In My Time

The days fall short of summer’s length,
Like an old man pining for youthful strength.
There’s a crystal light that glimmers in the mountains.
Bluebirds splash like children in the fountains.

Tendrils of cloud cling to the peaks.
Everyone listens as the wind speaks
Through the trees with its northern breath.
Winter’s creeping closer with its hint of death.

And the river flows placidly by
Murmuring, “I’ve seen millions die,
In my time,
In my time.”

A Buck Moon burns behind the trees,
Where only their tops wiggle in the breeze.
The moon dims the stars with its virginal light, 
Sharp shadows form in the darkness of night.

And the river flows placidly by
Murmuring, “I’ve seen millions cry,
In my time,
In my time.”

Would that I could turn round the direction of time
And return to those hills that young lovers climb.
What would I see through these ancient eyes,
That before I had missed in adolescent disguise?

What better pastimes has every old man,
Than to remold his life with arthritic hands?
Nothing can be changed but wouldn’t it be fun,
To return and undo what should never have been done?

And the river flows placidly by
Murmuring, “I’ve seen millions try,
In my time,
In my time.”

                                                            March 2021
Published
Categorized as Poems

Labyrinth

Circles within circles chase around the mind
Forming balls of confusion, hard to unwind.
Tangled dreams, ragged thoughts,
Recycled ideas and beliefs that had been bought.
Around and around they fly like spinning wheels of time
Confusing the senses with what is yours and what is mine.

Act Two begins with the freshness of wind 
Changing directions; to end is to begin.
When hope rises slowly like a morning mist
The sun shines obliquely with a sudden twist.
The air is clear like a painter’s light,
Hope blossoms full on a moonlit night.

Frightening simplicity.
Is complex comfort?
Is comfort complex?
Take away the me
And what do you find?
Memories of emotions left behind.

October 2020

Written as an exercise within a printed labyrinth, thanks to Wind River Retreats.

Published
Categorized as Poems

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Art, in all its wondrous forms, is a relationship between the artist and the beholder. It is a threesome. The artist is held to imagine and then create a work of art which then, in turn, engages the imagination of the beholder. The work of art is essentially incomplete without the senses and imagination of the beholder. In other words, the beholder has the possibility to infuse the work of art with varied and new perceptions perhaps bringing to light a whole new depth that even the original artist had not perceived. Just as a new friend or lover may bring to light a whole new dimension to one’s own character or personality. Or where the relationship itself, like the work of art, becomes a third entity. It cannot be a separate piece because its very existence is intrinsically linked to both its creator and its beholder.

The modern commercial, consumer-oriented world would have you believe differently. A work of art, whether it be a painting, a song or a novel is now labelled “a product”. An artist no longer creates, he or she produces. They may as well say, manufactures. To add insult to injury, not only is the work of art labelled a product but now publishers and producers demand that the artist themselves become a product. How demeaning is that? Let me get this right; for an artist to present his or her creation to the world at large, the artist, a human being; perhaps a very gifted one, has to debase her or himself from an individual to a nonhuman product, namely a brand?

They brand cattle and horses by burning, which is the original meaning of the word, an identifying mark into their flesh. This mark, or logo, is also called a brand. Manufactures have brand names for easy identification. Now the almighty dollar under the guise of commercialism has extended its greedy reach to creative artists of all genres. In order to sell his or her creation it has to be sellable, it has to appeal to popular taste. In other words, it must be commercial and the best way to market such a “product” is by having a brand. Who, I wonder, dictates what is commercially viable? Who defines popular taste? Does the artist have to mold his or her creations to please popular taste in order to sell his or her work? Does the general public define what is considered to be artistic? Or do commercial publishers and producers dictate what will sell or be acceptable?

Where, in all this commercial jungle, in which well-known artists, now with recognizable brands, does true originality lie? Artists are continually urged to “reinvent” themselves in order to conform to public taste. And who came up with that non-sensical term? So, what seems to be implied these days is, not only does an artist have to create a new work, he or she also has to re-create themselves. In essence, the message from the commercial world is artists must have sex with themselves. In other words, they are saying to every artist, “Go f*** yourself.”

