Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Nuts on the table

That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door)

Ivan Albright


Oil on canvas; 97 x 36 in.

The Art Institute of Chicago,

Mary and Leigh Block Charitable Fund (1955)

I have taken to throwing myself under the bus lately and tonight is no exception.  Somewhere in my mid-late 30’s I was walking around in The Art Institute.  I came upon this painting and my world stopped.  A large painting, I paused to take in all the detail and for the first time in my whole life, a painting ‘hit me’.  Like a ton of bricks.

(Cross-posted at The National Gadfly)

It is a portrait of a locked door.  It looked like an antique coffin from the 1800’s or something.  It has cuts, nicks, scrapes, scratches and dents all over it.  It has been beat to shit.  Hanging on this door is a wreath of flowers, from long ago.  They are dried, sagging and have been on that door for years.  The handle is old fashioned with a skeleton key resting in the lock below.  Reaching in toward the key, from just outside the frame, is one old, wrinkled hand.

Then I saw it – what the painting was there to show me.  I was no longer looking at a painting.  I was looking at my life. There was something behind this door that the I have been afraid to do – for years…for decades.  The futility of my wasted effort, time and opportunities were there to see.  Regret, frustration, delusion, melancholy, anger, sadness, shame and helplessness all carved into the door.  I have done everything to this door except to turn the key.  The key has been there all along and is the one thing that I have avoided for all this time.  The flowers placed in a perversion as a shrine to mark my own paralysis mock the joy I could feel if I ever stepped through that door.

I looked at every scratch on that door and could almost remember to the day, each place in my life where I turned back from doing what I had to do.  Lies, delusions, cowardice, shame, blame and sick comfort of familiarity with my own failure are everything on this side of that door.

A life half-lived.

On one hand, I felt relief and gratitude.  The painting showed me my soul better than any mirror.  On the other hand, I still turned away from the key.  It would not be on that day, that I walked through the door of my regrets to claim my Self.  My victory that day was to briefly see myself for who I am.  To be honest and like my sobriety, take one true breath from honesty.  One after another.

I’ve gone back to that painting from time to time, but I do not need to.  I can no more forget the image of my life than I can forget to breathe.

I have been touching the key for days now and tonight, I am turning it in the lock and walking into my life.

Back when I was 19 and could count on one hand, the number of times I actually had sex with a real woman – I dreamed of becoming a writer.  I feel a fire within me to write that is like no other feeling in the world.  I wrote poetry, prose and ideas.  I felt within the lines of pages I created, a connection between myself and the world.  I felt good, whole and part of something.  I felt myself giving into the world, some piece of me that could touch people.

At that same time, I was also using drugs and alcohol to cope with my fears, shame and sadness.  Predictably, the substance abuse killed my energy and silenced my mind.  I stopped writing, so I could get high.  It was then and there that I shut the door.  That door was the promise of my life, delivered to me upon my arrival at adulthood.  I turned it into the monument of ritual disappointment that it has existed as ever since.

Over the years, I would feel the need to write and I would set words to paper.  These spartan relics of my true calling would invariably be tossed into a drawer, while I set out on a course of denial and settling for something less.

The Door woke up the writer.  It was the writer’s mind that could hear the artist’s brush.  I am exactly twice the age I was when I put down my dreams.  I picked up blogging to feed the writer within me.  It worked.  Blogging feeds the writer every day both in the opportunity to create and express that which is inside of me – and for the chance to hear feedback immediately.  I have prose to write and maybe more poetry.  I have been working on two novels in secret for two years now and a short story.

I am declaring this today, because I know that the only way I turn that key is to tell myself in plain sight of the world:  I am a writer.  I intend to pour my life’s blood into it and by ‘it’, I mean the craft of placing my humanity on paper for others to see their own humanity. I am not going to hide anymore.  I am choosing my life as a writer.  It is who I am and who I always was.

As readers, you are witness to me now and if I have done my job, you will see something for yourself in this repossession of my Self.  I leave you with all the remnants of my writing that remain.  Some are poems, some are pieces of the world that the writer gave to me as reminder of who I am.

This is me, putting my nuts on the table, visible and defenseless.


“Chinese Vase”

7:00am, I’m in a chinese restaurant just off Cermak Rd.

The room is full of old chinese men.

It seems like the only thing they serve here, is coffee and cigarettes.

Luckily, I brought a cigar.

The coolee behind the counter brings me a coffee with cream in it, but

I didn’t ask for cream.

In his pidgin english, he informs me that I can get some Dim Sum, at a modest price.

I’m starving.

I came here because there is a gambling casino in the building.

From the looks of the crew in this room, I’d say that it’s probably been a rough night.

Most of these guys seem too old to be still employed,

but the chinese work until the day they die.

Besides, the money has to come from somewhere.

Only a western mind thinks it can make a living from gambling.

Different values.

They seem to value their teeth less, as I look around the room.

The guy next to me has the shakes.


I notice, out of the corner of my eye, a little girl.

The only female in here.

She could be 30, for all I know.

She wanders over to the register and takes out about $10,000.

Most everyone ignores her as she goes into the kitchen.

Nice business, this coffee shop.


