Cosmic America


Wherein I envision myself as the poet Frank Stanford in the afterlife, guided by Walt Whitman in a divine cosmic sitcom, searching for my identity and place.

Unformatted and expurgated.

Walt Whitman is wandering on the battlefield where the moon says I love you

tending to those he can in swarthy silence

matted beard hat back over grey mane Gandalf

American Odin USN Corpsman

sleeves pushed up over oaken forearms

brow compassion sweating Santa Claus of the suffering

sifting through the limbs of Vietnamese children and the blue & the gray

the black the white the red the yellow

the field doctors lopped them where they fell

an American stew

a sufferin succotash

but one too far gone

propped under a shade tree

shot in the ass while fleeing Manassas

I see him coming to me

he bends over me

and lays a gentle strong hand on my knee

and says be at peace

I really done myself in daddy I say

fumbling with my bloody breast

I shot myself 3 times in the chest to death

O shh now boy

Daddy Whitman says with a rough palm on my cheek

all will be well

and next time he goes on

use a bigger bullet

his eyes twinkling Orion in the dark

as Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord

He pulls me up by the hand

mortally wounded I Caleb stand

There’s a serial killer in an apple tree crowing down at me

What does it mean?

He’s just a boy, daddy says with a wodan wave

and I see it’s just a boy in an apple tree yelling


a boy like me

We slog on water now up to our knees

Daddy Whitman says the levee has broke

I say my daddy built these things but he wasn’t my real daddy I never knew my real daddy

The water is black and scattered with war debris

an American Heritage

the iron harvest of f***** up farm fields

bones of the earth tainted by man’s own hands

Adam pissing in his own pond

Now and again in the blood black water I see the stars and faces I cannot recall

Black boys and levee rats boonie rats homeschooled cats

the stars shining in my blood

I search through the spume sludge looking for a semblance of myself

A semblance of American slang

I don’t find a thang only my name

Frank Stanford Caleb Mannan Francis Gildart JE Jones

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt his name is my name too

I am my own grandpa

We come across my momma I say Are you my daddy

and she says I am your momma

but she’s not my real momma I never knew my real momma

I carry her on my back a mile to tell her I love her

Walt Whitman singing songs of himself of allselfs in the dusk

she says to me

everyone is always trying to praise people or tear them down

but boy we are all just people and to love and be loved is the greatest thing

I kiss her on the cheek and leave her behind

We come upon a young man just out of NAM with a thousand yard stare

eyeless behind his x ray glasses I says Are you my daddy

he says my name is John Doe I am the American Son so we pass on

We come across a crowheaded man with long dark hair I says Are you my daddy

he says I am The Trickster

shirtless and smoking

I put him on my back and walk a mile and he says to me

When I dream I see you and I say when I dream I write you

and he smoke hoarse crow laughs

and we end up smoking together a bit and talking the old days

come to find out he’s just like me manic anxious and auto immune

he’s not such a bad guy now is he

so I take him an extra mile like a Jewish boy humping a legionnaire’s gear

I meet a black man he’s blacker than anything blacker than night

I say Are you my daddy he says son I don’t even know my name

and I say I do its Bob Smith and he says no that’s not it

and I say well that’s what it says on the sign around your neck and he says

shit man that’s just a draft card and he tears it off and I say where you going

and he says to find my name and my daddy and he’s off down the river

I see a group of beautiful painted women Schiellike sisters of Sappho

and I say Are you my daddy?

they say we’re a corporate conglomeration of masturbation

and I  despair because I’m nothin more than a dead pimp with a missing rib

and I miss my past loves like sisters I lost in the war

Daddy Whitman comes to me and hoists me up like a black rag and says

gentlelike come on now child we got more to go

We come across a young red headed boy name is Phillipi and he says

Where you going and I say I’m looking for my daddy

so he goes well come on lets hitchhike someone will pick us up

and I am sour and down so I say man who’s gonna pick us up we look like serial killers

and he laughs a devil may care laugh and we walk a piece down the Columbia Gorge

and no one picks us up but he doesn’t get down in the mouth he just shouts at the sky

What I wouldn’t give for a cold beer!

And I say man where the hell you gonna get a beer out here

but like a man possessed he searches the ditches and guardrail brambles

and I will be goddamned if not more than half a mile later he triumphantly

raises his hand to the heavens and shouts Yes! sure as shit he’s found a beer

I am astounded and Whitman just winks at me

The red headed boy offers me the beer and says

Half of this is yours

but I’m still a bit dark so I say

no thanks it’s all you

then me and Whit leave him there on the side of the road stranded smiling and laughing and whistling drinking that goddamn beer

I say what is the meaning?

Whitman walking with a slight limp lighting a pipe shakes out a match and says

O past and present Eidelons

O copper kings in American mounds

O Leif Erikson and the Skraelings

O Columbus Vespucci Uncle Kenny the Eskimo

The Mayans The Aztecs an army of hobos

O Ezra Pound Frank Stanford Gary Snyder Caleb Mannan

O tongue tied Tim Hardin

The Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ Lao Tsu Confucius

Martin Luther Lucretius Chief Joseph Sitting Bull

Jew & Gentile catholic Kerouac Khalil Gibran

Neal Cassady King Solomon & David his daddy

O the sorority of silenced sisters

Existence is a circle

of which we living are missing two parts –

The Beginning and the End

and in between is being

What Solomon had in wisdom

he lacked in foresight

for in his wisdom was a sadness

but what you just witnessed is the The Book of Phil

the New Testament Ecclesiastes

He says this like it is supposed to mean something like I should know what he means but I don’t

my chest hurts and I feel like hell but he keeps striding forward so forward I go

We come across an Indian I ask Are you my daddy

He says I don’t even know my place I say the offramp says this is your cosmic plane

he said man that’s just some Indian giver’s government claim

then he’s off in a trail of tears and I ask him where he’s going and he says to find my way

We walk and we walk

We walk among biblical giants and fallen angels teaching humans trickery

The Nephilim the Anakim the Rephaim the Zammzumim the Annukannan

We walk among the lords and the new creatures

We walk through Boschscapes and Dali deserts the Tillamook Burn and Disneyland

We walk among American battlefields Clovis highways Hopewell bone yards and the graves of American soldiers in foreign lands tattooed ancients in Pangea

We walk through the leaves of grass the wheat and wildflowers through tin pan alley and backstreet

down the American highway and the deer path the Indian highway the wagon ruts the forest the grove over mountain across plane through the bottom of canyon gashes forged by floods

We walk among the Mississipian the Anasazi the sea people

among the bison the mammoth and the dinosaur

We walk among scabland across Wyoming dinosaur death fields the rhino graveyards of Nebraska through Etnazoa Kansas Cahokia Illinois

Through Gethsemane and Golgotha

Assyrian gods and black migrant factory workers from Mississippi Prometheus passing out smokes to CC workers and GI’s in a line

We walk among loblolly and ponderosa pine

maple and sumac and prehistoric fern

among the wild pink rhododendrons the yew the Lebanon cedars the windbent coastal sitka spruce

We walk under shadows backmasking

through coleco visions cosmic epochs futureshocks primordial fluctuations

I hear the mandolin I hear the guitar

Texas flatpicking the lute the lyre

the piccolo the windchime the southpaw fiddle the drum the gong the telecaster

the crow of the cock the yawn of william tell

I hear strange strung ancient instruments no more

black drums in the back of my mind

I see and hear all these things and more like phosphenes on the back of my eyelids

when I lay down to sleep like the streets of my home town when I lay down to sleep

when I cry out Are you my daddy in the dark a patchwork quilt laid over my face

Come across an Okie fishing on the Oregon Coast I say are you my daddy

He says


he says I came across a burning oil slick with dead Navy boys boiling up he says we sandbagged San Francisco afraid the Japs would blow us to hell he says don’t tell no one I own a Toyota he says my daddy died in a gutter he says my daddy died on skid row he says my daddy thought he was an Indian he says America was a colossus glaciers as big as a star wedged between mountain spines before they cracked and blew wiping the countryside out this is how the silt in the Willamette valley come about America was a highway for dinosaurs bison and rhinos and an ancient people we don’t even know it has always been here

America is a colossus

America was a colossus progress a jungle crusher Cortez in a Cat wiping the old ways and people out then he winks and says I like my spotted owls fried and he laughs he says

you can still see their highways here and there the highways of the present deer

He says in Germany they gave the land a mohawk they gave the land a shave

the great deforestation the barbarians taunted the romans the romans flat out caved

Russia never caved fought to the last man woman and child to keep the Krauts out

He says There was a great flood I seen it with my own two eyes don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise any man who sets out to disprove another is full of shit there was a flood I seen it and what’s so hard to believe about a primeval myth we all tell from the Hebrews to the Assyrians to the Cherokee what is the big deal believing the earth was flooded plumb out like Oklahoma around the Canadian or where the Columbia is dammed?

