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On a Walkthrough of My Wife's Childhood Home 


while she helps paint the walls,
the novice historian in me stirs,
and I picture her there, in the den
of youth. She runs a hand along a fresh coat
just dried, and walks
with the childlike tread of discovery,
the raised dots and grooves
leading around the room
as though a kind of Braille had been laid into the texture.
I try to find some trace of it in a pass of my fingertips,
as if I might find a faint outline—
a hieroglyphic remembrance,
a cipher entombed there,
if such a cipher could exist
for the complete knowledge of a person.
It must be involuntary, the encryption, a terminal
where the memory sits, doggedly typing,
coding the files of experience,
eyes dry and heavy in the screen’s glow.
If a scraper could chip, layer by layer, to the base
while still preserving the rest,
I might break off and pocket a fleck of each,
maybe to mix in a can of our own.
A pan of lustrous beige lies in the corner,
the roller still wet, the last section blank, anxious.
I touch the spongy cover,
and rub the paint between forefinger and thumb
as if to blend it with my skin
before it hardens.

Bryn Homuth
On a leisurely spring morning
May 18, 2015

"Inspection of the Old House"
Oil on Canvas - 1874
Ivan Kramskoy 



What an English Master's Degree Taught Me

(c) City of Edinburgh Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

If a man wishes to be literary, he should not aspire to be literary. If a man wishes to be a writer or a critic, he should do anything and everything but dash out into the world to become a writer or to criticize. The man who sets out to be such a thing will only be like many of the common English majors today, who walk about and look very literary but have nothing to say. There was the horrid movement known as aestheticism. "Art for art's sake," they cried. "Art needs no moral!" "Down with Didacticism!" and so forth. I wonder now if we are not in the age of "artist for artist sake." For man a modern artists will amble around and look artsy, so as to be thought an artist, but few modern artists create art. That is, few modern artists create works that attempt to point to a higher truth or reality. Few modern artists do this because few are moved by the world. And one might say that a dead man is a man not moved by the world. But even a man without a pulse spins around with the globe. The unmoved man is not dead; he is the opposite of dead; he is perpetually running backwards against a world that would propel him forwards. The modern English graduate student is this man. 

And the truth of all this is evident in those literary circles where groups of men and women gather around. They're assumed to be witty, to read, to love words, and they all probably give lip-service to those things. But few actually read, few actually write with any wit, few are moved by poetry with cunning wordplay. What the English graduate student is moved by today is the social issue. Bring up Shakespeare, imagery, and iambic pentameter, and a yawn emits from most of these literary bookworms. But it isn't really a yawn, or, if it is, it quickly becomes a scowl. Why waste time with Shakespeare's meter when we could be discussing his supposed sister? Why laugh with Pickwick when we could be examining how Pip exists in a liminal space? Around and around go the bookworms until everyone is firmly convinced that J.M. Barrie is a Pedophile, Dickens an anti-semite, Stevenson a raging misogynist, and Toni Morrison and optimist. The bookworms will spend fifty minutes on Macbeth's masculinity and fifty seconds on his declaration that "life is a poor player strutting his way across the stage." And all the while the bookworms want the world to think that they love literature and words and that they're witty writers when there is more love and wit in a seven year old in his backyard, acting out the adventures of Grahame's Mole and Rat. 

And what I've learned about myself as an English master's graduate is that the last literary group I'd be associated with is the academic group. For the truth is that the true literary man finds adventures in every nook and cranny of life. Then, he can't help but write about it. He cannot help but notice the variety of life. He writes poetry not because he wants to be considered a poet; he throws half of it in a safe-box for none to read. He writes poetry because for him life is poetical. For him, birds do sing in meter and squirrels screech in Alexandrine couplets. The true literary man sees life as it is — not some dull, morbid social issue, but as a tragicomedy. Every man he meets is a comedy; every man he meets is a tragedy. The literary man recognizes that the world began as a comedy with the marriage of two true minds; and it began in tragedy with the fortunate fall. And if life is but a stage for the literary man, if he is but a player playing his part, it is not because of the vanity of life; it is because of the vanity of the self. The literary man does not self-identify or self-construct, for to do either is to self-destruct. The literary man does not have time to think about his gender because he is too busy taking in the wonder of the created world.

