Saturday, December 21, 2019

How To Be

I was having a dream 
that I could not sleep
quite strange I’m sure you’d agree, 
‘cause I couldn’t tell 
who was more confused
the me in the dream or me.

So when I woke up 
I decided
not to question the things that I see,
but enjoy the millions 
of miracle ways
that things know just how to be.

There’s no sense in telling
a river how to run
or a mirror how to look,
and I’ll never tell
a map where it is
or how you should end your book.

I’ll never direct 
the wind to sing
or teach birds how to fly,
there seems no point
to tell rain when to fall
or ask clouds to leave the sky.

As I walk amongst 
my brothers and sisters
I won't tell them how to feel,
but remind myself to question not
the source of love's appeal.

When flowers bloom 
and die too soon
I’ll smile as seasons change,
and let my dreams
say what they will
and not think their message strange.

Ken Owen   
Van Niddy Press   December 2019

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thing I Have Said (Late for Dinner)

“I need to see you.”

“It’s late, you should stay.”

“How do you like your eggs?”

“So, dinner tomorrow?”


“What, what’d I say?!”

“No no, that’s not what I meant!”

“I’m sorry, really.”

“So…ideas for dinner?”


“Geez, what crawled up your ass and died?”

“I was just kidding, seriously.”

“I don’t think I’m the one being unreasonable here.”

“oh fuck.”


“I’m not hungry.”


“It’s not you, it’s me.”


“It’s not me, it’s you!”

“Yeah? Well, maybe you won’t miss me, but your family will.”

“By the way, your [mother, father, sister, brother] is crazy.”

“I’m taking the stainless steel frying pan.”


“Well, what a nice surprise. How long has it been?

"I was sorry to hear about your [mother, father, sister, brother]."

“Ah jeez, that’s messed up.”

“Did you get a second opinion?”

“Doctors, what do they know; they’re all just guessing!”

“Fine, fine; well, I could complain, but we’d be here all night.”

“If there is anything I can do, anything at all...”

“Tell your family I said “Hello”; I always liked them.”

“Well, gotta go; I’m late for dinner.”

Ken Owen 
Van Niddy Press,  December 2019

Monday, December 2, 2019

Snoring in Japanese

As I lie in bed between dreams 
in today’s early morning hours
I could have sworn you were snoring 
in Japanese

I found this to be 
particularly amazing feat
since I am fairly certain 
you do not speak Japanese

then I realized 
I had no way of knowing 
if it was Japanese or Mandarin 
or Cantonese for that matter

your sounds had 
what seemed to me
all the proper inflections of 
an Asian language with its rising and falling
like small gentle waves where 
everything seemed to end 
like a question I could not answer 
since I did not know the language 

Now wide awake and
listening to the indecipherable 
while studying the lunar landscape of
the bedroom ceiling
I got up to have a glass of water

and upon my return I noticed 
your language of sleep had changed
from a personal dialect 
to the sounds of a small purring kitten

and just when I had done 
some preliminary analysis of this new development 
my stomach began to answer you with 
its own language comprised of 
a series of internal sounds generated
most likely
from warm pipes complaining
of cold water

there I was
listening to our conversation 
with it’s rhythmic call-and-response 
that neither of us had any control over
and I was disappointed that you were
sleeping through the whole conversation

I just thought you 
should know.

Ken Owen   
Van Niddy Press,  November 2019

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Go To The Window

Go to the window

Part the curtains

Take a deep breath

Adjust your gaze

To the absence of

Blue Light

And you will experience

Something amazing.


 is right outside

  your window.

Go to the window
     part the curtains, breathe deeply
behold what matters.

Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press, November 2019

Tell It What to Say

Late at night when sleep won’t come
and my mind insists on chattering, 
I’ve begun to tell it what to say
so why not make it flattering?

On the big black screen behind my eyes
a parade of words goes by,
like Confidence for my ideas
and Courage so my heart will try,

Gratitude for all I’ve received,
Acceptance for what may leave,
Forgiveness for those who lash out in pain,
and Empathy for those who grieve.

All the feelings I may need 
as night turns into day,
I feed my mind so if it must talk
I’ll tell it what to say.

Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press,  November 2019

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


An old black and white 
picture of my girlfriend as 
a young girl 
hangs on our refrigerator

It is one of those pictures 
of a child smiling so intently 
that it makes you happy 
every time you see it

She is in a small row boat 
docked on the shore 
and it clearly did not matter to her
that the boat was only just near the water

It reminds me of when my son was that age
and my daughter and I would take him 
to a local pizza parlor and he would yell
“Pinbaw, pinbaw, I want to play pinbaw!”

and we would prop him up 
in front of the modern pinball machine 
with its phantasm of blinking-lights and 
thunderous clanking noises

and all the while 
the great machine was in ‘demo mode’ 
calling people to come play and 
give up their quarters

yet we never had to give him 
a single quarter to enjoy himself 
as he pushed the flipper buttons
and yelled “Come on, Come on!…Oh!!!”

It never cost me 
a dime
and it was 

So use your 
and your heart 
just right

and you won't need to sail your boat
to love the dream of adventure
or play the game 
to appreciate the challenge

Ken Owen   
Van Niddy Press,  October 2019

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The First Sky Quilt

Today was the day
we woke up under
the first sky quilt
calling earliest as
big days do
just like you wanted.

People are possessions;
require care and feeding
from a capacious heart and
all the time—guessing.

Classes improve classes
that are games that are
we are born 

It is quiet in here
just like I wanted.

Astronomer, astronomer
I'll tell you what I see
when I look to the stars

-words and inspiration taken from the poem “Astronomer, Astronomer, Astronomer” 
by Valerie DeChadenedes, age 17, created with her communication device

Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press,  October 2019

Friday, October 4, 2019

Of Mice, Men, and Hummingbirds

The Story of Mighty Red and Mighty Mouse

     Our seventh floor apartment has a balcony that overlooks the courtyard between the buildings. Needing a place for morning reflection, I cleared the balcony and bought a small chair, end table, rugs, and some planter boxes for my ‘digging in the dirt’ time. It has become a nice respite spot especially when the sun can break through the Daily City cloud cover.

     The morning magic reached another level when we bought a hummingbird feeder. We had recently watched a documentary about hummingbirds and found them fascinating. The film focused on how these cute little birds are extremely territorial; they will battle with other hummingbirds to defend their food source to the death if needed! The balcony deck is small - only 4 feet wide and 10 feet long - yet many of the small birds became used to feeding while we sat within 3 feet of the feeder!

     Late one morning we had a front row seat to a fantastic aerial battle between Mighty Red, named for his beautiful red crown and his fierce will to battle, and Pee Wee, a small but consistent challenger: diving at each other so that we could hear their wings colliding, chasing each other at incredible speeds and then racing back to the feeder to see who could get there first and to defend their position in front of the feeder. This lasted 20 minutes! In this battle Mighty Red held off his challenger, and has since made a lookout spot right above our balcony in the pigeon netting that is strung between the rooftops of the buildings. He challenges all comers.

     While nature was providing us a fantastic show on our balcony each morning, inside our little apartment we were receiving a very different type of show each night.

     I suppose it is no surprise to have mice come for a visit in an old seven story apartment complex that was built 40 years ago between a lake and a grove of trees near a golf course. The real surprise was how many options the local hardware store offered to get rid of mice. Most were lacking in any level of compassion recommended by the Dalai Lama or anyone else with half a heart: sticky traps, spring loaded jars of death, and of course, poison. There was one ‘catch and release’ device that looked flimsy at best, and as I read the instructions an image flashed in my mind of being woken at 3 AM to the sound of a mouse squealing in panic, and having to put him in a bag and take him for an elevator ride down to the front lobby so I could release him into the shrubbery.

     I went with the poison.

     I placed little box lids full of blue poison everywhere we saw the mouse, mostly in the living room, kitchen, and the back bedroom closet. After two weeks I had named him Mighty Mouse since the poison was having no effect on him whatsoever; he was as bold as ever as he scurried about the apartment in plain sight.

     Then one night while we were watching TV, he crawled out from one of his hiding spots and sat motionless watching us watching him. That was odd enough, but when he tried to move, his movements were jerky and labored; he was either stoned on our marijuana edibles or dying from mouse poison. Seeing the effects of the poison on this little being was heart wrenching. I had chosen the worst, most prolonged agony for his death, all because I didn’t want to be bothered relocating him at 3 AM. I felt like a complete schmuck, and even more so when I caught him, placed him in a bag and sent him down the garbage chute.

