Ode To Autumn Leaves

IMG_1175on a late-October hike
along the roaring Nooksack River
autumn leaves
— mostly Bigleaf Maple —
drifting down from the trees
in a beautiful, unplanned aerial show
to their final resting places
… some would say

but no rest here, really

each falling leaf
as unique as snowflakes
flying stem-first
some traverse across the sky
others travel downward in wide or tight spirals
some, make it to the river bed
others to the trail
and others still, caught on a branch
like our leaf here
held in a kind of limbo

bringing her attention to the falling leaves,
i say to my wife,
“look, next stop decay”
but, she says, “no,
first they land in a big pile
with their friends”

Belated R.I.P.s: Leonard & Leon

leonard_leonIf all you did was compare the musical styles of Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, both of whom, this past week, sadly departed this world, you might not see all that much in common between the two.

But delve just beneath surface and you find two prolific songwriters acclaimed for their lyrics as much as their music, two songwriters who had long-lasting and wide-ranging influence on other musicians, the latter resulting in their songs having been performed by an astonishing list of their peers.

Just two examples:

Leonard’s Hallelujah: Bob Dylan, John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, Brandi Carlile, Regina Spektor, Willie Nelson, Susan Boyle, Bono

Leon’s A Song For You: Billy Eckstine, The Carpenters, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Willie Nelson, Helen Reddy, Whitney Houston, Elkie Brooks, Amy Winehouse, Donny Hathaway, Christina Aguilera

Additionally, both Leonard and Leon went through fairly dramatic transformations over the course of their careers:

Leon, from one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound; to a member of the legendary group of Los Angeles session musicians collectively known as the Wrecking Crew, who recorded pop hits by artists ranging from Frank Sinatra and Sonny & Cher to The Monkeys and The Beach Boys; to hippie soul man bandleader, piano and guitar player on Joe Cocker’s epic Mad Dogs & Englishman tour, the album from which I happen to consider the best Rock & Roll live recording ever, and my deep love of which I mention in the obit I wrote upon Joe Cocker’s passing.

Leonard, from published poet and novelist; to folk music singer-songwriter; to elegant elder statesman of sophisticated literary pop music; to Zen monk.

But, of all the things they had in common, my absolute favorite was Leonard’s song Bird on the Wire, the greatest version of which, in my opinion and no surprise given what I said above, comes from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, on which you can hear Leon’s gorgeous, dare I say Liberace-esque, piano playing.

So, thanks Leonard and Leon for all you shared with the world. May all drunks in midnight choirs rejoice in your work!

Pokémon, Don’t Go: A Poem

PokeballPokémon, go.
but only that I might hop on my skis
or mountain bike
or kayak
and look for you.

When I find you,
let’s hang out
and play Xbox games,
and Snapchat with our friends,
who are across town,
also playing Xbox games,
because the serious things in this life
have become WAY too serious …
and scary.

Video Fridays: Patti Smith

pattiI’m on a real women-in-music kick these days.

Last week’s Video Fridays installment was on the late-great Nina Simone, inspired by having watched the wonderful documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?.

This week, I’m inspired to feature Patti Smith after having read her amazing autobiography Just Kids.

If you go into reading the book having only heard of Patti the musician, you will either experience disappointment or revelation; disappointment, because music, while woven throughout the story, is by no means the primary focus; revelation, because Patti the poet, Patti the visual artist, Patti the muse of her longtime companion-then-friend, the groundbreaking artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, comes to vivid life in the reading, along with the explosive New York City art scene of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Patti, being a poet and musician, writes her autobiography with such lyricism, such raw emotional presence, and there were many times when I’d re-read lines, and sometimes whole paragraphs, because they were rendered so beautifully, so movingly. She has an incredible eye and ear for small details that add so much depth to the story, peppering her narrative with mention of items collected or exchanged, often cheap trinkets or handmade gestures, brief interactions with legends like Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, things that, out of context, would be seemingly trivial, and yet in the very mentioning and describing of these things you learn how meaningful these smallest of details were to Patti.

I was particularly touched by her relationship with Mapplethorpe, a relationship that weathered the extreme poverty and struggle of their early years together, the emerging awareness of his homosexuality, the transition to a radically accepting, loving, loyal friendship, and through it all the powerful support they gave each other in the pursuit of their art. A relationship Patti describes thusly:

We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young people nor tell with any truth of their days and nights together.

It wasn’t easy choosing a video to include with this post, because, as Patti has endured, losing none of her potency as an artist and performer over the years, I could have selected some of her more recent work, such as the amazing 2005 Live at Montreux concert, available, at least for now, in it’s entirety on YouTube, rather than what I have here for you now, a precious document from her 1976 European tour, featuring songs from her classic debut, Horses, as well as cuts that would soon appear on her sophomore album, Radio Ethiopia.

Observe her total, unapologetic commitment, as she bravely claims her place in Rock&Roll, despite how male-dominated it has always been. Observe and enjoy and check out Just Kids when you have a chance. You won’t regret it.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

My Teen, My Tug o’ War: A Poem

tug-o-war1

my teen, my tug o’war
the rope stretched taut between us
we pull
me wanting him closer
he wanting to get away…
…and yet, no letting go

for 15 years years I’ve been telling
the same old joke
about how my son had a lot of nerve
growing up
how, if I could, I would freeze his growth
at any given time
for as long as I needed him to be
that age
that size
that capable
Until I had had my fill
Until I was ready to move on

but I’ve never had that power
over time and space
and now…
…he’s been weightlifting
he’s ripped
he could kick my ass in a fight

and so here I am
reduced to being grateful that he hasn’t yet
let go of the rope

we tug

Don’t Mix Reggae With Taxes: A Poem

reggaeDon’t Mix Reggae With Taxes

reggae
no worse music
in April
while doing one’s taxes.
a torturous cognitive dissonance
a juxtaposition of
lilting Caribbean rhythms
conjuring lush tropical beaches
jerk chicken, rice & beans
washed down with
ice cold Red Stripe beer
a big, fat spliff
and a psychedelic sunset
against
a ghastly spreadsheet
a blizzard of receipts
a puzzle of numbers
a labyrinth of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo.
nothing easy ’bout this skanking.

Magnets: A Poem

So, out of the blue, I decided to write a poem.

I’ve not written poetry before with any seriousness, and I wouldn’t even ascribe much seriousness to what I’ve done here. I simply decided to try it as an exercise.

I have no idea whether or not I will write more poetry, or if I do whether or not I will post it.

We’ll see.


magnetsMagnets

two magnets are a crappy metaphor
for love.
they lack
regardless of any resemblance
all warmth
or flesh and blood
all life.
magnets are cold and metallic
north-to-north or south-to-south
they repulse one another
and
despite the alluring inclusiveness
of opposites attracting
in reality
they snap violently together
held to one another by their opposition
stuck
as if glued.
from afar
construed as close, affectionate
yet
no breathing room
tension
irritation
claustrophobia
even dismay
despair.
magnets are a crappy metaphor for love.
too cynical, right?
RIGHT
RIGHT
RIGHT!