Saturday, December 24, 2016

The American Experiment

The American 
is not dead

of your despair
or what they tell you.

The American 
is not broken

but doing exactly what 
we should expect it to do 
if left attended 

by a select group 
and not the collective 
for whom it should speak. 

The American 
has delivered

a painful lesson in neglect 
and made public the shame 
of our complacency. 

The American 
has survived 

greater afflictions than this
and given us a vision of the perfect 
because we have experienced our imperfections 

and lessons in healing 
because we have suffered 
and caused great suffering.

The American 
grants no immunity 

to the righteously indignant
who deny their guilt
and cast blame upon their neighbors.

The American 

the song of the Body Politic 
written with the echo of voices
complicit in their silence.

The American 
pauses at all crossroads

as we determine 
if these are the times that were
or the times that shall be.

Ken Owen    Van Niddy Press   December 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

Move The Bed

In the room
that I rent
the bed faces
a closet

with full length
on each

for the
life of

I cannot think
of a more
or torturous way

to begin
and end
each day
than by subjecting
to the review

of what
all those days
of crazy
and bad

have done
to this image
that was


I move

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   December 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Haunting

Since I could 
not put an end 
to the

I have decided 
to become
with the ghost.

I've made my way 
back to 
the edge 
of the chasm

where we 
can now be
civil and


from across the 
unspoken forever-space 
high above the ruins of
our smoldering bridge.

Not what I had imagined,
but it's better this way
as long as you don't
look down.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press        November 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Beauty of Dying

There seems 
a rural mystery
of an unwritten law

people who live
out in the country:

they let 
old barns die
at their own pace.

There is something
about an old barn
past its prime


in a field

it is architectural death
in slow motion
on public display.

There is an instant
when we see a barn


and held up 

by the wind 
and visions of its 
former glory

that causes us to
pull over on our
Sunday drive

and instantly 
award ourselves
the title of artist
or historian

and take a picture 
to document
the beauty of dying 
slowly in a rolling field

and we think
very naturally
to ourselves

all it would take
is one good push
to end the suffering

why don't they 
do it?


The Japanese are famous
for the respect they bestow
upon their elders

but we hide our old folks away 
from places they want to return
in places they don't know

and pay people 
to make sure 
they stay there

while we turn away
from discussions of suffering
and one good push

yet we let barns
take their time dying
where they have always been

and we

pull over
to watch.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   November 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You Know Something She Doesn't

I have always thought
that if sex could sing
it would sound
like Mavis Staples.

I have also thought
yet I carry no supporting evidence
that Mavis Staples is
most likely
a deeply religious person
who would bristle at the very mention
of that analogy.

Chances are slim
at best
that I will ever get the opportunity
to meet Ms Staples
but even if I did
I would never see myself
telling her this
even though I'd be dying too

so that creates a secret
hiding somewhere out there
in the dark
that you and I share:

Mavis Staples
will live out the rest of her days
never knowing I think her singing
sounds like sex

you do.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   November 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fall Haiku 2016

In formation: birds
     fly south effortlessly above
crawling freeway cars

Golden light of Fall
     dances upon still waters--
High tide at sunset.

-West bound on the San Mateo Bridge, October 2016

Without reflection
     the mirror holds no answers.
Become The Mirror.

Fall quickly, blossom,
     and embrace your destiny 
in the world beyond.

The old dog sleeping--
     twitching limbs, quivering lips,
dreams of love and war.

Waves upon the shore
     proclaiming a steady pulse---
the earth's beating heart.

-A day in Pacifica, CA

Oh sleepy suburb,
     Tonight, 8:00pm, Magic!
Country AND Western!

-Live Music at Bird and Beckett Books and Records
San Francisco, CA

     his image in the mirror,
what would the dog change?

Let impermanence
     bring not fear of tomorrow 
but joy for the Now.

Leaping to his death,
     the leaf hit a spider web,
"Stick around," said Fall.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   November 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sharp As A Tack

One morning
as I was walking 
into a local burger place 
for a breakfast sandwich
a white haired gent
was coming out.

He looked happy
but he was shaking his
head and saying

"My oh my oh me oh my oh."

He didn't notice me
until I said

"My sentiments exactly."

Startled, he turned
looked up
looked me over quickly
and said with
a big smile

"Yeah, but I'm retired!
Are you retired?"

I couldn't figure
what that had to do
with anything.

"I'm working on it"
was all I could
come up with.

"Great pun!"
he exclaimed
with an even bigger smile.


and sharp
as a

I hope to be that lucky
when I'm retired.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   October 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Large Puddles of Rain

Ruby, age 3: 

"Popi, we should go to the park 
and see how the swings are doing."