There was a great flood and seas of the deep were unleashed which is the water beneath the earth I have seen it in my dreams it is deep and black and full of strange things like sturgeon at the bottom of a dam like whatever’s in the lochs but be not afraid the seas of the deep were unleashed and the mountains became calderas and all was washed away

O say can you see

the levites and the hittites and the humanites and the shittite sittights argue and argue but the enlightenment of man is to know you know nothing and seek from there the whole of God resides in the statement


we’re the in between we’re synapses firing in a cosmic consciousness we’re atoms within a greater body we’re blood cells and particles passing and when are time is done it’s done like a psoriatic platelet but we all live on within the body until the body die and when the body die the real shadow revived the Egyptians kah and bah Remus and Romulus Cain and Able Adam and Eve God the father the spirit the son one and the same the chicken and the egg

Prometheus taught us to smoke I been smokin since I was twelve but don’t you start it up see Prometheus he was an angel that came to earth and mingled with man and got caught up with women in bars them honky tonk angels in those days there were angels that mixed with man and this began the whole mythology about gods and whatnot and caused God to send the flood and after the flood caused him to tell Saul and the Israelites to go on a bloodbath wiping out the bad seed but I say

America is a colossus

in part built by black slaves and the Chinaman by the immigrant the migrant okie ain’t a curse what the hell is wrong with people why they get so upset you cant take nothin with you neither vilify nor whitewash our momma there was a war and the Indians were defeated if you can’t join em beat em and rewrite em goddamn you God hisself babbled the tongues at babble so the aryan the Indian the vaunted tongue all are a good one and the search for the lost Onetongue will be the undone of all of us on the earth the Bible isn’t a list to follow it’s a tale of what’s been done under the sun it ain’t about you

So saith all of this the Okie and I am bedazzled by his bullshit he fishing and smoking and yapping

on an ocean jetty and I wish he were my daddy but he is not

so we press on deeper into the bosom of what I do not know

I came across a critic he said this dream of yours is trash what is the point its garbage

and I replied but who can control a dream I can only put forth what is dreamt

I can only do what I can do I can do no other

he said why do you bother with this

I said I am not trying to refine the English language but to exploit it I am looking for its means as a mystical expression beyond dialection he didn’t buy it

he said I am your daddy and I said without me you don’t exist with without you art exists

and when I said this he disappeared in a flash like the zap of Mr Electro

We came across a vulgar little boy just about seven years old with the mouth of a sailor

he said if you meet up with a Playboy bunny she only has to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX but if you meet a Penthouse model she has to XXXXXXX this is what he says he said XXXX he heard it from his older brother and it kind of broke my mind that dirty little shit I just wanted to play with his GI Joes

Came across a boy joking flipped the birdie at me when I was 11 I didn’t know what it meant but I put my left palm in my right cubital fossa and trebucheted a birdie back it was an inner rage I’d no idea was inside me and the boy got his feelings hurt he was just joshing but murder was my intent

and I was ashamed a cosmic male shame prescient

I wrestled a boy until our elbows and knees were bloody from rugburn but he wouldn’t give

i was boyhood friends with a serial killer I was too rough on the sissy God forgive me  

I got a sore throat and became the Spotted Man

I broke my back in a sled wreck gives me a lifelong crick shit

oregon born God’s country raised 

had my heart broke but not my nose

Came across a big gang of Levites they had beat the Good Samaritan senseless

I believe it was that John Doe cat

I did not ask them if they were my daddy for I was scared and hated them

They hollered at me to cut my hair they called me a f*****

They wanted to cut my long hair with a chainsaw

One run up and sucker punched me over the left brow I bled like a stuck pig

just like the pigs at the pig farm bossman old Mr. Wagner cussing to beat the band at the ornery boars that tried to kill me they listened to his foul mouth but wouldn’t listen to me or my little brother

Walt Whitman became furious and he laid into them Levites good

he picked up the jawbone of an ass and smote them down

then he carried me on my back a mile swearing at them all the while

I said what does it mean

as daddy Whitman tended the cut above my left eye under a weeping willow

He said

O Jesus and John Lennon Jim Morrison John Donne

John the Baptist Robinson Jeffers

O Harry Crews Mark Richard Flannery O Connor chawing on the fatted calf

O Iggy Pop Cab Calloway day of the dead

O Cantos O Leaves of Grass O American Prayer

O Songs of Innocence and Experience

O Divine Comedy O Howl Orlando Furioso

O Paradise Lost On The Nature of Things

O Emily Dickinson’s whispering slip

O Mr. Roger’s gentle lisp

The law is written upon tablets of stone

The stone of our hearts

Yet the stone was broke

And it broke our hearts

Jesus Christ kicked over the tables in Wall Drug

He wandered 40 days and nights in the Badlands

Satan took him to the top of the Grand Canyon

He said throw yourself from this height and surely your angels will save you

Jesus said get behind me man in black

He went on and died on Mt St Helens for your sins crucified on a pine tree

His disciples the Indians wept

But he arose down on skidrow in Portland Oregon

Murder is in our hearts we shivved him for our sins

But he’s hopping trains again

I did not know what he meant but I felt it down in my loins

Came across a preacher in a tent revival preaching revival

I asked him if he was my daddy but by the white of the underthings of the women rolling in the aisle

I knew he was not my daddy and he spoke in gobbledygook so I knew he wasn’t my daddy he aint nothin but a Marjoe

Seen my buddy with a shaved head and red beard looks like a van gogh but he’s a troubadour

baldskald ragnarok bringer with voice from the deep unleashing Jörmungandr

Raced with him in Jehu’s Jimmy across America Spokane to Nashville and everything in between drive fast take chances we ride to see a girl

On the way back we see a UFO five lights moving in tandem in ways we never seen

alongside the highway not making a sound then flip backwards all around the lights bedazzle and disappear over the hill Elijah’s chariot something out of revelation people can think we’re crazy but we know what we saw he drops me off at the bus station I say where will I go he shrugs and says I’ll see you there then I get accosted by the homeless asking me for change I say what makes you think I got money do I look like I got any money and they curse me and I make for my knife like to scare them

but Whitman says let them be now show them mercy as I have shown you so I guess I do

We came across Woody Whitman Walt Whitman said this is my son and Woody says

but I am not the only one his seed is like the dandelion that with which to make the dandelion wine like the stars in the sky like Johnny Appleseed’s apple trees and even you are one and he taught me when you sit at the table with your children you are all God’s children one together therefore be kind and compassionate

a cherry pit is best left spit on the orchard floor

a piss is best taken out of doors under the stars on two legs standing

Give a man a fish he’ll eat teach him how to fish he’ll never go hungry

Give a man a chain you make him a slave

Give a slave a lyre he starts the blues

Goddamn is the prayer of the layman

Blasphemy is the salvation of Christianity

Irreverence the sanctity of humanity

fear aint of God it aint of nothin

enjoy the fruits of your labors for you can’t lug em with you after you die

children are institutionalized by the time they’re 5 is it any wonder they crack up by 25

sit mankind on its ass it will become an assless nation of men without chests chimeras on backs

Radiocarbon in the body spiked after 1950 now you can date a body within a year based on acid rain taint in the bones how about that

Know the ancient deer paths and you’re less likely to hit a deer on the road

You are only a teacher when you know you know nothing

There is nothing new reported under the sun so don’t let em wag the dog

March to your own drum with an open hand

Be wary of praying for the Second coming for the Second coming is your death

What thief comes in the night that don’t take something?

