My best friend of forty-five years died not too long ago
and like the fool I used to be I reacted with machismo.
I was building a home on a mesa of wild rabbits and sage,
thinking about my pal I was depressed, angry, in a rage.
These friends need our help who are swimming in the water.
The Nile crocodile and the Congo clawless otter.
The American alligator and the Ganges River dolphin.
The Loggerhead sea turtle and the Utah Lake sculpin.
of Hurricane Patricia slamming into the little fishing village of La Manzanilla del Mar, Mexico, on October 23,2015, in the late afternoon, early evening light, until darkness
of palm trees that swished and swayed like pulsating jellyfish in the violent turbulence
of water-drenched green leaves pasted in elaborate patterns across colorful adobe walls
of a baby chick, in a nest, in a weak tree, of how it survived 165 mph winds, or not
The last week of 1968. In an old white house called The Ghetto West in Kalamazoo. A friend and I are in a basement room of barn wood walls and carpeting green and blue. A groovy space with a universe of stars painted on a flat black ceiling, candles galore, incense burning, and the mellow sounds from a stereo on the edge of a sunken floor.
I'm on my back, eyes closed, on the rim, head propped against a pillow. Mort, my guide, has asked me to swallow a 550-microgram tab of LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide.
Mort reads from The Psychedelic Experience; Leary, Alpert, and Metzner's book based upon The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I feel woozy, but I am able to listen. 'O Ron, the time has come for you to seek new levels of reality. Your ego and the Ron game are about to cease. You are about to be set face to face with the clear light. Do not become attached nor afraid.' Sometime later, musical notes become raw vibrant colors that merge and explode into dazzling molecular waves of energy. I sit up, open my eyes. The walls are vibrating, side to side, dancing, up and down, shimmying, to and fro, just before they pulsate into an intense red hot flame and melt away. Faaaaar out! I
think. But I did think. The point is not to think. To let go. To blow out, the flame of thought. To find the clear light. I lie down, relax, try to keep my, Ego Death, in sight. Eyes closed, kaleidoscopic images cascade over a spring of liquid inside my glistening arteries. Red, orange, and yellow psychedelic spinning childhood memories swirl, mingle, fuse with a retinal circus of floating amoebic forms. Darwinian insights carry my mind's eye back down the flow of time until the drumbeat of my heart, beats, with
Roger,35, is a tall, blond, thickset, redneck handyman, and as strong as a buffalo. He's dressed in a green-checkered shirt, brown safari hat, tattered jeans. His son, Denny,9, is small, thin-skinned, sweet. He collects stamps, listens to rap, and today wears tan pants, a teal coat, black tennis shoes, a Seattle Mariners baseball cap. It's cool in the Northwest. A mist hangs, below soft gray clouds and narrow bands of pale-blue violet sky. Rolling swells blanket nervous seas. A slight breeze whisks away the tips of dancing waves.
Roger and Denny are in a 15-foot aluminum boat. Roger is fishing for Sockeye Salmon in Puget Sound, near a gentle rip tide racing through a whitewater channel. The outboard motor churns, as Roger points his boat into the flow of the tide, and remains stationary. Next, he stands, steadies the throttle arm with one knee, casts his lure into a small pool, and almost immediately hooks a big, strong, fighting fish. Salmon like to run away from the tug so Roger gives out line. When his prey tires he tries to reel it back in, but before he can, this determined fish pulls his boat into a spinning vortex measuring over 50 feet wide. As the craft circles around just inside the perimeter of the vortex, Roger, Booming Yahoos, holds his pole over his head, while he, the terrified boy, and boat, are pirouetting around and around under his stationary rod and reel. All laughing stops when Roger's line tangles on the propeller blade and snaps. The beast, swims free. The engine sputters, dies.
A loud whine as Denny, dizzy, ashen-faced, slumps to the floor of the boat now spinning around in ever smaller and faster circles. With no oars on board to pull out of the vortex, Roger tilts the engine up, reaches down to untangle his line from the prop with a knife, finishes, lowers the motor, stands again, and pulls on the starting cord. The engine does not turn over. Roger pulls until the engine ignites, but the throttle with the over-sensitive spring is open too far, so while standing, when the motor sparks to life, the boat slings
Roger over a gunnel into the swirling sea. So now boy, in boat, with churning outboard motor jerked aside, and man, in water, are being sucked down into the funneling hole.
A clanging bell in the steeple of a small, white clapboard Southern church invited folks to worship for an hour or so. The knell resonated in the cool air over a parking lot with older cars, around the well-maintained lawn and shrubbery, and through an orchard of old apple trees before dissolving into a lush green landscape, of rolling hills.
