Monday, February 13, 2023

We Rise Together

(Poetry by Numbers)


the sun 

seems tired

on most mornings

it can barely 

produce enough energy

to clear the horizon

and start the day

yet as it struggles

to begin its journey

we rise together ready in 

our quest for inspiration knowing 

that quiet reflection and dreaming

will deliver the plans to

help us seize the day.

Ken Owen February 2023

©Van Niddy Press

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

We're Sorry to See You Go

After much


I have decided 

that if 

one day

by simply taking 

a few minutes

to fill out 

a short internet survey

I become eligible 

and win

a free limited time gift

of a generator 

or a power drill

or a $50 gift certificate

or an unlocked iPhone

or a brand new crock pot

I will plan to donate 

my prize to the 

honorable but unfortunate

men and women

who have served in 

our country’s military interest

while drinking 

the water

at Camp LeJeune

as a way

to honor their

strength and perseverance

which are the very attributes 

I now lack after many months 

of unsubscribing from mailing lists

all the while knowing

that the unsubscribe ritual 

doesn’t seem to do anything

but ruin the enjoyment 

of my first two cups 

of morning coffee

and reaffirm my suspicion that

these websites aren’t the least bit 

sorry to see me go

Ken Owen   December 2022

Van Niddy Press

Friday, December 9, 2022

Ain't Wastin' Time No More

I have read recent posts from musicians remarking about poorly attended local music shows, and knowing all too well the time and preparation it takes to provide a live performance, I understand their frustration. There was no mention in these posts about the current (finally!) rainy weather that we have been experiencing, the fact that we had started the holiday season where many social commitments do battle for our time, and that perhaps many folks, after a brief summer respite, might be concerned about attending events at the start of the new “Covid, Cold, and Flu Season.” Let’s hope these working musicians are just bumping into a seasonal slow down and a bit of extra caution before the holiday parties start.

I offer my utmost respect to the musicians who told stories of performing to extremely small crowds and then having those few patrons tell how much they appreciated their music. These musicians (and those who responded with comments in kind) remarked on how they consider it their “job” to bring music to the world, and I am proud to have worked with many of these good people who think of me as their musical peer and a friend.

But here’s the thing for me: music is no longer my job.

I recently opted out of one night of a residence gig (a repeating monthly show that schedules many months in advance). Though I realize there is no exact science in pre-determining a gig’s attendance unless tickets are sold in advance (which is not usually the case in bar gigs), I anticipated that because of where the date and time landed on the calendar for that month, the gig stood a good chance of being poorly attended. I canceled my participation 5 weeks in advance and said I would play if the band could not find a sub (they did), and I offered my apology for not reviewing my calendar sooner in regards to the date. As you might imagine and I’m sure many will share the same feeling, the band leader was less than pleased at my reasons for canceling.

I believe that if we spend time in personal reflection, we can find a life lesson in all of our experiences. The strong feelings that prompted my decision to back out of a gig have shown me that my priorities are shifting as I get older, and it’s time for me to rethink the value of all my time commitments, not just live performances. So going forward, my “job” will be to make sure my time is used to achieve the greatest benefit, artistic and otherwise, for myself and others, while also using this scenario as reminder of something to be aware of when doing my calendar management.


I am sure there will be many rebuttals to my logic for canceling, with one of them being that music performance as a business needs a following to be built/established; it doesn’t come fully baked with a packed house. I have been a part of many groups over the years that have worked hard at getting people to come to shows to build a “scene” for a club and a following for the band; I have played on the residence gig in question for 5+ years. I have put in countless hours at various gigs that were well attended, and many gigs that included 5 band members and a bar tender doing inventory. I understand this comes with the territory. I have never needed the adulation of a full house in order to feel like it was a successful gig—with a small audience, at the very least, I was honing my craft—but I will be 65 years old at the end of this month, and if living through 3 years of a deadly plague has taught me anything, it is that 1) our time here is a very precious and limited commodity that should be highly valued, and 2) there are many ways I can be creative and giving besides performing live music. 

