A song about my favorite season, Autumn.

Autumn’s Garden

When at last the autumn came, he was wishing that the summer would still remain
the leaves were crackle and crisp, flaming, exhilarating but still the same
he didn’t feel quite ready yet, he didn’t feel quite ready for the sound,
the earthly crinkle that would snap and crunch each time he laid a footprint down.

What beat to make, he wondered, what sort of rhythm should I impose
once all the leaves are gone too many clear cut lines will be exposed,
where will I lay the silence, where the tinny tap and leaden thud,
is this a dream or must I actually know bad from good?

The Brothers: A brother eats a pear sent to him by his brother through the veil of the grave as the sun watches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Leaves fall, animals grow thick hair
apples sway on the trees
you, sir, will spend the fall on your knees.

Pumpkins, squash, persimmon and cranberries,
autumn’s sword can be kind,
kneel down, fly away in your mind. *

All his life it seemed, green leaves had swirled around him like a smoke
languid fruits that dangled there for him to eat if he felt so disposed,
leaves that dappled light swelling in an air as thick as butter
made it seem alright somehow to say one thing and do another.

Time was a blob then, it never held him at gunpoint and made him choose,
he could make various gains, never needing to select a battle to lose,
and any loose ends could be scattered round the forest here and there
making him less than eager to see the things that autumn would lay bare.

*

People said he was handsome, but he wasn’t really sure how they could tell
green leaves controlled the light, they twisted it just like a magic spell
he’d been in love so many times, so many people took his breath away
sometimes leading to intimacy, still he dreaded to see them when the autumn came.

How could he laugh it off then, when soon his eyes would see so very far
things long forgotten coming starkly into view from his own yard,
he hadn’t really meant to lie, it was just the dappled world he was a part of
is it justice to try summer’s child inside the court of autumn?

 

Download MP3: Autumn’s Garden

 

 

This is a video James made with his helicopter. I like it because it captures the hovering feel of the song. Plus, I like the scenery of West Virginia. It is so green here that sometimes I get green overload. My new hobby is walking around parking lots, in fact, because their crisp flatness provides a nice contrast to the the crazy, plant infested hills I am usually contending with. Plus, the parking lots are beautiful, because they are surrounded by green mountains in every direction. In addition, they are interesting, because the average parking lot contains about 3 gambling establishments, all of which have names like “Nel’s Coffee” but inside they are filled with slot machines. People here like to gamble, I suppose. They also like Jesus, family, sports, guns, and exercise.

My favorite thing about these mountain folk is how friendly they are- it is hard to buy a bottle of shampoo without finding out what a stranger had for breakfast. And if you have anything you’d like to get off your chest, the person in front of you at the gas station will be happy to listen. If the mask of New England is to appear high-brow, moral, and intellectual, the mask of West Virginia is to appear down-home, simple, and guileless. But I have already been here long enough to realize this is just a projection- the people here have just as much guile as they do anywhere else. Sometimes, I feel truly shocked by the amount of guile humans have- would it be possible to overestimate how tricky and deceptive we are?

Just last night, for example, I discovered that a friend who died a couple year ago, actually faked his death! But why should I be shocked, when my own favorite book in high school was “How to Disappear and Never Be Found” a book about how to fake your death and assume a new identity?

It is hard to blame people for being deceptive, when it can feel like the whole world is set up to punish people for telling the truth, and to reward those people who claim to feel what they don’t feel, to think what they don’t think, and to be something they aren’t.

Do Not Trust This Man

Tongues of Fire

23 Aug
0

 

Ever since I left New England, I’ve felt a touch disoriented. After a couple years in New Hampshire, my life started to gain a clear and singular focus- to escape the cold, dark world of the Yankees. But now that I’m in West Virginia, the meaning of life seems more vague. It’s sunny and warm outside, the biscuits are big, cheap, and fluffy, the people are friendly (and to my surprise they actually DO say ain’t and decorate with confederate flags), and yet… at the same time, here I am all alone in a big white apartment, no friends or connections, nothing to do, nowhere to go… it’s as though I’ve left the North, but the North hasn’t left me.