Popi, age 58, laughing:

"Well honey, since you put it that way, sure.

Just then
Grandma came for a visit
and in the excitement
all thoughts
of checking on the swings
were lost

so Popi sat back in his chair
at the backyard picnic table
opened a beer
and watched his girls
continue to play in
large puddles of rain.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   Sacramento, Fall 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Advice to a Sad Friend

Get a journal. 
Start scribbling. 
Do it. 

Keep it with you. 
Look up. 
Look around. 
Be quiet. 

Write it down. 

Document your 
for your own posterity

to remind your future self 
what a shitty mess this felt like 
and how 
in the end 
it was nothing more
than a small blip. 

Turn your suffering 
into beauty.
You'll be glad you did
and so will we. 

Chin up, dearest.


for j.d.o.

Van Niddy Press   Fall 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Eyebrows of a Dog

. . . and it was then that I realized he was my equal. 

He knew it and I knew it, yet there I was, drunk, drinking whiskey and eating bits of salami and cheese and throwing him the occasional morsel like I was Henry the 8th or some shit when really I was just another drunken asshole with a dog who loves him and looks up at you thinking, "Really? Again?" 

George Carlin was right, it's their eyebrows that get you.

(stream of consciousness while reading 'Post Office' by Bukowski)

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   August 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016

Summer Haiku

The Universe is
experiencing itself
through my consciousness.

Playful cat chasing
summer shadows, unaware
the hawk chases him.

Observing the fly
walk the blades of summer grass,
I feel like a god.

The Journey of Life:
stumbling between two dark holes
alone with reason.

Morning dew lingers
then hangs heavy in the air
spurned by listless clouds.


Fat woman snoring
across the aisle, a bad day
to forget headphones.

On awakening,
fat woman eats her Cheetos--
My diet starts today.

Son of Fat Woman:
reeks of smoke, saggy pants, hoody.
We do not judge...much.

Full figured woman
losing gravity's challenge,
I wish her good luck.

-Amtrak, Fremont to Sacramento


Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   Summer 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Three Stars

We stand in silent awe
Heads tilted, lips slightly parted
As we orbit their perimeter
With envious gazing
Wondering what it must be like
To live in their circle.

Three sister stars
Aligned with unseen tether
Shining through the darkness
Their position fixed and eternal
In a sky that would change
Forever should they dim.

for Angela, Mandi, and Lopa

Ken Owen     Van Niddy Press   August 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How the Sun Feels

(On A Day Like Any Other)

On a day like any other
The Sun and I woke together 
and rubbed sleepy clouds 
of morning from our eyes.

Time to face the day, I groaned.

Time to be the day, said the Sun
as it tenderly kissed my cheek 
and sent me on my way.

On a day like any other
I came out at noon to see the Sun 
shouting at ladies under parasols 
and gentlemen in tight collars.

Must you be so stern, I asked.

Must you be so insolent, demand the Sun 
as it stung my cheek with a burning reprimand 
and went on about his business of parching the distant hills.

On a day like any other
I sat facing west and watched the
The Sun look guiltily over its shoulder
as it left for the night.

Thanks for all your hard work, I said.

Thanks for understanding, said the Sun 
as it gently kissed my cheek and painted 
its apology in the clouds.

Ken Owen    Van Niddy Press    June 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Us and Them

(Thinking in English)

On my way to work this morning, I stopped at the corner market for a lottery ticket and said good morning to the shopkeeper from Pakistan who was arguing with his wife in Punjabi. He calls me Boss, and I like that, but I know he calls everyone Boss.

After I dropped off my laundry with the quiet Japanese man who owns the dry cleaning business and bows ever so slightly when I arrive and leave, I stopped in to say good morning to the husband and wife from the Philippines who own the train station cafe so we could show each other our latest grand baby pictures.

On the shuttle to work, I practiced saying "Good Morning" and yelling "You Crazy Fucker!" in Vietnamese at the other drivers with my friend Tien the Shuttle Bus Driver. This makes him smile.

At lunch time, I got something to eat from my friend Andy who runs the cafeteria. Andy is from China, works 6 days a week, 12 hours or more each day, and tells me he has no time to look for a wife. Andy likes the fact that I have a day job and a night job and whispers to me "Most Americans won't do that. Good for you!"

On the ride home from work, Tien the Shuttle Driver was having an argument on his phone and driving like he was maneuvering the streets of Ho Chi Minh City at noon, while the two Middle East software programmers sitting behind me were discussing code in Farsi. I asked Tien to drop me off at the corner market so I could buy a bottle of beer from the owner who was now arguing with his son in Punjabi. His son was answering his father in combinations of Punjabi and English.

