Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Part the first: a poem for Rachel Anne.

In olden times, when wishing still helped
there was a girl who unmade her mother
spat back her borrowed milk and unhitched her bones
from the mud.

Her father thought to lash her to the earth
but she was already rising,
and his belt could no more
hold her than you could hold the moon
from turning away her face.

She made herself a skin of stories,
stretched the names of her friends
over her good strong arms
from the sky she took the oldest stars

and set them spinning
in the mouths of children.

In her wrath she could spit lightening
that would crack stones like ice.
In her sorrow came a host of winters,
wolves that hungered for the sun.

her laughter is music, is music for always
and this could never be one of her songs

Monday, March 30, 2009

Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing

1. Listen to the birds. That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush dosen't shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you're guilty of thinking, you're out If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key That's your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He's one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song "I Need a Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty-making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he's doing it.

8. Don't wipe the sweat off your instrument You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

reposted from wfmu

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

a chapel for the american cathedral

"The Reverend Branford Clarke's Brooklyn-based "traveling chapel" was equipped with stained-glass windows, an organ for his wife to play, and a fold-down steeple to help the whole thing fit in his garage."—Margaret G. Zackowitz.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Strange is the night where black stars riseCassilda's Song in "The King in Yellow," Act i, Scene 2.

Soft black stars in the strangest night,
Lambent with sleep
tall towers scrape the moon
a crab, a mad dog howling
The city dreaming doubled on the poison lake

The hierophantic king, in tatters
His pallid mask , the stone chair in the dew
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls in the rank rose wood
Play at ninepins, indolent and waxen

Ripe gallow’s fruit are whispering of
Smoke on the wind and the whale’s road
The brass men choke, the wheels are mired in sand

The king of sparrows has a bloody breast
Parson rooks blot the suns
Here, beyond the dusty lane
Where the engines rust

Forth go the banners
The dead gnaw their shrouds
plague-breath of a poisoned well
wet mouths ragged promise

cold and copper light
is risen, false morning in
the secret wood

I have read in the book of might
What sleeps in the hollow mountain
I have dreamed the laughing man,
And seen his marvels

He has bound the babies in the dark
To unravel the tongues of Babel
To the pure all things are pure
He has cut open the hunter and the sleeper
To set the blackbirds free, singing
From their guts

It is a ten penny wonder, a miracle of the age
Yet we wander among the thorns and briers

From the oak in Carmarthen
I heard the whisper
Of the kingmaker, triply dead
Who said before the winter comes again
Blood in the alabaster house

And from her one cracked bottle with no label on
dry as dust the she said
“When he comes
Fire shall be darkness in the midnight black
Madness of wolves and the tenth race
And bloody signs from heaven shall descend”
Soft black stars

Monday, March 9, 2009

God i have been doing this for a long time

a new mexico

Dead love, angels on a roadside mystery museum
Preachers and auctioneers over a tinny P.A
Sun and dust and a foreign tongue

the Fates run a cheap concession stand
and limp banners hang in the stagnant air
the vultures circle in the empyrean

a Promethean donkey goes round and round and round
an image of Christ hangs above a sign
"No refunds, No exchanges"
the earthbound mystery

The miraculous grows tired of perfection
And soon the devil's angels
Form their choirs
drunk, and singing snatches of the dies irae,
snatching singers away to swell the ranks

Dead love changing shape,metamorphosing himself
a snake a skull a telephone
notably into a bull;

There is a little baby
he cries at the sight of the python in its cage
at "Lucky the four legged duck"at the hairless dog, the calf playful
however the Fates cut him into pieces and ate him,
partly cooked and partly raw
the smell of burning wood
we cry in the fire at the heart of the world
(the world is a burning house, the buddha says)

Athena could save only the heart,
which was still beating(which still beats)
Several familiar tunes talk
Of severed hearts, of burning
Of how the fragments of a man live on
(in it's bottle the 2 headed baby floats like Janus, god of doorways)

Dead love: the hidden dog, the god of angels ,
the god of the butchered babies
the Fates weave skeins of day glo pink wool
A leering clown head on each spindle
The smell of roasting corn
Christ's head above the sign"No refunds, No exchanges"

babies: rubber babies with eyes that blink,
butchers in tall grass,slaughtered sheep and cows and pigs on hooks, angels
a gun ,a flag, a bloodstained hole

God changes shape, metamorphoses himself, notably into a bull;
a gun, a flag ,a bloodstained hole

the fates cut meat, on a table sweet with fruit and blood and flies
baby cries and flies dart in and out of its mouth
suck at its eyelids, nostrils, lips
so the throngs of demons feast on our suffering
this golgotha stands stark against the impossible desert sky
rock and sun and sky,barren and desolate and the cries of the merchants
the violins and crucifixes
on hand woven blankets
a captive race in silver tipped boots, spurs
the trappings of spain, of a lost america
(a gun ,a flag, a bloodstained hole)
the devil's fiddles and accordians

and the endless toiling of the donkey
under the unforgiving eye of the sun
no refunds, no exchanges

the Fates consumed the child's heart
plying him with coca-cola,
with pop music and those entangling skeins
of sugared cotton

the father drunk and sifting through
box after box of old photographs,
farm implements phonograph records,
razors, tattered letters and scrawled notes,
confession, delirium, absolution...the voices of the dead.

