a little note of explanation…

…and a picture…

the reflection

the reflection… is anything as it seems?


Sigh, child, and sink into the world you know.
Let butterflies appear in snow.
So what, if the rains come back to Nicaragua?
They always do. Would you add your wishes
to the weight of ignorance
that presses down upon the world?
I don’t think so. There’s work to do.

You stand inside a world that moves on wooden wheels
and as you watch the chirping cart
roll across the concrete cobbles,
a child up-ends a bucket,
wears it on his head, and laughs for you.
Can you remember, and paint that laughter, too?

And those trucks that died beside the road
and all those tools that proved so useless.
The way he threw them down and hiked the mile,
and then on top of that, the extra mile
to walk along with you.
Can you paint those colors, too?

Try to find the spirit that inhabits an abandoned truck,
and you’ll have found the trick to universal language.
We know that face, that truck, that walk.
Just like we all spot the places
where the city keeps her secrets safe
and where the forest ties the secret love-knots in her braids.

Listen, it’s good you burn the candles
for the children of the dawn,
and all the men and women
laboring in Chinese prisons;
it’s good you recognize that we are one.
But what did Broadus say about the meantime?

Crack the word and drop its contents on the frying pan,
and listen to your mornings start to sizzle.
Think about that old black man who took the time,
(before he left to do his dying)
to send you north to find your father and your son.

You brought them home. Paint that.
You’ll find the recognition that you want inside your bones.
And who knows, friend, who knows?
You may find your brush has known the grip of other men,
and other women. Their hands will lead your hands, if you will let them.

The rains will come. The hurricanes, the liquid eyes
of thirsty, starving, children. Will these things change
for all your writing, all your painting?
Perhaps the best that we can do is celebrate, and honor them.
Ask the dancer. What he knows is he must spin and spin and spin,
and after that he has to practice spinning.

Don’t think you are the first to wonder at the questions.
That’s why we came. Feel sadness when you lose your friend,
and you may truly wish to die if you should lose your lover,
or your children. We are mated to illusions real as frying pans,
as eating. Grief is spelled out in our bones
and we are issued names to lose, at the beginning.

Didn’t Broadus tell you? I think he must be grinning.
You didn’t know he died? You have missed a thousand things
I would have shared, but gave up trying.
Now, the time has rolled around again.
I revise my gift and place it on the table as my offering.

In the meantime I build shrines, and travel.
I talk to cats and listen for their names.
I bear witness to small miracles of pleasure and of pain
and sketch them out, and write them down in long-hand.
I charge the little world I know with color,
I store milagros on computer.
One day, I’ll meet the spinning dancer who can dance them.

For now I watch the river run.
I work, and do these meantime things.
Paris and New York? It’s you I am committed to.
The children begging in the streets of Rio, the kids in Guatemala
huffing fumes and solvents, people running for their lives,
and all the cats and dogs we lose…

The way that politicians try to eat our children…
even as they promise us our safety, even as they promise us
our freedom, and the nightmares that daily feed upon us,
breathe and eat us, one by one.

The bridges that collapse beneath the best and worst,
that do not hold the weight of love,
that do not hold the weight of hope.
And the sleep which brings relief from these assaults,
and brings relief from their amazing weight,
or we should truly die from grief. This is the raw material
of our meantime. This is where our art comes from.

My words are marked, and handed down from trees.
What should I eat? Should I wear leather?
Should I buy this thing if it was made in China?
Plastic, or paper? How much does it matter?

I have a small gift to offer: I would see you dressed in rose petals,
sprays of hyacinth, lavender and lilac, covered with mother-of-pearl,
with diamonds, with the painted shells of almonds.

I would brush your skin with feathers, with starlight, with small pebbles.
And I would see your daughter learn to dance, unashamed, entirely naked,
across the universe, the seas, and stars and flowers.

Because the gift of the heart is one gift, it’s breath one breath,
its word one word. It speaks with one tongue,
in one language, one idiom.
And love sits on her throne. She seats herself, and listens.
She is easy with the world. She relieves us of our burdens


I wrote this upon the passing of my friend, Broadus Evans, from AIDS, just before the medicines that would have saved his life were introduced. He was a long-time activist in the African-American community in Wilmington, NC. He was an educator, counselor, a concert pianist and an activist in the gay and recovery communities there. He was valedictorian of his Williston High School class, the designated Black high school in the city. He graduated in the early 1950’s but he was not allowed the honor of speaking to his class at graduation because he was already “out” as a gay young African- American male. This, in the South, in the ’50’s was no small thing. He also made his own clothes and sometimes wore a black cape. When I met him he scared the daylights out of me. I am grateful to him for a lot of reasons, one of them being that in a very short while my homophobia started to leave me. He was an interesting and wonderful, beautiful man, and I still miss his friendship. My wife and I named our son after him.

