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Posts Tagged ‘death’

Before the year is over, I want to give a shout out to Sharon Jones. She meant a lot to me. I meant to post a tribute shortly after her death, but oh, that fucking election and trying to fight the DAPL going through and a new chemo regimen for me—it was all too much. I know tributes are needed though because every time someone lists the celebrity deaths of 2016 I generally have to look pretty hard to find Sharon Jones. Well fuck that.

I loved Sharon Jones’ music the first time I heard her on the radio. WHAT? I could hardly believe my ears–was this a song from the golden age of funk and soul that I’d missed? (and my mind’s ear always rings with the call letters and jingle from Detroit’s AM radio station: CKLW, The Motor City)

Her voice, her words, her power. She was funk, soul, political; old school.

When I found out she had cancer, I was concerned, angry, and sad. My cancer, her cancer, though different, put us into a club we never asked to be in, but I watched; I watched and waited. She performed like a BOSS without hair, in heels, in sequins, in fringed dresses, sweating and twisting and leading her own band, singing songs of the oppressed and of Black women’s struggles in the US. I know how awful chemo is but she was able to summon something from deep inside to continue to share and preach and tell a truth in a proud line of Black American soul artists. 

Her version of “This Land is Your Land” is best version of Woody’s song, hands down, I’ve ever heard (any time she sings it, it’s the best version). Back in the earlier days of my blog, I could link to a song from youtube, but this feature, no doubt due to copyright issues, has been taken away. So you do it. Go to youtube and look up Sharon Jones singing Woody Guthrie’s hymn to America.

We need her now, we need her fire and passion and intelligence and rhythm. Another great one gone. DO NOT FORGET her message, the heritage she calls on. This is political. Dang we need her. And for fuck’s sake stop omitting black women from the pantheon. Erasure is unacceptable.

Ciao, babies. Still a few more days of this year left. Let’s hope for a little peace before we say goodbye.

 

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As I age, the legions of celebrities who shaped the popular culture into which I was born will continue to die. Their deaths will increase in number and rapidity.

I never had the slightest idea that Lou Reed would be on this list. Yes, not even a foggy notion.

I probably came late to worship at the altar of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, but I don’t really remember. I don’t have any monumental story to tell you about the first time I heard the album Loaded or anything.

When I was in high school, I didn’t know about cross-dressing or what a transvestite was. Take a Walk on the Wild Side was a radio standby throughout those years, nothing radical about it.

I wasn’t raised Catholic where you dress up and attend funerals on a regular basis; in fact, I was purposely shielded from death by my parents who believed that it was appropriate to do so and it would keep me safe. I never saw a dead body until my own father died when I was 23. My first viewing of an open casket was several years later.

After John Lennon was shot (I was a mere 17), the possibility of any of the other Beatles’ dying became real. Lennon’s death was hard, but we had each other, we had the legions turning out in Central Park singing Imagine to help us through, and, like I say, I was 17, on the cusp of the wildness ahead of me and full of disdain for the adult world I was about to enter into in some small measure. I was woefully unaware of the process I now know as “aging.” Not only that, but the Beatles’ zeitgeist jumped generations and genres of music. There was so much to love about them—who even remembers that they pushed boundaries and people’s buttons? Their music’s universal appeal wiped out the shock of their long hair; the bed-in; the Jesus statement (which was willfully and ignorantly taken out-of-context anyway). 

Lou Reed and the VU captured the sound that was still alive when I was a student at Kent State University in the early ’80s. Attending any art opening had the grit and recklessness the VU sang about in the ’60s. There were drugs, fags, lesbians, cross-dressers, punk bands, hair dye, glam, 1950s vintage; and we were all sexy, every last one of us; all of this before Grunge hit the scene. By the ’90s, I had gotten sober, bought a house, started to settle into my life with my man.

I remember one particular thesis show where the artist had created huge, found-metal musical instruments and everyone who went through the exhibit spent the next 3 or 4 hours demolishing the sculptures by “playing” them with the flat, rusted metal strips left around on the floor next to each one.

I went to as many art openings as I could. I went for the free booze and the food and the scent of sex, but also to be on the edge of all of those real artists. I was an English major and didn’t have the stomach for that much radicalism or creativity. What I hear when I listen to the Velvet Underground is the sound of that time.

I knew a guy, a friend of another guy, who said if you looked up the word cool in the dictionary, there would be a little picture of Lou Reed next to it. That’s how cool Lou Reed was. I always loved that.

Lou Reed, your death belongs to my generation, too. Thanks for the trippy guitar, the sex and the drugs and the grit, the psychedelia, the poetry, your rich and soulful voice.

You were a light in the darkness because you didn’t deny the darkness and from that place you were one of its true voices.

