The Visual Poetry of Poeticah explores the boundaries between poetry, languages, and traditional with computer visual art.
The Jury Duty Page explains my beliefs concerning the penal system and morality.
"Chris! . . . Chris!"
Judy Garland's voice fades out, and the rainbow rolls up into a ball of raw sienna mist that blows through me, and flies away. "Uh? Oh, Jane! You're back! Where have you been?"
"I went to Manhattan to see my mother. Are you all right? You looked like you were light years away in the land of Oz. I had to scream at you several times."
My cheeks burn. "I - I'm OK. Really. Why did you leave so suddenly?"
"My father passed away."
"Sorry to hear that. How is your mother doing?"
"Well, my sister flew in from Germany and she said she would look after her. She's a strong lady. She'll be all right." Jane looks at the mural and her eyes widen then narrow, "What a lovely stereogram of Orpheus with his lyre! It's better than the prototype."
"At least someone can see the musician from Greek mythology that could enchant even the animals with his lovely music."
Then I realize she doesn't know about the new prototype. She is right. I had never painted a painting like that before. The emotions I imprisoned grew so strong. Oh! Here comes Bob!
"My God! What a disaster! Didn't Tom try to stop you?"
Look Bob! Tom never showed up, and frankly, I don't really care anymore. Go ahead and do whatever you want."
"You bet! I'm going to have that mural destroyed right away. Of course, you can forget about any pay. I can hardly wait to get my hands on Tom! Jane! What are you doing here? I thought you were gone for good."
"Bob, calm down. Maybe we can strike a deal. I'm back to start another travel agency. Would you be interested in selling the building to me?"
"Sorry, It's not for sale. I'm moving my business into it. The rent where I'm at is too high and the payment is due in a week."
"Would you be interested in selling or trading if I can find a suitable place for you?"
"Well . . . I might be interested if you find something within a week. I don't have much time to look for anything myself."
"I'll try to do that."
"Sounds OK. Got to go. I have to make some arrangements for the move."
"Chris, there's a coffee shop across the street. Would you like to chat for a while?"
"There is nothing pressing to do. It sounds fine."
"Jane takes a sip of her coffee. Mm, good as always. So how did you end up becoming an artist?"
"I sort of stumbled upon it. I tried out different things after high school and wasn't good at any of them. Singing didn't work because my throat would always swell-up when exposed even to a little smoke. Tried handyman work but only ended up scuffed up and frustrated."
"Sounds like my father. He was a jack of all trades and master of none till his last years. He lived a hard and frustrating life. I still remember when he came home late from a plumbing job. He'd be all exhausted and his hands would be all cut-up. He'd tell mom, 'I'll hang in there. I'll get better at it.' He worked hard at anything he tried but it just never panned out. Then one day he bought some watercolors and started painting. He'd do it in the evenings as a hobby."
"He never became a professional artist?"
"No. But he tried selling some of them about five years ago and finally sold one for about $25 about a year ago before his health quickly declined. My father would say, ' I'm a pro now. I finally sold one of those domahickies.' He liked that word. Domahickies."
"Could I see some of his paintings?"
"I didn't have any room to squeeze them into my dinky Geo. But my aunt said she is coming to visit in about a week and she'd bring two of my favorites in her van. You'll find them interesting."
"Can you describe his style?"
"No. It's best if you see them."
"Do you all have any for sale?"
"Nope. We decided to keep them all in the family. By the way, here's a picture of my father. Isn't it odd? He looks like you. His name was Bill Russell. Do you know anyone by that name?"
I look at the silver-haired image and utter, "I guess he looks a little like me. So . . . how did you end up as a travel agency owner?"
"Oh, maybe I come by it naturally. It comes from my mother's side. Several of her relatives work as tour guides, airline attendants, and other tourist trades. And my mother was always fascinated with far away places. Mind if I ask how are you doing in your art business?"
I can't tell her I'm scraping on the bottom of the barrel so I smile and reply, "I'm doing fine. Mind if I ask you how you're doing in yours?"
"I've been a travel agency owner for ten years and I've done very well. Thank God because I cannot imagine doing anything else."
Trying not to appear too eager, I mutter, "Maybe we should look at some commercial properties in the paper."
"Good idea. We need to find a place for Bob's business immediately."
