Thursday, December 29, 2011

Waiting For An Open Door...

This photo was taken today by Tess Kincaid and posted on her Facebook page.  I couldn't help but write a quick poem, and with her permission I'm posting it here.  Poor little bird flew into her French doors, she said.  I've had that happen here, but my doors weren't French, and the sparrow who gonged himself managed to "flutter" it off and fly away.  Many thanks, Tess!

Photo ©2011 Tess Kincaid


before my 
eyes glaze, 
warmth cools, 
colors pale; 

before we 
finish dinner
swallow wine, 
spin fables; 

dust the crumbs 
from my chin, 
tidy my tie, 
hold the mirror 
of dignity 

close to 
my face 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In Search Of Bodhisattva

Photo ©2011 R. Burnett Baker

in search of bodhisattva:
(in)significance of one

for it is the nature 
of this species 
to shed singular parts,
protect the mass of living,
sustain continuity 
beyond the faded,
fading one;

in this peeling away 
of individual beings
we shed personal beliefs,
lies we tell ourselves 
to ensure survival; 

we narrate gods 
of expectations, 
guilt being the 
measure of commitment
to a greater good, 
while praying for 
a glorified redemption 
of each 

there's irony 
in being alone 
and crying for the moon
of solitary strength 
to which we cling: 

clinging is futile.
but necessary. 

damningly so.

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker

Monday, December 26, 2011

Magpie Tales 97: Catch A Falling Star...

Photo by Bert Stern, shared by Tess Kincaid


it's all 
laughter and fun,
an upward twist of 
tinseltown mouths,

smiling words,
lines drawn for 
anyone coy enough
to pretend to 
be someone else...

is pretense an excuse 
for love? 

can WE pretend? 

can we pretend
before you vanish
into a night of 
early morn? 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas To All My Blogger Friends!

Merry Christmas To You All!
And Happy Hanukkah!
Wishing everyone peace and 
kindness this day and all the 
days ahead!  


Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Christmas Post for Junk Shop Quickies

Last week I was shopping in one of my local junk shops and guess who I saw in person!!  Marsha Brady from the Brady Bunch!  Yessir, right here in Rochester.  So I took her photo and posted it on Junk Shop Quickies ™.  She was radiant in her Christmas dress.  She had that psycho Marsha look on her face, just like in the movie, and there was something else that wasn't quite right.....  Oh yeah, baby, have a holly jolly Christmas.  And you, too, Marsha! 
                                  Junk Shop Quickies™.

December 22, 2011 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pingpong Diplomacy And Playboy™

Untitled by Chen Yu

Pingpong Diplomacy And Playboy™

Chairman Mao had only been dead four years.

And there I was:  In what was touted at the time as the largest city in the world , with a population between 12 and 14 million souls.  Communist souls.     

The city was brown. Buildings, streets, the air:   All brown.  Especially the air.  Remembering that year, it seems that everything was brown except for the clothes everyone, I mean everyone wore:  Drab, baggy, dull blue, green or gray Chairman Mao suits.  That's what we called them.  Oh, and those Mao caps with the red star on them.  I have one.  It was given to me by the young man who's the subject of this story. 

There were no gleaming skyscrapers, no Gucci billboards, no futuristic buildings like the ones we Americans saw in Jetson cartoons.  Cars?  Forget it.  Millions of bicycles with maddening bells ching-chinging constantly.  It made one almost long for the sounds of traffic and horns honking in European or North American cities.  

And there I was.  Working for that evil evil oil service company Halliburton, subcontracted to the equally evil British Petroleum ( pre-Gulf spill years ).  BP was drilling an exploration well in the Yellow Sea, about two hours helicopter flight from Shanghai.  Aboard the semi-submersible oil rig, the Bo-Hai 8, we did our jobs. 

During the down times on the rig, there was a recreation room with, what else, a pingpong table.  Who would have guessed?  (Nixon, of course). 

One afternoon I was playing pingpong with the radio operator.  He was about 22 years old, and the only one of the some 92 Chinese workers I encountered on the rig who was learning English at the time.  

So there we were knocking that little white diplomatic ball back and forth when suddenly he grabbed my return volley and stopped the game.  

With a mischievous grin on his face he asked me unflinchingly, " You have Prayboy  magazine??"   ( Yes, "PRayboy")  I was stunned.   I replied, "No, I don't.  But Chairman Mao would not approve of that!!" 

