To Be Whipped


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Blues is not in the color
of skin, but in the life lived,
the pain felt, a willingness to
report it—

We convert it to beauty, try
to please the LORD with
sounds off the Mississippi River
whether you live there or here.

We see and feel a roll of shore-
break, the beat reminding, the riff
from God descending so that we
can rise every other line.

We drive directly into the pain,
know we can do no good by
skirting it to the flank; we give all
we can against the grain.

We see a break in the clouds,
an end to the rain—so keep playing
our woes, the dog barking, the bird
low, inspired chuckling,

Yes we even learn to laugh, as
someone listening understands what
we say!  Has had that bummer, too!
It’s only real if unaltered, just come

with the Truth.

“Anything more would have seemed
too weak” said the poet next to a
farm he farmed poorly but unique,
his pen a fountain run by bugs

and fireflies, wisdom and changing
skies; say it, repeat it and change it
to a good riff, may we smile and laugh
many times before they say we die.


Billy’s War


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We shot our play guns, built forts
in sand—wide is the path to
destruction, narrow to heaven
maybe one in ten.

God forgive the dishonest step;
the careless dream un-whispered
in the vanity of perceived peace of
mind through wealth.

God forgive us as we forgive those
who come across us hard, no one
wanted to wrong it’s just the most
common of songs!

God forgive us!  The chase, the lack
of study, the cramming alcohol down
throats because it looked cool and
signified plenty.

God forgive us the blind walk into
cars, paving roads over native hearts,
concrete over natural falls and rivers,
putting our mark down…

down, down, until the Lower Power
drills into us, putting his mark on us.

God forgive us—we had to decide
to win to win, even if winning was losing
with honor, pick up your feet declare
Victory over Defeat!

God forgive us!!

Give before, impede us from judging,
from playing your part, keep us
enjoying in our lane—make it that
narrow path to heaven;

widen it out for others to follow,
the art to be inspired and in the glow
tell them what you see and know
if frozen pray and go.

God forgive us, the first step without
you nearly off a cliff or worse, we
started to think of you, God, the
Great Spirit, the Hebrew

YHWH, never in vain, keep a few
things sacred, make a study of study
and study hard—not because they
told you but because…

Because you see.  And in seeing, those
momentary glimpses.  Ha!  Pick up a pen
or the artist’s brush, the guitar sitar
stomp a drum out of paper,

Writing it down for the next group,
who, zombie-like, are tempted to
drive off the cliff as you were, having
been told lies.

The devil’s the devil because of his
apparent credibility, the sparkle in
the drink, the sales pitch too good
to be true—

but easy.



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Evolving spirit, I revolve the revolving
door revolutions salute when revolting;
turn back to my past with a key called
loneliness turned into twelve steps turned
into intimacy with one, two, three, until
lo, and behold:

I love all people in the world.

Nothing is possible—to do nothing better
than a thousand bad things—heck,
study the Tao Te Ching!

Evolve spirit, build a bridge… not of
bricks only but perhaps with words,
as well, sharp in spots, muddy!  Get
down into it with those you don’t
understand, open their book and
read their words!

Build a bridge, then reach into the pen
that sets down truth like cold the
‘fridge, giving God a run for money
is the wordless feeling streaming
from extremes called compromise
and peace of mind.

Build a bridge; the words can if
you let them, speak your truth when
the coast is clear—

and when it is not?

Retreat!  Pick a mountain spot, a dream,
a beach or any other sky that’s
pretty in pink.  Take off your dress, the
tie you were tempted to wear
because the others said it was what
was needed there…

Take it all off and jump into the pool
of love that is the true words spoken
in safety on the day of your awakening
of spirit.

I wish you truly well!

Even the folks I felt didn’t treat me so
swell!  We all did our best, even in the
late night mistakes of doing our worst.

The devil is a tempty little punk, but
love him too because without a
challenge like rain—

where would we ever find the rainbow
that is akin to overcoming our pain?

God grant us truth!  A safe room or
space in which to tell it; Courage to
speak the true words,

help us cast the safety of lies away
for good and forever.  Point us the
way toward a better earth, the return
of first peoples, first plants, a rebirth
of native culture—

the wisdom of studying all God’s things,
even that trail of ants.

Renew us in your waters; run the sauce
over our face, cool and calm—

each word a bridge now, each effort a
song to sing as we tidy up the nursery
of our ignorance; the past itself a broken
down palace of god-striving kings
who wallow until the ‘bow that Spring
will surely bring.

I Was Hurting


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Poly, my old school, still shut
me out, not caring even with Dad’s
money in their account.

