Friday, January 28, 2005

Wolf Moon

Image by Dr. Omed
Image by Dr. Omed

Gibbous wolf moon
string of pearls trail the highway
north wind skips leaves

Friday's Cat

DJ Dreams
Perhaps she dreams of her brother, Yoda, frolicking in Heaven. Corrected in response to Ms Candide's comment

Idée d’jour

All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.
— Federico Fellini, film director, and writer (1920-1993)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Prayer for the Church

Lord, do something about your Church.
It is so awful, it is hard not to feel ashamed of belonging to it.
Most of the time it seems to be all the things you condemned:
hierarchical, conventional, judgmental, hypocritical,
respectable, comfortable, moralising, compromising,
clinging to its privileges and worldly securities,
and when not positively objectionable, merely absurd.

Lord, we need your whip of cords.
Judge us and cleanse us,
challenge and change us,
break and remake us.

Help us to be what you called us to be.
Help us to embody you on earth.
Help us to make you real down here,
and to feed your people bread instead of stones.
And start with me.

— Rt. Rev. Dr. Jeffrey John, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Alban's
I originally read this prayer at Rev. Sarah Dylan Breuer's web-log.

Idée d’jour

Men always want to be a woman's first love – women like to be a man's last romance.
— Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Zen d’jour

For forty years I've been selling water
By the bank of a river. Ho, ho!
My labors have been wholly without merit.
— Sogaku Harada (Zen Calendar, © Workman Press)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

On the Vestry

I was elected to the Cathedral's Vestry this past Sunday.

That's a statement that might require a bit of explanation for a non-Episcopalian. The simplest explanation is to say the vestry is equivalent to the church board. It might also be equivalent to a city or town council.

In other words, a highly political operation. This group of twelve, plus clergy, primarily discuss financial matters.

My running joke has been that when you want someone to leave the church, you put them on the vestry.

I have more than a passing acquaintance with church politics, having served for nine years on the vestry of a mission church in south OKC. I also served two terms (six years) on the Diocesan Council (sort of a vestry for the church in the whole state). I had a pretty good idea what I was getting myself in for.

Ninety minutes to two hours of cussing and discussing. The subversion of Robert's Rules of Order. People swallowing great honking whales, yet straining at gnats.


In fact, the last time I served on a vestry was so painful, I did in fact leave the church because of it.

This happened at that mission church in south OKC. I had served on vestry there for some time. I had been active in the church for well over a decade. I’d been faithful in attendance, was a member of the choir, and had edited the church newsletter.

The mission had come perilously close to having to close its doors, and I perceived myself to be one of the handful whose effort helped keep the doors open.

Mary Ellen and I married in that church. I feel it safe to say I was well known and well-liked by most.

The church called Fr Paul a year or so before Mary & I got married. After he had been there a couple of years, he asked for deacon. The bishop assigned Bill S to our church. Fr Paul asked Bill S to work with Mary on the music program.

Now, a little explanation of church polity may be in order. As you might expect, the priest is charge of all matters related to the worship service, including music and music selection. Often – especially in mission churches – the priest delegates that responsibility to the organist and/or choir master. Mary was the organist and choir master at this church.

The problem was, many in the congregation wanted to hear “the old standards”, and Mary wanted to mix the old with the new. And, as I learned, Mary was not a master of compromise.

So, Fr Paul has delegated the responsibility for the music to Deacon Bill with the understanding that the deacon will work with Mary toward a compromise. Problem was, Deacon Bill wasn’t much for compromise either. He believed in issuing orders.

The two of them got in a shouting match in the choir loft, and I was the sole witness. Deacon Bill was literally in Mary’s face. And raised his hand to her.

I thought this was unacceptable. I reported the incident to Fr Paul, who seemed inclined to sweep it under the rug. I then went to the vestry.

Deacon Bill was at the vestry meeting, and denied that anything of the sort had happened. And the vestry supported him.

They believed the guy with the dog collar, who had been there two to three months, over the guy wearing a normal shirt, who had been there 10 to 15 years.

I felt I had little choice but to resign from the vestry. Mary turned in her resignation as organist/choirmaster at the same time. Few would blame me if I never ran for vestry again in my life.

So, why in the world would I accept a nomination now?

It has to do with the call to the ministry. In visiting with the Dean of the Cathedral, he has made clear that service on the vestry was almost required to be considered. My understanding is that this would give the leaders of the Cathedral a chance to see my skills, and so on.

So, here I am. The situation, thankfully, is different. I am the relative new-comer, having been at the Cathedral a little over two years. And, already I’m prepared to keep my head down and my mouth shut.

Wish me luck. I need it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Review: Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails

Did I mention that I like to read comic books?

I was reminded of this recently when Real Live Preacher made a comment which indirectly questioned the literary quality of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. Along with several other commentators, I expressed the opinion that the series was literature.

Anyway, I've got boxes full of the things. I started out reading the standard DC line — Supes, Batman, etc. Then, Brother Dave introduced me to the unique Marvel vision. Tellingly, the reward of a Marvel comic book was the incentive for me to wash the dishes when I was 13 or 14. At the time, Marvel was reprinting classic stories from their beginnings - Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, The Hulk - in an anthology series. I was hooked from the first Kirby splash page for Fantastic Four.

The mid 70s to early 80s were new glory days for comic books: Frank Miller was re-inventing Daredevil, people were re-discovering Will Eisner (thanks to Kitchen Sink's reprints of The Spirit), and some saw comics as an investment. At an average of $3 - $5 a pop, I do have a considerable investment in those little magazines.

Comic books as an investment went bust somewhere in the mid-to-late 80s, when DC and Marvel both glutted the market with product (much of it negligible at best). But I continued finding value in them, especially the independents, like Terry Moore's Stangers in Paradise (Self-published by Abstract Studios).

In 1991, Jeff Smith founded Cartoon Books in order to self-publish his epic fantasy, Bone. It was a story he'd been imagining since high school, with a definite beginning, middle, and end. It's a story that was completed just last year. It is available in nine volumes, or in this single "complete" edition.

Here's the standard synopis, from the inside front cover of one of the individual issues:

After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone are separated and lost in a vast, uncharted desert.

One by one, they find their way into a deep, forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures..
It is not necessary to go into more detail about the plot here. The collection under consideration may be read as a "prequel", but it takes place outside of the main story, and may be read indepently of it.

The main character is Big Johnson Bone, who is rather fond of telling somewhat convoluted versions of his adventures. These adventures, like the story itself, are in the "tall tale" tradition (e.g. Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyon). It fact, one sequence has Big Johnson riding a tornado — a probable nod to the Pecos Bill stories.

For me, part of the humor is that something incredible occurs in the action just as Big Johnson is telling one of his tales. Which could lead one to conjecture that there is some truth in Big Johnson's story.

Another source of the humor is the simian side kick, Mr. Pip, whom Big Johnson wins in a poker game. Mr. Pip's running commentary will be appreciated by anyone in the working week. "Why didn't I listen to my mother and join the circus?"

Recommended: Stupid, Stupid Rat-tailsby Jeff Smith.

Idée d’jour

If only I may grow:
firmer, simpler — quieter, warmer.
— Dag Hammarskjold

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Idée d’jour

From the outset your own nature is pure.
— The P’u-sa-chieh

Haunted by Accordions

Accordion; (Click to enlarge)

We were haunted by accordions.

I believe it began with my taking the above picture of an accordion I have at home, which I took for Fiona's amusement.

Then, I decided to make my bi-annual pilgrimage to the Diocesan Center of the 7th Day Atheist Aztec Baptist Synod's, in the mystical land of Tulsa.

In other words, I went to visit the Rt Rev Dr Omed.

As we left, the good doctor informed his loving spouse that he and I were going to do "Poet Guy" stuff.

As it turned out, "Poet Guy" stuff involved visiting various temples of the Cargo Goddess.

It was at the second temple that we happened upon a booth that had more than a half-dozen accordions. Below, you see your correspondent holding one. You may be able to make out the squeeze box in the upper right-hand corner as well. This booth also had what I believe were concertinas. One of which was marked as being from 1926, and was priced at $85. Man, it's a good thing I didn't have that much cash with me.

(Click to enlarge)
Later, we went to the Salvation Army store. Tulsa's Salvation Army Store has a very fine selection. And there we found yet another accordion.

In the picture of me, you can see Fiona's projected anima. It's that pale circle of light near the treble keys .

