SunWinks! August 31, 2014: Cubism Isn’t Just For Squares

SunWinksLogoDear SunWinkers:

Cubism is an artistic movement of the 1910’s and ‘20s exemplified by Picasso. The idea of cubism is to deconstruct the objective components of a subject and reassemble them in striking ways. So Picasso pulls out eyes and nose and breasts and contours and assembles them on the canvas as though he had turned around and thrown them over his shoulder like a bridal bouquet. The effect is to open the mind and force us to look at the inner structure of things without being seduced by phenomena like symmetry and photorealism.

So it is with cubist poetry, which breaks its subject matter down into discrete pieces and juxtaposes them in unusual ways, creating a nonlinear effect on the mind that would otherwise be inaccessible underneath layers of the familiar flow of meaning and language. Continue reading


New Poem: Virtual Tumor

I’m normally very protective of my poetry, but I’m posting this one as text and protecting it with a Creative Commons License* in hopes you will share this with your communities so it can reach someone who needs to read it.

*You may copy and distribute it any way you like as long as you attribute it to me and don’t alter it.

photo: kitty

Serefina reads over my shoulder

Virtual Tumor


My cat has a tumor under her eye.

It looks just like a ripe cranberry.

She’s seventeen years old,

eighty-five in human years.

Given her age,

even a biopsy would be risky.

So there’s not much to do but watch it grow.


My brother had Kaposi’s sarcomas

all over his face.

We went to the pizza parlor and the deli once.

He was totally unself-conscious

as were the food workers who

greeted him like an old friend.


My wife has a lump in her breast.

You can’t see it.

You can’t even feel it.

You wouldn’t know she had cancer to look at her.

She embraces it

as a source of blessings,

and it has been already,

only just embarking on her

twenty weeks of chemo.

She’ll be just fine,

but even so, she teaches me

how to embrace life.


My tumor is even less visible.

It’s a virtual tumor,

hidden in code amid ganglions of nerves.

It’s the voice in my head that

urges me to destroy myself,

the voice that says things like

What’s the use?

I can’t take one more day.

I need a fix.

I just want to die

or (on a good day)

I just want to sleep.


Back to my kitty:

she seems to be comfortable enough.

She still purrs

and eats

but she seems to sense her days are numbered,

and she responds by coming to me for love

and petting and skritching

every chance she gets,

like she wants to get the most out of life

while she can.

I used to let my daughters give her the attention.

Now my girls are grown up

and kitty and I are close as father and daughter.

We are treasuring each day we have left together.


I didn’t get enough time with Bob, but

unless something goes terribly wrong,

Carol and I will have another twenty years,

and we will treasure every day of that, too.


Because when it comes right down to it,

life is all about the skritch.

That’s what Carol and Serefina are teaching me.


And that voice in my head that wants me to die?

I don’t hear it much these days.


© 2014 Douglas J. Westberg. Please reblog, share, copy, distribute at will with appropriate attribution, but do not alter.

Creative Commons License
Virtual Tumor by Doug Westberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


SunWinks! August 24, 2014: Keeping It Short

SunWinksLogoDear SunWinkers!

William Stafford got up at four in the morning and wrote a poem every day. Robert Bly admired this and spent a year writing a poem a day, which he subsequently published as Morning Poems.

 I’m just guessing here, but I don’t think you can write “The Waste Land” or “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” every day. I was writing almost a poem a day a couple months ago, not in response to a challenge, just feeling fecund. Most are a page to a page-and-a-half long.

You get a feel for a certain length. The beginning is about half a page. The development is about half a page. And the ending is about half a page. You write the beginning, and after about 6-10 lines, it’s time to start thinking about getting into the development. It’s very much like the difference between sitting down to write a minuet or a sonata. Continue reading

Caption Contest

The Caption Contest Returns! I’ve included my own captions, unlike when we did this on Gather, but please contribute your captions for one or more of these as well. Just put them in a comment with the photo number(s).


Beverage Warmer

There must be a better way…


LOST: Comma. August 20, 2014 in front of Compass Oncology. Answers to "Muffy."

LOST: Comma. August 20, 2014 in front of Compass Oncology. Answers to “Muffy.”


Your Speed: 10 MPH

Riding by on my bicycle…

C is for…Part 12

If you don’t know, Carol is blogging her cancer experience. Follow it for all the dope. Here’s the latest installment!


