Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Party (Patti Smith Saves The Manatee)

You arrived at The Party
and went room to room, circle to circle
eager with anticipation of liking and sharing
an evening of informative discourse 

but your search was in vain
and all your comments 
though crafted with the best intent
landed clumsily like heavy stones

and so began 
your frustrating descent into madness
as you made your way through

The Living Room:
chattering guests announcing 
the joys of their new status
or cryptic slanders of their last one:
("some people will NEVER grow up!)

The Hallway:
where people complain 
that they just don't 
make music like this anymore

The Patio:
a review of last night's dinner
at the latest fashionable restaurant 
complete with pictures of dessert

The Den:
home movies of grandchildren and grumpy cats
and fantastic things that will change your life forever
("You won't believe what happens next!")

The Bedroom:
a lively discussion of what women really want:
recipes for butternut squash soup
and 50 Things To Do with Coconut Oil
("#37 will blow you away!")

and suddenly you feel woozy
when you realize this party
is full of faces that seem familiar
but you can't remember their names 
or where you met that friend of a friend of a friend.

Later that evening
you notice folks disclosing
their medical afflictions
complete with photos of gaping wounds
("This was right before 
they wheeled me into surgery . . .")

and a mysterious women in the corner
gathering personal information and telling people
what rock star they were in a former life
("Hey, I got Patti Smith! Yeah!”)

while her sister pleads
for you to sign a petition
that will give the endangered Manatee
a fighting chance
(Won't you please help?)

your head is spinning
when you discover that
the only ones left are drunk in

The Kitchen:
where discussions of great social injustices
create passionate cries for equality and fairness
as the mob plans their protest
against The Corporate Evil

but your clumsy attempts at offering 
a different solution are shouted down
while guests fidget and mumble under their breath
("Well, he's not at ALL like I thought . . .")

and that's when you realize
all the circles are the wrong circles
and no one is really listening
to anyone with something different to say

because you've been dropped off
at the wrong party
there are no cabs 
and it's a long walk home.

The next morning
you sift through your broken rhetoric
trying to remember what you said
that was so wrong and made people so upset

while you empty your pockets
and find recipes for butter nut squash soup
written on the back of a petition 
to Save The Manatees

and your grand daughter's picture--
your only successful contribution 
for the evening
that everyone could agree on.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   November 2014

A Rush To Judgement

When love fails us
we banish it from memory 
with a series of charges

In sorrowful deliberations
the heart pronounces judgement
victims and villains
demands for restitution 

In its passing
we are quick to bury love
with a eulogy of its sins
and no celebration of its gifts

In solemn days of retrospection
as we wait patiently 
for justice to balance 
the mortal scale 

we search for words to capture 
the heights of love's ascension
and the depths of our fall 
from its grace

until the day gratitude arrives
to relieve our grief with one simple lesson:
There can be no failure in knowing love
only success in touching it at all

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   December 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Parading in the Rain

On that strange day 
with rain on the other 
side of the street

while I sat in sunshine
reading your message
that parted the clouds

I let myself be entertained 
by the possibility of you                
gracious you.

As my heart leapt and ran 
quickly down the street
parading in the rain

in silent observation
my mind--buried deep in 
the noisy crowd--would soon realize 

your act of kindness
was nothing more than caring 
one heart for another
but rather than mourn 
the dream unrealized
I gave thanks for you

and a vision so strong
the sun came out to see it
on a rainy day

and as I quietly watched 
my foolish heart 
leading the parade 

my only thought was
“Let him have his day,
I’ll tell him later.”

for M.M.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   December 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reign, Reign, Go Away

"In God We Trust"
but why do that?
I'll put my faith
in a stylish hat,

to keep my big head
warm and dry,
when God learns I've left him
and has a good cry.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   December 2014

While You Were Sleeping (A Night on the Town)

I saw your shadow 
last night


in the corner of the room

It took a seat
at a table           

                   in the dark

for only a moment

with another shadow
who wondered 

               why this place

was chosen for haunting

That silhouette
the restless energy
               nervous hands in pockets

I knew it was you

It didn't look happy

a phone call          more bad news 

and it was gone

Creepy, huh?

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   December 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Feed Your Head

     I live in Fremont, CA, curry-kitchen suburb to Silicon Valley, where East Indian software programmers in sandals play Cricket (aka 'baseball, but not') on the field in the park where Jack and I take our morning ramble. 

     Fremont is home to all the big-box super-stores, with the exception of the two that have folded like cheap lawn chairs—Borders and Barnes and Noble. Their rapid collapse left all the locals surprised, apart from the East Indian software programmers who knew that you could download any programming language manual directly to your computer or have a hard-copy delivered to your front door by To add insult to injury, these quietly respectful and unassuming gents from Bangalore don't need to steal Internet access while nursing an over-priced caramel macchiato for three hours. Big box book stores never had a chance here. 

     That's why I was surprised when someone here in Fremont - the birthplace of the technology that has been slowly killing the large national retailers - decided to open a used book store, and beyond my wildest expectations, it has become a thriving and successful concern.  Our local bookstore is now the first place I go when I need a gift or a card; I don't remember the last time I willingly went to the mega-mall. 

     It was during a recent visit to our little book store that I realized why I feel so at home there: stores like this are a pleasant reminder of the record stores and head shops that I was fascinated with when I was a teenager. These stores were so different from the Sears and J.C. Penny's my parents dragged me through, and they were speaking to a different section of the population that I wanted to be part of. One of my happiest memories is record shopping at the Record Factory store in my hometown, my father in the classical section reviewing my rock and roll selections with parental encouragement mixed with a dash of watchful concern.

     The local book store is my new head shop. I'm just feeding my head with different things these days.

     Our little book store always produces a reaffirming flashback to the counter-culture that defined me in my youth, but my experiences are slightly different now. I always chuckle at the abundant volumes people have given up on in the new-age philosophy section. I find it slightly disturbing to walk past the collectable comic book section complete with guys that will never stand a chance at dating your daughter, and I am always comforted to see a section containing what is now the rarest of all media that is making a slow and steady comeback into style: the long playing (LP) record. During my last visit I almost bought a Hank Williams Sr. record for $15.00 on principle alone (my record player was last seen in the attic), but instead I supported our local economy and the ‘alternative shopping experience’ with two "Happy Holidays to me!" used book purchases for a grand total of $15 with tax. The place was buzzing, people were buying and selling, and there was groovy music on the house sound system. It was beautiful, just like I remembered how shopping could be.

     Perhaps you have grown accustomed to or even spoiled by places like Amoeba and Rasputin and local independent book and music stores like Bird & Beckett in The City, but to have a store like this thrive here in the land of commuters in 2005 grey Toyota Celicas (software programmers) and 2012 Priuses (program managers) is a rare treat of new-age counter-coulter that makes me warm and fuzzy all over like a good hit from a 1974 bong.


Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   December 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Happiness (Your Seat At The Table)

How silly
you must have felt 
when you realized

had been there 
the whole time

smiling, shaking its head
laughing at you from a table
in the corner of the room

watching your performance
of wailing and moaning
over nothing

now you make your way
across the crowded floor
to the table by the window

head bowed, nervous grin
past anger, fear, and grief
and all that blocked your view

to rest easy and raise a glass
to the death of those things
that blocked the light

and wonder no more
what happiness might say
if you took the time to listen.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   December 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Bookmark's Wish

Story done
Reckless heart

Sunshine smiles
Midnight tears

Bookmark lies
Cast aside

Marking time

Job complete

Restless sleep
Lonely nights

Visions haunt
Somber dreams

Bookmark's wish
Story new

Chapters full
Graceful love

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   November 2014