, it’s where I read these very poems up at the open mikeMany of my poems are about Massachusetts, lights out or on. Like a mining disaster, if you catch my cave-in. And what about caving to the obvious and buy a friend’s book and give it away, say, the 14th, poems, maybe show how deep your love is, it’s possible and all the while participating in someone else’s journey in a helping way, which Thoreau (another Bay State boy) told us all there ain’t nothing better. Buying all these Words.

I was meditating then,
That summer,
In a chair
In a spare bedroom,
But I took to meditating while standing
In the imperfect silence
Of my afternoon meadow visits.
Stand up on the edge,
Undercover through bushes and trees
The crowd unaware,
I’m still,
I’m empty,
I’m large,
Suntanned skin tickled, tricked by the breeze off the nearby sea
Aware of sliding sweat
Gravity’s friend
Down my back.
Aware hot tires rolling over tar,
Aware the soft slap
Of runners’ shoes, behind,
Passing.
Passing.

 

Run to me.

Dictation_from_the_B_Cover_for_Kindle

 

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Taking My Sweet Time

(From the Morning Pages)

My body feels better than yesterday, fewer aches in the low back and behind my knees. I woke up that way — improved — though surely two aspirin have helped. I also woke with a headache, my first in

me-writingweeks, and it is not lost on me that I ate ice cream last night — lots of it — for the first time in a while, not a good decision for different reasons, which means self-discipline in refusing any of what’s left is the only way to go. Sad or smart or both or neither, life is life. A new experiment keeping my morning coffee hot and fresh, this morning, worked well — some metal container guaranteed to keep liquids piping hot making possible turning off freshly-brewed wake-up nectar, the second cup now as fresh as the first eliminating that cooked burned reality requiring more half and half for balance, thereby settling for less and, oh well, now that’s behind me. Some eighteen days past my 69th birthday. So, better late than never, or who’s zoomin’ who. One of them.

 

 

Reading Earnest Gaines upstairs in the blue recliner versus downstairs in my everyday pink, I’m mostly moved by his dedication to writing. He said more than five hours a day five days a week is too much for him, I’d be back-flipped thrilled if I could — if I do — get myself to two hours a day five days a week, which is nearly never — so far. It would jump forward, my writing.

 

In Rilke’s “Letters To a Young Poet” Rilke asks — the young poet — if he could live without writing. Yes, if he could live without writing, because the answer to that question determines whether one is a writer or not. It’s clear reading Gaines’s essays that he could not live without writing. My surface mind goes immediately to — I could. Meaning I’m not a writer. But on a walk with my wife the other day I brought up the Rilke measure for a true writer and told her it worried me at first glance, but, if I stop to breath –deeply — in all my past there is evidence that I have been one who writes and has written all his life, and there are few, barely any, personal characteristics/qualities I can say that about — a particular act repeated over such a stretch of time. So, a writer, then, I be, and perhaps it is character defects of chronic laziness and never-ending dis-tractability which keep me from the sweat and inner commandment to show up at the keyboard and/or notebook every single day — or die.

And like so much else of life this proposition is worth pondering — if not for you, surely for me. Which I am and I do and I will, and I do show up every single morning for these morning pages for years and years now. There’s that.


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Bare Lilac Branches

Bare lilac branchesIt feels, when I turn out the lights behind the recliner, I am giving up minutes of sacred time in my day. Surely not the only sacred time — I’d be a non-observing, non-engaged fool to say that. But those sacred minutes, the ones I’ve had with coffee and eye glasses and my books, while everyone else sleeps, a quiet in the house not present otherwise. So, unless there is a particular call to hurry off into the day — and twice a week I drive my son early to where he needs to be — I wonder to myself why I don’t stretch out the recliner solitude, dawn lighting the morning out the living room windows, for every possible moment? Until I hear the sounds of waking, movement elsewhere in the house, bringing down the checkered flag on silence.

