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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

Liberate versus Discriminate

“We do not discriminate.”

We do not discriminate against gender, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, physical ability, mental illness, history of addiction, criminal background-

Except when we do.

We do not discriminate against looks and body types, expressions of self in the Universe, those who’ve earned their way up, those who’ve lost everything going down, accumulations of merit, karma, or doing the right thing-

Except when to do so isn’t good optics.

Pat me on the back, what you touch isn’t a demographic

A life not lived as a statistic to take back to the team and gauge the metrics-

We all sort and strategize, this we know-

Reduce me to characteristics most beneficial to power broker eyes and
I’m a number lost in a sea of tactics

When I’ve really always been a single word flying a sky made intergalactic
in letting all these classifications pass by,

Needless distractions need not ask why in the horizon they fade as we glide
to an expanse of wordless, label-free, beingness to boundlessly be.

See, these worlds we parallel here aren’t interchangeable

Filtration down to the most valuable iota,
or uplifting to the most universal quanta

The only gray area we have ‘tween these two is the one from which they emerged.

Discriminate against this cloud of atoms so I can freely be.

I’d rather you not choose me so I can be free and pass it on…

The fuck has been discriminated out of everything- drained of any passion,
stripped to bits of productivity and actionables for the higher ups. Fuck that.

My only no is to the naysayers-

So that I may participate in loving charges to translate restrictive words into one single YES and every passing moment seized to liberate.

Stand beside, walk astride, come inside-

No signs hang on the doors of this heart.

I Am- Myself- Enough

Written and performed as a component of “My Intimate Companion, My Body” by Community Choreography Projects, Barrie Barton, Artistic Director
Presented as delivered verbatim, 15 May ’16,

 

You man enough?” 13041415_866460496796949_593443273963548002_o

There’s a box to check, M or F, the crossing of chromosomes X and Y,

And of my time, how to measure that?

All those rites of passage, and the wrongs left behind?

Categorically I am male, Caucasian, American by persuasion

I prefer Earthling-

 

I’ve been many things in this lifetime…

I’ve been tadpoles, black holes, bottle rockets, holes in pockets,

Birdfeather, turbulent weather, purple flowers, passionate hours,

“How much adds up to make me man enough?”

 

The answer, I think, is more in the soul’s eye and the mind’s dreaming than in a

Banner’s star spangling or whatever’s anatomically dangling,

It’s your own meaning, your own re-birth panging.

 

My feet are tree roots that pulse to the heart of the Mother-

My guts: clusters of garnets and rubies, my lungs:

Sails of ancient ships plying deep waters-

My head is in the stars, from whence it came.

I am just like everyone else.

 

Listen.

Men, Women, Trans, Genderqueer,

The time is now to forsake duality, and flush the fear.

Let not your body be concealed by a shroud of should-be,

Be unbound, fly the sky infinite, beyond the what, where and why

Of the ordinary to classify, to have the power to say

“Spirit is the gender that I identify.”
Listen.

Receive these words as an invitation, an exhalation… [exhale]

Spirit is the gender that I identify.

Find a box to check- for that.

 

QFC (A Very Short Story)

(Inspired by the Write Or Else Literary Bootcamp Group of 7)

“What’s all this about stem cell therapy?” she shouted from the sidecar of the 1962 499cc Velocette Venom motorcycle I suddenly found myself driving, my teeth clenching a cigarillo, the smoke blowing across my face just as the veil of fog that was my memory fell away. What in the flying fuck is this about I thought to myself? Another thought retorted, you know damn well what this is about, shut up and drive.

“Stem cell therapy was the worst possible choice they could’ve made for you. It’s bullshit,” I found myself yelling over the motor’s incessant growl. “Where we’re going will reverse the damage, then reset your bios to an earlier timewave.” Jesus, the night before I knew I had whiskey straight no chaser, not on the rocks, and it was the good stuff. I didn’t expect to lose my grip and slide this far away from the relatively comfortable me in my little bunker. I think I’m going to swear off soul hopping until they get the technology down.

