Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bag Packing Begins Again

Packing Out

This is not to say that packing up
to head out is stress free

it is just the choices of what comes along
and what is left behind are not as complicated

There are those things that get left behind;
the squeezed out tube of toothpaste for instance

or the worn out footwear or that
purple t-shirt that no longer fits

Objects get left behind,
lightening the load.

What doesn't get left behind are
those other things not loaded
into a backpack or suitcase.

Those are always packed
and the room they take up
is of variable dimensions.

I'm packing up and moving on.

Paris 2017 #97

Sandy Kinnee

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sunset Maybe of This Stay in Paris

I am not one for omens or signs or maybe I am or should be.

When in Paris I carry my electronic transportation card, Navigo, in my right back pocket. For as many years as I have had it, ten sounds about right, it is always in my right rear pocket. Before the advent of the Navigo, my Carte Orange was in that pocket. Since 1978 I have always had my pass in the same place.

Today I reached in my pocket and it was gone. Probably I was concentrating on taking a photograph and let the Navigo slip, not into the pocket, but onto the street.

If I believed in omens, it might be a sign
that it is time to pack up and head for home.
In fact, it is in just a few more days I am flying.

When I next return to Paris, a year from now,
I'll buy a new card and try to keep it forever.
 And about the photograph, of course she held a hose.

Paris 2017 #96

Sandy Kinnee

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Poem For the Readee

The Gift of Children's Books

This began once upon a time with picture books
not too many words
and she asked me to read again
the same tale countless times
knowing when I was making up words
inserting new characters
creating new plots

Bedtime stories read so long ago
paved a path of imagination
a picturing in her head 
unlocking that part of the brain
that sees the unseen
paints pictures and remarkably
soothes and calms
and reassures

Later, I would read her those stories
that I wanted to read and she enjoyed them as well

Lately she makes good reading suggestions.

Paris 2017 #95

Sandy Kinnee

To Sleep In My Own Bed

I Slept

Last night I slept deeply
No hand to hand combat
with mosquitoes

I know there are others
who if they had eight
more nights in Paris

would be gleeful
and I know on the
last night I'll wish

I didn't have to leave.

But, in nine days I can
sleep in my own bed.

and screens on
my windows to
keep out the mosquitoes

Paris 2017 #94

Sandy Kinnee

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We Tell Stories

Today I wish to share a story my daughter, Lauren Kinnee, wrote on the eve of her birthday. 
Lauren is the writer I aspire to be.

We Tell Stories

We are obligated to tell stories to each other.  That is how the world is woven.  Through the tapestry of the stories that we tell.

There was a girl with wisps of curling gold for hair.  Gold is expensive and there was a recession, so there had not been much to work with.  But working fine, fine threads of gold is difficult, too, and the finer they are the more the threads tend to curl in upon themselves.  So this girl wore a wreath of golden curls instead of hair.

She lived under an apple tree.  The tree was her twin.  She always knew she had a twin, and no one ever said she didn’t, but no one ever said she did.  Her twin lived outside of the window of her bedroom.  When she shed the fragile golden curls, the tree, her twin, caught them and from them it grew magical blossoms that shimmered in the bright sunlight.  The girl and her twin, the tree, lived in a very sunny place.

The place where the girl and her tree lived was an old castle, and it was made from bricks of ruby and garnet, because theirs was a magical land of glowing pink mountains and shadowy, giant red rocks shaped like animals.  These animals were the sleeping servants of the rock gnome who lived deep beneath the mountain.  The rock gnome was a good gnome and a generous one, and shimmering iron pyrite rimed his underground palace.  Long before he became the rock gnome he was a god, a god who had blown the earth into existence with his breath, which was rock itself, and as he blew his breath become hotter and hotter, creating volcanoes to renew the land, until all that was left of his breath was steam and mist, which swirled and settled on the fresh ground to wash and polish his new and giant gem.  His new earth was wonderful, and everything sparkled with his magic.  And though everything the god touched glittered, he was alone, and he wept, and each tear was a new gem: a ruby, an emerald, a diamond.  But it hurts to shed tears of gems, so he hurled this into the sky and the stars were born, each a tear of a god.  Some fell back to earth, sometimes shattered and changed but still glittering and glowing, and this was the first snowfall, leaving mica and quartz and diamond dust coating the ground.  Thousands and then hundreds of thousands of years passed and the god watched as creatures were born of his land and sea and the dust of his stars, creatures he did not make, but creatures who grew and changed and thought, and wore the embers of the god’s creation in their flesh, and loved the god’s world for its preciousness.  The god was happy.  He groomed some of these creatures into companions, pets gigantic and glorious and fit for a god.  For a hundreds of thousands of years he enjoyed this land of his, roaming its surface, its secret places underground and underwater.  The more he roamed, the more he saw that the Earth had new caretakers, new beings to shape it in ways that he could not.  For they could create imperfection where he could only create the glassy hardness of glittery perfection.  Content, the god decided to retire, so he once again breathed a place into existence.  This was a gallery of glitter-studded beauty, a cave with no entrance known to the creatures above him.  He set his pets to sleep, guarding his secret place of retirement, and he became no longer a god but a rock gnome instead, and he breathed no more worlds into existence, but he left behind him his throne, the pink mountain that rose behind the girl’s castle, and his magic spilled into the soil and the water in this place so that the earth glittered a with the dust of a thousand thousand rubies and garnets, and the water flowed like liquid aquamarine from the wings of the sacred mountain throne.  The water was cold and pure and good.

