Tag Archives: music

August 16

1.
Too often now I stare at a screen
and try to recall what it was like
when I could easily change blank
into not blank.

Sometimes I’d make
a good thing, more often I would not. 
However it ended, at least there was 
a result. Back then emptiness

didn’t stare at me like an adversary
the way it does now. The challenge now
is to survive, more or less, 
while fighting the whiteness of that void.

2.
Yesterday, Aretha Franklin passed.
Today daylight is still sagging
in the absence
of her possibility. 

Eighty years ago to the day
Robert Johnson passed. The moon
still hasn’t recovered all of the melody
it loaned him.  

Somewhere in between them
Elvis Presley died — same day,
different song; I know people miss him
but what song we lost that day, I can’t imagine.

3.
I’m not ready yet.  If I go tomorrow
the only song I’ll take with me
is a small one, a pebble in a shoe
shaken out after a good day walking,

forgotten once the immediate pain 
subsides. A tuneless whistle 
to get by one of life’s little discomforts.
Right now, that’s all I’ve got.

So back into the empty white I go
to blotch it up then read the portents there,
turn them into full-blown glory. I want the earth itself
to mourn me. It may not happen. I will try.


Amplifiers

Take a second to honor
the amplifiers that made
the music louder, swung it
from parlor to night club to
theater and then arena;

commemorate the day feedback
came to be, the day distortion
came to be; salute the heat
of gain, the saintly shiver
of spring reverb, the jaw-clench
of chorus all carried

by boxes marked Fender 
and Gibson, Supro and Vox,
Marshall, Mesa Boogie, 
Randall and Roland; Orange,
Peavey, Hartke, and all those
one-offs and forgotten names,
tubes aglow in each
like the candles on so many cakes:

happy birthday to the Big Noise.


Here I Come

One hand 
too sore to wash the other,

each foot biting hard
with each step,

brain on perpetual fire
in a stubborn fog

that won’t burn off.
This is how I live.

Right now I can picture
my guitar in the next room, 

waiting. Can see and hear
the expectant amplifier.

Despite the example of all
those still-playing classic rockers, 

they’re whispering to me
that I really should be

younger than I am, and less sore,
and depression at my age

is not romantic — as if it was
when I was younger,

as if I didn’t know that
way back then.

As if I’d never said good bye
to someone, unsure if it was for

the last time; as if that was not
melancholic, but terrifying, every time.

Alright, say the instruments: all righty, then,
are you getting up and limping toward us

once again as you always have in spite of
all your damned pains and grave desires?

There are still places I want to go,
even if I am less and less sure

of how long it will take 
and if perhaps I will not get there.

Here I come: stumbling, cursing
my wracked hands and feet, cursing

the dead weight of mood and brain.
Hello, I respond. Here I come. Yes.


The Wave

While working on someone else’s work
strictly for my pocket’s improvement

I’ve been thinking all day of
cresting a deep drone tone

played on a dark electric guitar
as if it were a wave far out at sea

racing toward land overnight
across the whole of an ocean

moving toward the shore of a stage
where it will break

and alter everyone in attendance
with a drench of black sound

I don’t know how to create it
and from guilt over things undone

I’ve touched no guitar today to try and learn
But tomorrow — come tomorrow

I’ll put in less time on someone’s job
and bettering my normalcy

Instead will surf the deep ocean
riding the imperceptible wave in my ears

from origin to end to see what comes with it
from abyssal depth or strange port

as if I were a brave sailor and not
a prosaic and mundane slump of a man

worried about bills and chest pains
to the exclusion of making the music I’m here to make

along with words to ride the wave
all the way 
over the shelves of shore

into the high tide line
so everyone there gasps and says

they were glad to be present when it came
to be present for such a sound


Every Noise At Once

My base tongue is
rock, even more foundational
than English. My dialect, punk
underlaid with classic,
smatterings of metal. I know
a few words in prog. 

Old blues and country and basic folk
are a second language to me,
mostly because I have a passion for
etymology that led me to 
learning them to better understand
my root and seed.

I know enough jazz to do more
than get by.  It’s a language
I love; I’m swiftest to translate fusion
in my head, but nuances may
slip by if couched too deeply in bop
or swing; most excited when I hear
free being spoken, though I cannot
say a word.

Orchestral? Fine. Chamber?
Fine. I grew up surrounded,
immersed in these and opera too,
but have lost the taste for them
and now it’s like recalling 
childhood as it was before my memory
was solid enough to track.

I wish I could speak hip hop
better than I can now.  I know
what I love of it and how it fastens
to poetry, my first and best craft. 
I am resolved to any facility
I may yet develop being 
strictly rote, merely mechanical;
I am serene in knowing hip hop
is now and forever will be fine
without me.

