Arthur won’t be coming home this year
Elsie’s meringue weeps more than she’d like today.
She hasn’t lost her touch for turning it the perfect golden
nor stacking it a proud four inches deep.
She hopes one of the grandkids will drop by for a slice
of lemon pie on the way home from school.
She sure could use some company.
Rolly is her favorite–he takes the time to admire
her collection of black glass knick-knacks.
She has so little left to her name.
Her kids sold off the farm and most of her possessions
to pay bills when Arthur passed–
then moved her into this tiny shoebox house.
They’d said, It’s big enough, Mother. Grandpa won’t be
coming home no more.
Arthur won’t be coming home this year–or next.
Elsie wakes each morning thinking she’s been robbed.
What’s happened to her coalpail, her pitchfork, her mess
of baling wire for fixing things?
She devotes her time to marking everything she possesses.
She embroiders Elsie on her undergarments, scribbles it
on every card in her Canasta deck, even somehow manages
to scratch it into her kitchen dishes.
Though one might well expect to find the odd lard mark
here or there in anyone’s cookbook, in Elsie’s
Household Searchlight Recipe Book,
the pages are smothered with her name–
and on one page, she’s written,
had one cookbook stolen, want it back.
She smears her name with lipstick on the back screendoor.
She carves it into the arm of Arthur’s platform rocker
as she stares dumb-eyed at the snowy TV screen.
Arthur won’t be coming home this year–or next.
And then she starts another pie.
If one of the grandkids doesn’t show up, she will dump it
in the backyard and watch the squirrels make a meringue
circus of themselves.
She whistles Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
And one of these days she needs to get around to finishing
the pages of her bible.
The paper is too skinny to write on.
It rips when she applies pressure with her pencil and when
she uses her blue fountain pen, the ink blobs
and musses her dress.
She wouldn’t be in this predicament if Arthur hadn’t passed.
She’s afraid to ask one of the sons to try to fix the snow
on the TV.
Maybe it’s her eyes and she’ll be forced to spend money
she doesn’t have on new glasses.
She drops her favorite heavy brown ovenware bowl as she beats
the egg whites.
One less bowl–and this was the one that had been the most difficult
to scratch her name into.
Her upper lip rattles–oozes shiny balls of sweat–
then goes hard.
She prays if she ever gets to the other side
she won’t bump into Arthur.
I might’ve told him
Mark Saunders and ten others
made the Honor Roll
on national TV.
All of them Americans
under the age of twenty-seven.
The famous news anchorman said:
“In silence, here are eleven more.”
Like always I started counting
uniform pictures of proud soldiers
and wishing they were not dead.
You don’t expect to see somebody you know.
Then oh my god
there was Mark’s picture.
More like a crummy snapshot.
Him looking kind of high
leaning against the cockpit of a jet.
I had to stare at his hometown name
to believe it was him.
Mark never knew it
but I fell in love with him
after Junior Prom
after we dumped our chicks
after we didn’t get laid
after we hooted it up
after we went for a mess of bacon at Denny’s.
That’s when I fell in love
with Mark Saunders.
I should have but
never got around to
he had amazing hands.
(c) 2006 the poet Spiel From Spiel chapbook, 2006, come here cowboy: poems of war.
(c) 2004 spiel ” bad boys”
A 2004 variation on an image originally commissioned as a silk screened Mardi Gras poster in 1992. That poster was signed by Taylor as “Tom Thom” another of his several pen names.
(c) 2004 Spiel
Previously published by: Free Verse, Skidrow Penthouse, King’s Estate Anthology, Pudding House Publications, Chiron Poetry Review. Also appears in: it breathes on its own, the Spiel chapbook, available on the Spiel Books page.
