Into the Van

Continuing to listen to the heartbeat of Van Morrison I have Wavelength 78, Into The Music 80, Beautiful Vision 82, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart 83, A Brand New Sense of Wonder 85, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher 86, Poetic Champions Compose 87, Irish Heartbeat 88, Avalon Sunset 89, Enlightenment 90, Hymns To The Silence 91, Too Long in Exile 93, Days Like These 95, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue 2015. 

So you could say I’m a fan 🙂 Some these I had as lps, some as cassettes & now some are stand-clones & others mp3. Wavelength was Van going out his period of transition & into what I consider his prime with a series of spiritually complex &  musically compelling albums with often astonishing lyrics. He accomplished the sort of mystic poetics that band like Moody Blues failed at.

The albums from 78 up to 91 follow an increasing Zen sense of being with assessable lyrics & sweet music. There are some tracks full of memories of his Irish childhood that become universal – who doesn’t remember listening to the radio late at night, who doesn’t remember poets who raved on to open them to new thoughts. Van plays his sax in some deceptively simple instrumentals on some of these lps. He fully embraces his Celtic roots on Irish Heartbeat. 

The later albums are more reflective of his musical career & he is clearly aware of his legacy, which he continues to add to. He always followed his own muse, there is never a sense that he is out to create hit songs. This is adult pop – like Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne – to name a couple – who make music they want to make not what the market demands. 

This is a piece I wrote in the early 80’s.

Down The Drain

1

“It’s time we talked.”

“About what?”

“What do you think. About us. About what is going on & what’s to come of it.”

“About life & the superficial way so many people deal with it?”

“Don’t make fun. For once let’s be serious. Or does that make an unbearable demand on you?”

“I’m listening.”

We’d had this conversation once before. Then I’d only known Jim for almost four months, for me a remarkably long time. More than amazing was that nearly a year had passed since then & for the past few months I’d been expecting him to start another ‘serious’ talk.

Sitting on the sofa I pulled him close to me. 

“I’m listening.” I brush this moustache with mine, quickly darting my tongue along his lips. “Sex is all I can seriously think about when I’m with you.”

“I’m not complaining about that.” He pushed me away from him.

A vague tiredness came over me then, a sort of dismaying boredom, this time I knew he would corner me. I was used to slipping away. It wasn’t going be easy on either of us.

“Neither am I. Shoot.”

Jim seemed a bit surprised to find me receptive. He knew I preferred to avoid, or at least to cloud, emotional issues between us.

“Do you know where to begin?” I asked.

He shook his head. 

“Well, what it is? Does it something to do with me flip fucking you last night?”

“No.” He took a deep breath. “Weekends aren’t enough. You know I’d move in, we could …”

I silenced him with a finger on his lips. “Impossible. I couldn’t do anything with you around all day.”

“Fuck impossible! Do you know what it’s like for me when you aren’t around. You & your privacy. Selfish fucker you are.” He went to the window. “Sometimes I feel that what I want & what I feel aren’t really important to you, that this is all you want from me.” He gestured to his crotch.

“Okay, I’m selfish. I admit it. I want my own way, my own time & space. I can’t …”

“Jesus, Donald.” He punched the window frame.”You know how difficult it is for anyone of us to … You should understand …” Futility fused with a trace of tears challenged his usually placid composure. “I …I’m not blind. It’s not as if …”

He moved quickly, suddenly. My eyes blinked for the moment the back of his hand cracked against my cheek. I thudded heavily into the couch, my shoulders twisting as my head rebounded from his blow. I bounced a little into the next, slammed into the full force of his fist. I could taste blood.

The inside of my mouth was bleeding.

Silence.

I heard my breath.

Lungs bursting I inhaled blood & anger. Jim was crying, staring at his hands.

I wanted to talk, to say I understood his anguish, to explain how I invited this fury but I couldn’t. Words disappeared even before they could be conceived. I wanted to make a joke of this but I couldn’t.

Touching my nose I was relieved to find it wasn’t broken, merely bleeding. My left eye was numb, vision fuzzy, my bottom lip felt inches thick. Blood was dripping onto my t-shirt.

I tried to talk but gagged, spewing a self-swallowed mouthful of blood. Dazed I stood slowly. Jim backed away shocked & frightened.

(part 2 next week)

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Distant Shadow Dance

Distant Shadow

where is the mountain pass?

<>

I need you

but the mountain

is in my way

<>

if I cross

I can never return

for I am the mountain

while my need for you

is the mountain pass

Oct/70

I love the way this piece doubles in on itself – a spiral that rewrites what you have read by the time to get to the end. I had been reading books on Zen by this time. Partly to step out of the culture I felt trapped in & partly to seem more intellectual than I really was. I’m not sure how much I understood of them at the time but they sure looked good on my book shelf. 

It’s another poem to a non-existent ‘you.’ The shadow was perhaps the fear of coming out? There’s also a realization that we often stand in our own way & until we learn to get over ourselves there is no progress. Maybe getting older was the shadow because as we age we can only remember but never get back.

Persephone Danced

I hear carousel music

when I want a lullaby

a dreamy hand to cover

this melody I can’t control –

who will I kill today?

<>

Persephone danced for Gauguin;

Medusa carved for Rodin;

ears bled for Van Gogh;

children laughed for clowns;

who will we kill today?

<>

let’s hang the clown,

railroad the circus out of town;

leave him sway till he rots;

who will we kill today –

ha, let’s hang all the clowns

JN76

I am a fan of Gauguin. I had prints of his painting hanging on my walls. The adventure of his life, the escape to the Pacific, were ideal fantasy fodder for me. If I had gone to French Polynesia it certainly would have been the native men I would have fallen for. I read & reread a biography I had of him. I had the Time-Life art series ‘The World of …’ so I was familiar with the works of Rodin; Van Gogh. They were thwarted geniuses – just like I was 🙂

I’m not sure how this poem segues from verse to verse – dance music painting sculpture – all fine arts, I suppose, but the connecting tissue is lacking. I’m also not sure where this penchant for hanging, or for clowns came from either. Maybe the face painters present to the world is a painting hung on a wall – like clowns presenting their painted faces to the world?

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