drunk, and singing snatches of the devils songs
christ walks in silver tipped boots along the midway
changing shape, metamorphosing himself, notably into a bull;
ritually slain in the public arena
a leather belt, a photograph ,a sleeping man ,a headstone.
a snake, a skull, and his own face tattooed in blue ink on a scarred forearm
a telephone pole's endless golgotha,
notably a bull; on black velvet caught in dance,
a gun,a flag ,a bloodstained hole,a leather belt,
a photograph ,a sleeping man ,a headstone
nailed to a hand carved saint, silver hands, eyes, legs

the Fates sear flesh over flame
no refunds no exchanges

the devil got drunk, himself,
under the unforgiving eye
the donkey bears the crying child upon its back
and the man in black walks around with him
under the unforgiving sun
singing snatches of milongas in the wavering lines of heat
he seems to be changing shape, metamorphosing himself,
notably into a bull; horns attached to the hood of a chevy
hide in leather strands woven in a young girls hair
her eyes like a calf, she looks to Jesus
words are exchanged,
a knife flashed in the sun
a heavenly chorus from a transistor radio,
and a bull hits the ground in a cloud of dust

About ten years ago, i wrote this, posted it on a then emerging site called "themestream" that paid writers per hit for their content. This poem, and others like it, were the first time i was ever paid for my writing. It seems to me horribly ungainly, full of "the" full of "and" and chock full of pointless classicism,a sort of psuedo-cleverness and some absolutely unforgiveable gothy-ness. That said, it also seems to me to be filled with my obsessions and hobby horses, things that i return to in my writing again and again, the folk-devil as a character, the folklore theme of the hidden heart, clumsy christianity and a love of the grotesque, lists of broken and useless objects, angels and demons. Like most of my poems the fantastic elements are put in a real place, in this case, the swap meet in Tucson Arizona that i used to frequent around 1998 or so. There was a pickled punk gaffe on display, a four legged duck, etc. I bought an electrical typewriter there that i carried across the country in an old army backpack, and went through about three ribbons before it finally died. I think i really began writing on that beast, including this poem. I used to have a snapshot of the technicolor jesus in the gold plastic frame hanging over the "no refunds, no exchanges" sign, and kept it on my desk. A picture of myself standing in front of the "two headed baby!" sign somehow was sold with the car we traveled in, and wound up tacked to the wall in Mault's brew pub in my hometown. it was quite alarming to go in there and see that someone i did not know had hung up my picture in a bar i did not go to.

i considered this to be one of my first "real" poems. rereading it now, i am glad most of this juvenilia was destryed or lost, though god knows what else is mouldering out there in the internet's damp corners. I know that one worse than this still pops up when i vanity search myself. I used to get crap like this published all the time, now i can't get published to save my life, or as i said to my lady love in the bath last night " i can't get published in uncle fizzletits fun-time journal these days'

I performed this poem once at a music festival in an abandoned boy scout camp, in a stone picnic building in the rain with a band that covered captain beefheart songs. their old syth had tendency to catch on fire and smoke. i think there may have been about three or four people in the audience that could hear what i was saying through the racket. I also posted this on a site called "postpoems", in an attempt to drive traffic to my themestream sites., and found it today, still ensconced in all it's early web glory, while looking for a new publication that came out today, my poem "october" in spindle magazine, which can be read here


I also find it grimly amusing that, before posting this, the poem had been viewed 13 times since 2001. I am sure that at least half of those were me,also.

I ask you, am i learning anything? am i getting any better? Some days it feels like it, other days writing seems like an endless treadmill, like a tiresome conversation with yourself, like "no matter where you go, there you are"

looking at this old and ugly poem, i think, there i am, stilted and unnatural, cutting up encyclopedia entries on mythology, trying to talk about my internal life and winding up with landscapes, with scenic tracking shots without dialogue. looking at my brand spanking new publication, i see the same sins and flaws. I attempt to break out of it, but these invocatory summonings of place, these rambling postcards are what the inside of my head looks like, and when i try to break it down and just say what i mean, my friendly critics say "your poems jsut end" or "they fizzle out" or "they do not deliver what they seem to promise'

Rachel, October was written for you, out of my frustration of never being able to write you the kind of love poem you deserve, trying to write you a new song. I love you,and even if Uncle Fizzletits wants nothing to do with my poems, you always are kind enough to accept them and to inspire them. thanks for that