Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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The Way of a Poem

I finished a poem last week, it was seven pages long. I’d typed it in one long paragraph from notes and lines of possible poetry in a notebook and my Morning Pages over the previous week when I was on my way to and then in San Diego

SD Air 2with my wife Susan, visiting her parents.

I’d typed the long paragraph late in the afternoon, a clear cold day with an east wind howling outside our Portland windows, and before going up the basement stairs to handle dinner I’d begun my process of hitting the “Enter” key on the keyboard to create a new line — the next line — when it felt poetically proper to do so. I got maybe a quarter of the way through my lengthy mess. During and after dinner my wife Susan and I watched four episodes of NYPD Blue Season 11, though I nodded out here and there during the last 42 minutes. So when Susan was heading up to bed (and one of my most favorite things is to get into bed while she’s still awake and look at her in the dark and giggle) I truly meant it when I said I was too tired to do anymore work on the poem and was simply going to turn off the computer.

I came back up the basement stairs out of a trance 45 minutes later, then cut up and ate my mandatory (reflux) before bed every evening apple while watching “All the President’s Men” on HBO — it feeling kind of relevant these days — and so I found myself quietly slipping into bed in the dark beside my now long-dreaming wife at 11:19. One opportunity missed — and I don’t take that lightly — and another seized — ditto.

The poem is “San Diego Say So” and the plan is for all seven pages of it to appear within the next volume of poetry I publish sometime in early 2018 (on the cheerful assumption we’re all still here).

 

For show and tell purposes — and maybe serving as a teaser —  within a short section of the poem, this became this:

This

“We’ll pass the San Diego airport which I like, the one runway, the in-bound planes approach in wide arc out over the County, in fact fly just over the in-laws home, descend in a straight line 13 miles they pass so low, eventually, over India Street (in Little Italy) San Diegans can look into oblong plane windows at the wide-eyed expressions of young boys and their parents reaching for smart phones. I’m not a native here, but I’ve been on the street and seen those faces. And, in the air, been seen as one.”

Became This

We’ll pass the San Diego airport

Which I like,

The one runway.

The inbound planes approach in wide arc

Out over the County, in fact

Fly just over the in-laws home,

Descend in a straight line

13 miles.

They pass so low, eventually, over India Street

(In Little Italy)

San Diegans can look into oblong

Plane windows

At the wide-eyed expressions of young boys

And their parents reaching for smart phones.SD Air 1

I’m not a native here, but

I’ve been on the street

and seen those faces.

And,

In the air,

Been seen as one.

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Poems of the Week 2

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“There are some things we do simply because the doing is a success.” — Nikki Giovanni

 

From Federico Garcia Lorca:

 

“Lola

sings saetas

The little bullfighters

circle around her

and the little barber, from his doorway,

follows the rhythms

with his head.

Between the sweet basil

and the mint,

Lola sings

saetas.

That same Lola

who looked so long

at herself in the pool.”

 

and From me:

 

“Our baseball, tag, and beyond-touch football

lost in summer,

Leaf-pile snugglers and hiders

not so long ago.

Today we are Eskimos

Today this corner of Lowell is white

and begs for our attention

which we have come to freely give.

(Like Lowell’s Kerouac kid.)

We roll, we lunge, we duck

balls of snow,

here comes Jack Frost to model

for the round white guy.

My sons and I at play.”

 

Lorca’s “Balcony” and from my Minor Revelations, “I Have a Painting.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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To Go Where No Buddy Has Gone Before

If the question is – “Why a book of poetry?”

The answer, (honestly), is – “Beats me.”

I do not remember writing the first poem. It was just there. Another followed, then another. Over a short period of time – no moSusan holding Minorre than 10 days – someone who’s never had much of an inclination toward or appreciation of the written poem fell down the rabbit hole and all the way in. Quickly I found myself entirely devoted to poetry. It began to fall out, every morning after sitting meditation and with coffee in the recliner. In fact, many of the poems to be found in my first book of poetry – “Minor  Revelations” – showed up in a flash sitting in the recliner.

I have always been a Shakespeare fan, a big one. Beyond that, no friend of poetry. In fact, a couple of years ago a friend named Kate, someone with whom I’d worked years earlier in a Portland foster care program, got the idea to bring poetry into Portland area juvenile detention centers and groups homes – something she’d been involved with in Seattle – and when asked, I signed up as a volunteer. I went to a number of the poetry planning meetings and brought home the books of poetry written by the kids up in Seattle Kate gave me to read (though I never read them much). After a while, the familiar fog of guilt upon me, I respectfully resigned…..Little did I know.

