Alley Poetry

Steve Trenam leads a poetry class in which the poets use visits to various environments to inspire or motivate poetic impulses.  On January 3, 2020 the class visited the LaHaye Art Center and toured the artists’ studios and Alley Gallery.  The participants then had 30 to 45 minutes to put pen to paper.  I asked them to share their work with me.

When the sun is setting

When the sun is setting on the purple sage, last of the prairies.

My lonely eyes still see our little orphan,

Wrangler Bo, I knew him before the year he died.

Riding his stud of these plains, Little Bo’s first and only male stud.

Gunshot black, twelve-hands high,

They come riding after Rocket’s herd of mares on the last round-up,

Their smoking hooves clouding the last red, colored dust,

Rising to mingle with the light of the last sun’s rays

Now painting the low cut Buffalo Trace

Where tomorrow’s sunset will again

See the Spirit of the Wild Horses, with Little Bo’s hat

Waving high above his head in the late evening’s light again.

Once more, riding in the shadows of the red dust,

Spurs jangling, Old Rocket’s huffing hard, rushing those mares

Down that “older than time” Buffalo Trail

All never ending, disappearing before our minds in the last rays of light.


For Jim 

Suspended, straining every sinew to maintain the graceful pose.

Fingers curling, spine aligning, arching hip to pointed toes.

Androgynous yet masculine, two bolts with rebar rusting through.

Rest though not forthcoming, moving though immobile, in review.

Deborah Patterson


Spirit Bronze

In the cold I sit and wonder

How to see so much beauty

The soaring wings of a nearly lost sculpture

Its beak pointing upward

Portending great things to come

Its wings have lift and width

Realism that Inspires.

Surviving a great fire sitting on a pile of detritus

Ever about to soar out of the stricken landscape.

Did the spirit of its bronze allow it to be?

Are there other spirit bronzes that survived

Calamity around the world?

Judy Stinson

Great Egret

Response to bronze sculpture created by Jim Callahan

Great Egret with wings so spread

smoke engulfed your out-stretched head.

Feathers that once were white

Oh, if you could just take flight.

You look on remnants—charred and ash

The fire prevailed- such heat- a flash

And the embers cooled at last

Great bird, you managed to hold fast.

A symbol of the spirit strong

What’s left behind…we move along.

The egret rising—I’m left in awe

of what you witnessed, what we saw.

Carol Davis

Great Egret

A dream of encounter.

What to do with the land

As the seventh  son?

Blue Heron crossed the lake.

The heat of the heart of a dream,

Fused a vision of land as a gift.

To the wild things and to the

children of children of children.

The Blue Heron flew across the lake

But the Heron became Egret

And the Egret became Phoenix.

Non-ferrous metal annealed

In the furious inferno.

Dueling  with death and atomization,

Fate blew a gust of cool air

Between 1500° and annihilation,

The thud of the heart of that bird

Threw wings,   and the sound was

Alchemy fusing metal and dream.

Susanne Arrhenius

 Gymnast Now

twisted rusting grace

in bamboo grove, back alley way

balancing strength innuendo

surrounded by bronze grace of flight

deeper into heart of swollen rust

he held in stillness.

How hot the molten love

to pour into cold light waves

steel waves, undulating

stealing heart waves

flight of egret waves

how does stillness twist and turn?

How much balance

working strength of moving steel

whether cold or inferno blast

in balancing heart gracefully resting

for a moment, just a perfect moment.

How much of this on the outside

is true to inside and how much

is what’s balancing impression

outside rusting in alley ways

caught alone in the now of resting moment

no thought caught inside.

Caught in this inside instant of

heart, open hearted balance

of just now,

balancing, perfect balance,

caught now,

over and over,

resting, striving for

perfect Now!

Douglas Anderson

1.4.20  Poem inspired by Jim Callahan,  “Gymnast” sculpture.

Great Cowboy Art

Divine bird, winged silver arrow

soul lifting from body, phoenix upping

lotus flower mud rising bird

sculpting cowboy blue jean horseshoe man 

went to lunch and never came back man

in reaction to space man

the nothing and the everything man where

missing fingers were not at issue

even backing up into sculpting life

where the horse meets the road

where three dimensions beat two where

silicone bronze copper flight fill

the feminine power of flight feathers fly

where there are no fixed flaws

like spinning silver of glimmering glow

we learned Gilham is not gullible or afraid

we learned how this moment

pours into two thousand degrees of

deep friendship

just at the right moment

we learned life can harden into spirit

and were reminded soul soars beyond mind.

Douglas Anderson

(1.4.20  Poem to Jim Callahan.)

Waiting for the Crucible

Little man standing in oil clay,

Waiting to be permanent
Someday, forgotten on the shelf.
A static pose peering through a sextant,
At no place in particular.
– Annie Daniel



The Clay Studio

Weak light from an overcast sky
trickles through dusty windows.
Shelf-covered walls overflow
with clay-dusted papers,
casting molds, unfinished pots,
and tools for forming clay.
I sense my aliveness
amid these lifeless things.
The artists have gone,
leaving behind a vase
of dying white lilies
posed on an empty table.
I lean into open corollae
of veined white petals,
stamens heavy
with rusty-red pollen.
It is not for me
to answer their urgent plea,
cloaked in heavy perfume.
There will be no resurrection
for the lilies.

Ellie Portner

The Man Who Loved Coyotes

Circus, big top, lions and tigers and bears, and

coyote, just one: a pup who drew attention in her wildness.

Not a dog, though closely connected.

A leash disdained with a coyote glance, and

for good measure, piles of scat for adoring crowds.

She was Canis Latrans, in splendor.

Using trickster deception residing in her dNA

she beguiled a man, the man who loved coyotes.

First a glance from her amber eyes, then a soft rub

against his manly thighs as he knelt beside her

Canas body. Unleashed a comfort to her wild ways.

Thus, she rode along on another journey,

through country roads and city streets,

a sidekick to an unknown destiny,

where a burrow waited to conspire with

humor towards the man who loved coyotes.

Judith Vaughn

December 27, 2019

In The Foundry of Creation

Isn’t it ekphrastic?

The alchemy of elements—

to smell   to touch   imagine

hear bells in copper’s call!

Isn’t it dynamic—

to sense the flush of wings

answer the bull elk’s bugle

catch the fox’s pounce!

Isn’t it fantastic—

to feel the sweat of Sisyphus

to know the eagle’s stare

comprehend the gaze of a general

and coyote’s yodeling cry!

Jaime Zukowski

@ Jim Callahan’s Studio

Sonoma, CA.   Jan 3, 2020

Jim Callahan’s Sisyphus

Sisyphus, King of Corinth,

Crafty, cunning, deceitful,

Suitably sentenced—

Grounded for his sins:

Endless drudgery requiring

No craft, no cunning, no deceit,

Frozen in bronze,

Burdened by crystal,

Confined to his senses

In endless struggle

With forces he can neither fathom

Nor finesse.

–Paul DeMarco

  January 2020 at Jim Callahan’s studio