1985, “Don’t you Forget About Me”
I hear the time machine, enter it
and fight back tears,

shaking for all the harm caused by
not being true.  I loved her and did
not say, I drank “beer” and

called that okay; I joined a team
and tried to look good, I got good
enough grades—chose them over

honest dreams since alcohol on
Dad’s lap, with friends by twelve,
blacking out by thirteen, pre-

pubescent and small, not five feet
tall, not 100 pounds I looked around
and tried to be cool, missing love;

missing truth.

I was alcoholic at a young age, missed
the Spring of life, when fruit is ripe
left untouched on the vine and tree.

God forgive me.

Right to Bear Harms


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AR-15’s and sport, hitting targets
imagining your hate from fear
exploding in space.

Killing as “defense” an excuse
to let our worst instincts express
destructive pace.

Rat-tat-tat we get high on the rush,
the perceived power of killing
life, tearing flesh—

I’m not mad at you, I love you
and am sorry we didn’t talk sooner…
wide is the path,

Destruction like math, if you take
a group of ten people probably nine
are having a hard time.

One buys a gun, starts to shoot.
We cannot stop all evil, just decide
for yourself your role;

Good luck but if born of woman
and hard labor rethink your desire
to plug holes

in others born of woman and hard
labor, the answer is love, I’m sorry
but I love you.

We forgot to love.  In loving, fear walks
away, and without fear there are no
assault weapons.

Murder is murder is murder is murder.
We murder on-screen, video games
become play things.

God bless us

Home Runs with Dad


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A favorite person forms like
a wave inside your own front door,
waiting for him to return from
Jorgensen Steel.

6 o’clock, on the dot it seemed, by
the bannister I waited for him
you could hear a pin drop, the
clippity-clop of the business suit
with shoes,

Old Spice aftershave, and if there
was a smell of coffee or smoke
on a jacket, this was the seventies,
Dad a people person with all types,
smoking, drinking—getting a deal
done, let’s smile but first:

Let’s be safe.  Clean is safe.  The Navy
is clean.  One, two, three, four—
we succeed by clearing the deck of

Loose will not do.  We can party
later, but for now: it’s time to clean
up our acts, lickity-split get the turkey
in the oven, a ballgame’s on the TV.

Ouch, that’s hot.  Stay away from that,
Billy.  Stephen, can you get my mitt?
Where’s Missy?

Johnny’s hiding?  Oh, he’s with Billy.

Watch out!  That’s hot, too!  I hope
they learn their way—

Crack, I knew it off the bat; Steve Garvey
went deep, Pedro Guerrero, I’ll lift
little Billy in the air until he’s too heavy
or I’m too old, or both.

It’s good to be the king.  It’s good to
win one, but you can’t count on it,
so think of others.

Don’t wait for them to clear the deck,
be ready to do it yourself.

Follow God, through His son Jesus
Christ.  Hold the LORD’s prayer tight.

Be the apple in the eye of all that’s
right—do your best, there’s nothing
more we can.

Crack off the bat, another home run.

Where’s little Billy?  The best us is you
and me, Adele and the song we play
at Christmas time.

Did you get your wreath?

We’re Celtic and Roman and Christian,
go back a long ways, Welshmen brothers
three sailing with Captain John Smith,

we made it with Native help, thank
God every morning and day, say
three prayers at night before you hug
your rainbow-colored pillow, furniture
I bought and painted for your room.

I didn’t do it all my way, her way, their
way.  God runs this ship.

I just kept the deck clear.  Stephen!  Johnny!

Katherine!  Billy!!

The deck’s all clear, deck the halls
do it all with cheer and know I’m always

Did you get your wreath?

Yes, Dad, thanks.  We love it.  We always
do.  Thanks for thinking of us, for going
to Jorgensen everyday for us, for the
lives you touched, for the effort you

The deck is now clear, for the church
and your wreath—the spirit you always
bring, the effort, the song and dance—

a soft shoe because David did it too.

Thanks for a chance to please the LORD,
honor you and Mom.  1925 to 2017 are
numbers, ninety-two times around the sun,
shining bright.

My dad was a clean hit over the wall in
center, a moon over night, a dream for
five year olds at a bannister waiting to
laugh and grow, be first after God in the
heart of an Alhambra-born hero of seven
kids destined to make more, be more, and
do good for as long as I write.

Ted and Eddy, do your parts.  Ring out
to Orange County, Central Coast, the East
and from there across the ocean and
see the Celtic cross we brought across.

Giving effort!  Protecting your family!
Leaving your mark at God’s feet, kneeling
before every strike to be the best
person he could have been.

Rise up, all, with John Watkins in
your heart and step, finish his work
well, never fully-dressed until smiling
meaning the deck is clean, and
the boat’s on a proper course.

