Friday, October 5, 2018

Michael Lee Johnson in the Fall


This evening I'd like to post the latest poems that Michael Lee Johnson sent me.  These are good poems for the fall!

Old Men Walk Funny (V2)

Old men walk funny with shadows and time eating at their heels.
Pediatric walkers, prostate exams, bend over, then most die.
They grow poor, leave their grocery list at home,
and forget their social security checks bank account numbers,
dwell on whether they wear dentures, uppers or lowers;
did they put their underwear on?
They can’t remember where they put down their glasses,
did they drop them on memory lane U.S. Route 66?
Was it watermelon wine or drive in movies they forgot their virginity in?
Hammered late evenings alone bottle up Mogen David wine madness
mixed with diet 7-Up, all moving parts squeak and crack in unison.
At night, they scream in silent dreams no one else hears,
they are flapping jaws sexual exchange with monarch butterfly wings.
Old men walk funny to the barbershop with gray hair, no hair;
sagging pants to physical therapy.
They pray for sunflowers above their graves,
a plot that bears their name with a poem.
They purchase their burial plots, pennies in a jar for years,
beggar's price for a deceased wife.
Proverb:  in this end, everything that was long at one time is now passive,
or cut short. Ignore us old moonshiners, or poets that walk funny,

"they aren't hurting anyone anymore."



Just Because, Bad Heart

Just because I am old
do not tumble me dry.
Toss me away with those unused
Wheat pennies, Buffalo nickels, and Mercury dimes
in those pickle jars in the basement.
Do not bleach my dark memories
Salvation Army my clothes
to the poor because I died.
Do not retire me leave me a factory pension
in dust to history alone.
Save my unfinished poems refuse to toss them
into the unpolished alleyways of exile rusty trash barrows
just outside my window, just because I am old.
Do not create more spare images, adverbs
or adjectives than you need to bury me with.
Do not stand over my grave, weep,
pouring a bottle of Old Crow
bourbon whiskey without asking permission
if it can go through your kidney’s first.
When under stone sod I shall rise and go out
in my soft slippers in cold rain
dread no danger, pick yellow daffodils,
learn to spit up echoes of words
bow fiddle me up a northern Spring storm.
Do you bad heart, see in pine box of wood,
just because I got old.



Canadian Seasons
Exiled Poet
By Michael Lee Johnson

Walking across the seasons in exile
in worn out house slippers, summer in Alberta prairies-
snowshoes, cross-country skiing winter in Edmonton, Alberta.
I'm man captured in Canadian wilderness, North Saskatchewan River.
I embrace winters of this north call them mercy killers.
Exiled now 10 years here I turn rain into thunder,
days into loneliness, recuperate loss relationships into memories.
I'm warrior of the trade of isolation, crucifier of seasons
hang torment on their limbs.
Ever changing words shifting pain to palette fall colors and art.
I'm tiring of Gestalt therapy, being In and Out the Garbage Pail.
I'm no longer an Aristotelian philosopher seeking catharsis.
My Jesus is in a vodka bottle soaked with lime, lemon juice and disco dancing.
Pardon amnesty I'm heading south beneath border back to USA-
to revise the old poems and the new, create the last anthology,
open then close the last chapter,
collected works before the big black box.
I'm no longer peripatetic, seasons past.



Injured Shadow (V3)
By Michael Lee Johnson

In nakedness of life moves
this male shadow worn out dark clothes,
ill fitted in distress, holes in his socks, stretches,
shows up in your small neighborhood,
embarrassed,
walks pastime naked with a limb
in open landscape space-
damn those worn out black stockings.
He bends down prays for dawn, bright sun.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  Mr. Johnson published in more than 1032 publications, his poems have appeared in 37 countries, he edits, publishes 10 different poetry sites.  Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL, nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/and 2 Best of the Net 2017.  He also has 166 poetry videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos.  He is the editor-in-chief of the anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762 and editor-in-chief of a second poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses which is available here:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545352089.  Michael is also editor-in-chief of Warriors with Wings, a smaller anthology available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1722130717

If you'd like to listen to Michael read his poetry, here are some links for you.  The first is to "Old Men Walk Funny": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXmR4EYCtDs

Next is "Just Because, Bad Heart": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkU1cX3pHok

Here is "Canadian Seasons: Poet Out of Exile": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8YlKU1uOH0

I'll finish with "Injured Shadow": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ufCHFaV1fQ

Now to play a little music....  Recently YouTube recommended Junior Mance's music to me.  Here is his version of "I Wish I Knew Now How It Would Feel To Be Free":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spHHYXRDwqY&list=PLP9Vt7ZHFF5q77fUz9Io_mKDWTfYjC0w0

I'll finish with his 1960 version of "The Uptown": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg41v0JLMY8

Enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Perry Nicholas Returns!



Friday nights are good nights for poetry, so I will post some new poems that Perry Nicholas has sent me.  I wonder how the weather is in upstate New York!  

The picture above is of Perry's friend, folksinger Vance Gilbert (b. 1958).



