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Surrealist Café Two: La Vie Avec Les Animaux

On today's menu, the results of our second Surrealist Café community collage. Readers will recall that we asked you to walk into a cafe (or a spot that animals frequent) precisely at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, and record, in whatever medium you chose (poetry, prose, drawing, photography, etc.), your interchange with an animal. We suspect most of you didn't follow the rules about time and space, but nonetheless, these contributors seized the time, and amazed us with their devotion to les animaux. All contributions are (c) 2011 by their individual creators.


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Suki Kitchell Edwards, passing through New Orleans, USA:


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Scott MacFarlane, near LaConner, WA, USA:

“Bear Box”

Can replica serve as artifact?  The Northwest Indian bentwood box––with stylized bear design wrapped around four sides––hides in the clutter beside the register at the Rexville Grocery.  Those pens sticking out the top were not native but reinforce how functionality was a trait of this rich art form.

Down the road from the Swinomish tribal casino, this is the prehistoric land of the Northwest Coast Indian.  The red-and-black design with tertiary ovoids portrays a bear.  The little ears differentiate it from an Orca design that would display stylized flukes. 

A half-dozen miles from here as raven flies, killer whales swim.  However, this totemized design––Tlingit perhaps––derives not from here, but from the tribal turf we now call Southeast Alaska.  This design style was more formalized than local Salish art.

When I entered the Rexville, three aging hippies sitting at the counter glanced up and resumed talking.  The pencil holder had caught my eye.  Thirty-three years earlier at the Burke Museum on the UW campus, I had helped touch up these boxes, really a diminutive replica of a native bentwood artifact.  Clear cedar had been silk-screened, notched, bent and assembled just down the hall from Bill Holm’s office in the basement.  Holm was the non-native who devoted years codifying the principles behind Northwest Coastal Indian Art.  He wrote the book. 

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Stuart Balcomb, Venice, CA, USA: 



The vet allowed me to hold her
during the injection.
She was deaf, blind, very much in pain.
I know she could sense my heart beating,
her nose against my chest
as her last few pulses faded into memory.
Wife and child couldn't bear to attend,
so I did the deed,
then carried the lifeless cargo back home
where I laid her to rest, deep in the yard,
and toasted her eternal gifts
with a teary glass of Beaujolais Nouveau.


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Joanne Warfield, "Birds, Flights of Fantasy," Venice, CA, USA:  


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Jennifer Genest, Long Beach, CA, USA:

The Foal
You were part of an outline when I was trying to understand something called, “character need.” Back then, your birth was merely a point in the plot, the thing all the characters moved toward.
I was taught that an animal couldn’t carry a story—not as a character. But you’ve been underneath this one, gestating, being my little ticking clock. I admit it, you were used; the situation of your impending birth provided a way for characters to do and feel all sorts of things. Things, maybe, that horses don’t care anything about.
You arrive at last on page 268, dark and wet in the straw, and I am overwhelmed with affection for you. But once again it is a human character that takes the stage, trying to breathe life into your still, newborn body. 
And here I am, greedy in this tender moment, using the opportunity to move the story forward, trying to decide whether you will stand to nurse or never stand at all, and what that means for each human involved, and I am hopelessly stuck, at least for now, in mourning every possibility, in honoring you, in trying to pull off a story that only unfolds when I feel all of this at once.


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Walt Calahan, Westminster, Maryland, USA:


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Bruce Moody, Crockett, CA, USA:

     Les Animaux

 (for Amanda Sidonie Moody on her birthday)


There are always animals about.

Here, there, up, down,

always about. Wild.



Butterflies mating in front of everybody.

The squirrel taking over the roof.

The bird you failed to notice

or identify if you did

overreaching all expectations in the sky.


Consider their quiet absolute presence

like a fur you wear and have become accustomed to.


Consider the tortoiseshell cat next door

and the grey one.

and the other.


They are as impervious to us

as we to them.

We live in concourse with them

as we make our ways

cooperatively like folks on crowded streets


Neighbors we never notice.

Neither talking to one another nor to you.


They are indifferent to us as a species

to our names and souls,

dismissive of our wishes,

as we of theirs.


But they abound,

they abound all around us.

In the walls.

Underground as worms.

In the fields as unseen moles.