So with the time I have left, I am going to prioritize and balance my time across many possibilities: writing a song, a poem, an essay, letters to friends or loved ones; documenting my family history, playing my guitar, reading a book, studying a documentary, spending quality time with friends and family, as well as performing live music. I am not retiring from live performances, but gigs are going to have to make a stronger case now for their place on my list of things to accomplish. 

I realize I am in a very fortunate position that might not be an available option for some of my working musician friends, but I hope they can understand my change in attitude and availability, and know that I look forward to the possibility of many challenging and rewarding collaborations with all my talented friends in the years to come.

Ken Owen
December 2022

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Our Shared Grief

First AIDS Memorial Grove offering by Audrey DeChadenedes, 9/30/2022

Quiet now 

yet their voices louder here

than when they walked among us

with cries unheard.

Peaceful now 

yet alive in eternal remembrance

with the unconditional acceptance

they sought in life.

Gone now 

yet their unique images reflected

in our tears that fall and bind them

to the circle of our shared grief.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Club Deluxe


Photograph by Brian Castagne


Damp smells 

of fermenting respite 

linger: bake for 12 hours

then cool with street air and Muni smoke

before serving.

Booths and high tables wiped clean

walls coated thick with sound

and a dance floor polished smooth 

by 30 years of swing.

Clean and ready for

3 afternoon street irregulars (not clean but ready)

and a confused tourist 

with a map on his phone.


The calm before your shift

downstairs - STAFF ONLY

a kitchen -  long cold

with a small booth and table

and toy bongos from the 60s


Mystery closets 

dark like grandma’s basement

mic stands and cords 

dumped in a hurried heap

the house drum kit 

sleeps here. 


Mournful troubadours

practice the ancient folk art

crafting songs that skip like 

stones across your drink only to 

sink and stare back at you

from the bottom of your glass

get one free beer and tip jar change

to go searching for yerba buena and make way 

for the rising tide.


Fog from Ocean Beach begins its climb

over rock-a-billy surf rocks on its way 

across the handle through the buena vista

chilling the cosmopolitan swingers and cottontails

at the street scene to be seen where

the Gentleman Door Man - long overcoat

parts the sea of alley cats and skillet lickers

rhumba bums and jukebox charlies 

so musicians can go to work where

“all proceeds go to the musicians.”


Soul Church 

where parishioners howl divine


how much B3 salvation

was cooked here (1 million served?!)

how many demons exorcised

how many souls saved

with music of the world

in this americano social club

a communal place of

sacraments and psalms

love, sweat, and beer

when the service ends

“You don’t have to go home

  but you can’t stay here!”


Haight Street claims the fog 

a wilde wind that thanks 

all hepcat singles and royal deuces 

for coming with a sobering kiss

as they wait for gig workers

to shuttle them home

to bed, where the music in their ears

will play them to sleep

the soundtrack to a sad reality,


all things must go


-Dedicated with appreciation to Sarah Wilde and the staff of Club Deluxe, San Francisco

Note: I am happy to report that last minute negotiations between the club owner and the landlord were successful in keeping the Club Deluxe open for business.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press

August 2022

Ken Owen at Club Deluxe, San Francisco, photograph by Sarah Wilde

Monday, August 8, 2022



Sail Boat by Violet Leitner, Photograph by Audrey DeChadenedes

It matters not

the size or makings

of your craft

or which horizons

you choose to explore,

all that matters

with eyes to the horizon 

is that you sail.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press

August 2022

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Each Day A Kiss


Photograph by Audrey DeChadenedes

                              Each second a vision

                              Each minute a chance

                              Each hour a touch

                              Each day a kiss

                              Each week a promise

                              Each month a memory

                              Each year a blessing

                              Each life a treasure

Ken Owen   July 2022

Van Niddy Press