Bare lilac branches
Illuminated by a reading lamp
Through the winter window,
Seen out a pantry pane,
An otherwise dark morning world
Stand present
Still
Even in this wind.
They wait for more.
Green.
Spring.
The budding of opportunity,
To improve on last year’s
Achievements.

My best guess, simply, is because it’s time. I see myself rise from the chair, walk to the kitchen and rinse out the mug, come back and switch off the electric light — and I don’t intervene. I’m ready. Now I walk down the basement stairs to the old Cushman kitchen table — hauled so lovingly back and forth all those miles, all these years, wrapped on occasion in mover’s blankets — take a seat at the table on one of four straight back chairs I bought used at a church rummage sale upon my move to Portland nine years ago, and come here, where I come every morning, to the waiting notebook silent and still on the table which I open and upon taking the blue medium pen, write three pages. I do this every single morning, I have since May of 2011 when I stopped formal work, thereby leading me to believe that the notebook calls up to me, something like “It’s time.”

Rare, among the triad of pages, is there a profound word to be found — that’s not me. I’ll guess the act of the writing, the ritual, is enough, another action of sacred living. Even with the small sound of feet passing over the floor above me. Even with the now empty recliner.

Bare lilac branches
They remind me of me.
Out the pantry pane they appear
Lonely.
But there is that glimmering
In the night.


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Rap-sody in the Rain

I was on the phone with my main man Provincetown Keith the other afternoon. He was in a van with his squeeze Sally, tooling down US 287 west out of Lawton, Oklahoma with a destination somewhere around greater Amarillo, TX in mind. Keith is one of my three spiritual advisers (which include him, head East Bay drug czar Gavin O. in Oakland, CA, and my wife Susan, currentlyLawton upstairs doing something healthy and useful.) I’d called Keith because I was in need of spiritual advice.

I was out on a walk and it had begun raining — well, here in Portland, perhaps I should more accurately say it had resumed raining — anyway, water was oozing down from the sky and I was attempting to protect my non-waterproof smart phone by holding it up somewhere between the collar of my raincoat and the brim of my Red Sox baseball cap, my right arm curled up and around in some Dali-like abstraction of human anatomy, and still keep the microphone end of the phone pointed toward me because I was in need of spiritual counseling, I was in need of comfort — comfort from my own anguished thoughts and — what I was about to admit — escalating resentments.

So I laid it out for Keith, after perfunctory “what’s ups?” and “good to hear your voice Bro’s”, I’ve published a new book, it’s my second book of poetry, it’s my fourth overall, and I’ve sold just three copies (not counting the eBooks my wife and I both ordered on differing electrical devices) and what do you have to do, how much begging will be enough, and yes, okay, I did quote from Rilke the question of whether or not I would die if I didn’t write, which feels strongly like an affirmative for me so, yeah, the writing’s the thing, and also asked, as a devilish advocate, if you write a book or write anything for that matter and no one reads it, like what’s the point? And Keith, and he’s good at this, interrupted repeatedly through his laughter saying “Dude, you’ve got your own answer”, and me firing back then why don’t I just write, say, the greatest book of poetry ever written and then run out to the backyard and set the mother on fire, and Keith said “Come one man, please, seriously?” and I said I know resentments are bad, but still, and Keith said “Ah, there….there in the ‘but still’….there’s the disease.”

It should be reported here that Keith and I met way back in the fall of 2007, just when the Red Sox were ramping up their second World Series run, at early morning meetings in Provincetown out at the tip of old Cape Cod where a whole bunch of people — who’d gotten up early to do so — spilled their guts about pain and struggle and joy and release and, yup, resentments and even feeling free at last, and pretty early on we — Keith and me — figured out we were spiritual buddies, and over these last 10 or so years we’ve taken turns at the spiritual nourishment thing depending on who needed it the most on that particular telephone call — and a sad fact is that we have not laid eyes on the person of each other since the summer of 2008, being only phone advocates of abundance and joy…..

