Distant Music

Distant Music

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1

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hush … can you hear the cat music

playing on flaying pigeon wings?

it brings out the hidden claws

of the once delicate lap warmer

now leaping wildly off the thinnest edge

to the beat of singing sounds

stirring safely behind glass

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2

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wittingly filling the room

with clicky busy city sounds

a thousand tiny tappers

rapping rhythms into the air

faster faster faster still

yet never flying to pieces

as I feel like doing

while lazily scrawling

symmetrical patterns

from my random pressures

wondering if the jazz flow

sounds as smooth to others

as it does to me

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3

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sometime I cannot make the energy

to go back over the old wrinkles

to make them smooth & clean

for the defining eyes of pryers;

I end up in some big armed chair

where I sit & stare so long

that I become a pile of creaking bones

yellowing skin & longing songs

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beside me now are empty chairs,

in front, beyond naked window.

crawls the night city sparkling

like a cluster of earth-bound stars

the wind whistles in dance

up & down the barren streets;

someone must be out there

to turn off & on all the stars;

but I cannot move

beyond these empty chairs

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while the dark & sullen moon

turns the stars aside to guide me

into letting the oars slip from my craft

so I can drift at last into my lover

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4

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changed are the ways of this Welsh lad

the days of longing are upon him now

with the first hint of cornfed comfort

making the long-by-gones seem so fine

here in the middle of my toss-up time

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I keep getting the feeling one gets

on dark, rain-spun, cloud-thick days

while looking out great bay windows

knees resting on velvet window seat

watching the mist nest in the elms

dawdling lazy-grey over the endless fields

of early morning English country side;

we discuss cricket or the government –

“frightfully so …

“rather, shall we say, common …

hey! hey!

stop the wheels before we go out of control

I’ve never been this close to that home

till now, & I hope, maybe, somehow

the clouds will have lifted by the time

I step, spanking-new, over-night, into there

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5

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hush … can you feel the man sounds

sailing on wailing baby cries 

it tries out the reveal cause

of the never ready bed charmer

now pacing softly the thickest floors

to the hum of distant music

floating unsure from Welsh hill

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Oct73

1 – I was visiting a friend in Halifax when I wrote this first section. I went there to see him & also to buy music that didn’t exist in the Sydney record store. One of the albums was of electronic/experimental music by the likes of Pauline Oliveros – yes even then I was pretentious enough to like the real thing 🙂 The music pulsed like wings flapping. My friend’s cat jumped up to the window ledge to confront the pigeons in the balcony but there were none there.

‘the thinnest edge’ is how one can leap to the wrong conclusion & get caught trying to figure out how to get back to solid ground. I’ve always had a ‘fear’ of balconies.

2 – I always write to music. These were the days of manual typewriters, when working on a manuscript could be retyping a whole page to correct a single typo. I was an okay typist & loved the sound in my workroom of the click of keys, the tempo of the pounding. Then I could never type fast enough to capture what I was thinking. 

I think the music I was more fascinated by was Santana’s Abraxas – chasing a thousand tiny percussionists with my keyboard. I was also digging Weather Report, Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. Writing as fast I could before I flew to pieces.

3 – The old wrinkles are typos, edits, rewriting, re-sequencing the verses in a poem. I was also writing a novel at the time so energy was flowing in several directions. ‘creaking bones’ echoes ‘skin & bones’ from an earlier poem. The final verse is a direct reference to Dylan Thomas’s “In my Craft or Sullen Art.” Though at this time I had no lover to drift into.

4 – The Welsh connection continues in this section. This sense of of my heritage doesn’t appear in the chapbook until now. There is a feeling of the east coast, of Cape Breton, that is present in some of the pieces but here I am relishing, or it is wallowing, in my own roots.

After traversing Egypt, Japan, Africa & am brought back to my ‘toss-up time’ & my own origins. The workshops at UNB were acknowledgements of me as a writer – the ‘toss-up’ was the decision of what to do with my expectations of being taken seriously. Was it to dream of this romantic ‘velvet window seat’ success or something more realistic?

5 – a reprise, with variations, of the first part of this poem. ‘cat music’ becomes ‘ man sounds.’ ‘bed charmer’ echoes ‘bed-ridden’ from The Last Waltz  to give the whole book as sense of completion. The first piece in the collection invites you to ‘set sail on my body’ – this last verse asks you to ‘hear the man sounds/ sailing off wailing baby cries.’ The book progresses from that boy to this man. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet