Archive for May, 2013


Untitled

on May 29, 2013 in Poetry | No Comments »

When I am wandering alone
In the calm of dream see I
A wrinkled man, hair silver straight
Bearing tears and sighs

He calls to me with ancient grin
and “fear not” quoth he.
And step I forward troubled some
to see that he is me

We sit beside the river stream
to watch the water run
quietly he speaks to me
and this is how it was done

“Quiet now my lad, and utmost patiently,
for my time is short
and the angels fear
the words I have for thee”

Silent as a church-mouse
under steeple bell
I listened to his story
and this one did he tell.

“Innocent my boy you are,
and pleasant for a time.
I remember much too often
when the face you wear was mine.”

“This I know,” I called in jest
and spared for him a smile,
“What a simple thing you give to me
to cross so many miles.”

“Silence now!” his anger came,
“One warning now of three,”
I shuddered beneath his lasting glare
for I could not stand his mortal stare

“A girl to you will come quite soon,
her like but once you’ll meet
with golden sun reflecting hair
is kind and gentle and sweet”

An ache of pain came too his voice
for a reason I was soon to know
but sparing not a moments pause
on went the fearful story show

“Beneath the weight of moonlight dance
your love for her is grown
and in the span of days it seems
it sprouts like none that’s known.”

“And before the night of wedding vows
into her life does creep
the fated Father’s reaching hand
her soul to take and keep.”

His eyes were stained with bitter tears
and I would hear no more
I rose up from my solemn seat
and vowed to leave that shore

“Sit young one,” the other said
“that was but one of three,”
reluctantly I returned to sit
to hear the sorrow tale of me.

“After many a day in sorrow spent
and countless tears do fall
you’ll find yourself a soldier
and to the battlefield are called.

Something of a warrior made
few other’s skill will match
a cursed ownership of one hundred men
your valor this command does catch

Many a friend herein is made
though I’d rather you had none
as fate again chooses passes cruel
to stretch its hand for you

your party struck beneath the moon
while it sleeps with borrowed ease
by an enemies steady watchful eyes
that had come to watch you die.

That night you’ll hear a hundred screams
and those hundred screams grow cold
and a hundred graves you’ll be made to dig
for friends and soldiers bold.”

“Stop old one!” I shout in pain
“be your story false or true
but stay thy tongue and cease thy tale
for it cuts me like a winter’s hail!”

“Calm yourself, my young friend,”
said he with cautious frown,
“of the warnings the last of three
is of how you’re laid to ground.”

Though all inside me shunned the thought
and my conscience bid me part
I could not call myself to move
nor make my legs to walk.

The river which had sat us by
amidst our talk of time
now ran dry as desert day
and the sun now failed to shine.

“Now my boy, our journey’s end,”
said he with voice so low
“And know you will this sorrow tale
long before you go.

After love and after war
a beggar will you be
and walk upon the streets of gold
not a penny to spend hath thee.

You’ll wander and walk everywhere
no home to call your home.
The bareness bloodied on your naked feet,
lost and all alone

Til one day you’ll lose the fight
with death’s cold reaching hand
after a long and painful blackness tread
comes the day you’ll leave this land.

It is a tortured life you’ll lead
before your sentence done
and the life that is right now so young
you’ll soon begin to shun.”

At this I stand and shake my fist,
“What right to this have you?!
To lay so bare my life and times,
and all that I might do?

Before I leave your presence vile
and to my life I steal
all my feelings of your rancid tale
you’ll sit while I reveal.

Although your life is passed and gone
and this knowledge you think you cage
here is a lesson from your youth
you’ve corrupted with your age.

I will not fall , I will not flee
the hand God deals to me.
For the couraged life I seek to grow
will not be shorn for destiny

I left that man there crying still
beside that dried up river bed.
He laid his head upon his hands
to slip away in time’s white sands.

Once again in the waking world
of this meeting I did think
and more resolved I could not be
that life’s a cup I mean to drink.

Written playfully in high school

Unrequited

on May 29, 2013 in Poetry | No Comments »

On my bed at night I asked Him
why my heart loves-
I asked Him, but He did not answer.
I wondered how I could have earned this hurt;
so again I asked Him that I might know
Why my love should hurt.
This I asked Him, but He did not answer.
Then Arabella came upon me,
her wings about my head whispering;
Do you know why my love hurts?
she had scarcely flown away
when I felt the unheard answer.
It filled me with a wealth of faith beyond worth
that I have since clutched to my
joyous, tearful self
in my now restful sleeping.
The lesson from all my unrequited love
was never curse, but a feeling by Him shared
That I might understand and love Him
better in return.