So enjoy what you got while you got it

we crack some beers and yap a bit more Woody tells me

shit man we’re all made in God’s image He first and foremost a creator so create

I tell him about the vision of the critic he says

thats a crock of shit he says Martin Luther says be not concerned with the fruits but patiently grow grow grow can the fruit direct the vine? Nein so you just gotta go go create man create and don’t let the man in the mirror tell you otherwise nor judge the fruits thereof

he hands me a book entitled


I say I intended to write this but I died

But you already did write it he says with a twinkle in his eye

I open it up and read it and it is what you are reading right now but I was living it

it’s hard to explain but I know what I mean time doesn’t matter it is over before it has begun and then I understood

The dusk in now backlit and the firstborn lounge upon the bank of awakening with the Blackfeet in glacier park before you had a pay a fee to enter

we come across the astronaut Alan Shepard I say are you my daddy he says

It is only the past present and future that make us judge

to grasp a time is to grasp the wind be only present in the now that grace may abound

the cosmos the universe are made up of music for we were all spoken into being and music wends its way through our bones

Roscoe Holcomb Mother Carter Mississippi John Hurt

Jabal Townes van Zandt Blaze Foley Lighting Hopkins tom waits screamin jay Jenny Anne Mannan

blind lemon Johnson ledbelly Led Zeppelin Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil but he got the last laugh Jesus died for his licks slave singing out in the sticks

larry norman judee sill Linda Parhecs brother juniper Debussy

the Hayyoth never ceasing

singing string theory the breath of Compassion theory of relativity an object in motion will stay in motion man is appointed so many years the law of entropy the black matter moving the scroll unfurling furled and furling neither science nor mystery are wrong for in God all things are reconciled only man makes a mess of things you see anthropology not spirituality caused the savagery of slavery Mongoloid Negroid Caucasoid Australoid or I’ll be a monkey’s uncle

I used to believe the aether was trying to kill us our ingenuity had to blast a hole through the hand of God holding us down to this earth this is how we crucified Him

But now I know the beyond is only the beginning death is only a beginning flying behind the fire in the cave phaeton flying to and past his father and no longer burning man passing through the flaming sword and back to God

The earth in its solar system on a plane within a galaxy moving forward as a bullet from a bore

everything held in the palm of push and pull Repulsion from cosmic voids holding us in play

while dense matter compels us forward Milky Way spraying to Andromeda

And we think that when we die we merely end

What is the corporeal body in all of this and the molting brain that thinks these things?

We bury our dead six feet under tucked into the earth’s breastpocket o the humanity we poke and prod and dig and scrape at the earth nitpicking it to death jack leg drill in Bunker Hill Mine Kola superdeep borehole Hanford waste facilities collapsing uranium waterpits poisoning the Indians we reach up to the Heavens still the bricklayers on the plains of Shinar higher and higher uglier and uglier

O builders of men where is your whimsy?

The modern aesthetic phallic hard and shiny utilitarian and already obsolete

But I digress he says ah hell kid I don’t know I’m late for a coffee date with Gus Grissom in another galaxy so we leave him behind

We come across a young man named Willy with a ginger mohawk I say are you my daddy

he says I’m headed to the Navy tomorrow dance with me so we dance to an Irish band getting drunk until we cant stand anymore then we stumble away and never see each other again

We come across Ray Bradbury he’s tattooing words upon a carnie’s back

I say are you my daddy he says I have many sons of which you are one but I am not the one

I am weary and crestfallen for this journey but Bradbury says come sit and he begins to tattoo my chest the gunshot wounds no longer open but now hideous pink scars he says

To be a writer is not a vocation it is a joy you must live to write so be not sequestered from the world write incessantly and openly you may have to create a character to tell the truth so be it write what you know polar bear outside a picket fence do not write to refine the English language but to exploit it to a higher form of communication that of symbols pictures words songs arts be a Word Scratcher for there you are a priest be not discouraged for you write therefore you are and you are therefore you write be open to the muse but do not try to grab it then he says

ah there we go standing back I look down on my chest and in sailor jerry blue tattooed -


covering up my gunshot scars

Bradbury giggles and claps his hands and Whitman leads me on

I am tired father I say to Walt Whitman

and he says this is understandable my son but let us hitchhike along the path of the son of God just a bit so we do

We come upon

Dante in a wood he backlit and saintlike Walt claps him on the back and they kiss one another’s cheek

I say I have three different translation of the Divine Comedy back home and Dante shakes my hand and asks Walt how about you

And Whit he says I wrote my own and they laugh

I say are you my daddy he says

I had a cousin like you took a hunting rifle out to a field and shot himself in the chest but then was scared to death they found his body trail of blood trying to crawl back to his car to get help listen the WORD is for the common man there is no literati that isn’t drinking a beer on his porch there is no thinker who is not homeless and exiled listen the WORD is for all peoples the working class steve stemaly throwing boxes 12 hours a day in a midwestern Walmart distribution center jared carrying papers 3am everyday in seattle 7 days a week no holidays until he killed himself I guess the darkness was too much to bear your father pushes a broom in a four by six room

Listen there is something deeper than our present identity or lack thereof deeper than Florence and Ravenna there is a deeper understanding on the tongue of Chamoiseau that is beheld through the uncovering of language for God is in it this is what you seek

He spoke the earth into existence so we speak like our daddy

We speak and we are one

Longfellow Seneca Osceola chief Joseph chief Garry Robert capon gerhard foerde Joseph Campbell bullfinch toffler Faulkner Tolkien Robert graves Edgar lee Masters Edgar Allen Poe Matisse Goya Jeffers Crane Hesse Hank Williams Ray Bradbury Milton Edward Abbey

Da Vinci Michelangelo Siegfried Sassoon Oakland Red

We the peoples divided by language tribe and class have one thread running through us and it is the song of God in our blood and bones we are the synapses in cosmic consciousness firing

No matter what ethniclingual family Vanilla Chocolate or Carmel

Niger–Congo Austronesian Traxdqns–New Guinea Sino-Tibetan Indo-European Australian Afroasiatic Nilo-Saharan Oto-Manguean Austroasiatic Volta–Congo Tai–Kadai Dravidian Tupian

We all of the OneTongue divided by either a cosmic ray from the sun encoding/decoding our brain to speak a tongue or whether by God touching our tongues with fire on the launching pads of Babel

We all seek the one thing that you seek

And I say what is this but I know and Dante he says

We all seek our Daddy

Will I find him I ask but I feel Whitman gently guiding me away from the red garbed poet

And Dante says isn’t this why you are here?

And I must agree that it is but I am drawn away from him

Aeons and whatnots away from when we began this journey I find myself faltering

I cry out to poppa Whitman for a drink and he gives me gin on a stick

I cry out daddy daddy why have you forsaken me

Whitman says grace is sufficient for you anointing my head with crisco

And I don’t know what it means but I feel it deep down in my loins and I stumble on

We come across Stephen Crane on a battlefield similar to where Walt found me

Ambrose Bierce’s body a church

I say to Crane in exasperation are you my daddy

He says pointing to my chest wounds

o sweet boy they did you in didn’t they and I say I did myself in

And he says this is the greatest truth

And I sat whatsat

He continues

the knowledge of the bitter bitter heart

not in theory but in practice

some call it sin some call it nature some call it bad some call it good

but all know it for it is written on our hearts

The truth of this is not the end but the beginning

Don’t you see?

And I must admit that I do not see as much as I should by the light of Crane’s countenance

He claps his hands and laughs and continues

Silly hoards waiting on the messiah to come back with a scepter

They wait for right handed power as he wields the left

there will be no rapture the rapture is your death

Earthly government isn’t the point for his kingdom is not of this earth

To be like Christ is a cult preached by salesmen to affect a means to an end

the end being business the business of salvation the hirelings the life coaches the ethicists

For who can be like the son of God and how far does one carry it for it would have to be every jot and tittle therefore it must be something else

Christianity is not stoicism it is not ethics

it is not praying to be absolved

it is that all is absolved

past tense it is and has been and will be

so hear it and feel it and be free

free to what free to not have to worry about free to what that’s what

So then go forth eat drink and be merry without the lachrymosity of Solomon for the law he was under has been fulfilled can I get an amen

it’s tone of voice – not all men shall bow their knee under the weight of a slavedriver but all men shall come to me for who would not want to in the light of our birth and death and the comfort beyond our ever ailing bodies?