So I took a good look at the man in the mirror, and decided that I need to become a warmer person. Which is why I have to give up ice cream. The thing about frozen treats is, once I start eating them, they take me to a strange head space from which it impossible to stop. James will drive me to four different McDonalds in a row, so I can get a cone at each one without seeming weird. Then I will fill the entire freezer with a selection of ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, ice creams, and popsicles, which I will eat continuously until the very last one is gone.  Which might not be so much of a problem, if I wasn’t such a cold person to begin with.  It only takes a few servings until I start shaking with the chills, and after a few days of this, I am so cold I can’t leave my bed, but just lie there convulsing under an electric blanket. Obviously, this is no way to build the Fire Within. So from now on, whenever I want ice cream, I’m going to drink hot chocolate instead. Because chocolate is passionate and fiery and people who eat  lots and lots of it are less likely to get murdered. Which brings me to another addiction that I must give up.

Rainbow Horns

 

Which is watching murder mysteries. The pattern is pretty similar to the ice cream- once I start watching murder mysteries it becomes impossible to stop. I have to watch five a day, and I start to feel more and more afraid of being murdered until it interferes with my ability to function in life. Last night, for example, I couldn’t sleep because of a tapping sound which I was convinced was the tapping of  a spoon that somebody wanted to use to remove my eyeballs. Ugh, I am freaking out just remembering it! But the point is, I need to stop watching these movies that keep me frozen in fear, and watch heart warming comedies instead. Comedy has never been my favorite genre- who wants to be the idiot laughing their head off as someone creeps in the window to murder them? But if watching comedies can melt the giant glacier that my life has become, then I am going to do it.

So, anyway, this song is sort of related to my craving for fire and heat, because it was inspired by the spirit of the tropical ginger plant, whom I imagine as a warm, brave, and wily man, one of the many justice spirits I like to believe are roaming our world.

 

Download MP3: Tongues of Fire

 

 

A Pirate Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok… well, I suppose this is a song about the pirate Blackbeard.

I first heard this song (in my head) five years ago while walking along the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, KY. But the next day I returned to Louisville and was working in my garden when I heard another song (this one about flower fairies) set to the same melody. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to write two songs with the same melody, because I dreaded the moment someone would say, “Hey, those songs have the same melody.” I was playing open mics around Kentucky, where the presumption was that you must suck, or else you wouldn’t be playing open mics, you would be dancing on a golden stage. So, I was feeling a little sensitive, and to avoid potential criticism, the Blackbeard song was buried and forgotten.

Until yesterday, when I heard it again, and decided to write it down, because if God can write multiple songs set to the same tune, then so can I.

So this is a song about Blackbeard. I have written a number of songs about people on boats, although I don’t know why. I have no interest in boats in real life. I also write a lot of songs about soldiers, and even gay love between soldiers, although once again I have no idea why.

But, I suppose the world of the unconscious is different from this world and the meaning of things aren’t the same. In this world, my favorite activity is shopping for scented soaps, but I will probably never write a song about that. Nor would I write a song about how much I appreciate special people in my life. That would be weird and nauseating, not to mention bad luck. Songs seem to come from a world that is upside down and backwards to this one. Their ways are not our ways.

 

Download MP3: Flags on the Rail

I am the bone.

1 Aug
0

 

Well, this is my first song written and recorded in West Virginia. I thought maybe I’d end up writing gospel songs, but I guess it didn’t turn out that way… And now is the hard part where I have to say something about the song I have written… so, I suppose this is a song about me… being held prisoner by a swamp monster.  What else can I say? Sometimes I find it so hard to write these posts, because I feel I lack that core identity and sense of self that makes it possible to project oneself forward into the world. When I try to search for my ego, that warm sun within, all I can find are cake crumbs in a void… as though there once was something there, but someone ate it. Which in a way is what this song is about… a person’s light and sense of self dissolving through being held prisoner too long.

But, you know what Bruce Springsteen says, “Everything that dies, someday comes back.”  If you leave it sitting on the counter long enough, a crumb WILL one day turn back into a cake.

 

Skin Man feels exuberant in his swamp, with his prisoner, beneath the moon.

