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 

Love Sculpture Blues

 

What! Not another mp3 collection of obscurities covering several genres, decades & styles! 🙂 This one is filed under L for Love Sculpture. I have Blues Helping, Forms & Feelings. A Welsh blues band with unexpected progrock flash. Their take on Sabre Dance came up in my tumblr feed a few years ago. A fast metal version of the classical war horse that was great fun. So I did a quick search & downloaded their two lps. The Brits loved US blues & this is okay stuff – not John Mayall but okay.

Mayall wrote a couple of tributes to J.B. Lenoir, Here I have Lenoir’s Top 50 Classics. This is 50’s blues by a performer who died young but left a real legacy of music that influenced many. A deft guitar player his song cover all the bases: broken heart, political protest & voodoo boogie.

One Christmas I was given Legends of the Blues: A Robert Crumb illustrated book that included a great sampler cd of some of the artists (i.e. Bukka White, Big Joe Williams) discussed. The book is an excellent guide to the legends. A couple of which I sought out & so on this cd I have Blind Joe Reynolds: Outside Woman Blues – period recordings nicely preserved. & Henry Thomas: Texas Worried Blues. There is a fun frank sexual content to many of these tracks. Lines like ‘always going through somebody’s drawers.’ Coy smutty & direct at the same time.

Even more coy but not bluesy is Ivor Novello. I have the The Ultimate Collection. Nice period recordings of British music hall songs – some sentimental, some suggestive & all charming. Novello was the Elton John of his day (one of the most popular British entertainers of the first half of the 20th century) – smartly dressed, campy & talented.  To complete the circle started with Love Sculpture he was also Welsh.

It as another day to drag my ass to school. Drag Drag Drag would echo in my head as I forced myself out of bed. I had done my homework. I always did but didn’t remember a word of it. I could recite the lyrics to every Dylan song mind you but couldn’t recall the periodic table or even what it was I was supposed to be memorizing. Maybe it trig formulas  or the dates of historic moments. When was the Treaty of Utrecht signed. That has always plagued me. Lost so many jobs and ruined so many relationships when I didn’t have the answer to that one simple question. when was the Treaty of Utrecht signed. A question that I knew was bound to come up sooner or later and ruin everything as I drag drag drag my ass though life.

 


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

Heritage

Heritage

I have no heritage

only entitlement 

that tries to tell me

that to weave a life of meaning

it is okay

to appropriate anything 

that catches my eye

especially 

if it means nothing to me

it can give meaning to me

 

I’ll redefine my self

no – not redefine

because as it stands now

I have no meaning

no self

outside of a cultural context

of entitlement

which tells me that even because 

I am a nobody

it is better being

anything else

 

the music I listen to

the clothes I wear

reflect a world around me

I am merely walking though

other cultures

are like zoo exhibits 

art installations

to amuse me

to divert me

from the fact that

 

I have no heritage

no backstory of ancestral struggles

other than the banal

patriarchal war for control

money oil sex religion

chains to hold people down 

not to free them 

 

scraps of pasts

remains of genocidal cultures

omnipresent days

arbitrarily clumped together 

for momentary comfort

 

who cares about heritage

as long we are comfortable

Back in the mid-80’s I became involved with Therapeutic Touch (I still practice it). One of the teachers was a native woman who lead me into an exploration of native culture – drum circles, sweat lodges that sort of thing. Weekend Warriors was the term used for guys like me. I saw it as exploration of a culture, not as appropriation. I was given a name, a spirit animal – which I now see as appropriation.

When I told my Dad about this he sent me a beautiful, hand-carved talking stick one year, then another year he gave me a pipe. I read tons of stuff, as I usually do, then sort of lost interest as it became clear that many involved were ‘buying’ heritage & judging it by the amount of turquoise jewelry you had, or who lead your vision quest. I eventually gifted my talking stick & pipe to a native AA member who was stunned & thrilled to get them. 