The rock gnome did not wish to be completely isolated from his world, so he created a magical pool of this water, filled with magical golden fish, and the pool reflected his work as a god, and when he felt lonely, the gnome, who was still very powerful, would touch the pool with just the very tip of his finger, and his tiniest influence would create something new and peculiar, in the world, something no one had yet seen.

Thousands and thousands of years after the gnome retired, his pool showed him a new and different kind of creature walking the earth, and this creature was man.  He watched man for a very long time, and listened, and heard man telling stories.  The gnome had never heard stories before, being all alone, and for many years he listened.  Man spoke of buffalo, of lion, of mammoth, of bull.  Man spoke of bird and horse, and man spoke of things the gnome did not understand: of new gods, of beauty—for even though the world the gnome had created when he was a god was very, very beautiful, the gnome did not understand this: it was all he had ever known.  And he saw that man created, like he did, and what man created was beautiful.  Men traded from distant lands for shells and plants that produced vibrant dyes, and they carved stones and he did not know why, but he knew that man saw things that the god-gnome had made eons ago, things that had grown into life, and man loved this beauty and used it to make new and more beautiful things.

Man was a new god, the gnome saw, blowing creation into his world.  The gnome wished to know these new gods, and so he touched his pool and the earth opened, and soon enough, man found the gnome’s new and sacred places, which glittered with strange dust and rocks never before seen, stalagmites and stalactites.  The gnome had retired to a sealed and bejeweled place much like these new openings in the world, but had left himself no access to the outside, for former gods do not roam the earth with men.  So the gnome’s new caverns, made in the image of his own but made for men, were secret and no one could enter them save those who could find their way through passages nearly sealed.  Deep inside the nearly sealed pockets of the earth, the men found themselves in sacred gnome-spaces and they knew that these spaces were the work of a very old god, a god who lived in the deep earth, a god who could blow existence like a bubble and spangle the sky with stars.

But the sacred is not for everyone, and the gnome both feared and loved man, the being that could tell stories that would shape the world, so he reached into his pool only rarely, and touched the special ones, and they became god-touched and could enter the gnome’s worlds.  The gnome had created beauty and splendor in his cavity under the land: man created stories, told with pictures and words to the light of tallow lamps, which would sometimes sputter and leave the god-touched in darkness.  But the god-touched knew the cavities of the world and so they were safe and never lost and knowledge of the god’s home was not lost until one day the gnome gazed into his pool and listened to a story and death followed.  Then he began to fade from the mind of man.  And there were new stories, some of gods, some of power, and some of wealth—and always death.  The stories of wealth made the gnome the most sad, because the wealth had been his and man had reshaped it into greed, which shaped stories of power, and greed and power always followed stories of religion, which the gnome had embodied when he had been a god.

The gnome would not weep more tears of jewels, nor would he become a god again for there were quite enough of those already, but he watched his pool now and again, and when he heard good stories, he touched the waters that were cold and clear like liquid diamond and aquamarine.  The good storytellers held special powers: they were mad stories and wild stories but they were stories and not lies.  They were true stories.   
Do you know what a true story is?

One day, in a ruby-red castle at the foot of his throne, the gnome heard the voice of a storyteller, a true storyteller, and so he touched the man and the man could hear and see and create unlike anyone else, because that is what true storytellers do.  And this man knew the secret places in the earth, and he knew how to create beauty from the gnome’s own beauty: from the mica that flaked from the beautiful throne, and the man knew what the men of old knew: he knew all the ways to tell a story that was good and real and that pleased the gnome of the mountain, the gnome who had been a god.

So when the man had a child, the gnome gave this girl spun-gold hair and a royal tree for a twin.  Twins are sacred.  The Storyteller told stories to the child and the child learned what made a true story.  She did not make her own stories, but she sought other true stories and taught those who would listen about old gods and real gods.

This is her first real story.  Her hair is brown now, an indeterminate color, perhaps that of a tree.  Yesterday she noticed a streak of silver.  Her twin has grown tall and still showers the earth with diamond-gold petals.  The tree grows royal apples for the gnome, but he never tastes them.  The squirrels in the neighborhood are god-touched.  They grab the golden apples growing in the sun, taste the former god’s ambrosia, and fling it to the floor.

That is their story to tell.

Lauren Kinnee, July 17, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Familiar Buzzing

One Mosquito

High pitched buzzing
began at 3:45 am

The mosquito passed
my ear several times

Scouting in the dark
louder and nearer

signaling a darker
more personal intent       

It was going to
feast on me

causing me to stir
uncovering flesh.

A forehead.
An ear.

pulling the sheet
over my head

Hoping the vampire
would wander away

in search of an
easier meal.

Flying drop of blood
sleep stealer

In Paris there are
no window screens   

Paris 2017 #91

Sandy Kinnee

Old Floyd, Older Floyd, Oldest Floyd

White Haired Man Sitting in the Hazelnut Grove

No one thought the naming of the baby through.
He'd be named after his father who
was named after his father who
wasn't named after his father.

The Welsh name had vague meanings
which were not particularly applicable to a baby.
Why call a baby boy gray or white haired?

Wise? How is a baby wise?
What was this about a grove of hazelnuts? 
A sacred grove?

The name was simply passed down and
only recently did his hair begin
to fall into line with his name.

He had become a white haired man
with apple blossoms in his hair.

No, wrong poem.

Paris 2017 #90

Sandy Kinnee

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When the Student is Ready the Teacher Will Appear

Solving Their Problems

It did not seem fair that the woman got paid and I had to be the one calculating her math problems.  Math was way too much work and it seemed that if she was the one making money she should come up with the answers.  She was just sitting at her desk anyway. Why not let us go out to recess and she could easily fill in the answers.

I admit, there were days, especially when the workload seemed overwhelming, that I preferred to make up numbers.  What is 23 times two anyway? I wrote ten. Or, I wanted to write ten. I probably knew it was 46, but I did not want to make the effort. It hurt to think.

In art class the teacher sent me to the principal's office for refusing to outline the colored shapes I had drawn. That is a whole other tale.  That got resolved quickly, in my favor.

The way I saw education until tenth grade was legalized torture. Forcing socialization and enlightenment upon young people is a waste of time, but it was the law.  I had to be in school. So, I dealt with it by being as passive as possible, except in art class.

So, what happened in tenth grade? The young nun, fresh out of college, taught English and took me aside when she noticed I was reading books that weren't assigned. She asked me to talk about what I was reading and why had I read A Connecticut Yankee in King Authors Court four times?  She was interested. So we talked more and she suggested other unassigned books. She let me take a day off school to attend a talk by a famous book critic. She opened a door and let me out.  She only taught at the school one year, then was gone. Her photo is not in the yearbook.

What they say is true. When the student is ready the teacher will appear.  I did not see until I was ready to see. I could not know until I was ready to know.

If I could have I would have begun again in first grade and paid attention, become a better sponge. But I wasn't ready.  Later when I met that same nun I would have told her how beautiful she was and how she changed my life. But, I wasn't quite ready. Then I was. It is sad to not know the name of ones first crush.

Paris 2017 #89

Sandy Kinnee

More Hoses to Photograph

 Not Stopped Photographing Hoses

She saw me cross the petanque courts
and take more images of
jumbled yellow hoses,
snarled you might say,
randomly arabesque would be more accurate.

“I thought you were done photographing hoses.”

She saw the expression on my face,
the one that reads, “have we met?”

Paris 2017 #88

Sandy Kinnee

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Life is a Stream of Choices

A Little Rachmaninoff Never Hurts

Some people may prefer landscapes
to scratch and sniff lottery tickets

or the sweet smell of diesel exhaust
to a pat of unsalted butter

Red wine? White?
Pepper on your salad?
I never knew I would have
so many choices in life

to paint it red or paint it blue

to sit silently in the dark or
maybe put on Keith Jarrett

yes, Koln Concerts, please
turn the volume down
to one notch from silent

Anything without voices, OK?

A little Rachmaninoff never hurts
or Rachmaninov

Paris 2017 #87 

Sandy Kinnee

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Old Man Who Went to the Art Opening, Then Vanished

I Shuffled Off

I was very fortunate to make a good living for a nice long time from creating and selling my work. At one time 49 galleries were selling my prints, mainly in the USA, but also in Japan and Europe.  For a number of years I made more from my art than I had working full time in art museums.

Then, after a number of my best dealers died of AIDS and things and tastes changed, sales sagged. When my gallery in Zurich closed down, after being open for twenty years, everything went poof.  Poof, as if it had been a great dream.

I do not need the excuse of distributing my work through art dealers to make my art. I can't help but create. As much as I love working on the fifteen foot canvases, if I can't afford them I work on my own paper. When I run out of paper I do something else.

Sometimes it is more fun to do what you can't afford to do.

I wrote a time travel piece about going back to a group exhibition I was in during grad school. In the story, I was both the young artist and an old guy with funny eyeglasses. I gave the young artist a little advice about the value of making art, the continuous creation of art. It was simply: What you do now is good. What you keep doing is better.

Yes, I wrote the time travel piece. But, it was based on an actual interaction with an old man who showed up at the opening. He seemed to single me out.  I did not witness him talking with anyone else. He claimed to be an artist, but never mentioned his name. He did wear round glasses, large ones.

Then I shuffled off.

Paris 2017 #86

Sandy Kinnee

Watching People From Above

Lucky Boy Looking Out the Window

From a stool on the second floor
of the department store
Bon Marche
he could watch pedestrians
coming and going on the metro stairway. 

Rain was lightly falling,
barely spitting
not so much to make the passers below
hurry any more than normal.

From where he sat voices of greetings
and partings were exchanged between
and the sales staff
accompanied musically by
Erik Satie’s Les GymnopĂ©dies

The piano made those on the metro steps
seem like three dimensional
ice skaters in slow motion.

Fewer walked with headphones
staring at phones
than he expected
One guy wearing an orange raincoat
stood alone.
Lit and smoked an entire cigarette
before moving on.

There were interactions: couples met,
parted, others joined up
People just being people
Posing for selfies

and then he noticed something 
he'd missed.
A photomaton- a grandfather,
his daughter and his grandson
taking pictures in the booth

The music switched to something jazzy.
He didn’t care for jazzy.
The rain completely ceased.

He stood, took the escalator down,
went out the door
and descended the steps
into the metro.

Paris 2017 #85

Sandy Kinnee

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My Nature is to Create

My Toggle Switch

Like the toggle switch that activates
my automatic and incessant slapping
of paint on canvas,

I seem to have a need to spew
my thoughts once the writing switch
has been pushed to the ON position.

Perhaps words drool out
absentmindedly in a received
or automatic manner. 

Or I might just be acting
as a word camera focusing on
some feature that catches my attention.

For whatever reason, I write.

Somehow, once turned "on"
the writing mode picks up
its own momentum

and I make a pile of words
that may be of interest or are not. 
Hopefully, they are not deadly and boring.

What I understand is, for me,
I work not so much in a fever,
but intently, prolifically.

I have a switch inside me that is
high functioning.
I focus with the same energy best

on a large project I can run with,
multiple paintings at a time
or 50 large sheets of handmade rag a day,

or whatever poems or stories
pop into my head
whether awake of asleep. 

That is just the way it goes.

And, it is not like I work to get
a quantity completed quickly or
become bored with one piece and move on.

I often stay on the same road,
highway, path, river, toboggan run,
and let the work evolve.  

The pieces happen one after another.
I only run out of time or materials.
Usually not for long.

Paris 2017 #84

Sandy Kinnee

Non-Profit Art Gallery Shows the Work of Baby Boomer Artists

This is Depressing

I am not about to do the math, but the number of people over the age of sixty who still produce art in the city of New York alone is staggering.

Last week there was an article in the NY Times about a gallery that represents only artists over the age of 60. Before the article was published they  already had a stable of 120 artists. For those who have never had gallery representation, that is too large a number of artists to properly represent. A viable number of artists to support is no more than a couple dozen.  I have looked at the work of most of these painters and I am impressed, depressed, and saddened.  I am also impressed at the strength of the human spirit.

Since the article the pot has exploded and the number of older artists leaping out of the woodwork must be like going to the kitchen of a low rent Brooklyn apartment in the middle of the night and seeing how many cockroaches live in your cupboards.

I am impressed, depressed, and not the least bit surprised.

Many years ago, I looked at the 1950 US Census for the number of people employed as artists. There are many categories from actors on stage to painters who do scenery for motion pictures. I found the category of fine artists, defined as making at least 51% of their living from what you and I would recognize as creative art making. I was proud that my aunt who made her living solely by painting was one of fewer than 5000 artists in the United States. She made enough to live on.
Because I have done research on Pollock, I happen to know Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner are two more of the 5000. In the year of the census Lee made no money from her art and Jackson made fifteen hundred dollars.  Not thousand.   Back in 1950 most who wanted to be an artist still went to an art school, as universities had only recently developed their studio departments.

With the post war expansion of art teaching in colleges, more artists could find support in teaching.  Pollock's brother, Charles, taught at Michigan State. Gerry Kamrowski left New York to teach at the University of Michigan. Gerry served me tomato sandwiches and barbeque potato chips as I helped him at his studio.There was greater security in teaching, as opposed to the uncertainty of making a living by painting, showing, and the slim possibility of selling ones paintings.

An obvious consequence of having more places where one could study to become an artist and the possibility of being an artist without having to survive by selling art, was  an explosion of Baby-Boomer artists.*

Most artists make art and share what they create, to the best of their abilities. By that I mean they, as individuals, focus on doing what they do best, which is to create. How they generate income and distribute what they produce is a totally different issue, a problematic one.  In my brief look at the 120 artists already associated with that New York gallery featured in the Times, none seem to have come late to the discipline. These are not "Sunday Painters", but artists with track records. Some have shown widely in the past. Some probably have work in permanent collections.  They have always been artists and identify as artists. They each probably have a very small audience who would recognize their names and work.  Consider me to be included in that population of minor artists with works here and there.  That causes me to feel depressed.

The 120 pre-existing stable of artists at that gallery will be joined by many more. The gallery happens to be both selective and non-profit.  At best, it is a venue for showing. It is unlikely that there could be significant sales for any of the artists. Consider one exhibition a month that features ten artists; perhaps three artworks per artist.   That is depressing, to make art all year and show a handful of ones production. Better than nothing, I suppose.

Making art is something artists do.  I think of it as not completely unlike someone who is compelled to bake a pie. An artist would like to know their art is looked at and appreciated. The baker does not bake a pie and put it away in a cupboard, later to become landfill.

Soon enough the 120 plus artists associated with this non-profit gallery will be dead and their pies headed to the dump.  Mine is already earmarked for its own one-way ticket to the landfill. But, and perhaps this is even more depressing, I will continue to bake my pies until I run out of paint. (It softens the sadness somewhat to know that some of my old pies are in the Met, Brooklyn Museum, University of Michigan Museum of Art, New Mexico Art Museum, Phoenix, Princeton, Portland, and New Britain Museum of American Art.)

The same holds true with what I write. My written pies don't take up much room.

Paris 2017 #83 

Sandy Kinnee 

* according to the Princeton Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, the number of Fine Artists in 2001 had jumped to 288,000.  That number is triple the 1970 number. Is such an explosion of artists viable ?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

An Organ Recital In Notre de Dame de Paris

One-Man Band and an Audience

As I sat in an uncomfortable chair in the nave of Notre Dame de Paris, I was alone in my own thoughts and one of many in an audience that filled the cathedral. I am no stranger to organ recitals at Notre Dame.

The seating was not designed for comfort, only for efficiently accommodating a large number of people in the space. Had the chairs been otherwise, more members might have drifted off to sleep than actually did. I wondered before the recital commenced what I might write about this experience. Would I review the performance, talk about the ambience?

Should I describe the aromatic impact of walking into this sacred space and being refocused upon entrance by the omnipresent cloud of incense?  Then, once seated how the communal smell of hundreds of humans neutralized the holy scent?

Did I feel compelled to describe how the direction the audience was facing seemed backward for a concert? We faced the altar, not the organ. Our backs were turned on the unseen performer, who even if the seating changed direction would remain invisible. Or, did I need to note that an organ, especially one that is designed to fill this particular space with glorious sound is essentially a one-man band? It is a gigantic air fueled set of tin whistles played by ten fingers and two feet. It is an orchestra of one that dominates the aural interior of the cathedral.

Instead, I want to talk about the audience, the somewhat captive group of people who self-selected to attend. Hundreds of people paid to sit in uncomfortable chairs to hear an organist perform four pieces by four composers: Bach, Liszt, Roger-Ducasse, and Durufle.  A percentage knew not only the composers but had played these pieces. More were on the other end of the spectrum. There were families who brought their children, couples on a date, individuals, a music enthusiast sharing with a friend, others who saw a poster and had money in their pocket. People choose to attend this concert for their own reasons.  Some knew what they would experience, some had vague expectations, others did not.

After the Bach finished a few people got up and left. They had heard enough or maybe the seats had gotten to them. Another handful departed during the Liszt. As the concert progressed, more drifted away.  I listened to the final two pieces and afterward thought of how local television news reporting manipulates their viewers into staying to the end by teasing with promises of some breaking news payoff or film coverage of cute baby pandas. Films came to mind that give those who stick around for the credits, out takes or bloopers deleted from the movie. Then, I thought how this concert promises only sounds played by one invisible musician, which if you pay for your seat you may stay through the entirety of the performance or leave as you wish or nap, or cuddle with the person with whom you came.

Then I thought how experiencing a gallery of artworks, paintings can be considered in a similar way.  There are those who look at a painting in the way an organist in the audience listens to the Bach. There are the boyfriends brought along who would prefer to be sharing affection than looking at a painting or listening to an organ recital, yet are there none the less. There are the families, the curious and the incurious. There are those passing by wondering what this is all about. There are those who ask for nothing, seek nothing, and get nothing from the experience.

And finally, there are those, some from all of the above and then some more, who consciously or unconsciously look or listen and allow themselves to step outside of the day-to-day world for then entire duration it takes the organist to play these four pieces, or just a chunk, a nanosecond.

There are those who listen to music played start to finish and those who are satisfied with what they hear on the elevator. There are those who glance, in passing, at a painting and those who stop in their tracks to be swept away by a tidal wave of color and line.

The unseen organist and the painter or poet work with our idioms to take those willing to follow an escape for the soul.

Paris 2017 #81

Sandy Kinnee

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Electrical Caffeine

That Peculiar Effect of Lightning

While I can't stand strong winds
I love a good rainstorm. 
The louder the better.

The harder the downpour,
the brighter the flashes,
the more explosive the thunder claps

the more I feel part of the storm. 
Some storms carry me away
I sleep more soundly.

In the morning, I open the window
onto a drenched world.
I pour my coffee, same as always

But look onto a mirror  remembering
that those days after such massive storms
I feel like I am already flying.

As if the lightning has
already filled my veins
with electrical caffeine.

Paris 2017 #80

Sandy Kinnee

Monday, July 10, 2017

Empty Coffee Can

Empty Coffee Can

My grandfather's foundry produced high temperature engines for the auto industry.  The hey day was pre World War Two, when the family had one car in the driveway and one in the garage.

The oldest of his three sons was fifteen at the time, when he decided to disassemble one of his fathers auto engines.  The engine was in the garage, inside the family car.  It was Saturday and Uncle Tom came in for lunch covered with grease asking for a towel and an empty coffee can. He was chased back outside by his sisters, who reported to their mother what Tom was doing in the garage.  My grandmother, who was always called Mum, although her name was Mary McDonald, was shocked when she saw the car engine in pieces.

She asked Tom what on earth he was up to.  There was nothing wrong with the car.  He said he was curious, that was all.  Mum threatened him he'd better put the engine back together before his father returned for dinner.

To his credit, his father never knew the engine had been taken apart and reassembled.  It ran the same as always. 

One day his father noticed an old coffee can filled with small engine parts.  No one seemed to know anything about the spare parts.

There were nineteen pieces of metal in the can and the car seemed to run perfectly well without them.

Paris 2017 #79

Sandy Kinnee

The Swimming Lesson

Uncle Sam and the Swimming Lesson

This happened in the old country, Uncle Sam said. 
His brothers, whom not a one liked him,
dragged him, kicking and screaming,
to the middle of a bridge
over a deep and wide river.

They told him they were giving him a swimming lesson,
although he said he was fine and didn't want one. 
He lived in a city, not by a sea or lake.
He did not need to know how to even tread water.

He already supposed his brothers resented him,
the baby of the family.
He was correct.  But would they want to kill him
or was he in need of swimming lessons?
He did not know how to swim. 
He'd never waded in water waist high.

The brothers grabbed him by the legs
and arms
and counted one two three.

Suddenly he was under water
and his one and only thought was this:

If I drown my mother will kill me!

Paris 2017 #78

Sandy Kinnee

Sunday, July 9, 2017

These Glorious Moments

These Glorious Moments

Does it detract from the poem-ness of these lines to report
I am waiting for the bus to take me to the Right Bank?

