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).


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):


                        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.

                        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.


                                    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":

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":

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:

The picture is smeary black and white, but the sound is great on Julie London's "Cry Me a River":


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
A spiral returning as seed
spinning winged like a bird
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

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:
Stevie sang "As" at Aretha Franklin's memorial service or "homegoing":
I also want to include his 2014 performance of "Spain" with Chick Corea and the Vigil:
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:
Todd Dunnigan et al perform "Around the World in a Day" at a tribute to Prince:
Lianne LaHavas covers "Sometimes It Snows in April" at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival:
A German group Musik for the Kitchen performs "Spirits in the Material World":

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
         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
            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


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

* 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:

Michael Jackson is another musician born in the 1950s, and Miles Davis covered him as well.  This is "Human Nature."

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":

The second is "My Reverie," her arrangement of Debussy's "Reverie."


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Daniel Snethen Returns Once More

Tonight, at long last, I would like to post more pieces by Daniel Snethen.  I love how he writes about nature!

Moss-back marauder.
Aquatic terror of pond 
and slow moving stream.


Elastic neck
on a ripcord,
and steely-toed claws,
ready to rip and rend 
frog-flesh  and fish-fauna.

Reduced primitive plastron
of primordial paleontological origination
with spiked tail
and leeches latched onto its carapace,
all a part of its camouflage,
as it stalks its prey 
through the mucky bottoms,
disguised by all things 
ugly and horrible.


A child watched
as the cows went to their milking stanchions.
Ada the Ayrshire,
and finally Maple.

Big Brother balanced on a wooden T-stool
tugging at Star’s milking handles.
Sounds of Holstein milk whispered off the galvanized metal milk pail.
Creamy, standing in the stall next to Star, munched her ground oats.

Dad sat on a feed bucket and emptied Ada’s bag.
Ada was Dad’s cow: his favorite cow
                                                —and he spoiled her.

Cats sat on the dirt barn floor
waiting, anticipating the filling of the milk pan.
They would fight over the milk,
not by clawing and biting,
but by shoving and snarling
until one of them ended in the center of the pan
                                                                 —bathed in sticky white milk.

Sometimes Big Brother would squirt a thin stream of milk
at a cat—into its large gaping mouth
giving the feline a small appetizer.

Mom milked Maple—or Browny as the child called her.
Browny was a Brown Swiss bovine
                                                                —and the child loved her.

She ate feed from his tiny hand,
letting him scratch her neck,
while she switched her tail,
mooing appreciatively.
Often the lad gave her an ear of corn.
Browny wrapped her long fleshy tongue around the cob
leaving slobbers on the boy’s hand.
But, he didn’t care; he loved her
                                                                —and she loved him.

The child watched the cows for many years.
Each day they would march to individual stalls.
Every year calves were born and nursed
and when they were grown, they were sold.

One year, Browny’s bag swelled up.
Her teats were hard and lumpy and it pained her to be milked.
Her calf had to be bottle-fed or starve.

The bus dropped the child off.
School had been fun,
but this was a sad day.

“Mom, where’s Browny?”

“Dad sold her.”

“Dad, you sold her?
You didn’t tell me you were going to sell her.
You waited until I was at school.
Why didn’t you tell me
                                                                —why’d you sell Browny.”

“I had to sell her.
I didn’t want to
                                                                —but she had mastitis.”

Danny sobbed.


A blind woman, named Truth,
thrust her hand into a galvanized 
bucket of maggots and laughed, 
because their movements tickled.

She fondled the slinking s-curve
of a hissing serpent and said,
“how incredibly sexy.”

She felt the glowing
stove top burner and thought
it looked very hot.

Then the most handsome man
in the hemisphere asked her
to read his chiseled face.

And when she touched him,
her hands quickly withdrew
because it hurt her so,
and her eye-less sockets
wept tears because
he was horribly ugly.

To the Girl in the Brown Corduroy Pants

A vernal rain which ushered freshness into
my life now leaves me completely
enveloped in the shadow of wintry darkness
listlessly descending upon me as
I struggle against the aching of a heart
emptied of wine filled instead with yellow bile.

And if you’d realized my jubilance of having first 
met the girl in the brown corduroy pants,
eventually you would have known
love like none has ever known love. Instead you left me 
in abysmal loneliness which beckoned me like the
ebony-cloaked figure of that bastard Death and his bony finger.

Ah yes, there were many things I wanted us to do,
many things I wanted to show you.
Especially, I wanted to destroy you 
and your wooden red Miss Scarlet token,
in the library with the candlestick—and you, 
in your brown corduroy pants, would admit defeat
to the prowess of my Professorial plum-purple token.
And I wanted us to catch on a moonless night
multicolored moths winging their way across an African veldt
even as we followed migrating gnu
lugubriously in the wake of watching crocodiles 
intent on maiming and killing and feasting upon
every last living wildebeest of the African veldt.

And I still miss you, and my heart still aches, and
my eyes keep vigil, ever watching,
ever searching for that Oregonian girl to return
like vernal rains, ushering in freshness
in her brown corduroy pants never
ever to leave me again!


spring  rains beckon
burgundy striped clown beetles
caked in hardened mud
standing statuesque, heads down
with uplifted abdomens

                …zoologists now believe that the zebra’s stripes are less a function of camouflage and serve more as a function of disorienting tabanid flies –inhibiting them from landing on and biting the zebra.

Hypnotic black, white—
piebald stripes.


the honeybee stings
eviscerating itself
protecting her hive
mother clinging to scissors
Father’s pugilistic fists

Lunar Eclipse
engorged blood orange moon
eroded by
Earth’s shadow

Now let's add some music.

Recently Randy Weston died, so I'd like to start with his "Blue Moses," featuring Pharaoh Sanders:

"The Healers" is from the same 1990s album:

I'll follow with his "In Memory Of," featuring the trombonist Melba Liston: