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




Soft Targets

I have a golf swing I struggle mightily with.  But once in a while I’ll loft a ball softly near a distant pin at the driving range, and someone watching will say to me, “you have a really nice swing.”  I don’t like to look a gift horse in the mouth–but nice?  What’s nice about it?  I have a hundred things going on in my swing, six of which are useful and none repeatable.  During my swing I think a thousand things, and a thousand different things from swing to swing.  Which are the nice things?  Nice on the range but not on the course?  Nice today but not tomorrow?  Nice with a six iron but not with a comma?
That’s what I hate about golf.  Writing too.

July, 2014

The Game

Visiting Hours

Worked all day and evening.
Havent seen her since yesterday.
Trundled into the house, she hugging my heels.
No time for whiskey; She has an appetite.
Order up!
Purrs and paws my pants while I take too long
to scoop her kibbles from the plastic bin.
Now what the hell, you furry fickle?
Two bites and youre scratching at the door?
Youre spayed! That tom wont take you.
But I see that the moon will. 

Aug. 13, 2013

When I wrote the above first version of this poem I imitated my daughter’s writing process.  I had an experience, recognized its potential, and immediately wrote it down.  It should be simple.
This process works well for my daughter partly because I’ve taught her to always swing for the fence.  Partly also because I’m careful to stay out of her way, and because there has been less crap in her life to pollute her perceptions.  She mostly throws down the right words on her first try.  If she makes small mistakes, they shouldn’t matter–proper punctuation is for adults.
I am an adult.  Tenderized by middle age, I don’t often swing for the fence.  Hell, my life experiences have made the fence all but invisible.  Instead of exploring my thoughts, I tend to write what I believe I ought to be thinking, or what I hope will seem to others to be good thinking.  So I must approach writing, especially poetry, incrementally.  Instead of baseball, I play golf.
Every poem has a par.  I tee off with a driver (usually hooked behind a handsome tree) and proceed toward a distant hole in fits and fights against my own mysterious nature.  A hole-in-one is theoretically possible but highly improbable.  For me, writing is a game of one damned thing after another–of seeing the light but listening for the tick of the bullshit meter.  Writing is rewriting.  Driver, six iron, wedge, putter—perception, delusion, epiphany, closure (that’s a good hole).  What keeps me playing the game is knowing the woods are full of as many flowers as lost balls.
Here is what may be the finished version of the above poem.  My daughter warned me against fiddling too much with the original.  For me, though, such weightless subjects as cats are opportunities to disregard the bullshit meter.  It’s not Eliot, and that’s fine.

Visiting Hour

Worked all day and evening.
Havent seen her since last night.
Trundle into the house, she hugging my heels.
No time for whiskey; Rosie has an appetite.
Purrs and paws my pants while I take too long
to fumble through the cupboard, shuffling beans
and soup and sauce to finally find the fish flakes,
and bend to scoop her kibbles from the bin.
Order up!
Now what the hell, you furry fickle?
Two bites and youre scratching at the door?
Youre spayed! That tom wont take you.
But I see that the moon will. 

Aug. 17, 2013

From an Image of Dunbeath



Impended by November’s damp,
I would brace against a rocky shelf.
In oilcloth, beneath an old sowester–
my back to the wind to guard the ember
of a good cigar; a flask of Highland Park
in a felt pouch hanging from my neck;
a surveyor’s notebook in my left hand
and a stub of a pencil in my right–
I would ask no more from the storm
than synaptic sparks to connect
my words and sensibilities,
perhaps mistaking how what rules the
firmament above writes dreams below.

                 G W Sisk
                 Nov. 2012


Must My Cat Be My Muse?

I often start a poem while reclining on my living room couch. The first lines sometimes sit down next to me, like a smart woman wearing a blouse with one unfastened button too many. My nosey cat, Rosie, understands that writing poetry shouldn’t be so easy. She doesn’t wear a blouse, but she understands a lot about buttons.


Rosie, I’m trying to write!
While you examine my leg
with unmanicured nails,
and sound my heart with purrs,
you bother my hand with
your head hard as marriage
(yet, warm as your affairs).
I’m arguing with myself,
and fighting presbyopia.
Have what you want!
Must this be all I get:
a wrinkled impression
of the man on the moon
I see at the base of your tail?

G W Sisk


June 26, 2011