The first Art for Poetry’s Sake book is now available!

You can now purchase Art for Poetry’s Sake on!

This is a book for people who get lost in galleries, have to be looked for and collected and sternly reminded that they had agreed to meet in the gift shop at a certain time; a book for people who aren’t lost by the compass but lost in the art.

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Wild Life

The red-tail hawk becomes the storm
As low he swoops in stern pursuit
Of hare or sparrow, any form
That serves to feed his brawling brood
Positioning in loud alarm
For grisly bits still hot with blood,
Prettified with fur or feather
To ward against the looming weather.

His mate will shelter as she can,
Then go in search of twigs and fluff
To make repair: the inbred plan
When damage makes the lodgings rough.
She’ll weave the findings for her clan,
Knowing when she’s done enough.
So it goes on day by day.
Until the fledglings fly away.

Another year may find the pair
Forbidden from familiar haunts,
A different tree, a new made lair,
But still they’re tuned to ancient wants:
A programmed yearning with a flair
for finding just the right response–
One that’s managed in their blood
Despite a change in neighborhood.

–Ned Mackey

Dave Burns
Red Tail, 2018

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The Cane Maker

He made a cane from a saguaro rib so his wife
would walk the world with him, and so the rib,
its ancient flesh sloughed away, would rise
straight and steady beneath her frail hand.

The rib walked beside her and remembered
its reach, the cactus wren, the rain,
the red fruits seeded with plans to build
giants on the desert skyline.

That night the rib dreamed itself whole again.
It appeared at dawn rooted through the floor,
busting through the roof into familiar blue–
a forty-foot column of thorned water.

Everyday oak would have to do–
store-bought, rubber tipped, merely useful.
A workable rib would come eventually.
The cane maker shelved his tools and waited.

–Ned Mackey

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The Old Ways

Followers of modern lore line up
for the tour guide at Machu Picchu.
They’ll learn that the smoothed stones
were fitted for Pachacutec’s royal estate,
inhabited by his family for eighty years
until small pox surprised the sun god, Inti,
and drove those few whom the priests
hadn’t sacrificed up into the mountains
to contrive a more vigilant god.

The pestilence so deadened the site
not even the Spaniards, hot for gold
and Jesus Christ, would find it
to defile it, keeping it nice for the
guanacos and llamas, the tourists,
and the ghosts of the Incas.

–Ned Mackey

Dave Burns,
Machu Picchu, 2018

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Villanelle for Nausicaa

Your dressy clothes were filthy dirty,
and you needed to be neat
for people at your wedding party.

You washed your costume feeling flirty
while naked for the heat,
and though your dressy clothes were dirty

you summoned chums: “The Favored Thirty,”
the prime of the elite
who would attend your wedding party

in splendid duds, refined yet sturdy,
the kind in which the finest meet
that oughtn’t be the least bit dirty.

James Joyce used you, called you Gerty,
whom Bloom spied indiscreet
while conjuring an after-party.

Odysseus feared you’d think him nerdy,
lost and longing for his fleet.
He didn’t see your clothes were dirty.
He didn’t need you to be neat.

–Ned Mackey

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A Tweet for Trump in Terza Rima

The wild, wild winds exhaled in your brief term
Have left a country breathless in their wake,
Befouled with judgements lazy and infirm
And uttered merely for your ego’s sake.
Your minions made up stories meant to ease
Your fevered mind and help you stay awake
To do a service you had nought but lees
To call upon when vintage rich and bold
Was wanted, not just gas and vacant wheeze.
The Nation needed more than coif of gold
And lovely women, languorous and svelte;
You showed us heat but left us in the cold.
The Right that at your feet had proudly knelt
Still revel at the hand that they have dealt.
–Ned Mackey

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At the brink

She visits to nap among flower pots
or in the back yard stretched out
for maximum contact with the lawn.

No birds or bunnies in her slumber.
Instead she conjures the impossible,
sidling toward civility as she dreams.

Lynx rufus is a species away from
Felis catus, the inventors of adoption–
a span like the one from wolf to poodle,

but I have caught her considering a jump
across the genetic imperative to snuggle
behind my knees and groom us both.

Ritual mapped in her very bones,
she’d knead with her daggered feet,
purring like a jackhammer.

–Ned Mackey

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Color Wheel

Color Wheel

Cataracts will cloud the view
as years begin to roll;
U. V. rays and cigarettes
are bound to take their toll.
Before my cataract came out,
I chose my socks by feel.
Now red is red instead of rust–
the right place on the wheel.
Orange juice was sepia,
and yellow nearly bronze;
My painter’s pallet’s right once more,
and daylight flawless dawns.
Green no longer khaki shows,
and blue’s not just a haze;
the vivid world is fresh again
and gathered for my gaze.
Indigo is indigo–
too powerful to mute;
violet is up from mauve;
my vision is acute.
A steady ophthalmologist
implanted my new lens.
The rainbow’s now original;
so’s his Mercedes-Benz.
—Ned Mackey


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Early Fishing



Dawnshades soft on skiffs adrift;
figures dim in morning mist.

Sleepy voices, sharp across water:
scattered fishtalk, fits of laughter.

Bankside, a wildrose listens–
redflash! the skyline brightens.

Men slide past as sun ascends;
rose remains and vivid stands.

–Ned Mackey

Mike Bradley, Early Fishing, 2014

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Wet Season

Yet again

after rain

these two,

grizzled, wizened,

stately stand.

Lighted late,

monsooned cool,

one nudges

other with

armored arm.

Such touch

must assure:

we endure.

-Ned Mackey

Guy Atchley, Desert Promise


In addition to his photographic success, Guy Atchley is a well-known TV personality, the news anchor on KGUN9–Tucson’s ABC affiliate.

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