“How much younger do I get to be this time, Duke? How much are they paying you for me? I’m not a goddamn guinea pig, if you didn’t notice. I went from 44 to 85 in six years. Technodyne and your competitor don’t know shit about subatomic medicine.” No. What did “I” do to this lady? Her raspy voice emerges from a frame garishly and gaudily wrapped in kerchiefs and scarves to conceal everything that seems to be wrong. I can barely see her eyes, but I’ve gotta keep my eyes on the road. This me never rode cycles- ancient tech. I must be way in the Outskirts. “Duke” seems to have everything under control, all I can do is sit back and watch, until the hop ends.

“Ma’am, this is a public service, quality fucking control. Your only job is not to worry and keep covered, sunlight and cameras. My job is over in about two miles, and the shirts in the lab will restore you. Maybe for free. Good for us. Good for you.” The rest of the drive was quiet, until the roanorm-grabowski-corvair-motorcycle-sidecardway led to an underground entrance. Gunners asked Duke if anyone else was on the road- no, just them for the last 50 miles. A hum prevailed over all other sound. The shirts helped the old lady out of the sidecar, eager to rush her to the collider lab.

“Do I get a goddamn cigarette first? They give ‘em to all the sad shits that get the firing squad.” A tech tried to reassure her, perhaps patronizingly; “Mrs. Mezvinski, we can’t allow contaminants here.” She began to undrape herself, and with a laugh said “You let him in here… seriously Duke, thank you. This is my last best chance.” Duke tipped his hat, as her elderly unstable face surfaced in the orange glow of the lights. “I” recoiled as I heard Duke think ‘It’s what you get for too many bio-mods.’ Indeed, her rapidly aging face seemed to be falling apart, and her third eye only stared blankly ahead- dead. Her sixth fingers were curled in paralysis. She was her own guinea pig.

“You’re done here, Duke. Your deposit will appear within 24 hours. We’ll signal you if this reversal goes well, then we’ll expect at least to re-mod three retrievals a week per our deal.” Duke spat the long extinguished cigarillo at the feet of the head honcho.

“Stop making them then. Get that deposit through in 12.” Duke wheeled his Velocette back out toward the sunlight. “And another thing- you get those vaccines ready yet? Some jerk’s hopped my soul for the past few hours, I hear his nervous little thoughts. At least, filter out the dudes. Organic females only need apply.” He squealed out as the engine roared. He thought loudly, ‘YOU HEAR THAT, HOPPER?!’

I snapped out of it- back in the bunker. I grabbed my keyboard and entered the code to cancel my soul hopping subscription. It is unfair, I thought, that the hopped person can’t say no. Such is the way of our time. I flexed my fingers, and the sixth one was only just a little tight, all my mods are guaranteed anyway.

Going out for a whiskey on the rocks.

 

Life Matters

[Crossposted from the blog of the program which I’m honored to direct, FirebirdTransformations.com]

Many people avoid the news because it’s become such a repetitious carnival of the same old, same old. Some politician said this crazy thing, a celebrity was photographed in some scandalous way, and then there’s the things we don’t like to see; terrorism, gun violence, diseases spreading. Even worse, we’re inundated with a THIS versus THAT way of viewing situations. Just like looking at a coin, you can only see the heads side- you have to turn it, alter perspective, to see the tails side. Then, you might just notice the edge separating the two- the “third” way. Part of what we do is train our Members and ourselves to focus on the edge, the gray between the white and black, getting comfortable with the “maybe?” between the yes and no. What a service the media would do for the world if it offered just the slightest bit of looking for the “other” between the THIS and THAT!

We’re endured heart breaking arguments about certain lives mattering less than others, and seen pitiful examples of some lives obviously mattering more (wealthy celebrities with great lawyers walking away from crimes download (5)that would make felons out of everyday people, etc). However, there’s been shifts. Among them, the media is finally pushing through celebrity schmutz and the poo-litical mudslinging to shine a light on this genuine epidemic, in the truest sense of the word. Whether you like him or not our President has put evidenced based treatment of Opioid Addiction at the forefront of his agenda for his final year in office. You can say “too little, too late,” but the fact is this initiative is going to save lives. Any life that can be saved matters.