[upon a reading of Song of Songs Ch.3 V:1-5]

As a Dream

on May 29, 2013 in Poetry | No Comments »

Steadily go I awake as one sleeping
to fade the painted marble steps of dream
and wade between the day and night
as a wind it passes is forgotten
am by all, and either, ignored

Just beyond the reach of memory in the waking
no matter how they’re sought
uncontrolled and undisciplined while you’re sleeping
no matter how they’re fought

I am as they are
living only truly in those unobserved hours
seen best in the periphery
and not at all otherwise

Let me sleep on,
let me sleep on,
for if you wake me
I will be gone

a touched and altered future
in a time of no defense
to set an expiration
on a tomorrow yet unsensed

She laid a marker on my final day
and sent me down a path
where a spindled death lay waiting
for my destined steps to pass

But another mark came later still
to smooth those sharpened teeth
with softened fate and loving cure
to sleep that mortal reach

And with that gift of borrowed time
the boatman’s fare was stayed
that I might sleep through threatened death
til my life, with love, is saved

With the full grown voices gathered still
she’s ushered off to bed
Tear stained disappointment at engineered unfairness
through the lights yet lit she’s led

Promises of better days are poured into her ears
to assuage the loss of nightly hours
while the mysterious majesty of child deprived dark
is peopled with unseen splendors stolen away

But there’s more to her reluctance
than her salt stained cheeks would tell
Something hidden in the fog of things that children know which,
worn away by the dangerous reassurance of an insubstantial frame
built from nothing, urges her eyes to fierce waking

It tells her not to trust in
any day that’s not today
or hold them to a promise
of a thing so far away

In metered time it rumbles
In her mind and on her skin
Like a wayfarer in the snowy past
Who begs to be let in

Now the nightlights stand as sentries
To a sentence sleepward passed
all of those so fragile minutes tenaciously bought flounder
as the weighty warmth of tender kisses and soft goodnights
topple her resolve

So with tomorrow racing towards her
and the light of dawn assured
it comes again to the last lands of flight and soul
where the final outpost stands

The days will come, and the days will go to erode away the walls
Til nothing’s left but a single stone
Where a single word is written
in that place a boy will grow
and on that stone be sitting

Until that time in dreams it stays
It’s message to her, his
That nothing in this life is certain
if the grown ups say it is

Inspired by Grace: Thanksgiving 2009

Pinocchio

on May 29, 2013 in Poetry | No Comments »

Long is the trek from darkened wood
to child small and pine
that laid between a father’s hands
are shaped to mirrored features of undeserved reflected divinity

Unrelenting are the fingers
that with unrequited care
carve and fashion immortality
and fasten to that fragile frame gifts of incalculable worth

What a reward I must be
poor cut-stringed marionette that I am
for all your so precious hours
and invested hopefulness to have only inadequate thankfulness returned to you

That so undisciplined a first unled step
should towards mischief stride
and keep unkept time with disrespectful marching
so eager to escape the woodworkers shadow that out to nowhere
frantically my footsteps sped unknowing that, like the inescapable nighttime dark
is the expanse of lightless land cast by the bright upon your face.

And to think that
in my flight from that cool shade
I could not hear your thunderous
voice that to my rescue raced to purchase back at your own expense
the price I’d freely paid

Then, swallowed whole by a gaining dark
as your footsteps fell behind
the Ivory, arched, and biting teeth monstrously owned
I felt the burn of the unleashed sun that cooked my wayward skin

A bartered pass into those jaws
for I could not stand the heat
I bought a place beside you
as you shivered sadly looking down the lonely road
that stretched beyond my seeing to a place I could not go.

Here I’ll sit so near you
and in these hours keep you warm
this alone am I fit to give as you leave me for the storm
to fight the chill as moments fade and the cold comes creeping in
and bravely, proudly, rightly, set a fire to my skin

For never was their recompense
for your love unpaid, unearned
but to be the comfort no other can give, and to bring a little light
to one whom I’ve done so wrong
a happy thing this blaze will be
for a little boy who won’t be good
will gladly be your fire wood

 

A Separate Peace

 

