Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gabriel: A Very Small Poodle With A Big Ego

When our teacup poodle Bear first came to us he was nothing more than a wad of fur with two eyes.  He barely weighed eighteen ounces.  To lift him was like lifting a bird; there was nothing there, a bit of cotton candy on the wind, just fluff.  If you've been following my animal stories you'll know that Bear has grown and thrived and sired a son.  The story is here:
            My wife met the owner of Bear's mate at the grocery store.  The woman had an AKC registered miniature poodle named Snickers.  A mating session was arranged, and it was successful.  There were two pups from the union of Bear and Snickers: the robust Kioni and the runt Gabriel.  At birth, Gabriel weighed a mere ounce and a half.      
            No one gave him much chance at survival.  He was brought to our place after ten weeks of nursing from mama Snickers.  He weighed a little over two pounds.  He was absurdly cute.  We worried about him.  His development lagged so badly that we thought we might have a special needs dog.  Or worse, he might not make it.
            Gabriel hung on.  He gained weight and bulk.  He's still so tiny that his bark has the quality of a rubber-bulb squeeze horn that clowns use when they ride tricycles.  He is a talker.  In this he takes after his dad.  The voices on super-tiny poodles are like instruments of both torture and comedy.  These dogs don't yap.  They howl, yammer, moan, scream, ullulate and speak in nearly human syllables.
            Gabriel makes up for his smallness through cunning.  He's a wily little provocateur.  He is half Bear's weight.  I often think it's Gabriel who is the alpha dog of their little pack.  If he wants the chewy toy that Bear's pulverizing, he takes it away.  If he wants to lay on mom's lap while she's sleeping, he'll bother Bear until he vacates the warm comforting nest that goes up and down with mom's breathing.
            Bear adopts a cool attitude.  "You want to be alpha?  Okay, be alpha.  I don't care.  You're a pipsqueak and I could eat you for breakfast.  I don't care.  Be alpha."
            That would work except that Gabe is a teaser and taunter.  Gabe goes
'neener neener", blows raspberries, gives the finger.  Or the psychic four-legged equivalent of these gestures.  Don't treat this as hyperbole.  The gamut of subtle communication available to these creatures is enormous.  If we, as humans, fail to perceive what goes on amongst our animal friends, that's due to our lack of sensitivity.
            When Bear is sufficiently provoked to knock Gabe sprawling he goes crying to mama.  Gabe is a real crybaby.  He screams as if he's being tortured when mom picks a burr out of his paw.  We have to hold our ears.  Ow!  What a piercing, pathetic wail!  We've learned to take Gabe's screams with a grain of salt.  He screams for effect.  When the burr-extraction is done, he calmly goes  his way. 
Peaches as a kitten
            The animal count in and around our RV/home is two dogs and four cats.  There are two indoor cats, bright orange tabbies.  We have a sluggish long haired male named Andrew and his sister, a short-haired female named Peaches.  
            Peaches talks, nags, wakes us in the middle of the night, demands Whiskas cat treats like an addict.  Peaches is a pain in the ass.  Her voice  isn't annoying like the yowl of a Siamese cat.  It's more like a car alarm that won't go off.  Ever.
            An oft-repeated refrain in our home is this: "Peaches, will you SHUT UP!"  No, excuse me.  It's really "Peaches will you SHUT..THE..FUCK..UP!"
          The Whiskas quiets her down only because she's busy chewing.  If she could meow and chew at the same time, she would.  She wants attention.  She wants to be on the bed because other creatures are on the bed.  She wants the cat toy Andrew is playing with.  She wants me to scratch her belly.  She wants whatever someone else has.  And she bitches about it incessantly.
            One remedy is the squirt bottle.  We keep squirt bottles loaded and near at hand.  A mere shake of a squirt bottle will often cause Peaches to run, hide, and, mercifully, to be quiet.  We're not cruel.  Peaches gets plenty of love.  It's just never enough.
            Gabriel and Peaches have a special relationship.  Gabriel has appointed himself the official Peaches Squelcher.
            Peaches teases Gabriel until he chases her down the length of the RV so that she has to jump on the dashboard.  Then she acts as if Gabriel started it.              
          There's a little step at the foot of our bed to enable Gabe to join us without needing a lift.  The step has become, in our household spatial economy, a choke point.  Who controls the step controls access to the bed.  Peaches likes to park herself on the step and wait for Gabriel to try using it to get up or down.  Gabriel is stuck.  Peaches knows this.
            A staring contest ensues.  It goes on and on.  Five minutes.  Seven minutes.  Ten minutes.  Peaches and Gabriel, staring at one another.  Then, booom! an explosion of running cat and dog as Peaches takes off towards the dashboard with Gabriel hot and barking on her tail.  She gets up high where she can't be reached.  She pretends total innocence.
            Neener neener neener.  Raspberry.  Middle finger.  Or the psychic four-legged equivalent of these gestures. 
            Gabriel may not have Bear's power and stamina but he compensates with ruthless unprincipled trickery and manipulation.
            The litle shit.  We love him.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Look: A Poem About Missing And Finding Love