What an English master's degree taught me is that if you want to sit around with a bunch of bros and discuss literature, the last place to go is an English department. If you want to figure out your gender or find out how racist you are, the English department is the place for you. But if you want to discuss literature and everything that comes with it — which may include gender and race — then you find a few men who know nothing about theory but who love books. You might even seek out conversation with the mailman who has never read a book. For the mailman, more often than not, still believes in truth and can have an intelligent conversation. A professor denies truth and then talks as if everything he is saying is true. I say, a conversation with a gardner about geography is more literary than any conversation about the geo-political structure of Grimm's Fairy Tales. There is more literature, true literature, in the soul of the sailor, for he may believe he has a soul. And I would seek to sail with him.

Broom Snow,
Written on the eve of graduation,
Manhattan, KS
May 14, 2015

Painting: "The Bibliophilist's Haunt (Creech's Bookshop)"
William Fettes Douglas,
Oil on canvas, 1864


A Group of Professors - An Oil Selection

"A Group of Professors"
Oil on Canvas - Newcasle University - Date Unknown
Unknown artist

It is true, in a sense, to say that the mob has always been led by more educated men. It is much more true, in every sense, to say that it has always been misled by educated men. It is easy enough to say the cultured man should be the crowd’s guide, philosopher and friend. Unfortunately, he has nearly always been a misguiding guide, a false friend, and a very shallow philosopher. And the actual catastrophes we have suffered, including those we are now suffering, have not in historical fact been due to the prosaic practical people who are supposed to know nothing, but almost invariably to the highly theoretical people who knew that they knew everything. The world may learn by its mistakes; but they are mostly the mistakes of the learned.

--G.K. Chesterton, "The Common Man"

For more items of this nature please visit our Oil section here but not here. 


The Home Run

I'm fumbling around with a new form of writing that requires I no longer use the first person, my apologies for talking of myself in the third. It's unwarranted and disgraceful.


The buoy was a home run. A young man named Broom grabbed a stumpy stick, and, throwing a stone in the air swung and missed. Then Broom tossed the stone higher, waited patiently as he lined himself up, swung, made contact and gazed with glee as the stone soared, and sunk, and splashed, and sunk some more, several yards in front of the buoy. Another man, Jason, commented and chattered about, while side-swinging his arm and releasing a smooth stone out to the raging waters. The wind whipped waves that day out at Tuttle Creek, and the skipping-stone hit the waves from the side and surfed along from one to the other. Broom tried, but failed. His skipping-stone faced the waves head-on, and upon impact flew high in the air, landed upon another wave, which sent it high before it submerged.

Broom and Jason continued down the shoreline, feeling the wind against their faces, as the sinking spring sun sang its song. Spring in Manhattan, Kansas is a delight—a mixture of warmth and cold, dry and wet. Just northwest of town, across the Tuttle Creek Dam on Kansas highway thirteen, a small parking spot leads to a path that follows the western coast of the reservoir. The main path wraps around, about halfway up, a high hill, overlooking shoreline nearly fifty feet below with the top of the hill another hundred feet above. The path is lined with trees to the left, all blooming in their unique way during the spring. When the sun sets from that spot, a man can catch it between two trees that overhang the cliff, and at the right moment, he will see three suns, two of which play in the whipping waves of the water. Then, the path curves downward to the right and opens to a large, barren field, full of dead bushes. A small cove is tucked into this area, and many a man takes his dog to that cove, tossing tennis balls and sticks while watching the canine fetch in the water. Though the path continues around the large hill, away from the cove, Broom and Jason wisely left it for the wild.

The peacefulness of this area is enchanting. A few cars can be heard passing over the dam, but they cannot be seen down in the cove. On their way back, Broom found a tennis ball in the water, hitting the shore with the waves. Picking it up, he tossed it in the air and swung with his club, missing.

“Aye! Sa-wing batta, batta, batta, sa-wing!” cried Jason, sitting on a log and drawing in pebbles with a stick.

“Strike one,” said Broom, readjusting his stance.

He tossed again, too high and too far. No swing.

“Ball one!” he cried. Jason continued his heckling from the cheap seats.

“One and one, two outs. Bases empty. Gordon is up,” said Broom.

A good toss, and good stance. The swing came too early!

“You call thatta swing!” came heckles from Jason.

“Ah. The one-two, coming up!”

Another bad toss and the count was tied. Then, a good toss, a fine stance, followed by patiently waiting, and then, pure contact amidst cries of disparagement from Jason. The ball flew high and far. It soared at least fifty yards and then, plop! It landed nicely amongst the waves. As it flew against the sun, a small yellow ball chasing another, Broom stood and watched with ego blooming in his bosom. He stood leaning on the club like a cane, fully ready to talk smack back to Jason.

“A triple,” he said. “Gordon’s on third.”

