Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


September 2011

Mackerel Sky I

Mackerel Sky I

Horizon III

Horizon III

Horizon II

Horizon II

Horizon I

Horizon I

Slings and Arrows

You know what it’s like –


you’re marched outside the gates of the fort,

rank ripped from the epaulets of your uniform,

saber broken in two over the commandant’s knee,

sent out on your pony

with only a canteen full of water

to fend for yourself

amongst the heathen savages.


We’ve all had days like this –


the last man on the parapet,

all of your other Foreign Legion comrades,

dead at their posts, their bodies

propped up against the walls, still holding their rifles,

the vast emptiness of the desert

endlessly sweeping toward every horizon.


We all know the feeling –


you pull the ripcord,

parachute fails to open

as the ground below rushes toward you.


We’ve all been there –


car screaming down a mountain road,

brakes go out, steering wheel comes away

in your hands.


We all hate when that happens –


you open the refrigerator to find

you’ve run out of beer,

and who hasn’t gone

into an important meeting, and realized

you’ve put your underwear on

inside out and backwards.


But then again, you have to admit,


we’ve all picked up the phone

the voice on the other end of the line says something about

unicorns, teddy bears, rainbows and hula dancers,

informs you that your ship has just come in,

your lease on life has been permanently renewed, and

there’s free beer tomorrow

and for all the tomorrows to follow.

Happiness and Compassion

I Will Become the Wind

When I begin to have conversations with houseplants,

take tea with relatives long dead and gone,

and see things that just aren’t there,

or maybe they are there, but just not here,

I will become the wind.


I will become a resounding gust swooshing through treetops,

black walnut, locust, maple and oak, shagbark hickory and weeping willow.

I will blow through branches and boughs

of quaking aspen and ancient, towering pines.

Sing harmony with birds as they twitter, tweet, chatter, chirp and cheep.


I will become a current of air that blows papers off your desk,

musses up your hair and jangles wind chimes on the porch;

an unseen force that marshals advancing armies of purple thunderheads;

a Blue Norther that drives bristling whitecaps

from a churning lake onto stony beaches.


I will be a velvet messenger carrying the fragrance of lilacs and lavender,

a gentle breeze to cool the brow

of a man who sits in the warm sun of late afternoon,

contemplating a piece of fuzz

as it floats in the air;


holding court amidst ferns in his garden, discussing politics and poetics

with boisterous black-eyed susans and brazen bumble bees.

A man who wonders if he really can taste layers of licorice,

plum, pepper and vanilla in his Zinfandel,

as described on the label?





I admit that I am not

a very sentimental man

or one of the great romantics.


But when I gaze into your eyes,

heart to heart, and soul to soul,

it shatters all preconceptions about love and eternity.


I know that you accept me

for who and what I am – a conflicted man

with many faults and flaws.


It does not matter to you that I hold

contradictory political views, or that my knowledge

of Greek mythology is not what it could be.


You do not think that I am fat,

try to save me with religion, preach to me about politics

scrutinize my vices or criticize my bad habits.


I hold your head in my hands,

stroke your smooth ebony cheeks,

feel the velvety underside of your chin,


run my fingers

under your red collar and scratch behind your ears.

You wag your long black tail.


Let us sit out in the early afternoon sun

and listen to the sounds of birds, and boats on the lake,

me with my book, and you with your bone.


We’ll discuss how, later, we will drive into town.

I will turn the music up loud, and you

will stick your head out the open window,

your long, pink tongue hanging out,

ears flying like banners in the breeze.

(Copyright Michael Gillan Maxwell 2011)

Riding in the Rain

Labor Day

Today is not at all like

the past two days.

First of all,

it’s no longer the weekend.

It’s Monday.


it’s not hot and sticky,

but cold and rainy.


Today is Labor Day –

a national holiday to celebrate the American worker.

No small irony in these times…

One of my European friends described it as:

“That funny American holiday at the end of summer…”


Summer’s last hurrah,

one last celebration

of picnics in the park,

hot dogs on the grill,

cold beer in coolers,

boats on the lake.


A day to celebrate the life of Riley,

to lay in a hammock

and contemplate the subtle nuances

between work and labor and toil,

to observe poofy clouds transforming

from dragons into unicorns,

to shoo away flies in the sultry heat.


But this is not like another summer holiday,

the 4th of July

with its festivals, fireworks and flags.

Summer stretching out forever,

an open road, the beginning

of an endless highway where all things are possible.


This is the anti-climax, the denouement,

the final act, the fat lady singing.

It just doesn’t have that festive, holiday feel.

First of all, there are no poofy clouds,

it’s gray and pouring down rain.

Furthermore, it’s no longer the weekend.

It’s Monday.

The Boys of Summer


If I am elected King, money shall grow on trees

and the on the bodies of beasts of the forest.


If I am appointed Chancellor, I shall institute a snooze button that stops time

until you’re good and ready to get up.


If I ascend to Kaiser, I shall decree Wednesday a day off with pay,

to recover from Monday and Tuesday and get ready for Thursday and Friday.


If I am elected King, every Monday will be the day before a 4-day holiday.


If I become Heap Big Boss of the Applesauce, gonna be some changes made!


If I am hired as Chief Event Coordinator, there will always be Free Beer Tomorrow!


If I am appointed as Dean of Hedonistic Studies, a Task Force will be formed to

investigate reports that Mondays are being inappropriately used for work.


If I am elected to the Board of Bacchanalia, we will drink like Vikings until dawn

and still wake up fresh as daisies.


If I am appointed Commissioner of Physical Existence, I will roll out technology

that makes it possible to DVR life

so you can rewind for do-overs

and fast-forward through the tedious parts.


If I ascend to Master of Time, Space and Dimension, you will be able

to adjust gravity to your own personal preference.


If I become Queen of the Roller Derby, I get an all-time automatic head start

all the way to the first turn.


If I am elected King, unicorns will run wild

on their own island off the coast of Virginia.


If I am chosen as All-Time Captain of Sandlot Baseball Games,

I get automatic first and last pick.


If I am appointed Head Honcho, I will amend Roberts Rules of Order to allow

the use of high volume air horns and Professional Wrestling takedowns at all meetings.


If I rise to the rank of Commodore, everyone will get a free sailboat.


If I am chosen as Miss America, I will bring an end to world hunger

and negotiate world peace.


If I am elected King, daily naps will be the law of the land,

with overtime pay for dreaming.


So it be written ….

so it be done…..

etc. etc…..

Mojo Hand

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