We did see one more accordion, on the way back to the Diocesan Center. It was a prop in an restaurant window.

We were haunted by accordions.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Haiku: 15.Jan.05

The white fox moon,
a hands-width above the sky-line,
is a yellow smile.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday's Cat

I enjoy playing fetch with DJ. When she’s ready, she brings her rabbit-fur mouse to my chair. If I ignore her, she dumps it in my lap. Or she makes a slight small sound.

I toss it to different areas of the room. Most of the time, I toss it through the doorway that connects the living room to a hall, because that’s the furthest distance without obstructions.

I love watching her bring the mouse back to me. Her head is erect, almost proud. Her legs dance in tandem concert. Her ears tilt back at a 45° angle.

This game can go on for well over an hour.

When she’s done, she just drop the mouse in the floor and wander off elsewhere in the house.

This is my favorite time of the evening, next to the time she curls in my lap as I pet her.

Zen d’jour

No matter how much
I contemplate this tea bowl
It is still — a tea bowl!
Thus I arrive in San Francisco.
— Soen Nakagawa (from Workman Press' "Zen Calendar")

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Review: Careless Love by Madeline Peyroux

I originally talked briefly about this cd when I bought as a birthday present to myself, back in November of last year. I've been listening to the first several tracks almost every morning, courtesy of my CD player/alarm clock.

The CD features songs by a wide range of singer-songwriters (L Cohen, Dylan, Hank Williams). Ms Peyroux is backed by competent jazz quartet (piano, bass, guitar, & drum), which has grown on me with repeated listenings. When I first wrote about the cd, I was not complimentary of this jazz combo — I think I called in MOR night-club jazz. After repeated listenings, I believe I was unfair. There's colorations in the arrangements I didn't notice in my initial, somewhat superficial, first listen.

It may sound like a gimmick, but there's a couple of tracks where she sounds like Billie Holliday and a couple of others where she sounds like Nina Simone or Sarah Vaughn.

However, there's more to it than gimmick. She's got some chops in her own voice too. And unerring instincts in how to interpret the song. Right now, my favorite tracks are 1 and 5. The opening track is a song by Leonard Cohen, "Dance Me to the End of Love"; this is one where she sounds like Lady Day. The quartet plays a hopping little figure (based on a similar figure in the original), then she dives in: "Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin / Dance me through the panic til I'm gathered safely in / Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove / Dance me to the end of love."

Track five, "Between the Bars" by Steven Paul Smith, is an almost tuneless thing which is nevertheless chilling. After hearing it several times, I've come to think of it as the bottle singing a lullaby to an alcoholic:
Drink up baby, stay up all night
Things you could do, you won't but you might
The potential you'll be you'll never see
Promises you'll only make

Drink up with me now and forget all about
Pressures of days, do what I say
And I'll make you ok, drive them away
Images stuck in your head
Another favorite is her cover of Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." I hear a melancholy in Ms. Peyroux's version which is not immediately apparant in Dylan's original (from his classic Blood on the Tracks). Dylan's original is bouncy, almost joyous in performance — you can almost hear him laughing at himself. There's a funhouse irony going on; the bounciness of the music seems to belie the sadness implicit in the lyrics. That is to say, you would not expect a song with the word "Lonesome" in the title to be this bouncy.

But Ms. Peyroux's cover takes its time with the song. For example, she lingers just the appropriate amount of time on the final word in the line "[love's] never been so easy, nor so slow." This is not to say that her cover is bluesy; nor do I mean to imply that her cover is superior to Dylan's original. In my humble, it just adds an additional tint to the song.

Madeline Peyroux, Careless Love. Recommended.

Almost Not A Damned Dime

I have not written much about politics of late, as it is just too depressing. A majority of the electorate voted for our Fearless Leader. It might be fair to say that many voted thinking this demonstrated some form of support for our troops Over There. It might be fair to say many votes were motivated by fear of what the other guy might do.

Regardless of the reasons, the Handsome One has received his coronation inauguration as our Supreme Leader. He claims he sees his selection by a majority of the electorate as a positive reforendum on his policies — past, present, and future. If any other politician made this statement, we would discount it as typically hyperbolic rhetoric. When our Fearless Leader says something like this, there's a fairly decent chance that he actually believes it.