Not missing a beat, he screwed up his face in mock anger like the one character in this Chen Yu painting and said, "Chairman Mao is DEAD!!  Chairman Mao NOT SEE!!  I want PRayboy magazine!!"  

I laughed and was utterly amazed.  Amazed at how, despite waving Mao's Little Red Book every evening at propaganda meetings aboard the rig, despite the red stars on their caps, despite the decades of ideological brainwashing, despite our diplomatic tiptoeing around certain subject matters at that time, the Communist Party's proletariat workers really wanted Prayboy magazine. 

I always brought the latest issue of Architectural Digest with me, and the Chinese workers would look at it and dismiss it as "buhaio", or, loosely transliterated, "no good".  Too bourgeois, I suppose.  But "Prayboy?"   

Well, after all, Chairman Mao was dead.  

And he still is! 

Rick Baker 
Rochester, NY 
December 19, 2011 

© 2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Magpie Tales 96: Your Sleeping Heart

Image: Lee Friedlander, 1966 
Courtesy of Tess Kincaid 

shadows of you; of me

do you hear 
your name 
ride the wind, 
or see rain pelt 
each letter; 

have you 
sung the song 
of waking moments,
morning startled 
by opened eyes; 

do you know 
the blessing of pain
when it's gone, 
and heard the 
blue-glow serenity
of shallow breathing; 

have you 
felt the wind
become a breeze
before feathered
clouds on 
autumn's end; 

as I whisper 
memories of you
across your 
sleeping heart's 

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Know: This Is SUPPOSE To Be A Poetry Blog

I just can't help myself this week.  My visit to a couple of junk shops last weekend was productive.  Well, I suppose that's a matter of opinion.  But anyway, here's another.  You know what they say about big hands, and big feet and such.  Well, what about a big trunk?  What about the junk in the trunk?  Maybe we should just ask JLo.  Or is it Mariah?  I hear that one of them has a big trunk.  Maybe it's Oprah?  

Whatever.  Another silly one for Junk Shop Quickies™.  


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Here's another cheap plug for my other 
blog,  Junk Shop Quickies™.  Two 
posts this week are from my latest trip
to my local second hand store.  There 
will be a couple more in the days to come! 

Like, Cheers! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lover's Lament

Photo by R. Baker


can you hear
strings across water
along rivers of hearts 

and not wonder 
how we wandered 
so far from 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Magpie Tales 95: I Can Quit Any Time I Want...

Photo provided by Tess Kincaid

free will

though I can 
always leave 
when I want,  
I'm resigned
to the taste 
and habit 
of you -  

bound to our 
construct love,
yet ready 
to walk
on a moment's 
notice - 

think I'll  
indulge the 
tide of
your needs 
before I 

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Note:  After a few edits,  I realized this now sounds like a no smoking ad.  That wasn't my intent, but I suppose sometimes love and smoking can be equally satisfying.  I don't know, though:  I've never smoked!!  :) 

Here's an older poem from 2007 that I'll offer as an alternative: 

ride the crest 

waves never stop 
rolling onto beach sands 

even when we 
journey miles inland 

even when we
even after death 
calls oceans of souls 

ride the crest 
to shore.      

Poem © 2007 by R. Burnett Baker

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hope For The Rest Of Us?

"Pot Shot" by Ashley Brilliant

Here's a link to an online article I read this morning about digital publishing.  I suppose it isn't for everyone, but then neither is the old fashion way.  Interesting approach, nevertheless.


Friday, December 9, 2011


"You good lookin' thang, 
don't you ever die!!!"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another Thought Before Sleeping: Next Night

from all that came before 

I've felt your vision rise into my throat 
and doused the flame of memory tenfold.

in forests brown and green I've fragranced rotting leaves 
touched velvet moss and known creature-stirrings
that startle silence. 

I've walked alone, I've walked with others,
but never have I stood beneath the shadow 
of the tallest tree or softest fern

without songs of nature's movements 
serenading me with canopy leaves 
and solitude's whisper.  

