As a photographer, I do take portraits. But portraits can be an invasion of privacy, and I'll try not to post too many of them on this site. This tab is for PIC LIT PORTRAITS of me—selfies, or photographs taken of me by other people, paired with bits of my writing.
THE HAT OF MANY COLORS
Or the other hat, the Hat of Many Colors,
because of all my hats ever it's my favorite,
and why I think of it fourth when I hear hat—
after the school cap Paul Smith liked to snatch
from me, and toss into a tree—after the flat cap
I topped my afro with in college, nesting it high
in my tree of hair because this time it was my idea—
after the Dada hat, just a battered top hat, really,
but in grad school I conducted a Dada play in it—
well, I can't imagine. Because of all my hats ever,
even the other hats you've made me, it's my favorite.
Is it an afterthought, now, because there's no story to it?
Because it's only another hat you've knit to say you love me?
In its colors of ice cream and of carnival, its cherry red
ribbings and checkerboards, from the lilac fringe of it
to its rose gold sunburst crown. It's like one of those
goofball jigs people dance when, for once, a world
goes right, and we're home where we should be,
in this privacy of our four arms—
hearts flowering, or hatching, or what have you—
in a tangle of April leaves,
in a skein of wild, ordinary sky.
Published by Silver Birch Press, in December 2016, in their "Me, In A Hat" issue.
At 17, I came down with disaffection and the mumps.
The former set in slowly, and it lingered.
A moonlight ailment, it manifested in long walks to nowhere,
the streetlamps in sacerdotal rows
bowing to smirk and bless me as they dimmed:
We pronounce you boy and darkness, you may kiss.
The latter got me out of an exam I would have failed.
(Chemistry. I failed it later.)
For ten days I lay there, wearing about my neck
its amusing jowls, like a fat suit for a play, in which I might play,
oh, who knew, but somebody else, please. And I read. I liked to read.
To travel somewhere I wasn't, into some skin not mine.
Yet in every photograph—here’s me with the mumps—
I look so jolly. At 17, except to My Secret Scribble Books, I lied well.
And except to Rob Polk, who visiting, took this shot.
At school, there was a club, the Future Suicides Club,
of which we were all the membership. All that we knew of.
We'd say how we'd be dead by 21, and wince, or laugh.
But 17 passed, and neither one of us did.
By 21, it was another country, inaccessible, unimaginable.
Oh, yes, I might say now, 17, I spent a year there once!
As the 17 year olds in my classroom—
some of them with its noxious bloat about their necks—
flinching as I try but botch the language—
favor me with a wincing, not-quite laugh.
the buddleias are petaling.
Mariposa, and Farfalla:
dance the phlox your tarentella.
mount the mints, you nectar lapper.
heal my soul with Butterflies.
(Featuring the French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Afrikaans words
for “butterfly.” Psyche, the ancient Greek word [and goddess], also means “soul.”)
This one is from my book about the animals of Forest Hill Park, The Flap Over Tree Debris Island. You can see some photographs and listen to an audio version of the main poem over at Pic Lit, under the POTPOURRI tab.
Sally took the photograph, of a butterfly who perched on me for at least half an hour, even coming back home from the park with us.
A Pre-Show Prayer
Happy birthday, William! Today we start
rehearsing your fine play Love's Labour's Lost.
For two, three weeks, we'll memorize our parts:
by lines, by steps, till we become one cast,
moving in concert—under the baton
of a director whose task's to attune
us to a vision and a shifting tone,
from earnest to pompous, winsome to jejune.
The next two, three weeks, we'll devote to you:
to find the people in these parts we've studied,
and let the human breath of them sing through;
so when they lie pricked, pratfalled, and bloodied,
our audience—laughing, we hope, fit to burst—
will love themselves in them, as we have first.
April 23, 2017
For decades, Quill Theatre has been staging a summer Shakespeare festival at Agecroft Hall in Richmond. Love's Labour's Lost was my first play of a three summer run. The photograph shows me in the dressing room, waiting to go onstage during the following year's show, which was As You Like It. The sonnet is unpublished. April is National Poetry Month; for the last dozen years or so, I've joined at least one "poem a day" group to celebrate it. On most April 23rds, I write a Shakespeare piece.
For my head shots, I usually use a photograph taken by my wife Sally. Here's one where she snuck up on and startled me. I used it as my bio shot for Unsay Their Names, which is full of street photography shots of people who didn't know they were being photographed. I was assured that given the newsworthiness of my topic, and the lack of any expectation of privacy for people attending those events, that for my purposes, these images were permissible. I still felt a little guilty, though. So I put myself in their position, and ran this photograph over my back page bio.
For more about Unsay Their Names, visit my PROFESSIONAL pages.