Just like there's the chance that he sincerely believes the High Holy One put him in office so we would have resolute leadership following the 9/11 attacks.

Gah. The man is bad for my blood pressure. I know it's not healthy, but I have the same response to his visige and voice that many on the right had to Bill Clinton. My blood boils. I'm not quite at the point that I believe the Handsome One is evil incarnate (that honor belongs to K.Rove), but I can easily imagine a certain contract being in a secure safety deposit box.

In the icy bowels of Hell.

Many have called for an economic boycott today, a Not One Damned Dime Day, and I had intended to observe said boycott. Unfortunately, I overslept this morning and was unable to eat breakfast at home (as is my common practice). My blood sugar can be tricky, and I relunctantly decided to buy something for breakfast. So, I have spent a little over twenty dimes.

I hope the Fearless Leader chokes on ’em. (Note to any lurking SS agents: this statement is made with satirical intent, and is not intended as an actual threat on any world leader, actual or imagined)

Idée d’jour

That man is truly good who knows his own dark places.
— Beowulf

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Idée d’jour

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have.
— Emile Chartier, philosopher (1868-1951)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Pooh Day

Today is the birthday of A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh books. Although Pooh's birthday is October, my almanac notes that today is "Pooh Day" More about the bear of little mind may be read at this excellent site.

I read the first Pooh book when I was in 3rd grade, if memory serves. I do recall that the books became excellent friends.

Eyore has become my sigil in my maturing years.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Haiku d’jour

The smoke
is now making
the first sky of the year
— Issa

Friday, January 14, 2005

In which our heroine comments...

You were saying about WPM...?

Idée d’jour

What is the straight within the bent?
— Zen Koan

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Grandfather Will's Guitar

Jac, playing Grandfather Will's Guitar
Here is a picture of me playing Grandfather Will's guitar. Family history has it that it was made in the 30's, and is one of the first electric guitars. Will lead music in his church, and they needed amplification. Imagine that, an electric guitar in the Nazarene church!

The guitar is an Epiphone. The design on the headstock suggests it was a mid-line guitar at the time. The pick-up suggests the guitar was made about 1939, which would substantiate the family history.

Grandfather Will died when I was one year old, so I never heard him play. Brother Dave did hear him, and says he was a fine front-porch player.

When Will died, his guitar was passed on to his only son, Padre. I grew up listening to Padre sing and play that guitar. He had a fine tenor voice, and used it well. In addition to "The Reverend Mr. Black", he also loved to sing "Tom Dooley" and "St James Infirmary". The song Brother Dave associates with Padre is "Blue Skies", which he sang at a local jazz club with friend Wally at the piano.

It would seem I came by my musical talent naturally.

As is traditional, the guitar was meant to be passed down to Brother Dave, the eldest son. But Dave doesn’t play the guitar, so he was willing to let the guitar come to my hands.

Grandfather Will wrote a song, "The Little Old Brush Arbor," copyright 1939. This song was also part of family legend. I don’t believe I ever heard Padre sing it. I thought I saw it once, in the family piano bench.

As I was recovering from Padre’s death, I kept thinking about that song. Wondering if the internet could help me find a copy. Hoping I could find it, learn it, and recover it. I did some tentative searches, but – to be honest – I didn’t have a clue as to how to hunt it down.

Then, I went to visit Brother Dave in 2000 – for the first time since Padre’s death. Dave pulled out a brief case, which held everything left from Padre’s estate. Sure enough, there among various curiosities, was a copy of "Little Old Brush Arbor."

I spent the next several months plunking out the tune on my electronic keyboard. Once I felt like I had the tune memorized, I transposed it. See, it was in the key of "G" — either a bit high or low for my range — so I transposed it to "D."

An interesting side-note to the sheet music is that it is in "shape note" format.

Here’s the first verse and chorus of "The Little Old Brush Arbor," by William James C—. It's the song I'm singing in the picture above.
In the little old brush arbor, where the people used to tell
How Jesus’ power can save you from your sins,
I can see my dear old mother where she used to kneel in prayer,
I can hear the choir sing those songs again.

There I gave my heart to Jesus and he satisfied my soul.
Oh, I love to tell of all he’s done for me;
And the little old brush arbor holds its mem’ries dear to me,
I will love them ’til my Savior’s face I see.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

But Is It Poetry?