 

Download MP3: I Am the Bone

 

Why is it that in Hurricane, West Virginia, surrounded by trees and plants in all directions, I suddenly feel the irresistible urge to become a city slicker?

Whether to become a city slicker or a plain folk (country person), is a decision everyone must make at some point in their life. Do you want to live in the world of plants (the country), or the world of animals (the city)? I always assumed I would be more of a plain folk, since I feel like a plant at heart. Plants provide relief from the constant assault of human ideas upon our brains. They bring peace, beauty, and wisdom. Their minds are pure and spacious. Human minds are more like houses, structured and confined to include only a tiny slice of reality. And just as with houses, unless people make a concerted effort to clean their minds on a regular basis, the funk tends to build up until things take on a rather unappetizing smell. But plants live under the open sky and the stars, there is nothing to shield their minds from reality, and so, over time, their ideas become more true. Humans build thought structures to protect themselves, and these structures seem to keep the bad in as much as they are designed to keep the bad out.

Save Thyself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I’m not knocking humans, because when it comes to energy and zest, humans are where it’s at. Plants can lull you into a state of contemplation and wonder, but humans snap you out of your reverie and stimulate you to get back on your feet and fight. Humans are smart and brisk; they challenge us to be all we can be; they awaken our creativity and passion. Humans are wily and deceptive, but also fast and clever. They bring heat and light to our world, and warm up our hearts in a way that no plant can. Even their evil ways can bring about robust health by stimulating the flow of bile in our liver.

In essence, plants are from Venus: beautiful, harmonious, and lanquid, while animals are from Mars: driven, devious, and willful. And now that I am living in a place overflowing with plantness, I suddenly find myself craving the fiery red shiny hard plastic life of the city mouse.

But what does it entail, exactly, being a city slicker? And what do I need to do to become one? (I’ll do anything!)

Well, according to google, in order to become a city slicker, I need to

a) join a fitness club (because city slickers are fit)

b) learn three new words a day (because city slickers are smart)

c) keep up with fashion trends (because city slickers are fashionable)

d) call my friends “sexy” (because…?)

Hmmm… I know I said I would do anything, but wearing polyester scarfs and calling people sexy? Maybe there is no future for me in the city. I don’t know. I will try to keep an open mind, though, because after all, Hurricane is only thirty minutes away from Charleston, WV. Charleston is supposedly just a city of 50,000 people, but when you see it at night, all twinkling between the mountains and the river, somehow it seems way bigger and more urban than Boston.

 

 

The 3 Musketeers

27 Jul
0
The Three Musketeers

the three musketeers

 

 

 

 

I can’t help noticing that, even in West Virginia, I am the only adult in my holler who doesn’t have a job. From 9-5 Mondays through Fridays, there is no one in this little valley but me.

I love to hear people’s opinions on whether or not women should work. The majority of people I talk to seem to agree that women should work (unless they are taking time off to stay home with their young children). Which makes me wonder why they should, but on this there does not appear to be a consensus. When pressed, though, people’s answers seem to fall into one of these three categories:

1. Women should work for their own sake. Jobs help them to lead more satisfying lives and to achieve their true potential.

2. Women should work for their husband’s sake. It is cruel to place all financial burdens on a man’s thin shoulders.

3. Women should work for society’s sake. More women in the work force will lead to more female leaders which will lead to a better world.

And of these three arguments, the “women should work for their own sake” seems to be most popular. And here are the top three reasons why people say women should work for their own sake:

1. Jobs bring women personal fulfillment and the opportunity to develop their talents.

2. Jobs give women security in case their husband decides to join the circus (or otherwise ceases to provide.)

3. Jobs give women freedom and independence. When us ladies have our own money, then our husbands can’t tell us what to do. Only our bosses can.

And of these three reasons, the first is once again the most popular. So basically, many people believe that women should be employed because employment leads to inner growth and fulfillment.

Which could be true, although I have to say that my own experiences with jobs have never led me to that conclusion. My time as a career lady was mostly spent staring at stacks of papers and trying not to faint. Or at least trying to ensure that if I did faint, my head would fall behind a potted plant where it could not be seen. Eight hours a day of trying to appear busy when there was nothing at all to do. Eight hours a day of trying to keep alert expressions on my face as my mind sunk deep into a coma. The most exciting moments were spent making coffee or driving to the store to buy glitter pens and Fat Free Vanilla Creamer for the boss.

