Democritus and Rough-Cut Women ~ A View From the Keyboard of Ken Rodgers

I can’t quite recall how this gentleman from Boise came to my attention over the world wide web, but I am glad he did. Ken Rodgers is one of those writers who lives a fascinating life and then tells us about it in poems, stories, and film. He also tells the stories of others–one of his most recent projects is a documentary film about the Bravo Company of US Marines during the Vietnam war (co-produced with his wife Betty.) Rodgers has “…chased sheep across the desert, chased the enemy through the jungles of southeast Asia, run the head gate to capture cattle, pounded the keys of a calculator, pounded the keys of a typewriter, peddled mountain real estate, and tailed off recycled redwood at a finishing mill,” we learn from his website. How can you not be intrigued? And he is deeply committed to writers and celebrating words, working in various capacities as a teacher and artist. Lucky for me–and for you, too–Ken Rodgers is willing to open up his writing space to us with his View From the Keyboard.

Rodgers: Space to nap, ponder, and write. A bookshelf bulging with poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. A corkboard with postcard-sized renditions of art that fetch my fancy or churn my memory. Copies of ancient mosaics, also Cezanne, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Velasquez, Chagall, Picasso, De Kooning, Degas, Manet, Magritte, have spurred chunks of my written musings.

I am particularly fond of a postcard copy of a Diego Velasquez titled “Democritus.” Democritus was an ancient Greek philosopher interested in answers that rely on material data in response to philosophical questions regarding existence. Not much of the spiritual, just atoms and material things.

Although philosophy is one of my interests, it’s Democritus’ face that captures me. The same face a longtime friend owned, and I wonder if Velasquez’ model isn’t my friend’s ancestor. The Democritus in the painting wears a quixotic grin that when rendered by my friend, meant mischief was afoot. Life was like a bronco that needed to be broken. Rollicking, hoof stomping. We drank whiskey and fought. We got drunk and he fought cops. He pulled guns on cops, and mostly got away with it. I watched. Busted Metaxa bottles on the backs of bars.  Gambel’s quail gunned down out of season. The one-night flings with rough-cut women.

Democritus would have recognized our shenanigans as evidence of the material. Not much of the spiritual in our behavior.

My friend has been dead many years but I still write poems, stories and lyric essays based on our common monkeyshines. Often prodded by Velasquez’ grinning—or is it sneering—“Democritus.”

 Stalled on the Runway in a Boeing 707, waiting for the B-52s to take off

A sudden blow, the great wings beating still…

             William Butler Yeats, from “Leda and the Swan”


We wait for them

stately black

and unmarked

to leave    on their missions


Await our turn to leave the wounds of war



On the Kadena tarmac

we wait


Lined up  they wait

to fly southwest

to carpet bomb the ridges

and tree-lined draws

the amber flats

the creeks that meander to the South China Sea


They wait

to loose their bombs

with red frown faces painted on

Bombs nestled in their bomb bay breasts


Stately black

their too-long wings bobbing up and down

as they rumble and creep

forward for their time

to fly


Stately black


We wait for them

Await our turn to leave the wounds of war




→Ken Rodgers, thank you. -PMc←

3 Replies to “Democritus and Rough-Cut Women ~ A View From the Keyboard of Ken Rodgers”

  1. That poem floored me – simply left me in my seat in a state of wonder. I immediately went back and read it twice more to savour certain lines, the repetition of “stately black”, the way it performs different functions in the verse. One of the best things you’ve posted in this series, Patty. And who says blogs and the internet have no real value for the old fashioned virtues of literature? I admit that I hadn’t heard of Ken Rodgers before reading this, and clearly the fault was entirely mine. I intend to rectify this by going out and buying one of his books so I can read more.

    1. Thank you, Philip. Yes, I am constantly amazed at how convenient social media makes it to discover such fine things as a poem by someone you might not find on your own. Thanks to Ken, too, for contributing.

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