I am re-posting the poem today because I think it says a lot about where my art comes from, which I started thinking about because of a comment I read this morning. (Thanks, enigma.) It’s long. Maybe too long, but I don’t know where to chop it.

This entry was posted in 'tis a gift to be simple, aa, angels, art, Broadus Evans, character studies, faith, healing, hope, kids, light, love, painting, poetry, race in america, racial healing, recovery, sketchbook, stories, the art of recovery, wake up dude, works in progress. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to a little note of explanation…

  1. enigma says:

    That brought a lump in my throat, and tears……so many things there. no wonder you cant cut it down, nor should you.
    I wont say anymore ,except i will come back to this poem again and again.
    Thank you.

    E – Thank you so much.


  2. enigma says:

    Ps, thats why i called my blog”not what it seems” because it vary rarely is.


  3. Bo says:

    This is so absolutely remarkable. The words so expressive, the message deep and strong. I am very impressed with your blog so far – I just started looking – but the collaborative idea has caught me.

    Thanks for visiting The Seeded Earth. I am glad we have met. I feel, perhaps, as though I have found a new connection.


  4. jo says:

    Oh my, Rick, this is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read, you have achieved something remarkable here, I am crying too. It is a beautiful tribute to your friend, but it is also a reminder of how to live. Blown away, truly blown away. Thank you, and oh to be you, to write as well as you paint.


  5. rick mobbs says:

    enigma, thanks for the inspiration to put this together.

    bo, I’ll be seeing you again.

    dear jo, dear, dear jo, dear, dear, dear jo.


  6. Childlife says:

    It’s not a line too long, Rick, not a syllable to spare. A beautiful call to live our lives with compassion and oh, would the world only stop to listen. Thank you for sharing such a lovely and touching portrait of friendship — I feel privileged for the glimpse.


  7. annieepoetry says:

    Dear Rick, This a little poem is what I needed today. It is not too long, it is rather short.

    this “meantime” that I’ve been spending with fear has stopped at your words, and you have given me courage to love the blue of sky and my hand painting, and writing poetry, to allow myself to follow and lead at same time. You are me. I am you. You are the sun, and I am the pebble.

    keep yourself in a warm shoe.

    thank you. I needed to hear it and you are the only who could say it.


  8. rick mobbs says:

    thank you for the warm shoe. i’m glad you’re back. next time i’ll be the pebble.


  9. damyantig says:

    Let butterflies appear in snow—–haunting.

    I love this, and am not going to say much, not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t.



  10. Jordan says:


    Thank you. I’m really speechless, with tears streaming down my face, and I don’t even know why really. Maybe because your post came across my blog unexpectedly and here after a few days I finally have the time to read from the link you sent, your poem, the gift of heart you sent me —

    Thank you. Your words deeply moved me. And I guess maybe the tears come from the unexpected touch, you know, the reminder that, no, we’re not alone.

    I have show of my work up now, in New York, you know, in the thick of it, not an easy thing really. And it’s not easy to stay with what is true, to remember what is real in the middle of all that.

    So, I am grateful for your gift.

    Peace and blessings to you and your family —


  11. rick mobbs says:

    Jordan, so very good to hear back from you. i am glad the writing spoke to you. good luck with the show. i feel like i have found a kindred spirit. i look forward to corresponding. i’m in the phoenix airport now, about to board a flight to albuquerque – the last leg then home. best wishes, rick


  12. Peter says:

    So your art is the incredible art I have seen posted around wordpress inspiring others to great writing.

    It is too easy to give praise in these blogs and perhaps give people an inflated sense of their own talents. I am not qualified to say anything about your painting beyond the simple comment that I like them and they give me pleasure.

    I do, however, consider myself qualified to comment on writing. This poem above is very good. At times it falls a little into sentimentality and is weakened, but basically it has a compelling cadence and a coherence of imagery that makes it eminently readable, and readability is never a quality that should be overlooked. I enjoyed this poem very much.