“You can’t do it twice, the way you swing!” heckled Jason. Broom joined Jason on the log as the two men stared out into the sunset and waves, watching the tennis ball slowly make its way back to shore. Broom also took a stick and began drawing in the ground while Jason dug a big hole. Then, he began carving his initials, and Broom noted that he could make a decent signature with a J and an R. Jason showed how, and after sometime pointed to the distant shore where the tennis ball was nearing.

“I got it!” he said, dashing off like a gallant gazelle being chased by a lion. He grabbed the tennis ball and brought it back to Broom, taking his seat back on the log.

“Perez is up! Bumgarner on the mound!” Broom shouted, squeezing water out of the ball.

Up went the tennis ball, a terrible toss. 1 and 0 the count, and Broom was feeling good of his chances to smack another good ball. So tossing again, he waited patiently, but not enough, swinging too early and missing the ball entirely.

A reign of boos and disparaging remarks proceeded from the log.

“I go this,” said Broom. He adjusted his Royals cap, made another remark about the game situation, noted the crowd, and tossed.

It was a nice toss, giving Broom plenty of time to regain his stance and line up. He waited a second longer this time, knowing that he often swung too early when he missed. He judged better this time. He struck the ball with good contact, yet his timing was still slightly off, for the ball careened into the water but clearly out of play. Ire sprung in Broom’s breast, cursing himself for lack of patience and focus. A remark was heard from the log about hitting the ball forward not sideways, and picking up the club with both hands, Broom smote the ground with furious rage, yelling angrily about foul balls and being down in the count. He paced and took some practice swings to let off steam, and resolved to hit the ball properly once it got back to shore.

Jason meanwhile, took the on the persona of a broadcaster, yet continued to heckle backhandedly.

When the ball returned, Broom knew he was on the ropes, down 1-2 in the count. He gathered himself, and after throwing a bad ball (some wondered if on purpose), proceeded into the next pitch tied in the count two and two. Then the game-defining swing came. A perfect toss, maybe too perfect for Broom, for the time was hard to judge. Yet he managed to focus this time, waiting, waiting, waiting, as the ball appeared to drop ever-so-slowly into the strike zone. Poised, he planted his left foot firmly into the rocks, turned his body in mechanical preparation for a swing and released the club from its hold. The bright yellow ball met an enraged club that could not have been swung with harder velocity and near-perfect precision. But one thing was off. One split-second changed the entire outcome of the evening. Contact was made, but too early, and the ball soared forward a fair deal, yet too high, far too high for a base hit. As his imagination took over, Broom saw Pablo Sandoval jump out of the water and wait patiently for the ball to fall into his glove, and nightmarish memories crashed through Broom’s conscience and tormented him, while a color commentator could be heard saying something about poor hitting and a pop up.

A pop up! Broom stormed around, flung the club at a fire-pit, threw his cap on the ground, kicked rocks, and cursed fate.

Another bystander watched from the cliffs.

The game was over, but Broom knew his psyche must be restored. He picked up his club again and was resolved to hit one more, nice ball. The bystander came down from the cliffs to the opposite shore, apparently watching the madness. This time, however, Broom would not disappoint himself or his fans. After a few strikes and balls, Broom gained control of one perfect pitch. The ball soared farther than it ever had, and he wondered if the dying waves would be able to bring it back. Watching that ball sore, with the club his in left hand, resting on his shoulder, Broom imagined all the bitter memories soared with it, and it pleased him to think they would not come back to haunt him.

The two men left for the evening, enjoying the hope which sprung from a new season.

Broom Snow,
Written at Thee Ole Midshipman,
Manhattan, Kansas,
April 18, 2015

Painting: "Bare Log in a Field"
By William Darling McKay,
Oil on board, n.d.


The Thinker's Cigar


The strike of the match,
its sandpapered skid, the laying
onto a bed of flame, that first rotation,
like a skewer and spit—a return
to the beginnings of subsistence.
Here—nothing to devour

but the flesh of the draw,
the meat in the embers
sliced off by the lips, the meal of it
nourishing beyond a bodily strength.
I won’t lift stone while I smoke,
or fire brick from sand and clay;
I won’t pour concrete,
set columns or beams—

this is the mind’s feeding.

Tilted on a velvet-backed chair
I roll up the wrapper’s sleeve,
the leeched arm of ash a dusty white
ready to fall, spent,
like collapsed rubble,
the remains of something once built.

Bryn Homuth
Recalling an evening smoke
April 18, 2015

Sir Winston Churchill
Oil on Canvas - 1942
Arthur Pan