This is some of the context for this piece prompted by one of the Rules for Monks – using these Rules as prompts isn’t, to me, appropriation as I am in not way interpreting them but letting them resonate in my life. I am no monk 🙂 The piece also bounces around some current buzz words: entitlement, appropriation.

What heritage I have – Swedish, Welsh – is interesting but not ‘exotic.’ I am certainly proud of being both but there are no black rappers exploring Swedish street culture. I was also thinking of that news item a few years ago about the white woman who was passing herself off as black, until her white parents spoke out. Her defence was that she saw herself as black so she was black (or something like that).

I saw that as a need to create definition though stealing another culture while denying one’s own. An action that she felt entitled to do & her response to challenges wasn’t apology but to write a book about being misunderstood. Not that this appropriation isn’t a two-way street: Asians neck deep in European luxury goods, getting their eyes surgically rounded. But that is another blog post 🙂

 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Goldfinger

Shirley Bassey, considered one of the most popular British vocalists since 1950, was never considered one of the hippest or coolest. My mother loved her though, being Welsh, as is Bassey, that isn’t surprising. But my only real memory of Bassey was one of her few chart toppers: Goldfinger.

raptor jurassic holly

The voice is like steel, strong, full and adult female. She was only in her late 20’s when Goldfinger was a hit but she sounded much older, to my ears, so used to, say, the Supremes. Bassey never was a mod persona but a ‘real’ singer.

eggs eggs of the raptor

This cd is an lp (The Very Best Of) to cd transfer from 2009.  I found the lp at the curb in a discarded pile on one of my walks. I thanked the universe & saw it a sign to get back to my Welsh roots (ha). It was sweet to hear Goldfinger. The material is solid nightclub stuff though: jazz standards, show tunes, clearly not top 40 pop but her voice is superb.

tracks tracks of the hunter

Imagine my surprise when she teamed up with Propeller Heads for History Repeats itself! In fact she has had an active dance music career the past decade – once again the gay market saved a career.

soon02

November 1-30 – participating – NaNoWriMo 2014 –nanobullseye http://nanowrimo.org

sample

Lather

Brian felt the other man’s eyes on him. He adjusted his bow-tie in the mirror. Head-to-toe he was the perfect groom. He turned to the clerk.

“How do I look, buddy?”

“Fine.” the clerk looked Brian up and down. “She’ll be happy with you.”

“She!”

“Well … yes … I mean …”

“Better get used to it. That’s him over there.”

Brian nodded to the other side of the shop where Jeff stood in front of a mirror to check his tie and tux.

“Looking good honey,” Brian called over.

“Thanks. You too, sweet cakes.”

“Sweet cakes,” the clerk muttered under his breath.

“You got a problem with that?”

“Not at all sir. It’s just that …”

“What?”

“Sweet cakes is so cutesy. At least you could have something less …’”

“Girlish?”

“Right – less girlish – to call each other.”

“How this? Hey! Buttmaster Flex, looking hot.”

“Please there are other people in here. We wouldn’t allow anyone to disturb the other customers is that way.”

Brian looked around the shop. He, Jeff and the three clerks were the only ones there.

“Sorry. I guess we don’t want to frighten the mice by being too out.”

Jeff came over to stand by him.

“We’ll make a handsome couple, won’t we?” He said.

“I’ll say. Cock maestro.”

“Will there be anything else gentlemen?” the clerk asked.

“No I think we have just about all we need for the ceremony.”

“Good. If you’ll just slip out of those we’ll have the alterations done. They will be ready tomorrow morning.”

“Great.” Jeff pulled his grey jacket off. “You don’t have anything for honeymoons do you?”

“Honeymoons!” the clerk rolled his eyes.

“Yes” Brian rolled his.  “You do carry things like pyjamas, bathrobes, his and his lather, lube? Those sort of things, don’t you?”

“Well, yes, but you can get those anywhere.”

‘No I think we’ll see what you have here first. One stop shopping.”

