More Spielspeak
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. hair_raised_living_artist 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
american icon
a fellow jouster
of quick humor

sunday afternoons
beside his pool
we never spoke
of his beleagured
political past
he took a liking
to my talents
collected my art
my wide-eyed

he kept a shoebox
with odd bits
of papers
torn and noted
with musings
for later use
in his writings

then one day
we dumped
his shoebox
on the floor
and joyfully
we wrestled
its contents
like children
in crisp snowflakes

he offered me
one scrap
any scrap
for my keeping

my choice
was easy —

crucifixion failed
he arose

(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. confineshow_hitlerdetail

come here cowboy come here


see this virgin soldier boy

stilled in his prime

bagging elbows

coding knees


come here mr. president

come here

phony cowboy

texas blueblood come here

see this virgin boy

counting toes fingers

and spines

go ahead if you must

line up for the rapture

with your clown hat on

mr. president

or better yet

come here come here

to face this boy

who could not bare

his superior officer’s stare

so he was demoted

from near-nobody

to nobody

bagging lips brains

and livers
for transport

back home

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

bigshot-target cowboy

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

and ends
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.

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.
snag.75rez4wbst_2lgh “snag” 24″ h x 48″ w (c) 2008 Spiel

knots and ribbons


these silky ribbons

round your nipples

where the bruises were

these ohh so pretty bows

from christmas

and some you tie as slipknots

you tie a few in squareknots

these are the few you yank

draw tight

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

not like

when he still had a tongue

to titillate their tips

possess them

make you keep them hidden

beneath rough garments

not even fit for an old hag

he intended

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 believed

he could deny you

and you see in giving thanks

it was his tongue

he bit off

not yours

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

pretty ribbons

tight knots

of pretty


christmas 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

sparking secretive

beasty uprisings

and my vision is:

a platinum doll

a million evening stars

spitting sparkles

off venus’ mound

in men’s dreams




already contemplating

the abandon


what men desire

wanting out

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
and you
breathe freely
for the
first time


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

still warm
not resistant
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

legs dwindled

we walked backwards

til our house became tiny


now mama’s passed

my air is dead

i’m coiled

wrapped in gauze


by a cord

bearing amniotic fluid


(c) 2003 From “it breathes on its own,” a Spiel chapbook published by Pudding House and available on the Spiel Books page.

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