Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On The Men's Room Wall

There is a quaint coffee shop here in Rochester, NY where I enjoy people watching, talking with friends, and appreciating the sometimes bad art hanging on the walls.  You know the type of place: Trendy and bohemian.  As if those two concepts aren't mutually exclusive. 

Occasionally, someone leaves some kind of "art" on the men's room wall.  Nothing vulgar, mind you, but usually small and somewhat odd. Once there was a black marker drawing of a crow on a tree branch. The management simply touched up the paint and the crow had flown.  

Last week, a new piece of men's room art appeared.  Also in black marker on the deep red wall was the outline of a face with the word "happy" stylized beside it.  I couldn't resist taking a photo with my cell phone. 

I was struck by the expression of the face next to that word.  Who was the artist?  What was his intent?  His background?  So many questions we can ask after a trip to the men's room! 

But the image stayed with me and I couldn't help but write about it. With recent stories about a particular internet provider confronting issues of censorship on the other side of the world, I couldn't help but read more into the image than probably exists.  I doubt that graffiti drawing will be there when I next visit, but the image remains on my cell phone.  

And in my imagination. 

Rick Baker
March 31, 2010 
Rochester, NY  

little red book 

on doors of toilets 
and ally walls they've 
graffitied your profile
in black and named you
"yellow peril" and "red". 

through chapters of history
your colors coursed as 
blood through fields.

dragooned, you bowed 
to masters near and far 

and now your masters near 
declare you leader and 
decider of your collective 

proclaim you happy 
behind walls built 
to protect you 
from your 

Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo of graffiti drawing taken March 2010 by R. Baker  in Java's coffee shop, Gibbs Street, Rochester, NY

Magpie Tales Seven: And Willow Said It Was Easy!

I knew it!  I knew it about five seconds after I posted it.  My little "poeyum" about daffodils/Narcissus wasn't going to say it like I meant it! 

We bloggers relish the comments from other writers and readers, and I kind of held my breath on this poem, wondering how others would see it.  Writer and poet Peter Goulding (Blog: The Stammering Poet) confirmed what I feared:  This little verse wasn't meant to be read.  

It was meant to be READ.  You know.  Out loud.  And I only do that to myself behind closed doors.  (Narcissistic?) Even then I'm embarrassed.  

Peter was, correctly, confused by the last two words:  "...become me."  I was inspired by Willow's photo of a daffodil (Blogs: Magpie Tales and Life At Willow Mansion).  That flower's family name of "narcissus" just ticked me pin.....uh yellow, and I decided to have a bit of fun with it. 

And yes, Peter, I DID intend those two words to mean that they wanted to BE me!  I mean who doesn't, or wouldn't!  The poem can be read a couple of ways, but I wanted to highlight the idea of a narcissistic being thinking he's all that.  Apparently, I'm not.  All.  That. 

I suppose reading some poems in print simply cannot convey the intended inflections the spoken word is able to present.  When another comment said that the poem made her "...think...and reread, and think, and reread...a sure sign of an excellent writer."  I thought, to myself, "or one who can't get his message across!!" 

But the comments were and are appreciated.  And, Peter, you're NOT having a senior moment! That's MY fault!  

"Roses are red, violets are purple, sugar's sweet, so is maple suurple." 

Best to everyone! 

Rick Baker 
March 31, 2010

The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Magpie Tales Photo Prompt Seven

become me 

are you lonely 
sunlit Narcissus? 

I walk the garden 
and your minions 


Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Bottom photo © 2006 by R. Burnett Baker 
Top photo courtesy of Willow from "Magpie Tales". 

Friday, March 26, 2010

behold my eyes

a window
I saw Buddha 
in the room,

and behold,

my eyes 
became a

Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2006 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo taken  2006 by R. Baker at a temple in Eastern Taiwan.


overcast and rain
once belonged to 
days I loathed;

curious now 
to find my disposition
often embracing moments
dank, gray, quiet,

though cool 
is not my 

Poem © 2007 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2007 by The Weinstein Company, NY, NY. 
Photo is a portion of a movie poster promoting  Stephen King's  "The Mist" 
released in 2007 by The Weinstein Company.  

