The Sparrow, The Crumb, and a Certain Wednesday After

We really needed eggs, biscuits, and coffee.

It was a start on a morning that was, finally, chilly enough to feel right for November. Neither my friend Felicity nor I looked at our phones much. Nor did we say much. That is the hallmark of a great friendship- you can be quiet together, explosively sneeze without embarrassment, disagree here and there, and not give two shakes of a stick how we “look.” I’m lucky that I have several close friends like her. It was Wednesday, and we said “fuck.” A lot.

The food was good- great even. Yet it wasn’t… elevating. The sky was a penetratingly blue azure- yet I couldn’t marvel. The music was melodic enough, but I wasn’t there. I wondered if this was what it felt like coming out of a coma, or if there was a glitch in the system that the Harvard kids say is the computer simulation we call life. Perhaps I got off at the wrong multiverse. Something just wasn’t right with the world I knew a day ago. It wasn’t a jump to the left or a step to the right*, but something had warped. For true.

Reports were already coming in after the unpopular election of the least qualified and most demagogic person ever selected President. Muslims intimidated. Women and African Americans stalked, children afraid to go to school. Swastikas in graffiti. A former President once spoke of “Morning in America,” as an inspirational invitation to unite- here we were, about 11am- despite all appearances, it was Midnight. On the sunlit streets marched lynch mobs disguised as everyday people, and the violent rampages on the town square of yore took place in the palms of hands aglow, feverish thumbs on keypads. Nooses and pitchforks are all around us, next to us in the grocery store, so discreet, neat, 2.0.

“The bomb in the baby carriage was wired to the radio…” **

I don’t want to talk about politics, or what we must “do.” I don’t want to rehash the vitriol that has already attacked our emotional immune system, toxins that are going to be long to clear. I hold space for everyone protesting, for Standing Rock, for Black Lives, for immigrants, for everyone who’s been identity assaulted, for gender violence, for it all, for it all, for it all, over and over again. We know this- we are coated in it like tar, and live in fear of the feathers plucked from the peace doves to be thrown on us as we await our inevitable day of confrontation. I just can’t.

I want to talk about a little sparrow.

We ate, perhaps sloppily, and coffee did the best it could to rouse my synaptic gaps where nary a thunderhead of productive thought could manifest. Something caught Felicity’s attention. Hopping along the enclosed porch of the breakfast place was a little sparrow, who’d just found a morsel of dropped biscuit. Suddenly, joy. Out came Felicity’s camera- the colors, the lighting- and the joy- were all perfectly in frame. I dropped a bit of biscuit. Over scuttled the seemingly chipper sparrow. One crumb fell through the floorboard, and the bird’s head was cocked quizzically- as if to say “that didn’t go right, did it?” I dropped another, and up the beak it went.

It’s as if all that tar melted right off, and that blue sky and the music- all of it- regained the beauty it’s always ever had. That sparrow did not sit in judgment of those crumbs- or our appearance. As far as we know, that day was neither a good nor bad day for the sparrow- it was just “day.” If shots were fired, the sparrow flies away- it does not tell us who was right or wrong. It flies, and comes back. It does not know why we shoot each other. It does not know what makes us cry, it just sees us pass above and below, doing the people things. The sparrow does the sparrow things. There are things to eat, nests, eggs, songs, death, nestlings. There may be so much more to it. Yet that’s as far as we can see. Not forgetting crumbs.

How can I be more like the sparrow?

If only my brain could shrink to pea-size, which I’m certain it is on its way to doing. Of course, if only I had wings. But truly- if only I could live outside of time, names, and beyond emotion. If I could live without the eternal hall of mirrors that is the concept of control. If I… the litany of wishes between the self and the bird. In its graceful sparrow-ing, what peace, what a lesson of serendipity as we stepped back out into the bright morning that was sharply traced in angles of what I am told to believe are truths, yet within the soul I resoundingly proclaim allegiance to are the circles and arcs of maybes, mysteries, and who-knows-whats.