We stay with Crane a stretch he and Walt talking the old days until Walt says we must go so we do

We walk across unknown oceans and forgotten landmasses as the earth under us rolls like a barrel

We walk through tetrahedrons as magicians through mirrors dimensions unseen yet mathematically possible

We walk through dead orchards my pine forests through Kingfisher County to Stevens County

Through man and his symbols through the front door of a bar and out the back

I came across a Seraphim and Abaddon and they spoke in a strange tongue of symbols and pictures cartoons in speech bubbles the droves of Babble babbling

We came to the Mekong Delta the Tigris and Euphrates the Eridanus and the Deschutes river

Daddy Whitman said this is the end of the Oregon trail

I said where is the ferry

He says there is none my son this is the end

The Willamette valley land of milk and honey is over there

He points across the river

And then I feel the heavy pack on my back I must hump it across

I say come on then

And Whitman says you must go alone I have to go back for your brothers

He pats me on the backpack and stands back

And I said but the other side is eons away he said exactly

We shake hands and he sits upon the shore and lights his pipe in the astraldusk and begins to sing songs of himself and allselfs as I part with the shore wading into the warm waters of the Deschutes

I go in a routine crossing with my platoon

Holding my gun above the water pack on my back

And I think this aint so bad

But Christ I stumble and the water fills up my pack

Weighs me down mud sucks up my Jeff Buckley boots

I cry out for I have already died and I cannot bear this again it is too great a thing but I cannot hear myself over the river and Whitman’s singing

and in the scattered dark of river passing there is a dim glowing growing brighter

And I am overcome with Elijahic visions before me first in water swirl then in plain English before my eyes tattoos coming to life in Latin in Greek in Hebrew the Code of Hammurabi on the Daniel stone from an edda in the book of kells on stone tablets from the dead sea scrolls Beowulf poetry slam

racial classifications painted on Egyptian tomb walls parietal art writ upon my heart Lascaux bison come to life run away with my mind the vernacular maximus vulgate Greek to me

tactile seen and heard and felt larynx of God Word Scratcher scribe Frederick Douglass’ alphabet from the master’s wife Abe Lincoln’s charcoal runes in wall written fire Jesus finger in the dirt

α ∞ Ω

I am the word the word is the flesh the bone the gristle

Pict spit papyrus Creolizm amerindianism aryan ethno negro afro Gulf Language glossolia James Charles Castle saliva soot

In my gut of guts I see all endings becoming beginnings and so forth

and I burst out laughing bubbles making

I will sing I sing I sing all things I am one I am whole holistically

I sing I sing the songs of myself of allselfs slang $%@#& song of my name

I see and I be I see I see all things I be all things

Elijah’s chariot the pillar of fire column of smoke I light up a smoke Hokusai banzai wave American $%@#& becoming a living thing babble becoming the one tongue I am undone a Giacometti unraveling St John in mad fervor typing up the book of Revelation on a roll of paper taped together pictographs ideographs cuneiforms hieroglyphs symbols gestures sign languages tactiles verbiles islam textiles hindi elephantiles Scribbler the hand of fire from the sky tells a story around the fire Thomas’s pantomime

I cry out

O Matisse Da Vinci Van Gogh grandma Moses

Hephaestus Vulcan Weyland Absolom Tubal Cain

O Thomas Benton hart Tim Buckley jim kane

O Willie and Joe Woody Guthrie johnny cash

O robert service Aristophanes Euripides

Homer Head of Hesiod

More Descarte Jung Voltaire Seneca

Agamemnon Alcott Sylvia Plath Mother Mary

Jigger jones in a lumber camp jumping Jesus up

And I come up from water roaring

I grasp my identity like a hammer I grab it like a float

my pack and boots have been stripped in the river

and unburdened by the weight I come up for air

and on the far shore I see the others calling to me

beckoning for me to come waving me on

and we understand one another’s tongue

And O there among the throngs

Just there

I see my daddy

and he sees me

he hollers to me and I holler back

and I swim to him


New Christmas Song


Hey All - my original Christmas song, ‘Light My Christmas Tree’ (cowritten by Jacob Mannan and Jenny Anne Mannan) is on this year’s Bartlett Christmas compilation!

You can listen to the Christmas cheer here: Bartlett Christmas 5

Thanks to Karli Ingersoll for backing vocals, Jenny Anne Mannan for backing vocals and fiddle, Caleb Ingersoll for mastering, The Bartlett for including me, and Tanqueray for Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas,


"Bust It Like a Mule is part literature reading, part concert, part tent revival and all mesmerizing."

The bust it crew. Photo: Young Kwak for the Inlander

The bust it crew. Photo: Young Kwak for the Inlander

Thanks to Dan Nailen and The Inlander for their write up of Bust It’s ‘punk-folk quartet!:

“Bust It Like a Mule is definitely a book. Bust It Like a Mule is also — sort of — a band. Bust It Like a Mule is also kind of musical theater. And Bust It Like a Mule is most definitely an experience.”

Read the whole article here

We’ll see you this Saturday at 6.30 at the Spokane Folk festival.

Terrain 11


I was stoked to have my giant folk baby in Terrain’s annual community art show this year! The event was fantastic, with some of my favorite art to date. I read some poetry at the lit stage to the bang and boom of bustling crowds and came away inspired and energized. If you are local, and you haven’t made this event, I highly encourage it. And if you aren’t local, just go to some gallery and dig some art in the flesh, or go to a concert or go to a poetry reading and live and be and drink a beer and feel the goodness of love and madness and beauty as God intended.

And let me know what you create after.

Love you,


The Spirit of Phil


HeyPhil -

I found the place where your car broke down some 20 years ago on our trip to Oregon during our beatnik phase and you said ‘let’s hitchhike’ and I said ‘who’s going to pick us up we look like serial killers’ and we didn’t get picked up, but hiked down the Columbia Gorge all night until we got to a park and slept shivering together in the bathroom and using the hand driers to heat ourselves and had to get up the next morning and hike to the next town to call AAA. But the thing that has stayed with me and I have mythologized in my mind is the moment when after hours of hitchhiking with no luck you shouted out to the heavens ‘what I wouldn’t give for One.Cold.Beer!!’ And I said ‘man come on, you’re nuts’ but not one mile later, you ran to a guardrail, hopped over it, and began flinging empty littered cans left and right as I hollered ‘dude! Phil! Come on man!’ but no sooner had I said this when you lifted your hand triumphantly to the sky and cried out ‘YES! Yes! Thank you!!’ And you had A COLD BEER IN YOUR HAND I swear to god and I don’t need to swear to you because you were there and you saw this simple miracle and it wasn’t even a 12oz can it was a 16. And you offered to share your miracle with me but I was pissed because I didn’t believe in miracles of this nature so I declined what a doubting Thomas I was. It was here that I began to learn that God is not a god of vengeance but of love and grace and simple pleasures and what we’ve come to call ‘the spirit of Phil’ - riding the wave and not worrying over tomorrow for tomorrow can worry itself. Let’s meet here someday with a six pack and some smokes. ❤️
(Also, how have I not realized the significance of its name???)


Spokane Gets a Caleb Tattoo


I was very honored to be chosen for  Spokane Arts' I am a Town project! My verse, '4th of July', was selected as a poem about our city, and lines from the verse were painted onsite. So I guess you could say that Spokane has a Caleb tattoo...

Make your way up to West Cliff Drive in our neighborhood for a spectacular view of our fair city. Find other poems n places here: I Am A Town Map


"the city winking, stars start blinking,

the Children of the Sun used to look from here

out onto glorious nothing for miles"

This Life Cannot Contain Me (On the Occasion of my 42nd birthday)



Born in a buffalo hump a trail of tears wagon wheel rut

a punk in a triple bedbunk

steam train dying like a brother on the southern front

crawfish daddy pacific wind bent pine

stealing Walt Whitman's stones and calling them mine

this life cannot contain me

This life cannot contain me, i cry

not at God or at my wife

but to the sky

not with fist clenched but with arms open wide

this life cannot contain me!