“(c) 2007 Spiel”
An anguished self-portrait, the first full painting done by the artist after a long period of reticence as a painter which followed the 1996 revelation that he was soon to die from life-threatening illness.
breaking rules robs energy
i do not have the will to spare
i make my own instead do so
not to appease your familiarity
but cast in light
to disrupt the core
we may share
for what we share in common
in our darkness:
the burdens of our closets,
is where we lift our care
(c) 2005 Spiel
From it breathes on its own
a chapbook by Spiel, published by Pudding House
also, previously published by Abbey
no one dies
we all live on
beyond our time
the blessed curse
of unscrupulous medicine
and clinging loved ones
are merely shadows
of our dreams
(c) 8/7/03 Spiel
From Chiron Review
“Starry Night 1890/1990” 52″ h x 36″ w x 10″ d (c) 1990 Tom Taylor
Taylor’s 100 year anniversary tribute to the suicide of Vincent van Gogh with whom Taylor shares the fate of mental illness. This turbulent piece is skillfully drawn with unpredictable expansion foam. It includes bared teeth in the stars, a bulging moon and a pistol in the visceral area where van Gogh originally painted dark and weathered cypress trees.
Spiel is published worldwide in independent publications such as:
Abbey; Alpha Beat Press; Anthills; art mag; AscentAspirations; Barbaric Yawp; Barking Dogs; Bathtub Gin; Big Intersection; Blind Man’s Rainbow; Bogg; Buckle &; Broomweed Journal; Chiron Review; Chiron Review Press; Cliffs Soundings; Covert Poetics; Cranial Tempest; Creative Juices; Dana Literary Society; Denver Post; Dodobobo; DogEar; Drama Garden; Empty Shoes Anthology; EnCompass; Erased, Sigh, Sigh; (The) Espresso; Eye-Point Press; Fight These Bastards; First Class; Four Sep Publications; Free Verse; Frisson:disconcerting verse; Gargoyle; Gestalten; Gin Bender Poetry Review; Gloom Cupboard; Happy; Hecale; Iconoclast; Impetus; (The) Independent; Iodine; Jaw Magazine; jendireiter.com; King’s Estate Press; laurahird. com; League of Laboring Poets; Lilliput Review; Lost & Found; Lucid Moon; LuVER Radio; Lynx Eye; MadmanInk; Mainstreet Rag; March Street Press; Marymark Press; Muse Artist’s Guild; Muse’s Review; Neotrope; Nerve Cowboy; New Verse News; Nicestories; No Exit; Open Cut; Opium Poetry 2.0; Origami Condom; Oyster Boy Review; Patrick T. Randolph; Parting Gifts; Passport Journal; Pearl; PenHimalaya; Plain Jane; Poems-for-All; Poesy; Poetalk; Poetry Motel; Poets Against War; Pudding Magazine; Pudding House Publications; Pueblo Chieftain; Pueblo Poetry Project; Pueblo West View; P.U.L.P.; Quill & Parchment; Ragged Edge; Rain Mountain Press; Rejected Notice; RFD; Remark; Rocky Mountain News; Secret Press; Shoes; Skidrow Penthouse; Slipstream; Small Press Review; Snapdragon; Snow Monkey; Storyteller; Strangeroad; St. Vitus Press & Poetry Review; Sugar Mule; Thunder Sandwich; Touchstone; Transcendent Visions; Under the Banana Tree; Unlikely Stories; Velvet Box; WestWind Review; Winning Writers; Word Riot; World Poets Society; Zafusy; Zen Baby; Zygote in my Coffee; ZYX;
Solo Exhibitions as the visual artist Tom Taylor aka Thoss W. Taylor aka The Poet Spiel
(as Conceptual Artist, as Wildlife Artist, as Political and Statement Artist, as Alternative Space Artist
Museum, University, Gallery, and Private Solo Exhibitions, 1964 to present, in alphabetic order
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Aspen, CO, (x2)
Born Free Gallery, Evergreen, CO
Bradford Junior College, Bradford, MA
Brand Library Art Center, Glendale, CA
The Breckenridge Gallery, Breckenridge, CO
California Institute of the Arts, Burbank, CA
Center for Idea Art, Denver, CO
Charles Cowles, New York City, NY
Colorado State University, Pueblo, CO
The Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C.