Look around you
at the people, so driven,
by a force
relentless as gravity
inescapable as day and night, life and death.
The power that winds us and grinds us,
makes us crazy is the hunger for love,
the search for love,  the absence of love,
the loss of love.
Its effects are everywhere,
visible, invisible,
in this landscape of loss
and loneliness
the search grips everyone
obsessive as a drug hunger
so intrusive and demanding
that we are not even aware
as it seeps into the air we breathe,
the molecules of our daily existence
have sponged it up
so that it becomes like the music
from the next apartment
or from a passing car,
a beat felt,
vibrating up through the floor, humming
in the walls, everywhere.
I will wear clothes that get me love…
I will scent myself
to find love…
I will paint my face
to attract love…
I will sculpt my body
to perfect love….
I will groom my hair
to waft love…
I will signal my hunger
without knowing my desperation…
I will scream my loneliness
in silent longing glances
across parties,
in stores,
twist my neck,
twist my soul
for its wanting……
want my soul
without knowing
that it is love
without a search
without a need
without a struggle.
It took me but half a life
to meet the person
in whom love made a home for me.
I twisted and howled so loud
I did not see her when she first knocked at my door.
Her face was not familiar
her smell was strange
her voice was odd
I kept looking
like so many fools before me
love did not make the noise
of the neighbor’s apartment
the thump of the passing car
love was unexpected
because I was drawing children’s pictures
in a book with a silly title:
True Love For Soul Mates in Eternity.
That was the wrong book.
My love gently took the book from my hand;
here, she whispered, look around you
this is what love really is:
only when you’ve exhausted your immaturity
are you ready
to care for someone
as deeply as I now care
for you.
Look around you
at the heartsick lonely ones
who sniff greedily but disdainfully
for a few moments
at the possibility of love
and then move on,
hoping somehow love will find them
when they have missed its delicate sign
a thousand times, so busy with the pursuit
that they have failed the simple lessons
of caring.
Now I have, at last, exhausted my immaturity:
now your voice is familiar,
your face is beautiful
your music is here,
in the room with me,
not some distant fateful sound,
here, with me,
I hear you, I see you,
I smell you,
I love you more
all the time.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I've written hundreds of versions of a query letter for this novel.  Hundreds.  The ones that I've sent haven't worked for me.  I know that I'm trying to promote a project that isn't much in demand these days:
a literary novel.  About ten years ago I had a prominent editor offer his help free of charge.  He thought the writing was audacious and fresh.  We weren't a good match as editor/writer.  The relationship turned strange.
This latest query letter is, I know, a bit too long.  But I think it's pretty good.  What do you think?  Really.
Help me out, fellow writers.

Dear Agent,

            The literary turf of my novel, CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN,
is similar to that of Jonathon Franzen, Dave Eggars and Richard Lethem.  It's about fifty years in the lives of members of a midwestern Jewish family.  The major focus of the story is the war between mother Esther Kantro, and her son Aaron.
            When Aaron is nine years old his talent for music is discovered by an influential concert soloist.  Aaron is offered a precious scholarship.  Esther tries to squash this opening, tries to flatten her son in all his aspirations.  We don't yet know why this is so. 
              Aaron wins the scholarship but sidesteps the ambitions that other people have for him.  Aaron learns about jazz from his fourth grade teacher.   Aaron's passion is ignited and he is consumed by jazz for much of the book.  He finds his apprenticeship with a successful musician named Zoot Prestige.  It is Zoot who provides Aaron with a mentor and spiritual guide.  Zoot is a sly wit, a very tricky cat.
            CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN, at 125,000 words, is divided roughly into three segments.  There is the world of jazz.  There is the world of 60s high school in a Jewish suburb.  And there is the world of Afghanistan, in 1982 and 1996.  In Afghanistan Aaron finds the inner resources to confront his demons.  
            My writing career began with a sale to Playboy Magazine.  My short sci fi humor piece was represented by Scott Meredith.  The story won Playboy's Best Story Award.   My budding career was unfortunately interrupted by a long illness.  I returned to active writing in 2000.  Editor Barry Malzberg offered his assistance with CONFESSIONS after Mr. Meredith's death.  I've since written and published as a photographer for Shutterbug Magazine (six articles, two magazine covers), eDigital Photo, and The United Nations Environmental Photography Exhibit.  I've shown literary pieces in Exquisite Corpse, Species Link, and Truckin.' 
            CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN is a book that will have a special draw for baby boomers.  It deals with adolescent life in the 60's and includes cameo appearances by Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.  If you are interested, I would be glad to send my material. 


Art Rosch
Rohnert Park, CA

Saturday, June 4, 2011

No Excuse: a meditation on the use of violence

 I would not label myself a pure pacifist.  There are situations in which I know I would fight.  I've been as honest as I can be in writing this poem.  I'm not strong enough to turn the other cheek.  I would fight to protect my loved ones, certainly. The photo is of my grandson, a child so beautiful that my heart breaks when I imagine the world he is inheriting.  He has resources undreamed of, however, and he will find his way to become a compassionate citizen of the world.

 No Excuse

There is no excuse for the agony of the world.
There is no excuse for a single person to be starving.
No excuse for anyone to be without a safe home.
No excuse for children to be frightened of invisible menace.
No excuse, no excuse, no excuse.
Anyone who tells you this killing, this maiming,
this bombing is justified,
is revealing a criminal lack of imagination.
There is no excuse to be without a creative idea,
a new way to solve a problem,
no excuse, no excuse. 
To be mired in the endless slavery
of historical cause and effect
is no excuse.
To be defending one’s self from oppression
is no excuse.
To be reacting to outside danger
is no excuse.
There is never an excuse
to use violence, not even to prevent greater violence.
Using violence always causes greater violence.
No excuse for the weakness of force,
no justification for violence.
We had to stop Hitler, we have to stop Al Qaeda,
is that an excuse?  No.  Is that an explanation?
Perhaps.  Must I live with this explanation?
Must I treat it as a rational solution to any brutality?
Never.  There is no excuse. 
What can I do about this insoluble problem?
I don’t know.  Write poems? 
Do you have any better ideas? 
If you do, and it is not an excuse
for adding agony to the world,
please, please, tell me, tell everyone
right now.  

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