About Gavin W Sisk

I am a photographer, artist, writer, tinkerer, baker, dad, and much more. I enjoy measuring things, and I’m easily distracted. When I should be in the garden pulling weeds, I might slip away to my little shop where I’ll clean my calipers and wonder how to use a frequency counter to write a poem. I can name a few of the things that make me smile. Otherwise, I don't recall what truly is my favorite movie, book, or scotch. I also don’t remember which charms lead me to fall in love. These things may all be forgotten, but they are not lost. I know and enjoy them when they visit. I appreciate that life isn’t fair, though I don’t enjoy it. It seems especially unfair that we should have to work so hard for so long, and risk so much, before we can come to accept this fact. I blame it all on opposable thumbs and our ability to measure things.

Just Pie

I have a pie in the oven, an apple pie. It might have been my father’s favorite, but I don’t really know. He treasured all gifts–pies, cookies, golf balls, tie clips. They were all wonderfully the same. He treated all M&Ms like they were the last on earth, hiding them in his sock drawer and eating them one at a time. His golf bag was full of dirty old tees my brothers and I would scrounge from the bushes when we caddied. And when he died I put his ashes in a simple, unvarnished wooden urn I knew he’d prefer.

My father enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in WWII as a private, firmly believing he wouldn’t survive. But rather than getting himself shot, he ended up two years later as a captain and base commander in remote British Guyana. Mildew and rum were the greatest threats there; and whenever he entered the jungle on regular patrols to find fictional Japanese troops, the only things actually in danger of being shot were the iguanas.
It was a simple but good life in the jungle. The water was no good, but the Army made sure everyone had all the Coka Cola they could drink. And, of course, the Coka Cola went well with the rum. To more righteously boost troop morale, my father would regularly hop a C-47 to Miami to buy small packages of cactus needles for the mess hall’s old phonograph–always small packages because the constant need for replacing the quick wearing needles required frequent return trips for more. I suppose he also felt his simple life needed some contrast for its full value to be appreciated. As well, Miami’s war population had swollen with pretty women (including a few princesses) who needed his attention.
In the meanwhile, my mother, whom my father had not yet met, was attending to her own captain. He was an Air Corps man too, and like my father, did not expect to survive the war. But after a short romance, he packed up their marriage and flew off to Europe in a B-17, never to be heard from again. And my mother returned to bucking rivets on a bomber assembly line. Her needs were simple. Having spent years kneeling in prayer in a cloistered convent, she could find peace standing up all day to miles of polished aluminum. I imagine each rivet was, to her, a bead on a rosary. For my mother, the simplest efforts were gifts to God in thanks for life given. I made her urn a little fancier than my father’s. It was mahogany with a lacewood top and included a little compartment for trinkets and prayers. She wasn’t extravagant but she enjoyed nice things.

The pie has finished baking and I’m crying a little because it was for my parents and it didn’t come out perfect. Not that they would have cared, but I feel like the pie barely survived me and my oven. “For Christ’s sake,” my father would probably say. “It’s a pie, not a war!” My mother would add, “Its the most beautiful pie ever made!” Then my father would see how stubborn my disappointment was. He’d smile and probably warn, “It’s wrong to measure a pie by the battle that was fought, and then forget its sweet taste.” I miss them both.

Happy Veterans Day.

G W Sisk


Fear of Dreaming


This flummoxing affliction.
Cries carom off the bedroom door
and box his father’s ears:
an invitation to mad Martians
who march with coffers of roses
with thorns, which he fears.
“It’s bad! It’s ruined! I want it!
It’s gone! I need it! I need it!”
His terror grinds like rusted gears.
This inclement condition of a
knife drawn through his dreams,
of the permanence it shears.
A box of hand-grenades
is in his head, and the pins
fall from his face as tears.


G W Sisk


Call of the Wild

Copyright Gavin W Sisk 2017

Opponents mill around the square, mixing a bit, tugging at their de-rigeuer gas masks and balaclavas. Conversations go to baseball, the noisy helicopter, sign construction, an armored policeman in bike shorts, dinner plans, Trump. Then some loudmouth throws a verbal punch, and all the other mouths open at once, like eaglets screeching over half a regurgitated mouse. Five minutes of synchronized flag waving passes; then it’s back to cigarettes and small talk and chatting up the mounted cops, who happily break their stony countenance to tell you about their Facebook page. At six o’clock, time is up and they all agree to march to the next event. Both sides wait politely for the light to turn green before slowly moving down the street, looking like lemmings putting off the argument of which cliff to jump from. With editing it will be news.

If you watch documentaries of Fulani men dancing, it’s seems like intense lipstick dervishes that last all day without pause. Anthropologists are insecure about portraying these things–about ideas of culture moving smoothly and seamlessly through their perfect days; but what actually happens is this. Dark-skinned people from several villages sit in the hot African sun to tell stories, share food, and pass gossip. Every hour or so, several young men, with carefully painted faces and ceremonial dress, get up and do a Little Richard routine for the few young women who are paying attention. It’s a contest. The best dancers get laid by the prettiest women–though that’s often been figured out before the dancing began. In any event, most of the villagers wander home when the afternoon and the gossip get old. There are cattle to tend.