Up from the ground lightning spiking

Solomon song singing hammer swinging

oaken dextral sitka spruce sinistral

beautiful daughters on my left and right

this life cannot contain me

Trout fish bone stuck in my goozle

wild fuchsia rhododendrons my grandma’s mumu

my boys wrestling not yet besting me

this life cannot contain me

Cradled on the curve of hipbone

the rib of man a plow i rode

to furrow a tough row to hoe

coming in as I'll go out

naked as a jaybird with a shout

the tree of life within the placenta

seen it with my own two eyes

 i am not ashamed of it

Jesus with the bleeding woman

power just shot out of me

this life cannot contain me

i am the spotted man leper kid

ponderosa pine bark boy

peeling away

 now a grown ass earring wearing man

father of children  

one day of men and women

given life by their momma

 cosmic soul sister woman

i am life giver

this life cannot contain me

i live beyond the patchwork quilt of dying stars

wrap my babies in an ancient okie quilt

kiss my babydoll on her lilywhite throat

carry em on my back up to the stars and back

jacked up crow cawing on a seastack

Trickster with a knapsack

racking a shell in a shotgun shack

this life cannot contain me

This life and all it cannot contain me

i am giving to my wife and my babies

and all those after me

but I aint going nowhere

i will dance until i am dead

i’ll do it alone but i’d rather with my fellow man

Momma, this life cannot contain me

Big river little girl baby

southpaw songstress

this life cannot contain us

it tried and we died then we did rise

babies this is your bloodline

Violet Tennessee Waylon June Dixie

this life cannot contain we

In this iggy van gogh oil hip strut

sockets thumping

blood pumping life seething

clenched teeth teething

there is no atheistic hubris

nor religious rot

(woe betide the Levite lot)

for in it is joy and peace and love and babies and making babies

and no maybes

just this life cannot contain me

i was born a headbutt

a sinew twist tackle blood begetter

diaper wetter mead bench wrecker

 Vietnam corpsman Walt Whitman bone setter

splash blood and paint and children across the earth

smoke and booze and words across the earth

this is my calling i am not afraid

be not afraid

Daddy made me and Daddy don’t lie

this life cannot contain me

Baptized in a hose water horse trough with my little brother

the spotted man and the bad blood boy baptized together

by dad daddy doc our father

under a gray sky my eyes were gray and we were cold

we shivered dripping wet and just like Jesus we were known

and we aint never looked back

though the rental house burned down

this life cannot contain us

Though i tread through the valley of the shadow of wires

i will fear nothin

i’ll grasp at no coastal winds to keep em

just drift with them

A migrant on the ocean

A forager for his own food

Daddy will feed me

this life cannot contain me

Stronger than i ever been

More loved than i ever been

Smarter than i ever been

More tattoos than i ever had

Bleeding more ink than i ever have

Nose crooked left more than it ever has

More children than i’ve ever had

More colors than i ever seen

You’re more beautiful than you ever been

Knowing i know nothing

this life cannot contain me

No death throes no no

 just life throes

i yearn and stretch and climb and shout

scratching at the stars

fumbling with Orion’s belt

whipping Nimrod with his own goddamn pelts

this life cannot contain me

JE Jones cigarette yap

Neal Cassady eyes lit up rap

beatnik beatitude beat white boy dap

born in the curve of a black man’s back

squawling in a Cherokee government camp

kissing girls in a migrant camp

this life cannot contain me

i was born in a mess of jumbalaya

ladled out with a split wood spoon

hotter n ol blickeys

Hank Williams praying over me in the room

my heart a drum a thrum a pew bolt rattle

of my own drum up walking

in my head my head is always talking

this life cannot contain me

My mind mindtalking like walking sticks walking

train throat whistle river boy

stole this land from the children of the sun

Phaeton the crow He Who Flew Too Close To The Sun

basalt and pine belong to no one


this life cannot contain me

Pollock phosphenes buck shot splatter

the inner becomes the outer

i speak with a holler

this life cannot contain me

i am life giver I am lover

i am color

you are my mother and lover

i am your father and brother

i am barefoot cosmicwalker

i am my beloved’s

i blood and bone and holler and whoop

(down the line:)

as i walk further i begin to stoop

slumping melted ice cream scoop

Samson jackass jawbone tired

i run ahead my children run by

my baby hangs back with me

singing songs to me

the voice of God blood running through me

i begin to falter

the wheat and wildflowers overtake me

my mortal flannel fails me

i sing the songs of my baby

i sang to my babies

then i am sleeping

and when i am sleeping you cry out to me


and I die out laughing

The Apologetics of Bust It Like A Mule

Me n the kids at the Whitefish, MT train station, 'Stumptown' in Bust It Like a Mule

Me n the kids at the Whitefish, MT train station, 'Stumptown' in Bust It Like a Mule

Bust Like it A Mule, as I always say, was written as a form of therapy from my first 3 (unpublished, duh) novels.

Since it came out, I’ve had people love it, not love it, pore over it, view it askance, read it in one sitting, not be able to finish it, laugh out loud, wtf it, ‘get’ it, not ‘get’ it, and mainly, wonder if I can actually write (I assure you, I think I can).

In the past, I have been tempted, and attempted, to offer apologetics on it, scholarize it, literaturize it.

At times, dear reader, I must admit, wracked with manic self doubt, I have asked my wife and creative partner Jenny Anne if I should do a ‘punctuated version’ wherein I would put actual punctuation and stuff. Each time, my lovely, supporting, strong creative partner wife looks me in the eyes and shouts


This is because she was with me during the wild ride of writing the thing, and remembers my dead set joyful conviction in the story dictating the feverish, raging torrent of words – ie, the heart before the head. (Sidenote – if you must have a partner, you must have a partner who believes in the you you think you are more than you do).

Some people, including literary agents, have told me they think the story is good, but didn’t fully buy into my lack of commas and punctuation, and the rough storyteller grammar, and therefore, didn’t ‘get it’. One lady actually told me after a public reading (with a bit of a sniff) that there were ‘too many bygods in it for me’ (there are 239 in fact, ma’am, which is, I feel, 2 less than there should be).

But for all my hand wringing and self doubt, the fact of the matter is that Bust It was always meant to be punk rock. It was always meant to punch you in the face, tackle you in the square, shout that God is alive, man is alive, that fire burns and love feels like a good stiff drink, that blood tastes like iron and that beauty is an unbearable twinge, that the earth is a brutal beautiful gift that was meant to be enjoyed blatantly and irreverently for the short time we are here(If you think I’m being blasphemous, I’m actually just paraphrasing Ecclesiastes). It was always a cosmic tale about man lost, man found, man man man woman woman woman, mankind humanity goddamnit goddamn. And if this makes you feel uncomfortable, take heart, because it does me too at times.

But the fact of the matter is that no matter how I try to legitimize my illegitimate baby, Bust It Like A Mule stands on its own two goddamn legs. Frankly, the book doesn’t care if you (or even I, its creator!) like it or not – it just is. In other words, Bust it like a mule aint askin – its tellin.

And its protagonist, Cotton Kingfisher, born of my own mind, romantic impressions of my grandpa, and an unknown cosmic prescience, stands over me, I laying on the ground rubbing my  broken jaw from his uppercut jump bust, wagging his finger at me growling -

“Kid what in the hell’re you thinkin? Ya goddamn know it aint about bein good or not good you idjit its just about being bygod isn’t that the whole point of the goddamn book? Aint that what you wrote me for? Aint it about our Good Big Daddy Old Man Old Sun lovin us no matter what and makin us peace on the earth? Well aint it? And you think you can just go and forget it? Well I got words for you mister - nuts to you!”

And in these moments when Cotton preaches at me, I know in my guts that he’s right.

In this weird sermon cycle of my own imagination, I realize the whole point of art, and creating: the creator(here me), made in God’s image(He first being a creator Himself), does what they do, creates regardless of what others will think (well, maybe considering what a few people think – I do want my wife to think I am amazing, and my children to gaze at me adoringly). But the creator creates out of joy, not out of the expectation of consumption. They create because they cannot not. Then, the creator, to ‘close the loop’ as my wife puts it, releases their creation to the birds - you hold it with an open hand, you give it away. Sometimes when you give it away, people think it’s an unmarketable mess of an unpunctuated manuscript, or that it has too many bygods. Sometimes, people don't 'get' it like you got it.

But sometimes, people tell you they read it in one afternoon in a rocking chair on the porch in the sun, laughing out loud while their wife asked them what they were laughing about. Sometimes, people write songs about your book that gives it life you never meant, and makes you tear up. Sometimes, your children ask you if you’re going to see Cotton Kingfisher in Glacier Park this time, because he is just that real. Sometimes, people tell you that they read it in bed next to their partner, keeping them awake by tugging on them and reading them lines aloud. Sometimes, someone comes to you after a reading with tears in their eyes, telling you it inexplicably reminded them of their son who is no longer on the earth.

And man, isn’t this what its really all about? Isn't it??

Anyhow, Cotton says it is. And he won’t let me forget it. He won’t let you either, if you let him.

Come hear a live reading of Bust It Like A Mule with original music from the book at the downtown Spokane library tonight, Friday, April 6th, at 6.30.

Me n Cotton will be waiting for you to tell you the good word.


photo credit Spokanesman Review:  Click for Article

photo credit Spokanesman Review: Click for Article

Bust It Like a Mule Live, Friday, April 6th, 6.30pm at the Downtown Spokane Public Library!!

