portrait #2

1974-2rp (1).b w

this is a portrait of a young man coming out of his [insert your favorite analogy here: pupa, shell, closet.] he’s been working on this moment physically for at least 21 years, if not longer psychically; the dream of so many before who did not. his new life shocked no one. it caused no natural disaster. he lost some friends (which even then did not bother him.) he made a lot more. there were miscues, missteps, mistakes and other ‘mis’ses: the affianced ‘boyfriend’ whose smooth body, ruddy nose, and aggressive behavior can still be recalled as vividly as if he’d just been freshly, left alone in his bed, cold, angry, hurt(ing), and confused by what he thought it should be and what it actually was. was it rudy? alan? john? what about the blond who picked him up in the park and took him to his apartment on belmont and proceeded to — you’ll forgive the constant referencing of sex, but, really, that’s all there was, that was the identifier then, the difference on which you proclaimed your freedom, cried out in the night, early morning, late afternoon, at the lake shore, on the bus, at school, work, that creeping paranoia of otherness staring at your back as you walked home from the ‘el’ stop, the occasional catcall that made your spine stiffen and your gait stumble as the target got affixed to your back, ready, aim, fire.

but it never happened, that shot, although it was never far from his consciousness (he carried a certain amount of psychic awareness around with him like a handkerchief just in case someone sneezed or there was blood on the tracks–that may be the result of otherness, too, a little bit of the boy scouts, careful upbringing, manners instilled by grandmothers, aunts, that midwestern ‘gosh-golly-ness’.) he went about his life, a partial list would include school, work, drinking, smoking pot, cruising the park at lawrence avenue and lakeshore dr., drooling over a roommate, blind to the obvious and cognizant of the hidden, his world a negative ready to be developed. we’re unsure, at this writing, how long he may have waited for the positive, blind as he was to the chemical bath required to bring the portrait to life.

is there a lesson here? not really, he’s not exceptional, his tale has been told countless times by better wordsmiths and worse, god knows worse. each tale though has it’s merits and badges, language, arts, sports, wood shop, and friendship. and yet, each tale is worth telling, a reminder that there is common cause among us, a magical thread of hope that the negative will not have been damaged while it was in storage, that its development (however it comes to be, analog or digital) will be as it should be and that the final portrait will be beautiful.














portrait #1


this is a portrait of a friend. we met my freshman year at moorhead state in minnesota and for some reason fell together (a conspiracy of like-mindedness). we smoked pot together, dropped acid and rode our bikes willy-nilly through the campus, hung out with cute boys (she dated a few, me not so much…still hiding), ate at the cafeteria together on holidays when everyone else had gone home (although her family was in minneapolis, close enough to go home, but instead she’d hang with me when i couldn’t afford the bus fare to leave this god-forsaken plain for another of equal god-forsakeness.) my junior year i moved to chicago to go to school at the goodman (s.a.i.c. at the time) and out of all of my friends i made at msu, she was the only one who stuck by me after i declared my homo status. she set aside those friends to remain mine. that’s how close we were. afterwards, as we made our careers (her in the graphic arts, me not yet having found my calling), i’d take the train or fly up to minneapolis and spend a week with her, she’d come down to chicago and we’d make the scene. letters were exchanged. she fell in love and got married, had children, moved to texas (of all the goddamn places), but still we hung onto each other. my mother liked her—and they would talk every-once-in-a-while before my mother died; she was as sad as i was when that happened, one of the few friends who actually knew what to say to me at that devastating juncture in my life. she rejoiced when i fell in love with m. and finally just before he and i moved to hawaii she came to visit. our last night together, we got drunk at cafe babareeba (lettuce entertain you!) and during a discussion of the differences between the sexes, i vomited (figuratively) a misogynistic statement and it landed squarely between us. she left the next day and i never heard from her again—although, once i realized what i’d said i apologized in letters and phone messages—but nothing. it hurt, this loss, and i berated myself for my stupidity, for not-thinking even when drunk, for being a dolt, for not even believing what i had said, what, what, what could i do to make it better and bring her back to me? as it turned out, nothing. but all these years later it still haunts me. i’ve made the excuse that of all my friends, this one, perhaps the most out-spoken, the most vigilant of feminists, did not value our friendship enough to stop and say, “you’re an ass and you owe me an apology.” if we were as close as i thought, didn’t i deserve a second chance? what else had i done that a stupid mistake, one she had to know i did not hold true, would be the proverbial straw/camel/back? i’ve tried to parse it, but i always come up missing the verb/adverb/adjective/noun/phrase/clause/conditional imperfect that would make it clear to me why she did what she did.



the big picture

i thought, for a moment, and then it may have been not today, but yesterday, that i would find some inspiration in these pictures, you know, a return, perhaps not triumphant, not caesar entering rome after the conquest of gaul (vini, vidi, vici), no, not that, more a long the lines of caravaggio sneaking into naples after running from rome, dead of night, all dark corners, heart pounding (mine, surely not yours), and yet, that’s not quite it either and so this problem of not finding the right words or finding the words at all seems still to hang around like last night’s dinner with red peppers and garlic and brussels sprouts (he burped.)

are you a big picture person?

or are you all about the details?

perhaps you fall somewhere in between–a little of this and some of that and as long as i’m standing here, i’ll take that one over there because blue is my favorite color (not true).


so, in the end, this may just be an aberration and not a return. i’ll have to see how i feel about it tomorrow (the big picture, not the macro).



