Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Wichita Lineman"

To observe National Poetry Month, once a week every Wednesday, I have featured lyrics of rock n' roll or pop songs that also double as exquisite poetry.

Yes, I know this classic song is considered country/pop and not rock and roll, but the lyrical end result is the same. Called the "first existential country song" by journalist Dylan Jones, this portrait of devotion and yearning, yet ultimate solitude and loneliness was written in 1968 by Jimmy Webb (who was famous for writing The Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up And Away,” and Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”) and recorded by Glenn Campbell the same year. The contrast and tension between the tasks of the lineman's job and what is on his mind is achingly beautiful.

Wichita Lineman
by Jimmy Webb

I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main roads
Searching in the sun for another overload

I hear you singing in the wires
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman
Is still on the line

I know I need a small vacation
But it don't look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain

And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita lineman
Is still on the line

And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita lineman
Is still on the line

Monday, April 23, 2018

"Diving Into The Wreck" by Adrienne Rich

In honor of National Poetry Month, here is "Diving Into The Wreck" by Adrienne Rich.

Diving Into The Wreck
by Adrienne Rich

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Friday, April 20, 2018


In honor of National Poetry Month, I am posting work by myself each Friday; here is "Black," a recent piece from a series of color poems.


That summer, we rented a house on a lake,
a two-story clapboard with a wrap-around porch
hugged by pine trees and a path to the water.

That summer, no phone, no television, an old floral sofa,
a carved wood dining table, two Captain’s chairs.
On a built-in bookshelf in the living room,
a first edition Game Of Life and two books:

That summer, we walked the pine path to the beach
where we found a row boat. Each day after lunch,
we took it out but dark clouds rolled across the lake,
sulked, threatened, forced us to turn back.

That summer, it finally rained. Our last night, the dark clouds
kept their promise. Warm water washed the windows,
flooded the porch. We stuffed towels under doors.
Thunder rattled our plates, the power went out,
lightning dazzled our eyes. The house pulsed with
electric white for brief seconds while we
fell asleep to the boom and flash.

I woke in the empty attic, alone. At the far end,
a single window, no glass, no mullions.
Something seemed wrong.
I walked to the opening but couldn’t see
the pines, the path, the lake, the clouds.
Just black. Blacker than I’d ever known.
I pushed my hand across the threshold:
no temperature, no air, just
nothing. No, I said aloud,
not this time, not now.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Wise Up"

To observe National Poetry Month, once a week I am featuring lyrics of rock n' roll or pop songs that also double as exquisite poetry.

Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann's simple but chilling "Wise Up" was featured in the P.T. Anderson film "Magnolia" to great effect.

Wise Up
by Aimee Mann

It's not what you thought
When you first began it
You got what you want
Now you can hardly stand it, though
By now you know
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
Till you wise up

You're sure there's a cure
And you have finally found it
You think one drink
Will shrink you till you're underground
And living down
But it's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
Till you wise up

Prepare a list for what you need
Before you sign away the deed
'Cause it's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
Till you wise up

No, it's not going to stop
Till you wise up
No, it's not going to stop
So just give up

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Remember" by Joy Harjo

In honor of National Poetry Month, here is a lovely, animistic poem by Native American poet Joy Harjo titled "Remember."

Everyone and everything has a story.


Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.

Friday, April 13, 2018


In honor of National Poetry Month, I am posting work by myself each Friday; here is "Purple," a recent piece from a series of color poems.


His body, an atlas, a map
of all the impacts,
a record of each elbow,
fist, boot, rock,
physically altered but
secretly touched by god.
They never knew each blow, each
break infused him with more and more
knowledge, grace,
compassion. Yet each one
a not-forgetting.

Now, no more bruises,
the purple has faded,
no more pain,
just smiling
and laughing
and dancing
and swaying, he can feel
his arms, his legs


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Up On The Catwalk"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am continuing a feature from years past: The Poetry of Rock n' Roll. Here are the dense, engrossing lyrics to a song by Scottish group Simple Minds called "Up On The Catwalk." Lead singer and lyricist Jim Kerr has always manifested oblique, thought-provoking stories in his lyrics.

Up On The Catwalk
by Jim Kerr

Up on the catwalk, a big wheel is spinning
And Dollars to Deutchmarks, and pennies from heaven
And up on the catwalk, there's one hundred million
With letters from thousands that say ``Just who are you?''
There's one thousand names that can spring up in my mind
But you'd call it blackmail and that's just not my kind
And up on the catwalk, up on the catwalk
And I don't know why

I will be there, I will be there, I will be there
I will be there, I will be there

Up on the catwalk there's street politicians
That crawl in from Broadway, say then who are you
And up on the catwalk there's one thousand postcards
From Montevideo, say that I'll be home soon
Get out of Bombay and go up to Brixton and look around, to see just what is missing
And up on the catwalk, girls call for mother and dream of their boyfriends
And I don't know why

I will be there, I will be there, I will be there
I will be there, I will be there
Tonight, under the crystal light, I'll tell you everything I need
Tonight, under the crystal light, surrender everything to me

Up on the catwalk, and you dress in waistcoats
And got brilliantino, and friends of Kim Philby
You float through the night time, like manna from heaven
But what do I know, and just what do I know
And up on the catwalk, in sweat that glistens
And I don't know why and I don't know why
I don't know why

I will be there, I will be there, I will be there
I will be there, I will be there
Tonight, under the crystal light, I'll tell you everything I need
Tonight, under the crystal light, surrender everything to me

Ah ha,
One thousand names that spring up in my mind
One thousand names that spring up in my mind
Like Deodata, Michaelangelo, Robert de Niro, so many others
Natasia Kinski and Martin Luther - there's room for others, away from me

Up on the catwalk, up on the catwalk, up on the catwalk
I don't know why.

Monday, April 9, 2018

"I Haven't Called You Since The Election" by Steve Edwards

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am featuring special poems by special poets each Monday (previously here). Here is a timely, relevant piece by author Steve Edwards.

I Haven't Called You Since The Election

because somebody else’s son
got deported & sleeps
tonight in a concrete cell;
& somebody else’s son
got denied sanctuary
from a war he didn’t start
or want, & what’s he tell
his wife & kids?; & because
somebody else’s son
died in a raid
the guy you voted for ordered
over dinner like a round
of drinks. I guess I thought
it’s what you wanted,
my absence—how otherwise
explain a choice that does
to somebody else’s son
what you wouldn’t want done
to yours? & imagine
what this note would say
if instead I’d been your daughter.

Friday, April 6, 2018


In honor of National Poetry Month, I am posting work by myself each Friday; here is "Blue," a recent piece from a series of color poems.


It was there when I had the Hong Kong flu.
I was three, my head shaved, IV and tubes
attached to the blue veins pulsing in my skull,
the only veins large enough to take the needles.
My parents cried when they saw me like that.

It was there when my father walked
through the damp, blue twilight to the shed
behind the house. It walked with him,
it sat next to him, steadied the rifle for him,
comforted him.

In a different hospital, years away, my mother in bed,
lying motionless under layers of blankets, the television’s
sub-oceanic flicker the only light. In the hush
it was there in the corner, behind a worn vinyl chair,
watching her, watching me.

And now, here I am, on stage, bathed in blue light,
I’m in the center ring, you can’t miss me,
and I say to it, if you think you’re ready, I’m right here,
come and find me,
I’m waiting for you.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Sweet Bird"

In honor of National Poetry Month, once a week I will be featuring lyrics of rock n' roll or pop songs that also double as exquisite poetry.

To begin with, I am featuring the work of one of the greatest poets in contemporary music, the legendary Joni Mitchell (previously here and here). This song, "Sweet Bird" comes from her album, "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" stuffed full with gorgeous, evocative, poetic songs, starting with the title alone! The album is not a concept album as much as it is a kind of dream infused with certain ideas, feelings, yearnings, motifs, and truths. In this way, it functions as a glorious whole. Joni says, "This record is a total work conceived graphically, musically, lyrically and accidentally - as a whole. The performances were guided by the given compositional structures and the audibly inspired beauty of every player. The whole unfolded like a mystery."

"Sweet Bird" is a simple but rather devastating ditty, alluding to time, its passing, youth, its passing, and, rippling out from there, untethered to our mortal perception of time as a linear phenomena, the idea that time is cyclical. But no, not cyclical...more like fixed pieces that can be moved around...sets of time and location (tied together) that move around, separated by the branes which quantum physics speaks of, the multi-universes posited as part of the mind-blowing structure of reality...that there is more than one reality. Joni sings that no one can ever get close enough to know the veracity of these ideas. We guess. We posit. Granted, they are educated guesses. But no one has ever traveled to another reality and come back to let us know.

It's not an easy task at all, but somehow, miraculously, Joni managed to write an economical, short piece dealing with physics and meta-physics, with the corporeal and the spiritual, with the now and the forever.

