33 posts from Characters, Haunts, Geography

Everything Was About to Begin

The first time I noticed
the first flowers of spring
you were there.
Standing outside a cement block bar
in Dayton, Ohio,
its venerable pissy smell
hanging rank over the heads
of those poor crocus.

We were lost in someone's neighborhood,
and didn't care.

I Know the UnderBelly of This Town Like the Back of My Hand

The minute I hit Michigan
I knew I was home.
I wish you could see it here.
The land is beautiful
& all my roads are where I left them.
Little snow is left, only             
            lying low in gullies
lakes & slower rivers still iced over.

Haze hangs over the hills of the horizon,
shaped grey against grey shapes.
Breath of sky on my face.
Let rain be the sheets
& clouds the blanket
if the day is cold.

I'm selling my myths
to pay off my debts
& finance all of the rest.

Little Things

“Little things make you happy,”
she said
& is right, so right.
Leaves floating on the river,
unexpected gloves found in pocket,
cool November night wind,
& me, with a rucksack full of poetry
& half a pack tobacco.
How could anyone complain?

A New Slant on River’s Old Riddle

For Joe

Water resounds as stone sits silent,
contemplating quiet environs.

Stone is silent as water resounds,
expounding on the joys of noise.

How odd they should so often be neighbors!
Each one wishing the other were like them.

Plus Ça Change

They didn't see it.
They didn't care.
That's the way it was.

I told 'em so.

They didn't see it.
They didn't care.
That's the way it is.


for Lew Welch

First, all the color wore off the face of it,
what was red & white is white
& finally without front cover at all, accessible.
Carried like a bible in the crook of my arm,
in my pack, for years a daily resource.
Feathers have crept in & a four leaf clover,
found the day my truck broke down forever.
A small stone, even, lived there for a while.
Coffee stains, tobacco ash & flake,
marked & tattered pages.
What was written well is used the same.

Artifact Of A Disappearing Act

for Lew welch

They found his pistol
but they never found him.
He walked off into the Southwest,
empty, in evening, empty of it all,
his pace stepping towards an end.

Pistol slipping from fingers
wrapped by habit around the grip.
A prized gift gone the way of all things given,
which he didn’t notice fall.

Planets made wild pendulum motions
rocking around the sky
in their conjunctions and assents,
yoyo of time flying away.
He moved slowly, a somnambulist
wading, pushing, walking out of the dream
all over again, one last goddamn time.

He was crooning a song, alone;
an old song made before words,
a hum, a murmur, a susurration,
grumble, mutter, roar, mumble, purr, ring,
almost all vowels, intoned in a soft, low, growl.

The steps he made were light
under the burden of his life awry.
He quickened his motion,
his keening tune,
and once,
he thought in brief flash of running
in night meditation down a steep hill trail,
remembering the exhilaration.

For Mya on Her Second Birthday

I give you these stories with hope
that you may come to love the horse
as I love the horse.
I give you stories of Elk Dog,
sacred Dog, Mysterious Dog,
with love, as Old One gave horses to the people.

When you love stories,
when you take them into your heart
& give them a warm place to live,
when you let them become a part of you,
they become alive.
They go out into the world singing
from between your lips.
They come into your heart dancing
through your ears & eyes.
& when stories come to live within you
they will carry you through the world
as far & as fast as a horse.

I give you stories
because they are what I love best
as I love you,
the story you are, & will be;
sequel to my story,
complete in your own telling,
and preface to the story
your own children will someday be.
I give you stories because they are the best teachers
& because they are often all I have.
For me, that has been plenty.
Let these stories open your heart
& your eyes & your wonder
to the rampant beauty of the world
into which you were born
two winters past.

Wild Horses Win More Prizes

for Mâmâ, who deserves it most

Of all those who tried their hand
at raising me as a child
you were the only one
who never tried to tame or break me.

Perhaps it is this love for what is wild
that ties us closest together.
Between you & I there was never a need
    for spurs or bridle, saddle or crop.
We have lived our lives for the joy
      of the ride, full tilt
          into the face of the world.

I remember racing horses
through orchards floored in purple vetch.
We loosed the reins & gave them their way
& headed them home at twilight.

When I yearned to be in the race,
when I looked only for a chance to run the track,
you were the one to place your bet
        on this longshot from the hills.

The hell with being put to pasture!
Let blue ribbons be our lot
& may we always give them a run for their money.

The Lion in Winter

for MâMâ

You are the source well of my ancestry,
who kept me through the night
when I was newborn, squalling,
hating that I must know my mother’s face
and ways beyond the dark womb.
You and I share kinship beyond kenning.
It is from you that all good in me has come.

As a child I thought you were a lion
in human skin;  hair an ember-white mane,
eyes fierce with the love and protection
of your pride, your family.
I never believed there was a force in the world
that could stand against you,
expecting even death to turn and hide.

It seems now that he comes calling more often,
growing bolder in his age and yours.
There may come a day when you choose to go with him,
weary of watching a world that is hard always.
You wrestle pain, age and disease ever more unceasingly
as sleep comes more infrequently and stays less long.
You wait, and strain still towards a longstanding dream
of seeing this family stand strong, each of us solid
on our own feet but holding a closeness
that will hold without you.
We urge you to fight, to linger,
wincing at our selfishness
that holds you to your pain.

Whether there is god or justice at all, I know this:
in many ways we all are one, through love
and our own stubborn natures.
If it comes to pass that we live in different worlds,
remember—the love that ties us, binds us.
In this world and the next there is nothing
can come between us but our own shared blood.
This is the bond that can never be broken,
the rhythm of the spirit, memory and love.

John T. Unger poet

I'm best known as an artist and designer. Relaxing makes me tense, so I tend to put in a lot of hours on diverse projects.

Before becoming a visual artist, I spent 15 years as a poet. I studied poetry at Interlochen Arts Academy, Naropa, Stone Circle and on the streets. I performed my work for years at Stone Circle, solo shows, poetry readings, and at Lollapalooza in 1996.

I still write poems, but only if I can make them fit the constraints ofTwitter.

Mobile: 231.584.2710 (9 to 5 PST only) | Email me

Art IS my day job

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