The next challenge will be there.

Not with me, but with what you learned;
so turn, don’t… it’s up to you, but know
I’m with you, and hope as I always did
that you turn out well!


John Francis Watkins


The Disease


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We miss the pitch, seeing what
Dad or others did, so shiny and
apparently fun, a thought is brewed
and we didn’t know anything else
to do.

So drank the liquid.


It burned as it was supposed to
burn, hell’s fire tickling up from
below, the devil agrin with hopes
of diverting another soul from the
focus of heaven’s righteous run.

I think I may have been a Fred
Astaire, a triple-threat, whatever
God wanted me to be… hit that piano,
dance and sing

I’m Free, Mom, look at me!


All those things I do now, jokes to
tell, from rooms of Alcoholics
Anonymous and Al-Anon, twelve
step beats a native son to meditate
on things gone wrong—

strike the gong, shhhh, be the truth
when we speak it in the safety net
of change.

Serenity is a’coming, Al-Anon like
a spring dress, all a mess like the
duck beneath the water.

On top we quack and splash for
fun, knowing we can quit drinking
the flammable liquid now.

Alcoholism is quite a disease; listen
to me.

Stop and think.  Do not place anything
into your mouth without first

The crux of malady is the confused
insanity of doing hurtful things;

Bill and Bob wrote another chapter
of the Sacred book, you’re reading
it today—men and women both
equal partners in language we
must improve,

Love to soothe,
and peace that rainbow after the rain
coming to the admitted sick
alcoholic like a beat its groove.

Careless Un-Whispered


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She had a failure like me, dripping
unseen—her humanity in the odor
that comes upon us as men and
women, not at eighteen like a
discriminating Constitution and
laws pose.

But at puberty.

For her at thirteen; for me it was
years away, but I still liked her.

I asked her to dance, after I cleared
it with friends (as you do in middle
school).  I was short and cute, she
was normal height, huge to me,
pretty and hair that flared up like
‘80’s hair was supposed to do!

Every man chose a partner; I chose
her, though short of being a man, me
in 7th, her in 8th—me at X School, her
at Y School, visiting for the night
in a dance that would last forever.

Sounds corny?  Out of a George
Michael Wham song?  Ok.  But true,
because I will never forget Melanie
and cry tears of sadness, melancholy
and regret mixed with nostalgia—

hoping to see the light of good memories
to pass onto our children.  Not “ours,”
but hers with a loving husband, my
path poetic and unknown—God whispering
lines in my ear since 1995, Spanish
and English lullabies.

What smashes ties?  Or is it better to
cry.  Just let the tears gush; I’m so
sorry I was alcoholic and am.  I’m so
sorry I couldn’t express love like
I’d have liked. I’m sorry to Anne before
Melanie, JJ between—the lies of loving
but failing to report the love some of
the worst sins known to mankind.

Women of Melanie’s kind deserve better.
Truth and better weather; God loving
us on a lonely dance floor filled with
confused un-guided people.  Some say
“kids,” but we had seen it all by then;

the love sweep, the love deep, dreams
crashing on alcoholic shores of
“what’s the cool thing to do,” fighting
the careless un-whispered purity
I failed to be.  Anne knows, JJ and now

We are all fools in love.

The heaven-bound say so, and love
the ones they love by telling them.

Alcoholism and UCSB


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One Alum’s Story

UCSB Gaucho Alcoholism

—by Bill Watkins ‘94 


Hey Gauchos!

My name’s Bill.  I’m alcoholic; went to school there at UCSB from 1990-1994, had a good time, but should never have been given a degree.  In fact, I should not have been admitted to the school—and in no way should I ever have been given a high school diploma, qualifying me for any university, anywhere.

I started drinking alcohol on Dad’s lap at age five, his last sip of bourbon.  I started drinking the flammable, colorless, volatile, toxic C2H5OH with friends by age twelve, was blacking out on the substance by thirteen.  At that time, I was sub-100 pounds, and sub-five feet tall, a solid two years from puberty.

I was a young alcoholic, a routine law-breaker, liar, but achieved in key areas at a “college prep” in Pasadena, California that somehow impressed UCSB enough to become admitted in the Fall of 1990.  My high school wrongly granted me the diploma first, without knowing who I was—or if they knew, they did not care enough to confront and change my behavior.

If you are reading this and recognize any pattern, or think you may be a problem drinker, I’m sorry—but there is good help, if you are willing to ask for and get it. One needs a safe place to tell the truth in this life, and I hope there is a place at UCSB that is confidential, safe and effective to drop truth without being judged or punished in any way for the dropping.