Mike Snider has returned to his occasional argument against "art for art's sake" poetry. He quotes Samuel Johnson: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." To which I responded:
What's the average amount you get paid per sonnet, Mike? Let's do a cost analysis per poem: there's the labor of writing & revising, which we might calculate at minimum wage (just as a starting point). Then there's the cost of envelopes & postage. And this is a cost spread out over the accepted and rejected poems. Not to mention the poems written & never submitted (for whatever reason).

Can you claim to break even in that analysis?


I think there needs to be a corollary to that Johnson quote, that addresses the enjoyment factor.
As I understand his answer, Mike concedes the point that he wouldn't bother writing poetry if he didn't enjoy it. His point is that poetry might be more successful economically if poets made more of an effort to communicate with the "common man." That phrase "common man" may seem to put words in Mike's mouth, but he speaks of the need to make poems for cooks and engineers and housekeepers and carpenters, and so on.

For me, this once again raises the question of how one recognizes a poem. In other words, is a group of words a poem simply because I say so? Is there, as it were, an objective yard stick one may use in this discussion?

One measure might be sustainability over time. Shakespeare is literature, and poetry, because we still read his works. This will apply primarily to the plays and a handful of sonnets, of course.

The drawback to this method is that it gives us little help with modern writers.

So, another yardstick might be economic in the sense that someone was willing to pay for the poem. This is a measure, inferred, at least, from Mike's use of the Johnson quote. If a magazine is willing to pay for the material, it must be a poem.

The problem is, this would force us to accept as poetry work that we would otherwise reject as bunk. Ron Silliman is a writer Mike and I both like to use as an example of the worst of “Langpo,” yet he is a published poet, and has been paid for his work. One assumes that people have paid for his books.

I'm not sure that Mike would say that rhyme and/or meter are required for a work to be considered a poem. I don't know — maybe if he were king of the world, he would institute that restriction.

Personally, you want to call rearranged words from cooking directions poetry, that's your thing. I wouldn't like it, I wouldn't buy it. But no skin off my nose if you want to call a random collection of words poetry.

What about my writing in this space? How do I judge its success? Well, since comments are far and few between, I judge my success on number of visits and number of return visits. My regular visitors could probably be counted on two hands — according to Site Meter, I have 20 visitors per day, on average. In reviewing the stats from Site Meter, I perceive that many come from the same server (coxnet, frontiernet, etc). This doesn't mean it's the same person each time, but odds are reasonable.

So, that repeat business suggests to me that I am successfully communicating with that group of people. Perhaps not statistically meaningful, but good enough for me.

Tea First

Tea first.
10,000 things follow.
Stars second, match flares.
Then add honey.

Idée d’jour

I embrace emerging experience. I participate in discovery. I am a butterfly. I am not a butterfly collector.
— William Stafford

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Haiku: 11.Jan.05

Fog's getting thicker
Cold cuts to bone, through three layers
January morning

Monday, January 10, 2005


I don't need a stinkin' alarm clock; I've got a kitten.
She's insistent, persistent, and consistent.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Idée d’jour

Compared to what we ought to be, we are half awake.
— William James

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Idée d’jour

What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?
— Bertolt Brecht (best known as the author of The Three-Penny Opera)

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Abortionist Washes His Hands

Click image for larger version

after the short film The Abortionist Washes His Hands & Slips on His Wristwatch by Gary S—
Straight as an arrow, or crooked as a lake,
Maybe you can tell me what diff'rence that might make...
Jason & the Argonauts go sailin' late tonight,
I guess you'll have to find your love by candle light
     I know we have to go along,
     But must we keep on going to the end of
this song?

Your face was a dream when I was a stranger,
Your baby left without a sound or a word;
I see you lying there in that blood-stained manger —
Was that a tear of grief that I heard?
     I know we have to go along,
     But must we keep on going to the end of
this song?

Bloody hands and shirt, and blood on your sheets,
With just a little more practice at love,
You know this ceremony would be complete,
Now, tell me, is it push & pull or could it be push & shove?
     I know we have to go along,
     But must we keep on going to the end of
this song?

Now I wash my hands of this whole affair,
Slip on my wrist watch and pretend that I don't care
I see you lie there with your belly so suddenly empty
I guess bein' alive ain't always the same as bein' free
     I know we have to go along,
     But must we keep on going to the end of
this song?