But my experiences may be unusual. I don’t know how stimulated and fulfilled the average person feels at work. But I also don’t know why being employed would be an obviously and inherently superior existence to what a person might do if left to their own devices. (Even though I am well acquainted with the pitfalls of being left to my own devices.)

I think the real reason people think it is good for women to work, is simply because most women DO work (for economic reasons, probably), and healthy minds tend to conclude that whatever we are already doing is actually the best choice that could be made.

Which is why I have concluded that the only way a person can TRULY know themselves is to be left all alone for 40 hours a week, in a white box, in a tiny valley, sandwiched between a steep cliff and the home of a child molester. Only under these rare and perfect circumstances can a person’s spirit truly grow wings and soar to the heavens. Only under these ideal conditions will the Inner Phoenix be revealed.

 

 

My plan was to spend the summer lying on a yellow striped towel, reading on the beach. I had my doubts about this plan, because, after all, books can strain your eyes and fill your mind with horrible ideas, and beaches can be cold and windy (at least in New England).  Still, it was the best idea for how to spend my summer I could think of, because I wanted to take a break from my regular routine and do something different. And I’ve never read on a beach before, even though reading near bodies of water is a very popular activity in New England.

But no sooner had I started shopping for beach towels, then James decides to take a job in Hurricane, West Virginia. So we drove down for his interview, back up to New Hampshire to pack and load a U-haul, and back down to Hurricane to unload and unpack, and that has been my summer so far. All in all, it has been a more refreshing change than reading on the beach.

So far, I like Hurricane. We live just a few minutes from the Blenko glass factory, and I’ve already been shopping there twice in four days. My last apartment was mostly blue, but this one will be mostly yellow, plus orange, red, pink and all the colors of the rainbow. New England is restraint, and I want my new life to be exuberance. In New England, art is mastery, intellect, sometimes pretension, and I hope that in West Virginia, art will be color, nature, and feeling.

But I always idealize new things in the beginning, and then grow disillusioned when reality starts to come into focus. When I first arrived in New Hampshire, I thought, “Wow- this is amazing! There are no mean people here! (I theorized that the cold had killed them off.) Everyone is so friendly and lives only for the joy of helping others!” But as time wore on, pettiness and narcissism became visible, do-gooding began to seem like nothing more than a path to self-aggrandizement… the golden angels turned back into people, and now I was someplace no better than before, just way colder.

Orange and Yellow hand blown Blenko Glass

My new Blenko glass collection, all for the price of two lobster rolls!

So, I want to avoid placing West Virginia on a pedestal, but still, I have to say it is an enormous relief to be someplace less expensive, where an apartment twice the size, and much nicer, costs half the price. Pepperoni Rolls- the signature food of West Virginia- cost 1/10th (!!!) the price of Lobster Rolls- the signature food of New England. Frankly, I don’t like either type of roll very much, but I’d rather pay $1.50 for a sandwhich I don’t like than $15.00 (although I’ve seen people pay up to $60.00 for a lobster roll!!).

James and I bought two lobster rolls in New England, and both were traumatic experiences.

The first lobster roll happened right after moving there (we had been talking about lobster rolls- which I had read about in magazines- the whole ride up, imaging the rich luscious taste of buttery lobster in a hot dog roll melting in our mouths). We were strapped for cash due to the move, so we stopped at a run down shack thinking we would share a lobster roll for dinner with the few dollars we had left. Their least expensive roll was a shocking $15.00 and it was a tiny little thing, but since lobster rolls had been central to our vision of life in New England, we decided to buy one anyway. As we carried the roll to a  picnic table outside, a fly landed on it, and while shooing the fly, some of the precious lobster meat was knocked to the ground. James picked it up and ate it, because the only thing he hates more than germs is wasted money. But the true disappointment was the taste- it really didn’t taste like much at all, except for a fishy, animalistic flavor that left me slightly uncomfortable, especially when combined with the chewy texture that kept bringing to mind images of boiled insects. Still, I pretended to like it for James sake.