     A few days later while working in my office, I got up from my desk, turned around, and there was Mighty Mouse, like the ghost of Jacob Marley returned from the dead, staring at me, wobbling, stumbling, but ready, I’m sure, to kick my ass. “You’re dead,” I cried, “I sent you down the garbage chute myself!” He stumbled a bit, took a few steps towards me, then stopped again as if he had given up. That’s when my panic subsided and reason took hold. I realized then we had been seeing two mice, not one, and that I was committing some level of family genocide. So as to provide some chance at reuniting in death, I caught ‘Mrs. Mouse’ and sent her down the garbage chute as well, and once again I felt like a schmuck.

     The next morning out on the apartment balcony, Mighty Red the hummingbird was becoming even braver and would not hesitate to feed from our feeder while we sat close by. It was while observing him that I noticed just how small he was and, strangely, the similarities between Mighty Red and Mighty Mouse; not really much difference in size, just wings versus a tail. It then occurred to me that outside our apartment we were taking great efforts to provide food in a clean feeder for one small animal, while inside the apartment we were leaving out small boxes of blue poison to kill another that wasn’t all that different in size or purpose; they were both just looking for food and trying to survive.

     The apartment maintenance man is scheduled to come and seal up the holes around the water pipes that lead to our kitchen sink and dishwashing machine so as to deny access to any of Mighty Mouse’s descendants. But if any of his family or friends should make their way into our apartment looking for him or Mrs. Mouse, they won’t have to worry about meals of blue poison or rides down the garbage chute.

Catch and release, I promise.

Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press    October 2019

Monday, September 2, 2019

In Memoriam: Jack The Dog

2006 - 2019

Jack The Dog, founder, muse, and Chief Operations Officer of Van Niddy Press, was euthanized after a lengthy illness in the only home he knew surrounded by his family. He is survived by a dozen sad hearts throughout the family and the neighborhood. Plans to replace him seem unimaginable at this time.

Jack The Puppy: I had to be talked into going to see Jack The Puppy at The Tony LaRussa Animal Rescue Center. I was working nights as a musician, and the rest of the household tried their best to assure me me that I could take care of the puppy during the day, and they would be with him when I went to work each night. I was not convinced this was a good idea, but I went along for the Sunday ride to visit the puppy. It is hard for me to imagine what my life would have been like if we didn't make the trip that day.

The Tony LaRussa Center is a beautiful facility; I was sure we had the wrong address and had pulled up in front of a hotel. We were meet by a friendly young person with a clipboard who told us we were 3rd in line to interview with the puppy. That’s when I knew this would not be as simple as picking out a puppy at the local animal shelter. We brought our senior dog Duchess with us so the interviewer could see how the two dogs reacted to each other. Then, when we told the interviewer that I would be the primary care giver for the puppy, I was subjected to the hardest interview I’ve ever experienced, for which I was woefully unprepared. Somehow we managed to convince the interviewer that the puppy would be well cared for in our home.

The first few nights were spent trying to get the new puppy acclimated to his new surroundings and, like bringing home a newborn baby, full nights of sleep became scarce. The whining heartbreak of a frightened puppy in his crate in the dark had us mortified to the point of laying in front of his crate so he could see us until he fell asleep.

In 2005 I had lost the encumbrances of a 20 year day job, and while the next 4 years found me trying on various hats for replacing my lost income, I decided to take on yet another non-paying creative endeavor (as if being a musician wasn’t bad enough): I was going to get “serious” with my writing, with no more of a plan than attaching the term “serious” to my efforts. I decided to start a blog as a place to keep and share my thoughts, and though I had no idea of what I’d be writing about, the title of the blog came easily since it would reference my closest and most trusted advisor:

My Dog Jack (and other thoughts on life)

Jack The Companion: As he grew, Jack and I would become close companions and the best of friends. We had daily walks to Niles Canyon park were he learned how to be social with other dogs in a daily morning pack of mostly senior dogs and humans. It was a wonderful way to start each day: a brisk 2 mile walk on dirt trails alongside a creek full of ducks. He’d walk off-leash, and of course, disregarding my commands, he’d turn, look at me briefly, then run down the embankment to try and chase the ducks. Of course, he never got close, but that wasn't the point.

