Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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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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Far Out, Daddy-O

 

There arWalk and Lookout 124e eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is “Far Out, Daddy-O”.

Shortly after making the decision to give up alcohol and drugs in the spring of 1983 I was advised to consider prayer and meditation. I was not too keen on the prayer thing, pre-disposed the other way, and have previously covered that state of mind in my blog “One Friday Night”. The suggestion to consider meditation felt different. Kind of like a 60s things. It’s fashionable to rag on the 60s nowadays – most people either not being there then or deciding that plastics were more fun than people – but I hold – always have, always will – a fondness in my heart for that time and what it was and what it almost was, and so meditating seemed okay with me. Cool. I did not know how I was going to do it but I was willing to try.

It didn’t work. I figured maybe I had used up all my potential for meditation – and being incredibly hip – under one alcoholic drug haze or another. I never was any good at it then, and I wasn’t any good at it in 1983 or points forward for a couple of years before I gave up on the idea. My vision of meditating involved me being able to quiet my mind entirely for some period of time; a minute, maybe two. And I couldn’t do it. Sit in a chair, sit on a couch, even sit on a cushion on the floor, it didn’t matter. My brain was off to the races and all over the place and generally more active than when I was doing most other things – like talking, paying bills, ordering pizza. People would ask me, “Are you meditiating?” And I would answer, “Nope, can’t do it. Tried it, can’t do it, never gonna be able to do it, see ya.”

I’m not going to tell you when I was born, it is so long ago I almost cringe to think about it, but in 1959 when I was 10 years old, if I had gone around and told people I was going to meditate I quite likely would have heard, “Far out, Daddy-O.” You know how people talked back then, some of them. If you are unsure of this I encourage you to find a classic TV channel on the cable and look up Dobie Gillis, and in particular Maynard G. Krebs. He was far out. In 1983 and 1984 telling the people I was hanging around with that I was trying meditation was no big deal – that’s cool – how’s that going? And as I have said, for me it wasn’t going. Over the years I did a lot of things right when it came to staying away from alcohol and drugs. Meditating wasn’t one of them.

And then I went to the library. In 2008. I was living at the time with my son Spenser in the very small town of Truro, Massachusetts, specifically North Truro, at the far end of Cape Cod. I was running an HIV/Aids housing program the next town over in Provincetown – which is the very end – and Spenser, who was living with me for a school year, was a freshman at Nauset Regional High School, bused back and forth 25 miles or so each way. Spenser has Down Syndrome, and prior to this had never really been left alone. Who knew what would happen, what he might do. I had decided to begin leaving him alone for increasingly longer periods of time, carefully prepared for, to help increase his sense of independence and confidence. So on a Saturday morning in March of 2008 – and he had been alone many times before that – I told him I was going out for a while and drove over to the Truro Public Library, a mile away.

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