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, has always been a book surrounded in mystery ever since it entered my care many years ago. Though it has been patiently resting on my desk since it was assigned me by a teacher I can no longer name, though I feel some confidence in saying that it was probably in the middle school years, it has since continually caught my eye in passing. All of my books have been moved and reorganized a dozen times or more in that span and each time for some unknown reason this one would always end up near me. Normally this would be no great thing as it’s not uncommon for me to have books lying about everywhere, but in this case it was a book that I was very little acquainted with. Now I am sure that, before the reading I’m about to discuss, I had read the book at the time of its assignment, however, I am just as sure that I did so under protest which is the manner in which I did all school activities. It’s amusing to see that even though I’m sure I exerted the full force of my engrained antagonism against this book for its chief sin of being homework I still kept it. In all this time it never occurred to me to get rid it and I’m afraid to admit it might be because somewhere inside me I actually believe that because a teacher somewhere told me that this book contained something I needed, when he or she could have given me any of a million books, that it could not be entirely without merit. This startling confession aside I was wandering a bit aimlessly through my room when I became possessed of a need to finally revisit this quiet yet persistent little book. My hand-me-down, mid-seventies, and well worn paperback with browning pages was more than ready to be remembered.

It didn’t take me but a few pages into the first chapter for me to recall the one small plot point that had found a crevice to survive in deep in my memory. When Gene, the narrator, begins to set the stage for the New Hampshire boarding school I remembered a simple little fact, someone falls down the stairs at the end. That was it, the only piece of this novel that had survived from the first reading and all it took was a mention of the polished marble of the first hall to revive it. There is an interesting parallel between the narrative structure and my current reading. Gene is returning to the sight of the novel fifteen years later and laments the efforts to preserve the Devon school. The polished wood and marble seem to him newer and more haunting than when he had lived there, whereas to myself, who was similarly returning to the school after a comparable length of time found it ripe with foreboding. For him the tragedy was behind him and for me it lingered ahead. Gene was confronted with a Devon that was starkly different from the one carved into his memory. The tree, which towered over the landscape as an event far more than it did in any physical sense, the fields, and the dormitories all in conflict with the school he remembered,

 

“This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age. In this double demotion the old giants have become pigmies while you were looking the other way.”(Knowles 6)

Though this thought may be indicative of Gene’s want to diminish the significance of that tree it also stirred my native distrust of first person narrators, particularly in flashback. This distrust, which has been an invaluable reading tool and joyfully employed and honed while delving into the depths of such works as The Island of Dr. Moreau and Grinning White Teeth both of which are perhaps due for more extensive reading, sets in early in this novel and daringly lays in the foreground throughout. I found myself constantly wondering if the idealistic portrayal of Phineas was accurate or merely another aggrandized childhood memory. This brings to light one of the major themes that I have found within this work and that is of the question as to whether or not we can, by choice, dictate the reality we live in.

This novel is set firmly in the hands of a band of school boys, Phineas and Gene in particular, coming of age during the height of the second world war. Despite the appearance of complete seclusion from the global struggle it seems that the strain of conflict seeps even into the marrow of the school. Athletics and academics evolve into arenas that forge jealousies and rivalries indicating that there is some animalistic competition in human nature that exists regardless of religion, politics, or background. The tragedy behind this fact is that it seems to assert itself without warning or instigation as though it was just there all along waiting for any excuse to usurp the mind wherein it lay waiting. Phineas, as described by a guilt ridden narrator, appears to be alone immune from this competition. He beats a school swimming record with no regard for any accompanying accolade, he creates games that cannot be won, and I think truly believes his staggering physical accomplishments are shared somehow with anyone and everyone. Many of the tragic elements of this novel flashed onto the page and were gone before I could even rightly comprehend what had happened. Gene’s sudden jealousy, his causing Phineas’ fall from the tree, his conflicting need for honest forgiveness and fervent denial all strike in well timed succession throughout the book.

I think that Phineas’ determination to disbelieve the existence of the war, while attributing it to the controlling interests of far away old men, and Gene’s several attempts to alter the history of his actions in his own mind highlight these boy’s need to control the truth of the world in which they live. Phineas looks to protect himself from the truth of what he’s lost both physically and with regard to someone he refers to often as his best friend, and Gene looks to do the same with the shame he feels over what he has done. They both seem to think that if they just believe it hard enough they can convince the world, and thereby themselves, that nothing bad ever happened. Even when Gene finds the courage to confess what he did that truth is too terrible for them to believe openly so they choose to have a delusion that it simply never happened. Of perhaps some historical significance this is quite similar to the United States before its forced entrance into the war where there seemed to be a determined self imposed ignorance of what was going on in Europe in the hopes of remaining detached.

