Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday Music: Monster Mash

Some light-hearted fun on this Halloween as we listen to an old 50s hit while watching clips from those old B movie horror flicks


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Seasons

quiet Zen temple
water reflects the seasons 
heart reflects the times


Image: Golden Pavilion (Kyoto, Japan)
Hand drawn lithograph by Tony Bennett


Friday, October 28, 2016

The Return of Ol' Possum

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” my wife said, “Your possum got hit. We saw his body up on the main road.”

My connection with ol’ possum went back for a little over a year. If you read my post about the raccoon family, then you know about how my wife leaves some cat food out on the porch for the feral cats that we spayed and re-released last year. She feels an obligation to offer them food and water as well as a responsibility to see that they do not continue to reproduce, bringing unwanted kittens into the world.

That Was No Rat

One night last year, she was a bit unnerved when she went out the door to see a rat hiding behind the recycle bin waiting for her to leave so he could eat the cat food she left on the porch. When I went out to check, I didn’t see anything, but I had thought it unusual that a rat would wait in the corner for someone to leave. Usually a rat will scurry on away.

Photo by Divulged
The next morning, however, when I went out to the car on my way to work, I spotted a mother opossum and two little cubs moving out from under the holly bush by the porch. One of the young cubs went skipping and frolicking into the neighbor’s yard. I had never seen an opossum skip and frolic like a young goat, but usually I had only seen lone adults who tend to waddle more than scurry, skip, of frolic.  

I knew then that I had discovered the mystery of the “rat” my wife had seen the night before. Since it was a possum, that was another story altogether. Not only would we not shoo him away, we would make sure we left extra food so that he could make it in the wilds of our neighborhood. I do not know if this frolicking young opossum is the one who continued to make nightly visits, but we were delighted to provide what sustenance we could.

Opossum Traits

I learned that opossums – opossum is, of course the official name of the only marsupial native to North America, but in the south, we typically say, “possum” – I learned that opossums like fruit. We often buy the bowls of chopped fruit at the supermarket, so I would leave a little plate of fruit each night in addition to the cat food. I quickly found out that possums do not care for strawberries or pineapple, but apples, grapes, and melons are never turned down.

I also learned that possums can be considered helpful animals in that being omnivores they eat all kinds of things including ticks and other pests  even snakes. They are immune to snake venom. They do not have permanent dens or hideaways, but typically bed down during the day wherever they happen to be, preferring wooded areas (and we have several small wooded areas in the vicinity). 

I’ve never seen a tick or a venomous snake in our neighborhood, but if ol’ possum can keep those things out, so much the better. Mainly, though, I enjoyed being able to offer some assistance to the wildlife in the area. I enjoy keeping the bird feeders filled, the squirrels get dried corn in their own little holders, so a little possum food just adds to our suburban “wildlife preserve.”

A Disruption in Nightly Routine

It was meaningful work, and though possums are nocturnal and solitary, I felt that I was communing with nature on some level by catching a glimpse of ol’ possum from time to time, and seeing the empty fruit dish on my way out each morning. Then the fruit dish went untouched for a few days, and I no longer caught a glimpse of my friend while walking the dogs at night. I wondered what might have happened to him.

After about a month, much to my delight, I saw ol’ possum again one night, back on the porch where the cat food was put out for the feral cat. Happily the next day I bought some fresh fruit so that our possum could again have some fruit in his diet. We had been back into our nightly possum-feeding routine for a couple of weeks when one day I came home from work and my wife told me the news: “I’m sorry to have to tell you – your possum got hit. We saw his body up on the main road. We got out and managed to get his body off the road and by the alley way – thought you might want to go up and bury him.”

Of course, I was sad. First the possum went missing for a while, then out of the blue, returned to its old routine scavenging for food on our doorstep. And now, she was gone again (or he, I can’t really tell). However, the story would take yet another turn. When I walked the dogs that night, on our way back up the porch steps, Mike stopped and slowly growled. It was not his “I see a cat!” kind of growl. It was a more careful, cautious growl. Wondering if it could be, I peeked over the recycling bin, and there was ol’ possum! Back for more supper!

I took Mike the dog on inside and gladly told my wife, “I need to cut up some more fruit! That was not my possum up on the road; our possum is out their looking for some food.”

By the time I got back outside, the feral cat was down on the sidewalk wishing the possum would leave, so I ended up putting a separate plate out for the cat at the foot of the steps and the usual cat food plus fruit for ol’ possum up on the porch so they could both dine in peace.