Then I nicked the wrong thing on the side of the phone or they passed through a cell phone dead zone or a chuckling God farted or something because the phone went dead and I trudged home in the rain and they, I presume, kept motorvating west, and when I arrived home I texted Keith and said okay, I got it, that feeling of self-pity is leaving me, I get it, and the next day, maybe two days later, he messaged me and said as soon as he and Sally landed somewhere they felt like hunkering down for awhile — so as to have an address — he was gonna order both my poetry books on line and he was so proud of me and I was like a hero and other cool spiritual nourishment and comfort statements.

Meaning mostly I was comforted in the not selling any books thing because, like the men (Rilke and Keith) said, I wrote the damn things. And how cool is that.

Then, 20 minutes ago, I read a quote from Samuel Johnson in the preface to Mary Karr’s “The Art of Memoir” which said this —  “No man but a blockhead ever wrote for any cause but money.”

Which may necessitate another call to somewhere in the southwest.

Some day

I’ll fall back

Into the pattern of the world.

I’ll still be free

On the Orleans rotary.


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10,000 Revisions

Open Mike 2

I pray today is a day of no wasted time. Exactly none. I’ve been successful so far though it is only five minutes past seven in the morning. In the morning recliner I was reading the poems — a few — of Pablo Neruda from a library book of his complete works. Mostly I was reading from the lengthy introduction. From there, on the second cup of coffee, I moved on to breakfast recipes in the Tassajara Recipe book, which arrived earlier in the week via Ebay and set me back only four dollars and some cents including shipping. I took a little time to ponder over five photos of myself the resident Papaccino’s coffee shop photographer slipped me in an envelope from a local print shop as I made my way back to my seat from the microphone in the corner of the room. Two months ago I could not have imagined reading anything — a recipe, a prayer, some passage from one of Dr. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing books, anything — in front of people, having developed (I remember distinctly) a variety of panic disorder reading in front of a group of men in a brightly lit basement room in a church on Medford Ave in Somerville, MA — all with hyper-ventilations and heart interruptions and fear of not catching a new breath — ever again — meaning I have refused to read in public for more than ten years.

This morning
Gray with misunderstandings
And surrenders
Distractions of the highest order,
Golden,
Enticing in their ambiance
Welcome turnaways from
That hungry child
In the public school door.
She’s invisible.

But this was my fourth appearance up at the open mike, after one initial week of panic and refusal, and some neighborhood guy was handing me pictures of me. By the way, I look old though I can happily and honestly report I feel within my mind and spirit and soul quite the opposite, even in a world of aching knees and prescribed cholesterol medication.

Last night I read two poems from Minor Revelations and one from my second book of poetry — Dictation from the Backyard. I finished, placing my hands on the provided metal reading stand to keep the shaking less visible, with a poem I’d written only yesterday morning, I felt compelled to read it even if it didn’t feel in it’s final state — kind of like how I feel about myself….not my final state, not yet. Still, the poem is titled 10,000 Revisions, which could or could not be some metaphor for my own transformations.

Someone yelled out, after my first poem, “Did you write that?” Someone else approached me when the open mike thing was over and said he wanted to buy a copy of my book. I said I’d bring one next week. Meaning I can’t be wasting any time…..anytime.

I’ve followed you to the carnival,
Followed into the funhouse,
All it’s laughable distortions.
But see,
Here,
I hold a mirror
True in its reflection
Taken from atop the girl’s
Second-hand dresser,
A birthday gift some year back
I’ve watched her hold it
In one hand
Brush her hair with the other, and
Now I’ve borrowed it
As if it is a breaker
To be snapped closed
And cut through
The tripped darkness,
Which is intentional
And obligates me
To flip the switch.


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From This Morning’s Morning Pages

 

April Flowers pic

It’s great when I can look around and see lots of evidences of my creations, on days when I feel (relatively) creation-less. At least so far, though it’s only 7:30 in the morning and the sun has barely provided enough light to watch like yesterday and tomorrow the falling rain. This evidence of something inside me bursting to come out, even as if in a drizzle, when we talk about legacies — for the kids, for the grand-kids, for the planet, for the wife or the daddy.