I turn it all off

and face the world:
salsa, son, bachata, merengue;
rai, reggae, reggaeton, dub;
Breton, Irish, Scottish, English;
K-pop, J-pop, EDM, trance;
drum and bass, raga, township jive;
how much noise do you want me to love?
How many tongues can this old man learn?

Then there’s this:

somewhere on a beach
with no musicians around for miles,
the ocean, the drummer,
is still beating time 

on the earth itself.


St. Vincent

“…there is a certain amount of writing that can only come from a monastic space.”  — St.Vincent

 

Alone. A lost tree
seeking a forest — thing about
trees, though, is they

can’t move so is it lost at all
if it’s living where it’s 
been planted? Perhaps

solitary is a better word
if it is a happy tree. It stands by
itself, seeking best words.

All of its time caught in a web
of slow growth and searching.
Speaking of best words,

happy doesn’t enter into
a lone tree’s vocabulary. 
Say instead it’s self-contained

and always fixed upon 
what it grows from: it grows
from matins through lauds

to vespers, morning prayer
through to night prayer. Speaking of
St. Vincent, musician and not

saint, it is always possible that prayer
may become song. Speaking 
as man and not tree, I refuse

to see difference between those
words. Speaking as a solitary,
i am not ashamed to grow bark,

resolve to be rooted,
settled without patronage.
St. Vincent non-musician was

patron saint of poor people and vintners.
Never an extra word for poets. I am
poor and I am drunk on my assets:

I speak of course of words, prayers, 
songs, monastery walls,
vows, oak, bark, and bite.


Three Chords And the Truth

The problem with
three chords and the truth
is always that third chord

When the first one
lays it right out there
where anyone can see it

and the second one 
simply points
at what the first one did

why do you need one more
when all it does
is nods at the first two

and brings you
right back
to them again

Maybe it’s in
the nature of truth
that we find the answer

that it’s not as much about
how three chords fill the void
better than one or two

than it is about
which three chords you choose
to carry which truths

You reach out endlessly
for the right ones
with two or three fingers

on keys or strings
and end up hearing either outright lies
or mere cartoons of that truth

and then you reach out again
and this time you find
a truth you weren’t expecting

which you follow and
there you go with those chords
and that truth 

but the one you started with
gets away and one day
you come back to it

and stare at it and say
was this ever true
You puzzle out three new chords

and try to answer that
until one day that truth
blares out of a car radio

flying in on three chords
you never even considered
and it’s a hit and you shake your head

at how simple it should have been
to do this and then
you crank it up

regretting nothing
of how this mystery passed you by
as you shout and you sing 

and try to figure out
that third chord
that was the key you never found


A Pop Song

I wanna write a pop song
For half the world to love
Wanna write a pop song
The other half can loathe

Wanna write a pop song
That lifts an easy load
A pop song
A pop song
That takes a simple road

No one cares for pop songs
The way they used to
When the words and music shook the earth
Out from under you

Wanna write one like a fast machine
That rolls out over the air
Runs over all that came before it
Feels like it was always there

Wanna write a pop song
Like the ones that came before
A pop song
A pop song
Like no one’s heard before

Wanna write a pop song
Don’t care if it doesn’t sell
A pop song 
A pop song
From one hit wonder hell

A pop song like a small machine
That floats across your ears
Sticks there till the next one comes
Then disappears for years

Although no one cares for pop songs
The way they used to
Words and music that shook the earth
Out from under you

Maybe that’s just me
Maybe I’m just old and tired
Maybe some still feel this way
Maybe some still get inspired

By a pop song


News Story with The Duende Project in it…

Hey all…this is a link to a story about a big special project my band was involved with.  I’ll let you read it for yourself for the details, and there’s a whole playlist of all the contributions you can listen to.  

We’re in there with covers of “Danger Zone” and a solo performance on guitar and vocal by yours truly on “Flashdance.”  

Hope you enjoy it.

The Great Cover Song Challenge


Telecaster Grimoire

That open D turnaround

we’ve all heard forty thousand times,
the Chuck-riffs done to death,
the pentatonic lockbox…
did you forget all were designed
as magic spells? Don’t blame

the weak impact
they have upon you
on anything but weak magicians
weakly casting them.  

Last night I heard a master
play everything right out of
the text book of how you are
supposed to do it,

and it wrung me out like a rag
sopping sweat from some ancestor’s 
forehead between sets;

I long now to stay home
and sit over my Telecaster grimoire 
through as many midnights as I have left
in the hope 
of getting beyond
just getting it right

once in my life.


Earworm

1.
Early afternoon
and I’m glad I’m unheard

tunelessly humming
a current popular song

as if I liked it or it had
meaning beyond

its currency on all
media when in fact

tomorrow afternoon 
it will be displaced

from the odd cranny 
where it has lodged itself

by the next hot tune
or turn of phrase that

offers a sense of immediate
connection among those

who hear and repeat it
(although in my case 

nothing could be less true
as I take its presence here

to be a sign of how I have failed
to resist the dicatorship

of the official soundtrack
of these days) even when

no one’s listening as
is happening now

2.
No one is listening
as I hum this ditty

which is likely for the best 
as I carry the shame

of knowing it
better than I carry the tune itself

3.
This unheard song
of mine is not mine at all

but was likely crafted by 
committee

across continents
via the Internet

with the sole aim of
ensuring that it would be hummed

in all quarters
by all people who hear it

whether they want to
or not

not in response
to an emotional need or

appropriate situation
which would bring it

obviously to mind
but instead

simply because 
repetition and songcraft

have stuck it into
so many places and 

so many ears that
to hum it or sing it

becomes involuntary
even if it is hated

by the one
humming it

4.
Imagine what else
a committee

capable of such
manufactured taste

could make you do
and you may understand

why I am tempted
to slit my own throat

when I realize that I
am humming a song

whose name I do not know
only because it has driven

all else from my head
and I don’t know what else

is in there
hiding behind it


Air-Conditioned Room

This air-conditioned
room has recently
been full of Nas

and Brand Nubian.
That’s just the truth. Not trying
to make a point 

or add to my name-weight
by borrowing heft from others.
It’s just that there’s an afternoon

of 90s videos on TV and those
were the only two
that made me look up.

I don’t believe in
nostalgia.  A lot of
so called classic rock

isn’t. A lot of hip hop
went over my head
and still does. When 

a good punch lands, though,
it lands well and age
means nothing to me

or to the music. “Street Dreams.”
“Don’t Let It Go To Your Head.”
In case you were wondering. In case

you want to know more as
I wanted to know more. I wrote
those names down

in an air-conditioned room.
I turned them up. I looked them
up and watched them again

alone, at top volume,
the way I listen to any rock 
that hits me right

at a given moment and makes me
want to know more. Anything that gets me
to sniff around new knowledge

excitedly, as if I was hot upon 
some original trail away from
the lonely air-conditioned room.


As They Will Forever Be

It’s John Coltrane’s
birthday 

and Ray Charles’s
birthday 
today, September 23rd,
as it will forever be.

Ought to be
a national holiday —

but I’ll bet the damned President
of the USA has never heard
of them, or if he has
he thinks they’re 
just more
of that nuisance noise

that suits nothing and no one
until he is suited by it,
him and his suits and ties,
him and his ears
turned away from song.  

I’ll bet
he never sings “What’d I Say”
in the shower. I’ll bet
“Interstellar Space” is just
a mining venture in his head.
There is gold out there for the taking
among the stars, says the damned
President Of The USA, and it’s 
blessedly silent there, as silent
as he hopes and dreams

his enemies
will forever be,
as his friends
will forever be,

as his wives
will forever be,

as his sons
will forever be, as

his daughters
will forever be.

 


Pop Star With Machete

A pop star is filmed
holding a machete
in what I think must be
a field of sugar cane.

Is this her first time
holding a machete?
That’s quite a hat.
Where was this filmed?

I look it up to be sure.
Yes, that’s sugar cane.
Yes, it’s possible that 
she has held a machete before,

based on what little I know
from what I’ve read of her.
It doesn’t answer the question
of how these images connect

to this song. I didn’t listen
to the lyrics.  I’ll have to look them up.
Once I’m prepared, I’ll be able
to live more in the moment

the next time I hear this song
or see this video. After all
I did like her previous work.
Perhaps I will like this, 

now that I am fully informed
as to what I will be watching.
Until then, nothing.  I feel 
nothing.  


Rules For Buying A Used Guitar

1.
Do not do it
at first sight
unless the caravan
in which it resides
is leaving shortly
and you may never
see it again

and it gives you
a song unbidden
when you touch it
for the first time.

2.
Do not do it
at second glance.
Play it while shaking
your head the whole time.
Hang it back on the wall
while shaking your head.
Shake your head
and walk away. If 
a song comes to you,
take it home and play it
on another guitar, 

or sit up late shaking your head
to the rhythm, singing softly
while twisting your fingers
around and around 
in the air as if the neck 
was lying easy in your hands.

3.
If upon third encounter
the song has not come
then it’s not yours
to seek and you should
put it back on the wall gently,
as you might set a wand
back into a dreaming
sorcerer’s hand;

if all else fails
and you think you can hear
some slight melody
as you shake your head trying
to decide,
check your wallet
and if you’re broke and
it will hurt? Buy it

at once, before you change your mind.