Where text meets image. Where the visual intersects the literary. Often posting 1st drafts and editing in (almost) real time.

Category: Poetic & Visual Narrative

Mostly Working in Silence

I spent ten months, mostly working in silence, creating this painting (& drawing) on a long roll of inviting, warm paper and felt how it used me as a channel. While writing the artist statement (below) I encompassed multiple perspectives concerning the work, probably with a focus on how and why. This material is from a pdf I assembled to promote the work.

As this mystery in blue appears beneath my fingertips my planning designs go up in smoke. The hypnopompic stage of waking illumines the space behind my forehead with images and textures. I begin working sessions with these. Or I simply wake after three hours sleep and begin where I stopped.

I name the painting Druidica. Then Druidica Blue. Then Druidica Blue: Deja Vu. And finally Druidica Blue: Deja Vu (Cave Art for the New Psyche).

In this landscape of the psyche I unearth longing: A quest for the unknown where I imagine belonging. Dripping, staining & flicking the brush I depict shadows cascading across the cave wall. I tumble influences: Prehistory tumbles into the Celtic tumbling into the Medieval tumbling into Modernism of the early 20th Century. I situate myself in art history addressing postmodern amnesia. I re-imagine now.

My journey to this point begins with a shattered ankle. Following surgery I draw page after page of two-dimensional spirals morphing into three-dimensional forms. I investigate spiral symbolism and discover a prehistoric language chiseled into stone. I discover: Newgrange on the River Boyne; Rudolf Steiner’s mystic-trance history of Hibernia (ancient Ireland); Three Cauldrons of Poesy transcribed in the Middle Ages, reportedly of Druidic origin now in Trinity College, Dublin; Joseph Beuys with healing language performing Three Pots for the Poorhouse inside an abandoned Edinburgh poorhouse; Sinead O’Connor singing her incisively poignant Famine. It occurs to me this painting joins the 21st Century to an older type of consciousness.

I begin the 35′ (width) X 5′ (height) painting by dividing sections to be completed one by one. After establishing a pattern I lose control and frame the spontaneous narrative in a more nebulous manner. The painting is flowing the same yet not the same. Perhaps mirroring the work of the psyche. One enters at any chosen spot engaging re-imagined folklore, symbolism, magic and iconography. I work using the blues of art history: Giotto, El Greco, Chagall and Picasso leave their calling card. I kneel to blot standing suddenly writing the poetic phrases I hear, arriving from an unknown place.

Out of some great forgetfulness came this blue sandstorm. In remembering the ancestral I multiply shades of blue. I hear chanting in the echoes.

I relate the process of this artwork to projects I have previously created. In creating cinematic poetry videos I worked (with the editor) to compose performers & surroundings in tandem, in motion, defining the wide screen. The one hundred and twenty B&W linocuts I carve and print for my ‘wordless poem’ Never More Together jangle in unison, though pages apart, connected like cars in a train. I exhibit three Moleskin accordion sketchbooks twenty-one feet in length. On a white wall intricate ink drawings unfold across pages revealing thematic and kinetic relationships. A later series of paintings on canvas makes me wish for the emotional & receptive texture of paper.

I read a magical quest poem, The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats. I rewind videos of the River Glyde in County Louth. I follow ancestral footprints down to the river, set sail for the new world and arrive (as Irish Wonder Tales often begin) A long time ago…I sponge Prussian blue, cerulean blue & ultramarine blue into a receptive & emotional texture until the sea-sponge runs dry. I infuse the blues of art history with a dream of the ancestors. I work a thin brush with round-tipped hairs – texturing the Gaelic mermaid wearing a halo who rises in time outside of time, holding a seashell, vibrating the monumental and mythic. Steeped in lore.

Mirrored images create a jazzy yet alchemical rhythm. I play with the Celtic propensity for seeing in doubles. In visible and not-so-visible relationships. An oracular raven divining portents – a Celtic warrier wounded by an arrow to the heart – a figure aiming a divining rod into the blueness & a herald sounding the (Irish war-horn) carnyx – in nearby spaces one discovers their mirrored doubles. Birds navigate the oracular weightlessness of air.

Energies flash between life forms at the molecular and heroic level. Also in my painting you evidently can get milk from a stone. The dolmen’s udder nourishes the Druid. Metaphorical mysteries nourish the audience. The molecular and heroic awaken the unknown. The painting addresses postmodern amnesia with signs, sigils, and symbols.

I read of who Taliesin might have been and then The Salmon of Knowledge. Water-soluble graphite releases a quivery chiaroscuro of premonition. I paint and draw both freely and controlled, both somber and subversively zany. Ancestors dye their skin blue with plant ink. I rinse my hands.