As we look in the paper, we notice one ad at about the same time. "Here's an ad for another old building downtown!"
We immediately head out and walk about six blocks down the street. When we get there I look at the old building and exclaim, "It looks almost like the other building."
Jane calls the real estate agent and learns that the price is similar and exclaims over the cellular phone, "I know someone who would be interested in it. When can we get together?"
After getting the details she tells me, "I think we can pull it off. But now it will be up to Bob. Let’s cross our fingers."
"I guess you'll call me and let me know how it goes."
"You bet. Well, I need to go home."
We walk back to our cars and wave a wishful good-bye.
Shortly after I arrive home I feel something on my face, so I go to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I notice some bread crumbs on my cheek and proceed to wash my face. I look at my face again and notice my brown mole on my left cheek. Then it strikes me. The silver haired old man had a mole like mine. Then I think about his picture. There was the same strong square jaw and the same round hazel eyes. Is it possible? No. No way. My parents told me I was adopted. I decide to call Mom. She tells me to forget about it because the adoption agency named "Loving Care," in Manhattan, went out of business years ago. She always tells me the same old story and still shows no interest in helping me. I would call my father but he passed away. Praying for a miracle when the bill arrives, I use my credit card to hire an agency that specializes in searching for biological parents. They say that I have supplied them with very little information but they will do their best.
Almost a week later I stand in my apartment working on one of my paintings. I'm wondering what has gone wrong because I haven't heard anything from Jane. I just managed to sell one of my small paintings for enough to put a little food on the table. But, it is far from enough to pay the rent and the landlord sent me an eviction notice a month ago. The phone rings. "Hello. Oh, Jack. Please be patient. I've rented this place for five years and usually I've paid the rent on time. I've been taking care of it well, too."
"Chris, if you can't pay the rent maybe you should consider staying at the Salvation Army or the Labor House. Another option is the government assistance program known as Section 8. I know someone who specializes in that kind of property. He might be able to help you."
"Please, just give me one more month and I'll come up with the money."
"OK. You've been true to your word before. All you have is one month. Period. Of course, you must pay the late payment penalties. Can you afford that?"
"I love this place and the excellent location. I'll come up with it someway."
I hate to say this Chris, but just in case, I'm going to have someone ready to take strong action by the end of the month. You've never been this late before. I hope you understand. This is not a charity."
"Don't worry. I'll be able to pay."
"Alright. Wish you the best. Bye."
If I had only stuck to my usual way of doing business, I could have sold several smaller paintings and had enough money. No. I wanted to go for this really big project. That project exhausted me taking plenty of my time and money. Now, if I sell my usual number of paintings, I still won't have enough money because of the late payment penalties. Gamble big and you can lose big. I've learned my lesson.
In a way I don't really regret it though. That mural is clearly the best painting I've ever made. That strong emotional experience enabled me to find better ways to handle the colors. I don't know how much longer it would have taken me to develop the intense style of that mural if I hadn't gambled on that project.
Ah, here we go again, "Hello." I take a deep breath and try not to act desperate. "Jane, how are you?"
"Fine. Got good news. How are you?"
"Doing fine. So everything is in order?"
"Well, in spite of some delays we finally got everything in order. Can you make it for lunch at Joe's Place tomorrow?"
"Well, I've been working hard to keep up with the demand for my paintings, but I guess I can make time in my busy schedule."
"Incidentally, many people have shown interest in your work. They love the mural. But I had lost your number and couldn't find it till just recently. I guess it’s no big deal. You have plenty of customers anyway."
"Yeah! That's right."
"Don't forget. Tomorrow at noon at Joe's Place."
"Got it on my schedule."
"See you then."
Joe's Place, that cozy mom and pop café, has always needed a paint job; the old boards squeak as I enter a little late, around 12:10, trying to appear laid back. It is hard to believe that everything is going to work out. Jane is not here yet. What's happened? I get an old magazine to look over and order a small coke. I wait till about 12:30 and keep looking for petite, blond Jane.
Instead, a slender, dark, young guy approaches me cautiously. "Are you Chris, the artist?"
"Yes. That's me."
"My name is Tom, Jane's assistant. Sorry, Jane got delayed so I'm here in her place."
"Are you the same Tom that was working for Bob?"