CORE New Art Space, Denver
Edge Gallery, Denver, CO, (x2)
The Eugenia Butler Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
First National Bank, Loveland, CO
The Flanders Show, Longmont, CO
Fort Detrick, Frederick, MD
Gallery East, Loveland, CO
The Gallery at Hudson’s Bay, Denver, CO, (x2)
The Gondolier, Boulder, CO 1964, #1 (first solo exhibit), (x2)
Harris Fireside Lounge, Longmont, CO
Hunter College, New York City, NY
Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles, CA
The Landmark Gallery, Longmont, CO
The Loft, Pueblo, CO
The Longmont Museum, Longmont, CO (1989 retrospective)
The Moote Home Show, Ft. Collins, CO
Newport Harbor Art Museum, Balboa, CA
Nova Scotia College of Art, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Pioneer Museum, Longmont, CO
Pirate – A Contemporary Art Oasis, Denver, CO, (x2)
Prince Georges College, Washington, DC
Pueblo Community College, Pueblo, CO
Reese-Palley Gallery, San Francisco, CA
The Rex Evans Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Royce Galleries Ltd., Denver, CO, (x2)
Rubenstein-Serkez Gallery, Denver, CO
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
San Juan Gallery at PCC, Pueblo. CO
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Sotheby Park-Bernet/ Houston Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, TX
Two Squares Gallery, Denver, CO
University of California, Davis, CA
University of Colorado Memorial Fine Arts Center, Boulder, CO
University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO (1983 retrospective)
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
Wildlife Conservation Society of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia, Africa
Wildlife World Museum, Monument, CO
In 1985, while a member of the Denver artist’s co-op, Pirate A Contemporary Art Oasis, Taylor created a page for “The Codex,” a limited edition of handmade books in which his peers each made unique pages. Taylor snipped bits of his white beard, then taped them to green graph paper with the words, “HAIR RAISED by a living artist, THINGS TO KEEP THAT MIGHT BE VALUABLE SOME DAY.” Little did he know that one day individual issues of those books would land in the archives of N.Y.C.’s Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Denver Art Museum, thus placing his DNA in such venerable holdings. The handwritten notation along the right side of this sheet reads: If I lose all my hair, will you still care… 1985 Tom Taylor The Codex
During his 60s Hollywood days, as Thoss W. Taylor, the artist conceived an enormous, mostly collaborative, project to create 100 uniques pieces symbolizing the interdependence of human beings. And in the end, how that amounts to “confines.” The final exhibit, Considerations of the Confines of Thoss W. Taylor, amounted to 10,000 pieces, thus 100 potential complete one-man shows, signed and numbered by him and/or the individuals with whom he collaborated. In the early 70s, nearly two dozen of these collections were exhibited in important museums, galleries and universities, coast to coast (and including Nova Scotia). Today, the venerable Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C holds one of these in its permanent collection. Below is a sample page from the Confine Show, a Confine collaboration, co-signed with controversial screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, a dedicated art collector, who became a patron of Taylor’s work when Taylor first arrived in Hollywood.
Thoss W. Taylor / Dalton Trumbo 1970
dalton trumbo was my friend
i was privy
to the scrapbox
of this feisty
a fellow jouster
of quick humor
beside his pool
we never spoke
of his beleagured
he took a liking
to my talents
collected my art
he kept a shoebox
with odd bits
torn and noted
for later use
in his writings
then one day
on the floor
in crisp snowflakes
he offered me
for my keeping
was easy —
(c) 2003 Spiel
Below is a detail from one of the Confine pieces. Thoss Taylor ripped a quote by renowned journalist, Dorothy Thompson, from a Look magazine, as he waited in his Doctor’s office, pasted it loosely to a piece of paper, then tore a similar white piece and defied the despicable Hitler quote–representing his release from the insanity of that confine. This image later became the basis for a large serigraph poster for his 1983 one-man show “Consider Your Confines” at The Center for Idea Art in Denver.
come here cowboy come here
see this virgin soldier boy
stilled in his prime
come here mr. president
texas blueblood come here
see this virgin boy
counting toes fingers
go ahead if you must
line up for the rapture
with your clown hat on
or better yet
come here come here
to face this boy
who could not bare
his superior officer’s stare
so he was demoted
bagging lips brains
to the u.s.a.