Ambitious for and seeking, ever seeking,

as we,



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Amy Waddell, Santa Monica, CA, USA:


Walk Lobster

Gérard de Nerval died on January 26, 1855 at the age of 46. That's not to say he did not enjoy a full life. A man who befriends a lobster, names that lobster and has the patience to walk said lobster every day has reaped life's riches in my book. Every day Thibault the lobster and Gérard the poet took air, as it were, in the gardens of Palais Royal in Paris. Sometimes their walks found them skirting the edges of the Seine. It is not clear if the blue silk ribbon that extended from Thibault's craw to Gérard's was necessary, or whether lobster or man determined the course of the walks. It is only sure that man and lobster walked together, sans pincer or boiling water-induced screams, for some years in old Paris.

"I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do." 

--Gérard de Nerval.



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Edith Sorel, "Day of the Iguana," Key Largo, Florida, USA:



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Richard Beban, Aquarium Tropical de la Porte Dorée, Paris, France:



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Reader Comments (10)

magnifique! and today i saw a large roadrunner wanting to cross my path but slowing as I slowed, jumping from rock to rock, hiding behind the cacti. my totem as I headed to mom's for a morning of doing our own kind of slowing, jumping, running, being together.

Friday, November 4, 2011 at 22:33 | Unregistered CommenterSuki


I love it! This is such a vivid evocation of Roadrunner. I think he really is your totem animal, so quick and endearing. Hiding behind the cacti: delicious! And it is so endearing the way you care for our beloved Bettina! (I'm smiling at the image of you two slowing, jumping, running together.)

And thank you for the N'Arlins alligator.


Kaaren & Richard

Friday, November 4, 2011 at 23:50 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Bravo, bravo! Beautiful, diverse work. Thanks, everyone, for sharing such delicious work.

Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 12:30 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Dempsey


We're in complete agreement with you. Thank you so much!

We hope you will contribute to the Surrealist Cafe next time.

P.S.: This is Jennifer Genest's first publication. Can you believe that?

Again, thank you.


Kaaren & Richard

Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 15:56 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

I'm in love with Lobsterman!!! How powerful the animal kingdom is- to the heart and imagination. Thank you for the delightful photos and tender writings on this post. Thank you, Scott, for the Northwest Coast Indian vignette. Our father Sam was a lover and collector of Northwest Indian art and tomorrow is his birthday.

Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 16:27 | Unregistered CommenterJane Kitchell


Oh, you would be in love with him, you surrealist you. (So am I.) Here's how linked we all are: Amy Waddell, who wrote the lobster piece and contributed the photo (did you take that picture, Amy?), grew up in Arizona. She recently joined my writers' group who now meet at Diane Sherry Case's home in Santa Monica--I join them by Skype from Paris. We discovered, after she joined, that her sculptor father, John Waddell, not only knows our brother Jon, but that Jon brought a team of builders up to her parents' studio in Sedona when it burned down.

And I had the same reaction to Scott's beautiful piece on Northwest Coast Indian art. It brought Dad so vividly to mind, I had tears.

But Jane, I'd forgotten that tomorrow is Dad's birthday. There is a certain way that les animaux are connecting us to fathers, sculptors and love right now. Here's to John Waddell, the sculptor; Dad, the totem pole carver and sculptor of space; our brother, Jon, the spatial and landscape sculptor; Scott and all you writers and photographers, for your sculpting of words and images.

And here's to Jane, with a link to her sculpture, many of them, animaux!:


Much love to you,

Kaaren & Richard

Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 18:01 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

I love seeing the animal in and through everyone. Marvelous all!

Guess I didn't give you my title - perhaps you could center it above the image...

Flights of Fantasy


Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 18:22 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Warfield

Done, Joanne, and thank you for contributing to one of MY favorite Paris Play group endeavors. Stellar work all around.


Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 16:36 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Thanks Richard... I love being a part of this. I'm a true "Animalista" with many more creatures in my zoo. <;-)


Monday, November 7, 2011 at 0:31 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Oh, I'm a bit late to these, but they are all wonderful! Thoughtful and inspired...both the writing and the images. (I found that image of the horses in snow especially beautiful and haunting... and wonderfully simpatico with Jennifer's lovely piece, "The Foal.")

Thanks to all for sharing your gifts, and your connections with les animaux!


Monday, November 14, 2011 at 1:16 | Unregistered Commenterdawna

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