Alaskan Pipe Line

Sketch: Alaskan Pipe Line, from journal #10, cry Wolf, 1977


My dad smoked a pipe for years. He favored two flavors of tobacco , one was Old Hickory and the other I do not remember. It's a filthy habit of course but I did enjoy the smell and he did seem so peaceful whenever he had a pipe in his mouth. It was no good for his teeth of course, which he lost and wore dentures for years but that was also probably because of the gallons of heavily sugared iced tea that he drank.

We all drank too much iced tea.

I haven't been to Alaska yet as of this date but it is one of only three states that I have not been to, the others being Hawaii and Montana. Funny, two of them were not states when I was born -- as I often say "that's how OLD I am..."

I did contemplate traveling to work the Alaskan pipe line -- the actual oil line and not the cartoon -- but correctly determined that it was all probably too rugged for me. Life certainly would have changed in a different path, even I'd even survived.

Any way -- that's my silly cartoon.  

-- doug smith

a breath and a sigh

magic never mattered much
spells and incantations are
punchlines pounding air
barely worth a chuckle and
lately most of life stacks
a natural order and predictable
placid piecemeal wave

a breath and a sigh ago
in the warm night air
somewhere between the pause
of the sunset and
the promise of dawn
you touched me gently
recklessly upsetting all mystery
a promise no proper landing
dancing between knowing and 
hiding in a never-land of 
grins and giggles
shakes and surprises
dreams and desire

maybe there is magic after all.

douglas brent smith


in need of a doctor

she held back her tears

as she told me the reason

she just could not hold me tonight

"i'm in need of a doctor

who does not ask questions

can you tell me a place to go?

and my body is trembling

from a night past remembering

and i don't want the family to know

"why does it happen it's my cross to bear?

i hear thru your silence -- you weren't even there

but i do need some help some how

"i know it's not unusual

it happens all the time

but it's so devastating

when the choice is mine..."

she refused to cry

as she ended the call

"i will find a way

to overcome it all..."

and never spoke of this again.

douglas brent smith



universal bang it was a universal bang

it was a universal bang it was

a big bang

got to thinking about the nature of existance

and with a certain degree of persistence

i proceeded to untangle all the angles

that approach us

from the cosmic cloud encroaching us

all leading to the theory

that a weary sort of human

needs awakening acumen

to make sense of any reasoning

and weather all the seasoning

that's bound to blow right thru you

no matter what you do you

come up a little short and then

it slips right thru your hands again

it hasn't changed much to the aliens

deciding if we're enemies or friends

still hoping that we finally get the joke

universal bank it was a universal bang

it was a universal bang it was

a big bang.

douglas brent smith


from journal #10, cry Wolf (1977)

cry Wolf

here and gone and

here again the most

peculiar fleeing friend

you stay you go you

tell me so i know

it's sure it's what you name

it's all in how you play the game

but oh i wait here for your kiss

there's something that you should not miss:

cry wolf my


and see what shows

the wolf



and i

will go.

douglas brent smith


Pie Out-Moded


sketch by doug smith

Pie Out-Moded - sketch by douglas brent smith, from journal #10 cry Wolf (1977)


Another silly cartoon, drawn with a flair pen in a spiral bound notebook. That is a lot of ice cream.

breaking up

come to me

as the person you know as

the one who will go

softly in silence from you

slowly and close

feel the most we can offer

all of this flesh thru the mess of our parting

there. you see? the magic the warmth

still willingly there

all we have shared

has formed a bond

not to tie us or hold us captive

but to wrap our walk

thru this passage

peacefully gentle

compassionately free.

douglas brent smith


This is at least the third version of this poem. I'll never get it exactly right, just as I never figured out how to get breaking up exactly right. Much has changed since 1977 when the first bits of this poem appeared, and yet...much remains a mystery -- like the mystery of how does someone fall out of love?