“Very well. That is Mr. Deekes department. Once you’ve changed out of these I’ll turn you over to him.”

“Oh, you are too too kind.” Brian laughed. “But perhaps we have been too much for you today after all.”

Brian and Jeff went into separate change rooms and came out in jeans and t-shirt. They handed their wedding suits to the clerk.

“I’m sorry,” the clerk said, “if I sounded a bit snippy just then. It’s just that we’ve never …”

“To be honest we’ve never either. This will be our first and last. Won’t it honey buns?” Brian pulled Jeff to him for a long kiss.

elephant not so wooly mammoth

#Babyshambles

Next on the pop shelf is some Babyshambles: Down In Albion/Shotter’s Nation on a mp3 cd compilation with Arctic Monkeys, Chris Brown, Jamiroquai, Pizzicato 5, Super Furry Animals.

wrap01 under cover

As Wilde says there is no such thing as bad publicity – I have Babyshambles out of curiosity when their lead singer kept making the news – I wanted to hear what music they made. I was expecting something sloppy but they turned out to be listenable, sort of Kinks like, but nothing grabs me either.

wrap02 remains to be seen

The same with Chris Brown – though he is cute enough to do – the music on Diamond is contemporary r’n’b with hip-hop in the mix. Romanic, bragging, tough guy posturing & easy to take & without personality. It was his bad PR that made me want to hear him.

wrap03 tight corners

The Arctic Monkeys here is a bunch of b-side & scraps as they rock out. Jamiroquai (more about him when I get to j) is a fun, danceable Stevie Wonder; Pizzicato 5 (more about them when I get to p) are an ear-friendly Japanese pop band; Super Furry Animals (more about them with I get to s) are a great Welsh rock band – on this CD I have some their Welsh language recordings.

soon02

October 10-12 – attending – Gratitude Roundup http://www.torontogratitude.org

grat14

October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Pinebow newpinehttps://www.facebook.com/events/1651892755035275/

November 1-30 – participating – NaNoWriMo 2014 – http://nanowrimo.org

notebook

sample

Church

“Be an angel Beth and hand me that?” Gran pointed painfully to the jewel box on the nightstand.

“The whole box or just something in it?”

“The whole box dear.”

Beth carried the box over the bed. Her grandmother inched over to make room for it. This was a frequent ritual for the two of them. Each piece had a story, memory and a promise that brought her Gran some relief from her pain.

“Now I want to show you a piece I haven’t shown you yet.”

“Oh goody.”

Even at her age Beth found some girls take pleasure in new jewelry. Especially the pieces that her Gran had. Iridescent stones, gold clasps, small sparkling diamond flakes on ebony black enameled hair pins. But after going through this box weekly for the last several years she felt she had seen all of it.

She wanted to steady Gran’s hands as they trembled, shook, through the box but knew that would only slow things down even more. This was one of the things she knew brought some measure of control into Gran’s life.

Gran lifted the top layer off the box, removed several strands of beads and then tugged fitfully at the velvet bottom. It popped up suddenly and Beth glimpsed several pieces hidden there.

The pupils of her Gran’s eyes got larger as she licked her lips in anticipation.

“Ohh! My dear, I haven’t looked upon these in many years. These are even older than my grandmother’s earrings. Older than I can say.”

Her fragile hand slowly grasped the first piece. A thin strand of yellow metal. Gold perhaps. The links were a fine weave of knots and roses. Even in the dim light of the room it glistened and almost moved of it own in the air.

It was if it had been released from a long confinement and was stretching back into life. It dangled, spiraled, wriggled as the light from the hall played across it. The colors shifted from red gold to green umber to pure silver.

“I want you to wear this to the Church.” Gran dropped the chain into Beth’s hand.

“Church?” The chain was warm, it coiled & seemed to nuzzle into her palm.

“Yes, Beth. You must go the the service tonight. Wear this and perhaps you will see more than I have. I had my chance but was afraid. Do not be afraid.”

red under wraps