If not, then let me be more specific.
The bus stop is within easy ear-range of the
church of Saint Germain des Pres.

Whose large wooden doors spread wide welcoming
late arriving observants, tardy practitioners,
and casual passers-by who happen to be
awaiting public transportation this Sunday.

A piece by Buxtehude, unless I am mistaken,
is brilliantly surging from the organ,
a choir sings back up or
has the organist perhaps pulled the stop marked:
Vox Humana?

A discrete  and understated choir more likely,

wafting incense as potent as the
organ music floats out the open doors,

and across the street a large black and white photograph
of Kate Moss folded arms over her breasts
only the slightest suggestion of her uncovered form

The bus arrives
a man wearing a yellow bow tie already on the bus.

Perhaps there is a god,
at least for these glorious moments

Paris 2017 #77

Sandy Kinnee

Miss or Mister Mouse Poses for a Portrait

Miss or Mister Mouse Poses for a Portrait

Shall I call the mouse an it?  That It was a he or she, probably matters not.  He or she or it, this mouse just sat at noon in the middle of a sidewalk,  looking handsome and content.  It was not eating, which is what I thought might distract it from noticing an approaching human.

The sidewalk was quiet and there was no traffic, no car, bus, or foot.

I wondered if the mouse sat so still because it was sick or injured. Maybe I had startled it and the mouse chose to stay still, hoping I would not notice it, gray against a gray sidewalk.

A couple watched me from ten yards away, as I knelt and asked the mouse for permission to take its photograph.  I took no answer as approval or at least acquiescence.

It posed, by way of not moving. I took the shot and was happy with the image.  The mouse sat still, it was looking at me, otherwise it did not move. I thanked it for being such a good subject and turned to walk on.  I was more concerned that the mouse hadn't moved, seemed to accept my visit. I took a step forward, then turning again I saw the couple approach the mouse, reaching to pet it, to judge if it was alive and not a toy or stuffed animal.

The mouse shot off down the sidewalk, diving into a grating.

Paris 2017 #76

Sandy Kinnee

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I Think I'll Read Instead

Read Instead

I sat resting after a walk in the morning sun. 
I thought I'd write. But about what?

What did I see during my walk?
Two small parks. 
One all dirt. The other green and lush.

A gardener was adjusting the aim
of the sprinkler head.
I didn't photograph the hose,
nor the dirt garden void of water .

Another funeral at the church. 
The bell tolling its sad goodbye.
A reminder that life is fleeting
one should make the most
of what time they are given.

Right now nothing comes to mind.
I just don't feel like writing.

I think I'll read instead.

Paris 2017 #75

Sandy KInnee

Time Travel and a Smiley Face at the End

Handmade Paper Time Travel

I am sitting in a room poring over a unique book begun in 1814 and finished in 1848. It is a record of every letter written by the man who oversaw the Luxembourg Gardens. The paper for this tome was made by hand prior to 1814. The impeccable penmanship varies over time as the years progress and a new scribe takes the position of recording the outgoing correspondence.   Often what is recorded is how much someone was paid and the act of paying. It provides the day to day record, not in the form of a ledger or balance sheet, but in regards to official communication between one person and another. The letters tell what is important at the time. What is important is not introspection or the conveyance of private thoughts, but how one does things and says things. Sometimes the writer asks that the person in charge of the money release a certain amount to an artist. There is nothing of an adventure, no intrigue. Just day to day business of living in early nineteenth century Paris.

I look at these day to day records written cursive with dipped quill in ink upon handmade chain-laid rag paper, likely linen rag discarded by those who were the ones living lives and not having the luxury of touching a sheet of paper from the future not receiving a text consisting of emoticons.

I travel back through time as I touch each page. My own luxury being that I can return to the present time and make a smiley face for you.

Paris 2017 #73

Sandy Kinnee

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frankincense and Chlorine

Frankincense and Chlorine

I found myself between
frankincense and chlorine
marching toward the
boulangerie to get a
baguette for lunch

The fountain in the
Square St. Sulpice 
had just been washed,
my left nostril
was inhaling chlorine.

A crowd dressed in black,
a funeral
in the cathedral
a cloud of frankincense
entered my right nostril

I walked on until the smell
of freshly baked bread
entered my nose
from both sides.

Paris 2017 #74

Sandy Kinnee

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Paris Light

In Paris, Even

In summer, night falls a short time.
The light doesn't tell when to go to bed
only when to get out of bed.

The curtains change black to silver
In Paris,  even on those days when it rains
the curtains tell when to arise.

Paris 2017 #72

Sandy Kinnee

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Not Necessarily Art

Looking at Things, Not Necessarily Art

Pointing our eyeballs to look at a work of art
or maybe some little thing in a shop window
or a funny clip online.

We, on our own, choose to look,
to focus our attention upon something.
Mostly, we see what we see not by a prior intent,
but by chance or perhaps are
manipulated to look at a certain thing.

The eye catching design of a poster says
look at me and makes promises
of what is in store if we follow our eyes further.

Maybe the visual is accompanied by a big wham.
We hear the wham and swivel our heads
toward where the sound originated.
It is as if our name is Wham. 

We respond to hearing our name,
then the image has earned our focus.
Can it sustain our glance,
turn it
into a gaze?
Is the visual sufficiently compelling
to hold our attention?

Our visual attention,
once captured, is held only so long.
The brain decides whether or not
to apply further mental processes
and when to move along.    