I squeeze tube after tube of Windsor & Newton white gouache dry. I work with gouache, inks, watercolours (in tubes, pan & pencil), aquapasto medium, graphite crayons & pencils, archival drawing pens, some acrylic, some candle wax. I discover baby food jars of blue & white pigment from a long-ago egg tempera painting class.

A channel forges its way into me causing me to dream this dream. I discover the roll of paper is longer than expected. I continue kneeling. It is finished. After ten months I am exhausted. I have translated my longing.

I envision this work, framed & illumined, welcoming an audience. For inquiries visit here & scroll down to my email.

@ The Redwood Theatre, Toronto. Like unscrolling the forest one lives in, seeing it for the first time.

I don’t know if I mentioned instinctive & expressive brushwork building the composition.


The great ship going down

Heaving like a lost city,

No water anywhere

No voice like an echo calling, 

Swim to the heart of symbols carved long ago,

You know you never will

(In your heart)

Never swim 

To the heart of symbols carved long ago.

TV on a throne

The great ship going down 

Heaving like a lost city,

No place to swim

No place to dream

No voice

Like an echo calling,

Swim to the heart of symbols carved long ago. 

In your heart you echo 

The heart carved long ago,

You kneel in disbelief 

TV on a throne.

No place to dream

No echo, calling like a voice,

Swim to the heart of symbols carved long ago,

You kneel in disbelief

The great ship going down.

An echo like a voice,


And you will not

You will never

In your heart, still and quiet,


To the heart of symbols carved long ago.

A place to swim

A place to dream

A place to reappear.

A place to cast aside demons

Far from the killing fields.

Voice like an echo 

Echo like a voice

No water anywhere

The great ship going down

Heaving like a lost city

Heaving like a ziggurat on the plains beneath the flood.

A place to swim

A place to dream

A place to reappear.

Swim into the heart of symbols carved long ago

Breaststroke upon tidal waves, push barrels of cinnamon sheaves

Buoyant amulets crest a tidal wave

Pages of an unbound book

Unbind slow-motion,

The sigil of a sun-god

No water anywhere

No clocks no grasshoppers no sky 

No echo like a voice 

No echo like a spinal column

The great ship going down

Heaving like a lost city

On the plains beneath the flood.

A place to swim

A place to dream

A place to reappear,

Mirrored in reflection,

In your heart you reappear 

On the plains beneath the flood

Breaststroke like a ziggurat

Curving like a spinal column

Sigil of a sun-god.

Voice like an echo

Echo like a voice.

Voice like an echo

Echo like a voice.

Traveling Backwards in The Field of Time: A Romantic Comedy

In light of ‘the body electric…’

In light of ‘the body electric’ in the poetry of Walt Whitman.

In light of the poetry of Walt Whitman.

In light of the body.

In light of the shadow.

In light of the shadow a question.

In deepest shadow The Leisure Class.

Eyes (& Orphee by Cocteau)

I have been approaching an idea I am still approaching

I circle the idea again and again

for some reason I made this comparison of eyes.

Eyes are truly the window to the soul

The soul is truly a window to the eyes

The window is truly eyes upon the soul. 

I think of the glazier in Cocteau’s poetry-film Orphee wandering in the underworld. 

I have the VHS tape rewound & worn, rewound & worn.

I may watch Orphee again one day. It reminds me of somebody.

My very own figure of death no longer mine.

In this comparison:

Burl Ives: Actor ~ musician ~ crouching fire-starter, lonely hero, feet of clay, masculine subject-object, middle name Ivanhoe, dancing round the Maypole, related to composer Charles Ives. In the heart is the first principle.

Mona Lisa: Mystery-school perception, the sun-drenched alchemical Renaissance, feminine subject-object, diagram the ancient golden number, echoing feet, touch linen ~ hazelnut paste, envision the Milky Way. In the heart is the first principle.

President: The conceptual zero imagined in three-dimensions, museums collapse beneath clouds funnelling stones, candy cigarettes, a camoflauged animal-skin eye-patch, mythological gods stir in vengeful coughing slumber. Envision the absent first principle.

I may watch Orphee again one day.