Please, do not disfigure artists or blind the beholder with red hot branding irons. Let creativity flow freely to be made complete, to thrive through the senses and imagination of another person. Imagine imagination.

Published
Categorized as Prose

I Never Wanted To Play Like Robert Johnson Anyway

I died and didn’t go to heaven, I went to the other place
Where I met the smiling devil standing there, face to face.
She reached out her hand to me and touched me on the chest.
And the seeds she had planted there writhed like vipers in a nest.
She looked at me in the eye and said, “It’s too late, my touch is the curse,
You may as well give up now, the pain will only get far worse.”

I looked back at her and spat more blood into her eye
“You’ll have to do better than that,” I said, “I’m not yet ready to die.”
I turned and ran back looking for the way I came,
I could hear the devil behind me laugh and call out my name.
I grabbed a souvenir tee-shirt that said, Hell Is On The Way.
Then I yelled, “I never wanted to play like Robert Johnson anyway.”

The Devil’s still there lingering like a whore in the night
Leaning on the threshold, half in shadow half in sight.
Her voice is soft and seductive but her eyes are cold as ice,
As she tallies up the reckoning like a bookie adding up the price.
“Why don’t you come on over honey, you know you can’t escape?
You’ve been mine for a long, long time; some would call it fate.”


There's something about the dark side that wants to draw me in, 
I guess the priests would all be out of work if we didn't like to sin.
I only ever waded in those waters, I never went for a swim
Where the currents sucked you under in a race you could never win.
“Like old George Jones, I made my choices long ago and I’ve paid my dues,
But I think I’ll wait this one out, what've I got to lose?”

“And I’ll say it one more time and I’ll say it every day,
I never wanted to play like Robert Johnson anyway.”


July 2019

The idea for this song began in 2018, following a Songwriters’ Night in Atlantic Beach FL. A couple of the performers there were extolling the virtues of Robert Johnson who is generally considered to be “the father of the blues”. Mr. Johnson is also associated with the myth concerning his meeting with the devil at a country crossroads in Mississippi where he sold his soul to play the guitar.

I had the song title which lay fermenting in my mind until those fateful days in ICU where, in that highly sterile environment, the song began to form. I was able to finish it once I got home.

Published
Categorized as Songs

Whizbang

House prints across

An Oklahoma prairie.

One rusted oil derrick

Bows in silent remembrance

Of the past.

The remains of Whizbang, OK

July 2019

During the oil boom of the 1920’s, Whizbang, OK grew up almost overnight. It no longer exists. Mary was born not far away, in Fairfax, OK. The name, Whizbang, has always intrigued me so, I had to visit. There are several versions of the origins of the name, one being a woman known locally as Whizbang Jane. From that, you might be able to guess her profession.

Strange as it may seem, I wrote this poem while in ICU at Greenville, SC, Memorial Hospital. I don’t know why it came to me at that particular moment or in that unusual place. I had no pen nor paper and I didn’t have my glasses. I had to repeat it over and over to myself to remember it until I could write it down 24 hours later,

Published
Categorized as Poems

The Future Is Just A Breath Away

My feet now tread on shaky ground,
In an uncertain world that swirls around.
They say to look for the magic in the air,
I've tried but I don’t see it anywhere.
I want to be numb, without a care,
To turn away from a future that isn’t there.
When I close my eyes the darkness never comes
Brilliant stars dance around celestial suns.
Is that the magic they talk about,
Concealed in a crevice between hope and doubt?
I tiptoe across slick stepping-stones,
Gazing down at sun-bleached bones.
The river tumbles swift and clear,
Above its roaring I can barely hear,
As an angel beckons from an open door
Guiding me safely to the distant shore.

