WHAT MATTERS IN THE CHAMBERS OF MY HEART

I played my heart out one sunset flag lowering

Playing taps on trumpet at church camp

How I held that long, lingering note till my breath nearly ran out

It moved everybody—children surrounded me at chapel afterward

Moved me too, I felt it all, feel it still, I’m there, now—44 years later

 

I had played solo trumpet in filled concert halls

Been interviewed on radio about it

But that doesn’t hit me now

Like sunset, flag lowering, at church camp

 

I played trumpet duets that I’d composed

Before and after evening chapel at church camp

44 years ago, and it pleases me now to be there again

 

I played bass at a church Convention worship service

I see the drummer lean forward to look at me

After a drum solo to get in the groove again

I’m there, 5 years ago, even now

 

I played bass in packed bars, jazz clubs, hotel dance floors

Church Convention sits with me more pleasantly, now

 

Then there was Memorial Day at the family trailer campground

Mom and dad and children danced on the cement floor

Mom sang along with the ‘50’s Little Richard song

We played Monkees for a boy who saw them on Nickelodeon TV

And it sits with me like church, 33 years later

 

COVID-19 affords me much time, much occasion to reflect

Success deconstructs in reflecting over a life well-lived

It sits as a matter of what means to me

And meaning is not a matter of acclaim or money

Church and family camping echo pleasantly

Through the chambers of my heart

And sit well with me in reflections of COVID-19

ETHICS AND COVID-19

I drove home today, after a long walk in the park,

Past the reopened bars, coffee shops, on Whyte Avenue

Observed the patrons seated at tables outside and inside in the darkness

During the past few months ethics were easy:

Stay home

That meant pass time, pass time well, at home:

Read good books, go on walks, play music, binge TV

My little money lasted longer

Now that I don’t have to stay home, is it enough

To pass time, pass time well, at home?

Why did I wander around shopping malls, eat breakfast at coffee shops, lose money at the

casino?

Crave more money.

I know why I went out to hear live music.

Maybe I will still shelter in place

Read good books, go on walks, play music.

I am not the same since COVID-19

Will not be the same.

We’ll see about binging TV, craving more money.

IN THE PEAK OF COVID-19

What was that I needed to get done today?

Well, nothing really—I can barely remember

When they shut us down, shut down my ambition

–“I have to what?!”—”Do what?!”–

That mandated sloth that tells me stall, stop

So I slouch upon my couch, and pass time

At times, I take the time to touch base

With a treasured book—which I never would have

Chasing time filled with needless activity

Chasing a job, a dollar, more money

No money and nothing to spend it on—

I would go to the mall, the bookstore, the casino

And with a home library filled with good books

I never did read, read now—sometimes

When I can find the incentive

And my poems that I organize to send out

Re-read, fix, edit,–search out publishers

When I can’t find the incentive

And just slouch upon the couch

And watch TV that I don’t like

Don’t like not doing what I want to get done

This mandated sloth, this slovenly lost ambition

Not even waiting for it all to be over

Just waiting on time, making time, taking time, time to get something done

Plenty to get done today, and nothing, really

THE STORY OF GENERATIONS

They brought in a DJ at the Blues Club

Blues Club

They took the Hammond B3 off the stage

(It’s in the room with slot machines, now, covered with blankets)

The young sound technicians like Metal

So when the band does play, it’s all

Kick drum, boom—boom boom—boom

(They boost the drum sound)

No soul, no balance, no guitar,

Boom—boom boom—boom

(They boost the drum sound)

You can’t tell them anything

I’ve lost this one

We’ve lost this one

 

The owner died

The stakeholders hired a young

Cub manager who knows nothing about

Music

Operations manager for a legendary Blues Club

Money

And I watch the young displace

Me in this place

The Metal festival on farmland that the soundman produces

“Is like Woodstock,” a young girl said

“Only real music,” he said

And there’s an end to

A historic Blues Club

 

It’s the story of generations

When I was young

Hendrix

Displaced Bing, Sinatra, Dean Martin

Tragic loss, my parents must have thought

Free love

Woodstock

What’s the world coming to, they must have thought

And I think that, now

 

I’m not ready to let go the reins

And hand the world, my world, over

To the young and

Their ways

I’m not ready to let go the reins

Of this world

This life, my life

Though there is the hope of

My room in His mansion

That where He is, I may be

Eternity

The reins of life, this life, my life

I am not ready to let go

 

The story of generations

THE LESSON FOR TODAY (Not Necessarily a Poem)

Dollars and debts and interest compounding

Stocks and bonds and dividends

The bottom line and profit margins and markets

The economic drive some ride into obscene wealth

The likes of these bought Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

For the highest price ever in the ‘80’s

While Van Gogh, himself, died impoverished

Having sold only one painting in his lifetime

The likes of Van Gogh aren’t concerned with

Dollars and debts and interest compounding

His ecstasy was discovering how to paint a tree

The purchase of Sunflowers contributed to the GDP

But the production of the same didn’t

Obscene profits are no real incentive

LIFE IS

Life is not

The acquisition of money, material possessions

Life is

The pursuit of a passion

A life’s dream, a contribution to society

In youth, it is the pursuit of a job

A career, a profession, a calling

In adulthood, it is the maintenance of a lifestyle

In maturity, you realize that life is a pastime

And along the way, it can be

The accumulation of experiences you will be happy to remember

But, in truth, life is

The formation of the kind of person you want to be,

Learning who that is

To be and become who that is

By means of and through and despite

What life will bring your way

To be and become who that is

By whatever powers or Power you know

Reflections about Money

For 3/4 of my adult life I’ve lived in poverty.  My impoverished life, though, was of my own making.  I was chasing a goal–education–and that was why I ended up poor.

