external musings trapped inside during pandemic

wind chime, salvaged wood and scrap metal

left to the night
to tidy up before
i take a load off.

I picture and feel
the weight of night
as I do the dishes.

stars like holes
in my mind that
allow me to mean

what I say when
I say anything
and I don’t know it.

stars like holes for
breathing, hoping there
is another planet out

there with grass and
wind and people
thinking of night sky.

when we meet them,
we’ll sit on a nice
sofa and make a list

of our problems,
find common themes
and go from there.

Henri Matisse Participation Trophy #2, salvaged plywood, found cut-outs

Henri Matisse Participation Trophy #1, salvaged plywood, found cut-outs

Imagine me in sweatpants
and matching skullcap
talking to the neighbor through
the window screen
about fig trees and paid time off

Imagine me in the museum of being
a bronze statue or a still life
on the phone buying a headstone
a gift to myself
I pray that time may take me before
the gears of mind rot and mold
to be thrown in the compost
with the scraps of last night’s dinner

Imagine myself a settler
thirteen-some-odd miles
from the nearest soul beyond my family
I spend my days
in the quiet yellow solitude of labor
in the forest and the fields
listening to the bird’s games of mating
and the buds of the trees rustling in the wind
once a month a trip to town will afford me
an opportunity to sell some pelts
buy some coffee
hug a friend

Imagine me a doctor
diagnosing and healing

Imagine I learned all the things I thought
I had forgot how to do
to see the tulips on the parkway
to smell the rain coming in the air
to look forward to meals and naps
yard work and books
I call my neighbors by their names

Inside fades outside
while we sit and wait on the bushes to bloom
I’ve found faith in this house

and friends,
this time will pass
into a new way of being

rainbow, salvaged plywood, found paint

through a roseate window
i saw a glimpse of a life
human turned full circle back to nature
language turned full circle back to music
all movements were acts of love

i saw a planet lacking history
organic algorithms
compostable automobiles
gardens in every yard
in time
everything returns to earth

at home in my toucan chair
the traffic lulls me to sleep
through the glass

Sunrise, salvaged walnut

Playground, Owen Ellis Atanda 2020


This set of 6 blocks is a new tool for composition. Each side of each block has a specific instruction or strategy. The blocks can be used as a chance operation, a creative strategy device for working through a composition, or they themselves can be the composition.

All Things Removed of Mystery
A voice like a visible scar
A choir like marginalia in a used book
A choir like you know the apple in your mouth
A passage underlined in bite marks
A scar on your thigh like a plum from the ice box
A small bit of apple stuck between your teeth
I was Christ when I suffered
When I wasn’t the face in the water
too afraid to step foot on
I walked for miles like a ghost in a radio ballet 
wishing only to have my movements heard
A crown of thorns on the AM dial
At my best, I was Elvis 
sucking down a peanut butter sandwich 
in the wee hours
Now I dare not eat past 8
Another time I was one of the lesser known apostles 
eating a slice of apple pie while writing this book
I’ve never liked to hear myself talk

trying to recall if
this bush or that tree
flowers in the spring
and exactly when
the years spin like
a carousel, and
my memory is better
than it was, but
never. quite. there.
and I am never really alone
then this tooth pain or
that sound from the other room

what seems like a dream is
also a memory of the future

I am a child in a maze
of roses, a blur
of distress and adventure
I have never cared for roses

I am high on LSD
playing hide and seek
in a used car lot at night
before rolling in the mud
at the public golf course

I am standing at Baker Beach
the meeting of the bay
and the ocean. two bodies
collapse upon

what seems like an end is
also a beginning

I watch the bridge slowly
manifest destiny complete
in all its failure
and destruction. I look
west, to the east.

the music ends and the carousel
slowly powers down as I descend
from the back of a tiger


this morning in the backyard
I listen to the trucks
go by, hauling away
bits of the east wing of
the hospital as it operates
at capacity
the birds go silent
as a hawk circles above
there is no telling
when this will end

there are moments of quiet
when the noise of history
I have nothing to say
I feel the sun warm my shirt
and the nape of my neck
I smell the dew below the lone pine
the dog barks at a pedestrian
a possible intruder
my son hands me dandelions
that are now part of this poem

A Nice Spot In The Woods

You’ll find no water holding back the rainbow
that weeps at night, wishing only to explode
from your chest.

Clear a spot in the woods and build a metaphor.
Make mud from dirt and water and fortify
and love your metaphor because the metaphor is
a place to start to build a tiny new planet
outside of your head. You have to find your
clothes inside the house, but by all means
be naked in the yard. Let the grass
touch your thighs and shit outside if you must
and spend your nights dreaming that when you die
your energy will be so bright and pure that
televisions explode or all water is purified
or minds become synthesizers and language
turns back to sound, full circle.



a return to the dog ballet
a delicate act for four legs
pirouette around on the notes
of a vibraphone in the quiet afternoon
or a piano in the memory of night
the memory of stars
winding like a snake through the past
present future and outward
the quiet work of maintenance
a manifesto for care
the preamble of the father
culminating in a two day birth
the dog ballet
the way out
of the dog currency parade
segregation of the spirit and the body
juxtaposed against
a moment of solitude with a newborn
or an afternoon
mesmerized by the kaleidoscopic names
of numerous flowers in the garden