January 2021
Published
Categorized as Poems

That One Spot of Light

There are some mornings when I wake up and just for a moment I have forgotten the cancer. It’s in that tiny space when the mind is beginning to wake up but the eyes have not yet made the effort to open. I wake up feeling great and very calm, at peace. Sometimes, its a long moment, which I savor like a fine chocolate melting slowly in my mouth. It never lasts, either I’ll cough and then say to myself, “Oh shit, I forgot about that.” Or occasionally, just being conscious of the moment will remind me that it is just that, a moment, a sigh, a pause in the breath of life. Sometimes it’s over in a flash. But it was there and that moment can never be taken away.

I’m not one for expounding on self help or saying feel good things, nor do I suggest to people what they might do, or tell them what I think they should do. I have thought, however, that we all have those moments of respite in our lives, especially in times of stress. Whether that stress be financial, emotional or physical there is an inevitable and involuntary hiatus in our incessant stream of consciousness when the stress is completely forgotten, gone but not eradicated from our minds. It is then, in those spaces, in that one spot of light, that I am totally free.

It is not a bright, center-of-a-dark-stage spot light; it’s not really a light at all but a warm, yellow luminescence in the middle of total blackness. Strangely, I don’t yearn for it to stay, or try to prolong the moment into a measurement of time, although I must confess that the crass thought of, “if only we could bottle it.” had crossed my mind. Fortunately, that scenario with its envisioned horrors was rapidly quashed. No, I am happy for that one spot of light to be there however ephemeral it may be. When it goes, I do not long for its return nor do I expect or want it to be there every morning. I enjoy the surprise as much as the moment. I’m even afraid that writing this may somehow dilute its potency. That by naming it, this one spot of light will be forever dimmed leaving only a tiny wrinkle in the blink of time.

John Longbottom, August 2019

Out of the Darkness

Out of the darkness there shone a light,

Like a ship out on the vast ocean at night.

“You are not alone,” the light seemed to say

“I’m here to guide you as you sail on your way.”

Out of my heart, my spirit began to soar,

Above and beyond the far distant shore.

The sails were set, the rudder held true,

The wind carried me far out into the blue.

I gazed ahead to where the waves met the sky,

When I thought I heard a lone seagull’s cry.

“Fly, fly, fly,” the bird seemed to scream,

As the caress of the current carried me away like a dream.

Out of the darkness came a voice loud and clear,

A voice vaguely familiar, comforting to hear.

“Rise up and soar, be one with the wind,

Glide over the fences that once held you in.

Throw open your heart with a laugh and a smile,

See the world once more through the eyes of a child.”

I shook free the shackles that had bound me so long

To a world of confusion where souls have no song.

I let loose all the sails, let go of the sea,

And leapt to the sky, for it’s there I shall be,

Where the moon and stars fade in the night,

And out of the darkness, there shines a light.

John Longbottom

February 2021

Hold On

I met an angel in disguise,

She held stardust in her eyes.

In her smile glowed the sun and the moon,

Enough to brighten the darkest room.

Her head was shaved, her body thin,

She had finished what I was to begin.

Then, in my head I heard her say,

“Make this promise every day,

Hold on, hold on.

Hold on, to the friends that stand beside you,

Hold on, to the hope, the light will surely guide you,

Hold on, with the strength that flows inside you,

Hold on, hold on.”

I’ve ridden the dark horse for quite some time,

‘Til I couldn’t tell what was his or what was mine.

The pounding hooves, the wind-swept mane,

The deathly chemicals in my veins.

When my hands are shaking and my body’s sore,

When I think I can’t take it anymore,

Through my tears, I hear her say,

“Make this promise every day.

Hold on, hold on,

Hold on, to the friends that stand beside you,

Hold on, to the hope, the light will surely guide you,

Hold on, with the strength that flows inside you,

Hold on, hold on.”

Instrumental

Sing out loud, drown out the sorrow,

Hold on to today like there’s no tomorrow.

Hold on, to the friends that stand beside you,

Hold on, to the hope, the light will surely guide you,

Hold on, with the strength that flows inside you,

Hold on, hold on.”

“Hold on, to the friends that stand beside you,

Hold on, to the hope, the light will surely guide you,

Hold on, with the strength that flows inside you,

Hold on, hold on, hold on.”

John Longbottom

October 2020