A Decent Burial

The next day, I took a shovel up to the main road by the alley to find that possum that my wife had told me had been hit by a car. He may not have been my possum, but he was somebody’s possum and he deserved a decent burial. The ground was dry and hard since we have been under drought conditions for a couple of months. I had not brought a pickax, only a shovel, but I did manage to scratch out a shallow grave, enough to get the possum covered. 

I thought of Antigone of ancient Greek drama, who dared to defy civic authority by venturing out to the battlefield just so she could get a little dirt over the body of her slain brother who had fallen in battle. It was important that he have some semblance of a proper burial. We are all in this struggle of life together, and we must honor each of the fallen. 

And so it was that I paid my respects to this possum whose life had been cut short. After I was finished with my roadside burial, I put a few fallen limbs over the grave and raked more leaves over the site for a bit more protection. I then headed back to the house. 

Ol’ possum is still enjoying his fruit and cat chow at night. I still delight in the occasional glimpse of him from time to time. I cannot know when he might “disappear” again, and I don’t know how long his time on earth will be. None of us knows that about ourselves. We have no guarantees. We can only treasure one another each day and be glad for each glimpse that we are granted.  

*    *    *

To learn more about the opossum, go to 10 things you didn't know about opossums at Mother Nature Network (by the National Association of Advancement for Opossums).  The following video from the Center for Biological Diversity is also a great introduction to the world of the opossum. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Artsongs: Tahitian Landscape (Gauguin)

Paradise Road

The mountain rises past the field
Where golden grasses gleam.
And palms jut out above the brush
With shade trees standing near.

Along the road a man walks on
While balancing his load.
His form, half-hidden near the bend,
Makes straight his steps toward home.

A lone beast also walks the field
And calls to wild-at-heart
Who take their leave of city streets
To breathe the open air.

Where valley yields to mountain’s height
And mountain yields to sky,
The pilgrim walks a wondrous road
Marked by a simpler time.

                                                ~ CK

Image: Tahitian Landscape at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Artist: Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Date: 1891
Medium: Oil on canvas

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Music: Countdown

Here is an amazing rendition of a John Coltrane jazz classic, "Countdown," from a very young artist Joey Alexander.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Hunter's Moon

the land is at rest
under the full moon's soft light
a barred owl calls out


Photo: Hunter's Moon, courtesy of Wikipedia
(Hunter's Moon traditionally refers to the full moon that appears during the moth of October. Sometimes it is called "blood moon")


Friday, October 21, 2016

How I Disrupted the Life of a Single Mother of Two

It is not a thing that I am proud of, but in an attempt to improve the neighborhood, I unwittingly sent a young family packing. It all began one summer night as I was walking my dogs, Buddy and Mike. Amid the growth of vines and shrubs near the alleyway behind our house, I saw three pairs of eyes peering out as I shone my flashlight to see what Buddy and Mike were growling at. From what I could see, there appeared to be an adult tabby cat with two younger cats in the shadows. Heads bobbed in curiosity but no move was made to come out of the shadows, and I was eager to get my dogs back to the house before they started tugging at their leashes.

Kelli - one of our rescues
A year earlier, there had been a number of feral cats in our neighborhood. My wife took on the project to safely trap and neuter ten to twelve cats. Most were too feral to tolerate proximity to humans, so they were released back into the neighborhood. Some were young enough to be brought inside and tamed. Our mission then became to give five cats a home (four of which made their home with us). The other part of our mission was to offer support for those feral cats we had released after getting them “fixed.” We therefore began setting out dry food for those outside felines. Then this past spring, another feral cat took up in our garage, so we were able to get him fixed and released back “into the wild” of our neighborhood.

All of that cat fixing is why, when I saw those three sets of eyes peering our from the dark, I assumed that another cat had come into the neighborhood with her young. On the heels of a successful campaign of fixing so many feral cats, I only wanted to do what was best. After all, spaying and neutering our cats and dogs is a major part of responsible pet ownership, and neutering feral cats keeps us from becoming overrun with strays.

Havahart humane trap
I talked with the nice folks at the Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic in Irondale who offer a discount for spaying and neutering feral cats. Then I dutifully set out our Havahart humane trap late one night, anticipating a trip to the spay/neuter clinic the following morning. I would have to be at work, but my daughter had agreed to take the cat in to the clinic if we trapped her. The plan was that I would check the trap on my way to work and then phone my daughter to tell her if we had a cat.