Three narrow, arched, stained-glass windows high off the ground, were framed into the east and west walls. A utility door opened to the back, the south. And a large, arched, bright red door, up three steps, under an elevated, covered front porch between two more stained-glass windows, welcomed the black congregation at the entrance.
Today's sermon, delivered by robust Reverend Baker, was a message on the sins of homosexuality. Sodomy. His words, he believed, delivered directly from God, focused on passages from the Bible: One: Jude 6-7. 'Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, in like manner, giving themselves to fornication and going after
strange flesh, are set forth as an example and will suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.' Two, Leviticus 18: 13: 'If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall be put to death.'
1947. The sky was blue, the sun hot, the clouds white, the water cool.
Short, squat, Dr. Chicky,71, was sitting on a beach of fine white sand, on the shoreline of Lake Huron, in Michigan, his body lightly tanned, as he sipped mint tea, read exotic passages from a D. H. Lawrence book, and occasionally thought of the accident, and the driver who almost took his life, and left, in fact, both legs, from ankles to thighs, in solid plaster casts. Now, he hobbled around with two old rosewood canes; obviously, not very fast.
This is the story of two young bullies. One big, strong. The other, bigger, stronger. The location, a small Mexican seaside pueblo. Our first bully is shaped like a big ox, but somewhat better looking, and not as dark. He's carmel-skinned, with a broad head, wide engaging eyes, traditional black hair, huge hands, and shoulders like Muhammed Ali. He was a bully even as a little boy, taught by his padre to use his size to take whatever he wanted. A hand-me-down bully law, as his padre was taught by his padre. The women of la casa, both grandmothers, the mother, and several sisters, were large as well. I have no personal reason to believe they were bullies except in the capacity of enablers. Such is the complex nature of the Hispanic culture. Family oriented. Macho dominated.
This first young bully, Jose, worked for me as a peon one morning shoveling fill dirt inside the foundation of my current house. I'd been warned about Jose's family, but was desperate to finish the prep work before the steel and concrete hombres arrived the next day. Jose didn't work very hard, in fact, Jose didn't work at all. For some reason, he brought along a compañero, and the two men chatted all morning as Jose leaned over the wooden handle of his steel rake. I paid him at noon and let him go, wondering, if at some point I might endure his wrath. When Jose left, he said, "No hay problema, Señor."
The "no hay problema" part didn't turn out to be quite true. One week later, at a festival on the square, I bumped into Jose and two of his amigoes. I stuck out my open right hand as a gesture of continued friendship. Jose took my hand in his right hand. Squeezed tightly. He wrapped his left hand around my wrist, then removed his right hand from my handshake, grabbed my four fingers tightly, and pressed them back on my wrist at a 90 degree angle. Jose then said in perfect English, "I could break your hand right now and you would remember me for the rest of your life." Terrified. I was terrified, at the prospect of living with four mangled fingers and a broken, deformed wrist. I laughed.
"Jose, why would you want to do that? I thought we were friends? " Jose looked me in the eye. We both knew this could be a decision that would severely change my life. And possibly his. He smiled, let go of my hand, and walked away. I remember that moment.
In July I discovered seven rattlesnakes in my flower garden. The seventh serpent, had inadvertently threaded and trapped itself inside two adjacent holes of a chicken wire fence. And because it had eaten a rodent or bird, could not twist, squirm, or pull the bulge in it's body forward. Nor, could it squiggle out in reverse, so trapped itself to extinction.
I recently learned that Big Oil executives and corrupt Congressmen do not ring true. The Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, is on a witch hunt. Mr. Smith, has issued more subpoenas in his 3 years as Chairman, than the Committee has issued in 60 years. Mr. Smith, is demanding emails from organizations, like the Union of Concerned Scientists, who are investigating the possibility that Exxon/Mobil and other oil companies, have intentionally, distorted the American public's understanding of climate science. Mr. Smith, has received $600,000 from the oil industry. Fraudulent, lying, climate change deniers like Mr. Smith, and fraudulent, lying, Exxon/Mobile executives, are leading our species to it's own extinction.
I've known from childhood that the Bible does not ring true. Too many false prophets making too much money selling the idea of resurrection, when Jesus will give you a new body, not your old body as a wildlife creature, but a new body, to be united with your born-again spirit. Wrong. Your wildlife body is the only body you will ever have. Your energy may mingle in the universe, but cognizant, eternal life in heaven, is total hogwash.
Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, is Chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee. Mr. Inhofe, is a climate change denier who, coincidentally, has received 1.8 million dollars from the oil industry. Mr. Inhofe, wrote a book declaring climate change to be the "greatest hoax" perpetrated on humanity. Mr. Inhofe, recently brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate and declared; this is persuasive evidence that climate change is a hoax. I assume his declaration was based entirely on faith, because Mr. Inhofe, is a devout Christian who believes in the prophesy of the Bible. God, has assured Mr. Inhofe, that there is absolutely nothing to fear regarding global warming or climate change. I quote Mr. Inhofe, "The arrogance of people, to think we human beings would be able to change what He, is doing in the climate, is to me, outrageous."
When a man has spent his worth,
lying six feet under the earth.
Body stiff below the ground,
looking up towards a mound.
This poem's about Aunt Flo and Uncle Jim,
he always loved her but she never loved him.
But they got together anyway when each was about twenty
and bought a ranch in West Texas, 'cause my Uncle Jim had a plenty.
This is the true story of two passionate young boys: Jack, huge, broad-shouldered, dark, handsome, strong; Jimmy, small, quick, not very pretty, intense. The feud between these two begins in the second grade and brews like boiling poison in their hearts for ten years.
On the playground of an old stone school around a circle scratched in the dust, a crowd has gathered to watch these foes play a game of Cat's Eye marbles. Jack, on one knee, a large red Shooter marble between thumb and forefinger of his right hand, snaps it into the ring. When Jack's marble misses, Jimmy and his comrades cheer. Jack grumbles, and spits in the dirt. Jimmy kneels on both knees, takes a deep breath, fires his green Cat's Eye. When Little Jimmy's Shooter knocks Big Jack's last marble out of the ring and Jimmy wins, Jimmy screams with joy, then turns to shake Jack's hand. The last thing he remembers; a fist in front of his face. Jimmy awakens with blood running from his nose.
In the 6th grade at a country school of mostly brick and glass on a playground with but a few trees surrounded by fields of dry corn, Jimmy bounces out the front door of the long, narrow building at lunch hour, hears a commotion to his right, glances up, and sees Big Jack and several boys in a circle on their knees. They have a skinny blond-haired girl pinned to the ground, her white blouse up, her blue jeans down. Dirty little fingers are probing her secret places. Jimmy races to the office of the principal. Two male teachers yank the boys away from the helpless girl, who weeping, remains down, tightly curled, in a fetal pose. After school Big Jack chases Little Jimmy through one of those dry corn fields, but Big Jack is waaaay too slow and can never catch up, with Little Jimmy.
A year and a half later Little Jimmy is a baseball prodigy on a team where Big Jack thinks he should be the star. They are teammates, and Jimmy now muses, friends. When Jack invites Jimmy over to ride horses, Jimmy, excited, can't refuse. When Jimmy arrives at Jack's farm Jack offers him a horse. Jimmy says, "Thanks Jack. Where's your horse? " Jack says nothing as Jimmy grabs the reigns and climbs into the saddle of the glistening black stallion. Before he can get his feet in the stirrups Jack slaps the animal's rump. The big horse gallops at high speed on a well-worn path around a corner of the house. Jimmy, still bent over trying to get his right foot in a stirrup, glances up and sees a thick oak tree limb taking dead, broadside aim at his belly. He leans back. The big horse thunders through. Jimmy's chest and nose are seriously scratched. He's one angry,13-year-old boy.
My friend, Melody, and I were sitting on the veranda of our casa overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Mexico as a long, sleek, white sailboat cruised into the Bay. In unison we muttered, "That's one thing I could never do, be on a sailboat for a long time."
An old sea dog I hadn't seen in 10 years, Captain John, was soloing that boat. So, when Captain John asked us to sail for three days down south to Zihuatanejo, we jumped high.
Getting to the boat proved to be an adventure. I was in knee deep water when a huge wave lifted the wooden dinghy up and dropped it onto my legs. My feet, calves, knees, and thighs slipped into the space between boat and sandy bottom. Melody swam out.
We pointed west out the Bay, around a buoy marking a reef, then south to Zihuatanejo.
Melody and I live on a sagebrush mesa 12 miles west of Taos, New Mexico. On one side of our open, two-car yellow-pine garage is a nest with four beautiful Mountain Bluebird chicks. On the other side, another nest is filled with five baby Say's Phoebies. The two mother birds have been feeding these baby chicks for over two weeks.