As usual, I am presenting this song (and all songs this month) with lyrics only since that is what I am focusing on. But this is a song where the music--a melancholy melody, and a haunting arrangement grounded with Joni's familiar, measured guitar work--is necessary to get the complete picture. Do Google it and give it a listen.

Sweet Bird
by Joni Mitchell

Out on some borderline
Some mark of inbetween
I lay down golden in time
And woke up vanishing

Sweet bird you are
Briefer than a falling star
All these vain promises on beauty jars
Somewhere with your wings on time
You must be laughing

Behind our eyes
Calendars of our lives
Circled with compromise
Sweet bird of time and change
You must be laughing
Up on your feathers laughing

Golden in time
Cities under the sand
Power ideals and beauty
Fading in everyone's hand

Give me some time
I feel like I'm losing mine
Out here on this horizon line
With the earth spinning
And the sky forever rushing
No one knows
They can never get that close
Guesses at most
Guesses based on what each set of time and change is touching
Guesses based on what each set of time and change is touching
Guesses based on what each set of time and change is touching

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

"Pentecost" by Thomas Dooley

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will be presenting special works by selected poets each Monday in April. Let's kick off the month with a very special poem of sensual transcendence by Thomas Dooley.


he could have walked
on water that’s why
I followed him

up the hill to pick lemons
for our vodka sodas naked
by the window a smoked

city in drought haloed
my body as he came
to me a tongue

of fire a rummage of wind
in the upper bedroom where
I said I will pour out

my spirit upon your flesh
he smiled and said I think
you’ve had too much new wine

then we rose up the dust rose up
to meet a night rain and the room
became rain falling over

something scorched
the lifting steam a hymn
we would step into and become

part of its plainsong rise up
it sang you don’t have to
walk through this world

on your knees
as the words stood up in me
which is why I’ve come to tell you

where I have been and what I have seen
so you could look on me
and not be afraid

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April Is National Poetry Month 2018!

April is National Poetry Month, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets.

“Poetry is about liberation. It’s about imaginative freedom, deep emotional experience, and it’s a liberating force.”
--Arthur Sze, Academy of American Poets Chancellor (2012–2017)

“It can’t be paraphrased. It can’t be translated. The great poetry I love holds the mystery of being alive. ”
—Marie Howe, Academy of American Poets Chancellor (2018– )

How to celebrate?

Read your favorite poet again.
Read some new poetry.
Find a new favorite poet.
Write some poetry.
Leave poems for people to find in public places.
Read poetry out loud to family and friends.
Dream a poem.

Throughout April, I'll be posting poems, some by me, some by others, as well as a series of lyrics to popular songs that double as exquisite poetry.

And this year, Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 26th! Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Poem in Your Pocket Day was originally initiated in 2002 by the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.

Happy National Poetry Month!

More Poetry Is Needed

In honor of National Poetry Month 2018...we declare that more poetry is needed in this world.

Sign art by conceptual artist Jeremy Deller

Happy Easter 2018!

Happy Easter and happy spring renewal to all!

Easter developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre, derived from the Anglo-Saxon Pagan month of Eostur-monath (which roughly corresponds to our month of April). This month was named after the goddess Ēostre or Ostara who symbolized the dawn, spring, renewal, and rebirth of the earth after the long winter.

Now we celebrate by decorating eggs, a symbol of birth and fertility and new growth, and with chocolate rabbits, since bunnies are also a symbol of spring.

When I was little, I always loved Easter time because my grandmother displayed vases of daffodils and lilies, and panoramic sugar eggs around the house. And my aunt hollowed out eggs, cut a window in the side of the shell, and painstakingly assembled pastoral scenes inside using miniature trees and flowers, and tiny ceramic rabbits to make literal panoramic eggs. But the best part was the Easter Bunny who came to deliver beautifully dyed and decorated eggs in a basket full of chocolate and treats; my mom and dad would guide me through the house with clues as to where the Easter Bunny hid my basket (thanks Mom and Dad--I miss you)!

I hope the Easter Bunny brought you some treats! Happy Easter!

Poisson d'Avril 2018

The origin of April Fool's Day actually comes from sixteenth century France. Before the Gregorian calendar was adopted, the New Year was celebrated close to the Vernal Equinox, to symbolize rebirth and renewal. Once the official New Year Day was moved to January 1st, April 1st became known as Poisson d'Avril where people teased those who still celebrated the New Year on April 1st. To this day in France, children try to sneak paper cut outs of fish onto the backs of unsuspecting friends and family. If you manage to get a fish affixed to someone, you shout "Poisson d'Avril!" and scamper away laughing!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

BEAUTY: Ceramics For Easter--Juliette Clovis

French artist Juliette Clovis created lovely porcelain eggs at La Manufacture La Seynie, the oldest Limoges porcelain manufacturer in France.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Thursday, March 29, 2018

BEAUTY: Painting for Easter--Anne Siems

For Easter: lovely rabbits and hares by Anne Siems.