Do not miss the show people are calling 'a Southern fried prairie home companion' (we neither condone or do not condone this statement),...'too many bygods for me'...'the oddest quartet to grace the stage'...and 'now i get the book'...!

Event details here.

This is the end of all poetry



Butcher in a white apron

 on a loading dock out back

smoking a cigarette  


Just as the artist

must uncover the subconscious

by continually practicing form

until it isn't a form

but a thought a breath a feeling

so must the writer with words


My children

So kind in my transgressions

so forgiving me of me in my fault

Asking me above all else


can we have special time?"


Homeless man dodges us

on the crosswalk

hunter orange stocking cap

ducked against the cold


Its our date night


(Walking by the Spokesman Review Factory at Night)

Death inhabits this place

just like back in seattle

when i did the early AM paper route

and young Jared my fellow and friend

he killed himself out of the blue

I can still see his face so clearly

he is smiling


she is like

a white flower

that grows amidst the wheat

smoking it makes you weak


(Walking the trail at The Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge)

The light here is like

the dawn of a heaven to come

never changing  

The children run on up ahead  

it doesn’t get dark until after we leave


o god

be merciful to me

a pollock picasso

jumble of a man

i have no theology  

that cannot be thusly summed  


who can truly know god?

then practice self rebelllion

and kill the idol of the self

in this he is there


Moses smote the rock

and water flowed forth

just like my brow

bleeding into my hair

that one time on main street

 when I was sucker punched  

It all started with a bang


(Cosmic Love)

you come to me in pictures

that I cannot

must not describe

so then let us look upon our children


mom slipped on the ice and broke her wrist

our 11 year old daughter helped her write thank you notes

I borrowed the Toa of Ching from my dad

It makes no sense

and yet it makes all sense

i try to say it plainly

but the form is only breathing

so i let it go

dad -

this is the end of all poetry  


beggar on the corner

will you accept my gift?

I have only music

I'd roll down the window to give it to you

but I am afraid you'd expect change




Spokane's Father Christmas


Spokane’s Father Christmas

Is a swarthy bear of a man

Long hair and unruly beard

An inland Empire John The Baptist

Bare chested Nature Boy wearing only long shorts

And rubber boots in the snow

Everybody knows its Willie Willey

Come roaring through the pines

Down Mount Little Baldy

A string of strange animals tailing him, all of em talking

Just as plain as you or me

A monkey a racoon a skunk a dog

A possum a snake a coyote a kitty

He hops the rails in Hillyard

And rides atop a hopper into Downtown Spokane

Hollering Merry Christmas all the way

He gets off at the Davenport, near the Steam Plant stacks

And meets with lumber unions

The Indians and businessmen and the homeless

And the Women’s club and the churches

 He preaches to those gathered of peace on earth and nature

And the beauty of the oddity in man

He says not to fear bare skin in colder climates

For it can save them just as it saved him

As a sickly boy

He tells them to be not anxious for tomorrow

For tomorrow can worry itself

They all eat a fancy meal in a fancy ballroom

Then they have a parade down Main near the river

Willie n his jalopy camper chariot sleigh

Giving out presents to the poor children

Until the winter afternoon goes dark

Then Willie Willey, Spokane’s Father Christmas

Heads back to his cosmic plot of land west of Hillyard

A ghost in the clear inland Washington sky

Disappearing into the forest

With all the talking animals trailing after him

Just a breath in the frozen air

But he'll be back next year


Note: I first heard about Willie after a Bust It Like a Mule show from a man roughly my dad's age. He came to me after my reading and asked if I had heard of Willie, and told me of the stories he'd heard about him, and how he was one of the first hippies not just to the region, but in general (Willie was born 1884). Always a folk hero buff, I went and looked Willie up, and was not disappointed with what I found. For more on the man himself:

Nostalgia Magazine

The Spokesman

Spokane Historical





O Tanqueray


O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

Thy piney taste unchanging

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

4 times distilled British gin amazing (sing fast to fit it all in)

In summer winter fall and spring

A Christmas taste you always bring

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

They piney taste unchanging


O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

Much pleasure canst thou give me (no need to change the original verse it says it all)

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

I am in love with Ginny

In tonic clear and over rocks

you kick my pants and knock off my socks

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

Much pleasure canst thou give me


O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

Thy green bottle shines so brightly

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

I sing around thee nightly

From stem to stern I drink thee down

My wife likes me more when you're around

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

Thy green bottle shines so brightly


Charles Tanqueray Charles Tanqueray

How richly did God gift thee

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray

I am kind of gin rummy

It takes a few to get me there

but once I am I've not a care

O Tanqueray O Tanqueray (slow building epic finishsung as in a bar by men with handle bar mustaches)

I love you ooooooooooooooooooooooooh sooooooooooo dearly

Mannan & Renz Sportswear


I've been drawing since I was a kid, and got into drawing clothes and fashion in JR High. I designed copious T-Shirts, ties, shorts, suits, all for a fictitious clothing brand (another story for another day). So when my brother Jake called me up last year and asked me to do some drawings for his fashion line Mannan&Renz, I was stoked.

Some of my early 90's 'fashion art' - I give myself a 10 for creativity, and a facepalm for fashion sense.

Some of my early 90's 'fashion art' - I give myself a 10 for creativity, and a facepalm for fashion sense.

After our initial conversations on what he was looking for, I had a vision of Leyendecker with a broken nose, or jacked up Mad Men ad copy. As the project went on, my art morphed into sailors with tattoos, WWII Willie and Joe types, bums, Depression era workers, pin up girls, smokers, drinkers, farmers, linemen, some of them not wearing anything resembling an M&R piece of clothing. But every single rough and rowdy ink spattered working man and woman I sketched embodied the core of my brother and his business partner Kyle's vision - to bring back this durable American spirit we seem to have forgotten in an age of transience. I was so taken with this vision that I feverishly researched and sketched hundreds of items and characters from a bygone age when things were built to last because they HAD to - more than that, when these things wore out in the elbows and knees and heels from busting it hard all day riveting or building or bouncing babies or tugging lifting sweating working, you patched them up and passed them on to your people because they held a nostalgic, totemic value.


My brother has always loved fashion and clothing, especially older clothes, shoes, and military gear, taking this obsession to the point that he has more vintage Pendletons on hangers than eBay, and surplus military wear worthy of a museum. He can pull a jacket off a rack in in any thrift store and tell you what its made from, where it came from, look at the tag and tell you the era, scan for moth holes and runs and tell you within a matter of seconds - 'This is a good buy, grab it.' This is why when he and Kyle looked for partners to bring their vision to the masses, they got some damn good ones. And it's why you can trust that these items are of hefty beautiful lasting quality - Jake has looked over each one, pored over them, sent them back, cut them here, lengthened them there, field tested them, wore them out, wore them down, run his hands over them, looked at the tag and said 'This is good.'

Renz & Mannan.

Renz & Mannan.

So you should grab it.

I have worn M&R's baseball jacket in Spokane and across many of the United States, across the pond to London, I have tromped up and down from the White Tower to Buckingham Palace to Liverpool Station in my White's Boots, I've worn M&R sweaters while flying, driving, camping, drawing (no ink spilled on them cross myself and hope to die), and I can personally attest to their comfortable, durable, snazzy quality.

So get on over to M&R's Kickstarter, and get you a piece of clothing or pair of boots to last a lifetime. Aaaaaand a drawing of mine.


The artist in his 'studio'.

The artist in his 'studio'.



Singer songwriter best friend Kevin Morgan with my portrait of him at Terrain. I am supported by my youngest child and arts partner in crime, June Dixie, age 4.

Singer songwriter best friend Kevin Morgan with my portrait of him at Terrain. I am supported by my youngest child and arts partner in crime, June Dixie, age 4.

I had a blast showing some art and reading poetry at Terrain 10! Thanks to all the volunteers and movers and shakers that make Spokane the vibrant arts community that it is. I believe that art and creativity can change the world for the better, and its beautiful to be in a place with people that believe and support this as well (Check them out : Terrain).

Portrait of the artist as a yapper.

Portrait of the artist as a yapper.

My beautiful wife and kids are real champions for supporting my madness, I am who I am because of them. The older I get, the more I realize that my creativity aint nothin unless I can share it with my people and pass it on to them, and this is what I am striving to do more and more. I think that about sums up the constant journey of the artist, to seek to give away what compels them.

