Saturday, September 16, 2017

Shards of Dylan (poem)

Shards of Dylan

I feel the steel, it cuts me deep
Anyway I reach for it, it's real, it keeps
The touch I want so very much
The chance says take a leap
But I stay away, yes I live there
In my church, I say a prayer
What will I do tomorrow?

I turn to you, inside I burn
Tell me what I have to earn
I hope this doesn't take me down
Yet here I live, it's still my town
Tears and fears on the sinner's face
An empty room, a womb for grace
No escape, the door I cannot trace
But I see a frame, an open pane
I stare into the open air
If I go, I know not where
For still I face tomorrow

July 2017  North Andover, Mass.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Big Room (poem)

The Big Room
   Or an evening walk in the rhyming universe

The evening sky brightens outside, and draws light from my room.
The dogs, impatient at my feet, want to move, let’s leave this tomb.
I laugh, is the workday through? Their leashes on, and mine, undone,
we step into the outer room, now the realm of the setting sun.

It’s eventide, half summer, as we step into the gloaming,
into that room with no ceiling, the three of us go roaming.
Into the warm quiet nightfall, we enter this swirling place.
Leaving our home, my dogs take me on a trip through time and space.

The fading light is stealing, background radiation, fleeing,
new stars and planets are appearing, pearls in a pink champagne sea.
As the swirling sky darkens, what’s left still ignites my brain.
It leaves me with this feeling, our familiar world is strange.

It looks as if I’m standing on the edge of an open field.
It looks like a man with two dogs – instead the infinite, revealed.
I feel the arrow of time, the sky aquiver with twilight.
My hand draws the bow of the Archer, his dart flies across the night.

In this room, my hand can reach to the edge of space and beyond.
From me to that star, I could skip a stone across this pond.
Can my spirit bear the lightness of The All within my reach?
Yet here I am, in the big room, dizzy, with dogs at my feet.

Overhead, there to the right, shines Vega, Mister Sagan’s star.
He had a billion or two to share, but this one was the door.
Twenty-five light years, a short step away, Contact was the book,
where Ms. Foster met her Dad, or an alien with a kindly look.

How can all this be so welcoming? It could squash me like a bug.
But it doesn’t seem so inclined  somehow it feels more like a hug.
A hadron glow still warms the sky, and the worlds around each star.
The radiation might be dangerous, but still, it warms my heart.

Summer solstice, June 2017, North Andover, Mass.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sgt. Peppers as it should have been...

With the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", it got me thinking about what should have been:

When the Beatles started the recording sessions of what would become Sgt. Pepper on 24 November 1966, two of the first songs they recorded were Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. (The third was When I'm Sixty-Four, another song about their childhood growing up in Liverpool.) Because of the pressure to release a single, Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever was released in February 1967 as a double-A side. Because their producer George Martin and manager Brian Epstein thought "it was inappropriate to require fans to pay twice for the same material", they left these songs off Sgt. Pepper. Martin later described the decision to drop these two songs as "the biggest mistake of my professional life".

So...if we "restored" these two songs to Sgt. Pepper, where would they go? I couldn't see how to place them on side one without completely re-ordering the album. But I saw one logical and artistic place: put both songs on side two, right after the first song "Within You Without You". As the new 2nd song, "Penny Lane" is a strong comeback after "Within You Without You". Then if "Penny Lane" is followed with "Strawberry Fields Forever", it's another good change of pace, and preserves the mix of Lennon/McCartney songs on the album. It also makes side 2 and the whole album much stronger in my opinion. 

Here is how I would include "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" on Sgt. Peppers. What are your thoughts?

Side one
Lead vocals
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds "
"Getting Better"
"Fixing a Hole"
"She's Leaving Home"
McCartney with Lennon
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

Side two
Lead vocals
"Within You Without You"
"Penny Lane"
"Strawberry Fields Forever"
"When I'm Sixty-Four"
"Lovely Rita"
"Good Morning Good Morning"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"
Lennon, McCartney and Harrison
"A Day in the Life"
Lennon and McCartney

Side note: The issue for this version of the LP is length. Side 2 clocks in at 27:05 (up from 20:02), vs 19:50 for side 1. The standard LP mastering technology allows 23 minutes per side. LPs longer than 23 minutes per side are possible, and can be 30 minutes or longer, but with a loss of fidelity. So if these two songs were added, it's likely there would have been other changes to the song order, and possibly which songs were included!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Across The Knife Edge (poem)

Across The Knife Edge

Following the cold trail across the high country,
somewhere in front of us the other summit rises,
invisible in the icy windswept fog.
We must reach the safety of the other side
before the coming storm
reaches us.

Across the knife edge,
faster and faster we go
into the fog of the day.

Along the tumbled edge,
giant rocks make us twist and turn.
Some are hewn too large for us to step.
Faster and faster we go,
into the fog of the day,
into the invisible future.

Across the knife edge,
the path narrows as we climb,
but we don’t see it yet.
Why don’t we see it?
Hunting, hunting
for ground beneath our feet.
Will we stop or turn
before it falls away –
Why don’t we see it?
Hunting, hunting
for ground beneath our feet.

Across the knife edge,
into the fog of the day,
through the wind, ahead of the storm,
to the safety of the other side,
into the invisible future,
we race.

May 2014 North Andover, Mass.

Monday, April 17, 2017

From The Christening (poem)

From The Christening

Those who came before us
are not gone,
even though they rest today
in quiet fields of stone and flower.