Fast forward a few months, and I’m lying sick in bed for the first time in years, probably from climate shock, panicking because I am afraid the autumn leafs will all have fallen before I get a chance to see them. (The autumn leaves are very beautiful in New England, but were also a source of great stress, since it seemed you had only a few days to view them while they were “peaking” before they fell and plunged you into a dark and endless winter. I have many memories of driving 90mph down the highway trying to reach some leaves that were peaking before the sun set.) So James, wanting to cheer me up, spent one of his last 20s to surprise me with a $20 lobster roll. I tried to eat it, but the insect feeling was just too much, and I finally had to admit to James that I hadn’t liked the first one either. So poor James was forced to eat the lobster roll himself, but he cried while doing so, because 1) he doesn’t like lobster rolls either, and 2) he had wanted to cheer me up, not stuff $20 of prestige into his own stomach.

I think there is a kind of psychological pressure that descends on people when things are too expensive. It makes the external environment seem too impressive, and one’s own self feel too unimportant. That’s why I like West Virginia. James and I can stuff ourselves silly on bacon, eggs, biscuits, country ham, coffee and juice, all for less than $10 at Tudor’s Biscuit World. A dazzling hand-blown orange Blenko vase is sold for $15, and the cashier gives you an extra $5 off, just because. Last night, I bought a yellow shirt, and the charge was exactly… Zero Dollars (I am not kidding!) due to all the discounts the salesperson tacked on. Everywhere you go, prices seem lower than you thought they would be, and discounts seem to pop up unexpectedly, the way fees and charges did in New England. Up north, it was kind of expected that you be willing to open your wallet and drop a few twenties for just about anything- a casual meal, a few drinks, an hour of listening to trombone music, a brick that would symbolically support homeless people, a glimpse of a wilted wreathe hung in an historic home… That’s not because everyone was rich, there were plenty struggling to get by, it was just the culture to pay more for less, and to let go of money easily and without complaint. Forget about buying clothes and nice things for yourself, forget about saving for the future, just take out your wallet and dump it at the feet of the man tap dancing on the sidewalk.

 

Behold! He has made the grave a holy place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a monument to all those songs that have been forgotten, or somehow left behind, in my endeavor to record all the songs I have written. A moment of silence, please, for Blackbeard, Bring Back the Sun, Beaverlick Clothes,  The Day 1,000 Flutes had to Die, Mama Can I Make Love to a Plant?,  and others whose names I cannot even remember. In some cases, the lyrics have been forgotten, in other cases the melodies, but there is one I feel especially guilty about, “Down and Free” because technically I have both the melody and the words, but cannot bring myself to sing it.  Why?

Well, the official reason is that I cannot figure out the chords. It is one of the first songs I wrote and I didn’t know many actual chords back then, just string formations that I would settle upon through endless trial and error, making it very hard for me to replicate what I was playing.

The unofficial reason is, due to references to nudity, I cannot bring myself to sing it! As I’ve mentioned before, my husband grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and although he is no longer practicing it is still hard to watch a movie without him screaming, “Harlots!” at the point when a couple kisses, or “Man-whore!” when a man takes off his shirt to mow the lawn.

Although truly, I must say he has never made me feel like my songs were spawned by the “whore of Babylon” (one of his favorite expressions). His notion of “sluts and sodomites” seems to have more to do with a person using sexuality- or things like money- to hook and control others for selfish reasons. I grew up with the idea that you are supposed to manipulate the world for your own gain, in whatever way you can, or else you are an idiot, so it stretches my brain at times to see things from his point of view. Still, it does occur to me that you never know who might be working the pearly gates on the day you arrive, so even from a practical perspective, taking what you can from others may be an iffy proposition in the long run.

But to return to the point, the truth is that my husband does approve of my songs, even ones that contain the word n-k-d, but still, exhuming so much of my past has been hard work, and I am tired, so just this once I am going to let myself off the hook.

So rest in peace, forgotten songs. Songs lost in the sands of time, songs struck down by the hand of man,  may you rise in a better world and be sung again.

 

 

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