The Politics of Deconstruction

A moment, more or less, of deconstruction:
by which I mean to delve into the soul
that strives to separate life from destruction
and yet maintain some semblance of the whole,
to claim by sacred right the single kernel,
the isolated truth-soaked grain of sand
that by its presence negates the infernal
in concrete terms all can understand.

It does not matter what stated intention
the writer may have claimed explained their work.
Creative types are just show and pretension;
in equal parts: saint, sinner, genius, jerk.
Believe me, I have far more poignant insight
by virtue of not wasting any time
in chasing muses past the hour of midnight
to be rewarded by one simple rhyme.

Besides, too many think themselves creative
and squander precious time lost in that haze.
The world needs workers, not more contemplatives,
who pass up duty just to navel gaze.
We need poetry, ’tis true, but with some guidance:
interpretations that have been approved,
that faced with doubt and free will, choose avoidance
and recommend such options be removed.

It only takes a moment’s intervention
to steer a young and growing mind astray;
remember, cure is harder than prevention,
so put those blinders on without delay.
Besides, it only starts with art and culture;
are politics … religion … far behind?
Trust me, do you want, hanging like a vulture,
someone with vision checking your design?

We deconstruct to make it seem like science,
instead of art or magic, sacred stuff
that at its core encourages defiance
and shows our plans for what they are, a bluff.
In pieces, the world fits into our puzzle,
and none can see the holes we’ve yet to fill.
With so-called education as a muzzle,
we can do what we want, and always will.

30 APR 2005

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Beltane 2005

What I have left to strike a spark
is just a book of grayed and dusty matches;
not much good at dispelling dark
when the flint is reduced from ancient scratches
where once I sought to catch a fire
against the troubled wind of youth,
fueled with some bottomless desire
to speak for Beauty, Love and Truth.

It seems as though my kindling’s turned to rot,
soaked through with time’s stale sweat;
even the bark has curled where water has got
and turned the umber wood to jet.
Still, there is quite enough spare chaff,
cast off from years of gleaning grain,
swept up against my mind’s baseboards
to feed a bonfire, this Beltane.

As summer brings its sweltered breath
again, and warms my arid bones,
I will return from Winter’s death
and on my hilltop, stand alone
while the flames lick the turgid sky
with their caress of wild desire;
in that bright light, the world and I
are spark and tinder, fuel and fire.

29 APR 2005

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My Wheelbarrow is Broken

So much depends
on an audience that resents
a two drink minimum.

So much depends
on people who don’t support
reality TV.

So much depends
on someone who listens
so it’s worth lying.

So much depends
on removing education
as an obstacle to learning.

So much depends
on how much is recycled
versus thrown away.

So much depends
on waiting for someone else
to decide.

So much depends
on not rocking the boat
too much.

So much depends
on using your wheelbarrow
to haul shit to the garden.

28 APR 2005

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Thank you for not giving me
the Powerball numbers from the astral plane;
for postponing that move to the Florida Keys
at least another decade;
for the psoriasis that precluded my career
as a playboy Lothario;
for the hesitation, that lack of killer instinct,
that limited my musical ambitions;
for my overdrawn bank account,
for the grey hair on my head,
for the gumption to quit college,
for the brain cells I’ve lost to self-medication,
for the little things.

Thank for the bathroom walls
rotting into disgusting flakes;
for the vinyl siding hanging down
against the untrimmed rose and jasmine bushes,
for the neighborhood watch that always reports
when my lawn misses a week’s worth of trimming.

Thank you for a self-centered teenage child
with a hand full of gimme, and a mouth full of much obliged
(although, truth be told, not too often with the thank you);
thanks for senior year expenses:
cap and gown
college applications
senior portraits
prom gowns
car insurance
cell phones

Thanks for all those unwelcome comparisons to other parents,
who obviously have their act together,
and know how to understand and respect
the needs of hypochondriac, selfish shopaholic children
who can’t be bothered to clean their own dishes,
cook their own food,
or even pick up the bath mat after themselves.

Thank you for these extra hundred pounds
that make me much more difficult to lug around
all this gratitude and appreciation.

Thanks for long hours, high standards of living,
neighbors that vote Republican and think they’re doing the right thing,
and will debate me,
like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons,
that society is to blame.

Thanks for the patriarchy, and for right-wing conservatives
that help me keep in perspective my own radically different value system.
Thanks for the 78% of Americans that call themselves Christians,
but act anything but. It helps me with my own hypocrisies.

Thanks for being there, even when you’re not there.
Thanks for the dawn, and for twilight, and the hours in between.

Thanks for all those payroll deductions that represent money
I’ll owe to the IRS anyway.
Thanks for credit card interest, for installment loans, for insurance premiums.
They help me keep it real.

Thanks especially for those big, flying cockroaches.
Killing them gives me some fleeting sense of power.