"The same one. I didn't last long at Classic Travels. Don't like Bob's style. Anyway, Jane managed to convince Bob to buy the other building and sell the one with your mural to her. She's moving into the old building right now and got into a minor argument with the movers. Here's a check for a great job. Jane is right. Your mural is great."
The amount on the check is twice what she agreed to pay me. "I can't take this check. It's way more than what she agreed to pay me."
"Yes, we know. But Jane thinks that even for this amount it is a steal. She insists she will be elated if you take this offer."
Trying hard to conceal my disbelief and excitement, in measured words, I reply, "I am honored that you all think highly of my work. Thanks."
"Even though we were delayed due to some paperwork problems, we are elated on how things worked out. By the way, here is a list of names and phone numbers of various businesses that are interested in your work. They just love your mural."
I am so balled over that I can't hide my excitement. "Wow! This is great! Thanks, this has made my day."
"Sorry, but I have to leave now. Jane said she needs me back right away to help get her business going. She needs time to organize things and get her business off the ground. She will call you when things settle down. Competition is tough these days. The travel industry changes at a breath taking pace."
Then as an afterthought I ask, "I'm curious. What's the name of Jane's new travel agency?"
"Your timing couldn't be any better. We just opened an account and filed a ‘Doing Business As’ form earlier today. The name is Creative Adventures."
"Sounds great." We bid each other adieu.
Soon after Tom leaves. "Yeehaw!" My face flushes when everybody turns and stares. Time to order a big chicken fried steak and plenty of beer.
Later, as I enter my apartment, I think that this cannot be real. In the days ahead my landlord is happy. I churn away at mountains of work. That mural was worth its weight in gold. I can't churn my paintings out fast enough. I raise the prices significantly. Journalists come over to interview me for various periodicals.
Almost a month later, I answer the phone.
"This is Parent Finders. Is this Chris?"
"We have some good news. Your father was Bill Russell. Can you see us tomorrow morning at nine to look at the evidence?"
This is hard to believe. "I - I'll be there. Th - Thanks."
Next morning, I go over the evidence with Frank of Parent Finders. A car accident badly injured my father and killed my mother. I was just a little boy and my father had no insurance and no close relatives. Years later, he married Jane Kennedy and had two daughters. Jane is my half-sister.
I call Jane immediately when I get home. We agree to meet at Joe's Place tomorrow evening about seven.
Eagerly, I arrive on time. Jane is not there. I get a 7up and wait. Finally, she arrives fifteen minutes late.
"Chris. Sorry I'm late. Had to attend to some last minute details."
"That mural is a better advertisement for you than for me. People are crazy about it. A few don't like it. But you can't please everyone. I have some more names and phone numbers for you."
"Great. So how is your business doing?"
"We're off to a great start. We deal with arranging kayaking and mountain climbing and other types of outdoor and cultural trips to countries normally considered risky due to political or economic problems. Arrangements are tailored to fit the person. However, most people interested in this kind of travel like to have room to play things by ear. Are you interested in something like that? We have some interesting information and connections. Let’s make your wildest dreams come true."
"When I'm ready I'll let you know." I try to think. When would be a good time to tell her? "Incidentally, I can't wait. Here is something I must show you."
Her mouth and eyes open wide, "Chris, this is incredible. He told us about the accident and what happened. Sure wish we weren't related, if you know what I mean. It's nice to imagine the other possibilities."
Then with tears in her eyes, she says, "I've got something for you, too."
She goes to her car and returns with two domahickies. In a shaky voice she says, "One of them was made shortly after he started. The other one was done much later. Can you tell me which is which?"
They are similar in style to my more inspired works. But they have obvious technical problems. I point to the one that shows more obvious flaws. "That's his early one." He had similar problems to the ones I had when he first started.
"He could have been great. Don't you think?"
Then a struggling amber light comes out of his domahickies and it looks like it wants to get brighter as it shines out of his later one. It enters the rainbow and flows in my veins. It bursts out of me as a golden light that reflects off of my mural and splits into vivid rays that feed the ever growing rainbow. We feed it and it feeds us.
Our mouths widen and our eyes moisten. As we embrace, my voice quivers, "He is still with us. His struggle to be great made him great."
Jane, in her own way, must know about the rainbow because we are flying over it.<<Writings>>