Mythology (Phoenix)


If you look closely, you’ll see a woman standing on the eastern slope of the Missouri Buttes, a few miles from a geological marvel, a volcanic cone, an igneous uprising known to the Lakota as mato tipila.  Her hair will have ignited in a nimbus of ochres and oranges in the fading light of an autumn day.  She’ll be dressed in dark gabardine slacks, crisp white shirt with pearl-buttoned breast pockets, cowboy boots (now they could be dusty from her day and slightly worn down).  It’s possible that you will hear a horse snuffle in the long grass, but it will be off camera and unimportant to this story.

She’ll stand there, silent, unmoving (if you were to close your eyes for the briefest time, it could be that her image would not stay in your mind’s eye.)  tall and thin against the setting sun, the smoke from her burning hair pulled into the darkening sky to the east by the prairie wind (it always picks up as dusk settles on this open land) that carries with it the stories and scents of wayfarers and passers-by, native and alien, those who are at one with it and those who oppose its existence.

It may concern you that her hair is on fire, but look closely now, see that it does not appear to harm her and as you examine her fate, her face, her fleeting existence at this moment in the revolution of the earth (hold still and look up and see the stars spin in the quickening night) you’ll not notice any discomfort.  Her stillness, her position, her stature, so carefully constructed:  words and deeds, action/inaction, forgiveness/unforgiven, muscle/fat, water and flesh.

Can you smell the ash?  Can you hear the fire?  A prairie fire roaring from her head, the crisp, crackling snap of falling pines & falling lives, the snakeskin shedding, the tanning of deer hide (the smell of death), the click of bone on bone and woven into this basket of a life, filled with oat and wheat and hay and corn and prairie grass and prairie dogs, diamond-backs and grizzly bears, rusty old pick-ups and Nash Ramblers, the smell of whiskey (with a beer chaser) cigarettes and chewing tobacco, cattle drives, ranch dogs and “just-passing-through-ma’am” shepherds, sealed with the sweet sweat of cowboys and horses.

All of this flying ash, blowing east north east and away from her, still standing at last alone, cleansed and turned to the next star.  It could be now, that in the starlight and the moonlight of this most western of western moments (an Ansel Adam’s photograph) you’ll see her aloft, her feet pointing down and the blur of motion seems to be hovering around her, her shirt shimmering in the darkness, a smudge of bluing, but still, but still she does not move, patience truly one of her virtues.

She had poured her love, her life, her work, her laughter, her intellect into this moment, kerosene/buffalo fat/beeswax, a candle, a spark, igniting the flame and she tended the fire–her training, her gender demanded it. If you saw her at the feed store or the drugstore, the saloon on a night-out-on-the-town (oil and gas and cattle and hay wildcats/tomboys and old men living out the rest of their chapped existence in the hope of making that one last hit, a strike that would set them up for life, “yessiree, that’ll be the day I’ll sit on my front porch and watch that pump go up and go down and I’ll never worry about another thing ‘til the end of my time.”) If you saw her then, you would see that she was loving and fun-loving and kind and kind-hearted and happy; because we’re looking so closely at her, you will also notice her despair and unhappiness and you’d ask, “How many lives does it take to find the life you deserve?”



chelsea station magazine (published)

a chapter, “sic gloria transit [jason]”, from my memoir, “evelyn & son, ltd.” has been published in today’s chelsea station magazine. click through to read. as a bonus, the art illustrating the piece was created by yours truly in 1980 — contemporary to the story.

"allegory of fortune" by dosso dossi--image courtesy the getty center

“allegory of fortune” by dosso dossi–image courtesy the getty center


coming soon

Happy to announce that a chapter—“Sic Gloria Transit [Jason]”—from my memoir-in-progress—“Evelyn & Son, Ltd.”—will be published in Chelsea Station Magazine this fall. Publication date to follow.



joey-o-e-o-e-o, joey (i’m calling you)

the subtle click  of the hall closet shutting would wake him from the soundest of sleeps (the deep slumber of dogs), this connoisseur of walks. he could hear the rattle of the leash over the sound of a hans zimmer score, even before you said, “walkies”, he’d be awake and at your side, ready to head to to to to to there or over there, but here first, then there, let’s just go he’d tug tight on the leash as if there were not enough time to do everything that could be done on this one walk around the block.


we’d stop and i’d bend down to pat his head and feel his silky ears–ears that expressed all of his moods; eager, happy, joey.


“where’s joey?” one of us would say and we’d search the house, calling his name and find his legs sticking out from underneath the bed, dead to the world (figuratively at the time.)


he was patient with us, in the way dogs are with their humans, accepting our tics and odd habits (why don’t they smell more things?), as long as a walk was involved, even in the rain, the heat, the winds, it was always forward, never looking back. (except now, when looking back is all we’ve got.)


he failed obedience school, although he did learn to heel and to sit when requested, even if it made no sense to him at the time. he howled at other dogs we’d meet, scaring some, inciting others, making friends with a few and enemies of several–their scent a memory he never forgot even after he was blind and couldn’t see them pass across the street. if we were downwind and he caught their scent, he’d growl under his breath “i’ll get you yet, you rascal,” and tug tighter on the lead.


billy loved him. billy taught him the importance of being petted and held tight and how the love of your humans makes the world a better place. they were an odd pair, but brothers at heart, a harsh word never passed between them; they shared their beds, their treats, their meals, they even rode quietly in the back seat of the car together, and they’d sit patiently next to each other whenever we’d stop to speak with a neighbor, noses and ears alert to any danger.

joey laid down today, january 22, 2014, and did not get up. we held him as he left us for a walk with other dogs we’ve known and hopefully some humans, too. he was fourteen years old and we loved him very much.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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