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Ric Masten

Ric MastenRIC MASTEN was born in Carmel, California, in 1929. He has toured extensively over the last thirty years, reading his poetry in well over 400 colleges and universities in North America, Canada, and England. He is a well-known conference theme speaker and is a regular on many television and radio talk shows. He lives with his poet-wood carver wife Billie Barbara in the Big Sur mountains of California. He has 13 books to his credit.

contact Ric at debard@earthlink.net

(for Francis Whitaker 1906-1999)
to children
Francis was a redwood
towering -- hammer on anvil
shooting stars against leather apron
iron bending to his will
when we edged in too close
then as we backed away
softened his expression with a wink

called the cops on me once
I deserved it -- a thoughtless teenager
taking pot shots at pelicans
Francis knew the shock of an arrest
would make a more indelible impression
than a "talking to"

feeling crowded he left our town
for higher ground in Colorado
his Forge in the Forest a restaurant now
the clink of glass -- click of cutlery
replacing the wheeze and clang of creativity

returned for a visit a year or so ago
nearly 90 -- the conquering hero
announcing that his art didnít start
to come together till he was over 70
I was 65 and thinking of retiring

heís gone now
passed away "hammer in hand" they say
had it with him in his hospital bed
the nurses tried but Francis would not
let go of it until he died

which leaves me
part of the anointed cyber-smart
"Communication" generation
with the pointed question: "When I die
what will I be clutching to my heart?"


thank god
it wasn't me she doted on
otherwise Iíd have been the one
chosen to inherit Birdie
mother's irksome parrot
that dubious honor was bequeathed
to her youngest son... the pet...
the one who could always get
his way with the queen...
got it in the end...
the talking albatross I mean

the rest of us stifling a grin
as we watched the two of them begin
an ephemeral relationship
that didn't make it through the fall
but then
I doubt if anyone could live
with the disembodied voice
of a dear departed mom
still calling his name
still ruling the roost
cigarette hack and all

my daughter Jerri
the Florence Nightingale
of animal husbandry
was next in line to take the orphan in
and climb the wall...
mother's prattling remains
quickly passed along
to an unsuspecting friend
who out of desperation
took the bird
to see a pet psychiatrist
and the fowl lobotomy that followed
exorcised out every vestige
of mother's zany sense of humor
leaving Birdie
well behaved but spiritless
with the generic inflection
of a network radio nonentity

and now that it's over
I kick myself in the pants
for not seizing the opportunity
to tape-record our family history
while I still had the chance


"and the dogs dwindle down
to a precious few...

the seven-to-one theory
makes our old dog Grace
a hundred and twenty-six
she arrived on my birthday
fun fixed up in a ribbon
I was twenty-five and we went for a run

and now on my fifty-third
Iím puppied again
this time though
no spontaneous jog
just me
looking from dog to dog
that when he is as old as she...
my god Iíll be seventy

I know
age is a state of mind
a point of view
and i don't mean to be depressing
but figured in terrier time
Iím already three hundred and seventy-two

and that, Dorothy
is far enough over the rainbow
to know
I haven't got many more Totos to go

  Big Cats in Snow
Thursday, September 28, 2006