The poet makes every decision in pursuit of a poem; what direction to drive, what hill to climb, what tree to kiss, what canyon to enter. It's June, I'm 3 miles west of our house on the crown of a rolling landscape of sage, juniper, and piñon pine. An occasional black volcanic rock dots the terrain. I'm standing on a wide, tongue-shaped precipice of mesa encircled on three sides by the deep Arroyo Aguaje de la Petaca, a dry riverbed with a narrow ribbon of sand winding through more sagebrush. The overbearing midday sun is at it's apex. I have patience for an overbearing sun. I have no patience for an overbearing bully. I'm looking for the body, bones, or whatever remains, of a murdered woman.
He, was once a cute, feisty, blond-haired little boy with a long straight nose and intense dark eyes, born and raised in St. John Baptist Parish northwest of New Orleans. She, a precious little girl with large doughy brown eyes and auburn hair from Horseshoe Bay near Austin. He, at 40, was a felon with cold eyes and a long record of arrest, including a string of DWI's. She, at 36, a former high school beauty queen and United States Marine, who for some unknown reason was attracted to dangerous men. He was a dangerous man.
Did he, have, an overbearing mother like so many serial killers I've read about; a Mom so twisted by the Word of Jesus she invented her own interpretation of Christian love?
I knew the moment I saw her nude in a figure drawing class in Kalamazoo that I was playing with fire. I knew the moment I touched her thigh and felt that tear in the corner of my eye that I was playing with fire. What I didn't know, when Barbara left me for
Eric and moved to Aspen, Colorado, was that my mind would burn, and that my Ronald James Stock spirit, would turn, to ash.
Shaft opens empty shaft to hot wet ruts of pulsating flesh so exciting routine itself revolves around the torrid coils of mock conception spilling infant song, but birth and death of sordid love awaken splendid drives of self-esteem and rippling up from righteous breeding pools are springs of despondent challenges of lightning sparks of fear. But I have no fear or worth so weak as not to try and die for sacred cause so I shall be what we are told one soon shall be. I, shall be the Second Son of God who's come to save us all, and I, will not allow myself to fail even if it means my death, upon the cross, of modern time.
In Chicago, on Michigan Avenue, I, walked up to a little white-haired old lady in a lavender and yellow Easter bonnet and said, 'Hello, I, am the Second Son of God.' 'How nice, ' she replied, then removed a dollar bill from her purse. 'Here's a little something for your cause, Honey Pie.' I, never did take her dollar bill...
My girlfriend, Jackie, and I had moved into the middle apartment of an old Victorian in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco near Golden Gate Park. The year,1970, and the Haight, after it's Flower Child Glory days, was no sweet garden, but a marginal neighborhood saturated with drugs. So our rent, at least, was cheap.
On a Sunday, at 10 in the evening, one week after we moved in, three friendly dudes occupying the basement apartment cranked the music up. It was party time. Loud party time. Extremely loud party time. So loud, the thin walls of our apartment were vibrating, vibrating, vibrating. We thought about joining the fun, but I had a long commute in the morning to my job as a picture framer down the peninsula. The gallery opened at 9 am.
We could not get to sleep, so I knocked on the door of the basement apartment and asked the men to turn the volume down. They did, for as long as it took me to get back under the covers. Now the music was louder. I knocked on the door again. Received the same response. Again. The same response. So I called the police and made a complaint.
Fifteen minutes later the cops showed up in force and spent an hour tearing the place apart. I fell asleep after they left. Early the next morning, before work, I walked down to see the apartment. The fridge was toppled; chairs upset; mattresses in disarray; closets emptied; drawers, upside down, tossed to the floor. Personal items scattered everywhere.
Piggy Wiggy! Piggy Wiggy! That's how the boys used to taunt her. Poor girl. To their 8-year-old eyes she was the ugliest thing on planet earth. Short and wide, but that is not what set Carol Love apart. It was her face, cadmium red and round as a plate. Ears, thin pink potato chips. Nose, upturned, flat, with exposed nostrils. Mouth, as cadmium as her face. Hair, brown and wispy. Eyeglasses; a shame, big, heavy, black an' gray, sometimes sliding down her nose, but when not, those deep blue eyes magnified a thousand times.
The boys were all perfect, of course, simply because they were white boys in America. Apart from their teacher, Miss Pew, these boys were in control, and they never, let up, on Carol Love. Nor did the girls. So Carol felt left out and wanted to do something special so the kids would love her, or at least like her. On her birthday, Carol brought in Baby Ruth candy bars. 'Wow, candy in the middle of the day, ' the children thought, 'Carol can't be all that bad.' Poor Carol wasn't all that bad, but her candy was, filled with crawling white worms. Carol broke down in tears, ran from the building and hid behind a large oak tree in the far west corner of the playground. It took sooooome coaxing from Miss Pew before Carol Love would return to the classroom and continue her arithmetic studies.