Jason & the Argonauts go sailin late tonight
I guess you'll have to find your love by candle light

Knife's in his hand, a grin's in his teeth,
I wonder what could be on his mind?
The blood in your mouth, ooh, it tastes so sweet,
You were the best lover I could find.

   All the Fifth Avenue ladies tell me they don't care
   With their long satin slacks and that comb in their
   But they aren't takin' me anywhere....
   Tell me could it be that I'm too late
   Tell me could it be maybe that I'm too late?

There was a child you were not to have
I'm glad to take it off your hands
And if emptiness doesn't drive you mad
Just wait til the final frame of your plans

   Music in your laughter or in your clothes
   I'm not the one to choose between them, I suppose
   But let me have one more look before this novel closes
   Tell me could it be that I'm too late
   Tell me could it be now baby that I'm too late?

Jason & the Argonauts go sailin' late tonight
I guess you'll have to find your love by candle light
Written circa 1976 - '77; I was between 20 - 21
There you have it, as promised, the lyrics to "The Abortionist Washes His Hands" a.k.a., "Jason & the Argonauts." As I said a few weeks ago, this is a song Dr. Omed requests almost everytime we get together and I have a guitar in tow.

Hard to describe what this is like musically. It's a pastiche of a number of musical styles: punk, rock, and folk. People who have heard me perform it discern Dylan's influence, but that could be as much as in the way I sing it as anything. Sometimes, like Dylan toward the end of the "Hard Rain" tour, I'll draw out rhyming syllables; e.g., "Bein' alive ain't always the same as being FREEEEeeEEEE!"

Not much I can recall about the movie. The abortionist was played by Rusty N—, who is gay. Rusty was the first openly gay man I met. Oddly enough, I didn't feel threatened by him, since he had a crush on one of my friends — which lead me to believe I wasn't Rusty's type. Anyway, I came up with the first line as a comment on his sexuality. My reasoning was that if a heterosexual was "straight as an arrow," then a homosexual might be "as crooked as a lake." Well, I liked it better than "queer as a $3 bill".

In the third verse (the one beginning "Bloody hands and shirt"), there's the line "Is it push and pull or could it be just push & shove". This was a restatement of a notion the director, Gary S&mash; was considering at the time, which he called "the push and pull of love." Which meant, I think, the sort of give and take that occurs in a healthy relationship.

In the final stanza of part one (beginning "Now I wash my hands") there's a line I added a couple of years after the first draft. Originally the line was "Freedom is too high a price to pay for being free" (how Dostoevskian of me!). Then, one afternoon I saw a line in a Pogo book: "Bein' alive ain't always the same as bein' free." I liked it so much that I stole it outright.

The second part also has bits that reference the film, which somehow involved the abortionist viewing his practice as a form of love-making. For example, there's a scene in which either the abortionist or the patient is spitting up blood (ergo, "The blood in your mouth tastes so sweet").

Which brings up, I suppose, the issue of abortion. I'm fairly certain Gary did/does support a woman's right to choose. But the concept — and what I can remember of the images — of the movie are somewhat twisted. The song itself could be read as opposing abortion. For example, "I see you lie there in your blood-stained manger / Was that a tear of grief that I heard?" could be interpretted to mean that the woman regrets the procedure. There's a line in the third verse of Part Two which suggests that the loss of the child will drive the woman mad.

There was a period where I had a pretty clear vision of what a recording would be like. Part Two would end with my singing "Tell me, can it be that I'm too late" over & over, while the music builds in intensity and nears cacophony, and a voice-over reads the stages of a fetus' development. You know, the sort of thing the Pro-Life people are fond of, e.g., "eyes can be detected at x weeks". The association alone would reasonably lead one to believe the author is pro-life.

If you had asked me at the time, I would have said that I was pro-choice. I'm not sure where the pro-life undertone comes from, unless it's an unconscious reflection of something I detected in the movie. And, you know, being pro-choice is not the same as being "anti" life. I believe women should maintain the right to choose; but if an individual woman asked my opinion, I would encourage her to consider adoption (depending on the conditions, of course).