All of the men in our sober living program have lost friends or family to this disease. It’s personal for me too: I’ve lost two cousins to overdoses, a stepmother to alcoholism, and other family members where substance abuse contributed to their decline- not to mention the many friends who are gone forever because of lethally addicting chemicals. The “War on Drugs” really was a war on people, and solved nothing. We know that now. We know that because of hard science, not the blustery opinions of Congresscritters or expert-shaped Bobbleheads who get airtime to spout words without supporting data. People using the scientific method, from clinicians on the front lines to researchers behind the scenes have dedicated their lives to finding truly effective methods to break the cycle of addiction, and these are emerging. We must unite behind these, putting aside the insistence that we only see one way. People living with addiction for too long, living without hope and social investment, know of three outcomes of one-sided thinking: “jails, institutions, and death.”

One of our mottoes here is “Recovery is a necessary social movement to reclaim the value of life.” This isn’t just meant to be a catchy slogan, it’s a call to action. The only way we can create a change in this polarized environment is to be the “other,” to replace the “versus” with insistent and authentic recitation of verses for the creation of justice where it hasn’t yet grown. Our people need justice- in this case, access to affordable and effective evidence based treatment of addiction- not jail, which merely isolates the disease and allows it to fester. There is a hugely disproportionate number of African-Americans who are sent to jail for non-violent, drug related crimes than Caucasians- fact. Same goes with poor people of any ethnic background. Once FIREBIRD has fully established itself as a stable and sustainable company, my next project will be to reach out to the needs of these underserved populations, including the LGBTQ community, where there are few to no viable aftercare choices after treatment.

I ask you, whoever you are, to support the President’s bi-partisan initiative to make the drastic changes in the Opioid Addiction field needed to begin to not just lower the death rate, but to change the dialogue about substance abuse. Let’s start talking about why addiction manifests so we can have a broader range of preventative and intervention options in place- not just institutionally, but in our way of thinking and understanding. Let’s recognize addicts- such a stained word- as people just like anyone else who have a curable disease, not as people who we automatically don’t trust. At FIREBIRD, we begin with trust. We hold fast to the ethic that each human being is entitled to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, equal to and above the full potential of the dignity and respect that’s repaired in the recovery process. We think of this as a small part of the paradigm shift that a new way of approaching addiction requires. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. We are very much prepared to be a loud voice in addiction advocacy and also to be a good listener as new data comes forward as to best practices.

We recently got our first batch of T-Shirts with words adapted from Gandhi’s ethos for social change. They say “I am the the change I’ve been wanting to see in the world.” That’s what this shift is about; to be unabashedly honest and authentic perspective shifters in a world so intent on only seeing- and believing- the coin has one side. As Staff, Members, and Families, being that change means that we’re willing to flip the coin, reveal the other side, and most importantly, the edge.

 

 

Weep For Brussels, Wail for the World

Today, Brussels and the world are reeling in the news of yet another bloody spasm of hate-blinded ideologies trying to make a point.  The pictures are painful to look at. For some us, those places are familiar, our heartstrings are yanked, and as with France and Great Britain we in the United States feel a very strong sense of solidarity and compassion in the wake of these barbarous attacks. Yet there is an even sadder footnote: every day, around the world, the bloody spasm of hate-blinded ideologies tears new wounds into innocent flesh, and what will make the news are the numbers dead, if that. Much goes on without our awareness- selective media, selective attention, selective tolerance to reality. Surrounding every continent, there are grave humanitarian crises which daily claim scores of lives, some days hundreds.

Brussels joins the sad chorus of 2016’s wake up calls with Mogadishu, Eel-Adde, and Baidoa, Somalia; Panathkot, India; Camp Speicher , Baghdad, Ramadi, Mosul, and Muqdadiya, Iraq; Zleiten, Libya; Istanbul, Diyarbakır, and Ankara, Turkey; Quetta, Peshawar and Charsada, Pakistan; Koupaye,  Bodo, and Meme, Cameroon;  Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Deir ez-Zor, Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, and Sayyidah Zaynab, Syria; Jalalabad and Kabul, Afghanistan; Dalori, Dikwa, Yashari, and Maiduguri Nigeria; Ntombi, Democratic Republic of Congo; Aden, Yemen; Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast; Arish, Egypt.

