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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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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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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So Many Pedestrians, …

When I moved to Portland, Oregon I had to learn a new way to cross the street. I’d grown up in Massacchildren-crossing-sign-k-7066husetts and had spent most of my life living – and crossing streets – there. Now I was living in Portland, a city of about 500,000, similar in population to Boston. The last place I had lived in Massachusetts was the town of North Truro, on Cape Cod, population about about 318. (Actually the town of Truro, of which North is part, has a population just over 2000 so I am likely underestimating – in my usual smart-alecky way – how many people live on the North side, closer to Ptown. The point is, not a lot.)

None of which is the focus of this piece. I was talking about crossing the street, and re-learning the way to take that action once I’d relocated to the Northwest. You see the title up there, up at the top of this post? It is, in fact, half of a popular bumper sticker seen periodically on the rear bumpers of cars whooshing around the Bay State. In it’s entirety it reads like this – “So Many Pedestrians, So Little Time”. If you’re a Bay Stater, you get it.

When I moved to Portland and needed to cross the street I would step to the edge of the curb or into the curb cut or even off the curb if I felt foolhardy and wanted to live dangerously – and wait. Approaching cars, somehow having seen or perhaps sensed my intention from more than half a mile away would slow down and eventually stop. Up the street from me. Being from Massachusetts, where we take it as a God-given right to actually gun the motor at the sight of someone foolishly teetering at the edge of the curb, I would wait. The car would wait. I would wave them on with my hand, cause there’s no fuckin’ way I’m stepping out there Bro. They would wave me across. I wouldn’t go. They wouldn’t go. I would feel something like frustration, like, just go you asshole. They would feel something like rage, because I was making their sensitive and kindly and well-trained in driving etiquette selves waste time, and I have little doubt that perhaps more often than not they would slide their fingers under the driver’s seat, or maybe into the purse to their right, and feel the reassurance of cold steel – locked and loaded, one in the chamber, safety off motherfucker.

What’s a boy to do? Because I know, growing up where we have bumper stickers that yearn for just a little more time, that if I step off the curb and start the dead man walking stroll across the macadam some perverted Celtics fan is going to gun that bitch and twist the wheel ever so slightly in my direction. So I don’t go and the Portland car don’t go and I wave and they wave (and sometimes you can’t actually see the face behind the wheel and it’s freaky and scary like that movie “Duel” with Dennis Weaver and the invisible truck driver, which was actually Stephen Spielberg’s very first  full-length film btw) and I mutter under my breath “dumb Portland asshole” and have no doubt that they mutter too, except in braille, with their fingers on the trigger.

And so, back to Cape Cod and without disparaging the truly lovely and inspiring town of North Truro, the fact is you’re way more likely to get gunned and runned there than with the half a million sweet automotive souls in the Rose City.

Which is mostly meaninmonday-pic-2gless – all of it I’ve just written – to this Blog post. Because this is a post about reading, about reading books, about the 50% of the United States population that continues to read books after graduation from high school, and about what I was thinking early this morning, in the blue recliner with my second cup of coffee, looking at the pile of “to be read next” books on the little wicker thingy table beside the chair, and I had this thought – “So Many Books, So Little Time.” Honest, I had that very thought. There were three books I’d just purchased at Powell’s with a Christmas gift card and two out from the library, and three old Kurt Vonnegut paperbacks and the copy of Desolations Angels I’d finally bought for myself after having read Kerouac’s book (my favorite of his) twice out of the library, and I said “Man, there are so many books to read, I’ve got to read more” and I thought “so many books” and then, as if by the magic of one bread crumb leading to another or, possibly, psychosis, the bumper sticker found on cars in Massachusetts, the one that says if I had any wish in the world – other than world peace – it would be for just a little more driving time, that popped into my head and I ran down here in the basement and turned on the computer and typed in the headline above, then went upstairs and took the picture of Steinbeck, Steinbeck, and Bradbury, had a bagel and some yogurt, looked at Twitter for a while, and then came to the keyboard – which I do quite a lot these days – and typed up this daydream about living life right, where you wait for all the cars to go by, and living life wrong, where the cars wait for you, and they’re not happy about it.

And by the way, in the spirit of full disclosure – drivers in Massachusetts are way, way, way betters drivers than drivers in Oregon and Washington and probably most everywhere else will ever be.

Word.

Stay off the road. Read a book.


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Scatttered, yes, But Clear.

There aren’t many people I feel connected with these days. As I make my day through the world – my world anyway. It’s accurate to say that there are very few people with whom I would want to spend any time. I have some friends – not many – but I do have some, and I cherish them. I think that at this point in my life, with many more years behind me than ahead, my choices, the way I’ve lived my life, my gypsy lifestyle, how I am as an introspective, comfortable being alone, re20140817_090403latively asocial character — well, that has resulted in very few friends, almost no one calling me, writing me, emailing me, texting me. I say this as, Walter Cronkite use to say, that’s the way it is. If you hear a “poor, pitiful me” in this then I haven’t written clearly, I haven’t said what I want to say.

And what I want to say – and saying it right – is a thing for me now, as a writer, a pretty big thing. I’m not always clear about it, exactly what I want to say or why I want to say it (for instance, I spent a long time yesterday writing a post for today’s Blog and then woke up with some doubts and after asking myself – What’s the goal? – I decided to throw it away. I’m not sure it was what I wanted to say, and clearly it wasn’t how I wanted to say it.) But it’s the goal.

The title of the post I wrote yesterday was “Not My Tribe”, and the point I was trying to make, in a rather deluded meandering way which including calling out all my Portland friends and fellow artists for not showing up at Saturday’s family Art Show, but that really wasn’t my goal and it is what it is, because what I was trying to speak to was my complete sense of distance from most of the people in this Country today and in particular people who support and voted for Donald Trump. As in, at this point in my life, the accumulation of all the experiences and all the people and all the feelings and perceptions, the whole stew, I have nothing in common with, other than the giant USA zip code, those people. They are not my people. They are not My Tribe. I wouldn’t want to sit next to them at a bar-b-que, I wouldn’t want my time at a coffee shop messed with in some casual conversation, even an overheard conversation. I have no use for bullies and racists and people insensitive to the joy of difference and the bedrock principal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, the idea that people have a right to live their lives and love who they want, the crazy notion that its possible there’s not an even playing field for everyone in these here States, despite what the haters and the venture capitalists and hedge fund managers and white supremacists and the ‘Christian Right’, and the legion of poor white people who have been hoodwinked all these years to believing that it is “us against them”, when in fact they’ve got the “them” wrong.

Anyway, this post is how my mind is working, barely, these last two weeks. Disorganized, unfocused, a particle collider of thoughts crashing through my head. Crying sometimes, infuriated more, helpless and hopeless and then all positive about sticking it to the man. The Man.csnbly0waaagpqo

Only a few things feel clear. I love my wife, my best friend. I cherish the few friends that I do have, and the larger group of people in my life, a bunch on Facebook, that I was lucky enough to meet and get to know along the way. I’m grateful I grew up in the town I did, with its large percentage of people of color, so I didn’t have to grow up despising or fearing people who look or act different from me because that’s what someone told me I was supposed to do,  and through my whole life I’ve been too lazy and stupid to bother to figure it out for myself. I’m thankful I’m not one of them.

I’m clear about my Tribe. Crystal. And about doing my part to stick it to The Man. Every day, in every way. To wrap my arms around liberty and justice for all. Yeah, I might be scattered these days. Wicked. But, I know right from wrong.