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I used to spend a lot of time on the sunny indoor porch of our house when I was a kid. Sometimes I’d be reading or attempting to draw something. Most of the time I’d find myself immersed in music. One particular day when I was 10, I was checking out The Bee Gees’ Main Course album. The first song is “Nights on Broadway,” and naturally, I started singing along. The next thing I knew, my mom was freaking out.
“Robin can sing! Come listen, Robin can SING!” “Of course, I can sing,” I thought. I always sang! I was puzzled and fairly startled by the flurry this caused. I didn’t particularly enjoy my mom’s insistence that I perform my vocal rendition of “Nights on Broadway” for nearly everyone who came to the house for some time after, but now I find it an amusing memory. I’m glad now that I know the exact moment when I began to realize that there is such a thing as a “singing voice” and that by some, this is considered a gift. I was blessed to discover I had something someone thought worth developing, and blessed also that this was encouraged.
It is really too bad that the whole disco thing made The Bee Gees the group so many people loved to hate. I am not a disco hater personally, and can have fun with the Saturday Night Fever stuff. I also admire Barry, Maurice, and Robin as songwriters and performers who had the magic touch during that era to basically take over the world. But it is their pre-disco, and some of the post-disco era music that I really love. Many of the early songs are pieces of pop joy forever embedded in my brain, so much so that I rarely need to actually listen to them – they are just there somewhere in the deep psyche, part of me that can be called up anytime. It is especially wonderful, then, when I do revisit tunes like “Holiday,” “First of May,” and “Massachusetts.”
It has taken the better part of this week for me to face writing this blog. I was driving last Sunday, turned on the radio, and heard the beautiful harmonies on tail end of “Run to Me.” I hoped against hope, but knew the truth. The DJ was about to come back on the air and announce that Robin Gibb had died. All week I’ve been avoiding typing those words. I can think about it now, at least a little, without crying. It is still hard for me to comprehend how his strangely gorgeous, haunting vibrato could really be gone. One of my mother’s absolute favorite songs was “I Started a Joke,” which she thought was about Jesus. Mom is gone, too, and I suspect that is a lot of what is coming up for me now. Parents gone. One Bee Gee left. The passing of everything. The wheel turns.
I love how Robin always seemed like the odd Bee Gee out – a little more of an introvert, sometimes seeming a bit off-time with the stage movements, usually with the hand over the ear thing, which I found both practical and endearing. Andy was my major pre-teen heartthrob, but it was still fun to idly wonder once in a while what it would be like to one day become Mr. & Mrs. Robin & Robin Gibb. That according to various gossipy sources his long and successful open marriage was with a bisexual Druid Priestess makes me imagine perhaps he & I would have gotten along very well. I have been moved to tears many times over this past month as I read stories of Robin’s deep connection with his wife Dwina, as she and the rest of the family stayed by his bedside. I send love and healing to the family. Blessings on your journey, RG.
I’m fairly certain it was the same year as the “singing voice” discovery that two friends and I sat on the stadium gate at Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. We were determined to be first in line to get in to see the Andy Gibb show – our first concert ever. Things went wrong when screaming girls rushed the gate and we got swallowed up by the mayhem. It wasn’t until I was among the many thousands in Washington, D.C. for Barack Obama’s inauguration and felt the momentary wave of a densely packed crowd that I really realized how much potential danger we were in that day when we were kids. In that moment, I grew incredibly grateful that we’d survived.
There are many more Gibb musings where these came from. I have a lot more processing to do over Robin’s passing. Actual acceptance feels a bit far off. Meanwhile so much about Robin in particular, his work, and his life inspire me daily. I have been working on a piece called Brothers, but it remains unwieldy. I am finding that it is not easy to capture all the complexities that these guys and their music apparently call up for me. So for now, I will leave you with a poem fragment inspired by the little bro.
When the crowd began to swallow us
there was no time for comparison.
No angry ocean.
The Who had yet to bear witness to death in Cincinnati.
In seconds, it is
a human autoclave,
full circles around us, we are
blanketed by panic
many bodies, one drunk giant
Wallet, shoe tugging, then tumbling
beyond the swells and gone
Denise losing breath, slipping, a lost doll down.
Rollercoaster and Rotunda, we’d thought –
another day -
as we’d waited, determined, in oppression of afternoon sun
on Six Flags stadium gate
first in line, first concert, for our collective first love
Now guards’ hands lift us straight up by thin child’s wrists
Somehow, up and over the death crush
to where there is air for ten-year-olds.
Later when we met back up with Dad and Uncle Lou
I wobbled and hopped, a shoeless pelican.
Between wet-faced sobs, I managed,
“Dad! We saw him! I LOVE him!”
Not only did we survive.
Andy, we had lived glory.
Last year, I was very faithful to my intention to write a poem each day for National Poetry Writing Month. I didn’t make much headway with it this time around at first. Some combination of lack of discipline, sleep, and inspiration left me with a few jagged, unfinished lines across a few days. I didn’t feel as badly about it as I thought I might. It just didn’t seem to be happening.
Then, NPR’s afternoon show, Tell Me More, announced that they’d be featuring poetic tweets each day. Something clicked for me, and I have really been enjoying finding the essentials, boiling down some experience or complex mood to 140 characters or less. I gave myself the extra challenge of using every character if I could, inclusive of the hash tag: #tmmpoetry.