It’s as close as I can get to being the bird brain I dream of. I wrote later that day of claiming the right to be angry, yet acting from a place of justice. Sparrows, and their ilk, from my observation only ever appear to get mildly perturbed- and that’s an interpretation through human lensing. The anger thing didn’t go down well, because this is Asheville, and hashtag All You Need Is Love. While I generally agree, it’s another frequency of on the3 open dial of being. It’s humans that call this a higher vibration. The sparrow wasn’t sporting an “I voted” sticker, nor clinging to a chakra-cleaning shamanically sourced love crystal, it was in the only moment it could possibly know- as far as I know. I love our capacity to complexify, as it continually facets the ever-infinite diamond of perception. Yet the other side of complexity is simplicity. Just being. Sometimes a sparrow scouting for breakfast precipitation is nothing more than that. Is the same applicable to our propensity to make crazy out of bales of sane? Jumping Jehosephat yes. I wanted the sparrow to mean something- to me- and “poof!” it did. I got what I needed, and the meal- certainly the company- were balms in a weary land.

We most certainly are stronger when we love. We are also acknowledging the reality of our animal-hood when we are angry, or are afraid. It’s all okay. If I’m to sit in judgment before a sparrow, I’m most certainly, okay, and you are too. The worst and the best of us all are okay, especially if we drop just a tiny crumb. Isn’t that something we’re all looking for? Just waiting for a tiny crumb to fall from the sky, feed us, give a moment and our lives some purposefulness? Then we can skitter off to the next place, complete our cycle.

Do what we need to do. If it were that easy… I know. I’ve been poured into a human mold and my role is to do the human things and feel the human way. Whenever possible, in my own way, my role is to transcend those bounds and offer comfort and selfless support to those who are in any way immobilized. That’s the hat I was born with, and while the haberdasher has many styles to choose from, I know this is the hat that I’ll die with. I accept it. It’s not an easy look- I make do with what I got. While we all move through this process, feel what we need to feel, let’s test our bounds and see what life’s like outside the bounds. Maybe we’ll find unexpected breadcrumbs falling from the least likely of tables. Or it could just be like many of the mountains around me this Saturday that the world will be on fire. Let peace find a perch in not knowing yet.

Fly where you must, and find grace in small moments. It’s still there. So are you.


* “Time Warp,” from “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” w/m (c) 1975 Richard O’Brien
** “Boy in the Bubble” from “Graceland,” w/m (c) 1986 Paul Simon

Better Angels

Our better angels don’t operate- as it always has been- on the timespan we’re used to. We talk about the “long arc of history.” We’re in it. We just have no reasonable understanding of where that takes us now. People ask: “What do we do now?” Do what you need to do for today. Walk. Cry. Write. Yell. Feel this. Or not. Think about moving abroad. Or dig your heels deeper in and get ready. There are no rights ways, no wrongs… yet there are no wrongs greater than the ones we in our heart of hearts stand against as injustices. Find your sore spot. Lean into it. Think of everyone else who is more sore today, more wounded today, more disenfranchised today. There is a foundation to build from. Will we know what it will be right away? Probably not. But the better angels begin by being good to one another- even in our thrashing pain and anger. Both can occupy the same space- both came from the one same point of origin that creeps ever back up on us.

You woke up breathing- that’s a start and a very rare, tenuous thing in a Universe as huge as ours.

Dear America…

photo-3-kateI guess we all go about life thinking we did the best we thought we could. I mean, no one wants to bow out carving into stone they only did it half way. Frankie, ol’ blue eyes, told us he did it his way and I guess that was a point in the history books that we had our get up and go. Those were the days, and no matter that the old films tell you, life was in living color, all the way. Black and white was another fixation.

his letter, to whomever in the future reads it, may not even know and identify with the word “American.” They (our you, to be more intimate) may find this old note (how old, really???) to be a trope, self indulgent, last-minute exhibition of a one human’s want of memory to be preserved amid the rubble of a culture you will comb through in hope for understanding.

Listen, it all comes down to this. President Trump, and after his historically brief tenure President Pence, threw this country into a turmoil that brought a much slobbered after end of days to their “holy land” of franchised and outsourced “freedoms.” It was holy hell. “Forgive them,” that weakened god-being cried out from his mythical nailed-to perch, “for they know knot what they are doing.” What a horny bullshit dream. Everyone knew damn well what they were doing, and they only did it because they wanted “change”. As the outgoing Vice President was caught saying on a hot mic just prior to the 2017 inauguration of Trump, “This isn’t a fucking Red Lobster for Crissakes, it’s a country.” Those were our sentiments exactly, Joe. Change is a double-edged sword.

