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.

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


All’s Fair in Love and Golf


At the driving range–
I’m swinging pretty well lately.  Really, better than I ever have.  Most of the improvement has come from recognizing my age and not swinging out of my shoes.  I may even be earning smug rights.  Catholicism be damned–why do I always need to feel bad about what I love and for coming out on top.
Anyway, the guy two stalls down is struggling to recognize his own age.  He’s also struggling with every club in his bag.  And he’s pissed.  Somewhere in his thinning hairline is the pin to a head grenade, and it’s coming loose.
“God damn it, Mike!
“You chump!  You freak!
“Just hit the fucking ball, idiot!
“You suck!  You suck!  You suck!  (He did.)
“Stupid fucking practice balls!
“What the Hell is wrong with me!
“No, dick head; not like that!  That’s bullshit!  Bullshit!
I used to sound like him too, sometimes.  When I did, others avoided me like potato salad left in the sun all day.  And though I’m generally helpful to strangers, I avoided this one.  I was almost out of practice balls and, with an empty wallet, wanted to concentrate on making the most of the ones I had left. But I couldn’t avoid him for long.  After a while he walked over to watch me.
“Jesus, you have a great swing.  You gotta have a single-digit handicap.”
“Actually, I don’t play golf.  I just come to the range once in a while to try and remember what it’s like.  I played years ago but wasn’t very good.  I certainly couldn’t hit very far.”
This wasn’t entirely true but I knew what was coming next.  I raked another ball from the tray with my eight iron and made an easy three-quarter swing, sending it on a high flight that ended a yard left of the 156 yard flag (my best swing all month).
“There, you see?  I pulled that one.  I’m getting old and I’m really not that good.”
That was that.  He walked back to his stall, picked up his clubs, and left.  That worked great for me.  He left about a hundred balls behind, and I got them all.  I probably could have followed him to the parking lot and bought his clubs cheap.  Senior discount!
Life isn’t fair, but golf always is.

Gavin W Sisk


Young, I raced through summers in bare feet,
through sunburned fields with clover-crazy bees,
over shards of brown glass pushed to mounds
as alters heaped by mad old men cast down

to share their pain with an oblivious child.
Soap, a stiff brush, Mercurochrome, a smile:
salves for cuts from countless careless flights
across the scraps of countless shadowed lives.

Are paper, pencils, promises, and prayer;
silver clouds, the golden rule, our faith in fair;
sex, song, and vows to live in vivid view
of fields unmarred by mounded dreams askew

bars enough against brigades of venial sin
that live and somehow arm and aim to swim
and swarm through windows of our present tense
and change our songs of flight to dissonance?

Gavin W Sisk