The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

The Art of Tetman Callis header image 3


Thermal Paper

Pathing along the desert,
The wet desert—
Pathing along,
Shove and lay,
And there were
Long white snakes.

Ribbonsnakes from caves
Of cardboard marked
Thermal Paper.
Not hiding from the cold rain,
But twisting brazenly
Around winter’s relics
Of spring’s life.

They remain,
And will remain.
Rain, rain,
Whisperdown to
Split the night;
Shatter the day.
Sand about—all about—
And in five years
A child will pull the
End of a snake,
And unzip the desert.


Moment of Truth

letter postmarked 4 days past
me w/anticipation
trembling hands
nearly sliced off a
finger w/letteropener
check hey
letter hey
no way
just 3 sickeningly familiar poems
one immaculate rejection slip
punctuate here

(“Thermal Paper” and “Moment of Truth” originally published in Southwest High School Creative Writing Awards Vol. XV, Spring 1976.  Public domain.)


Linda Shy

You meant a lot to me once.
You know that.
I smile to myself
in the mirror;
then focus my eyes
and stop smiling.
I turn my eyes to your photo,
pinned to my bulletin board,
with a lime green pin on top
and a light blue pin on the bottom.
The photo is two years old,
but no matter—
all changes are within.

I can smile in myself,
yet I cannot bring a
smile to my lips.
There is a sadness in my face,
and it just won’t go away.
My heart smiles at that time,
thousands of miles ago,
when I loved you.


Mouzon’s Law

I was halfway home
when I met a dog.
Thank the gods he was friendly—
there would be no poem if he wasn’t.
I petted him, and he followed me.

He followed me
for a half-mile,
nearly the rest of the way home.
A fine German shepherd,
alert and sleek.
He kept stopping at the bushes,
and had to run to catch up.

We turned the corner
onto my street.
There was a house there,
with an easy two-dozen bushes
in the front yard.
He didn’t catch up again.

Down the street there was another dog
and two girls smoking pot.

We were two social misfits.
The dog, without tags or leash—
well, we all know about myself.

Why was he nicer than a person?
Why was he nicer than my friends?
I have so much
love inside that never gets out.
I meet people, and love turns to
a) envy  b) lust  c) hate  d) pride  e) anger
I meet a dog, and channel my
love to him.

Sandy G will be going with us tomorrow.
I wish she wouldn’t.
I get the dull ache
only when she’s around.

(“Linda Shy” and “Mouzon’s Law” originally published in The Poet Peu à Peu, Spring 1976.  Copyright 1976 by Doris Nemeth.)



he will grow thinner
the twisting hiding mouth
that he is

he shall torture away
to brittle death
lie-stained lips stretched
dry over yellowed teeth
leather kindling for a tongue

she will float in her dreamway
softly over land’s end
she would have her skull implode
as the corkscrew in her head
grows tighter

we will deal our paltry cards
grandiose images filling our minds
overshadowing our bleak conditions

crow laughed
here came three he could call friends
in his fashion

(“Friends” originally published in Carousel Quarterly of Poetry, Winter 1978.  Copyright 1978 by Carousel Publishers.)


Beware Ye the Cucumber What Ate Van Horn

beware ye the cucumber what ate Van Horn!

to an extent,
but dangerous.
Very, very dangerous.

you gotta watch out!

He’ll sneak up on you
when you think it’s alright—
even good; even Very Good—
you’re dead.

Beware ye!  He already
has Van Horn, and he’s
on his way to Fabens
(no great loss, perhaps).

But El Paso!
God-damn, what a
hole in the desert
that would make.

(Originally published in Iron 54, 1988.  Copyright 1988 by Tetman Callis.)


Stroking Through a Cat’s Eye

He curled around her intellect
Dabbled in her emotions
Heard all about her state of physique.
With her he exchanged recipes
(How to thaw a freeze-dried love;
All the spices she’s never tried and never liked)
(Who nearly died laughing;
Who nearly laughed).

But the things he wanted to hear
He didn’t say
And she never noticed.

(Originally published in the eleventh MUSE, Vol. 9, No. 2, Fall 1990.  Copyright 1990 by Tetman Callis.)


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Averil Dean // Oct 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

    “A child will pull the
    End of a snake,
    And unzip the desert.”

    You are an old soul, my friend.

    I wish I had writing of my own like this, something to remember from my youth. But between the ages of 16-40, I wrote absolutely nothing. Not a diary, not a poem, hardly any letters. It makes me sad to have let so many years pass with nothing to remember them by.

  • 2 Tetman Callis // Oct 4, 2011 at 8:55 am

    It is saddening to read that you wrote nothing during those long years. If it’s any consolation, the best writing teacher I studied with assured his students that we could throw away everything we had written and would still always have what was most valuable and powerful about our creative selves.

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