This old, white clapboard country schoolhouse with a single bell tower had a blue front door facing south, and 3 tall, narrow windows on walls east and west. Just inside the door on the left, opposite a vestibule for hanging coats and hats, was an indoor pit toilet.
One extremely sweaty day, when Miss Pew, tall, lithe, blond, with soft green eyes, was standing in front of the blackboard, Carol Love asked if she could be excused to go to the bathroom. "Yes, " answered Miss Pew. So Carol wiggled out of her seat, waddled to the vestibule, then closed and locked the pit toilet door behind her. Next, she lowered her pants, sat, pooped, wiped, pulled up her pants. But like you and I, Carol couldn't resist taking a peek at her poop. She leaned over the saw cut hole in the worn wooden seat and looked down. And because it was a hot, sweaty day, Carol's big, heavy, black and gray eyeglasses slipped off the bridge of her nose and landed on top of the pile of human feces 6 feet below. The pile of caca was crawling with little white maggots. When Carol heard the splat, she thought, 'Oh no! Ooohh, ' then turned to the one person she knew, loved her.
In 1976, in San Francisco, promoting The California Nuclear Safeguards Initiative, the first public referendum on the issue ever held in America, my crew and I painted 18,3-foot by 20-foot 'Yes On 15' canvas banners for storefront offices throughout the state.
Prop 15 was ultimately defeated in the June vote, but a week before, the California Legislature passed modest restrictions on nuclear power plant development. A start.
In June of 1977 I attended the first organizing conference of the Abalone Alliance, a potpourri of California anti-nuclear groups, in San Luis Obispo near the site of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, being built directly above the San Andreas Fault. The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, hosted over 200 participants who spent the weekend brainstorming on how to stop, with Mahatma Ghandi's passive resistance techniques, further construction of the plant. I became an active voice at this conference and was invited to read this anti-nuclear poem at the closing ceremonies.
Homo Sapiens Last Stand.
When an author is standing in front of you, reading a poem or prose,
pull up your very own lounge chair, get comfortable, relax.
Now, leave your body behind, reduce your spirit to one inch, only one
inch, not two, set aside your ego, and stand on the floor near your
Graduated, Professional Art Degree, Western Michigan University Studio Gallery on San Francisco waterfront for 3 years Paintings at www.ronstock.com Licensed General Contractor in Berkeley for 10 years Retired at 48, went on the Budget Highway in Central, South America, Europe, Africa for 4 years Now spend 6 months a year in Mexico and 6 months in New Mexico A sanctioned Director with the American Contract Bridge League Currently teaching art to high school scholarship students in Mexico Dabbled in poetry all my life, but now taking it more seriously)
You Don't Gotta Go To No God-Damn School To Be A Poet
My best friend of forty-five years died not too long ago
and like the fool I used to be I reacted with machismo.
I was building a home on a mesa of wild rabbits and sage,
thinking about my pal I was depressed, angry, in a rage.
I climbed near the top of a ten-foot ladder in this crummy mood,
afraid those feelings of my old friend's death might intrude
on my thoughts as I hammered a nail into a piece of soffit wood
and lost my precious balance as a man possessed of death should.
The ladder fell away, my left boot caught, the eyelet hooked, so I
crashed to earth and landed full weight on my right foot.
I shattered my heel bone and damaged my ankle to boot.
In the emergency room they called me one lucky old coot
because I didn't break both feet, my neck, or my back,
or worse yet, paralyze myself or die from a heart attack.
In surgery they drilled my bone at the ankle, heel, and shin
and screwed on a movable traction rod with stainless steel pins.
I was three months on crutches and now I walk with a cane,
preoccupied with trying to find a patch of blue sky in my pain.
Now most people go to church on Sunday and I think that's quite odd.
I'd rather fall to my hands and knees and wait for a sign from God.
Just last Sunday I was feeling good while raking dirt around my land,
thinking about a magazine article I could not quite understand.
The author said to be a good poet you had to go to school, so I
assumed for over fifty years I'd been playing the tragic fool,
by writing about my feelings, having fun, and opening up my heart,
about pain, confusion, love, and friendship, and Ramie's death to
And while raking that soil I saw the outline of my broken right foot
and had a splendid revelation that reinforced my personal outlook.
Unless you want to win awards, make money, or braggadocio it, you
don't gotta go to no God-Damn school to be a poet.