The Use of Dreams: rondine

What is the use of dreams devoid of action,
that linger on as hopes before they die;
and while they last, convince us if we try
that in the end we will find satisfaction.
Such wistful shadows taunt us to distraction;
lost in the mist, we separate in factions
and dissipate and fade out, by and by.
    What is the use?

If dreams and hope are to have any traction,
they must inspire our deeds, not just reactions.
We must find rousing songs, not lullabies,
and exercise our wings if we would fly.
If not, life is continuing subtraction;
    what is the use?

11 MAY 2017

Heaven or Las Vegas

for Elvis Presley

Well, the coroner he figured
no one’s hand was on the trigger,
so there really wasn’t anyone to blame.
Call him a victim of his fame;
we know what killed him, just the same.

Never mind his fiercest critics
called him his own Chappaquidick.
We convinced him he was well enough to drive;
went along just for the ride:
we each committed regicide.

Whether it’s heaven or Las Vegas,
chances are you’ll never win;
playing the house is big gamble:
the odds are always pretty slim.
Pauper or king it doesn’t matter
in the end, which one you choose:
whether it’s heaven or Las Vegas,
either way you’re bound to lose.

A symbol of our generation:
vanity, and the frustration
of becoming bigger than what came before.
We stood screaming at the door,
always wanting from him more.

And we locked him in a palace,
made his microphone a chalice,
and his youth a trophy case for rock and roll.
Never mind the tears, the burden on his soul.
And we blamed him when he went out of control.

The choice was heaven or Las Vegas;
both are illusions based on sin;
playing the house is big gamble:
the odds are always pretty slim.
Pauper or king it doesn’t matter
in the end, which one you choose:
whether it’s heaven or Las Vegas,
either way you’re bound to lose.

Well, the coroner he figured
no one’s hand was on the trigger,
just another case of privilege gone too far:
one more supernova that we call a star
to avoid looking at who we really are.

13 FEB 2007

Burn That Bridge

Dwelling on the future
never seemed to make much sense:
splitting our infinitives
just wastes the present tense.
Why worry on what might be
and dwell on hopes and dreams,
when what counts of past and future
is what comes in between?

Yeah, maybe we’ll be famous;
Maybe we’ll strike it rich;
Maybe the car will leave the road
and leave us in the ditch;
Maybe we’ll stay together,
maybe we’ll drift away;
you can’t predict the future;
all you have is here, today.

We’re on this road together
until we both call it quits;
whatever happens further on,
let’s burn that bridge when we get to it.

Dwelling on what might be
never gets us anywhere;
imagining some great misfortune
waiting for us there
distracts us from the present,
robs us of our savoir faire.
We have each other right now;
let tomorrow meet us there.

Yeah, maybe we’ll be homeless;
Maybe we’ll go back to school;
Maybe the weak will tame the strong,
and wise men act like fools.
Maybe we’ll live forever,
maybe we’ll fade away;
you can’t predict the future;
all you have is here, today.

We’re on this road together
until we both call it quits;
you never know what’s coming
don’t burn that bridge ’til we get to it.

29 DEC 2006

One of my pet sayings is “Let’s not stress over that right now; we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” It’s very much akin, in my mind, to the Sufi saying, “Never name the well from which you will not drink.” In other words, don’t say you’re never gonna have a chicken sandwich while you’re still waiting for the hen to lay eggs. Until the time is right, until there is that perfectly auspicious alignment of the planets that triggers the cataclysmic cosmic chain reaction that results in the events that form your tomorrow, you really have no idea what it’s gonna look like. Sure, you have plans and visions and hopes and dreams, but until the proof becomes pudding you don’t really know what it is — and you certainly don’t know the flavor until you take that first bite. Wow. A lot of mixed metaphors here. But you get idea. Live for today.

See You There

If you listen to the chatter
they’ll convince you it don’t matter, more or less;
as long as your wallet’s fatter,
never mind those ‘neath the ladder of success.
There’s no need to feel an instant of distress,
or a sense of guilt for stepping past the mess.

In the growing of confusion,
they’ll lead to you to same conclusion, wait and see;
as we suffer from delusion
that we’re guiltless of collusion, you and me.
There’s no need to speak up if you disagree,
or be wary of the threat to liberty.

Bow your head and learn your lesson:
better start to count your blessings, while you can.
There’s another world tomorrow
filled with all the pain and sorrow you can stand.
If you think it won’t come calling,
that your high flying ain’t falling, best beware:
there’s another side to living,
balance between taking and giving…
see you there.

If you mind the paranoia
you’ll believe they can destroy you, if they try;
so you trust in any ploy,
become the wicked world’s new play toy, by and by.
There’s no point in any struggle, so don’t cry;
besides, we must keep the mechanism dry.

Bow your head and learn your lesson:
better start to count your blessings, while you can.
There’s another world tomorrow
filled with all the pain and sorrow you can stand.
If you think it won’t come calling,
that your high flying’s not falling, best beware:
there’s another side to living,
balance between taking and giving…
see you there.

13 DEC 2006

A Week in LA

After almost twenty years
to spend a week out in LA
and to watch through hotel windows
where the rich and famous play

(or at least some folks pretending
to be worth the time of day,
either rock stars in the making
or young vultures seeking prey)

without caring much about it,
but just wondering, through my stay,
if I could have done things different
and still been alive today;

’cause the toll of fame is heavy,
when you live out in LA;
and despite the years, it’s still more
how you look, not what you say.

It’s almost a foreign country to me,
lit up for display
where you feel excited to arrive
but glad to go away.

20 NOV 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

If You’re Not Growing

Some of my old friends
seem the same year after year:
just like they were in high school,
at the start of their careers

They talk in careful circles
around where they ought to be;
and most of them still don’t
understand me.

When I look in the mirror,
where I was at seventeen
is covered up and buried
by the miles come in between …

Old trucks, slow trains,
cool nights, and hard rain:
the little things worth
more than buying.
New love, a fast car,
hot sounds from a guitar:
it’s the little things
that keep you trying …
if you’re not growing, man,
you’re dying.

There are just two choices:
growing old, or dying young;
it seems to me no toss-up
to decide.

It seems far too crazy
just to give it all away
before you’ve even given it
a ride.

When I look in the mirror,
sure, I miss what used to be;
but I’d much rather know
that the face I see is me.

Old trucks, slow trains,
cool nights, and hard rain:
the little things worth
more than buying.
New love, a fast car,
hot sounds from a guitar:
it’s the little things
that keep you trying …
if you’re not growing, man,
you’re dying.

21 MAY 2006