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.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On The Scene


that shadow side
of my being
watches behind 
without eyes, 
a graysoul memory
of  sullen-heart

perfunctory smiles 
above a beet-purple 
soul garnish my 
eyes like weapons 
of a hunter's quill.  I pose 

that male-model pose,
both sides of my 
questioning demeanor 
answered in palettes 
of muted 

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Painting by Ina Jean Garner, 1970's.  Acrylic on canvas, 24 X 36.  From the collection of Sharon Jean Garner, Houston, Texas.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

And Outside The Window...

Deep into Autumn, I sat this night in my office at home, and in the light outside the window movement and color caught my eye.  Leaves have gathered and danced their last across nature, grass has captured the white stories of frozen dew, and the rose bushes have shed leaves, with thorns naked and unyielding.

But there it was.  There it is.  A rose.  Defiance and beauty to capture life, and my eye.  One last rose pushing on and telling one last tale of birth amongst the dying, and the legacy of simply being.


it bore frost in early morning 
gathered what little sunlight 
diminished days gave for free 

and even in a night of November 
red life burns and fragrance 
twinkles in the eye of this beholder; 

the rose, the rose 
wanting its season 

unfolding to defy the turnings of 
hours, weeks, and expectations; 

the rose in a night of November 
carries on with living alone in 
darkness and pleased to 
be so. 

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Photo©2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Photo taken at home by R. Baker, November 7, 2011. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Random Thought

"A backward glance 
is all it takes to realize
regret is a reflection of 
inherent defect." 

- R. Baker

©2011 R. Burnett Baker

Saturday, November 5, 2011


canyon wide 

those days were sheltered by 
dreams and pregnant with 
potential.  we shed tears for 
the past, for the fears of our 
being; we sealed our common
bond to the hurt of longing. 

but those fears, pangs of 
suspense and insecurities 
ruled the moment, and future.
there were pasts that needed to 
be purged, but how, within the
absolute quantification of being? 

how do we reveal what need not
be known except by only one?
beyond probings - the unrevealing of 
knowledge - probings again, and 
imagined pasts that did not, and 
do not exist, enough was 

there are voices choking to shout
across the canyon of what was 
foretold, but depth is deep, 
width is wide.  echos, loud and 
shrill are exhausted, and the path
begs for sleep. 

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 

Friday, November 4, 2011

From Then To Now, Young To Old, Lovers Of Seasons

lovers of seasons 

supple flesh and 
weathered skin 
meld May to 
December, and 

who can fathom 
validity of their 
seasons?  sleeping 

giants of 
prophecy arose 
for the taking 
but lust is a 
ransom paid for 
silence.  indulge, 

humor, and 
grant me my 
folly, for soon
these words 
will be your
own:  take 

my hand, 
steady me 
before the sun
while still I see 
my shadow.

Photo taken by R. Baker, Lake Buchanan, Texas

Poem ©2011 R. Burnett Baker 
Photo©2011 R. Burnett Baker

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Sunshine, Lollipops, And Rainbows, Everything....."

The Lollipop Photo, 1961

Photo by Ina Jean Stovall Garner, 1961

I got the picture I wanted, but the public wasn’t ready for it.”  

My aunt, Jean Garner, was and still is, a woman who marched to her own band, and thought beyond  society’s proscribed social mores.

Imagine, if you will, this lollipop photo being published in 1961’s United States, never mind being in the public realm of the South, in Amarillo, Texas. 

Anyway,” Jean continued, “ you know I was a member of the Amarillo Photo Society for many years and we met every two weeks.  We had to take pictures in the two weeks, develop the film, and make two 8 x 10 or two 11x 14 prints to show at each meeting.  This was in the form of a contest which each member voted on and received points according to how many members voted on their print.  at the end of each year we would have a party and the member with the most points...would win a small trophy or certificate.  Oh what  fun!” 

During one of the two week periods the assignment for the photo club members was to photograph people of different ethnic races doing something together. My uncle, S.O. Garner, owned a contracting and construction company in Amarillo.  His lead foreman was an African-American man that we only knew as “Heavy.”  I remember Heavy as a large, gregarious man, and he was highly regarded  by my aunt and uncle.  In talking with my aunt this week she revealed that Heavy would often be invited to eat dinner with the family.  That, in itself, a black man eating dinner at a white family’s home in the early 1960’s South, was stepping out of society’s idea of “normal” social interactions.  

But the assignment was clear.  My aunt and uncle often went to Heavy’s house and since he had several children, Jeanie had the perfect platform for the Photo Society’s assignment.   My cousin, Sharon, was to be one of the subjects of Jean’s assignment. 

I thought if I bought some kind of candy and took it over to Heavy’s house, maybe I could get some kind of a picture that I might like, “  Jean told me.  “ I thought the kids might do something that would make a good picture." 

"Sure enough, they all wanted to lick on the same big lollypop.  The kids were pushing each other around and the lollypop fell  on the floor and broke into about 10 pieces.  They grabbed the pieces and started eating them.” 

My aunt had another lollypop, and while the kids were having fun with the broken candy pieces, she had Sharon and Heavy’s oldest son to go into another room.  Jean took several shots and was happy with the pictures she had taken.  

She enlarged the picture to a 16X20 in her home darkroom and submitted the to the camera club.  She didn’t win any awards for the photo.  In fact, they were very reluctant to exhibit the picture.  

She also submitted the lollipop photo the the Amarillo Globe News and was told that they could not print it for fear of creating an uproar of disapproval.

The Amarillo Globe News also ran regular snapshot contests throughout the year, as did many other newspapers around the country. Jeanie had won numerous awards for her photos from the Globe.   National Geographic and Kodak were sponsors of some of these contests and in 1963 Jean was one of nine grand prize winners of the 24th Annual  Newspaper National Snapshot Awards   (NOT for the lollipop photo: Another story, perhaps?) She and the other eight winners were awarded $1000 and sent to Washington DC .  

The original 16 x 20 print hung in Jean's house in Amarillo for a number of years, and is now displayed in Sharon's dental office in Houston, Texas.  

And here's a funny sidebar:  One day in Amarillo, a family in-law and her friend came to Jean's house.  Upon seeing the lollipop photo on the wall, this woman remarked, "Oh that's a cute little boy…that's Ricky licking that sucker with Sharon!"  My aunt was speechless.  

I have to wonder if that woman's comment was uttered in shock, or disbelief, or from a perspective of absolute denial of what she was viewing?  Or did she think that there were just lots of shadows on my face and it was a bad photo?  We'll never know. 

But I do know it's a daring photo. Yes,  my Aunt Jean got the photo she wanted.  

Jean said to me, "As far as I am concerned the picture is a success.  It’s prejudiced people who don’t want to see it in print.  I thought the subject and photo was a good idea, since it showed what the assignment asked for, which was to show different races interacting together.  However, it seems that two kinds of different races, licking the same lollipop was just too much for the newspaper, the photo society, or the public in general.  I never received any certificate of trophy for that picture from the photo society or the newspaper contest.  I guess I was thinking before my time.  I didn’t realize the backlash that the photo would produce in society."

And I wonder what reaction it would produce today.  How far have we come as a society?  

That question may never be answered. 

Rick Baker 
Lake Buchanan, Texas 
October, 2011

Me and my Aunt Jeanie, October 2011