Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


September 2011

Conversations With Chauncy and Dancy

It started out as playful banter,

a one way monologue,

a man chattering away absently

to his two dogs

as if they were human.

But then we started to have real conversations,

the three of us,

just like colleagues might have in the workplace,

or the way chums might chat

on a fishing trip.

Since I was always outnumbered,

the conversation seemed to drift

toward the more dogly things in life.

We did our best to keep it light and breezy,

and made an honest effort

not to veer into spewing doggerel

or spouting dogma.

There was an awful lot of talk

about chasing chipmunks and squirrels

and the conversation did occasionally

get a little emotional when certain subjects came up –

like skunks,

or the neighbor’s annoying jellicle cat,

the illicit thrill of stealing French miche bread off the counter,

the benefits of sleeping 22 hours a day,

the joys of shredding paper into a thousand tiny pieces,

the disappointment of not walking down to the lake every afternoon,

and the despair of pooping and peeing on the floor in the house.

These last two points sparked quite a lively debate,

as they asserted that this was a brilliant example

of absolute cause and effect,

the latter being the result of the former.

How could I argue with that kind of logic?

Tomorrow afternoon we are going to meet for cookies

when we will discuss the ramifications

of rolling in unidentified substances in the yard

and scratching ourselves in public.

New Bone

Emancipation Proclamation

Generate memoranda

Institute multiple change initiatives

Utter sweeping declarations

Leave final ultimatums on voice mail

Stamp red sealing wax with your signet ring

Speak in loud, imperious tones

Roll heads

Kick butts

Take names




Get the Hell OUT

of that sarcophagus you call an office


Leave your gray flannel suit at the door

Walk naked amongst the common man on the street

Spray rose petals in your path


Exult in being WHO you ARE

Cease to define yourself

by WHAT you DO for money


Celebrate freedom

Liberate your soul from endless toil

Renounce all workly things


Believe, brothers and sisters …



Hot Air Balloon

What Would Ernest Do?

If Napoleon were alive today

I imagine him wearing a large bicorne hat

standing in that iconic hand-in-waistcoat gesture

reaching for his I Pod Touch to dial in the 1812 Overture

from his “Classic Works of Russian Composers” play list.


I can see Sigmund

in his cozy mahogany paneled study,

his face illuminated by the soft light of his MacBook Pro,

as he Googles the meaning

of the idiom: “Yo Mama!”


Imagine how much confusion

might have been avoided

if Christopher Columbus

had been able to MapQuest

his route to the East Indies.


It’s not too hard to envision

a little fire at the Circus Maximus

getting out of hand and turning into a cataclysmic conflagration

while Nero was preoccupied

updating his Facebook status.


I can’t help but wonder

how the tides of history

might have turned

if Genghis Khan’s relentless advance across the steppes

had been broadcast on his Twitterfeed.


It’s easy to understand

how the Pony Express

would have gone right out of business

if homesteading rights had included

unlimited text messaging.


It doesn’t take a genius to speculate

how the Declaration of Independence

might have been written using GoogleDocs.

But I’d really like to know, what would Ernest do

with a Fishfinder in Old Man and the Sea?


The Dead Goat Society

The Dead Goat Society

I’ll never forget that last night. We were playing in a club called The Dead Goat Saloon in Salt Lake City. It was located in an alley just a block away from the Mormon Tabernacle, which presented a startling juxtaposition. Technically, there are no public bars allowed in Salt Lake City. They skirt around that by calling them private clubs. Patrons join by enrolling and paying a membership fee, which is basically a glorified cover charge, good for one night. However, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the patrons of these “private clubs” will behave with any more civility or sophistication than they would in a rough and tumble dive. The bouncer said we were the last live band after a 30-year run. They were closing up shop and reopening as a strip club, another surprising choice, given the cozy proximity of the Mormon Tabernacle.