Artsy fam

Artsy fam

Oh, before I go, thank you to all the other artists who were amazing, I am the least of you.

Loves, create,


See you at Terrain 10

Awesomesauce poster by Karli Ingersoll

Awesomesauce poster by Karli Ingersoll

I am very excited to have some of my arts n words chosen to be in Terrain 10 (!), "an annual, one-night-only, juried multimedia art and music event celebrating young and emerging artists in the Spokane area."

Thanks to the jury that thinks some of my mad American Slang was okay enough for general human consumption. I, like Terrain, believe "that art, as a part of a robust culture, helps us more fully understand our world and what it means to be human", and I am proud to further this vision with them. This is a great, highly anticipated event thrown by an awesome organization, and you should definitely come, with or without me!!

See you there, me.




On creating “The American Folk Artist & The American Songstress”, and Folk Art in general


On creating “The American Folk Artist & The American Songstress”, and Folk Art in general.

With a detail of pertinent symbols from the work.

Caleb Mannan

I call myself a ‘folk artist’ because I am 'self-taught' working man with a manic compulsion to create.

Some of the tenets of my folk art are:

·         We are all made in the image of God, our Good Big Daddy. He being first and foremost a Creator, we are Creators too – we must create, for it is holy, healthy, and good.

·         My art is informed by limitations – limited first and foremost by formal training in all practices, limited by supplies and monies, limited by time (in that I am blessed with a job that pays the bills). But in the end, these limitations have been the edge to whet the blade of my creativity.

·         In order to create ‘folk art’ (simply blue collar art created for enjoyment) one has to be fearless, guileless, uninhibited by outside eyes or forces. It is when the grown man is nearest to a childlike state of faith that he is closest to God – it is the same for the artist.

·           I would never discourage formalized training (hell, I need me some), but I would always encourage creating regardless of it. I would encourage creating regardless of one's own evaluation of merit.

·         Some people have a muse – I have a Trickster. Some people wither for lack of the Muse - I go mad if I do not folk The Trickster.

·         I am who I am, I cannot change it – for this I give God the Credit, the Glory, the Blame. Therefore, I will express what I am through my creations with confidence regardless of accreditation or acknowledgement. I call this creating by faith, following my feet, ‘the wild meanderings of the heart’.

·         I believe creating should be done regardless of return.

When I use ‘self-taught’, I merely mean that I have a mad driving ferocity curiosity to figure it out, whatever it is (How the hell does one draw a skull, a tree, a gun, a woman, a child? How does one write a novel? A poem? A story?). I have a joyous yearning to do, so I go forth and seek the ways/means to DO IT. I do not mean that I decry formal teaching or that I am not a learner. On the contrary - I humble myself and sit at the foot of others and learn from them (There is no room for hubris in the folkie – the goal is the innocent faith of a  child). I believe humility is the greatest characteristic of the creator, or a person in general - one who has perspective about one's self, a sense of humor and even disregard for one's self and what they are creating. I actively seek to learn. This learning is a voracious nagging curiosity that will not be sated until it is.  I was never formally schooled in art (I guess I did have a drawing class once when I was 14), but learned to draw from comic books, reference books, anatomy/medical books (As with Basquiat, Grey’s Anatomy was a great help), book illustrations, historical art books and Biblical paintings. As a seeking manic must man, the library was my mother. Being from a small town, museums and art galleries were not an option.  I went to my first art museum with Jenny Anne when I was 25, I saw a Van Gogh and cried…and promptly went home and began wildly trying to Impressionism.

My huge artistic breakout was when I was in Jr High, and Jim Lee began drawing the Punisher: War Journal series for Marvel comics - I was taken with his crisp clean style and copied panel after panel, pose after pose. Also, Kyle Baker’s Dick Tracy trilogy (1990?) blew me away, and you can still see his influence in my lined, contorted cartoon faces. My friends at this time, Brian Siemon and Kevin Morgan, were also creative boys that were better than me and a huge inspiration/encouragement – I stole everything they knew. We all created comic books together (they sucked, of course), my brother Nate (now a graphic designer) would sometimes do the lettering on my ‘covers’ because I didn’t have the time or the patience or skill for this nonsense (still don’t).

Kevin went on to high school, where he took all the art classes he could get his hands on. I was schooled at home during this period, but Kev taught me everything he knew about painting when I was 21 or so, and changed my life.  

Over the years, my art waxed and waned, and though I never quit it, it eventually took a back seat to my first love of writing as my major outlet of personal expression. 

 Earlier this year I got back into experimenting with painting after a long hiatus. The urge was undeniable and uncontrollable, as all my creative urges are (This is the manic creative Spirit of my boyhood hero, my Grandpa JE Jones, singer/songwriter/poet. Just as grandpa had thousands of songs and poems, I have a grip of novels, thousands of short stories, millions of verses scads of art). I was sitting in Church doodling when I had the wild idea to paint a portrait of Jenny Anne and myself. I wanted to convey our artistic partnership and our love in a creative way, as I had never been able to do before. I quickly/badly penned this idea in my tiny memo book, and it was on like Donkey Kong in Mario Cart slipping on a banana peel (N64, of course). I went home and attempted to sketch it a few more times before tossing it aside as a wild hair.

But it wouldn’t go away. I continued to draw, pen n ink and even paint, as well as write some short stories, all the while this idea at the back of my brain and tip of my tongue. I eventually ordered a huge roll of canvas half ass playing chicken with God, following my feet and the wild meanderings of the heart. I took the kids to the library, looked at folk art books, inspired by John Kane and James Castle. But the blank scroll of Moses sat in the basement for months, collecting dust.

And yet, The Trickster wouldn’t leave me alone – I could hear him cawing around the corner just as I have my entire life -

“Caw,” he says. “Come on man,” he says. “Caw. You know you wanna. Caw, Caleb, caw. Caw, man. Caw caw caw caw caw caw caw cawkity goddamn caw - ”

So I followed my feet some more, and began making paintings on plywood in the garage, winter snap still in the air, the baby June Dixie following me in my wild arcs, chatting with me, keeping me steady on the earth. I did these experiments on plywood, in gigantic scale, because, you know, it couldn’t be normal size. That wouldn’t be right… that wouldn’t be epic enough for what I wanted to say. No. It had to be HUGE. Such is the audacity of the folk artist, with little regard for shame.

After these initial experiments, I began in earnest, sketching poses, making Jenny Anne pose for me, making our oldest Violet take pictures of the pose. I painted a portrait of Kev on cardboard in cheap acrylics as a warm up.

I knew I was onto something.

Then in a manic fit one night while at home (August 28th, 2017, to be exact), I toted the giant roll of canvas from its haunt in the basement into the garage, threw it on top of a busted train table headed for the Goodwill and cut a huge swath of it, took down the punching bag, humped two pieces of plywood together end on end reaching to the heavens, to the garage trusses, tacked the canvas on the plywood and began sketching, messing, sketching drawing laying out measuring, running back and forth to the house and garage for supplies, no not that, that doesn’t work, yes, this charcoal, not the pencil, no sumi ink, ye are not the answer, house paint why are you not working, Jenny Anne looking up from her homeschool prep every now and again to smile at me and purposefully not ask what I was doing.

Since I am self-taught, each time I set out to do a work such as this, I have to re-learn what I have taught myself – not unlike breaking my bones and resetting them with each new project, so each time I nail what I am attempting, especially with little pain, I surprise myself. And it goads me on.

When I laid out the initial sketches on canvas, I knew I had what I wanted, so I began with house paint and learned that the house paint I had was too runny on the canvas, so I began using cheap acrylics I had on hand and some older, higher quality Liquitex colors I had, a few still left from midnight painting sessions with Kev some 20 years ago.