To me it feels the same as if you said you'd decided to stop breathing. How do you do that? 

doug smith


the only fire that inflames me now

crackles constantly your name

white hot and furious over the ashes

of your unwritten melody

and my unwanted soul

the only air flowing thru me now

tastes bitter and smoky

colored in resins i've never learned

in pigments past understanding

you say i may not see you now

though i still hear you when you sigh

you declare there's no love there

but ashes swept aside.

douglas brent smith



i guess the postal service died

no other cause will do

it's been more than a month

since i've heard a word from you

the phone company has gone on strike

or else my phone is broken

it's been too long a time it seems

since your sweet voice has spoken

it could not be dark apathy

or mystery ignoring me

that would not do it's not like you

to leave me so neglected

and somehow soon it must be true

you'll treat me as expected

to sit alone by my dumb phone

reveals a hope gone rotten

and it's much worse to live the curse

of someone who's forgotten.

douglas brent smith


napkins and things

dorinda likes to doodle

daringly on napkins

unseen unnoticed by

the scramblers eating eggs

or sipping bitter coffee

sometimes she pops out a song

or sketches a summer scene

from somewhere no one's been

now here i am in Chicago

frozen to the bone

doodling on a napkin

and wishing i was home

but, lacking that i

send a pre-doodled napkin

to someone who appreciates

napkins and things.

douglas brent smith


A Safe Bet

sketch by doug smith

 A Safe Bet, sketch by douglas brent smith, from journal #10 cry Wolf (1977).

I was not much of a cartoonist, but that didn't stop me from occasionally trying. The joke here is basic and obvious and probably just came out of idle doodling.

what Jane needs

what Jane needs to paint

fuel from foolish adventures

folly from feeling


swirling her flashy flesh filled shape

as metaphors

a warm blanket

around her naked frame

what Jane needs lately to feel

hip in her new age

is company, coolness shared

some touchable one

who cares what she paints

more than about 

what's under her blanket.

douglas brent smith


angel fall

Once an angel


from her warm but insecure

perch in an artificial sky

damaged and breathless

afraid and in tears

i ran to her soft side

more than anxious to

help her to heal her

and hear her words of love

mending her wings and

sealing her strength

hoping she'd fly over worlds

that were also mine

and love me for something

that angels don't have

but...once healed

on the wing

she took flight from my sight

not willing to waste

her freedom on fools

so i wait with tears streaming

waiting and dreaming

and hoping that when

that angel falls again

she remembers these steady hands.

douglas brent smith


i left my typewriter in new jersey

as if some  bloodied murder weapon

trying to hide the crimes

or forget the posturing

of the scene of all my passion

and pathos

for these seven quite odd years

where manhood came

and with it the twisting

torture of passion's pain

distressed and then daring

darling and then distressing

messing with alternatives

though the people traded places

sliding parade-like suddenly

my massive wooden desk i

called the aircraft carrier (covered

with unfinished scripts, snatches of poems,

and doctors' bills)

half my soul (it seems) was

spilled poured and splattered

into these gold, black, red walls

onto the dusty floor filled with

cat hair, beard hair, auburn hair

too precious to sweep away

no, it was not a castle

or a page from Architecture Digest

but it gave me all I ever needed

to become an artist

they say we become completely new

every seven years

we'll see i suppose we will see

i left my typewriter in new jersey

i guess i'll need to return for it.

douglas brent smith


Actor at Large

sketch from journal 9: Midwest Blue

 Actor at Large - sketch from jounal 9: Midwest Blue by douglas brent smith

erase, delete, purge

embarrassing errors boggle and

jog clumsily a spell mispelled

an assertion averted a

bumbling humbling remark

all those things

we were all those

things bringing confidence to

a dance without knowing

any of the steps i

of course stepped continually on

toes not my own

breaking light into frozen

patches not fixable fixed

in a moment exposed

so sorry so sorry so sorry

you told me that insecurity is

often expressed as bravado and

of course you were correct

you don't have to forgive me but

what if you did?