I've watched your vision 
rise into my throat, rain-stung eyes 

searching the forest 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Thought Before Sleeping

no time for youth 

it was time, I suppose, to shed endearments 
and favored names,

the renderings of which are lost 
to engagements of living; 

it was time, but I can't remember why, 
and doubtful you recall at all.

aging requires shedding not just childhood, 
but child-nature, hence the berm ridges 
in forehead texture. 

those valleys represent growth, it's said, 
presaging death, 

a serious matter we must ordain, but
it is time, I suppose for growing serious and old, 

while my child-nature searches its womb, 
waiting to be born again before 

that one, final engagement 
in life. 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Greek Drama, Modern Mythology

Monoprint "3 Figures" by Ina Jean Garner, 1994
11 3/4" x 4", one of a series of four. 
Collection of R. Baker

Brisēís and you 

there was talk 
of two and how 
they met;
how between piercing 
each other's eyes 
they pilfered glances 
at peripheral others.

how exciting and
perfectly adulterous 
the notion that others 
could command 

but lust is how it begins: 
fevered breathing 
and sweat, well, sometimes.
but always with rhythm 
of the notion that 
future possibilities 
lie just beyond the 
mythical, battled 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Magpie Tales 94: Lunchroom Marxism

Lunch, George Tooker, 1964, Columbus Museum of Art 
Photo provided by Tess Kincaid


there are tightropes we 
all walk, every soul 

balancing identical needs - 
a proletariat kind of 
common bond. 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker

Post Script:  No, I'm not a Marxist.  Neither, really,  was he.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back Yard, December 1, 2011

When I sprinkled the seeds of wildflowers from a bag in spring, I expected flowers all summer.  It took all summer and into fall for them to sprout and finally bloom.   I'm pleased to enjoy this color in December!  Such a green thumb I (don't) have!   

Photos ©2011 R. Burnett Baker

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Suicide Is (not) Painless.

"The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.
suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please."

-Theme from M*A*S*H, lyrics by Mike Altman, 1970.


Voice, mannerisms, face, speech peculiarities, personality traits perfected, at least to be a benchmark of recognition;  to some simply as reference for association - to others, points of affection and love. 

These cannot be restored on that one indeterminable choice.  Those of us remaining restore the sounds or images in memory only, yet memory, sometimes of our final view of a face, too, becomes indeterminable:  That one tragic choice becomes the bane of us all.  

How can we not question what we second guess? 

©2011 R. Burnett Baker


We learned today that a co-worker, who had had numerous personal troubles, has taken his own life.  It was a jarring revelation, but not totally unexpected.  That we sensed the possibility of such a choice by him is most troubling.  Among other personal problems he was facing, his employment with the company was terminated about two months ago.  

I happened to be at work when it happened.  He rode his bike to work each day, and that afternoon I stood near the window at the front of the store and watched him outside as he prepared to ride home on his bike.  The expression on his face was one of absolute nothingness.  I felt such sadness for him, especially knowing the other trials and tribulations he was facing in his personal life. 

It fleetingly crossed my mind then that perhaps it was the last time I would see him alive.  I wondered if I should maybe call him in a day or two and at least offer moral support. 

I never did that. 

That, too, troubles me. 

Tonight, on the way home, I wanted to offer a prayer for him,  but I didn't know how to do that.  I can only pray that God will grant his spirit reprieve and healing in light of this terrible choice he felt he had to make.  It's all I can think to say.  

Suicide is not painless.  It cannot be taken, or left, as the song suggests, as anyone pleases.   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Getting Skunk-Ready For Winter


had there 
been reasons 
to look through
night windows,
back yard 
lit judiciously,
would have 
anticipated the 
polecat edging 
the grass into 
darkened, shaded 
recesses of 

what strikes fear 
brought a smile 
to my cornered 
mouth; a sense 
of contentment 
that I 
and fear 
can live in

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Painting by Melissa Barton 
(Image of original painting has been digitally altered)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Magpie Tales 93: Occupy Perspective

Photo provided by Tess Kincaid

Occupy Ruby Slippers: 
There's No Place Like Home 

Maybe now I can get some peace and quiet. 
Cops finally ran those assholes outta my home. 
Idiots had no dignity, pissin and crappin all over,
smellin up the neighborhood and I couldn't get no 
fuckin sleep.  Don't know and frankly don't give 
a shit what their bitchin was all about.  I just want 
some goddamn respect.  And quiet.  Jesus freakin 
Christ, at least the rich bastards they're pissed at 
will toss me a buck or two once in a while, but 
these little shits - nooo -  they just sat on my sofa 
for weeks and fingered those blackberry 
somethingorothers and wouldn't leave me the hell alone. 
Mad cause they gotta pay for school or some such 
crap.  Yep, everybody's got somethin to bitch about. 
Some assholes have an axe to grind and some have 
their crosses to bear.  I just wanna have a drink and 
lay down for a while.  Finally.  Shit, finally I can 
stretch out on the sofa and have some peace and 

               ©Dumitru Burlacu, Child of the streets, Bucharest, Romania, 2003

                                © Barry Lewis/In Pictures/Corbis

©2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

To Occupiers Of Wall Street: Black Friday, Poetic Justice?