It seemed fitting that we were the last live band, since we had played our first gig there years ago. We had opened for a well-known artist, and the night had been such a success that we had even changed the name of our band from Elvis on Velvet to The Dead Goat Society, in honor of the stuffed white goat that guarded the entry to that dark, tomb-like club. Our other name had been misleading anyway. People expected an Elvis tribute band, when in fact; we didn’t play any Elvis whatsoever.


The interior of the saloon was dimly lit and cavernous. Narrow, arched hallways opened into different rooms, giving it a distinctive catacombs-like vibe. The whole place had something of an illicit and conspiratorial air about it anyway, and this just added to it. It kind of felt like you were in the French Resistance or something. Portraits of a hundred dead bluesmen covered brick walls. With Jaegermeister on tap, the place was legendary as a saloon that had seen its share of drunken brawls. Chairs were weighted down with steel plate so they couldn’t be picked up and hurled as weapons, and surly looking bouncers lurked around the periphery of the barroom.


We were just finishing the sound check, when some biker, already totally trashed, started boogying like he was Lord of the Dance. He looked every bit the pirate with his do-rag, gold hoop earring, tattoos, beard, and leathers; but the real kicker was his eye patch. That really topped off the look. He lurched around the dance floor before crashing into a table, knocking over glasses and a pitcher full of beer and fell down drunk.


Someone commandeered a microphone and sang Happy Birthday as a couple did a slow bump and grind strip tease, tossing their clothes around the room. A lacy, black brassiere ended up draped over the headstock of my Les Paul, just as we tore into the Hound Dog Taylor classic, Give Me Back My Wig. Our harmonica player wailed over the guitars. Someone let loose with a blood curdling rebel yell, and a woman tore off her shirt, and climbed astride her boyfriend’s shoulders, waving her arms wildly over her head. She looked like she had been a regular there since the early days, and years of hard living, wild partying and gravity had taken a toll, if you know what I mean. This worked the already rowdy crowd into a frenzy, and everybody started hooting and hollering and dancing wildly. It was quickly shaping up to be one hell of a night. I took a slug of beer and wondered if it might be a while before we played again in this town. I thought that maybe tomorrow might be a good time for me to finally go hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I started plotting a way to load the goat into the van along with our gear.

Steel Guitar

On the Eve of the End of Time

Ripped from the headlines:

“NASA satellite plummeting to earth!”

This is predicted and expected

to happen today

on the autumnal equinox.

Some might think

the confluence of these two events

is not a coincidence,

but another signpost

marking the end times

or the end of time

that is predicted and expected

on the winter solstice.

Looks like it may be time

to get bare-chested and sweaty

in front of a roaring bonfire

to appease the pagan gods, elementals and wood nymphs.

Or just stay in the house wearing a hard hat

watching reality television, while trying

to maintain good posture, so I’m not slouching

towards Bethlehem.

Super Nova

Conversation Between Two Old Friends on Facebook

Monday was “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”

and I missed it!

What the Faaargh? (MS)



‘Tis enough to make me sign on

as a cabin boy all over again.

If I wasn’t so fleeberjigged,

I’d make the lot ‘o them

walk the plank and hold their own hornswaggles

whilst bein’ keelhauled…

Garrrrr!  (MM)


It just hit me like a kick in the balls from a peg leg!

You are looking for a job

when all the while, it was right in front of you

like a drunken parrot

swinging from a yard arm.




It has it all!

Plunder, pillage, bounty …  and the rum,

oh matey, the rum!

If this works out I’ll meet you in the future,

in the Caribbean,

on the shuffle board deck

aboard a pirated cruise ship!

Aaargh! (MS)


Shiver me tiverin’ timbers ye lubber!

Here’s to all o’ that and more,

or at the very least, a most glorious share

in the treasure trove afforded by slinging fish sticks

in an Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips franchise

on the near northside of Milwaukee!



prepare to be boarded…. (MM)


Michael Morgan Stone and Michael Gillan Maxwell

Inlet I

Inlet I

Horizon V

Horizon V

Horizon IV

Horizon IV

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