Father and Son

In these precious bodies

We pass down the ability to do things

A father sits backlit by a beer cooler

Watching his son thrash around the stage covering Mars Volta songs

Devilish trance and angelic squirmishes

The feedback lingers at large

Odd time signatures

and sometimes seemingly no time at all

He was a vibraphone player

His son a fretless bassist shining in blue lights

Sweat and drool flying from zig-zag barbershop edges

But this life

THIS life

Is only so long

And our bodies slowly tighten and crumble

Under the weight and stress of gravity and time

What a gift to give

To watch your offspring shake the way you used to be able to shake

Whip their fingers about the way you used to

Feet carefully finding their place heel to toe in the tick-tock of a samba rhythm

But you've done all of that before

Now it's time to sit back and forget your achey bones for a time

and listen through the years of your creation in pride and amazement

Lonely Christmas Tree

The lonely Christmas tree

with blurry colored lights of whimsical windings

gleaming from depths of blue-green

 

Gone are the brightly-colored presents

with their metallic bows and tissue-paper explosions

The goods have been plundered

the paper folded 

Only glitter and fake snow remain

tasseled and silent

 

The crowning star leans to the left

the slight pull of gravity has worked

slowly, slowly

 

A red elf hangs carelessly on the lowest branch

A ballerina kicks out her leg ferociously awaiting attention

Shimmering globes mirror into infinity

 

No one ooohh and ahhhs at its magnificence anymore

They brush past it as if a minor annoyance

the harbinger of January’s austerity and pragmatism

where the wind blows through

October on Max Patch

As I lay on Max Patch, hat over my face, the sharp sun burned into my black pants. Thousands of autumn insects pulsed and sizzled beneath the sound of heavy panting. (My dog is very excited. She doesn't get out enough. Neither do I.) A dusting of murmurings in the distance, a plane's boomy rumble.

Along these winding gravel roads of broken barns and rusted silos that led us here, most of the corn has been harvested leaving only amoebic graveyards of sticks. Still, some of the ragged waifish plants remain in soldier's gridlock. 

Way up here at the top, with it's 360-degree-view, the gentlest breeze rides up the hills and kisses my neck. I sit up to study the color of hundreds of folds that appear all at once green, brown, and blue, much like the rich ocean just off the coast.

It's never occurred to me how much I love the seeds of fall: mint umbels, goldenrod tufts, and aster puffs. They are austere in their browns and whites, strong with the promise of new life.

Facebook posts gone awry

We went about our days underground
like prairie dogs in a network of dens
Keeping to our families

In the volatile winds above the protective earth
I lifted a flag of colors
that communicated some things to some people and different things to others

The threads of my colors reverberated into a hundred songs that reached
Into the past, into the present, into the future
Into the very souls of some
Threatening their very existence
Disturbing the peace

Funny how the goal was to rekindle it

Maybe my flag of colors was too carelessly crafted
Too slapdash and unexplained
It left too much room for assumption
Perhaps I put red where there should be orange and blue where indigo should go

Nevertheless, the fighting raged on with dips and spikes of emotion and reason
No one knew the true nature of the colors, or where they came from
But they knew what they thought about them and how they made them feel

I wanted to quietly slip my flag back down into the silence of the earth
So no-one would be angry any more
Or if they were, I was not the cause of it, nor could I see it
I could cut the cables and let the flag ripple off into the sky
To land on barren ground and be bleached by the sun and scratched by the earth
Thrown around and torn by uninhibited animals
Until its fragments no longer meant anything anymore

Water takes the path of least resistance; wind blows to areas of low pressure
Is that how we are to act? To raise no flags? To stay neatly within our burrows? 

What if we were to stand for the wrong thing, driving a stake between us and our neighbors for an ideology that doesn’t really matter in our day-to-day? What if we can never have all of the facts? Is complacency the enemy? Or is it conflict? Or are they both a necessary part of the cycle of it all?

Why must there be pain in order to make change? 
The pain keeps us where we are, harboring us with stinging walls
Perhaps we need walls
Perhaps we need to push through them 

My arm ached from holding up the faltering flag
I had to patch it many times due to claws and wind
Though it seemed right to keep it flying proud and high
I was growing sick of constant monitoring and mending

Perhaps I am not a resilient soldier after all
Perhaps I am just a soft poet
Disguising intentions in symbolic narrative
My art will be so intangible
That any criticism would be insubstantial

But the saddest part of it all
Is that my tolerance for confrontation remains low
My fear of feather-ruffling remains high
And it takes courage and persistence to make the world a better place

I want to show you how I feel
But I don’t want you to react to it
I want to express myself without criticism
I suppose that’s not how it works

With a click, my flag vanished
All of the tears, all of the colors, all of the stitches
My life is easier now
And so is yours

Did anything come of this?
Is anyone the wiser?
Or is the air above the tunnels too crowded, relentless, and uninhabitable
For someone who cares so much about other’s feelings
But also wants to be more than vapid

We are interpreting colors and patterns in a world that has shaped us
Therein lies the beauty                                                                                                                Therein lies the confusion
Therein lies our differences

Old burying ground

When we visited the Old Burying Ground in Beaufort, NC, it was the first time that it felt like fall during that week at the beach. We went later than usual--the last week in September--and it was confusingly warm on the fringes of Hurricane Maria and felt like summer was back for a stint.

Green acorns scatter upon the confetti of burnt sienna leaves, themselves laying randomly-cast upon a tight bed of white sand. The air was crisp, not buggy and moist like I remember it from years past. 

The colorful unmarked grave of a young girl who was buried in a rum cask at sea was coated in her usual array of toys and shells, though this year, an unopened package of eclipse glasses appeared as an additional offering for her enjoyment. I imagined her ghostly figure appearing at night to innocently explore and tinker with the assortment of stuffed animals, bouncy balls, and freshly-harvested whelk shells. 

