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Poet / Artist RIC MASTEN was born in Carmel, California, in 1929. In his youth he studied art in Paris, France. Became an oil painter and has had many exhibitions in the United States. Became a songwriter / folksinger. In the 70s & 80s. Became interested in poetry and toured extensively over the last thirty five years, reading his poetry in hundreds of colleges and universities in North America, Canada, and England. A few years ago Ric began illustrating his poetry with single line drawings which he calls 'one-liners.' He is a well-known conference theme speaker and 'a regular' on many television and radio talk shows. He lives with his  poet-wood carver wife Billie Barbara in the Big Sur mountains of California. He has 18 books to his credit.









































reading in a School for the Deaf

imagine a woodsman
swinging an axe in the distance
the tree speaking out of sync
then nothing
except what is left in your eye
chips still fly but your ears
dumb fleshy things
hang from your head
useless handles frozen stiff

the world around you
fills with dead air
the quiet thickens
till the atmosphere is packed solid
surrounding you like clear wax
and every one there 
rides in a limousine
stars of the silent screen
seen through shatterproof glass
the faces glide past
lips moving like goldfish

the trumpet has lost its voice
the sea shell — mute as a dish

my god in a place like this
what do you do with a word
like inconceivable?

spell it she said
hands moving behind the question
in a kind of semaphore
and you talk to fast

later that evening
the poems fell from my mouth
little naked birds crying for life
and who would have known
they were there
had she not taken them into her care
holding them up
till they could fly on their own

and back where this began
the tree came crashing down
and the sound
was the sound
of the deaf applauding


Leonard Like Vincent

and yet
when my friend Leonard
the mad poet
comes out of the zoo every six month
one shoe on — one shoe off
I’m always glad to see he isn’t cured
that he still limps in his mind
old nutty Lenny
because you know I really don’t want
to run the instant replay
of yesterday’s baseball game
I need his insane rhymes
like straws to clutch at
not the box score — I watch him

Paul Gauguin
watching through his own window pane
his crazy friend Vincent
winding his head up in gauze
knowing the hurt
to be the very ground
in which art grows
and far better for him at least
than filling galleries
with slick paintings of wet city streets
colors reflecting
or of little kids with big sad eyes
at fifty bucks a throw

and though it seems unfair of me
I need him there at sea — adrift
tending his mad menagerie
another kind of Noah
I need him there
dropping me a line each time I fall
into that awful blue period of mine


(diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer)

like raccoons
trapped suddenly in headlight glare 
we freeze — petrified 
ultrasound and biopsy results leaving 
us scared stiff — eyes wide — jaw slack 

but think about it folks — think about it
we’re born — we live — we die
so what’s different now? Not a thing!
except being blessed with a constant reminder 
to never let another unexplored moment slip by 

my condolences to those 
who fall prey to the fatal surprise
the unexpected cardiac arrest 
the sudden traffic casualty 
forced to depart short of a conclusion
short of the all important “good byes.”


© 2005 Ric Masten

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