Uncredited photo



Gavin W Sisk

Pain Management

A while back, maybe ten years ago, I was referred to a specialist to have a growth on the tip of my tongue evaluated. It turned out to be a tumor, and though not particularly dangerous, the doctor decided to remove it then and there. I agreed. The problem, he warned, was that numbing my tongue would likely hurt even more than simply cutting the growth off cold turkey. Being a guy, I agreed with that too. 

Out of a drawer came a weird looking metal device, which the doctor clamped to my tongue for stretching into a pained caricature of Gene Simmons. And before I could mumble an objection, he whipped out a number-ten samurai sword and and began whittling (or whatever doctors do with number-ten samurai swords) away at the tumour. I almost passed out. I have been hurt many, many different ways, but never like that – never to that extent. 

The doc apologized for the pain, but reasserted he had no practical alternative. I’m a guy, so I tearfully agreed. As consolation I rolled out the door with a bottle of Oxycodone and tried to forget the whole experience.


The kitten hangs out on my pillow in the early morning. She thinks my hands are prey, and when I stir she swipes lightly at whatever inattentive fingers sneak out from the covers. This morning she actually caught one. The needle sharp, middle fish hook on her right paw got lucky and caught the pad of my left middle finger. It stuck. We played tug-of-war for five seconds, middle finger to middle claw, while we both screamed obscenities at each other. Once she finally unlatched, my eyes uncrossed and the poor (uninjured) kitten ran off to hide.


Pain is more interesting if it can be compared to prior experience. When you hit your thumb with a hammer, you instinctively relate it to something like being stung by a wasp. If your Corvette falls off the jack stands onto your chest, you might compare it to the time you raced your motorcycle into a wall. So it goes for everyone, I think – though maybe not the motorcycle part. But so it goes for me. I can tell myself that no matter how much it hurt for my kitten to finally catch her mouse, it’s nothing compared to having a vivisection performed on my tongue. And that’s strangely comforting to consider.


A while back, I started having a problem with my throat that causes me to walk around grunting and coughing like a sick gorilla. I’ve been referred to a specialist, whom I’ll be seeing tomorrow. He’s the same doctor who slayed my tongue ten years ago and he now plans to shove some sort of optical device down my throat to take pictures and help diagnose the problem. No one has mentioned anything about pain management. 

Now I’m anxiously wondering, fish hook or samurai sword?

Gavin W Sisk

Watering the Horse

“…pain…lots…sometime in the next ten days…without warning…”

The doctor might as well have warned my penis will fall off sometime in the next ten days.  So how does one wait for something that’s possibly more painful—and less productive—than childbirth?  With practice slides down a giant sword into a vat of iodine?  Or nude skydiving through a Saharan sandstorm?  Maybe body surfacing at a dry ice plant in Juneau?  All three?  But in the meanwhile, I have to pee.  I have to pee now and I’ll have to pee again in fifteen minutes.  Except, I really won’t have to pee at all.  My brain says, “Warning, sir!  Your urine reservoir is nearing critical capacity.”  I reply that I peed just fifteen minutes ago, during the last ad.  Then—

“Negative, sir.  It is time to relieve your bladder.”

“Are you kidding?  You can’t say that while the leaders are on the eighteenth green.”

“I am sorry, sir.  If you prefer, it is time to drain the dragon.”

“Dragon?  I appreciate the compliment, but I really can wait.”

“Would you consider leaking the lizard, sir?”

“That’s the same thing.  Leave me alone.”

“I know you are a reasonable man.  How about paying the water bill, sir?”

“Clever, but I’m staying put.”

(Five, four, three, two, one…)

“Damn it!  I’ll be right back.”

“Very good, sir.”

(Fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven…)

“Nothing!  There was nothing!”

“Did you not make the bladder gladder, sir?”


“I am sorry, sir.  My sensors are normally quite reliable.  But do you not think there is still some steam to release from the radiator, sir?”

“There’s some steam, but it’s not in my radiator.”

“I am regretful of your present circumstance, sir.  Perhaps, after the next television ad, you will be able to shake some dew off the lily.”

“What?  Where are you getting this stuff?”

I am sorry, sir.  You left your tablet open.  Shall we change the subject to last night’s French lesson?”

“Lesson?  Uh, sure.”

“Tres bien Monsieur.  Oui oui maintenant?”

“That’s not real French.  Damn it, now I have to go again.”

“To splash the pirate, sir, or to fight the fire?”

“No, to visit the wizard, smart ass.  I know a few of those, too.”

“I am impressed, sir.  I took you as a piddly man.”


“I am sorry, sir.  I was going to say you could point piddly Percy at the porcelain.”

“Screw you.”

“Sir, I am your brain.  You have been screwing with me for a period of decades.  Is this a self-indictment?”

“Screw you twi…  Damn it!  I’ll be right back.”

“Leave no stone unturned, sir.”



Gavin W Sisk

July, 2016



Two Crows


Two crows, disciples.
Flew hard all day and set down hot
on haunches tucked beneath the laurel,
still as iron ornaments,
beaks locked open and raised in prayer
as if to Godot to finally come and pare away the sun,
waiting still and matte for a cool evening.
Will it come?
And will the cat wake up,
wonder if desiccated kibbles are better still
than all the trouble with instinct, feathers,
beaks and dust on a dead lawn?

Gavin W Sisk