Today I have a second book of poetry in the works, about a third of the planned way complete. One of the poems in that project is called “Kate, I Didn’t Know”. Kate and I had a cup of tea at the Chinese Garden downtown Sunday morning and I told her about it – my new life as a poet, the second book, the poem with her name. She laughed — with me or maybe at me, who can tell. Probably a little of both. Kate’s always been a fan and supporter of my varied adventures.

My answer, above, to the question “Why a book of poetry?” was “Beats me.” While  the “you got me”, “couldn’t tell ya”, “never woulda thought it”, all those ring true, there’s also a fabulous obsession in which I found myself immersing about a year ago with the literature of “The Beats” – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Hettie Jones, Diane di Prima, Clellon Holmes. Obviously there’s a lot of poetry there and while reading everything Kerouac I began the tiptoe through some of Ginsberg as well. “Howl” for sure. Then others. The point being that it’s possible the Beat poets were reaching out from the 50s and 60s, whispering in my ear – and in my heart – “come along with us, Buddy. It’ll be worth it. It’ll be exciting. It’ll be fun.”

So far it has, a joyride eons beyond anything I considered, never mind hoped for. I’ll talk in more detail –  in my next post – just how that ride has looked as I’ve whizzed along all the road maps and signs of my interwoven life.

Here are the last 19 lines of “Kate, I Wasn’t Ready”:

…..

Though I suspect it was a game,

Always a game.

Call it hide and seek

Where I was

Forever ‘It’

And poetry a better hider.

 

So,

Then,

When Kate took my hand,

Led me to workshops,

Filled my flimsy arms with thin volumes

of the good stuff,

Explained to me as if to a child.

All that time –

All this time –

Poetry giggled

Almost silent,

Hiding behind my favorite tree.

 

Invisible.

 

 

 

 


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On My Newest Book

Minor cover

I had an idea for the cover of my new book, my third, a project on which I’ve been quietly at work. The front cover was going to be a photo of one of my paintings, the back cover a photo of me leaning against a stone wall, the wall rising some 15 feet and covered in hanging vines turned red with autumn’s imperative. But my wife Susan and I never coordinated picture schedules and times and as the deadline approached for all exterior and interior files to be readied for formatting and printing I changed my mind and decided to work with something quieter. I chose the photo above.

This photo will be wrapped around the book in its entirety — front cover, spine, and back, with title and author words on the front and spine and a quote from the one person to whom I have sent the book – in Word document – for pre-publish review. Her feedback has arrived and the boys from Bulgaria who do my covers have already placed Jamie and her thoughtful review front and center on the back. They’ve sent me the first draft and I could share it here now, but why spoil the secret. If good things come to those who wait, please wait a little longer.

Cover aside, I am most excited with what’s inside, completely new prose territory for me. If nothing ventured is nothing gained, well, I have ventured deep into the dusty, dusky inner workings of my mind.

“Minor Revelations” is the result.

Coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love Is An Ocean I Can’t Forget

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I am going to the ocean tomorrow. To this place.

I came from the ocean. I know, supposedly we all did, if you’re a Darwin kind of gal or guy. But, specifically, for me, I came from the ocean side. Born in New Bedford – the Whaling City – raised in Wareham, a town filled with beach communities and bays and water all about. I graduated from Cape Cod Community College, a half mile from the Atlantic on those Main Street days, and later Salem State College, a stone’s throw from Salem Harbor/the Atlantic. I lived in Salem for many years, then off to Rockport and its peninsula self into the Atlantic for a winter, eventually to Plum Island and Newburyport, where the mighty Merrimack River flows into the cold ocean there.

When I first left Massachusetts, at age 27, I flew to Los Angeles and lived for a short while in both Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Later crashing in graduate housing at UC Irvine, hard by the Pacific, and working for a spell in San Clemente, able to take an occasional dip there or in Laguna Beach. A few years later it was New Smyrna Beach in Florida,ariel-view then Vero Beach. Back up to Mass and a year-long stint running an HIV/Aids housing program in Provincetown, a block from Cape Cod Bay. I squeezed a year and a half in Oakland, CA somewhere in there, crossing the bridge or taking BART under the San Francisco Bay, while running a kid program in the Lower Haight. Where, with the right eyes, you could see salt water from the tops of the highest hills. And certainly from Berkeley out from Blondies Pizza.