Top to bottom: Bell Hare; Field Rabbit; Hare Over Gem; Hare Tortoise; Hares and Pottery; Rabbit and Snail; Rabbit Hop; Shy Rabbit; Stickyweed Rabbit

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Bunny Trail

It's bunny time...

I've said it before, but if you ever want to see a grown man turn into a 5 year-old boy, just show me bunnies...

Annie Lennox Retrospective

It's another Diva Wednesday and Annie Lennox is reissuing two of her albums on vinyl. She is such a lovely, engaging, wise person. Just see for yourself as Annie looks back over her career, her life and her music in this beautiful new retrospective interview...

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

I am looking forward to this biographical film of Fred Rogers, otherwise know to millions of children (who are now adults) as Mr. Rogers. Just this trailer alone brought me to tears. I grew up watching him on his television show, "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" (I would come home and lay down on the sofa with my mom to watch Mr. Rogers and all the puppets in The Land of Make Believe) and it brought back to me a sense of calmness and earnestness which is sorely lacking in the world today. There are no leaders we--adults or children--can look up to, to trust, to know that they will work for the betterment fof our species.

The trailer mentions his powerful messages for not only children, but for adults as well. But the thing that I admire the most about Fred Rogers was the fact that I learned much later in life that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. Never once can I recall him speaking of God or Jesus or promoting a religious agenda. He embodied a kind of secular morality and secular humanism that can exist outside of man-made religions who do not have a copyright or monopoly on things like kindness, decency, bravery, friendliness, or love. These are qualities that have nothing to do with and do not depend on a God or a religious figure. And for that, he has my eternal admiration.

The film's website says:
"For over thirty years, Fred Rogers, an unassuming minister, puppeteer, writer and producer was beamed daily into homes across America. In his beloved television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred and his cast of puppets and friends spoke directly to young children about some of life’s weightiest issues, in a simple, direct fashion. There hadn’t been anything like Mr. Rogers on television before and there hasn’t been since.

Though he may be best known today as a soft-spoken, cardigan-wearing children’s television host, in reality, Fred Rogers’ career represents a sustained attempt to present a coherent, beneficent view about how we should best speak to children about important matters and how television could be used as a positive force in our society.

In Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom) looks back on the legacy of Fred Rogers, focusing on his radically kind ideas. While the nation changed around him, Fred Rogers stood firm in his beliefs about the importance of protecting childhood. Neville pays tribute to this legacy with the latest in his series of highly engaging, moving documentary portraits of essential American artists."

The film is set for a June 8, 2018 release.

Monday, March 26, 2018

"Stardust" by IAMX

When Chris Corner left his band Sneaker Pimps in 2004, he founded IAMX, an outfit more centered on performance art and visuals as much as music. His new album "Alive In New Light" features this song, "Stardust." I love his voice (androgynous, soaring), the glam presence, the slight nod to punk, and the electro-sound of it all. I admire it. I admire efforts to create, to inhabit, to explode, to be.

I’ve got this funny feeling that I just can’t shake
The devil in the wires, the data eating up my brain
There’s a flood that’s coming up to my bed
Chaos wins and I can’t get over it

How do I even learn to play the human way?
Smiles without a heart, weird mechanical mistakes
There’s a flood that’s coming up to my bed
Love’s out there but I’m indifferent

Stand up can you keep your head?
Love me like tomorrow we’re dead

Beauty, violence
War is within us
We’ll be silenced
Tomorrow we’re gonna be stardust

No more ego
Nothing to control us
Painless freedom
Tomorrow we’re gonna be stardust

It’s pulling me apart a little piece by piece
Paradox and loss are knocking me off my feet
And there’s a flood that’s coming up to my bed
It’s a lose-lose world and I can’t stomach it

Sunday, March 25, 2018

BEAUTY: Murals--Camille Javal

My abstraction and color kick continues!

Look what I found!

Gorgeous abstract murals by Australian artist Camille Javal. Regular readers may recall I am an interior designer, and I would just love to be able to source Camille for some swirling, hazy, colorful works on my clients walls...but Melbourne is a long way from Northern California.