HEARING VANCE GILBERT SING


More than an angel sings,
leaning back his gray head,
filling his chest like a giant balloon,
he exhales onto the unfamiliar moon. 

And again, more than an angel sings.
The lines melt from his face,
pounds from his frame, his breathing
circular, warming with ethereal effort.

When you close your eyes,
choose to join him in the clouds, 
you’re surprised at how much you trust
this guardian to accompany you home, 

lead you to a place where grace leaps
and anger at your neighbor disappears.
To a place where chalking children
affirm all your motives, and more 

than a mere mortal troubadour sings.  


It's not too late to write a poem inspired by Randy Newman (b. 1943):

A GODLY SONNET

                        That’s why I love mankind (you really need me)—Randy Newman

Like God, I’m unreliable.
You might only expect me to show
on days of my choice or times

when I need to practice my unique skills
of control and ambiguous reminders. 
I want you to look for me and wonder. 

Like God, I’ll be there when I get there,
appear self-centered and aloof,
a man in the moon with attitude.

I’ll offer you trust when we’re insecure,
faith when we’re at our sorriest. 
Palms joining both of our prayers. 

And like a god, I need you to believe in me 
unless it’s too late for us to change. 





Let's turn to music written in the 1950s.

 CRY ME A RIVER
                        Remember? I remember all that you said.
                        You told me love was too plebian,
                        told me you were through with me an…


Even though we were travelling together, 
we were separated on the flight home,

ended up sitting half an airplane away, still angry.
It might as well have been a mile of black sky. 

I located the clip on the back of your hair,
but you couldn’t spot me at all over your shoulder.  

We panicked, then laughed when we told
each other later of a similar thought:

what if this plane went down, and we perished 
at odds, you dodging a puking baby, me

holding onto an old man gabbing grammar?
I’d reach for you mouthing our sad song in slow motion.  

Hands extended across the seats, our love
falling hard into a river, a divided descent.






THE TRUTH IS

                                    You know I’ll love you til the moon’s upside down.
                                    Why try to change me now?

I find myself wishing I might wake up 
and find this all a horrible dream. 
If Dylan can be reborn, why can’t I?

I find myself wishing I wasn’t part man,
part machine, part lover, voyeur,
a boy stuck in the mire of a nightmare. 

Tone most important to me, more so
than the terrible scratch of a damaged voice,
the possibility of no more kisses. 
                                                                                                                      
Have you ever been bogged down
by weighty dreams choosing to appear
only moments before you awaken?

Truth is I’ve broken my own poetic rules,
find myself wishing pieces of us still true.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Let's start with Vance Gilbert's "Unfamiliar Moon":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y91VQkffFeg

I saw that he had been a jazz singer, so I was looking for some older recordings of his.  Instead, I found his 2015 version of "The Nearness of You": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLzXb5QTuGA

Randy Newman is known for his satire and his songs in children's movies, but he also wrote more mainstream songs covered by artists such as Blood, Sweat, and Tears and Dusty Springfield.  "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore" is one of my favorite songs:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drGEBY59iGo


The picture is smeary black and white, but the sound is great on Julie London's "Cry Me a River": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXg6UB9Qk0o

Enjoy!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kerfe Roig in the First Days of Fall

"if it's magic" by Kerfe Roig (inspired by Stevie Wonder)



Tonight, as fall actually begins, I'd like to post Kerfe Roig's words and images inspired by musicians born in the 1950s.  I've already started with Stevie Wonder.



Always (like the galaxies in time)
for Stevie Wonder
Transcending both beginning and end
woven together
like the circles of the sun and moon
beyond the horizon
Woven together
a spiral returning as seed
beyond the horizon
orbiting
A spiral returning as seed
spinning winged like a bird
orbiting
learning to fly
Spinning winged like a bird
bearing the edges of infinity
learning to fly
not forever but always
Bearing the edges of infinity
like the circles of the sun and moon
not forever but always
transcending both beginning and end

Pantoum
inspired by “If It’s Magic” and “As”



It's hard to believe that Stevie Wonder and Prince were born in the same decade.


"prince guitar" by Kerfe Roig -- previously appeared on her website


Purple Dreams (for Prince)
Lie down beneath the shadow of the stars
the summer night is lonely, full of haze
the sea reflects the silent air so dark
and good things never last, or so they say
But open up your heart, release your mind
and see the sun despite the purple sky
the waters laugh and sparkle, move and shine
the world goes round and round as echoes fly
And if the heavens give us pearls and dreams
and if a blue moon showers us with words
and if a shining diamond fills the seas
why can’t the starfish transform into birds?
Imagine that these clouds hold hands with love
and rain the stars from eyes to skies above

from Prince lyrics:
Good things never last is from "Sometimes it Snows in April"
Open up your heart is from "Around the World in a Day"

This poem previously appeared on Kerfe's website.

"purple dreams" by Kerfe Roig --
previously appeared on the artist's website



"SpiritSong (another way)" was inspired by the Police's "Spirits in the Material World," a song that Kerfe describes as "an appropriate song for our time."  Three of the four members were born in the 1950s.  This poem also appeared on Kerfe's website.

