WORDS AND MUSIC BY THE POET

WORDS AND MUSIC BY THE POET

These words are taking me away from my piano
All art requires dedication, but music, a special dedication
Art gives grace to the human who decides to dedicate
A life, or even part of a life, to art
When I’m done with these words, I’ll be at the piano
Finding my way around the key of E
Alone, just me and the piano keys
When you make music, mind flows into body, maybe like dance,
Music involves you with inflexible laws of physics
Which become laws of the musician’s heart and soul and muscle memory
I write these words in a dive with Alternative Rock in the background
I glance at the waitress, the bartender, customers
As I manifest this poem into these words
And I am not alone—just me and these words
Hemingway wrote in La Closerie des Lilas for the same reason
None of this can happen when I am in the key of E
It is only the articulation of my fingers on certain select piano keys
No music can be in the background; the only music that is
I make
Writing poetry is closer to waking life than playing music is
We are immersed in words much of the day
Not so, the specific piano keys you must depress—and no others—in E
You must wrench yourself away from everything
When you come to the piano
That is why it is sometimes hard to practice
You don’t want to leave everything
Unless music is everything to you
And it is when you are playing
A spell overtakes you and the ecstasy
Makes you wonder later why you weren’t at the piano sooner

THERE’S NO POETRY IN BEING POOR

I thought my poverty to be dignified in an artsy sort of way
Chuckling to myself as my car sways on its worn shocks
As the poet José Julián Marti Pérez fancied,

Con los povres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar

With the poor people of the earth
I want to place my luck

I thought my small condo in a bad part of town charming
My slim earnings noble; I can get by
And a rich aunt and friends of means to bail me out when I need
I smiled at the cursing and hollering in the parking lot at 3AM
Until crime, the bastard child of the impoverished,
That afternoon my friend limped and I ran to his pickup truck
To scatter the men—one attaching a battery charger, the other in the cab
The 911 calls, the police reports, the perpetrator cursing
In the middle of the night, rambling around our parking lot
Staring me down as I walked to my own car next afternoon
Blasting hip-hop out the window of the owner giving him safe harbor
I dim my condo lights inside so he won’t know where I live
No.  There’s no poetry in being poor, when you have to be poor,
Live in fear, in 911 calls, in crime, in poverty
My friend shook for three days straight
And I, two weeks later, might practice my keyboards
With a nightstick within reach, and my phone

I WOULDN’T SAY REGRET

Staring absently, the waitress
Demurred to evoke words
In reply to what he thought jocose
Signifying his accidental dissonance in most anything not
Music
At the piano
A good part of the day
Notes singing out a pentatonic sequence
Which were the scales’ iteration of their name
In every key
“It’s fun!” he exclaimed
While I sat on the couch that afternoon visit
Not even a song to me or most anybody
It’s why he’s so good
I mean good
Why his accidental dissonance, maybe, in most anything not
Music

He likes to check out music stores
Why wouldn’t he?
“Listen to this lick; it modulates!” he exclaimed,
After he caught my attention
Playing the baby-grand piano upon asking my permission
In the music store I worked at back then
That day we met, that time
When two roads diverged before me
And I took a different road
Than the one we were both traveling by, then

The crowd wasn’t really listening
At the Grand Hotel’s Cupola Bar on Mackinac Island
Chit-chat, chit, chatter, chitter-chatter
Where we renewed our old friendship
It looked to me like the thrill is gone
Nor, I suppose, on the cruise ships how he makes his living now

Everybody’s got to make a buck

Prone to cults, his harmonic dissonance in everything not
Music,
Almost lost him his parents when he was 20 something
Rethinking the Christian cult’s imperative to renounce his family forever
He narrowly escaped
Now I’ve lost him to Q-Anon
Fortunately, he’s not prone to violence
If we stick to music, we can still talk
He recently sent me some interesting altered blues changes
I’m learning them on my new digital B3 organ copy
I’m going to send him a recording when I’ve got the changes down
I can still talk about music with him, though I fear I’ve lost him
But I always knew him to be out there
Scherzoid in most anything not
Music

JANUARY 20, 2021

There was a time when I had a song to sing
When verse and music rang with order and rhythm in writing and play
And now all I know is disorder, dismay, this loser presidential insurrection thing
Or whatever is the loser presidential crisis of the day

This military presence surrounding the Mall and people’s house
Where Carol and I strolled summoned by all those loser presidential lies
His drunk lemming loser acolytes genuflecting this louse
Off the cliff of reason, sunk deep in unsubstantiated mires where truth dies

And I write a song.  A good performance song on a platform upstaged
By a raucous tragicomedy loser presidential reality gong show
And piano tones I play ring hollow in an echo chamber enraged—
The riot’s cacophonic muse strings discord, a noose played by insurrectionist bow

I play the blues but hear only angry death metal
Melodic changes gift joys deliciously—those same joys seditiously supplanted
And an hour of peace with keyboard tones that ring gentle
In my heartfelt art is all that I ever want and wanted

THE WASTE THAT DESCENDS UPON ME

I can’t practice with Depakote in me

Playing over the same wrong notes I know better

Before my nightly dose, and it’s all a waste after the pills

It’s only been 6 months since my last med adjustment

It was all a waste for 27 years before my p-doc took me off olanzapine

And I couldn’t play my embarrassed way through a single song

Finish a Tai Ch’i form and someone in the studio noticed

Me wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and asked me

About it and why I couldn’t get it

Now the fog clears in the morning like sleeping off a drunk

And I get back to the piano and the new charts I’m learning

For the new band I’m forming I think I can play in as if my old chops

Were still there, when I could play Bach’s Toccata in D-Minor

And now I’m stumbling through Little Wing after my 10PM meds

The Depakote I can’t play under the influence of or operate heavy machinery

And it’s only rote scales which I need anyway

After my nightly dose, the waste that descends upon me and my practice sessions

I can’t play under the influence of Depakote

Only write

SONNET: WEALTH IN POVERTY

School taught me life with meager earning

I learned to live, and also to live well

During the time I devoted my life to learning

I learned that the best things markets don’t sell

 

My material possessions now give

The means to continue to learn and grow

Impoverishment is showing me a better way to live

Books, guitar, and Bach on the piano

 

Excess wealth can turn into complacency

And self-absorbed indifference to others

Time can pass in mindless frivolity

In egotistical isolation from our sisters and brothers

 

Impoverished circumstances can be abundant

And meager income become, in fact, a major grant