As I left the corner market, I was thinking in English that perhaps we could all have a ceremony one day to officially abolish the concept of 'us and them' once and for all.

Ken Owen    May 2016
Van Niddy Press 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Flowers of The Battelfield

I dreamed of wild flowers
sacrificed and buried
without ceremony

trampled under foot
by frightened young

and brave captains
shouting great rallying
cries of war

The crushed seeds from
Blue Belles and Buttercups
and Flowering Dogwood

fed with the blood of
patriot causes gave birth to
a new generation of flora

saddened with consciousness
and uneasy with the search
for answers beyond the clouds.

-inspired by "The Civil War" by Ken Burns

Ken Owen   
Van Niddy Press   April 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring Haiku

Winter / Spring 2016     

     Off in the distance
shouting the time across town--
     the 8:20 train.


     The sparrow performed
a precision landing on
     a cactus flower.


     The Screeching seagull
answering the train whistle:
     "All clear from up here!"


     Let all your footsteps
kiss the earth with gratitude 
     for her patience.


     Resting on a cloud
just above the horizon,
     a sleepy spring moon.  


     Like kids in the car,
spring clouds barely made the trip
     before they let go.


     'Six Days on The Road'
is to Country Music what
     'Misty' is to Jazz.


     Who are we to say
of what should and should not be?
     Bow and keep quiet.


     Brother mosquito:
in life, annoying; in death,
     fine art on my wall.


     Stay with me, lover
watch the creeping moon shadows
     while we catch our breathe.


    With marijuana,
     serves the greater good.

-for Trick


     In grief I summon
no intermediary 
     to will you my love.

-for the people of Brussels, March 2016


     Angry waves reclaimed
the cliffs where we cast our dreams 
     to the horizon.

-for Half Moon Bay and Pacifica, CA, Winter 2016


     Spring day, winter day,
then back again, Mother Nature
     struggles to let go.


   California spring:
on a bottle of sun screen,
     sticky beads of rain.


          Flying overhead,
geese late for breakfast shouting
     "Good Morning Down There!"


     Mind the sidewalk snail!
Return to The Now, spare all
     brothers and sisters!


     In pale blue moonlight,
whispering breezes rescue
     glistening lovers.


     A drunken sailor
demanding everyone sing--
    The howling storm wind.


    Running from the rain,
the squirrel has bathed enough
    this blustery day.


    Green tea, warm slippers,
I fall asleep listening
    to the Winter storm.


    My voice to give you
the joys of my singing heart
    goes mute when you smile.

-North Beach, San Francisco


   Prediction of rain
became blue skies, quilted clouds.
    Either way is fine.


     Watching in wonder,
flowers along the freeway
     offering their gift.

    Staring straight ahead,
commuters on the freeway
    never see the blossoms.

-Morning commute, Milpitas, CA

     My disappointment:
awoke from a flying dream
    earthbound and powerless.


    Kissing tenderly
under a blanket of fog,
    sea and sky make love.

-Amtrak, Fremont to Sacramento 


    Each Spring rain puddle 
circled with golden pollen
    brings tears to the eye.


     "God is dead."  -Nietzsche
"God is dad."    -Mr. S. Freud
     "god is Dog."    -Owen

     Workforce Reduction--
office mates yesterday, then
     one box and good-bye.

-Alviso, CA


    Each morning I leave
the dog wondering why I
     gave away our day.

-Morning Commute, 9:15a.m.


     Empty boats pass us
on the river of life when
     loved ones leave too soon.

In memory of Kimberley Kenney


     What power, your vision!
Blissful reverie the cause
     of my silly grin.


     Cowboy hat and boots--
A stranger in The City
    rustling free poems.

-Sunday at The Glen Park Library, 4:30pm


     Old man observing
from the tavern window, dreams
     the old neighborhood.

-Sunday at The Glen Park Station Bar, 5:45pm

     Policeman shouting
"Don't Move!" quickly ends the chase     
     on a moon bright night.

-Police action in the neighborhood, Fremont, CA, 12:30a.m.


     Winter storm complete,
satisfied clouds deliver
     the morning rainbow.


     The proposition
of our final certainty
      is beyond question.


     To warm your old bones
Ladies and Gentlemen, Spring!
     Love, February 


    You spit in the face
of our collective knowledge.
     Take your god and go.

-for Hitch


     Yesterday's puddles
bored with their own reflection,
     waiting for the sun.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press    March 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Roadside Cross

              roadside  cross   fading artificial flowers
                   altar for the poor            candles
                              por los muertos
                                    to mark

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press    January 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016

Most Nights...



 no difference


won't leave

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   January 2016