Sunday, June 22, 2014

If We Ever Get To Make Music Again…

The body is torn—
Tonight you have a chance
Of making music with a real band
That can come at least a little closer
To the holistic oneness
Than you’ve been able
To achieve in art or life
In the 2 years since you
Lost your lease—

This band,
Beautiful souls
Who can bring people together
Through dancing, but they work
In the alcohol drenched, food stuffed
Dirty corners of appetite
And if you stay there too long
You lose your balance
That you struggled to regain
After the stroke almost killed you

So, you’re trying to find a way
To embrace their core
And throw away the wrapping
To embrace their spirit
Without having to embrace that "lifestyle"

Ah, if only you lived next door
Or you still had your own rehearsal space
Or that bedroom above the nightclub…
Then you could partake and co-create
Ecstatic funk and shake out the devil
With them, and leave before
It came down to drinking
And the social emptiness
That emerges in a world
Or people trained to think of music
As mere entertainment,
Or, just as bad, art
That’s supposed to be good for you
But won’t help you get a job…

And ain’t really about health
No, save that for “music therapy”
Which we all know is lame
And the wellness gurus who tame
What is only violent and destructive
When it is tamed….
                               Yes, like the body, you’re
Torn. In an ideal world of music
You could have the juice without
The clothes that pretend to be the skin.
You may picture an orange---
Coz the skin ain’t edible
And must be peeled….

But you already made a decision
For tonight, not to meet them
Out of fear the negative
Might outweigh the positive
Not that being alone
without music is any better,
But you should work
On that begging letter
I mean that beautiful offer
To a drummer and bassist
Who lock in the pocket
And groove with the funk
Who are probably older...
And who don’t need to be in just one band
But could use your horn
Your graceful crippled dance
Your hand percussion
Your mouth or mind
Or even your keys
For some structured improvisation
That could be easily recorded
And maybe even performed live
In cleaner, healthier places
Like churches or water aerobics events
For seniors of all races
At a Jewish Community Center

To remind you of your mission
To bring dance back to prayer
And the poetry think & feel tank
To hold out for that purpose
To not resign for less than that
And maybe later let yourself play
A grungy bar or two for desert

But in the meantime
To convince all struggling musicians
And their struggling supporters everywhere
Of the soulful fiscal soundness of the train tour,
And the Mississippi Boat Tour
So we don’t have to destroy our bodies
In the hopes of healing others
And can get beyond the ghetto
Or the ruins of what should never be
Called mere “youth culture”
Much less the hangover of
the individual genius….
I’ve seen the need
In the old folks coming alive
To James Brown’s
“Make It Funky”
Beyond the sex and drugs
The corporations clothe it in….
We can serve this…
We can do this…

The ideal is propbably
Unrealistic, goes too far
And yet only scratches the surface
But I have to at least say it
In hopes of opening a door
Because if we call
Each other’s bluff
Who knows what
We could yet find or remake?

Cigarettes As Steroids:

A Confessional Cut-Priced Poem
(or personal ad).

The writing people loved me for,
And paid me for, was the writing
I did when I smoked
But they hated when I smoked
And I knew my body didn’t
Really appreciate it much either,
Though I also knew it wouldn’t
Really like it if I couldn’t afford
An apartment or clothes.
So I kept on smoking
And did enough other things
For my body to make up for it,
Like drinking more water
And dancing and eating less
Junk-food TV than most
Non-smoking writers did
But I told my body, yes,
Someday I’ll pay you back!
Someday I can quit!

And my reputation grew
So I tried to cash it in
And write without smoking
But the non-smokers
Didn’t like the writing
So I’d start again
And my reputation grew again
And eventually I could afford
To actually make music
That would awaken the body
To a deeper grounding,
A deeper spirit, to dance
Out the demon with the help
Of a drummer and bassist
And I didn’t need to smoke
And still could create
And still use my voice
And let the words come
From a less alienated place
Or set other peoples words
To music, and be useful
So I could quit the cigarettes again
And I knew this kind of music
Was a deeper discipline
And that I’d probably never
Get as close to the funk
That inspired me most
But at least I was further along
Than Allen Ginsberg singing
“Don’t Smoke, Don’t Smoke,
It’s a 30 Billion Dollar Capitalist Joke.”

And I knew the groove wasn’t so separate
From what was great about
The writing people loved me for,
And paid me for, and I followed it
And didn’t want to turn my back
On those healthy people who
Didn’t need drums in order not to smoke.
Because I still had all these academic quotes
In the iPod of my memory
And they’d come out in conversation
Or in talking on the classroom,
Where freedom of speech can still
be exercised, fought for,
And I didn’t need cigarettes to talk deeply.
I just needed them to write deeply.
But if I set the words I wrote
Back in the smoking days
To the grooves we came up with
When I worked with the great musicians,
I believed I could bring people together
In a healthier, more perfect union….

Ah, this was the plan, the hope, the goal,
The dream or delusion that lead me on,
But I couldn’t do it alone
And I fell on hard times and lost
The musicians and lost the writers
Who wanted, or even needed, me
to keep writing the smoking verses
or essays, and so I sit here writing this,
while smoking, and it isn’t Ashbery
and it’s even further from James Brown
and I can’t even say it’s me
and it ain’t us, or what we could be
if together we could find our roots in rain
and quit the cigarettes in the
that deep kiss of community…and we
could kick start it as we once did
like those shoelaces, knotted by a need
That likes to act nonchalant…
A need for an institution that
Can truly educate, entertain,
And employ all of us
Who’ve been screwed by you know what…

(yes, cigarettes, like any performance-enhancing steroid, are easily demonized.....but the owners want the home-run battles, they demand the super-human feat. In the arts, there's the illusion that it is not a competition as such, that there is a purity of expression that is not the result of compromise. That leads to a lot of hypocrisy. I never believed that lie. It's destructive, and divisive--and I don't expect you to understand. I could probably do a better job of making it clearer....but art can be, and should be allowed to be, a conversation.....And I know many others who would excel and make healthy contributions to your field, if we could create that conversation---in words and/or music and/or dance.....)

Monday, June 16, 2014

cripple dance

You captured me with groove
and rode your bass past armor
and taught me more than Malkmus
what music we could be
made by
and I couldn't help
but let you lead me
enough to come closer
to democracy
than the heady, 
romantic and stiff
barren without you....
together we had
the power to heal
and I vow,
even in exile
and sickness,
to be worthy 
if it's not too late
and even if it is...
for when they ban
our omm bomm ba boom,
all the sweet sadness
of deep thought or 
so-called song
loses its truth and
power to heal....