Yet somehow, within the reality of this always-by-an-ocean Bedouin life, I ended up in Portland, Oregon. Nearly 100 miles, as the raven flies, to the ocean. The Pacific. The one in the photos above. Some two hours away. Let me paraphrase “Remember the Titans”: How far? Too far? How far? Too far.

You can take the boy out of the ocean – if you must – but I don’t believe you can take the ocean out of the boy. Certainly not this boy…..Ocean si, Portland no.

I married an amazing woman

moonlight+beach+encinitasand her parents live in San Diego, and I have traveled there with her many times and everyone of those times been lucky enough to spend time in the Ocean Beach part of town. And swim there. A lot. We’ve day-tripped up to Encinitas a couple of times and swam at the gorgeous Moonlight Beach as well.

 

But most of the time, for these last eight and a half years of beach-withdrawal life in Portland, I have ached for the ocean. Deep down. I’m a beach boy. Look at my writing: “Ring Around The Rosy” and it’s ocean-side wander from Marion to Rockport; “Astoria Strange” where the Pacific sparkles and shines from the top of the Astoria Column. My current work, “When I Settle For Less“, book one of a novel set in southern California’s imaginary DeLoreal Beach.

You can’t take the boy out.

I’ve been blessed with the fact that my step-daughter Marie’s dad, my wife’s ex, owns with others a cottage three hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean in the Pacific Beach community of Tierra Del Mar. We rent it cheap for the promise of an amazing cleaning by me (and it’s always cleaner after than before), and I’ve been able to go and be there many times these last six years. The last two Marie and I – both writers – have commited to a “Writing Retreat” of five days/four nights, and I am thrilled to say our third such venture begins tomorrow. If the creek don’t rise and there ain’t no meltdown I’ll be right there, where I took those photos at the top, in a little less than 24 hours.

Get to refresh the genetic shadows deep within, of life by the water.

Get to rejoice.

"Gorgeous sunset from UC Berkeley!"


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A Wareham Druids Freshman Tabor Musical Contest

Blue Flowers

 

I’m thinking of a song.

This is a song that reminds me of my hometown of Wareham, Massachusetts, in the US of A. I’ve been thinking about my hometown more than usual this week and posted in this Blog Tuesday about the good old days and some of the bad new ones. That post received quite a bit of attention and a number of comments, one of which, from Thom Laine, was musical in nature.

I replied to his comment and in my response mentioned that I had been for a brief period in time a member of a musical group in Wareham. We called ourselves The Druids (I don’t remember why) and consisted of Billy Fisher on guitar, Wayne Lavallee on drums, and a summer kid from Hyde Park (in Boston) named Roy (last name lost in the cobwebs of my mind), who played bass or rhythm guitar (again, the brain cell thing) and lived summers with his family in Swifts Beach – one of Wareham’s many and distinct and wondrously enchanting beach communities. Oh, I was the singer. Billy was a couple of years older than me and actually was on active duty in the Navy, stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. Wayne was a year older. Roy was around my age and had a brother and I hung out in their summer house. We held practices in Wayne’s garage, poured concrete floor and all, which – I believe – officially makes me a member of a garage band. Cool.

 

April Flowers

 

We got to play in public, at least two places I remember were a Wareham High School freshman dance (and my memory here in crystal clear of screams and wails from the female members in attendance, just like with The Beatles) and in a battle of the bands in next town over Marion at Tabor Academy (along with Wareham’s Table Scraps), said Academy so many years later serving as the slightly unreal Tabler Academy in my first book, “Ring Around The Rosy”.

We sang cover songs. Other groups’ songs. One of which I’m thinking of right now. And in the spirit of fond remembrances of days past, I’m offering a contest. This is it — correctly guess which song we covered – one guess only – and in my mind today and be the first to post your answer on the Blog itself or my Facebook page and you will win one of these three paintings I have recently created, your choice. Each is painted on 11 x 15 watercolor paper in acrylic, and will be packaged as safely as I can get it and mailed out tomorrow. I might even throw in a Wareham-related surprise.

 

Duck

 

The rules are simple: Guess the song (remember, one guess per person) and reply on the Blog or my FB page. And be the first with the correct guess. Of course, as there are probably 127, 555 songs in my mind from which I might be listening I’m going to give you three hints. I’m hesitant to do so in fear it will be way too easy. Heck, I’d only need one of these hints to make the correct guess. But in the spirit of fairness I feel obligated to help out. So, here they are.

  1. The song was originally released between 1962 and 1969. (Which you probably could of figured from the years of and around my high school life. Duh)
  2. The song was released on Capital Records. (Hmm, could this be any easier….Beach Boys, Beatles, Bobbie Gentry, The Lettermen, The Righteous Brothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Helen Reddy, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, Don Yute….a few others. Heck, I might as well just tell you.)
  3. This would have been a great song blasting in a convertible roaring down Route 66. (Sorry Helen Reddy.)

Okay, I’m sure I’ve given it away. Thank you Billy and Wayne and Roy and especially Wareham for the memories. Swifts Beach and Tabor and The Table Scraps and The Revolutionaries and  The Monday Club and summer crushes Roberta Magarian (Lexington) and Pattie Parent (Wakefield) and Elaine Flinkstrom (Easton) and Parkwood and High Street and  Royal’s front yard and Main Street and Onset Beach and plain old Route 6 – thank you too.

I bet you get the picture.

Call me. We’ll have lunch.

(Contest ends tonight, 7/13/17, at midnight.)

 


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Back In My Little Town

 

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Once upon a time, far away and long ago, I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts named Wareham. Hard by the Buzzards Bay inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, and no doubt a clone of sorts from Wareham, England, itself hard by Poole Harbour and its larger Atlantic mother. The “Gateway to Cape Cod”, that’s what it was called at times, that’s what the sign said out on Route 28 by the Chamber of Commerce. Situated just before the Bourne Bridge crossing over to The Cape, at the confluence of the Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay.

I was lucky to have grown up there, for many reasons. It was a gentle place, mostly, dotted with beach communities and summer homes and summer days, Cape Verdean enclaves and culture, pine forests, and luscious ponds carved out by retreating ice-age glaciers. In the winter we skated those ponds, pushed against the sparkling frosty air, sometimes with a stick and a puck at our feet. In the spring, summers, and fall we fished, especially me and Donnie Sisson, usually Mill Pond – both sides of 28 – but others as well – Tihonet, the horseshoe mill, in West Wareham. Donnie had a hand-made net contraption thing, and we would wet it and rub damp Sunbeam white bread into the bottom and throw it in the Wareham River in back of Franconia Oil, just over the railroad tracks, and come back an hour later and haul it up, usually loaded with chubs and shiners, and these we would put in buckets of water and on our bikes create amazing acts of balance with buckets and fishing poles and tackle boxes and cruise to the spot of the day. In fact the Wareham River is, to this day, never far away for me, though I’m away 3000 and more miles as the red-winged blackbird flies. The River remains always in my mind and heart, I bet it’s in the blood that pumps and gravities through my body. Yes. I painted my feeling about it a few years ago. That green and gray thing up there.

Little Harbor Beach was another place of childhood summer days, with the folks and sisters and picnic lunch, blanket on the hot sand, and horse shoe crabs in the endless low tide wading and splashes, later on as a place to drink beer and park at night as the sun went down. With summer girls if we were lucky. I painted that too, actually a view away from the harbor and its Buzzards Bay supplier. This.

Little Harbor Lookaway

I write about my hometown today because yesterday on Facebook were links to a Wareham story of death threats against children and a militarized response and endless hours of parent and child anguish. Simon and Garfunkle sang about My Little Town. They also sang of a Mother and Child reunion. Here’s a link to a story about it all from a local news site.

 wareham-ma.villagesoup.com/p/wareham-students-evacuated-from-schools-following-pretty-specific-threat-of-shooting/1667706#.WWPKzCgT5ns.facebook

Reading the words, looking at the pictures, here in the Pacific Northwest, tears fell from my eyes. I couldn’t help it. They just fell. More water, like the Wareham River, like Little Harbor, like Buzzards Bay. More water, like my childhood.

Mary Hopkins sang a song back in my growing up time – “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” The Kinks sang a song then too – “We had our good times pal, we thought they’d last forever. But nothing lasts forever.”

When I crawled into bed last night my wife Susan, still awake, asked me, because of the way I am these days, if I had lost all my hope for the planet. My answer was “Most of it.”

Forget all the miles. It’s a long way from flying down Lincoln Hill on our bikes, hanging at Jay’s and Minnicks, dreaming of summer girls on Parkwood Beach, working at the record store, growing up with friends – it’s a long way from there to here. Today. For me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, to look through those childhood eyes again.