Now if I could pick my favorite song, I’d post it for you right here. I’m dancing and singing along and you should be, too.

Beautiful, just beautiful:

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I always have words. The trick is to quiet the mind, to let stillness house itself in my being, in the space before thought. Thought is mostly words by the time it reaches the level of my conciousness, but can I find the peace of no words, of non-doing?

I think of a couple of other posts of mine to which I turn for guidance.

I tried to sing a couple of my favorite, most powerfully comforting Sacred Harp songs, but I am not too well and my voice is shot, so I’ll settle for not singing to you right now.

I will settle for hearing my daughter (in our tiny house where every room is next to every other room so one can hear everything from room to room), I will settle for hearing her sing Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream after I played Sweet Honey in the Rock singing Wade in the Water. She has known the [former] song since she was 3 years old.

And so we keep teaching peace. And we keep fighting for the good and the right and the clear blue truth, even if no action comes of it. We wade in the troubled waters of the human heart.

I know there will be no peace for the families of the victims down in Connecticut, but I wish them peace.

This video is not for the families. This is for us. Sometimes you have to choose sides. Let not their deaths be in vain.

 

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a beautiful sunset at Coronado Beach 11/10/12

Back from California which feels good. To run on one’s own neighborhood’s sidewalk, to hike in one’s familiar woods, to cook one’s own food, to eat one’s own mother’s famous spaghetti sauce, to sleep in one’s own bed, to see one’s own children in the flesh.

It is my father’s birthday today. He would have been a whopping 91 years old. Yeesh. What does that make me? Still a girl who lost her father too young is what.

I liked La Jolla, somewhat, especially the ocean and the pretty architecture and being able to ride bikes around and the beautiful plants, flowers, and trees and the birds one doesn’t find in the Eastern US and the art outside the museum and the food, some of the food anyway. I loved our B and B and Margaret, the innkeeper and chef. I liked some of the food in San Diego. I did not like Coronado, but I did like the pretty beach. It was so windy, the sand whipped at our feet and the stainless steel public toilet made our ass skin very cold.

Who says ass skin? Nobody, nobody but me. Try it, though. It is not as easy as it seems. It is practically a tongue twister. And I’ll stop right there lest you get ideas and think of any double-entendres.

Long ago, I thought I would chronicle my travels, no matter how humble and close-to-home, by taking photos of myself in the facilities (the “loo” in other words) of places I visited. Probably due to my restless nature, I did not stick with the plan, though on occasion, I do remember to take a picture (if I’m lucky enough to have remembered my camera).

I do not have a photo of the stainless steel toilets from the public restrooms at either La Jolla or Coronado, but when I searched google images, I found a lot of photos of fancy, $1200 stainless steel toilets, presumably for the asses of Romney-type voters (Koch, Bush, Rove, but let’s watch those double-entendres, plz).

We had the pleasure of yet more friends coming to visit us from further north in California, this time a couple who we already know. You may recall we met Ms. Coldiron for the first time earlier in the week.

We went to a little park just a block from the sea and we sat on a bench and we sang songs to a guitar and a banjo. It had been a long, long time. Seven years maybe, gasp.

When we were singing in the little park, freezing our buns off, a little wedding was going on. Sometimes I sang a little bit loud, what one might describe as enthusiastically, I think, and when we all realized a wedding going on (because we weren’t quite sure at first), we tried to be a little quieter. The amazing thing is that the wedding people never asked us to stop. It was all so groovy, but it didn’t really feel hippy groovy or California groovy like you’d think, but it was groovy nonetheless.

The song I most remember grooving to was this one. We sounded pretty good, but I think Susan and George’s fingers must have been about frozen. Amen.

Here is a photo of the handle in the bathroom on the Star of India at the Maritime Museum in San Diego

Of course it is not me peeing, but it is what I was looking at as I sat. The ship originally did not have modern toilets as it was an old ship, but even these “modern” pieces of hardware are more beautiful and solid than most of what one finds nowadays.

One thinks of other things one can describe as solid brass.

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There was a time when I did not know what the word apocalypse meant. Then, in my late teens, I suppose I felt embarrassed or ashamed. I am older now and I realize that I will always be learning new words if I am lucky. The older I get, the less well I seem able to retain them. But guess what, my turtle doves? My memory is improving of late.

I thought that all of my friends who grew up with church or religion, who went to Sunday School and who had Confirmations, the Catholics, almost the whole lot of them (this was Ohio, after all, chock full of Catholics), all knew all of the stories and words from the Bible, New and Old Testament. I realized at some point that I knew more than they. It was all a sham. They did not know how to spell apocalypse, nor its etymology. They didn’t know what Jesus said, what the Jews said. They did not know any of it. I still wonder what people do in Sunday School if not learn these stories. I do not know what real testament is for anyone and I think most people don’t know this for themselves.