Poetic Justice?
Occupy Wall Street, How Do You 
Like Your 99%er's Now?  

Some of you have read my previous rants about Black Friday.  And to any of you readers who may actually participate in this travesty of consumer greed and selfishness, shame again on you!  

After Thanksgiving lunch today, the sun was out and the weather quite nice.  While on a short errand to pick up dessert for work tomorrow, I passed a nearby shopping center.  Sure enough, there were a number of the recently designated 99%er's lined up, waiting for the stores to open at midnight.  This was at 2:45 in the afternoon, mind you.  

These folks had tents set up, a pick-up truck with a generator with heavy duty extension cords that powered industrial heaters aimed at the tents and others in the line.  This must mean that these mindless s**theads had been there at least since Wednesday night after the store closed.  

It occurred to me that these people were Occupiers of a different sort.  They must represent that mythical 99% of the population that has been oppressed, according to the OWS crowd, by these evil, bloodsucking corporations.  Yet, there they are, sleeping in tents, cold and inconvenienced BY CHOICE, in front of one of Wall Street's darlings, waiting to trample each other for Samsung flatscreen TV's, Dyson Animal vacuum cleaners, Kodak cameras,  and Sony DVD's.  

The stores that these Black Friday insainiacs are occupying- Walmart, Target, Kohls, Macy's, and Sears, just to name a few, collectively employ some 2.86 million 99%er's.  And I didn't even bother to research the number of employees on the payrolls of the companies that manufacture all the gidgets, gadgets, and iWads that these idiots are waiting to snag.  

Point is, there are corrupt corporations, to be sure, but the livelihoods of all of us who are gainfully employed depend on corporations.  While I heatedly disagree with the concept of Black Friday, it is a free country. Of sorts.  But these ragtag hippymuffin wannabe's who are creating numerous stinks (literally) in parks that are privately owned, or tax payer funded need to put up or shut up.  State your case cogently and pointedly.  Then clean up your messes, go home, take a shower, and get jobs to pay off your damned student loans, or upgrade to a faster smartphone ( made by these scum-sucking companies you're protesting) that will keep you all connected for your next gathering.  

Better still, just go away.  The tax paying 99% (I would love to know how that number was calculated) are tired of paying for your slovenly camping trips that really only inconvenience everyone, and NOT BY CHOICE. 

When I become king, Thanksgiving will be a four day holiday.  No stores.  No idiotic shopping.  No trampling people to death for stuff.  No door busters.  No madness.  Just a time for, well, Thanks Giving. 

For that, I would be thankful. 

Rick Baker 
November 24, 2011 
Rochester, NY  

Suggested previous essays on Black Friday: 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Magpie Tales 92: The Match

on the mat

a flipside 
perspective to
how hands 
caress the mind,

how fingers 
control the 

we are but 
fetal brevity
as lover 

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Photo courtesy of Tess Kincaid

Thursday, November 17, 2011

West Texas In Music And Photography

This was sent to me by a high school friend in Houston.  Turn up the sound and enjoy this work of music and nature photography! 

Wyman Meinzer's West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Magpie Tales 91: Table For One

 Photo provided by Tess Kincaid


she stood at your 
table for one, 
waiting for the music
to begin, waiting 

for you to take 
her hand, waiting 
'til the guests had gone
and orchestra 

it was closing time 
and there were 
no tables left
upon which to 
stack the


Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Note:  This painting that Tess provided this week also reminded me of a song titled "Closing Time."  Now this title has been used for songs by Semisonic, Matchbox20, Tom Waits, and as a song performed by Leonard Cohen.  But my favorite is by Lyle Lovett, featured as the last song on his "Live In Texas" album.  I'm not posting the video here, but just the YouTube link if anyone cares to venture a listen...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rain Dance

rain dance 

bird becomes 
for kindling

we dance for 
and fly in 

to dampen the
of need with

It was a piece of wood I found along a dirt road in the once beautiful, but now deadly dry hills of Central Texas last month.  To me it looked like a bird.  Birds, I'm told, are quite scarce in that part of the country these days, due to drought and dwindling food sources.  So I picked it up and saved it.  I held it up with one hand to the dusk sky as if to make it fly, and took pictures with the other hand.  There's really nothing else one can do... 

Poem © 2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Photo© 2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Photo taken by R. Baker at Lake Buchanan, Texas, October 2011.