 

Morning Medicine

Right outside home this morning was a beautiful redtail hawk. Not flying away, just there and present. With its keen eyesight and deep wisdom, there’s knowledge there of what’s prey, threat, what’s neither, and what’s just part of the world of a hawk. I think when we stop, breathe, keep our eyes open and survey everything we know, as humans there’s really so little actual threat. When humans threaten other humans, the only real threat is when one takes the bait and falls for the trap, the head trip, the kill or be killed of it all. I believe though we spend a lot of time in threat-preparedness mode versus survey and see what’s just a part of the world of being a human. It makes being a human so much easier.

Wouldn’t mind the wings, though.

Transformations

I’ve had the dream of a men’s recovery program based on brotherhood, transparency, long-term trust, and accountability realized. That experience has come to a crossroads organizationally, and with one dream realized, another comes; to truly transform the ethos of sober living and offer more. With goodwill all around, I am embarking anew with the expressed support of more people than I can name, for which I’m beyond blessed and grateful. I am overjoyed to know that so many are already energetically supportive- now is the time where any and all actions will result in transforming lives.

“We” need your help. I am not doing this for myself- I am doing this for one of the most volatile and at-risk for premature death populations in the industrialized world. That’s why I’m putting all of this forward: our challenge, the solution, the benefits, and how you can immediately help.

“He Knows It’s All Worthwhile”

The glow of a radio, playing after bedtime, is a most magical thing. A station in Philadelphia, sometimes frequency-scratched with static, sang me to sleep as my body rapidly mutated into adolescence from an innocence that wasn’t. Sometimes, the music wasn’t the point, it was the lulling, the glow, the imploring tones of men and women for emotions that weren’t yet named, but seeping, a slow leak in the hull of desire. Yet there were voices that caught me- I prayed to them as I’d pray to the amorphous God-thing that was assured to bring me good grades, Mom a better job, and get Dad to stop drinking. I made a point to watch the very first second of MTV, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and in ways yet incomprehensible knew I was on the edge of something. So many times I’d watch history happen, but not like this.

“Now we meet in an abandoned studio
We hear the playback and it seems so long ago
And you remember the jingles used to go…
You were the first one
You were the last one
Video killed the radio star, video killed the radio star
In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far.” 
1

These people were outrageous, and there was outrage. Where was the harm? By the time music videos had become a force, I was inwardly in a bloody knife-fight between hormones and morals. There were a few stand-outs of the video rockers that distracted the warring sides long enough for a calm, a hope, a shape for a secret inner me to say, yes, I know what they’re doing there.  Bodies were for reinventing, just assortments of singing shapes, clothes were sleek and shiny and permissive, a crow’s delight. Hair was no longer the thing you parted along the middle, it was the crest of a wave on a Fantastic Planet, dreams made by falling asleep to Night Flight… which had way too many secrets to give up for a 13-ish astronaut pretending to be lost in an alternate Universe, bereft of school, rules, taboos.

“When I was a very small boy,
Very small boys talked to me
Now that we’ve grown up together
They’re afraid of what they see
That’s the price that we all pay
Our valued destiny comes to nothing
I can’t tell you where we’re going
I guess there was just no way of knowing.”
2

No matter how complex social dramas pick away at the fading innocence of youth as adolescence becomes teenage years, nothing could ever pry away my sense of awe and wonder about the stars. I’d come to learn that at some point I had to “take my protein pills and put my helmet on,” in order to hang on to that love. The glow of that radio, in between Madonna, Cheap Trick, and Chaka Khan, would occasionally illuminate a dreamy diorama about a “Starman waiting in the sky” and it gave reprieve from bullying and bullshit. And then his videos- peak weirdness and inventiveness and yes, he was beautiful. It didn’t feel right to have a crush on him, I seemed to have established age boundaries, but his charisma and jumping from one experiment to another had me swooning- a vicarious alter-ego, if I could only sing, if I could only be as nimble, if only my eyes could captivate as his did. Then, the words made a two-dimensional sense. After a life lived, as a forty-something hunched over in his pajamas, warmed by a cat and having surmounted uncountable peaks of frightening mystery, do they truly carry heft now.

