COFFEE HOUSE

Way back, I went to one Coffee House
Folk music, acoustic guitar, harpsichord
Hot chocolate, and coffee; dim lights
The only Coffee House I ever went to

            they don’t have them, now

Simon and Garfunkel; Peter, Paul, and Mary
And there was Dylan—Coffee Houses and folk music
Poetic, political, sensitive, intellectual, gently passionate
Or so I hear, but for the one I experienced

            passing away as I came of age

I knew rock concerts in stadia, electric, loud
I went to them when they were underground
(Jethro Tull barely filled the cement floor with folding chairs)
Now rock concerts, rock-stars are mainstream industry

            underground surfacing into pop-culture dominance

Music calling to my youthful intentions heavy and I followed
Bore down on scales, arpeggios, mambos, and fugues
Theory filled my interests; I practiced hours daily in late youth
Until two roads diverged; I divested my passion of full-time art work

            conscious submerging into secret recesses, private

In maturity I must modulate my practice time
Rest and build up piano-specific muscles otherwise unused
Not unlike the arthritis in the great E. Power Biggs’ Bach fingers
My wrists, shoulder, hurt, ribs stiffen

            to replay scales, chords, changes

Modulation of effort’s tonality
Depressing keys, depressing decrepitude
Making music’s exercise caution
Within all this beauty, this duet of body and keystroke

            we all call music in our cultural forms’ venues

I recently checked out a new club
I couldn’t follow any pattern to the loud bass tones
A woman wrapped herself in a flag while singing
A song I couldn’t pick out any real melody: only notes

            looks like things are going that way now

I went in and out of a club
Lights flashing, beats oscillating
I think they call it Techno
Bodies bumping into shots dancing

            Looks like things are going that way now

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

KNOWLEDGE, APPRECIATION, AND ENJOYMENT

I enjoy reading Shakespeare when I’m moved to

Richard III is thrilling

When I don’t have to study it for a course:

Memorize plot, character, Act and scene

Nietzsche on Greek Tragedy is enthralling

When I don’t have to place it in relation to

Zarathustra, Christian criticism, Ubermensch, herd

Education is a mixed blessing

A blessing, if it serves to enhance

Joy in culture’s works

Mixed if it serves merely to teach

Appreciation only, or worse, criticism

Still, without education, I wouldn’t read Shelley

And Shelley teach me to enjoy Shakespeare

A REFLECTION ON THE ’80’S

I remember back in the ‘80’s

How often I heard how hard life is

How tough you have to get, to be, to get ahead

How many were reading Sun Tzu, The Art of War

How many longed to be back in college

Protected, with their friends, the camaraderie, safe

 

Fighting your way to the top is hard, tough

Clawing your way into obscene wealth is hard, tough

Competing with your fellows, maybe screwing them over

You have to get tough, and it is hard if you choose these paths

I haven’t studied war, and haven’t become tough

I know disappointment, grief, crushed dreams

The consequences of too much love

 

Creativity is hard, but not conflict with my fellows

The satisfaction I know in word or tone shames wealth

I claw my way into creations I love to live with

I compete with my piano, with pen or keyboard

I do not know where the top is, what it is, but I will likely not be there

I know the struggle of satisfying art, soul satisfactions

 

The path I have chosen tends toward calm

The friends I continue to make make community, trust

I continue to learn, learn peace, wisdom, love

I find that is a struggle with mortal stakes

That life is hard, yet it doesn’t make me tough, and I wish no retreat

Into adolescent protection, sophomoric camaraderie

The realization of such a longing would be retreat indeed

From all of my struggle to grow in peace, wisdom, love

And I wish nothing more

TIME AND REFLECTION ON LIFE CHOICES

He did alright for himself

That’s how I see my friend, now

He made a living out of music

Married and raised a family

 

A benefit of age is perspective

I knew him before it all

He was a waiter and I a doctoral student

We played in a band together

 

He got a job teaching music at a ma and pop store

Pretty much the town’s only music store

I set my sights on a university professorship

I wondered then if that’s all he planned to do in life

 

He taught and gigged the past thirty-three years

Married, now the father of grown adults

A house, a family, a musician

He did alright for himself

 

I got the Ph.D., but the professorship never came through

Ordained a Swedenborgian minister a decade ago

A long-term relationship, travels together and moments

In retrospect—the gift of age—we both did alright for ourselves

KNOWING WHAT LIFE HAS GIVEN

I have the gift of perspective

The gift of years and experiences

The time and capacity for reflection

Fruitful reflection to realize

The fulfillment I have . . .

I have struggled to get somewhere

And with the struggle over I have found myself nowhere

And I have grit my teeth

Steadfastly endured miserable circumstances

I have passed time—years—just getting by

Getting by, not living—quelle dommage, pity, year after year, getting by

Impoverished

Smoking cigar after cigar

Not even paying attention to the life going by

Alone

Hours, years did go by

Alone, impoverished

Then today . . .  and I have fulfillment

When did it come?  For how long has it been?

A calling,–is it that?—music, friendships, love

Volunteer responsibilities, travel, lifelong learning, research work

Fulfillment

Embraced in rich connections

Purpose, position, ownership

Comfort, contentment without complacency,

Community

I have the gift of perspective

Time and perspective and reflection

Giving me wonder at what I have, have humbly been granted

Granted with the time I have