So it’s good, here a book of poetry lost in a pile of greater poets, there on the wall set off by a golden brown solid wood frame a so much abstract notion of what April looks like — to me, on that day. Isn’t April the most poetic month, and haven’t I made my best effort to this date to honor her — oh sacred April — with my colors and my words?

I snap pictures on my walk
Where science holds hands with nature
In recollection, digital, colorized
My eyes look up and out
Osprey lording over green river and
Blue pond cattails lean left in morning breeze,
Hold sparrows on their fluffy perch
I drop to my knees
(In my heart)
In thanks — once again — for this. All this.

 

Yes, evidences that there is more inside me than nothing — always good to know — more, even, than lots. Whitmanesque. I am large. Little me with my little life has much to offer. Which, of course, leads to and begs the question — Whose doesn’t?

If I can get sober anyone can get sober, I’ve heard that said from time to time over the years of abstinence and re-generation. And that may or may not have anything to do with creativity — I think I doubt it — just another thing to possibly think about.

Here it is a Monday ( and I bet there are more Monday songs than Friday songs) and so far today I feel, so far, a little vacant and possibly direction-less, other than the imperative to lower the cholesterol and get down on the floor and stretch these old bones, among anything else in need of stretch, and already today — and it’s only 7:47 — I’ve read Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes and Sylvia Plath and William Carlos Williams and Mary Oliver and I can honestly report it hasn’t been to compare, but rather to seek brave new worlds. These early morning worlds always waiting. And like Ringo Starr sang, “All I’ve got to do is act naturally.”

So good thing there ain’t no white chalk outline around me yet. Amen to that.

Someone has written a poem.
When I read it
Will I twirl?
Will I then write my own?
Will I catch the sun from the corner
Of one eye, the moon
From the other?
Will my past line up behind me?
In devotion to
The one me now?

 


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These Here Thoughts Today

My father – Winston H. Cushman – died early in January 1980. In Arizona. He was 68 years old. During these succeeding 38 years this question has come to, or for, me every so often – Will I live longer than 68? Longer than my Dad? Or will that be my due date too? Today I have the answer.

Dictation_from_the_B_Cover_for_Kindle

 

It was 1949 in New Bedford, MA, when I came on the scene. Seven years later I rolled, part-way through the year, into second grade at the Pilgrim Elementary School in Wareham — my hometown. I have a poem about Allen Ginsberg and me and second grade in my first published book of poetry, “Minor Revelations”.

This one.

 

 

 

 

 

Second Grade

Massachusetts

Why wasn’t I reading Allen Ginsberg in 1956 when he was writing “America”

and I was in second grade,

Elementary, a pilgrim at Pilgrim?

Not yet reading Weekly Reader

Not yet swooning over Mary Linda

Not yet floating like a butterfly and stinging like a marshmallow

Out on recess playground

Not yet a Red Sox advocate (it’s coming) and sufferer (soon)

Not yet a political giant

Not yet crossing the race barrier

Not yet finding my howl

Not yet bunting magic bunts with my magic little league lumber

(there’s gold in them thar trees)

Not yet a bedroom boss, a bedroom baby,

a bedroom blue boy

Not yet so perpetually confused about the things I’m sure of.

I’m sure Allen would have helped,

Garden State fairy angel,

With all of my life’s poetry,

Held my metaphorical hand on endless walks with bigger daydreams

and a bigger heart.

Why’d I have to wait til now?

Massachusetts?

 

It’s a good question. About the waiting. My first sponsor — Dick M. — always told me, when I came to him moaning about this or that, he’d say, “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.”  I can’t say I always appreciated those words as an answer, but as I’ve aged I’ve come to believe more in possibilities. I guess I started getting A.G. and poetry in general when I was supposed to. Anyway, I turned 69 today and I’ve just published poetry book number two – “Dictation from the Backyard” — and I’ve managed to hang around a little longer than my Dad now, which feels more like obligation than anything else.

Expect poetry from me going forward.

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