Thursday, March 25, 2010

black umbrella 

a black umbrella 
shields my head 
and smugly I ignore
                         water soaked feet

holding me cold
on the road to 

Poem © 2006 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo of Aleksandra Mir's "Big Umbrella"  from

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Magpie Tales Photo Prompt Week Six

sixpenny love 

my sixpenny effort
to build our love

left nails scattered
on the 


Poem © 2010  by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo from Willow at "Magpie Tales" blog.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

yet to come

heaven is
a memory 
borne on

for what's
yet to

Poem © 2006 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2005 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo taken 2005 by R. Baker at Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

Marble Soul

The heart of Taroko National Park in Central Taiwan is an ancient one made of marble. Winding through the park along the Taroko Gorge, a river cuts through the 
majestic marble mountains with water cold as stone, and clear as crystal.  During typhoons, the river rages through marbled walls.  Other times, silence can be heard through wind and breezes; within waters flowing gently through mountains to the Pacific Ocean.  

Forests carpet the hills and peaks. Summer sun warms the valleys and heats the soul.  In the aboriginal language of Truku, "taroko" translates as "magnificent".  

And it truly is. 


nestled in forests
a mountaintop pagoda
guarded a 

somnolent gaze
peaceful as 

Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photos © 2004 by R. Burnett Baker
Photos of Tianfeng Pagoda and White Robed Guanyin, and Taroko Gorge in Central Taiwan taken by R. Baker, 2004.  

Friday, March 12, 2010

Magpie Tales Photo Prompt Week Five

From Willow comes another photo to stir the imagination.  A hand with fingers flexed. Delicate and graceful.  Who hasn't held a hand such as this, full of beauty and character, yet mechanical and contrived?  

flesh to wood 

I suffered 
your mannequin grip
palm to palm,
flesh to wood 

as one tiny splinter 
reminded me 
how I loved you
once forever. 

Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo provided by Willow of "Magpie Tales" blog.  

dreams consumed

wine bottle empty, 
dreams consumed: 

liquid courage and 
burgundy desires 

vanish on lips 
of lovers 

Poem © 2006 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2009 by R. Burnett Baker 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

still, I stood 

cold still,
I stood before midnight 
watching my breath 

and caught a wisp of spring
fragrant in the 
night air. 

Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Magpie Tales Photo Prompt Week Four

This week Willow has given us another challenging photo.  Poor little elephant.  A rendering to be sure.  I remember when I was in the fourth grade we were given an assignment to carve a bar of Ivory soap.  A soap carving.  Carve it into something.  Anything. 

I carved.  And carved.  And carved 'till there was nothing left but a pile of soap shavings.  

I got an "F" for the project. 

My aunt, who was a national award winning photographer and artist in the 1960's, (and who is to this day an accomplished and respected artist) marched up to the school and gave the teacher the what for about giving me a failing grade for an assignment that involved a bar of Ivory soap. 

This photo of Willow's carved ivory elephant reminded me of that part of my childhood.  I couldn't help but think that whoever whittled that elephant might, just might, have been a young student, who couldn't quite get it right, or perhaps just a crazed artist!  

Thanks Willow! 

hello Dali

trunk too long off 
the top of his head

too thick and pointed 
there could be no 
grace in movement 
with that thick snout

and with eyes
evil and tiny

this carved creature 
could only think, 
if he could think, 

"where is Salvadore? 
surely I'm his creation
and we must talk.

Poem  © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo courtesy of Willow at Magpie Tales blog. 

Eclipsed By Winter

Around the country folks are talking about Spring.  Here in Upstate New York, along the southern shores of Lake Ontario we are just thinking about it.  The days are longer.  The sun is beginning to shine more.  The temperatures are beginning to creep into the upper 30's and lower 40's.  Ah....T-shirts and flip flops!  Ok.  Maybe not.  But this is the time of year when Spring begins to tease us, yet one warm day is suddenly eclipsed by winter and more snow.  

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this year, unlike last when Spring lasted through mid August, we have s short Spring and long, hot Summer! 

delicate violence 

winter's siege 
on spring's debut, 
life's renewal delayed 

like lovers in transition 
a delicate violence 
between one season 
in need, 
and another 
yielding to 
winter's siege. 

Poem © 2006 by R. Burnett Baker 
Poem from chapbook "delicate violence", by R. Burnett Baker, 2006.


seeds hushed 
in fields of snow
'til spring pulls
nature's blanket off 
earthbeds of 
silent celebration.  

Poem © 2007 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2007 by R. Burnett Baker 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

moving free 

for swollen



Poem © 2010 by R.Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2007 by R.Burnett Baker

I'm Not Very Good

I'm not very good at acting "normal" in hospitals, and even less adequate in nursing homes.  But I'll have to learn to get better at it.  

My mother, on the other hand, has had a fair amount of experience with nursing homes, especially during her parents' last years.  She moves through that environment seemingly unfazed with the extent of illness that's present there.  But I know that she is not unfazed with those surroundings.  No one could possibly be.  And it is now a new routine for her, and for all of our family members.  Just like millions of others.  After being "on call" at home literally 24/7 with Dad's care, she must adjust her schedule, plans, and mindset to this new phase of life. It's a blessing that in her early 80's she looks, thinks and moves as if she were in her early 60's. 

From a distance I can listen, and give advice, for what that's worth.  And I'd wager it isn't worth much.  We can only breathe with some relief that Dad is in a relatively "stable" period with Parkinson's.  No one can predict how long that will continue.

So during my increasingly frequent trips back to Texas I'll listen, watch, and learn. 

Awkward though it may be. 

pretty good 

my knees were pained 
on the concrete floor 
he was pained in his mind and body
with each wheel chair roll 

I never dreamed of breaking 
a Milky Way bar into pieces and 
feeding him sweet bit by bits or 
having to hold a Coke bottle 

to his lips 
for a brief retreat 
into pleasure 

"pretty good" 
was all he could say
and my knees felt 
much better. 

much better. 

Essay and Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

the covenant 

let me be 
your protector 
and guide you 
through life.  take 
my hand,
he proudly said. 

let me guide you
to the chair, and 
steady your legs.  take 
my hand, 
she gently whispered. 

Poem © 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2009 by Ronald E. Baker 
Photo taken by Ronald E. Baker, March 15, 2009


I wrote the following in 2007 after watching my Dad shuffle slowly to his recliner one evening.  His upper body had begun to wither, and he was stooped and frail.  Macular degeneration allowed him some peripheral vision, enough to allow him passage to his destinations around the house.  Reaching the chair, he lightly touched the arm, steadied himself, and in slow motion eased into the recliner.  With tired, rounded shoulders he leaned to the left and drifted into sleep.  

This lion of a man who once roared his way through life was now physically small and dependent upon others for daily routines, sitting down, standing, and walking.  And though we probably didn't realize it then, he was going to depend on us, his family, for maintaining his dignity.  We were to soon learn about a journey called Parkinson's.  That journey continues today. 

memories running 

if youth is fleeting 
then old age must last 
an even shorter time 

each day passing from weeks to years 

'til stooping over, 
bent and slowly 
we walk to an oversized chair 
and sit; 

with eyes shut tight
sleep brings vision, 

a gentle balm for 
memories running 
slipshod away with 

Daily walks were a routine for my parents.  Beneath the pines, live oaks, and sweetgum trees of East Texas they would walk each evening around the perimeter of their 10 acre home.  Dad had begun to have some difficulty with his steps, and with the MD he wasn't able to see the path well enough to negotiate the grass, twigs, and variances of the terrain. He would bend forward and shuffle along, creating more potential for stumbling or falling.  Not knowing how Parkinson's was affecting his movements, Mom would encourage him to stand up straight and look forward.  

One evening, I was in the yard with him and we were talking about how he could improve his posture and his walk.  In my ignorance I offered suggestions and we practiced walking.  If it didn't quite solve the problem, it at least offered him some measure of hope for better mobility.  It gave him a glimmer of confidence.  

stand straight 

stand straight - shoulders up- head high-
your posture is feeble and bent
his caretaker, angel and wife encouraged. 

later he sat on the porch facing dusk 
reigning in tears behind octogenarian eyes 
all but blind; 

sorry for letting us down.
for not walking taller.
apologetic for the burdens of his infirmities - 
"blind, deaf and dumb" he said to me. 

his once little boy then soothed 
the "child-inside-the-dad" 
and we practiced the walk, the gait, 
with shoulders straight 

and with purpose restored 
to his life again

that night he marched upright
and proudly 
to bed.  

Poems © 2007 by R. Burnett Baker 

visions free

you cannot change your life
by hating where you're at.

only when you learn 
to fear that place 
will visions be set free 

to dream.

Poem © 2008 by R. Burnett Baker 
Photo © 2008 by R. Burnett Baker