Those we love who are gone
live in mind and heart,
their home,
alive in love’s power.

But more than this,
those who came before
and gave us life,
or read stories to us at a Sunday visit,
played games together at the family picnic,
gazed out the window with us during the storm –
arms around –
or held us at the christening,
still live I claim.

Look back through the lens of time.
Follow the unseen line of sight,
not my invention,
but one that science calls dimension.

This story tells of an unbroken line, a celestial strand,
a woven thread of strength eternal.
The eternal now.

The ones we love
are still as they were,
alive and strong,
though passed from our easy view.
They still move and breathe,
laugh and sing,
on that line of time,
as real as yesterday,
like friends who moved away
now living in another town.
But we’re the ones who moved.
Still, that strand is in our reach.

I feel the threads return and join,
connecting to the fabric here
that I now hold in hand,
this fabric of the gown passed down
from the christening.

April 2014  North Andover, Mass.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

here are some haiku / standing here looking at you / say kon'nichiwa

I wanted to share some haiku I wrote, but before I do, I wanted to start with a few by Japan's most renowned haiku poet, Matsuo Bashō, who lived from 1644 to 1694. These are translated by Jane Reichhold. Enjoy.

ah haru haru
yōinaru kana haru
to un nun

ah spring spring
how great is spring
and so on

haru kaze ni
fukidashi warau
hana mogana

spring winds
hoping the flowers burst
out in laughter

hatsu hana ni
inochi shichi jyū
go nen hodo

first blossoms
seeing them extends my life
seventy-five more years

my haiku about haiku

the words are loaded
in the poetic pistol they wait
bang! flowers appear!

simple only, so
around, it sees, it hears, so
in the moment, so

the haiku – not clear
a few words say what they say
everyone says what?

the black ink stands small
tries to fill the empty page
white space fills the rest

a poem
a suitcase of words
packed with brain, heart, and soul
ready for travel

Friday, October 28, 2016

My response to Dover Beach

One of my favorite poems is Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold. I hesitate to say this because it's such a downbeat poem. Oh my God, I swear, if Mr. Arnold had a pistol nearby when he completed it, it might have been all over.  In these latter days of an endless and endlessly downbeat election season, I can relate more than ever to the downbeat view of the human condition found in Dover Beach. "Darkling plain" indeed.

The poem is short, less than 40 lines, and very accessible. And yet it has so many layers and echoes for such a short poem. There's a good chance you read it in high school. It's called "the most anthologized poem in the English language." If you're not familiar with it, it's worth reading. Even if you've read it, it's worth re-discovering. Here it is:

I've been carrying this poem around in my head for a while now. The thing is, as beautiful as it is, and as evocative as it is, I couldn't disagree with it more. So in addition to the words of the poem, I carried THAT thought in my head for quite a while. Somehow, Mr. Arnold got it fundamentally - if beautifully - wrong.

Well, as I carried this thought around, something happened, as things do. This mulling turned into a poem - one that actually started out in response to something else - but somehow in the end became a response to Dover Beach. Here it is:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Almost Whole (a poem)

Almost Whole

The sea runs tonight.
The moon is almost full.
Stand with me at the narrow straits,
where the Merrimack meets the tide.
Gaze across the bay, under the gibbous night,
watch at anchor, how the island rides.
Against the dark, it plumbs the deepening sea.
Breathe in the cool night-air, and look!
Even the wind on the water moves to the lunar pull!
Keeping her date, the moon rests on our shoulders.
Starlight gleams from a distant shore.
Moon-blanched rocks stand above the flood,
the Joppa Flats are gone. Salt-marsh birds rest in the reeds.
Tonight they hide, choosing to let the tide work its force.
Keeping her promise, on her ephemeris, the moon moves,
the waters rise, and our river changes course,
bearing in the salt, a salve for the wounded.
Tonight we receive the tide’s ephemeral and ageless balm.

In this long arrival of life, I am reached
by a tide that stands full at the strand.
The water lies full at my feet, cresting
where I stand, where I am, cresting the shore.
Good comes in, comes in, to me as to each,
retreats and then, calls out, have some more.
In this run, ebbs strife.
Good flows in, arriving, and arriving.
It is enough. I take, I sample, I store.

Tonight there is no retreat,
no gliding taking in the wash of the strand,
no draw of the tide, no grating roar.
Tonight the same salten sea rises within;
the same ocean river courses the inner shore.
It runs in this temple, in these freshets and veins.
Tonight it arrives, bearing the same cure.

I am not as wounded as I thought 
no knife to withdraw.
I am speechless, struck dumb to my shallow core
by the depth of the sea that surrounds.
The breath of the sea-air touches my face,
sea and stars go still; wind and water, no sound.
From afar, tide and moon in silent tune embrace.
I see no struggle, no pain, no sadness, no sorrow –
no need. The moon is almost full.

What if I am standing at the waters of Charon,
in range of his searching eye? The ferryman, ready on his raft,
ready with his constrictors, his leathers, his binds,
gliding by, on the dark river Styx, silent, his eye all hunger –
what if he found me with no want, no hunger, no need?
What if he turned downstream?
Tonight, the ferryman turns his eye,
and misses one.
Ready with his constrictors, he turns from me,
and I unwind what was taut.
The cord of discord is loosed, prevented, undone.
I have finally gone to school. I have finally learned
how to be untaught.
What I have is enough.
The night-air is sweet. The tide is full.
The darkling plain but reveals
the glimmering light of the stars.

October 2016, North Andover Mass.