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Tobey & Sulzenko – November 2020

JC Sulzenko and Ron Tobey traded art and words. Ron shared this video poem, titled “Days Rise” with JC:

In response to only the images, JC wrote this poem:

Luck. Now. 

A Bald Eagle glides above the rocky shoreline
where the Great Lake imitates the sea 
wave upon wave upon wave.

With easy, lazy wingbeats, he presides 
over land and water, circles the ruins 
of a home, the ruin of two lives.


I want to return to Lucknow.
Not the Indian city rich in culture, in history.
Not that Lucknow. 

I want to return to the fields, the pastures,
the soft hills, the farmhouse with wood smoke
rising straight into a new day sky.

That Lucknow.
Where Alpine Goats wear red leather collars.
Where I can hear the jingle of their bells.     

Where a Palomino and a Percheron 
nuzzle across a hand-hewn, locust fence.
Where mist blesses the grasses.


There is fire in the air I breathe.
Not just here, the morning after 
devastation a mile down the road.

But burning, burning a half-continent away, 
where passerines fall from clouds by the thousands 
and become multi-coloured litter, song-less.   

Where a city of charm and romance by a bay,  
its beauty not softened by gentle fog but obscured 
by acrid, ochre fumes, chokes without respite.


I return to Lucknow. Where forests hem patchwork
meadows, and a dust of frost reminds me 
of each season’s hold over every living thing.

Where the Brangus bull reigns, protected
from coyotes and feral dogs by spools of wire.
Where a breeding cow, retired, grazes in solitude.

Where the marmalade cat, also collared in red, also belled,
welcomes early sunlight from inside a rusty tub
and watches the black Lab wait, wait at the barn door.


I open my eyes to dismay, disarray, disease.
To deceit, diatribe, division. 
To dissociation, desperation. To deliverance.

* * * * *

JC shared this poem with Ron:

From sea to sea

(for C.S. in memoriam)


Awake before dawn 
with new day optimism. 
A freighter’s fairy lights line the horizon.

Soft-contoured clouds 
clothe the half-moon’s

At low tide, waves lap the shore,
dogs and walkers frolic,
innocent, ignorant of what it means

to be a father, a mother attuned,
fine-tuned to their child—wherever, 
however the child goes, cherished.


A night
without moonlight,
without stars.

A plague of streetlights. 
Hours, hours to lie awake
in silence, heavy with mourning.

Anguish, fragility.
One life too hard to live.
Nothing the same again. 

The father, the mother— childless —
no less a father, a mother, no less attuned,
fined-tuned to their son, cherished in memory.

In response, Ron made this videopoem, titled “Open Your Eye”:

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