Old Timer

Here’s a picture that inspired a poem. I took the original photo of this building a few years ago – it’s not far from my neighborhood. At the time it was in limbo – could be rehabbed and renewed, or could be torn down.

Cruel Old Age


Sun strikes the one angle of the facade

without graffiti. The orange bricks

of this old building

are warm even without the light

but I can’t ignore the shadows

just around the corner


the overgrown evergreens

huddle in them

from the foundation

all the way up to the second floor.

Still, the windows are a generous size

to let in the light

I imagine the empty rooms inside

warm and silent. Aware.

Right now I could think

the building still has a chance

since the shadows

haven’t yet overtaken it

turned it cold and dead


The printing process I used for this picture is described in a post I wrote on my art blog: Not Following Directions.

I wanted to use the picture in a mail art postcard – actually, I wanted the whole image to be the postcard. So I cut it out, pasted it to one side of my usual piece of cereal-box-cardboard cut to 6″ x 4.25″. Then I realized I had not planned anything for the reverse, a blank brown expanse of cardboard.

I could have just written in the address and stamped the card and let it go, but that was not enough. Looking at the picture brought up memories of walking around the grounds when I took the pictures (trespassing, I know). It was a beautiful fall day with a perfect blue sky and puffy clouds streaming across it. Looking at the picture reminded me of the sadness I had felt for something so solid, so full of purpose, so carefully constructed, no longer fulfilling a function. And possibly never coming back to usefulness again.

Very quickly I wrote this poem, but I think it had been in my mind all this time. I have used this photo as a reference for a collage portrait of the building, and I exhibited the photo in a camera club meeting, too, I think. So I have looked at it again and again over the years.

Old building printed on to a paint chip sample from the paint store, using an inkject printer

Old building printed on to a paint chip sample from the paint store, using an inkjet printer

In real life, there is a happy ending to the story, though. This building is in the process of being converted into senior housing. A neighboring building, also endangered, has been completed and is back in use. If you’re interested, here are some details.

A Little Belligerence

Sometimes collage poetry is in such a hurry to be created that it lands on almost any surface. So it’s a great idea to have all kinds of paper around ready to glue some new words to, as the idea strikes!

I Dare You

so prepare a trap

I’m not afraid of

betraying the secret

your face tells me you certainly

would not agree

stay out of the way

I’m not a peacemaker

This poem was glued on to a paint chip (one we didn't select for whatever paint job we were contemplating) and sent off as mail art.

This poem was glued on to a paint chip (one we didn’t select for whatever paint job we were contemplating) and sent off as mail art.

Things Get Cut to Pieces For Their Own Good

Elevator Buttons #2 small

“Elevator Buttons #2”

About 15 years ago, when I first started doing collage work, I made a piece called “Elevator Buttons”. I used paint chips and magazine pages. I held on to the collage for quite a few years; it hung in our kitchen for some time but eventually came off the wall and went into the basement. Recently, I’ve been cleaning out things around here. I decided that this collage was just right for mail art and I cut it into as many 6″ x 4.25″ rectangles as I could.

Haunted small


If you wonder what “Elevator Buttons” looked like before the paper-cutter did its work, I can’t show you, as I didn’t take a picture of it. I do have a picture, though, of a similar piece I made for a friend – she had admired the original one. (I don’t think she has cut it up yet.) Anyway, the result was several postcards ready-made for mail art, and I decided to write a haiku to add to each one. I ended up with a collection with each haiku inspired by an individual section of “Elevator Buttons”. It was fun to write with such an odd situation to inspire me.

And, it is interesting to me to read the haikus knowing how they came about and then to try think about what someone who came upon them without knowing their story might get from them.

A word on the use of paint chips in collage art – I find them hard to glue down, as they are stiff and they curl, but I love looking at them all arrayed in rows and rows at the paint or home improvement store. I can’t resist taking a nice selection whenever I am there. I have used them for a lot of purposes, and I find them especially good for creating people in my collages, such as the white figure in “Haunted”.

Enough backgound. Here is the group of haikus:


I used to be that

Now I’m this but I still know

what I used to know


One two three four five

now count me just a fraction

but still a number


Just off the edge, yes,

Used to be the center, yes,

Still worth a look, yes


Lost the rest of us

to the scissors. Survival

is everything.


A lot of white space

and you’re peeling off the edge

But me, I’m OK.


Interrupted thought

Cut off, truncated, severed,

Big deal. Still makes sense.