As I drove around the block and stopped by the alley where I had set the trap, to my surprise there was not a cat, but rather a raucous raccoon! I stopped and approached the trap. The night before, I had covered the trap with some old towels as we always do when trapping cats so that they can have some sense of cover rather than being exposed to the open air. The poor raccoon had rolled the trap onto its side and had shredded the towels, pulling pieces through the bars of the cage.

Fortunately, I was able to slowly open the trap and leave it so that the mother raccoon could make her way out. When I returned home, I retrieved the trap and carried it back to our house. In the backyard, I began pulling out the shredded towels that had been woven into the cage wire by a frantic mother raccoon. As I slowly extracted the urine soaked rags, I had a sense of the panic and fear that must have gripped the trapped animal. I could not help feeling some of that panic myself.

I never saw those three sets of eyes peering from the night in our neighborhood again. I felt bad that the young raccoon who thought she had found a safe place to raise her kits had found cause to move her young family elsewhere. I found myself wishing that I could have made up for my actions, even by setting out food and water for the raccoon family, but they had their traveling shoes and were on to that next destination. Maybe they found a safe spot where no suburban do-gooder would lie in wait with a Havahart trap.* 

Eastern Raccoons
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)


*Some will characterize the urban raccoon as a "nuisance animal" that must be gotten rid of, but I am one who loves any kind of encounter with wildlife. For a positive view of raccoons and how they can be your spiritual totem, check out this site: Symbolic Meaning of Raccoon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Artsongs: George Washington (Stuart)

The Old General

His top coat speaks of by-gone days,
Of fashion long ago.
Perhaps his eyes could see ahead,
Or was his heart unsure?

His countenance is now at ease
With battles left behind.
Yet will his mind find peace or rest
As new frontiers awake?

He lends a steady gaze to all
Who dare to dream anew.
They take his visage as a sign
That greatness is at hand.

Still, in those eyes there is some doubt,
For who can know the end?
So many trials are yet to come
Before the dream is clear.

                                                 ~ CK

Image: George Washington at the National Gallery of Art
Artist: Gilbert Stuart 1755-1828)
Date: 1795
Medium: Oil on canvas

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday Music: My Back Pages

"I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

Today's Monday Music feature is in honor of Bob Dylan being named the 2016 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Dylan said in Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary, No Direction Home that "an artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he is at somewhere. You always have to realize that you are constantly in a state of becoming." 

The following video is a look back to Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary in the music industry back in 1992. It's a veritable Who's Who of musicians on hand to celebrate his music.

My Back Pages
by Bob Dylan

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ’neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.

Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bob Dylan, bard for a changing world

PBS News Hour covers the news out of Stockholm this past week of Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize in Literature


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Mountain Crest

at the crest
a pine flourishes
time endures


Photo by Charles Kinnaird: A view from Gorham's Bluff


Friday, October 14, 2016

Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate

The announcement came yesterday that Bob Dylan is the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. Some are saying, "What?" while others are saying "Yes!" How do I feel about it? On this day, I think I can do no better than to offer a tribute to Dylan's words that I wrote back in November of 2013 and actually re-posted this past summer (do you think my blog post might have influenced the Swedish Academy's decision?).

Here's to the subterranean fires and the luminous eye of Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan.

Dylan the Welder

Bob Dylan is a welder
Taking words
That have been scattered
And misused
And putting them through the fires
Of humanity’s forge.

It takes a hot pen
To bind mythic thoughts to modern ways;
And a fiery riff
To weld common chords to forsaken phrases,
Fashioning a memorable song of love or theft or ruin.

It takes a spark that was lit by subterranean fires
To ignite the passions
Of a restless generation
Until they gather on the streets
Or courthouse lawns
Or the National Mall
To sing of how many roads.

It takes the fire of human consciousness
Erupting without summons or awareness
To fashion songs that can
Shake a tambourine
Survey a watchtower
Foretell a hard rain
Or catch a slow train.

It takes old embers
To join hands with
Blind Willie
Hattie Carroll
And the sad-eyed lady.

It takes new fire
To speak to the hopes of a young woman
In a world that is spinning
Or the dreams of an old man
When shadows are falling.

Bob Dylan is a welder
Fashioning new gates
From worn-out words,
Burning old hopes
Onto new frames.

It takes ancient fire
To fashion timeless tales
Of joy and struggle,
And a luminous eye
To forge a song that is true.