“the silent revolution”

we speak of each other in terms of millions, slander and accusation.  I parade my opinion around like somebody even asked me in the first place.  the days are filled with the tireless stream of indignation and complaint.  I see more faces on the way to work, than my father did in a year of high school.  the farms that brought bread to a generation are underneath lawns and shopping malls.  we live in the roar and scream of image and sound, bellowing from our highest towers and the frenzied spin of satellites piercing the kelvin abyss we abandoned them to.  people drive through the wilderness in air-condit
ioned comfort and surround sound to visit a waterfall and call their agents, leaving in their wake broken trees and the death of some animals and insects that are not on the endangered species list.  people go to work each day for the express purpose of killing one cow after another, while down the road thousands of hens lay eggs with the help of hormones, until they bleed.  a man stands on the corner with a bible, telling strangers how he can save their soul without even asking their name.

I am looking at the mind of a killer through a microscope.  he is our new icon, in a maelstrom of icons and names for things.  we stare and wonder at the horror and perversion in grisly detail.  we call it satan and disease, blaming it always – for blame is everywhere.  we look closely at the killer, to see how far he will go.  how strange and pitiful he is, how he lacks the advantages the rest of us share.  he he needed only ask for help, before he made such a terrible mistake.  how he could have been saved.  we don’t even see blame in him, he’s just been wronged by someone else.  even the devil, you see, has god to blame.

we point to the killer with hands, still dripping with blood from our last meal.  our pockets filled with the money to pay our assassins.  our houses are adorned with the trappings of slaughter in plastic and steel.  what separates the killer from us?  is it more vicious to slay a man or woman rather than a cow or rat?  is there a difference in blood spilled for sustenance  or rage?  does the killer only lack the shared opinion that we are different or better than any other creature?  maybe the killer just sees life as a slow march of death until his own.  maybe we are the delusional ones, a common delusion for the sustained good of all.  the killer is simply calling our bluff.  he calls a spade a spade, and is ostracized for it.  we dare not agree with him, for fear that the whole house of cards come thundering down.  in the end, we deny his vision up to and beyond the point where we are forced to kill him.  our madness is the cornerstone of our castle.  it will not be challenged.

but, as life grows cheaper, I fear that we will have a lot more killers to contend with.



Tonight, the clouds are filled

with an amber pitch

of Heaven’s caged fires.

I feel a moment coming, when

I may set them free.

Soldiers, saints and fools

are the only souls with justice

in these woods tonight.

They usher in the silence

of the storm about to break

The bitter winds blow

like whispers in a castle.

Gypsy’s tambourine

is the hiss of a snake.

No torch will light these shadows

as I wander the winter’s woods.


“Macabre Waltz”

I slept with a vampire

to rid my love

of the night.

Upon morning’s arrival

I found my way

to be blocked.

On secret departures

into the night

I recall:

I slept with a vampire

after a quiet macabre waltz.



Cities, clouds, moments

now dazzled by,

now lost,

in a brilliant chaos



“Pharaoh’s Dream”

All my plans crumble,

while the desert burns.

Life’s folly does humble

with swift, sharp turns.

One day, nothing changes.

Next day it’s all gone.

Critical arrangements

in the alabaster dawn.

Golden face and cowl

in a pitch black gloom.

Timeless breezes howl

outside my sandy tomb.



Existence is Reality’s father,

with Time as her mother.

Sired by Chance,

then left alone,

she bore a child…

and that bastard

is me.


“magical wonder”

Where is the magic,

I wonder?

Wild magic, bold magic,

white magic, too.

They say that magic

went yonder.

Took the elves, took the knights,

took the dragons too.

I don’t think magic

could wander.

It may be rare, but it is there

inside of you.




play in the moonlight.

Strange wolves

run to obey you.

Elven queen,

made of shadow and line.


in a summer forest.

Give your sorrow

to the stars.

Moss bed

in a mushroom grove.

You shape the dreams

of the boy lying there.

He doesn’t hear you sing

or see your forest shining

in his honor.

Silent bells

toll in the distance.

Still dancing alone.



Tonight, the clouds are filled

with the amber pitch

of Heaven’s caged fire.

I feel a moment coming, when

I may set it free.

Soldiers, saints and fools

are the only souls with justice

in these woods tonight.

They usher in the silence

of the storm about to break.

The bitter winds blow

like whispers in a castle.

Gypsy’s tambourine

is the hiss of a snake.

No torch will light these shadows

as I wander the winter’s woods.



  1. you most certainly are a writer…  and a not-too-shabby one at that.

    this is one of my favourite artists.

    he is quite an intellectual and according to him, he spends his:

    “days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network. . . .More than anything, my work deals with pointlessness. It takes all the arrogance out of everything you do when you know that god is so much bigger than you are. And yet everything you are and do and see is filled with god: the grass, the asphalt, and the people fighting over Aqua net at Wal-Mart. . . .You can make a profound intellectual statement just by basing your efforts on silliness.”

    which should tell you something about me – i’m an idiot.

  2. I first came across Tony Ryder while looking for good books on drawing. He does incredible portraits in graphite. His paintings are really something too. Nothing abstract here. Pure replication and even enhancement. Here’s one of his paintings –… Click on the button below the image on that page to see more.

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