But the wonder of the graveyard lay not only in its age--with makeshift markers beyond legibility--but in the towering and twisted live oaks that have no-doubt been feeding on the salt-water-logged flesh and bone of our dearly departed beloved. 

Because we must

Sometimes it’s messier than a spreadsheet

Longer than a soundbite

More difficult to swallow than a can of gummy worms

 

Sometimes it’s uglier than a picture

Darker than a shadow

Deeper than the deepest V-neck 

and far hairier

 

Sometimes it’s nothing but awkward

With words that don't work

and time to kill

 

Sometimes situations are hard to reckon

And us humans

with our chicken-scratch halos

and tattered suitcases

and confusing dreams

and confined realities

plow ahead into the fresh breath of the unknown

with affirmations written on the backs of old tax returns

because we must

Music is...

Music doesn't live on the radio or inside an air-conditioned record label castle.

It lives in rainy streets and dank dives, bouncing down hallways and corridors, resonating off stone and ancient wood beams.

Music doesn't live on a digital CD player with the treble cranked, all ones and zeros punching at your eardrums.

It lives in mountains and squeals of compassion and desperation and urgency: an army of drummers preparing soldiers for war, hearts pounding faster to off-pitch wailing bagpipes.

Music does not live in banquet halls, though it may whisper meaning over you or talk about the weather. It may bang at your door or tap at the calloused case around your heart (we all have it, I'm not pointing fingers).

Music is a cathedral choir with someone running in late with a quick dip to the holy water. It's a lullaby sung by a cross-eyed adoring mother. It's the tear-inducing harmonies that you never heard so painfully well until your world was flipped-turned up-side-down. Music lives with true intention.

Music lives in the declaration, "This is what I want to say. I don't need your permission."

Music is not the industry: the people you begged to notice you. Music is not emails or lugging gear or data entry.

Music is thoughtfully-crafted setlists and medleys and playing the song tonight that you feel the most excited about. Music lives in the mistakes and experiments. Music does not always land on its feet but it adorns time in a way that nothing else can: passionately.

Music is not talking on the phone about how to make a living there because a living can't be made here. Music is talking to someone about letting the notes of a chord dance around the root, but never revealing it. It's about hitting ones or twos or threes and then simmering down to a conversation about perspective and the tonal gifts of an instrument.

Music is not, "How do I survive in the industry?" but, "How do I thrive as an artist?" Music is not staring at red lights, it's staring at green lights. It's forward movement of expression and experimentation and connection. Or at least that's what I want it to be.

 

- Edited by Silas Durocher.

Aways seeking shade

The cement truck spins, bananaquits sing, and air plants drape from power lines

as we float on currents like a message in a bottle to some unknown future

I'm trying to write poetry that I don't want to forget

but I'm not looking where I'm going

or feeling where I am

Nor do I know what I'm trying to say

I seek a purpose on paper

a document or a reason for being

But the connection I seek 

Is the revelation of the clouds in your salty sunglasses

Winding roads, dizzying sunshine

The real glory of life--the depth and the truth of it--

Is found in the messy realness

a breath that doesn't make it all the way in

or out

the twists and turns of confusion and discovery

Then maybe I have the flower of its essence within me

Maybe I am experiencing life to the fullest

I just don't know it

 

 

Three days of dust

We arrived into a hailstorm at the Bozeman airport

shouting directions through the ping-pang

pounds of rain and shreds of lightning

spat from an electric black sky

as we skidded around roundabouts

with lazy windshield wipers

 

Three days of dust

we rode, windows down

engine heat blasting through the defrost vents

The chugging of the long-stick gear shift traded rhythm

with distorted blues guitar riffs through blown-out speakers

All else was lost to the sounds of wind

 

The landscape rich with bright gold and impossible indigo

I reached for my sunglasses and realized

that I was already wearing them

 

My lungs ached from the dirt

My heart reinstated by the gratitude of strangers

I felt confident in my talents

That doesn’t happen often enough

 

The clear nights were filled with billions of stars

I created constellations in my mind of kites and conch shells

But the Big Dipper was still king

even amongst all the glitter

 

I could hear the distant moaning of cattle

floating through the valley

Over the fast-rushing Yellowstone

reminding me that I am still swimming upstream

Dregs of winter

A serene snow-covered landscape

best reveals the muck of humanity

 

What was once white fluffy layers

of impossibly-delicate crocheted doilies

is now the dark slush of industrial trampling

 

Three black crows sat on the battered road

and I wished that only the trails of horse hooves

and thin wooden wheels had made their mark

upon the ancient, heavenly, and pure

talents of water

 

But, all is temporary

and purity exists in mere moments

if at all

 

Without the corruption of darkness

and the melting mess of grey before us

spring would never come

Beacons of summer

After waking at the old Days Inn

I walk to a grassy bank beyond the parking lot

and watch the beacons of summer march

in crimson armor

 

Seeking the true essence of summer

I sink into the sweat of leaves

and discover the secret hymn of cicadas

and ponder the endless

clutter and expanse

Spring horizon

The elderly women wear red

So they are not too-soon forgotten

But how we all act like children

When love is so fresh in our hearts

Thoughts on an airplane

Sinking below me

I see octagonal churches

And a concentrated obelisk city

The housing developments spin on fractal axes

Constructing unintelligible bubble language

 

A lonely school racetrack peaks through a pale shag rug

Punctuated by impossible white ribbons

Beyond the cotton ball clouds

Rises a whipped-cream mountain mess

A dog has emptied out a chew toy in space

 

Looking down at the water

I scan for whales and boats

But see nothing in the expanse

I think the world would seem much larger

If I were a sailor