As a film song, this one holds the unique position of being longer than the actual film. When I really get into it, the thing lasts for close to 15 minutes (although these days it more likely would clock in at 9-10 minutes). The movie was somewhere around 14. The song is also unique in that more people have heard it than saw the movie that inspired it. Now, a great deal more people have read the lyrics than probably saw the movie.

The image at the top right represents the original draft of the lyrics. The chord structure is burned in my memory, but is not otherwise recorded. I don't think even Dana has seen that original draft. The page was originally torn, by the by. I have bowdelerized one of the doodles in the right-hand margin for PG-13 consumption, but otherwise what you see is what I created in 1978.

Hope it was worth the wait.

Friday's Cat

DJ at play
Wednesday was the anniversary of Padre's birth. He would have been 74 years old.

I think Padre preferred dogs, but we did have cats. Elaine had a rather foul-tempered Siamese when Bro. Dave and I were kids. Here's a hint folks: most Siamese don't like children.

Shortly after Padre remarried, Wanda adopted a stray whom we named Sam. I was responsible for his care. I believe Padre came to love Sam. I remember how his voice slightly wavered when he told me Sam had died.

Padre probably would be charmed by my stories about DJ. He might even enjoy these weekly pictures.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Random Impressions

Icicle memories puddle on the eastern skyline
The sun swings over sparse grey clouds
White oil dericks describe the north
With darker grey clouds on that horizon
To the north-east, simple white cross
atop a dilapidated steeple
Young man in hood sweat jacket and droopy jeans
Drinking his Doctor Pepper
Blonde crew-cut young man, blue hooded sweat shirt
Counting the lunch room
Balding thin monk sits by the western wall
records it all in his little Moleskine journal
Just a series of impressions recorded during the day. Compressing the actual vision into espresso-strength images.

Book Recommendations

Reverend Mother, whose blog I recently discovered in the Salon blog suburbs, recently asked for some fiction recommendations. While I share them with her, I thought I'd share them with others. In no particular order, then:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (some metafiction cotton candy)
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Speaking of cotton candy, a friend and I were recently discussing the Lord Peter Wimsey series, by Dorothy Sayers. One of the best literary mystery series, ever. The Nine Taylors not only has a nifty mystery, but more information on bell-ringing than you thought you'd want to know.

Rev. Mother doesn't mention poetry, or essays, but here's a couple:
Writing the Australian Crawl (Poets on Poetry) by William Stafford
Toward a New Poetry by Diane Wakowski (0472063073)
Both of the above are from the Univ. of Michigan's "Poets on Poetry" series. I've been reading the Stafford off & on, and have found it inspirational (though I have mixed feelings about Stafford's poetry). I recently recommended the Wakowski title to Katey, and now think I need to re-read it.

The book of poetry I've been spending the most time this past year is Stephen Mitchell's edit of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself. Whitman is good for the soul, especially right now. As I've mentioned before, Mitchell's edit takes what he considers the best of the various versions Whitman did from the first, 1855, to the "Deathbed Edition."

I may soon take a page from Michael Wells' blog and post links to other recommendations in my side-bar. Let me know if you'd be intereseted in seeing that addition to this space.

Idée d’jour

A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.
— Arthur C Clarke, science fiction writer (1917- )

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Twelve Days of Poems: Afterward

My self-appointed assignment was to write a poem a day for the 12 days of Christmas - which begin December 25. An additional discipline was to make each poem exactly 12 lines long. Each poem was frivolously given a title corresponding to the appropriate gift from the famous carol, although I did not restrict myself to responding to the carol, or, necessarily, the "gift of the day".

I did have a female friend in mind when I wrote these poems. We are not romantically involved, nor does it seem likely that we will be. But it was helpful to have a specific person in mind, rather than generic ether or "the eternal feminine." Using Pam as a model, so to speak, allowed me to include certain physical and sensory details, which gave the poems a firmer ground in reality than they would have had otherwise. I can only hope that Pam was flattered by the attention, and did not mind having these poems shared with the blogosphere. Needless to say, "Pam" is not her real name.

Especially sensitive readers may have noticed a shift in the style of the poetry about midway through the series.At the least, I was aware of a difference as I was writing the poems. A number of unrelated factors were at work.