come here awol cowboy
show this kid your thumbs
the parts of you which prove
you could have lifted something
greater than a crawford chainsaw
(trimming limbs of a less bloody sort)
and he will show you bags
full of thumb-knuckles
tips and fingernails
zip-coded for shipping
without really knowing
who nor where they came from
this virgin kid
whose virgin sweetheart awaits him back home
this naïve boy who bought your bring em on boast
who figured he could prove he was a man
a mighty christian at war
as he watched you pray
with your eyes shut
but this boy’s feet turned to sand
as you waffled on your why
and his girlfriend sent a message that you’d lied
and unlike all his buddies he’d never felt
the privilege of his sweetheart’s blood yet
here he was all smeared in the blood of thumbs
(not thumbs like yours with tidy fingernails)
plus baby’s splintered bone
splattered in human dung
of young men
just like him
come here come on
forgive this virgin kid who cannot stand
to face you cannot look you straight
eye to eye
be humbled in his presence
mr. cowboy without a horse to ride
tell him that you’re sorry
that you led him so astray
admit you never really had the mandate
though he won’t know what a mandate is
he is a simple kid
a no body
do this phony cowboy
get down on your knees
sob yourself to bits and pieces
then hope then beg this kid
can spare some space in his bags
to squeeze your fragments
cast astray with other odds
to code them back
to general delivery
to see if they
(aside from all
this more noble flesh and bone)
just might stand the test
for the presence of human d.n.a.
come here cowboy has been published in many venues, on and offline, notably, Poets Against War. It appears in Spiel’s Pudding House Publications chapbook, come here cowboy: poems of war, available here on the “Spiel Book” page. About this war protest poem, Tom Conroy, editor of League of Laboring Poets, has written: “come here cowboy is the most brilliant and direct anti-war poem of our time.”
they will say they won’t hurt you
they will swear you they love you.
they will promise they could never hurt you.
they will hurt you.
there will be music.
the music will blind you.
they will not say you the real story of the big picture.
they will mess you over.
they will swear you they could never mess you.
they will turn up the music.
they will smile.
see how they smile.
how they teeth smile.
see they teeth hide they tongues.
they have two tongues.
one tongue will say you how much they love you.
one tongue will stab you in you back.
they will hurt you.
they will tell to you that you hurt you self.
they will swear love to you then tell you
that you have hurt you self.
there will be music.
they will turn up the music.
the beautiful music will blind you.
they will mess you ears.
they will make you believe you ears hear wrong.
they will make you believe they make you hear right.
they will mess you head.
they will make you believe you head is not of you.
like you head was not meant to belong to you.
like you head is best served in they care.
they will crank up the music then smile you in you face.
they will mess you head.
they will mess you sight.
they will mess you ears.
they will smile you in you face till you feel small.
you will smile they back.
or else you will drop you head.
they will call you lamb.
then they will call you lambie pie.
they will pump up the music.
they will say you they will not tell.
this is when they put they hands on you.
are you listening at me?
THIS is when they put they hands on YOU!
From: “They” published by March Street Press, 2007, available on the “Spiel Book” page.
knots and ribbons
these silky ribbons
round your nipples
where the bruises were
these ohh so pretty bows
and some you tie as slipknots
you tie a few in squareknots
these are the few you yank
to bring the bruises back
to remind you he was there
that you have nipples
and in spite of his design
they are your own
when he still had a tongue
to titillate their tips
make you keep them hidden
beneath rough garments
not even fit for an old hag
no christmas for you
and no thanksgiving too
he planned you’d sleep forever
with the night noise
of his blackened tongue
on your breath
perhaps nested in your careful hair
or as a lump
beneath your pillow
then dragging from your broken purse
like an afterthought
for your own roadkill
its swollen tip stilled
but forever teasing
at your nipples
where you now tie knots
with these pretty silky ribbons
from the christmas
he could deny you
and you see in giving thanks
it was his tongue
he bit off
and that knot he tied
fit his wretched neck
but why why why
in that same moment
did he waste the knot
he tied for yours
and if it takes these bruises
just for you to feel again
let it be with ribbons
From “it breathes on its own,” a Spiel chapbook
published by Pudding House Publications, 2005,
available on the Spiel Books page.