SpiritSong  (another way)
Blessed be the Spirits of Becoming
Our lady of the Silver Wheel,
waxing and waning with the moon,
reflecting back the circle of birth, life, death and rebirth.
Our Lady of Joy,
who lifts up our souls with melody
and transforms our movements into dance.
Our Lady of the Birds,
who grows wings on our wishes, hopes, and dreams.
Our Lady of Magic and Mystery,
silent and secret,
who shapes and shifts,
puzzles and predicts,
divines and deciphers,
casts and conjures,
and answers all question with a riddle.
Our Lady of the Rainbow,
who paints the infinite darkness with eternal light.
Our Lady of Wild Places,
guardian of the earth,
shepherd of the seas,
keeper of fire and wind,
shelter, shield, and sanctuary.
Our Lady of Healing and Renewal,
who embraces both body and spirit
with comfort, courage, restoration, and release.
Our Lady of the Weaving of Time,
whose threads mingle past, present and future
in a simultaneous, unfinished, ethereal tapestry.
Our Lady of the Crossroads,
who celebrates choice, change, and transformation.
To all who were are and shall be:
May our circles be open
but unbroken.

   
"Spirits" by Kerfe Roig
previously published on her website
Let's listen to some of the music that these poems evoke.
I'll start with Stevie Wonder's songs.  Usher sings this version of "If It's Magic" at the 2015 Grammys--but Stevie plays harmonica: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDdOztVcm14
Stevie sang "As" at Aretha Franklin's memorial service or "homegoing":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKEQbsWk_7E
I also want to include his 2014 performance of "Spain" with Chick Corea and the Vigil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lztJxynqhE
Let's see if I can find some videos of Prince's songs.  If I recall correctly, he was not a fan of YouTube.
Prince, Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison, and other artists play "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at a 2004 tribute to George Harrison: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SFNW5F8K9Y
Todd Dunnigan et al perform "Around the World in a Day" at a tribute to Prince: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIZ9AJawujc
Lianne LaHavas covers "Sometimes It Snows in April" at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPonpKfIusY
A German group Musik for the Kitchen performs "Spirits in the Material World": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcrdBVxzhDU
Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Lisa Stice Returns



For some of us, tonight truly is a rainy night.  What an odd coincidence that I am publishing Lisa Stice's poems tonight.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Paddy
for Shane MacGowan

On a rainy night, slur
those lyrics rough, like
heavy feet shuffling gravel,
like this could be the last
night. 
         Slur those lyrics
rough on this rainy night,
real, like a bed with middle
slack, like far away from home,
like a dying streetlight blinking
outside a window.
                               This rainy
night, slur those lyrics, like
blood pumping through tired
veins, like a child walking home
alone.
            Slur those lyrics with
dark water falling on your face,
like whiskey spilled from a shaky
glass, like a kiss so light it’s 
hardly felt.



* Shane MacGowan (born 25 December 1957) of The Nips (1976-81), The Pogues (1982-96), The Popes (1992-98), and solo.





Caught Up In Circles

The hour is late—I hear the clock 
tick and think of you under those

white street lamps—it’s all in the past 
now—when you were mine, you were

kinda sorta my best friend—hey,
they say a stitch in time saves nine

and you’ll change somehow—you know
lately I ain’t feeling so great—I want

some lovin, but we’re not the fortunate ones.



* This cento is made up of lyrics from each of the songs on Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual Album. (This was the very first cassette I ever owned.)

** Cyndi Lauper (born 22 June 1953)




Today, I Am

words moved from paper
to hard drive—originally
in pen—it is not a cursive
kind of morning with this
Southern heat—I am sloppy
print still in pajamas and
my hair unbrushed, no
breakfast in my stomach—
no need for loops and swirls




Sibilance

Morning stretches across windows,
illuminates napping spots, awakens
terrier to lumber into sleep again.

Teapot and teacups wait for filling
for the whistle for bergamot steeping
for teaspoons of sugar stirred in.

Poetry whispers from closed covers—
open, why hasten the minutes,
shuffle our pages, discover quiet.






he would remove his hat
and nod his head hello

I would be unable to move
but think I nodded in reply

and in my head I would hear
him say, let us go then

hand in hand
undaunted

* Italicized lines are borrowed from from Ciaran Carson's "Let Us Go Then."

I think I've posted Miles Davis' version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," but let's listen to it again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6w73qxCtPNk

Michael Jackson is another musician born in the 1950s, and Miles Davis covered him as well.  This is "Human Nature."  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NvLieJFjh8

I'm going to switch gears a little.  While I was looking up videos of Randy Weston, I learned that he worked with Melba Liston, a trombone player and later an arranger.  Here are two videos of her work.

The first is "Insomnia": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qwFmRzEbcM

The second is "My Reverie," her arrangement of Debussy's "Reverie."  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdwjhN6ZgRs

Enjoy!