C is for Conduit


Okay, it really isn’t called a conduit or even a portal…they call it a port which stands for port-a-cath, but it is a way to take Chemo or give blood with out being stuck a million times, in a million veins, and today I had my port put in my chest.

Doug drove me, of course,and because I’m always such a nervous-Nelly about being on time, we got there about a half an hour early.

Boom ! I was registered, by Debra.  Do you know they put the identification band on the patients ankle now instead of the wrist?  I was glad I had a nice pedicure!

Boom! Marcia called my name and took Doug and me into a room.  Room number 1313.  Hmmmm.

Labs, tests, questions.  Yes, my birthday is STILL 12-21-48.  Seriously, I know they ask to make sure they have…

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Sunwinks! August 17, 2014: Listing to Port

SunWinksLogoDear SunWinkers!

I would sure love to see some of you so-called non-poets, especially my fellow editors, take a crack at a list poem before we leave the topic. If you can make out a grocery list, you can write a list poem. It’s fun! You’ll be the envy of your friends! You can add “Poet” to your business card!

Review the examples in last week’s column. You can see the possibilities are endless, and there’s no way to “get it wrong.” Bottom line: if you say it’s a poem, it’s a poem. If there’s a list involved, it’s a list poem!

  • The list doesn’t have to be the whole poem
  • The list items don’t have to be single words
  • The list items don’t have to be all in the same form
  • And if that weren’t enough,
  • The list items can be interrupted with parenthetical phrases

So I expect to see lots of list poems next week. There’s just no excuse!

Continue reading

SunWinks! August 10, 2014: Check It Twice

SunWinksLogoDear SunWinkers:

Reflexive Pronoun Error of the Week:

Illinois man ‘showing off’ shotgun to friends fatally shoots self in head to prove it is empty.


Now on to this week’s column:


You make them to take to the grocery store…

You make them to do your Christmas shopping…

You make them to keep tabs on your money…

What are we talking about?

Duct Tape Wallets, of course!


I’m kidding. We’re talking about…



There’s a form of poetry called list poetry, also known as the catalogue poem, that goes back many centuries. The ancient list poems served as mnemonic devices: Polynesian list poems, for example, helped the islanders remember the names of all the different Polynesian islands. What amounts to list poetry can be found in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Homer’s Iliad, and it would not be stretching the point too much to include the genealogy in Matthew 1. Continue reading

New Story: Shear Coincidence

Shear Coincidence


A Zen monk was bicycling through a residential neighborhood in East Vancouver, Washington. He was pedaling along a random side street, miles from home, as a consequence of meandering around checking out garage sales, when by chance he came upon a man pinned underneath his lawn tractor beside the curb in front of his home. The monk took in the scene and asked himself, “Is this really happening?” He raced up to the man and set his bicycle down.

“Are you all right?” he asked the man, a typically but not grossly overweight Caucasian man in his fifties or sixties, evidently the homeowner. The tractor was on its side, half off the curb; the man was lying on his side with his legs underneath the steering wheel. He was struggling with the tractor, but in his position, could not budge the tractor or slide out from under the steering column.

John Deere lawn tractor“I just need to lift this off me,” he replied. The monk lifted the tractor by the steering wheel and with some effort wrested it off the man’s legs.

“Are you okay?” the monk asked again, concerned the man’s legs might have gotten crushed or something.

“Yes, I’m fine,” the man said, “can you help me up?” The man extended his hand and the monk helped him to his feet. It took somewhat more effort than lifting the tractor, actually, but between the two of them, they managed it. “Thank you very much,” said the man. Continue reading

Update on Carol

Carol went to the cancer clinic for the first time yesterday, for orientation. They are moving very fast. Her surgical oncologist is wonderful. Her MRI is scheduled for Wednesday.

We got a reality check Monday, but Carol is remaining extremely positive. The prognosis for a full cancer-free recovery requiring only a lumpectomy as far as the breast is concerned is 100%, we have been assured. On the other hand, the reality is that the cancer is “Stage 2 or 3,” the lymph node is cancerous as well, and Carol will undergo chemo, surgery, and radiation.

Again, on the bright side, Carol has the best possible care and the best possible insurance. And the best possible husband. Just as soon as he gets over the shock. The good news on that score is whereas in the old days, he would cope by going to bed for a week, now his coping mechanism comprises buying used books and doing vigorous yard work.
Your support and love is deeply appreciated. Don’t forget about us. Every contact of any kind is a boost.