Sunday, June 22, 2014

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.....)

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