how she lingered
her voluptuous presence
and my vision is:
a platinum doll
a million evening stars
off venus’ mound
in men’s dreams
what men desire
the skinning pit
how many times had you watched it, three times seven times
the first time network tv got prime time rights to it,
before you could face the raw fact that you were enchanted
with those riveting hannibal lecter confrontations, that under your breath
you confessed your love for him, that you got off in his presence,
how many times before kevin that sweet shy man at the video store
with his adam’s apple almost jumping through his chin
finally said to you: you know it might be cheaper for you
to purchase your own copy than to rent it one more time –
you, knowing he surely sensed your secret love affair with lecter
because you were not the only one seeking that exhilaration,
because if there was such a thing as a dog-eared copy of a video,
certainly silence of the lambs was exactly that,
and all those who rented it had that same hunger in their eyes:
white men barely breathing, desperate for bargaining power,
not bad men, just men with a worm inside their brains which would not quit –
and maybe a wish for a skinning – some kind of transformation,
not unlike yours but then again not quite the same,
but you purchase a copy of passion of the christ instead,
a film you’ve never seen and have no intent of watching,
believing this will put his mind at ease about your character,
so you suffer through withdrawal from your lecter urge,
your wish to be inside of agent starling on her impassioned search
for buffalo bill, the revelation of his skills, and you stupidly stare
at re-runs of seinfeld and friends and everybody loves raymond,
white men white men oh such very white men,
barely breathing in a world without oxygen,
then you yield though reluctantly and shove the passion into your v.c.r.
where you are astonished to find a reckless and presumptuous film
so filled with sadism and gore you wonder at the intent of the evil minds
of the white man zealots who produced it –
whatsmore at the white man millions who proclaimed it worshipped it
and sacrificed their kids’ lunch money to support it
and you know that even hannibal lecter would have had the decency
to spit it out as white trash
and the vulnerable fledgling clarice starling
would not have wasted five seconds with it
and as for buffalo bill, well, he would not have been able to bear
the buckets upon buckets of blood smeared upon all that precious white skin,
so at six a.m. you crush it beneath the back left wheel of your ford escort,
deposit it through the overnight slot at the video store for them to reckon with,
then have bacon and french toast at denny’s
as you contemplate the skinning –
a truly fit michael jordan in the pit,
you do not abuse him – you keep him well fed on caviar
and such delicacies appropriate for a handsome and wealthy executive –
good nutrition is fundamental to your plan –
you outfit him daily with clean underwear,
provide him adequate exercise with a properly inflated wilson ball
and a challenging hoop ten feet above his head,
oh and good lighting –
good light is essential for good skin,
and as you meticulously and methodically peel band-aid size strips
of smooth and precious black skin from his body,
you replace them with white skin from yours:
he feels no pain nor of course does he complain –
quid pro quo –
you enjoy the extra blueberry syrup on your toast
then, barely breathing,
wait out front of sam’s club till it opens
so you may finally purchase your own personal library copy of silence
as soon as herds of white passion customers flock through the aisles
like blind lambs over a cliff
and you will know you cannot save them,
but it is at this moment of realization
that the freshly released wings of an emblazoned butterfly
verifiably rattle in your ear
From Slipstream magazine. (c) 2006. Nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Hear Spiel perform “The Skinning Pit” on his c.d., “breathing back words,”
available on Spiel Books page
when i was certain she could not speak
when she was dead touching her
was a merciful dream i could not have imagined
such pleasure of her skin
her pure white hair within my hands
i don’t recall who took me to sign official papers
acknowledging she was gone —
the exact time
and was there anything i wished to claim?
yes — a snip of hair
even now i cannot think of anything so white
yes, a few moments alone with her
her mouth not suggesting
how i might change my life to suit her
(c) 2005 Spiel, in “it breathes on its own” a Spiel chapbook
our spines bent
we walked backwards
til our house became tiny
now mama’s passed
my air is dead
wrapped in gauze
by a cord
bearing amniotic fluid