I resented my poverty quite a bit, when I was in school.  I didn’t see why poverty was a necessary condition for education.  The English department at my university had a motto, “Going for broke!”  Back then, I spoke with a young woman once, and asked her if she were considering Ph.D. studies.  She said that she wasn’t.  When I asked her why, she replied, “I don’t want to spend the next 8 years of my life in poverty.”  However, pursuing the goal of higher education made my poverty bearable.  I had a higher purpose; it transcended the pecuniary world.  I tried to make myself feel better by thinking about Hemingway, and his poverty in Paris while he was learning to write.  Nobody likes poverty; but when one likes a calling more than money, one accepts one’s condition.

Now I have a comfortable income.  That has been for 12 years out of my 40 adult years.  I am still getting used to the feeling of having enough money, in fact more than I need.  But I am still pursuing a higher purpose, though, with my money.  I am recording a disk of my original music.  And that is draining a considerable amount of my income.  Some might consider this an extravagance, in that I’m not a professional musician and I’m not in a band.  But even as higher education is not always a money-making endeavor, but a meaningful pursuit, so music is not always a money-making endeavor, but art is a meaningful pursuit.  And without the CD project, I don’t know what I would do with the several thousands I am investing in this enterprise.  And for me, the purpose of money is to be used–not just possessed.

Most people secure gainful employment at a young age and spend most of their lives financially set.  I think self-image for many depends on money.  Sociologists have given us status labels.  They made up the categories, “upper-class; middle-class; lower-class.”  In doing so, they told us how we were to think of ourselves.  I try not to measure my self-worth by money.  But when I was an impoverished student, always riding in the back-seat of someone else’s car, not being able to buy “nice things,” not being able to take a girl out on a date, I felt worthless.  This, despite my higher calling, higher education.  My brother, a rich engineer, told me, “It’s only money.”  That didn’t help.  Now that I’m in a good financial place, I don’t think about money at all, don’t measure myself by money.

Growing up, my generation disdained money.  The rock music of my time sung songs against materialism and money (Pink Floyd wrote a song with that for a title).  We talked about love and peace; looked to get back to Nature.  Perhaps that’s why I didn’t pursue money in my life, but went for more spiritual acquisitions.  I made my bed and I’m happy to sleep in it.  Everybody makes their own bed.  They must sleep in it, and hopefully they are happy to, as I am.

A Future Blues Song

Broke Again

Broke again, and a week until payday

Broke again and I don’t know where it went

Broke again, and a week until payday

Got nothing to show and my money’s all spent

 

I have a good time till the money’s all gone

I have a good time, I just do as I please

I have a good time till the money’s all gone

And I’m all out of cash and I’m feeling the squeeze

 

I’m struggling till payday, don’t know what I’ll do

I’m struggling till payday, how will I get by?

I’m struggling till payday, don’t know what I’ll do

It all costs too much for a regular guy

A Naif Meets the World

I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of intangibles: poetry, theology, philosophy, music.  My pursuit was essentially free.  My professors told me what to read and study, which was good guidance in the formation of my mind and my critical judgement.  But when it came to writing papers, I freely chose what subject to write on, who and what to study, what to say.  In the writing of poetry, I chose when to write, what to write, what style to use, what feeling to express.  In music, I wrote what was in my heart as the muse beckoned.

I remember my early impressions of professional ministry.  When I first took on a parish, I remember thinking, “This is a job!”  I was compelled to write a 2 1/2 page single spaced talk every week.  I was compelled to pick hymns, Bible readings, Psalters, and every Sunday to suit up and lead the service.  Then there was dealing with the personalities, petty complaints, infighting, and other distasteful things that arise in seemingly every parish.  Previous to taking on professional ministry, I would read theology at my leisure, pray when my heart was moved, commune freely with my Creator and Friend.  Now I prayed on demand, read theology with an eye to using it in my homily, communed according to the prescriptions of the job.  But this is not complaint.  I love this job more than any other job I’ve ever done.  I just never thought that my heartfelt devotion would feel like a job.

Now I am discovering that music is a business.  Sure, you hear talk about the music business all the time.  But to find yourself in it?!  It is a business that requires as much delicacy as does balancing the personalities in a parish.  A good friend of mine, who is an international pianist, has been giving me much appreciated, much needed advice about the “business” of music.  I am making a CD of my original music.  In order to make a quality disk, I needed first rate musicians.  I inquired of a well-established musician in my home town, and he set me up with a musician to play on one song.  This musician took an interest in my music, or my money.  He appointed himself executive producer, and made plans about the future of my disk and my musical career.  When I decided he was getting too intrusive, I made calls on my own to hire my own musicians.  The musicians I contacted talked, the “executive producer” found out I was making decisions on my own, confronted me, and laid down the law of how our business relationship was to be.  Now I am embroiled in an imbroglio.  All I want to do is record my originals.  But there is a business side to music, even as there is a business side to theology.  Even as there is a business side to everything in this material world.

One of the characteristics of my music is a tone of peacefulness.  The music is all written, and only needs recording, mixing, and mastering.  And that can’t be done without entering the business of music.  But that peace I entered into in the writing of my music is seriously compromised now with the business of production and the soap opera of the interwoven world of musicians.  I had no idea that manifesting my music would mean entering an internecine world of rivals for my wallet and musical future.  It’s comforting to know that it’s all written, and written when I was in a better place.  Where this new magical mystery tour will take me, I can’t foresee.  What it will do to my future compositions, I don’t know.  I only know this, my naivety has met the world.  It seems that on this material plane, intangibles manifest through business.  Some people make business their life’s calling.  I have dedicated my life to intangibles, not business.  But I now see, sadly, that maturity means dirtying one’s hands with the negotiation of money and the people who come with it.