Put Away Those Foolish Thoughts

Put away those foolish thoughts, and
hide from sight your vain ideals!
Instead, seek what the world enjoys:
love what beseems a proper role,
or find yourself a friendless fool.
Survive! Just learn to subliminate;
one must pretend, or play-act, at least,
defining both pursuit and its happy goal
using someone else’s dictionary.

Gospel of the Jester

Sometimes, you write something that still resonates no matter how much later you rediscover it, or in how different a frame of mind you are from when you wrote it. The Gospel of the Jester is such a song for me. Written in a 23-hour songwriting binge when I first moved to Boston and knew no one, when I was writing on both piano and guitar almost simultaneously. Certainly a lot of the songs ended up sounding similar, and many of them lean almost too much in the direction of Van Morrison (good for Van Morrison, not so good for me most of the time).

Ring around the radio, listen to a dream
Close your eyes to visions that you haven’t seen
The truth is misperception and the fact is a lie
Wisps of clouds are covering the face of the sky

Ring around the telephone, pealing like a bell
Turn on your machine so if you’re home, no one can tell
Read between the lines of what has never been said
Make believe you’re make believe, go where you are led

Fall down, fall down, all fall down
Queue up for the symphony, the same old sound
Dream on, dream on jester kings
Dance your dance for the puller of the strings

Ring around the television: watch your life unfold
Put your trust in advertising; do as you are told
Your future is decided, don’t attempt to be free
Your friendly big brother runs the ministry

Ring around the roses, made from plasticware
Keep your polyester, and for God’s sake, cut your hair
Trust in the brotherhood, you’ll be all right
Don’t be afraid, we only come out at night

Fall down, fall down, all fall down
Listen to the piper’s hypnotizing sound
Dance on, dance on jester queens
Dance your dance onto the stage of the machine

You can be anything we want you to become
You can learn the language of the deaf and dumb
You can control the future, well, that is nothing new, but
You can win friends that are just like you.

Fall down, fall down all fall down
Listen to the music leading underground
Dream on, dream on jester fools
You can play the game while we re-invent the rules

Fall down, fall down all fall down
Listen to the piper’s hynotizing sound
Dream on, dream on jester kings
Dance your dance for the puller of the strings

1990

Beyond Hope

Abandon Hope, all ye that enter here;
forsake that vain and selfish childhood bride
to drown her sorrows in a stale warm beer,
and unencumbered, dare to step inside.

There are no maps, no hackneyed turns of phrase,
to guide beyond the first steep, darkened stair;
you’ll find no succor in the growing haze,
no scent of promise lingering in the air.

For here none blaze a trail ahead for thee;
alone, and as a pilgrim, you must seek
your own self’s definition, and be free
of preconceived ideas of hear and speak.

No minotaur awaits beyond the bend,
awaiting your messiah’s blade of death;
nor will you find a confidant or friend
to give you courage in a whispered breath.

Instead, just a great nothing waits within,
a void built from the shadows of your doubt;
the sum of what you could or might have been,
subtracted from what you could live without.

Abandon Hope, all ye that seek this door;
she will not be admitted past the sill.
Look on her face with kindness, just once more;
prepare yourself for a great test of will.

The journey on is not for finding out:
creation, not discovery, the quest;
but Hope will lead down a mistaken route,
with fantasies of blissful peace, and rest.

Sleep not! Lest in that slow malaise you fall,
and leave to others what should be your fate.
Forget those vain illusions! You must crawl
on hands and knees, and never hesitate

to seek out for yourself, and fill your hands
with truth, to feel its beating heart direct,
and in that moment’s pause, to understand
what most learn in a lifetime to neglect.

18 DEC 2006

Salt of the Earth

Imagine a person made completely out of salt.

If that person chooses to be immersed in the ocean, their very being is absorbed by the sea. Once their head is beneath the waves, no distinction can be made between their now dissolved form and the depths into which they have sojourned. Not even the ocean can separate itself again, saying “this minute portion of me is of that small salt doll, and the remainder is not”.

Such is the case, too, when a person approaches and begins to comprehend the infinite energy of the universe. Once an individual recognizes the eternal within themselves, the external sack of temporal cloth in which that eternal has been stored melts away, and only the infinite remains.