Imagine a Word

Imagine a word in the yellow garden of the angel-faery

imagine the word mirabilia

mirabilia opens a curtain revealing a portal

angel-faery imagines me ~ I imagine mirabilia

not three not two not one not me disappearing

into a collapsed perimeter ~ I imagine an angel-faery

in the yellow garden you memorize mirabilia

three eyes aimed upon a stem three eyes upon a flower

memory cascading sounding the word mirabilia

in the yellow garden yellow-ish flowers whisper

in the luminous yellow garden angel-faery whispers

angel-faery touches my eyelid to the flower of her vision

in blue soil I ring like a bell

the keyhole shaped like an ancient symbol

the flower of mirabilia touches your blue soil

darkness like a keyhole beckons the echo of my vision

into the garden of the angel-faery memory cascading

mirabilia penetrates a keyhole beyond the collapsed perimeter

who what where when why

not three not two not one not you

disappearing within the collapsed perimeter.

ink brushwork, printmaking, digital collage s mccabe

animals in the sky nurse their young

I said that was a long time ago

I passed through that stage of being a long time ago

she said never mind you’re not who I’m looking for

a gold-tipped cane floats to sea

the needle in the handle fully loaded

the way the blanket is folded makes it look like a fish

she said never mind you’re not who I’m looking for

the tunnels beneath Funland flood

a gold-tipped cane surges to sea fully loaded

clouds notify

far-flung amphitheatres

sea-sponges sparkle

actors dip sponges

in limestone basins

sea-sponges float cloud-like

in quiet limestone basins

animals in the sky

nurse their young.

ink brushwork S. McCabe

Beneath the Gaze of Spiritual Machinery

History will not tell you this but I was there

a gnarly oak branch growing out my back 

animals conceal buried acorns

Julius Caesar ignites his clothing

Jesus Christ recites the Brehon Laws of ancient Ireland

Mary Magdalene instructs me to bring my own basket

typewriters made of ice float in the sea

poets climb staircases carved into ice mountains

your neighbour conceals snakeskin sheathing his heart

the guardians of upper eternity affix their shadows

maps made of powdered sugar swirl into the wind

I forget the knotted scarf

I forget to die

I wash lead cisterns

my eyelids purple with prophetic script

beneath the gaze of spiritual machinery

I said take me with you.

Spiritual Machinery, digital drawing, S. McCabe


I  gaze upon her at the walk-in clinic

only the two of us

she carries a brilliant white bowl made of clay

her name scratched into the white glaze

I said haven’t I met you before

she said a long time ago

in the library at Alexandria

I said why are you here

she said the people who started the fire

arrested me for reading Ovid

they sentenced me to life without honey

I said what is the bowl for she didn’t speak

I thought my conversation bothersome

& fell quiet

she said I read Ovid at the speed of light

I said like a honeybee

she said honeybees are slower than the speed of light

I snap my fingers like a jazz musician 

You got it!

Honeybees are slower than the speed of light!

She said it might be the title of a brilliant love poem

about snails

I said two snails conceptually in love

she said you have to become healthy

I said what’s wrong with me

she said consider velocity

consider clay pots breathing in a cave

unfurling billowing sail-skins of air

unfurling billowing sail-skins of sunshine

the Dead Sea Scrolls

rolled and telepathic

secretly rescued in the fire 

she winks one eye

I snap my fingers

she said Im not saying anything

a voice calls her number

two snails conceptually move about in the sunshine

wrapped in honey-coloured sail-skins billowing

unfurling honey-coloured sail-skins often

I am healthy often

the people who start the fire sentence her to honey found secretly on cliff-sides

I walk in circles upon the rounded peak of a vertical mound 

chosen because it has no shade trees

I am healthy often eating honey

the brilliant afternoon drenched in honey-coloured telepathic heat

swirling like butter from the ancient cows

a deer pushes his nose into the brilliant white pages 

I read Ovid listening to a brilliant buzzing sound.

It is Not a Willow Green but Empty

It is not a willow green but empty cascading

the lady

pausing to catch her breath

pulls aside her buggy bulging with groceries

so I can pass chest deep in freezing waters

wearing a necklace of antelope teeth.

photo S. Mccabe, Toronto

It is not a willow green but empty crouched like guardian stalactites

the lady said we all make one big mistake

look at me now

I cannot walk to the store

mountains of ice destroy the great cities.

Willow beside the Ashbridge Estate

It is not a willow green but empty burning like a sacred candle nine minutes north

I brush my hand against green leaves

on the less-dignified bush mere shrubbery

encroaching upon the sidewalk & bleeding on strangers

I said green arrives each spring

in oceans of hope

the heart balances the head

one wonders why.

It is not a willow green but empty shimmering like a waterfall

aiming directed breath like a mastodon

she inhales tottering

she said the shadow words green but empty

I reach my hand into the city bush green but empty…

stretch my fingers into spaces large enough to fill a universe

stems, twisted branches and shadows

impersonate an atom

a pearl in deep space.

It is not a willow green but empty looking straight ahead like a god

we dance at each other stomping

I cast shadows over the sidewalk

my heart balancing my head

are you a poet

in cave language her shadow replies

I say only it is the truth

pulling her buggy into a mist made of pearls


one big mistake.