The years that followed contained various bits of medical and personal trials for me, and it is hard for me to imagine how I could have made it through it all without Jack there for comfort and solace. He saw me at my best, and most late nights, at my lowest, but he was always there.

Life changes had me leaving Jack’s house, and I always wondered what he thought about me not being there anymore. I would make trips to come see him and spend the day, but when I left he always looked at me with a puzzled look, head slightly tilted. I had no answer for him that he’d understand, because I knew taking him from the only home he’d known wasn’t an option.

Jack in Print: In researching how many times I referenced Jack in my blog, I did searches for “jack”, “dog”, “squirrel”, and “walk”, and came up with 11 articles where Jack is either mentioned or is the main subject. My initial reaction was that, based on his impact on my life, it seems like a low number. I’ve listed my three favorites below. I hope you enjoy them.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

From My Balcony Garden

From my balcony garden
I can see The Holy Virgin Mother
across the courtyard, arms outstretched
her forgiving gaze shining down from her balcony.

In my balcony garden
Quan Yin sits in quiet mediation
eyes laughing 
appreciating the dance of hummingbirds.

I wonder if these holy ladies
exchange recipes for redemption
and ancient secrets for cleaning
hard to remove soul stains

and perhaps while commiserating 
over the current state of the world 
say things like “Well, you can only 
do so much!” 

All I know is
state of grace not withstanding
don’t make them call you twice
for dinner.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press
Lakewood Apartments, San Francisco
August 2019

Saturday, June 22, 2019

That Picture of You

That smiling picture of you
is framed with refrigerator magnets
so we can start each day
smiling together.

That beautiful picture of you
used to honor you in farewell
will forever produce instant sighs
of loving remembrance.

I am getting to know you
from across a great distance
through your imprint on everyone
that refuses to recede.

I like to think
you and I
would have been
fast friends.

ps: sorry I missed you

-for Valerie

Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press   June 2019

Monday, May 27, 2019

Vacation Haiku, Spring 2019

house after house
pale white roses--
city ordinance?

palm fronds rustle
in afternoon breezes
then, back to sleep

why so skittish, friend?
stay, drink up!--

-Yorba Linda, CA


she does sudoku
I write haiku--
cultural misappropriation?

angry fly
ruins my nap--
something i said?

a skilled trapeze artist
steals breakfast from a bird feeder--
fat squirrel

gardener's blower,
honking car horns,
invading Paradise

-Lafayette, CA 

Birds at The Airport

     at the airport—
   no canceled flights

  at the airport 
     not impressed

  at the airport
  laughing at complexity

   at the airport—
are you my mother?

-San Jose Airport

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press
May 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

Gendai Haiku

-in the style of and dedicated to Master Haiku Poet Kobayashi Issa

     i close my eyes
between poems by Issa
     and swallow them whole


morning tea--
sweet honey, bitter lemon
preview the day's possibilities


     warm bath, quiet reflection--
     the old man soaks 
      in peace


a troubled mind
     in the heat of worry


     lovers become enemies
now friends again--
     time brings wisdom for healing


the universe
interrupts my inertia--
cold coffee


the universe
delivers my exercise plan--
reheating cold coffee


tiny moth
shares my elevator--
what floor, friend?


tiny moth
shares my elevator--
apartment hunting


hillside cows
napping with indifference—
spring rain


      clouds admire their work,
the moon surveys the damage—
  spring rain

much in common,
morning sun warms old bones--
lazy house cat and me


careful, summer flies,
i have yet to clean
springtime webs!


midlife lament--
everything hurts,
reasons unknown

-for J.K. Jr. 


changing demographics

from old young man
to young old man

-inspired by JC of SSF


jumping to their death
to cool my hot bath--
beads of sweat


reading "Quotable Einstein"
at 3:00 a.m. --
who am i kidding?


walking the lake path
we speak of everything
and nothing


clouds parading west
seek storm instructions--


short bird song
then quiet again--
"back to sleep, children"


short bird song
then quiet again--
bad dream?

-5:30 a.m.

Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press   May 2019