I could see doing much more writing like this @spiritrockssexy – letting the little bursts of creativity out where there is little room for explanation. I cheated a bit, perhaps, as a few of these seemed to call for titles in addition to their 140. Some of these poems feel like just a beginning. Still, this is an interesting way to find the opening lines.
I was pleased to find this first one (sans title) was posted on Tell Me More’s Muses & Metaphor 2012 page:
Today, while anticipating you in summer
took to the fern print blanket.
sang first time this month.
remembered the reinless hum of wanting.
bought raisins and radishes.
Green Earrings, essential
(Inspired by: Fire in the Hole – Sara Isaksson & Rebecka Törnqvist)
Two voices, harmony
a lifeline drawn in French kiss tension
piano, honey-stark, sets free keys
shaven to breathless brilliance
A churning stomach digesting stories
misses truth by the volume of its growling.
My frantic eye missed the prism
hard muscle tribal tats
under cargo pants, bikini shaven
square hips, a blonde girl swoosh!
a cartwheel through gender playground
ginger hot I watch
sweet like petals
a hand a shoulder
a still center
a third heart
privy to their union
our silky wonder
Just past Jackson Rd.
horses, goats, and green replace
hardwares and fire trucks.
No Trespassing Park is worth a quick defiance.
Take off the faded blues
business casual, glitter
or let little black dress fall
What do you see in life, naked?
I Should Look Again Tomorrow
Grey failings, lanced through to center
judged even by the sweet empathic eye.
So apparent is my never-vibrant purple,
It has taken me days to write anything at all on the passing of the wonderful Levon Helm. At least, here is a tiny first try.
Phoenix of the holler and hip
electric American dirt
your voice has outgrown the reel.
Travel well, backbeat healer.
This month began with my taking on some overdue spiritual work. I have needed to release old energies – angers, fears, the psychic remnants of people no longer in my life for good reason. The first steps to opening wounds in order to heal them are scary ones, but I am appreciating the journey of the aftermath. Music, poems, passages from books that need be written are moving through me at a rate that allows me to tap what I can as it floats by and to hope the rest comes back around. Some good work was done this weekend on the forthcoming chant CD. Other ideas are at least making it to notes here and there, to be gathered when possible.
My work of release and healing began on April 1st, which corresponded with the beginning of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). I decided to observe the writing expedition, and the poems so far document and explore this inviting of rapid progress. For now, I am calling the collection-in-progress Cord-Cutting. I am remembering my love for language and my openness to love.
April 1, 2011
Cheese and Buttons
Phone number paper scrap
Cheese and old buttons tooth-scraped pithless orange peel
think they have won the war by a show of sheer numbers.
I am no suburbanite in hipster camouflage,
not as lost in the details as the inanimates think I look.
The carnelian in my belly
Glows out beyond the fuzzy edges, my skin.
I remember lost chips among the ticket stubs and dishes,
regain them in bursts of confident orange.
April 2, 2011
The Other Side of Chaos
On the other side of chaos the vines grow all through winter.
Ensnared by one foot, caught before struggle,
it is easy to wonder how many years
of vines alone would erase all evidence.
There are stacks of board games
for the loneliest trek
of Monopoly or Clue in a crowd.
The everyday staircase
is worthy of a panic display
And the bathtub, of quiet avoidance.
Fear of stairs and water
cannot stop the spring.
Silence is kept at bay
With fluorescent light and Headline News.
No wonder the ones who whisper stories at night
bring Pride parade molesters
and dismal surgeons unexpected from the basement.
On the other side of chaos,
tired bones still arrive hopeful.
There is breakfast.
Cream of Wheat and honey
And time today to start again.
April 3, 2011
Nervous stomach knows more
Than any other part still reasoning
Cord-cutting is a business of releasing
lead from soft muscle
What falls away might land hard
If you don’t get out of the way
Lead into gold, an old goal
And a good one
Cord-cutting, with breath and vision and incantation and
Ghost whisperer’s kinder, gentler “Get the fuck out.”
Lead falls from soft muscle
Lead into gold, coins
Tonight, to spend alone
April 4, 2011
Welcome Home, He Said
Babylon Sisters shake
Any other day, ambrosia,
Today, comfort like salt substitute
Ultra-smooth sound food,
Alone can be poems, mead, meditation, resolution
Alone can be mute, horny, & patternless
For a Brian Wilson descent
One first needs brilliance
My dull non-response to evening
Gets a break, caught
In a basket of Earth, Wind, & Fire
Seven more pages and love lost
Sorted and filed today
A meal of figs and seltzer
May be Charlie Parker chill
Or hanging on the words
Of the audiophile who will send XTC
Could be the firefly spark
Of it all reimagined
Alone can be mute, horny, & patternless
a grand welcoming home
April 5, 2011
When I meet my lovers on the edge of the brown clay shore
I will join a circle, not a crowd
The river will carry its weight in lotus blessings
And the trodden park grass will know the sound
Of three or four or five hands clasped
In holy union
The sun will warm our skin to its most sacred state
Beneath sari or skirt or handsome butch pressed slacks
The sun will reach skin that knows
Our bare feet will thank between-toes pebbles for being
And there will be a noisy picnic in the next grove over
With a swing set I would jump on were I not taking vows
When I meet my lovers by the oaks and pines
It will be summer and the air will smell of ginger and sweet tomatoes
Charcoal and soccer and the purple petals strewn on every blanket
I will look out and believe in the power of colorful friends
I will become a partner and believe in the power of confidence
Stillness will multiply ninefold and there will be a kiss and a kiss
and a kiss and a kiss and a kiss