Thanks for keeping the sources of my inheritance alive
but not making me resent them for it.

Thanks for nothing. Thanks for everything.

I don’t say it often enough.

28 APR 2005

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Who Says That Poetry Dare Not

Who says that poetry dare not describe,
except in abstract, the signs of the times,
when modern culture abounds with sound bytes
from cinema, like Puzo’s line
that all business is personal,
and we hang with pride by electron pins
our ragged, besmirched angst,
so that a global web of public noses
can share our hampers’ contents:
the tattered, faded t-shirts (now vintage wear)
that in high school twenty years ago
could get us suspended for dress code violations
(I think of the Ramones, the Clash, and Bauhaus,
who sell more accessories now than
they ever dreamed of during their lifetimes).

Who says that poetry must first, before all else,
be small and disheveled, a Pigpen trailing the muck
of his own me-o-centric dust bowl,
or soft and insecure Linus, grasping desperately
to the security of psychosis,
lamenting years of analysis that have left us,
as a people, addicted to neuropathic drugs
and fattened the wallets of countless would-be-Freuds
and their pushermen?

Who says that language must devolve
to suit the temper of the times,
instead of lifting, by the scruff of the neck,
its whining, self-centered congregation
beyond the dry and brittle pews of academia
into direct experience with the Divine?

Who says that poets must wait, patient,
while the world argues and decides their fate?

Who says that poetry dare not touch
upon the sacred? Without tangents
such as these, what good is it? Why, then,
keep on, and on and on, ’til break of dawn
insisting that the pen is mighty?
Wherefore comes that might? From lashing
oneself to the mast of culture’s speeding craft,
so that the Sirens on the rocks
may loose their soft, seductive stream
of sacrilege,
and yet not sway the poet’s course.

24 APR 2005

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The Loss of Art in School

There is no good in writing it,
for no one cares to read;
no point in baking word-filled pies,
there’s no one here to feed.

There is no point in singing it,
for we have all gone deaf;
besides, no one remains who knows
a bass from treble clef.

There is no worth in painting,
for we’re all as good as blind,
and tend to favor style and flair
instead of good design.

There is no use in playing;
Why not sample? Why waste time?
Those who can tell the difference
are but few and quite sublime.

There is no good in writing it,
except to help preserve
a history beyond these times
that poetry deserves.

There is no point in singing it
except to save the voice
so in some future silence
those who wish, will have a choice.

There is no worth in painting,
save to safeguard fading skills
against the simple, quick and cheap.
If you don’t, no one will.

There is no use in playing
except that future museums
will not know about instruments
if all you can do is see them.

28 APR 2005

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I want to play live music again

One of the experiences in my life that has been the most exhilirating is playing music before an audience. It doesn’t matter how big the audience is, really.

I started out playing live music with my family on holidays. From the time I was 8 or 9, at Christmas and other family gatherings, my grandmother, uncle, father, cousins and brothers and sisters would gather around my grandmother (who played the organ), singing and playing a myriad of instruments, playing carols, old songs, and novelty numbers (like Shaving Cream, Sweet Violets, For I Had But 50 Cents, etc.).

My siblings and I all learned three instruments each growing up: piano, a string instrument (mine was violin), and a band instrument (mine was clarinet). I played from the time I was in second grade, adding to that list guitar, bass (electric and upright), saxophone, trumpet, accordian, lap steel (my father’s instrument) and various and sundry percussion. I even took drum lessons for a while. I also sang in choir from my seventh grade year on. So there was a lot of live performance: talent shows, band concerts, recitals, contests, etc.

In high school I formed a band with a couple of friends. We didn’t play any gigs, as I recall, but we practiced a LOT, often with small audiences of friends.

Then after high school I played in professional bands, all over Los Angeles from the Central to Madame Wongs, street scene festivals, and so on.

Then I went to Berklee. And played the subways, mostly. LOL. Made more money on the Blue Line than I ever made playing the Troubadour, I can tell you.

Moved to Memphis, started playing solo acoustic gigs. I played the Java Cabana coffeehouse every Sunday for 8 months and also did a gig at the Antenna Club as an Elvis impersonator. After Memphis, I moved to Seattle and played in a country-folk band. Played the Northwest Folk Festival, played in back rooms at bluegrass festivals, etc.

When I relocated to Ohio, I played in a classic rock cover band that did a couple of gigs, including a Harley Davidson club party.

Then I moved to New Orleans. And you would think that being in that city filled with music I’d still be playing. But as often happens, life gets in the way. I’m older now, and hanging out in bars is less healthy. And I’m set in my ways.

But playing live music is always a wonderful experience. Even if it’s just two people sitting in a living room and jamming. So if the opportunity arises, I’ll do it in a heartbeat. Just no touring, or thinking of getting a record deal. LOL.

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