“Once there were mountains on mountains
And once there were sun birds to soar with
And once I could never be down
Got to keep searching and searching
Oh, what will I be believing and who will connect me with love?
Wonderful, wonderful, wonder when
Have you sought fortune, evasive and shy?
Drink to the men who protect you and I,
Drink, drink, drain your glass, raise your glass high.” 3

My looks began to change, change as quick as the Thin White Duke. I became less of an inkling and more of a somewhat, my shoulders rubbed other shoulders, breaking taboos once unleapt. I discovered music was no private affair, but a flag to be waved. As in war, some flags get shot at. But tribes often assembled based on their colors, cultures contrasted, merged, and the balladeers among us took up song. We learned the words, traded tapes, blew our minds on riffs and wordplay. The Goblin King was more epic than I believed him to ever to be. Before I was born, “the tactful cactus by your window survey[ed] the prairie of your room,” and how many times have I sung those lines in exultant verdant reverie since then? By then, it was a crush. Cat People, Goblin King, Ziggy Stardust, The Man Who Fell To Earth I loved all- there was something about his sensuality, synesthetic words, chords made from my very sinew and loin that made him my artistic proxy. If only I could be that: brilliant, sexy, well-spoken, alluring, inspiring, passionate, and at times maudlin (but with such glitter)… the me of the second decade didn’t know how to be himself, so he collected other selves, vast big selves like Bowie, until that epiphany hits that these are muses, but without a you, they’re hapless stimulus in your life, collecting dust. The creation of you begins- the songs are still there, but they take on more meaning then they ever had before.

“Oh, ‘It’s the madness in his eyes’
As he breaks the night to cry:
‘It’s really Me
Really You
And really Me
It’s so hard for us to really be
Really You
And really Me
You’ll lose me though I’m always really free.’” 
4

Decades pass. You remember the first time you heard that song, and like unwinding a Slinky you get to see its impact on your life in context. Since this coil to now, it’s been with me. David Bowie. Do you know how many millions of kids and lost ragamuffins your music gave affirmation to? You gave me a confidence that didn’t even have a name yet. Your heartful songs, playful or indicting, gave hope to the queer, the weird, the artists, the square pegs. I only use past-tense to mark this moment in time; it’s been just about 24 hours without you being alive in this world, in the bodily sense. Yet your music, from your first demo to the last cut on Black Star (below), is a living thing- it acts upon the world, alters it, eardrum by eardrum, one share at a time. You’ll be heard for the first time by young bodies who cannot comprehend the marrow, because their grasp is on the outward world forming, growing, bones that will dance, make love, recoil in fear, uncoil in epiphany, become, and dance again. I cannot see the end of my own coil, but I know you’ll be with me. I just have one question- rather, one request:

“Will you stay in a lover’s story?
If you stay, you won’t be sorry
Because we believe in you…” 5

.

  1. The Boggles, “Video Killed The Radio Star”
  2. New Order, “True Faith”
  3. David Bowie, “Station to Station”
  4. David Bowie, “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud”
  5. David Bowie, “Kooks”

Refugees

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Tell me about your telescopes and what comes back

When your photon-intent gaze settles upon a patch of darkness-

Do you see nothing, do you see gradients of time, do you see a waiting-ness?

My own eyes cannot fathom the sky- I double over in a holy if unwhole incomprehension

Knowing the dark is a way of summing all I cannot know, after being wowed I bow in submission.

Yet the dark is a populated place, not just shoulder to shoulder with stars, but it is the canopy

Of a tattered tent for a million names, voices murmuring in ancient rhythm with the winds

Homeless yet by heritage bound to soil proudly staked and blood-dabbed in bouts

Yet now drought-caked, cold tired huddled masses fenced in by barbed rhetoric

Yearning is for a suchness beyond the babe’s muddied face, it’s a gasping

Grasping for humanity upon cold shores, dim fires and inshallah charity

Bread, just bread, maybe currant juice, the children will take anything.

Tell me, what is darkness now, and what is lightness, and of you?

It is the bulk of the Universe, and the shield under which

Scores of refugees run for their very lives; your mystery

Is their shelter, their shelter is our perplexion, and

Even now the safest of us fall to the street for

Crumbs in the night, be they as stars-

For they shine as such as to grace

A moment of hope, may we all

Be so blessed as no one is ever

Safe from having to seek

Refuge, from ever

Having to be

Called a

Refugee.

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