However, the deconstruction of these delusions has two phases that succeed one another towards the end of the book. The first is that of Leper, the naturalist entranced by the image of the war supplied by the government, and the second is Brinker’s tribunal. Both of these events force Leper and Gene respectively to confront the world as it is rather than how they would see it. Gene cannot cope with Leper’s psychotic break and coldly turns away from him. I believe that this is in part because, as he to that point had refused to see, it would force him to admit that in its rawest form human nature might be beyond restraint in which case the evil that consumed him which had caused him to shake his friend from a tree forever changing Phineas’ life would endanger every moment of every day from then on. He could never be certain that another time or another second of lapsed watchfulness would not spill some other horror.  In this way the denial of the evil done becomes every bit as tragic as the evil itself. Even as Brinker begins his school yard tribunal having suspected the truth behind Phineas’ fall both Phineas and Gene hold fast to their desperate belief that it just wasn’t true.

It is Phineas’ flight from the tribunal which led to his falling down the stairs of the First Hall that had stuck with me after all these years, however I did not remember at all what had followed. I had prepared myself for Phineas to die on those stairs which is why finding out that he had only reinjured his broken leg bewildered me and left me emotionally unprepared for his death following the complications with setting the bone. It struck me very soundly in a way that could only be engineered by my vaguest of memories from all those years ago. This makes Gene’s confession, the honest and whole confession which was unlike his first attempt to do so, so much more powerful. The novel builds this tragedy throughout with simple strokes and deceptive subtlety. With the backdrop of a world at war this story shows that even the last refuge of peace there is a darkness hiding.

I make no pretense at review, however I did enjoy the work and its sad reminders that even in our closest friendships we sometimes let jealousies fester. There is no doubt that I gave it a fairer reading then I did before but there is certainly a wealth more here than I have discussed today. It puts me in the mind to revisit other works that have a similar sort of place in my memory such as Bridge to Terabithia. I will return A Separate Peace to its place on my desk and there’s no doubt my mind will linger there again in the fields of the Devon school someday soon.

Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. New York: Bantam, 1975. Print.

 

 

The Twenty-Fourth of May 2013

 

It has come to my attention that with any artistic endeavor in the modern arena there is an accompanying clamor for a bevy of biographical information. Every submission, whether poetry or prose, has a corresponding dialogue box patiently waiting for the life story of the submitter. At best it’s an attempt on the part of promoters to find a marketable trait or unique bit of history that will catch the interest of customers and at worst it’s some sort of benchmark for the fitness of the artist. The latter is quite frightening as all who can write are fit to write and should do so. However, I understand that my pathological need for privacy and my hope that future success, of which I hope to have some, be divorced from anything that could be labeled personal fame are more than lofty goals in the age of information. So, though I believe that everything of biographical significance that could be furnished by me can be found with ease within my body of work, I have decided to compromise with that ego that must be restrained daily and offer by way of opinion and general thought that biography that I have refused to write for book and album cover alike.

I have always thought that what a person enjoys says a lot about them. In part this is why I love to look at a person’s bookshelf whenever I visit their home for the first time. I will be offering up my bookshelf for scrutiny at a later date, but with that same premise in mind I thought it would be interesting to fist explore my musical library through the prism of the now famous top ten list, my ten favorite musical pieces to be precise. Now as important as it is to make the distinction between songwriter, which I am, and composer, which I am not, I would like to emphasize the difference between favorite and best. In so far that these works are my favorite they are the best, however I’m not seeking a theory debate on the quantitative value of these pieces. My musical theory has always been a shameful weak spot in my studies and I am ill suited to converse intelligently thereon. So I would ask for leniency on account of my lay interpretation of, and entirely emotional response to, these great works. One final point before I begin, I do not wish by this list to imply that I have no fondness for contemporary music. However, I’ve decided to leave a discussion of my favorite albums, therein being the distinction, for another time. Likewise, the music portions of operas and ballets were not considered as I believe the stage performance of these works are an integral part of their existence so to weigh them on orchestration alone is to do them a great disservice. All of that being said these are my current favorite pieces of music.

 

10. Vivaldi Concerto in D major RV 228: I think it is pieces like this that suffer most from the romanticization of symphonic programs (at least in regards to my experience over the years with the Florida Orchestra perhaps the baroque works are more popular elsewhere). From the vibrant first notes through the pensive longing of the second movement and energetic finish there always seems to be something hiding just beneath the surface here that my ear ever feels just on the edge of hearing. It’s a wonderful little mystery that I can listen to over and over again.

9. Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto #3: I never get tired of defending this piece against its titanic predecessor, but one of the finest performances of live symphonic music I’ve ever had the privilege of attending was Lilya Zilberstein’s flawless playing of this work so I don’t know if I have been unduly biased in that regard. Granted everything that Rachmaninoff wrote for the piano makes me wonder how anyone can reproduce his works, as an amateur piano player this one is particularly humbling. I’ll never forget the moments of power and moments of simplicity that I can only call sweet with a purely Rachmaninoff ending.

8. Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor: Already being a great fan of the violin makes loving this piece easy. Unlike other concertos Mendelssohn leads with this beautiful instrument which catches my ear in the first seconds and doesn’t let go until turbulent and triumphant end. This work has several themes that have just stuck with me ever since my first time hearing it, particularly the supremely romantic andante. It’s perhaps this unbelievably lovely movement that helped me decide between Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #2, which would be in this space, and Mendelssohn’s wonderful work. The internal debate on this point was furious.

7. Saint-Saens Piano Concerto #2 in G Minor: Like the Mendelssohn concerto already listed this work dives right into the featured instrument and begins one of the most riveting, mysterious, and almost threatening pieces that I know of. There is a strange sadness to the opening that seems to haunt the work. This sadness is relieved in part by the lightness of the second movement though not losing the hints of mystery it hides before thundering into its concluding movement. This piece has been my companion for many years especially when I’m feeling particularly pensive.

6. Dvorak Violin Concerto in A minor: Like many of the other composers on this list I have been forced to pick one piece for fear of having only three or so artists even represented. Dvorak, being one of those composers with several works I would consider favorites, could very well have had three entries of his own with his ninth symphony and cello concerto in addition to this one. That being said for some reason the violin concerto has a singular effect on me particularly the joyous and exuberant finale. I always seem to get swept away by the vitality of this piece and often find myself starting it over once I’ve finished it.

5. Corelli Concerto Grosso #2 in F major: I could just as easily have selected Corelli’s entire sixth opus for this entry but I forced myself to pick just one of the twelve concertos. I love them all but find myself listening most frequently to this one. It is uplifting and beautiful and everything I love about baroque music. Its third movement opens quite gravely but opens up into a wonderfully forward looking theme that feels hopeful and fulfilling. It’s one of those elegantly simply phrases that catches my heart strings every time I hear it.

4. Handel’s Messiah: As a musician and a Christian it is hard not to be stirred to the very foundations merely at the mention of this work. Like another piece that is coming up on this list its length prohibits regular listens and I always have to set aside time to delve into the emotions that this work conjures. Though I’ll admit to cherry picking movements on occasion with Ev’ry Valley Shall be Exalted, Hallelujah, and Worthy is the Lamb being the principle offenders. There might be some ethnocentric bias seeing as it is written in English but regardless it is one of those works that profoundly altered the way I listen to music.

3. Mahler Symphony #2: This piece is a monster no two ways about it. From its nearly ninety minute running time to the sheer scope of its themes everything about this work is huge. Aptly referred to as “The Resurrection” this piece explores musically death, the meaning of life, and the hope for an everlasting transcendental existence after earthly death. Having first experienced this symphony live I can barely hope to express the thunderclap this work produced for me. I can remember leaving the building not even quite sure what had happened to me, not unlike the unfortunate car wreck I was in recently, only in a more jubilant and thrilling way.

2. Bach Mass in B minor: If I was a tenth as good at anything as Bach was at writing music I would have cured cancer by now. There are so many of his works that I honestly believe I cannot live without that I don’t even know where to start. However, I feel that in some ways this piece is in a way a dictionary of the baroque era of music. This is the lexicon of words with which the composers of the age wrote their masterworks and for me this is what makes it the sure choice for my list. There is more musical and emotional depth here than I would ever be able to summarize or even paraphrase. Like the Messiah this work requires an investment of time, nearly two hours, but is worth every single minute.


1. Beethoven Symphony #9: At the risk of sounding cliché, it begins and ends here. I’m ashamed to say I had a debate with myself about picking a different Beethoven piece simply because of this work’s unimaginable renown. Thankfully I came to my senses and realized that not picking this piece because everyone knows it to be one of the greatest creations of mankind is as sophomoric as those who believe things are valuable because no one has heard of them. While there is little to be said about this supreme achievement that someone has not already said for my own part the first seconds of this monument warned me that what was to come was unlike anything I’d ever experienced and in every way that was true. Light and dark, agony and ecstasy, three movements of supreme unsolvable mystery followed by pure revelation in its simplest form this work breaks me down and builds me back up every time I listen to it. And never was there sweeter heartbreak my life.