Category Archives: paying attention

Celtic Punk

My new kick: Celtic Punk.

More “full” than my childhood punk music, but coursing with the same angst. More than a nod to traditional music and boiling over with modern story. As a consumer of punk rock for over 30 years, I know that the genre’s rivers run much deeper than the extremes of silliness and nihilism that are the sharp outlines of the cartoon. But even this seems different – an older cousin who buys you cigarettes and reads the political editorials, and later, the one whose forearm is wrapped tight around your shoulder while singing pub songs. The rolling lyrics and mandolin are there; the fiddle and the dumpity-dum-a-dum drums as well, all backed by a heavy guitar and voices simultaneously growling, slurring, and singing about the “da devil” and dear “mudder and fadder” over the choruses and breaks. And the pipes, of course.

Hailing from the Isle, Scotland, Boston, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and even San Francisco, the sounds draw from musical traditions of rebellion, tough living, hope, camaraderie, and lost love. Perfect punk themes. Folk as well.

The Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, Street Dogs, and Flogging Molly were already on my iPod playlists.  Put Sticky Little Fingers in that mix for a more UK punk vibe. Pandora radio opened me up to the Real McKenzies, Young Dubliners, The Bollox, The Tossers, Blaggards, and two-dozen more.


Meadow

Hardened earth and hallowed ground
grow hardy and thirsty notions,
thistle and briar, engaged in wind-borne
attempts at spreading gospel.

Hitching to a body in motion, a transient,
unknowing and unconcerned, other
than to gnaw and pull at the roots,
to sate a hunger.

Riding the reaper, then ejecting itself,
the emigrant arrives an immigrant,
the notion spreads to fertile breasts
and hips, and takes hold.

But that is just a singular gene, a body atomic.
The whole of it is truly wide, a legion of
seeds spread in every lee,
unmarried and independent.

Born of almost infinite notions, a meadow rolls
and breathes, crawling over the dells, climbing and diving,
a map of invasion and recession
and constant flexure.


Comfort

Define achievement and success in terms
so basic, banal, and un-spectacular,
in a grey and beige shelter
of business casual beams and
game night girders,

like daddy-daughter day,
or coaching, or concerts,
or buttered noodles and green beans.

Like replacing a cracked windshield,
upgrading my smart phone,
or dinner with an old coworker.

Or trees, trails, and falling April skies
on a lone Sunday.

Comfort.

Comfort in chasing clients, winning trust,
making decisions for everyone stuck,
consulting with those who won’t speak up,
and the priveledge to
be trusted in the role. 

Comfort in designing a world that can be sustained,
in holding everyone to account,
Me first.

Who has been saved, included?
What questions were answered?
What footprints were layed deep
enough to withstand erosion?

What can be called progress?

Any?

The uncomfortable answer, the one
that is past the guilt of not enough,

or not yet enough, is

Yes.


Naked

“The loss of mystery occurs simultaneously with offering the means for creating a shared mystery.  The sequence is: subjective – objective – subjective to the power of two.”

 John Berger,  Ways of Seeing, Penguin Press, 1972.


Point on a curve

There is a point you pass and never see it.  When you wake up and don’t react personally if it’s cold, rainy, sweltering, or mild, you’ve passed it. You don what you think you need, prepare for the environment, take your chances and count on your best self, your faith in your own resiliency and skill that those are enough.

When winning and losing still matter, but you stop re-playing the losses and missed opportunities in your mind with a sense of regret, you’ve passed it. The universe isn’t focused on thwarting you – it isn’t even considering you.

General unfairness in the world wears no specific name tag. Unlucky stars have no bearing, and yet your luck and fortune continue to fluctuate. Specific affronts, on the other hand, are drawn in solid contours. Obstacles, just or unjust, reveal themselves for what they are, often opportunities, often needed challenges.  They resist generalities.  They have names.

When the brilliance and vibrancy of the world has increased, but so has the seriousness and gravity, you’ve passed it.  You move with greater purpose and the moments of directionless stasis are more rare, sometimes only present as memories or left-over notions. You shift your concerns from small to large and back again, without losing your grip.

I wouldn’t call it transcendence, though it is akin to the notion.  More like living in true color. You begin seeing the relief in high-definition.

Shy of that point, you may get stuck. The cloud around you is glued to your skin. Time may push you through it, but I believe you have to consciously decide not to carry the cloud with you.

Once you’ve passed that point, you start piloting the curve ahead, plotting it, changing its direction, gliding over its curves, and dodging or barreling through its uneven patches.


The devils’ dance

Turn and return, lines heave
then collapse, syncronized stomp,
the hive twists and crosses,
finding hands to clasp,
twarting the casting of
spells, teeth bared in smiles,
jaws tight against a counter curse to the chanting,
round the corner, slide away,
and in empty seconds,
swing and tap an oath
to this hissing fiddle’s rhythm,
and the neighbor’s screws,
under and over to dance with
a devil new.


The last days of winter

Walking together with the dog,
the air is heavy, a waterlogged cold,
though the wind reminds me of
winter’s true desire, now fading,
to be crisp, keen, knifey.
The sky is dark at this hour,
shifting all hues toward dark blue and
purple, even the young grass, now
poking through mud and the season’s decay.

Ten minutes pass, lights off, door locked,
the sky has trimmed itself a bright blue.
I walk to my car, frost no longer
wrapping the panels, as I set wheels in motion.
I fight against the glare as a
mandarin sun swings above the treeline,
my eastward push slowed, with the others,
on the salt stained highway
heading into spring.


Sustainable

Truth is that life is struggle.

Accepting that, dropping the frustration at inconsistency and the search for righteousness, makes way for applying considerable skill and resources to the short view goals and the long term plan.

Each circle emanating from me, from my very self outward to the world I know, gets a part of me today. Today, some events in the greater circles will get special attention. Excitement and organization is building around an idea, my idea.

Today, I’m planting more seeds in one field as I reap the harvest from another.

I am the earth I tend, and it is high time to get back to work.


A break in the sky

Sun storm, horses pounding
through silver boulders,
lowering their heads to
snort vaporous spouts,
mist laminating their blazes,
a trailing cyclone of clouds
braiding their tails,
they land at speed,
full gallop through the lifeless
shadows of March.


Frame

This frame doesn’t fit the image,

where the living oils penetrate deep into the scene,

imbibed directly through the taught canvas skin,

pulled through a thousand pores by an internal gravity,

tattoos in pigment and electric spark,

flowing through a million capillaries, thrumming,

performing mysterious alchemy in the depths within,

building motion in the surface trails of strokes across

the indigo sky, the sapphire sea, and

the golden knots adorning the purple cloth,

dark as midnight, of a sultan’s turban.

 

Still, like ill-fitting shoes, the frame is misplaced construction,

constriction chosen in an alien space, apart and irrevocable,

defining the rigid boundaries of this world,

giving nothing but distraction and discord to

the gathered gallery, the librarians, and the art collectors,

fixing the horizon at the edge, building a ceiling on heaven,

and stunting the arc of the breeze over the rye fields,

a shallow window, a cellular prison, a selfish governor,

that keeps the gravity from pulling you in

whole.