In either case, who is left to report, to return some answer to the question they originally set out seeking? And in what language could that answer be expressed, that those on the shore, whose toes scarcely dare to dip into the surf’s foam, would be able to understand?

Even the cleverest of parables fails. And to speak with the voice of the ocean itself is to be misunderstood as a overwhelming roar.

The Bluebird of Happiness

You can lay down all the money you like
on redwood gazebos, those big platform feeders;
put out the best blend of customized seed,
and he won’t show a figment of interest.

Cut up fresh fruit and array it on saucers,
crumble up corn bread and leave it for hours;
sit there stock-still, either morning or evening.
He’ll twitter from above on the wire.

But if you leave the backyard, or a portion
of it, to grow long and fill up with black crickets
and hiding grasshoppers, then spend a half hour
of afternoon mowing, he’ll come.

The moral of this tale is that happiness follows
your action, not waiting. It prefers live bait.

26 JUN 2006

Doing Nothing

Got up before seven, fed the dog and combed my hair,
put a pot of coffee on to brew;
spent no time deliberating what clothes I would wear:
some jeans and an old t-shirt ought to do.
Stood out on the back porch smoking my first cigarette,
watching as the sun began to shine
on grass that needs a mowing, still all glistening and wet.
A simple life? Maybe. I like it fine.

I was never quite expected to
be the one deemed “most likely to”
discover the great secret of our age;
so disappointment’s never come
(well, truth be told, perhaps just some)
and I’ve never been trapped inside that cage.

There’s always somebody smarter,
who’ll work a bit harder;
someone who’ll want it more than you, somewhere;
there’ll be someone who’s louder,
who seems a bit prouder
of where they are on some great corporate stair.
You can spend all your moments
in great angst and torment,
and call what you end with sublime;
but if you can’t just leave it,
you’d better believe it:
you’ve done nothing but waste your time.

Freshened up my coffee, scratched my head and wrote these lines;
it took me about six minutes to do.
went back out to the deck, took a moment to reflect,
the sun’s heat like intoxicating brew.
Watched the birds and smelled the flowers; it seemed like endless hours,
but it wasn’t even a ten-minute span.
And the world? It kept on spinning, turning losing into winning;
like it turned what I once was to what I am.

I was never the one chosen to
be “first among the great ones who
would change the world for better or for worse”;
so it comes as no surprise at all
like summer leading on to fall
that a blessing’s just the flipside of a curse.

There’s always somebody smarter,
who’ll work a bit harder;
someone who’ll want it more than you, somewhere;
there’ll be someone who’s louder,
who seems a bit prouder
of where they are on some great corporate stair.
You can spend all your moments
in great angst and torment,
and call what you end with sublime;
but if you can’t just leave it,
you’d better believe it:
you’ve done nothing but waste your time.

21 JUN 2006

Beyond the Salad Days

If these are our salad days,
when does the entree arrive?
Pretending that greens are a meal
sounds contrived;
and furthermore, not quite enough
to survive
throught the supper tonight.

If these are the best of times,
why bother with vintage wine?
Pretending that grape juice has legs
may be fine;
but nonetheless, they’re bound to stop
at the spine,
leaving your drinking crippled.

What about moving beyond what you know,
finding a place where you don’t have to go
planting a seed and then watching it grow,
wanting something more
than becoming a vegetable?

If these are our salad days,
how long before the main course?
Pretending the apertif’s filling
sounds forced;
how long can you keep beating
on a dead horse
and hope to arrive?

If this is the best that it gets,
why keeping hoping for more?
Pretending you’ve won, but still
trying to keep score
is like loving the ocean
but hating its roar,
its interminable drifting.

What about letting illusions decay
When they’ve no purpose but stand in your way
Seeing the fall come as early as May
Knowing the cycle is more
than your part of it?

If these are our salad days,
what kind of diet is this?
Pretending it’s all there is to it
seems a bit remiss;
and furthermore, while ignorance
may be bliss
it’s not very filling.

If these are the golden years,
why bother when these days fade?
Pretending it’s worthwhile
is just a charade;
and furthermore, seems just a bit
overplayed
to a crowd that’s not willing.

What about tasting the rest of the meal
seeking beyond the orange to the peel
gathering experience of what is real
living and dying as less
than a superstar?

12 JUN 2006