Wednesday, December 30, 2020

American Dog, art as writing prompt

Painting by Rebecca Ripley

American Dog
by Joyce Wycoff
He was an American dog, 
galaxies in his eyes,
heart big as the night sky.

He untethered sun and moon,
launched uncounted stars
of joy and sorrow, light and dark.

He wove all into our story,
though his words were square,
unheard by hearts laid bare.

Sad to the bone,
he headed home,

Becky Ripley shared her amazing art with me in the form of a set of greeting cards. I coveted them too much to think about sending them to others, so I took each one as a writing prompt. 

Before I read the title of this particular card, what I saw was a dog. I tried to find something else since it really didn’t look like a dog, but I kept coming back to dog. So, finally, I gave in and allowed it to be dog, and the first line showed up … He was an American dog.

What am I supposed to do with a line like that? 
Ride the wave, I thought.

I never write in rhyme. 
This dog wanted rhyme.
All right, I said, following the dictates of rhyme.

Without Becky’s art,
Without the demand for rhyme,
This particular assemblage of words would never have been born.
This particular feeling of sadness would not have been given space on the page.
I would not have admitted that in many ways, I am sad to the bone,
and, too often, feel alone.

This is my American dog.
He will lead me home.

By the way, Becky’s title for this piece is “Night Mask." After I had finished the writing from this, Becky said this about the development of the piece:  "I had recently completed a Thinking Patterns workshop on the work of Dawna Markova. Jacqui and I were then in Santa Fe for Paint Camp. The other campers had driven into town to see The Mission, and Jacqui and I decided to stay home and enjoy the hot tub. Looking up at the sky, I planned this mask to represent my alpha, beta, theta states…"
Here are other writings prompted by her inspiring art.


  1. I love seeing my art through your eyes and hearing my art through your words. What a gift! And I know what you mean about being sad to the bone. 2020 surfaced that sadness in many of us...and this, too, shall pass.

    1. Becky ... thank you for the ticket to places unexpected. And may all our sad places hold us closer together.