I’m just writing to say I’m sorry. The election, if you can call it that, of 2016 was not a result of populist outrage, it was the greatest reflex of ignorance and opportunity even seen of such a scale. It emboldened the shit shysters around the world to act- without benefit of countermeasure- to prod with their conscience-free peckers and penetrate the systems that protect our semblance of democracy and replace it with sheer vapid entertainment. Yes, the election of 2016 was the most dangerous reality show in history. It ended history. The worries everyone had about Trump having the nuclear football were a great distraction from the risk of Pence having it. Trump sealed his fate with the most unfortunately remembered phrase in history, “grab them by the pussy,” which emboldened a generation of disgusting men, and the compromise that he’d quit once elected and swap offices once the pitchforks and torches cornered him. An even more dangerous man took the Oval Office.

Hiroshima. Nagasaki. The old war. The litany of the new one? The war against women, with the executive order that made abortion in most cases illegal and punishable. The mass annulment of gay marriages. The “bunkering” of high crime impoverished inner city areas. Then the clouds of death abroad came closer to home. Raqqa. The torpedoing of the Kennedy. Vladivostok. Then San Diego. The short lived truce allowed for scientists to run screaming from their universities as fallout’s real aftermath- no longer a hypothetical- spewed across North America and Asia. But it was too late. Anchorage. Seoul. Pyongyang. That’s when I stopped counting, and most of the world began losing the Internet. Martial Law. I lost track of the news as I lost track of my people. We were moved across the country to “strategically populate” non-targets. Famine, disorder… what else?

Do I really blame it all on two politicians? No, not at all. I indict ignorance and every single motherfucker that only indulged in the gratification of their egos when the world was burning long before either of these men allowed the Four Horsemen into the State Fair. I indict a culture that always looked for messiahs in other people or historical ghosts rather than finding any strength in themselves. But my indictment means nothing- this trainwreck has been in the making for decades, the train’s been out of the station for longer than anyone can remember. We all did this- we all made this. We all gave our tacit permission for this whenever we said “I don’t care,” or “whatever.” And how long has apathy been the balm to the world’s pains? Fuck if I know. But it’s had our frontal cortexes by the pineal the moment our dopamine decided to fire every time we saw someone worse off than us, and we patted our wallet, checked our watch, and mistook a mass illusion of control for a world.

America, shed some grace of yourself. God obviously has more cosmic matters to attend to. While my time is over, maybe whatever historian that finds this can take a moment to appreciate the day and the bigger damn picture. I hope the skies are blue. I hope the birds have come back. I hope your food grows out of the ground, not from plastic. I hope you are in charge of your own life, and whenever you make a decision, you know a million different decisions ripple outward. For whatever reason, I’m about to get a bullet in my chest.

Yeah, decisions, decisions. Good night and good luck.

Post Script

I’ll allow a songwriter to do it for me:

After the Tweetstorm

No Standard Miracles Here

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Deauville, Rehoboth Beach DE

There is space between each grain of sand that holds me up…
Each lapping midnight wave unlike any other a cohesion of subatomic history
The peach light of the moon is a trick of the trade in swoon
And this breath I’m taking, divined air of salt and murk, a plentiful oratory.
Ordinary isn’t a word, there are no standard miracles here,
This, the thin veil of skin and blood that is the birthplace of ancestors unnamed
Ten minutes of return to my childhood beach dissuades the I;
Experiences collectively forming my perception, the Universe’s imagination untamed.
We are flickers of light, the darkness in between, and all that jazz…
The reflection kneeling, summoning the sea to wash over the hands, becomes placidly small
Pronouns dissolve into the accepting tide- me, we, you, all returned
Even as lungs heave the time to go, the child within kicks sand, in the dark of the ocean all becomes all.

 

Stop The World

636031542435573841-DSC-8549Amid fireworks, they shot a black man down my street last night-

Nobody knows the trouble between the first heartbeat of wrong

And the last breath as he was knocked on his feet in plain sight

Of kids in the projects playground, seen enough of this, first person shooter,

Bang bang you’re dead motherfucker was once a game now an angry song.

This brutal world stops for a moment to remember, till the next headline

Throttles us into indignation but the ivory towers know we’re content

To feed on scraps of justice thrown from on high, the sorrow sidelined

Distractions of Caesars and Brutuses reenacting ad nauseam the takedown

As we spin seemingly helplessly, lowered shades too dark to grasp the portent.

A night later, the percussive eve of Independence Day explodes over this part of town

The bombs bursting in air proving through the night that turned backs were still there

The projects locked down tight, and as boots scrape asphalt eyes cast awkwardly down

Nobody knows the trouble of living on the edge of knives and bullets from a comfortable distance

Yet when faced with a mirror, our fist is thrust to stop the world, only to see ourselves in the raining shards of our town.

 

 

Andy and Charlie

Andy and Charlie

Two homeless guys, sheltering under the awning of an urban church

They don’t complain

The streetlights oversaturate their weathered bodies, harsh shadows of scant rest.

Andy and Charlie

Don’t ask for much, I don’t know if they are “good” or “bad,” but they are alive that is chore enough.

The streets are cruel

Rich kids throw soda at them, people walk in wide arcs, yet we’re all justiced up with causes celèbre

Andy and Charlie

Are American refugees- ignored, because we own the conditions that make their beds cardboard

No cups for change

Too dignified to beg, just looking for a place to sleep; will those doors open unto weathered men,

Andy and Charlie,

Perish the thought that the last shall be first if we have mantle to muster more than just this,

They are not the least of these,

Andy and Charlie are us, bereft of the American dream, under streetlight glare, holding out for hope.

Pulse

Bang to the beat of the drum

Bang to the beat of the drum

Bang to the beat of the drum, we’re gonna

Bang… to… the… beat… of… the… drum.

Bass notes have floated countless times through this body

Vibration on the cabinet speakers, boom, boom, boom, boom,

Taking headtrips to ancient lands where the dancers around me

Jumped and leapt and intoned magic through fire, the pounding

Driving us all on, thriving together into a mass where no one’s looking,

Some crazy iteration of one flesh in the heat, a single surrounding, resounding,

Beat- a heart beat- a pulse that runs deep, beyond even blood, lost in the dance.

And yet our blood gets spilled, our pulse is stilled… I’ve lost the beat.

The lights in the club go out, the music is off, all is dark,

Bring that beat back.

Naturally we cower when overpowered,

Yet our music from those towers is too damn sweet

Bring that beat back.

Fire up even a single candle, because when you have the light,

It’s the darkness that becomes afraid of you

Bring that beat back.

On with your fabulousness, on with your glitter, on with your strut,

This family is so big we are all the glue

Bring that beat back.

God I’ve been struck down, my pulse shaken- someone always found the beat.

 

People we gonna illuminate da house, show the world that love’s got no last call

One thing we heed and timeless is its creed- we take care of not one, but all,

I have risen from the broken glass ceilings reeling yet feeling not my fall

A strong flight of resistance, the unfurling of spine, not back to wall

Dash the flames with newfound feathers the sky is your birthright

Wings upon the crimson sunset, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh,

Take up thy body to dance celestial, shimmer over the city

While we…

Bang to the beat of the drum

Bang to the beat of the drum

Bang to the beat of the drum, we’re gonna

Bang… to… the… beat… of… the… drum.

Blessed Be The Music Makers

This poem was written and performed for the benefit of the Rosser family in Asheville, NC

Long before a people could sing

There were winds

Long before the first harmony plucked a string

Gusts resounded through canyons

Before there were ears to hear it, Earthsong was such a thing.

 

Can you imagine the first band jamming a million years ago?

Music exuding from fossil throats now studied under glass

Feathery folktunes, gorilla gospel, amphibian ambient

The rhythm, the movement, begat our bloodlines, down to the first vibrato.
Along we come, toe tappin’, vocal chord rattlin’,

Hollowing gourds for drums, primordial shouts and hoots,

Finding… our… VOICES! Refining reeds for flutes-

Circle dances around fires, lutes and lyres, sacred village incantations,

Orchestras, wandering minstrels, choirs.

 

Even now, the music still finds itself in everything-

And the musician found in everyone,

Even with the hand quavering over the eager piano key;

With the throat quivering with the permission to sing FREE!

 

“I got the music in me, I got the music in me, I got the music in me…”*

 

Here’s to those who uplift music from the heart;

To those who summon up vibrations for this art;

To those who struggle so others may upon this path, start;

To those whose hearts feel broken, the love they reflect surrounds;

With many hands, broken hearts are mended, sweet music forever abounds.

 

*”I’ve got the music in me” (c) 1974 Bias Boshell, performed by Kiki Dee

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