Each time I become anemic, the wear and tear on my face is more dramatic. This time I look older. Though I approach 50, I have some mistaken notion that my youthful body will last. The flesh of my face will stay. The frown lines, which aren’t so much from frowning as exhaustion, grow more pronounced. I used to push up on the apples of my cheeks with the thumb and middle fingers of one of my hands when I was driving in the car (safer than texting!), but now I’ve forgotten to try.

I wrote a bit of something just now, some words gathered around from tonight and before. There are problems, so many problems. I usually refrain from saying what they are, but now, I will tell.

There is the title which is pretentious, but which I like anyway. I like the Dutch vanitas paintings and I like the Latin.

There is always the overdoing, the more than I need. But that is what blogging poems is for. To pare down later.

There is the mixing of metaphors or images. There is the land and earth and there is the sea. But I love them both and I am not confused, only enthusiastic.

There is this which harkens to another poem, one which remains incomplete in my computer. The barn and the harvest, the emptiness and me.

There are the too many and the mixing images, again, of the body and death. This is what yoga is for and this is how the poem takes shape.

And there is stealing. Or snatching. Sneaking the words that came before, sometimes knowing whose, sometimes only vaguely.

Here you go. Here are the words.

Memento Mori

After I am vaporized
the imprint of my body will remain
flattened on the wooden slats
the barn
barley-filled

swing  open  the  gate
swing  open  the  gate

After the apocalypse, the burning off
I am drained of blood
my skin deflated
my bones a fine powder

My skin sinks
but finally

I  remember
I  remember

It boils down
to this

Goldenrod, my ovaries
the shining
harvest
in the hollow
of my groin

I  remember

the coiled snake
the quaking stalk
the base of my spine

Plough  the  ocean  blue
Plough  the  ocean  blue

*

Tonight, I got to hear Tim Eriksen play in a small coffee/deli/bakery in downtown Amherst, The Black Sheep. (The Black Sheep, btw, was one of the first things that caught my eye and attracted me to Amherst. OH! the bakeries. OH! the bookstores. OH! the bakeries. OH! the bookstores).

I have been in Amherst since August of 2000. I have put down a few roots. I can feel them.

I have been singing shape note since August of 2004. I am rooted in tradition.

I didn’t go to this particular concert, The Newport Folk Festival, in late summer 2006. I wanted to but somehow didn’t manage it. Tim organized a big group of people from our local Sacred Harp sing. Here is one of the things they did on the big stage. He played it tonight at the end of the concert and we all sang again. This is NOT a song from the Sacred Harp, by the way. It’s something Tim likes to refer to as “Northern Roots Music.”

And just so you know, my turtle doves, I don’t believe in the apocalypse.

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After dropping off Violet at a friend’s house today, an hour-and-a-half east of here, I stopped, impromptu, in Lowell. After much scratching of my head (lack of signage, fanfare, proper recognition), I was able to locate the Jack Kerouac memorial park. I don’t capitalize those last 2 words because I can’t really be sure that was the name. It’s a pretty sad thing when one of your most famous and influential residents is not given his proper due. Or maybe it is as fitting as it can be, like a sutra.

Lowell? You’ll just have to see it for yourself. In spite of early impressions, I do hope to go back on a non-Sunday, when not every sign in every store window is turned around to say CLOSED. I would like to walk along the canals and to visit the textile museums and to see, if possible, Kerouac’s house and grave.

What I did see were a lot of overweight Americans sitting on park benches, smoking, staring, most looking generally uncouth and threatening, downtrodden, down-in-the-mouth, unaware of Kerouac, of poetry, of anything but subsistence and it didn’t look like they were having a very good go at it.

Not having planned very well, and being sans fancy hand-held device, I was unable to take photos.

I only ever read 3 Kerouac books, way back in my 20s. On the Road and Dharma Bums, yes, that was it, and finally, after my dad was dead, Dr. Sax and that one rocked my face off. That was the finest book of the three. I fell in love with it. Was it the timing, because I was filled with grief and alcohol? What would I think now? I may never know, may never read it again.

Anyway, I tried to take a photo of a couple of the inscriptions on the marble tablets in the sculpture memorial, but I have a rinky-dinky old cell phone and even if I could make out the images, I have no way of getting them onto my computer. You can look up google images for the park, but not much will be viewable there, either. It’s a sad state of affairs, I tell you, as if every person who ever visited also forgot her camera.

It’s not the most elegant passage, but it’s a pretty damn elegant passage. Merci, ‘ti Jean, merci!

from The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac

22

Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.

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