-- douglas brent smith


Secret Recipes


sketch by doug smith

Secret Recipes - sketch by douglas brent smith, from Journal #9, Midwest Blue (1976-1977)


i heard somebody mumble

that we live inside a jungle

and if we're not judicious

may meet someone malicious

cold lurking on the prowl

intent on business foul 

disaster faster than we care to know

but if we're extra wary

about such terrors scary

our awareness could prepare us

for phenomena that scare us

and with targeted intention

succeed with its prevention

escape that shapes a better freedom flow.

douglas brent smith

Nude Behind a Tree


sketch by doug smith

Nude Behind a Tree, sketch from Journal #9, Midwest Blue (1976-1977)-- douglas brent smith

coffee table

ashes, roaches, tweezers, matches

our hands a foot apart

not touching until

you pass the heavy book of

Picasso paintings

tapping the cover telling me

without telling me

the days grow shorter

a candle burns slowly

security in its perch

atop the bottle of cheap wine

(a pair of feline eyes stare

through the glass top sharing

perfect secrets knowing what is real)

"who believes in love anymore?" you

say, a provocation? an invitation? 

"maybe," i reply, "maybe!"

if it is you

who is of

love and secrets perfected by scars


you feel untouchable heavier than

this table carrying

questions that burn, that smoke

that penetrate us, but


i'm alive enough to know i'm 

near you

not near enough to you to

know i'm alive

douglas brent smith

Foiled Again


Foiled again, sketch by doug smith

Foiled Again, sketch by doug smith, from Journal #9 Midwest Blue, 1976-77


 the words you want

most to write

never come


they (you can't find them) find you

unprepared: unaware

and they laugh fast and run

the people who all mean the most 

you take for granted

as their memories become

lingering ghosts

of lines you never chanted

songs you never sang

but i refuse to let that slide

because it boldly matters

and honestly, without you

i'd be forever sadder

douglas brent smith

Filling the spaces


Filling the spaces

Filling the spaces, sketch by douglas brent smith, 1976

The doodle sketches of a busy time, from Journal#9, Midwest Blue, 1976-1977. Letting go, moving on, trying on Chicago for size, while also re-inventing in New Jersey. The notes on this page span a wide amount of time with notes for plays in Chicago and rehearsal with -- DD -- in NJ and a Polaroid picture of Annie herself, standing outside 2065 Pennington Road. Not sure that any of this is noteworthy much less art worthy but here it is anyway. History.


you should have never

you should have never set me free

for now i'm flying recklessly

and weave new roads from symetry

a tangled dark geometry

you should have never sewn me wings

for i have stolen sacred things

and crossed the paths of clumsy kings

who yield their crowns to hear me sing

you must have known that i was wild

a reckless feckless freckled child

when tossed among the ranks and files

of royalty and scarlet styles

you should have never set me free

for i have bargained honesty

and released all modesty

consuming generosity

douglas brent smith


She Didn't Believe It

i tried to tell her hell i

try to tell all of them

but she didn't believe it

when i said to expect

the unexpected

and to deal with

puzzling deals nothing

to be dealt with normally

there being nothing normal there

so i should not be held responsible


for twisting a phrase,

opening the horizon

or breaking her heart

i tried to tell her that 

might happen but

she didn't believe it but

being pro-active and smarter than me

broke mine first 

douglas brent smith

on and on again

when the page turn


the writer's hand

a grimace grows

surfacing the strands

of captured particles too bland

to turn the twisted

trip again

as the sunlight


against the night

the struggle of

forgotten sights

resumes its earnest empty plight

even when the product's


it falls apart and leaves a scar

while forgetting who you are.

douglas brent smith


my father's house

my father's house bears change

these days

the voices bouncing

off the walls

are not those of my family


of strangers

taking the space

i once knew so well

they speak with West Virginia accents


and treat me as a stranger

there are few things left

in my father's house

to remind me of familial love

to comfort me in shared history

something has been transplanted

and another thing supplanted

my father's house which

once was also mine

is no longer even

my father's house.

douglas brent smith


No One Expected Moses

  No One Expected Moses -- collage by douglas brent smith 4 August 1983