Until someone shouts our name again.

Or, perhaps we are tired of being assaulted
and jostled into looking at
this and that demanding our attention.

Sometimes what we need is to bend down
to watch a ladybug or
slip inside of that large red painting over there.

We see when we are ready to look.

Paris 2017 #71

Sandy Kinnee

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Hose in Use

Photographing a Yellow Hose, a Memory

I recall running in this very park
five years ago,
probably to the day,
to take a picture of a yellow hose
coiled in the grass,
in as perfect a circle as a hose can be.

On this day I do not have to run
the hose is in use showing off,
doing what uncoiled hoses
were designed to do.

Paris 2017 #70

Sandy Kinnee

Opening the Shutters

Here, They are Called Volet

It doesn't matter whether the forecast
is hot or cold

I am up and have started the coffee
it's dripping into the pot
as I draw back the curtains,
swing open the the windows,
and unlatch the volet. 

Back home they are called shutters
to shut things out.

Four sets of volet pushed back
against the exterior wall to let inside
every possible sunbeam available.
I pour my coffee.

I take a sip then put the cup down,
picking up a brush.

A closed volet wouldn't stop
a muse from entering.
But, why take that chance?

Paris 2017 #69

Sandy Kinnee 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Drawing In The Notebooks Instead

Those Unused Moleskins

Bought by the three pack
and scribbled into
like eating popcorn.

Stacks of fresh moleskins
always handy, at the ready.

Hundreds filled and boxed,
stuffed with raw word sketches
coughed out poems,
notes and half notes.
Quarter notes even.

Then I found my smart phone
was an easier tool
and the notes go into my inbox,
like what I am doing right now.

I brought dozens of moleskins,
all empty or were until now.

Words are better typed
on my phone.
Scribbles are better on paper.
wordless poems,
overlaid color pencil lines,
or what you might call them
are spilling out
the tips of my fingers.

I need to buy more moleskins.

Paris 2017 #68 

Sandy Kinnee 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Brancusi Not Hockney

Brancusi Not Hockney

The rain clouds parted and hordes emerged
from far and wide to stand in front of
David Hockney's bright paintings

Stand they did, awaiting entry in a line that
snaked and curled a good hundred plus yards,
not single file, but six abreast.

One might imagine free paintings were being
awarded, but no, and not even free admission.
I pondered how many hours the wait.

Then, having he luxury of coming back
when the galleries will be not so packed,
I left the line and walked a few more steps

And there I had Brancusi to myself. 
I was once again in his studio, with no crowd
and no bright colors to dazzle

This time, unlike those many decades ago when I
walked inside his studio among his work and tools,
the studio is surrounded by a glass wall.

Paris 2017 #67

Sandy Kinnee

The Rain Has Returned

Fresh Reading Material

Finished that book, the one
I'd wondered why I was reading

Now I must find myself
something else to read

when the rain is falling
or I need an escape.

The rain is falling.
I need an escape.

Paris 2017 #66

Sandy Kinnee

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Seeing Your Own Hamster Cage

Worlds within Worlds and seeing your own World

It is the nature and limitation of human beings to filter what we see and do.
It is the way it is. What you see is what you get. The world you see is the world you live within. Or the world you imagine is the world you exclude.

The best we can do is pick and choose from the available, larger world what will fit within your own individual worlds.  We cannot possibly inhabit or know the full world.
We are the inhabitants of our own particular hand-built worlds. Some are closed off from expansion, others open.

Each brick that defines our personal world is laid in place by our own hands. We leave some passage ways open to other worlds and build bridges for excursions to other lands. Perhaps the bricks are regular bricks or concrete blocks. Maybe they are glass bricks or your own world may more accurately resemble a hamster habitat, a sprawling labyrinth of tubes and fish bowls.

Outside my own world, I am aware that race cars and tattoos and recreational marijuana exist.  I have no interest in visiting those worlds, unless by chance there might be a cat wanting to be petted or a big ass painting or some compelling writing to attract me.   

It seems one can’t fully see your own world and the hamster maze that others inhabit, while not exactly knowable, would probably be both familiar and not, except for the race cars and smell of ganja or kimchi.

And no, not pictures of large butts. Just really huge paintings.

 Paris 2017 #65

Sandy Kinnee

Empty Inbox

Empty Inbox

I expected to find
an empty inbox,

or at least nothing
from you.

There are times
I wish I was wrong.

Paris 2017 #64

Sandy Kinnee

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Sound of Water Breaking on a Beach

The Sound of Water

If I asked you to close your eyes
and sit in a soundproof room,
to relax
and settle into your own head
could you imagine doing so?

Suppose you did just that
and I asked you to create,
in this meditative state,
a single soothing color or
a relaxing scent?

Would you then try something
with sound?
If there was a place you could be
in which sound was the only
sensory input,

what stimulation might you
try to generate in your head?
The rustling of pine needles
as you walk through a forest?
The flapping of owl wings?

Waves lapping on a sandy beach?
Or human sounds?
Someone turning over in their slumber,
blankets and sheets moving slightly?
A piano being played far far away?

A choir?

Last night I was not dreaming.
I awoke at midnight to what I first
imagined was a party taking place
in my building.
I was not dreaming.

It was not a party in any normal sense.
It was a choir group singing on the street,
many young voices singing songs
I am sure they meant as uplifting.
They kept me awake for two hours.

I wanted the sound of water
breaking upon a beach in Michigan.

Paris 2017 #63

Sandy Kinnee

The Last Pages of a Book

The Last Pages of a Book

Each story, like a life, has a beginning
and an end.
I am reading a book.

It is not a book I ever expected to read. 
It wasn't recommended to me.
It just was not my kind of book. 

But I had nothing to read
and this book was available.
I began reading.

Once hooked, I could not put it down.
And now, I am
about to finish reading the book.

I do not want to put the book down,
to close the book. 
Yet, I want it to be over.

Give me a conclusion
Let me say: I am glad I read that book.
Now I can put it on the shelf.

I am sitting in a yellow chair.
I feel I have been reading this book
for years.

Paris 2017 #62

Sandy Kinnee

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Paris In My Ears

Paris In My Ears

Most of the time when I walk in Paris,
I walk alone and listen.
You might expect a cacophonous texture 
a weaving of car horns,
revving engines, 
city sounds, brakes.

That is not my experience.
It is meditative.

I hear the sound of the little orange cat,
Belle, when her owner comes down
to check the mail.

I walk in the Luxembourg gardens
and a band is playing a half mile away,
but what reaches my ears
are the rustling of leaves,
two green parrots eating fruit.

Yes, wild parrots in Paris!

Paris 2017 #61 

Sandy Kinnee

Sitting In a Yellow Chair

Sitting In a Yellow Chair

I'm sitting in a yellow chair reading a book
I wish I hadn't started.

One in which a plane crashes and
everyone but an artist dies.
Somehow I identify with him.
Imagine that.

I am reading to quickly finish the story. 
It is well written but nothing like what I prefer.
The book haunts me in my dreams. 
I must get it over with.

So, here I sit in a yellow chair,

A man, but not a sales person wants to point out
that I am sitting in an expensive chair. 
He says I should pay rent.  I smile.

I know the chair well and feel I have in a sense
already paid the rent.

It is a yellow Saarinen Womb chair and foot rest. 
My daughter spent three years living in a Saarinen dorm,
part of the time playing hockey in a Saarinen rink.

Besides, decades earlier Ereo and his brother would
wander down to the Cranbrook painting studio the watch
my sixteen year old aunt spread yellow oil paint on canvas.

They were boys. She was cute.
I sit in the yellow chair.

Paris 2017 #60

Sandy Kinnee

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Gold Ring and “Do You Speak English?”

The Gold Ring and “Do You Speak English?”

Along with the ever successful, please sign this petition while my small colleague takes your wallet, are two other frequently performed scams: Look! A gold ring on the sidewalk! and “Do you speak English?” They pop up in every city, but I happen to see them in Paris, because this is where I spend my time.

I can't imagine anyone fooled by the gold plated ring. The perpetrator is walking toward the mark and stoops to the ground to look as though he or she has just discovered a solid gold ring. Being an honest person and assuming you are not, he/she says it is half yours, as you clearly saw it at the same time. You should split it with him or her, yes? I think you are supposed to be so greedy that you offer the trickster a fraction of what it should be worth. You give the money and take the solid gold ring that is only thinly plated. I have never seen anyone fall for that silly trick. The would-be-scammers probably only do it from boredom. When I see someone perform this slight of hand trick, I walk past and then offer a critique, like “use more gusto!”

“Do you speak English?” is an old stand by with a new twist. Previously, It was run by people who did not speak English on unsuspecting American tourists. Why would someone with a heavy accent need help from an American rather than someone who spoke their native language?  The crook would be carrying an empty old suitcase, another mistake - a suitcase no one in the USA would ever buy. One premise is they are lost and while you try to give them directions, an accomplice pilfers your valuables. The more common ploy is they have been robbed or somehow lost their money and need to get a taxi, or bus, etc.  Give them something to help a fellow American get home. That can't possibly work. Yet, yesterday I encountered a new variation.

A woman with a Brooklyn accent is handsomely dressed. She is in fact an American. She runs the same scam. Danger.  I stopped and told her that by starting her ruse with “Do you speak English?”, it sounds like a scam. I wished her good luck and good bye.

Later on I discovered my wallet was missing.

Not really.

Paris 2017 #59

Sandy Kinnee

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Nickname There

My Nickname There

Of course they recognize me at the boulangerie.
I frequent the shop daily,
sometimes showing up at seven and then again
at eleven thirty.

Actually I should know their names,
but don't.
It might be helpful if they wore name tags.
I know their faces and their smiles as they
put up with my awful French.

The woman who gives me my baguette and croissants
refers to me as "Le homme avec une mille lunettes".
That is her nickname for me.
She told me so this morning.

I will tell her my proper name next time
and learn hers.

"Le homme avec une mille lunettes"
Not quite  a thousand round eyeglasses,
but it seems I'm headed in that direction.

Paris 2017 #58

Sandy Kinnee

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Pink Macaron

A Pink Macaron

Two macarons remained in the box.
I left the lemon one for the person
who loves lemon and took the pink one
imagining it either strawberry or raspberry
it wasn't

Ah, not a berry at all.  It was Rose.
I nibbled and my grandmother materialized.

For such a small pink cookie
it was loaded with recollection

Her name, the flowers in her yard,
the funeral home,
the funeral too
painful to attend.

She was not a pink woman.
But, she was a Rose.

She gave me unconditional love
and rhubarb pies with cold milk.

 Paris 2017 #57

Sandy Kinnee