  13. marlowe44 says:

    Incredible poem, sir; full of heart, soul, and sensitivity–and it does help to explicate what motivates and infleunces your need to paint. My grandfather, Earl “Sky” Carpenter, who passed away in 1989, was a wonderful landscape and Western artist. His speciality was skies and clouds, thus his nickname. I wrote a poem for him, that I would like to share:


    An old artist in a garage studio,
    gun-metal cold in winter,
    tin-roof hot in summer,
    mixes brilliant paint on his palate,
    takes animal bristles rubbed short,
    and creates a cosmos.

    his awesome private galaxy,
    the mountains of his mind,
    the timberline of his heart,
    and the clouds of his soul.

    dark and heavy with rain,
    drenched scarlet from the sun,
    puffy as cotton candy
    with popcorn faces,
    thick shoulders and rippling muscles
    of mist,
    peaks and valleys,
    deserts and raging seas,
    pregnant with thunder,
    tongues of lightning;
    herds of shaggy elk,
    their heavy hooves flashing
    across the knees of the sky,
    captured on canvas.

    The make-shift studio is cramped,
    with the smell of fresh fruit and gun oil
    blending with muslin starch,
    musty magazines
    stacked in damp cardboard boxes,
    old leather boots,
    a sheepskin jacket,
    sprigs of pine needles
    pungent with dripping sap,
    a branch of sagebrush,
    several short chunks of barbed wire,
    handfuls of wildflowers,
    and summer dust on the pane
    of the solitary window.

    the concrete crept closer,
    and plastic protected people from pollution.
    the seasons were of paint,
    and a lumberjack was ruler of the sky.

    The power in his paintings
    were sheer brute aesthetics,
    untamed, raw, bold, wise, crackling,
    flowing free,
    making the placid observer
    into a vibrant participant,
    at one with the artist’s world,
    blessed by his visions
    and his presence.

    Dark decades from today
    when we are but a wisp,
    merely a thought in the minds
    of those who loved us,
    that old artist’s power will still
    circling the globe gently,
    molding clouds into images,
    pounding them into pictures,
    sculpting them into kings
    and mountains and castles and oceans and forests
    of the air,
    yoking them into a muslin harness,
    creating a great snarling team of steam,
    that stretches out far beyond
    mere life,
    to a beautiful place
    that only he can see.

    Glenn Buttkus 1977


  14. marlowe44 says:

    Sizzle does, ad infinitum. What a wonderful tribute to your friend, muse, advisor, counselor–Broadus. You make many of us sad that we did not get to know him, and yet we have, through your memory of him, your love of him, your respect of him. I reposted this long and terrific poem, rife with rough edges and heart, on FFTR. I felt it was perfect in its extant form; did not want to tinker with it, just wanted to share it. I used the image of the young boy, the dragon, and the great feline, because I just love that image, that painting so much, that it seemed more appropriate for this poem, this message. No explication for individual taste. Like the detectives say, a human being is the worst eye witness there is, for all we can do is take our personal perceptions, and filter what we see through what we know, what we have experienced, what we try to understand, our own conclusions, our own postulates, edicts, morality, spirituality, creativity, angst, colon distress, and insights leading to tiny epithanies. Like two people looking at a painting, seeing, experiencing two different visions. Like two people seeing the same film, and one loving it and the other repulsed by it, hating it. As to the length of your poem, never apologize for the extent of your ardor, your art. I wrote a 50 page poem as a synopsis of the plot to McCABE AND MRS. MILLER, and a 75 page poem that represented my film review for THE DA VINCI CODE. We won’t even touch on Homer.



  15. rick mobbs says:

    You are funny, mr marlowe44. A 75 page poem. I hope this finds you well. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the comments you leave. Praise leaves me a little wobbly. I am basically a shy person disguised as an everyday kind of guy. I am very glad the poems and paintings speak to you. I am appreciated in small circles of family and friends but honestly, this blog is my first foray into the bigger world with my work. The feedback has been very affirming.

    Time for chores. More later. Best wishes, Rick


  16. Pingback: new arrivals, new arrangements « the storybook collaborative

  17. Anonymous says:

    hi rick.. have some time and wanted to pass through again to view more of your paintings… there are buckets and buckets of expressions overflowing too many to recite… the tribute to yr dear friend is compassion in the making… i have a small gift to offer… beautiful…


  18. oops… i forgot to but in the info… on my comment i just left and came up anonymous…


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