Tag Archives: music

Not A Mistake

It’s not a mistake
to reach into
the little you know

of how
a piano

to use
a metaphor about
the music

of a felt hammer on a wire
to describe
your own work

How by itself
each sounded note
rings enough for anyone

who hears
to speak of it 
as music

but to truly
let it be all
it could be

these words should
have been sung
by someone better

Then it swats you
across the face
You are the only one 

who could be the type
of better needed 
for your work to be perfect

so sighing
you bend back to it
before sleep and death

hoping one day you sing it
as it should be sung
It’s not a mistake to reach

for perfection past the limit
of your own grasp of the song
It’s not a mistake to try

“Jimmy Loves Mary Anne”

Here’s to
the follow-up

The one-hit wonder’s
second release from
the same pocket
that held the first

The one that sounded
enough like the hit
to garner some attention

but not enough
to be called a hit

The one that years later
is recalled by a friend
at a party after the horde
of guests has gone and 
only the diehard beloved

No one
knows the title
but when
the friend starts to sing it

someone else goes
OH YEAH — whatever
happened to those guys

You look around a room
where no one knows the answer
but everyone’s grabbing
their phones and pretty soon

you all know the title
and you can move on

It reminds you
that you were seventeen 
and knew every song
on the radio from just one
note and you were
you at the utmost 
you thought you’d ever be

What happened

You know what happened

Looking around
you think it’s alright

Tiger’s Way

With apologies to John, Michelle, Cass, Denny…and all of you

All the world is curds
and the air is whey
I hopped on a bus
and ran on Guy Fawkes’ Day
I’d be under fire
if I’d chosen to stay
Surrealists are in charge
This is the tiger way

Stopped to drink a beer
along the way
Shoved my face into the glass
and sucked those suds away
Ordered up another
No point in sobriety
When everything’s infected
in the body of society

The milk of kindness curdles
The blood of caring clots
If I go for a walk
I won’t attempt to pray
because I think it’s pointless
expecting to be saved
We wait to be devoured
as we walk the tiger’s way

Three Chords And

REVISED from 10/19; originally from 2008 or so.

Once you were a chucked berry,
a fogerty full of sloppy chords,
a skip to my lou reed.

You got all slippery
with clean sauce. Turned down, tuned up, 
tossed out your faded paper bag

of dark wanderings. Bought into
commercial anthems that worked well
in the fluorescent aisles of big-box stores. 

Come back to your game desire.
Come back slaphappy, sharpened
for the war against plastic.

You used to have
a mouth full of splinters. Used to
honor dingbat and idiot,

all those
who broke the social charm
with a fart. Do you remember yourself?

Gas monster.
Blunt huffer.
Smoker of the right goddamn herbs.

You chased the scent
of acorn porridge, worked
Delta mysterious.

That devil in the crossroads
still valued
your willing ass.

You used to not be such
a freak for safety.
You used to not be

such a doom escape. Children
hate you more
now that you’re safer

and nearly devoid of a scrap
of care left
for your sulfur traditions.

We love some of you still,
even with your
crystal fraud hippie faking.

We love some of you still,
you wall street loving

It’s like watching
the fattest rats in the world
pretend they aren’t rabid.

Bite me.
Better yet?
Infect yourself.

Be the sick fuck we loved to love,
no matter how bad
you made us feel.

Preacher Song

At the crossroads now, moonlight
drenched,  soaked in all its storied
charm and hazard.

I’ve stopped here 
on my way West
after long years in the East.

I never much thought about getting
proper directions before I left;
simply got up and headed toward

what I thought 
would feel like home.
Kept sunset ahead to guide me.

Ending up here seems now
preordained if you can say that
while observing that preacher-ish figure

approaching from the south.
Long way off. Moving faster
than seems possible. Can’t tell

if I know them, if it’s someone
I’ve met in passing, on more
intimate turf, or never before. 

The air smells like I’ve been here
before this. As if
someone like myself

had been here decades
or more ago.  Old music slips 
toward me up the wind:

a song of my fathers, a song
of lost brothers, a song of ruptured love
and sold out family. 

How long until midnight?
It’s a mystery. How long have we both
been walking? It’s a mystery too. 

I just know I’ve been trying
to put words
to those songs for too long

and to find them here means
I’ve somehow
come home again, 

and as I’ve always known home
is not, has never been safe.
But I’m here.

It’s nearly time 
to shake hands
with that preacher 

and find out what will be 
beyond tomorrow’s sunset
when I get there. 

Diamonds And Rust At Three AM

At three AM
“Diamonds and Rust”
won’t leave my head
or hands. Sitting in 
the far room
on a desk chair
that makes more noise
than an unplugged
Telecaster can.
my way through,
not singing as it’s
three AM and
the dog won’t bother
to come in if I
can keep it down.
My love in the next room
won’t be disturbed if I
can keep it down.
I try not to move
so the chair won’t squeak.
I try not to sing
so my eyes don’t leak.
I concentrate
so I do not fail
the near silent notes;
so my hands don’t feel
the pain they do
when I am simply
walking around
through daylight chores:
stiffened; full of rust and 
broken nerves while
the sharp diamonds
of my past
are carving me within. 

Enough For An Encore

When his life had finally failed
to the full extent possible,
he screamed and wept out loud and 

his failure became as unto 
a drum solo that broke
the air in the room

so that all who were present
sat there flushed with the heat
of his shame and the beat

of this last collapse.
You really were wailing there,
man, said one to him after.

That was hot. He sat back down,
praying agony would grant him enough
for an encore. 

The Blessed

“then we move like tigers on Vaseline”  — D. Bowie

Guitars waiting on stage:
trees around a clearing,
glorious hazards
waiting there. 

a forest rife with
stealthy predation,
camouflage, danger on ice.

the existence
of a treated 
jungle floor, 

big cats
disturbed but adapting, 
beginning to enjoy
gliding about.

Regret nothing,
pray for no one here.
Sliding about in darkness
is freedom.



Toward The Summit Of Your Favorite Song

have you danced 
too much already, beloveds?
did it all when you were young
and had the legs for all night music,
the lungs to scream and raise your arms
toward the summit of your favorite song?
haven’t you aged into rest and being satisfied 
to have the dark bright memory
of how you moved along the walls 
of the basement club with the dirt floor corner,
the college bar with the lights out
on the long unused top floor,
the unlocked stairway up,
the corner full of the mushroom scent
of lovemaking and trepidation? 
haven’t you danced yourself to a point
where you don’t need to dance any more
than maybe one more spin 
through one more memory
of fresh human touch 
filled with the expectant danger
of rejection, or maybe just your body
not being able, not being close
to able to shake your leg or your ass
as you once did, the ecstasy of fast,
the ecstasy of slow, the ecstasy of 
memory, the replacement of current
sorrow with a memory of sweat?
beloveds, don’t you wanna dance
all the way to the end of your time?

Tenor Guitar

I owned
a tenor guitar
for three months.

Four strings
over six seemed a 
novelty, a downgrade 
back then.

It tickled
something in me
to think of mastering
the antique. Soon enough

I gave 
the guitar away
to someone more excited
than I was to try.

This morning
found myself humming
Ani’s “Little Plastic Castles”
(which is played on a tenor guitar)

and memory,
all this memory, came
rushing back
and now I want a tenor guitar again,

longing for
four strings I can’t play,
rebooting since
I can no longer play six:

my hands
full of recall
but unable to execute;
the desire for music

stronger now
as a way through this 
to something
newly perceived as fresh although

I have
been here before:
more than once, with old guitars
and fancy pens, blank notebooks

and blank people,
things I bought or faces I found
that seemed to promise
surprise, any kind of surprise

that might
break the hard walls
of the hole within and give me
a chance to climb out and be new and free. 

Listening To Queen

(like it was yesterday,
like it was the first time again)

to “Keep Yourself Alive”
and the chug of Brian’s 
guitar throughout 
and especially
the creamy and climactic ascension
of chorused notes following 
the back and forth lines
between Roger and Brian
before Freddy kicks back in with them
for their final

I first heard this song when
I was thirteen or fourteen
and it hit like a religion
and made me want to shine forth.
I don’t think 
there’s any god in there
or anywhere
that cares much whether or not
I feel the same and
I’m thinking now

I should have listened more closely
all these years
to John,
remarkable anchor
too often unremarked,
as I’ve involuntarily
lived my life
more often in
the background
of whatever cosmos
I have found myself in.

Greatest Song Ever Written

suppose you stop snickering
and get shut of the need
to scorn those folks over there
fingering slipcovers
in the discount aisle
talking only to each other
when they speak of
perfection and how well
these would go with 
the drapes in the front room

and suppose
you quit sneering at those
who proclaim their love
for the Beatles as you cannot
distinguish between
an emotional bond to their
soundtrack of a lifetime
and your own decidedly
enthusiasm for whatever minute
you find yourself in
of course
it hits you
like a never-ending
cryogenic block
on your future)

and suppose
you get your head
out of whatever fragrant
arrogant nook
you keep it in 
and see yourself
years from now
dressed fifteen years 
too early for retro fashion
choosing from cheap mirrors
in a bargain aisle
while humming
greatest song ever written

Listening To Ornette

Inside this music
is an ocean
with tides that sweep
into then away from
where you’re standing

bringing you mysterious
objects then taking them back
before you can fully understand
what you’re seeing
and now and then

something washes up
to your feet still alive and then
it’s gone again and you
end up on your knees before
the pulse of the sound

praying that you yourself
could be swept away 
and then back again holding
all these secrets you’ve glimpsed
long enough to understand them

so you can then release them
back to the ocean
for others to find
when they face
the music and pray

Nostalgia Is A Death Cult

Listening to today’s
pop music:
how comforting
it is to hear

music not written
to privilege
who I am, who we were.
How glad it makes me

to be at last
completely comfortable
with being un-affected
in any strong way

by the hits.
To be able to
decide with no sense
of being dragged

by the emotions
into debates
and passion
about this one’s 

merits and that one’s
evils. I can listen and say
that arrangement is 
interesting, how do they

make that sound, 
the production on this
is wonderful, is boring,
is cluttered, is clean;

then I walk away
back to my own guitars
and songs, taking
what I need

back to the forge as fuel.
When now and then 
something new does
set its claws, does

dig in and seize
the means of emotion,
I count it as a late-life gift.
Sometimes I even discard

something I used to love
to make room for it
in my chest where
favorites live. And

the next time I reach for 
my guitars and my songs?
It’s there. I am open for
new business. I’m alive.

To Restring A Guitar

To restring a guitar
on the morning of a snowstorm
is to convene a seminar 
on the joys of knowing very little.

To restring a guitar
is to open a familiar door
and find familiar things
have been moved to a new room.

To restring a guitar
is to pull the pushpins
from a bulletin board
and throw away the outdated notes.

To restring a guitar
is to understand nothing again
and find something else
has been made clear again. 

To restring a guitar 
when the weather is bad
is to declare that last night’s forecast
was incomplete.