First was physical, as documented in days 6 and 9. I was sleep-deprived on Day 6 (Goose), and spent the day in a twilit fugue state. As noted in the comments for Day 10 (Leaping Lord), I got one of my severe headaches on Sunday (day 9). I was barely able to concentrate well enough to think, much less write, and the quality of the poem reflects it.

Incidentally, I have come to the conclusion these recurring headaches are either sinus, tension, or migraine in nature. At the moment, the jury is leaning toward mild migraine. The headache is currently bareable, but present.

Another factor influencing the stylistic change in the poems was emotional. Friday, New Year's Eve, was day 7 (Swan). The weekend proved to be lonely. A couple of different plans fell through on December 31st, and I chose to treat the evening like any other Friday night. Another plan fell through on New Year's Day, and I allowed this third disappointment to get me down. It seems likely that the poems written during this three day period reflect a degree of depression. For the record, I believe I take appropriate responsibility for my feelings, and I believe I am on the mend.

The final factor is also environmental, so to speak. The alarm I used last week, while I was on holiday, plays cd's at the stroke of 6 am - this may seem nuts, but the kitten usually woke me up well before then, anyway. The cd I've been waking up to for the past week is Gillian Welch's Time (The Revelator). This cd is filled with lyrical mystery, such as what Greil Marcus found in Dylan's Basement Tapes (see Invisible Republic). On the surface the lyrics might read like normal sentences — noun, verb, object — but on closer inspection there are seeming non sequitor, or lacuna, which prevent the lyrics from making perfect lyrical sense. Here's the opening verse of the title track, as an example:

Darling remember from when you come to me
that I'm the pretender,
I'm not what I'm supposed to be
but who could know, if I'm a traitor?
time's the revelator, revelator.

I suspect Milk Maid, Dancing Lady, and The Piper make a little more sense with this influence in mind. At least you know where I was coming from. Ms. Welch's cd also has a high incidence of "name checking" - everything from Jackson Brown (as in the above sample) to "Casey Jones" to Elvis Presley to "Sweet Home Chicago"; I had this allusive quality in mind as I was writing both Milk Maid and The Piper.

I'll close with another comment on structure. Certain of the poems wanted to rhyme, sometimes in a regular pattern, sometimes a single couplet. Since this was a daily discipline, I allowed the poem to move as the muse directed.

12. Drummers

I thought I saw you
Some restrictions apply
But you were a dream
For a limited time only
One smile, one heart, one kiss
If it's in you, put it out there
I thought I dreamed you
Professional driver on closed course
But you melted into another's hands
Two for the price of one
You are worthy, worthy of affection
Only one partridge per customer
"Drummer" was once slang for traveling salesmen (unsure of etymology). Every other line here is from TV advertising (or a variant thereof).

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

11. The Piper

Counterpane soldiers march
across the sky-soaked ice
Ballerinas practice in their pjs
among the somber chaparral
Eleven faithful feathers float
within the artic thermal column

Diderot paced the pallid precincts
with salty determination
Hemingway wished on sage brush
as he smoked a Cuban cigar
We were artful with our arms
as Margritte stoked his pipe

Monday, January 03, 2005

10. Leaping Lord

I ate a moon cookie on New Years’ Day,
it was quite a skookum delight.
The next day, the moon exploded in my head
and gave the town a fright.

Foggy beams rolled from 8th and Robinson
to the Deer Creek Mission;
they collided with the capital dome
and legislative elision.

The town was lit brighter than Spica
When my dome exploded.
The forecaster was blinded,
and the change was duly noted.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

9. Dancing Lady

Green tea hard tack morning
Grey metal bands tighten across the sky
This mind, those clouds,
Are one.

You wore a blue jacket and skirt
And sat with your true love.
The air was an evergreen hue,
And the storm was gathering.

The clouds are tightening.
Electric flares strike across the dome.
I'll sleep beneath Patagonian icebergs
With a Bengal tiger at my feet.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

8. Milk Maid

The crack in the cream's not so bad
Miss Muffett has curdled her whey
Sister Magdalene is quietly sad
And Boy Blue is lost by the kay
Simple Simon walked to edge of day
Under a storm-soaked sky
Gingham Cat asleep by the bay
Haloed moons dance in your eye
Tsunami winds brushing by
Tom Joad walks in rail-road beds
Miss Bo Peep is feeling shy
And the cheese is on the shed