I had a spiritual awakening at the Betty Ford Center in Palm Desert, California in 1995, a half a year out of college.  For me that meant I told the truth to a group of people for the first time.  My greatest secret that came out that day, was that I had never had a girlfriend.  I was twenty-two, nice looking, an achiever at sports and academics, but did not know how to say “I love you,” or express love honestly.

That is alcoholism, according to Sigmund Freud: a disease of those who cannot express love.  Well, don’t wait too long to turn around, if you have symptoms of alcoholism or drug addiction—if love and its expression is a challenge, or if you look to alcohol as “liquid courage” as I used to do.  In the end I always found in alcohol consumption not courage but belligerence, law breaking begot more law-breaking, carelessness more carelessness, and I’d always wake up feeling cruddy, never any closer to being a proper man, who was honest to the Wife of his Youth.

I threw in a biblical reference right there; see if you can look it up and avail yourselves to some of my poetry, if not included in this newspaper on (my little brain baby).  I’ve written and self-published forty books, love life today, and regret every single sip of disgusting, flammable alcohol.  I think it is not a product, but a lie; please study it before you put it in your mouth or down your throat.

February 7th, 1995

The scales lifted, the eyes clear.

Honesty, finally the truth at
twenty-two given with a tear.

“I’ve never had a girlfriend”
coaxed when the moment was right,
I let down my guards to finally
see the light.

You can’t be helped ‘til you ask
for it.  You can’t ask ‘til safe,
I looked left and right before I
truth supplied and saw that it was all
right—I came out!!!

I was unhappy, even though I had
friends after friends coming to my
bar-b-que party.

I was empty even though the trophies
and plaques on walls increased
and filled—attempted to fill, this would
have to be enough!

Spiritual Awakening—LORD, have me!
Done hiding it was safe to bloom,
and now, no more garden parties,

I separate the happy with the gloom
and see the world in poems—

I did not ask for permission and leave
another world behind: self-doubt, beer,
hollering around death, we put up
our hands at fear.

Trapped no more at Betty Ford
the 7th of February a.d. ‘95
ready to turn the boat around…

Trapped no more you want more
and more so ditch tomorrow for today.

They criticize you and analyze you
as you smile and accept today


You Learn to Care

The silver spoon rusts, and caring
departs the farther we find ourselves
away from life.

Poverty is our oldest friend, it is the
state infants find themselves in—
need to need, day to day, all five
senses supercharged and alive,
You used to care!!

To get that back you have to go back,
or forward march if in April you
find winter breezes alerting you
to change for the better.

Bill Murray in his Groundhog Day
learned to care, unlearned his stance
learned on the outside looking in,
resentments formed early in childhood,
defenses raised against abuse.

Our best defenses become our worst
defects as they sit and fester, or worse
yet grow and mold over and over
the petri dish that is Time.

The dust settles for a moment in
hospitals, jail cells, homeless shelters
or repeated groundhog days…

It becomes clear we must change.  Not
to something new but to something old:

Back to our childhood selves, the infant
that with five senses cared!  Was alive
with every movement, curious,
hopeful, asking—honest.

We learned to care, and then the day
turns and we can start over, begin
to live the adult life with childhood
spirit—Congrats, if you see this

Poetry Workshop


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I brought my poems; ears to
hear theirs.

I was so excited, grateful to have
a moment free of care…

Dance, poem!  Songs sung
singing praise like David, living
life sounding songs like David,
the phone rings like I did, God
and truth abound the blatant
sound of songs sung, singing
praise like David.

Dance, poem!  Freely made,
the words are for you, forced
through, woke up with you
after prayers answered they
ganged up and tackled you.
Higher powers than us are at
play, if good.

Be whatever, but let it all waver
in the up and down sometimes
thing, sometimes flavor, the dream
let it sizzle, this is something we
can savor.  Music claims to improve
us, words and I infused with rhythm
anyways, so why not?

Why not go that last step, grab
a guitar and go?

“Enough is as good as a feast,”
said Poppins before she left the
nursery.  Left for the park, Michael
and Jane convinced that cleaning
was fun, the games just begun,
words, haven’t you heard like the
wave of a wand, magic.

Toast from loaves from rocks
to roll, water from whine, it’s
now half past time to pack it up
and begin again, mid-flow, give
no more…


“No folks, there will be no poems
today.  We have on the schedule,
as you can plainly see:

A Poetry Workshop, with Dr. and
Mrs. XYZ, experts each, doing the

The end of freedom.  Hope for the
day jolted.  Conforming itself the halt
on what I love, so I left.  Found my
rhythm again, know there are no
poetry experts but dreams and wind,
things we cannot catch

but put them down on paper anyway.