                              ~ Charles Kinnaird

The inspiration for this poem came from an online article telling about how Bob Dylan keeps welding supplies at his home in Malibu where he creates iron gates from scrap pieces of metal. Some of his welding work is now on display at London’s Halcyon Gallery.

(photos by John Shearer via Daily Mail)


Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Testament Scholar Bernard Brandon Scott in Birmingham

SPAFER Fall Lecture Series

October 14th & 15th, 2016

Shades Valley Lutheran Church
720 Shades Creek Pkwy
Birmingham, AL 35209

7 PM Friday Night

Five Quick and Dirty Rules for Interpreting Paul

For the past twenty years a slow rumbling has been building up among New Testament scholars that is only now beginning to make its effects felt to a more general public. A new Paul is beginning to emerge, a Paul who differs from the Paul of Augustine and Luther. In this presentation we will explore five rules that I think should guide an interpretation of Paul.

9 AM Saturday morning

Showdown in Antioch

In Galatians 2:12-13 Paul reports a dramatic confrontation between himself and Cephas about Jewish Christians and gentile Christians eating together. The significance of this conflict for understanding Paul has often been overlooked. We will explore why this is one of the traumatic events in Paul’s life.

11 AM Saturday Morning

Does Paul Make Sense?

After we have grasped what Paul was about, we must ask, “Does he make any sense?” What might we make of Paul today? Does he offer us any leverage in understanding our contemporary situation?

Register online or at the door:

Friday & Saturday Oct. 14-15, 2016 - $30.00

Friday Only Oct. 14 - $20.00

Saturday Only October 15 - $20.00

A Word about Brandon Scott

SPAFER has been privileged to have Bernard Brandon Scott on three previous occasions. In fact, he was the very first Jesus Seminar scholar brought to Birmingham, and it was that initial effort that launched the SPAFER organization. Looking back in our files, I found some comments by attendees at Scott’s lecture here in 2009:

“After the seminars I realized how little I understood of my religion, and how shallow my education in Christianity really was. To understand a first century document, one must first understand the first century.”

"The SPAFER Weekend with Bernard Brandon Scott on the parables of Jesus was the most informative of all the SPAFER speakers I have heard. “

“Scott's lectures were interesting and stimulating ... His lecture style held the audiences' attention which is a remarkable talent.”

“We can re-schedule Dr. Scott anytime, because he has much to say that is important for today's seekers."

Brandon Scott has brought us lectures on the parables of Jesus (2009) and the resurrection accounts of Jesus (2010). Each time he gave us a fresh look at the times in which Jesus lived and gave us ideas for applying his message to today’s world. We certainly look forward to what he will be telling us in our SPAFER Lecture Series about what New Testament scholars are currently saying about Paul.

Bernard Brandon Scott is the author and editor of many books, including The Real Paul: Recovering His Radical Challenge and The Trouble with Resurrection. A charter member of the Jesus Seminar, he is chair of Westar’s newly established Christianity Seminar. He served as chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as a member of several SBL Seminars including the Parable Seminar and Historical Jesus Seminar. He holds an A.B. from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, an M.A. from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Artsongs: Mme. Charpentier and Her Children (Renoir)

The Well Ordered Home

A vase of flowers and some fruit
With wine and cups to share
Wait in the corner of the room
While restless children sit.

All curled and combed and dressed in blue
The young girls sit amused.
A faithful dog is at their feet,
Their mother sitting near.

Everything in order flows
And gathers in the whole.
A quiet life of comfort seen
To celebrate the home.

With beauty, shelter, food and drink,
Companionship and love;
A life – full circle and complete –
Is held within our view.

The image is more full indeed
Than might at first appear.
For death’s sure exit is proclaimed
By peacock’s graceful pose.
                                                ~ CK

Image: "Madame Charpentier and Her Children" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Artist: Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919)
Date: 1878
Medium: Oil on Canvas

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Art Exhibition Opening & Reception

Elaine Kinnaird Exhibition Opening & Reception is Friday, October 14

We are excited to present "Till We Have Faces", a solo exhibition by Elaine Kinnaird. Join us for the opening reception on Oct. 14th, 5-7. Or visit during gallery hours M-F, 8-4, through Dec 12th.

Resident Artist at Ground Floor Contemporary and ASFA alumna, Elaine Kinnaird presents textural interpretations and expressions in her upcoming exhibition “Till We Have Faces.” Meet the artist at the opening reception at 5:00 p.m.on October 14 in ASFA's Vulcan Materials Gallery & Lobby. No reservations are necessary, and it is free and open to the public.