Thus began 2 weeks of mad ferocity in the garage, every spare minute after work and on lunch breaks, I listening to music (War on Drugs, Queens of the Stone Age( the kid’s favorite - their new album Villains is GREAT) The Doors, Hank Williams, Lee Bozeman)  and painting with frequent visits and hours spent with the kids and Jenny Anne, the younger two, Waylon & June Dixie, spending the most time with me through the process, playing and chatting with me while I stood on a wooden blue Ikea stepstool I stole from the kitchen or knelt on the dirty concrete floor. I used an old card table as my rickety disheveled work station, scattered with paint tubes, art books, Van Gogh Matisse Dali, books on actually HOW to paint, my sketchbooks, sketches, pencils brushes cups water empty cans, a thin film of sawdust from the nearby chop saw work table covering everything. It was a mess of a process and lack of routine, dipping paint straight from their bottles or on a palette of cardboard and even a seashell from the Oregon Coast I managed to rustle up in a particular frenzy. It was a mad dance of actually dancing, dodging the kid’s bikes, running to Ace Hardware to mix pistachio paint samples (Valspar, baby) and eventually to Spokane Art Supply to purchase decent paints (You cant have a great American portrait with the American Songstress done with Wal Mart Acrylics), scrambling, swearing, squinting shouting, some drinking, of coffee and of gin and of beer and sparkling water, some cigar smoking, some sitting, some thinking, all under watchful eye of children and cats and loving support of Jae or I alone by myself at night listening to the sounds of the neighborhood around me from my garage lair.

It was nuts.

 And lots of actual work. If there is one thing I learned from my mom and dad and family in general, it’s to put your head down and WORK. I apply this blue collar ethic to all my creative endeavors. Bust it like a mule, man, go go go throw your back into it.

 But most of all, the whole thing was just fun as hell. To tackle and be tackled by a daunting project beyond the self. To quit, cussing and ranting, and come back the next day with new perspective. To learn new things, new shadows, new techniques. To have Tennessee, age 9, come to the garage and gaze upon the painting and say "Good job, dad." To have Violet on a Razor scooter provide feedback when I had lost perspective. 

Through the entire process of folking the trickster on this portrait, my wife and creative partner, mother of our beautiful children and musician extraordinaire, never once discouraged my madness, nay, but even encouraged it by standing with me late at night, being my second set of eyes (especially on her eyes, which gave me fits over the entire process) as Ray Bradbury’s wife, and for this I would like to thank her.  I can say without equivocation that my wife has never once, in all our relationship, ever discouraged my folk creativity (she has gently asked me not to use paints on the dining room table anymore - there has to be a line somewhere, I get it, I get it). Over the years, she has actually encouraged and driven my fervor. This is, I believe, the height of creativity – partaking in it with a lover, friend, partner, muse, who encourages and comes alongside of you, and this is why we jokingly refer to ourselves as ‘The Mannan Creative Co-Op’. I believe this is the highest form of cosmic fulfillment, love and peace upon the earth, and I am blessed with it.

The pose of this portrait is a direct reflection of that, Jenny Anne’s left hand, her sinistral/strong hand (she’s a southpaw) on my right shoulder, I being dextral. I once read Nietzsche’s philosophy of the sinistral and the dextral working together to create great things, and I have explored this theme in writing throughout the years.

Anyhoo, folk diatribe ended, I have written up a symbolic detail for this painting, I hope you are able to read it without rolling your eyes. I have written before that I am ‘symbolic to a fault’ in my writing, and in my art its even worse, because symbols are actually symbols, in that they are expressive pictographs instead of simile word symbols. OK I’ll stop now.

I love you all, we are all one tribe, may you create great works with those you love today, now, and forever and ever, amen.



The American Folk Artist & The American Songstress, Detail:


The Artist: I am seated in our yellow chair from our living room, which I have folk painted before. I am seated to reflect my ‘pagan Christianity’, my ‘marching to my own drum’, as my momma is won’t to say about me. It is a pose of non-rebellious ownthink, individuality . It also signifies humility in regards to my relationship with Jenny Anne, especially in the arts. I am deferring to her as more than my equal in all regards.

 The pose is supposed to be masculine, relaxed, humble.

I am wearing my ‘uniform’ of Levi’s and a white v neck t-shirt. My face is blue, I’m not sure why – I was Matissing, Van Goghing here. I like to layer layer layer on faces, each layer being something new until you have something that you know is right.

My tattoos: The tattoos I have on my skin are always symbolic. I didn’t put the kids in this picture because their names are tattooed my left arm, in the painting just as in real life. Also, I am terrible at painting children.

My feet are on art tools, and on my book Bust It Like A Mule, a wink and a nudge to my ‘folk artist’ self-designation, in that I have ‘broken’ both art and writing. Ha!

My bare feet: I, a Van’s slipon fan and boots in general fan, am barefoot - this represents vulnerability, in my relationship to Jae, but also, to the world, releasing my art for all to see.

Beneath the yellow chair is a clutter:

Tanqueray bottle: I just loooove gins n tonics, I love gin, especially Tanqueray. I have written several songs about gin, one of them says ‘There aint no gin in the kitchen, there aint no gin under my chair, there aint no gin in this whole house, I been up n down everywhere’. Hence the empty gin jug under my chair.

Miller High Life can: Our family all American cheap beer of choice. It’s the champagne of beers, y'all! Product placement a wink to Warhol.

American $%@#&: American Slang is an outrageous long rambling poem/song I wrote under my poetic alter ego Woody Whitman about America, dealing with art, race, religion, war, among other things (Think Ezra Pound and Walt Whitman have a son named Hanna Barbera).

Oregon grape cluster: I was born in Portland Oregon, raised in the Willamette Valley until I was 8 years old. This is where my mom and dad are from, and we still have family in this area. They could have kept Portland weird by keeping me there.

The American Songstress: My wife and creative partner Jenny Anne Mannan represents the Saint, my Saint/Valkyrie, her strong hand (Southpaw), on my strong arm, my right, in accordance with the aforementioned philosophy of the right and left working together to create great works of art. She is standing upright to represent her strength, her resilience, her Joan of Arc quality that I find so admirable. Here she also represents the strength of Women, especially as creators, artists, musicians, outside the need of legitimacy from men in these practices.

The pose in general, as I have spoken about already, speaks to the bond of marriage, creative cooperation, a coming together as one, equal individual children under the sight of God.

Jae’s hair is braided to represent the Valkyrie, as I call her my Valkyrie, in essence, my creative muse (This is also represented in real life and in the painting by the Rackham Valkyrie tattoo on my upper left arm). I believe Heaven is Vahallaish, with drinking, fighting and loving, a swarthy Walt Whitman Elysium, therefore, being raised up by a Valkyrie is just a goddamned good thing. She often braids her hair like this and I find it very fetching (When we were first married, I had very long hair, and she used to braid a small strand for me. Now she just cuts my hair).

She is wearing an actual dress of hers and the black booties she loves so much.

Stuff by Jenny Anne’s feet:

The Bible: We were both raised in religion, though we have come to our own understanding of the Gospel together that forms our family nucleus. Jenny Anne is an amateur theologian, from Lewis to Capon to Forde to Luther, she loves it all.

The fiddle: Jenny Anne is an amazing musician and songwriter (Hence the ‘American Songstress’). She is a fiddle champ from back when she was a little girl.

The Kingfisher: Jenny Anne is holding the Kingfisher, which represents The Holy Spirit, the Now, BEING, Making Peace With The Earth. I've written about this extensively, especially in Bust It Like Mule. Kingfisher County is a County in Oklahoma, a County near where my grandpa JE Jones was raised before his family migrated west during the Dust Bowl. The protagonist in Bust it is Cotton Kingfisher from Oklahoma, who settles in Glacier Park in Montana. Last year, when we visited Glacier Park, we saw a Kingfisher floating on Lake McDonald. I saw this as a sign.

The mountains: Mountains, where we were raised, our home, and Elysian longing. The Selkirks.

The Dove: Representing redemption, grace, forgiveness, love, peace and hope. It is carrying a Ponderosa pine bough for (Inland) Washington State.

Pink Sun: Truly the most ‘snapshot’ symbol in the piece (other than my watch, showing approximately 3:30.39ish, when I was painting it) – the wildfires from Montana, Oregon and Washington were raging as I painted this, causing a shroud of smoke to settle on Spokane for a week, making the sun an apocalyptic pink blot.

The crow: My spirit animal, also representing my creative Trickster (‘Some people have a muse - I’ve got a Trickster’).

Wheat and wildflowers: This represents my idea of the afterlife, heaven, Elysium, Valhalla. Directly tied to Stevens County, Washington, where we were both raised – these are actual wildflowers from the area (I believe yarrow and…?).

The river: Jae was raised in Northport, WA, on a piece of land that went down to the Columbia River. I have written that she is ‘a little girl on the big river’. She loves water, and rivers, especially the Columbia and the Clark Fork in Montana.  The river also represents the rivers in Eden, and in a mythical sense, the Eridanus (Eridanos), where Phaeton’s flaming body was doused when he fell/was struck from the sky.

Red and white stripes: Merica, y’all!!