See the exhibition at the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ Vulcan Materials Gallery, M-F from 8:30 am-4:00 pm, through December 12, 2016.


For directions, go to


Monday, October 10, 2016

Carpool Karaoke with Stevie Wonder

Do you ever sing along with the radio while driving? Of course you do! But James Corden of The Late Late Show took that and made it into a fun time for all!


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Taking Leave

ancient mountains rise
beyond the river valley
summer takes its leave


Photo: A view of the Tennessee River from Gorham's Bluff, Alabama
Credit: Charles Kinnaird


Friday, October 7, 2016

My Favorite Poem

Two weeks ago the eleventh annual My Favorite Poem event was held in Birmingham at the Alabama School of fine arts. We had people from many walks of life reading (see program notes below). It was my privilege to read "Conscientious Objector," by Edna St. Vincent Millay. The video of the readings has been posted on the Birmingham Arts Journal website at You may also see the entire event on the video below.

My Favorite Poem 2016 from AWC on Vimeo.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Artsongs: Young Woman with a Water Pitcher (Vermeer)

The Welcoming Woman

How soft the glow she welcomes in
When sunlight fills the sky.
A hand upon the casement latch
Guides daybreak in the home.

She brings a pitcher to the room
With water from the well
To fill the family’s drinking cups
As slumber fades away.

The light is cast upon the world
Behind her on the wall
Yet in her mind she only sees
One household in her care.

Eternally the woman stands
Between the well and sun.
She quenches thirst and brings the light;
She makes the world secure.

In mythic constancy she shows
The path to life and love.
By holding joys and sorrows close,
She welcomes all she sees.

What other graces can be found
That woman’s hand brings forth?
Through all of life and all the world
Her presence guides the day. 

                                                         ~ CK

Image: Young Woman with a Water Pitcher at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Artist: Jan Vermeer Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632–1675)
Date: ca. 1662
Medium: Oil on Canvas

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Artsongs Series


Poetry Inspired by Great Works of Art

Last year I did a series of ekphrastic poems inspired by an old Book-of-the-Month-Club selection, Portfolio of Art Masterpieces, Series IV that I happened to discover at our local library's used book sale. It was such a rewarding exercise that I decided to do it again. I went online and located the first volume of those Book-of-the-Month-Club collections, Portfolio of Art Masterpieces, Series I, and set it aside until the time was right.

Ekphrasis is a Greek term usually translated as "description." Ekphrastic poetry is an exercise that goes beyond mere description. It is an example of art inspiring art, or serving as a catalyst for creativity. An article at, Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art speaks of how ekphrasis has been used in poetry since the time of Homer. The article observes that "modern ekphrastic poems have generally shrugged off antiquity’s obsession with elaborate description, and instead have tried to interpret, inhabit, confront, and speak to their subjects." Ekphrastic poetry is one way to interpret, meditate upon, re-invent, or dialogue with a particular piece of art. (1)

It Came to Me in a Dream

I had a dream not long ago in which I was fervently in the process of writing something in response to something that I was watching. What I was watching was unclear, but what I was writing had a musical rhythm. When I awoke, I realized that my subconscious must be telling me that the time is right to start writing those poems in response to my collection of art re-prints.

The rhythm of the dream had such an effect upon me that I decided that I would try writing each poem in metered verse, but without rhyme. My hope was that having rhythm without rhyme would result in poetry that is less formal but still "weighty" in its presentation.

Bouncing Off the Artist's Creativity

I spent the summer months taking on a new poem each week. One thing about ekphrastic poetry is that by writing in response to a work of art, I write on subjects that I would ordinarily not choose to write about. It therefore becomes a challenge to stretch myself and my writing. Another thing is that I am given ideas by seeing what the artist has done that I might not otherwise have thought of. Moreover, I am responding to and interacting with that artist's own creativity. I think that such a process naturally allows one to tap into his own creativity. 

While some of the thoughts expressed in these poems are things I have considered before (but not said in exactly the same way) it is safe to say that I would not have come up with any of these poetic concepts without engaging in the artwork of the masters represented in the series.

This page will serve as an index. I will post a new poem each week, and as they are posted, there will be a hyperlink added to the titles below.



1. From my essay, "Poetry Arising from Art," posted as an introduction to my first series of ekphrastic poems.

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