Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cornel Dogwood Grove

Cornel Dogwood Grove

bearing fruit it’s vermilion & green,
as if its blossoms opened anew—
to keep your guest in these mountains
offer him this hibiscus cup

Translation by Jack Hayes © 2017
based on Wang Wei: 茱萸沜
zhū yú pàn

Image links to its source in Wiki Commons:
Cornus officinalis's fruits; photo by Dalgial, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedlicense.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Two Alsea River Octets


1. morning

the Stellar’s Jay whistling in the Douglas-fir
is echoed by the silence of mergansers

as they drift downstream through poplar reflections,
their own reflections mingled with green tangles;

midstream the image of firs lie across
the water except for the one cleft of sky—

which reminds me the espresso pot’s steaming
waiting to be poured into forest green cups

2. noon

invisible bird sings in 7/8 time
through ash leaves past the elderberry bushes;

poplar leaves float west on the green river through
poplar reflections; three blackberry blossoms

directly in front of me & you reading
the heartbreaking story of the US west;

butterflies spin lazily through shaft of sun,
turn into ash leaves just before they touch ground

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Everyday

Welcome to the Sunday Music feature on Robert Frost’s Banjo. Today we continue our July appreciation of Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

So far we’ve featured performances that highlight Gilmore’s strengths as a ballad singer, & those strengths are considerable. But Gilmore has always had an appreciation for honky tonk country music, & both his own compositions & songs he’s covered reflect that. Here he is fronting the Flatlanders band in full honky tonk incarnation; the Flatlanders are of course Gilmore, Butch Hancock, & Joe Ely (& various friends over the years). As one pressing of their original recordings pointed out in its title, the Flatlanders are in many ways “More a Legend than a Band”, as all three founders have gone on to successful solo careers & collaborations with other musicians. But fortunately for us, the Flatlanders also still perform together with both new & old material.

Hope you enjoy the music! In other news, I’m hoping to get the blog back up to something resembling a normal schedule in the next week.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Dust over Lubbock, Texas. Taken from the sixth floor of the Biology building at Texas Tech University, 21 March 2013. Photo by Fredlyfish4, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0International license.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Just a Wave, Not the Water

We return to our series on Jimmie Dale Gilmore with another live performance. Backed by Bill Frisell on guitar, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, & Viktor Krauss, Gilmore gives us a beautiful version of Butch Hancock’s heartbreaking “Just a Wave, Not the Water”. Indeed, Gilmore has recorded this song on two different albums: his 1988 High Tone release, Fair & Square, & also Spinning Around the Sun, which was released in 1993 on the Elektra label. On the AllMusic site, Mark Deming characterized the latter version of Hancock’s song as “near-definitive”.

Hope you enjoy the music.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Galveston Island State Park — on Galveston Island along Galveston Bay, on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Skies over park's beach and the Gulf of Mexico. 12 January 2014. Photo by Yinan Chen. Per Wiki Commons: “This file has been released explicitly into the public domain by its author, using the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. This file may be used for any purpose including unrestricted redistribution, commercial use, and modification.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Three Independence Day Octets

Independence Day Octet #1

late morning when the blinds open, a bird sings
somewhere beyond white parked cars—we haven’t been

introduced—there’s sunlight of course, a ghostly
butterfly to the east, but not the Far East;

we were looking at new colors for Lenten
roses—they were bocce balls on a west coast

lawn somewhere between Rockaway’s broken sand
dollar & Golden Gate Park’s calla lilies


Independence Day Octet #2

in the Renaissance they knew the soul is black,
the opposite of that souvenir baseball,

the one come to rest against my father’s watch;
afternoon’s firecrackers snap like banjo

strings bursting through a Marshall amp, the one lugged
up Burnside by the guy in black; a sky blue

heart drawn in sidewalk chalk, centered on the crack,
the one where I’m trying to find my mother


Independence Day Octet #3

a harmonica chord—let’s say C major—
morphs into the sound of a baby crying;

the sun, like the rest of us, is headed west,
the sky with its intentions both good & blue,

is otherwise empty unlike that front porch
piled with dried sunflowers; they make no sound

unlike that hammer against shingles or that
harmonica reverting to single notes

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Another Colorado

We return with more Jimmie Dale Gilmore for our Sunday Music series.

Today’s video features Gilmore in a solo setting performing his song “Another Colorado”. Gilmore describes the lyrics as “enigmatic”, but they’re also fun & wise, & the melody is beautiful. Just a lovely rendering of this composition, which can be found on his 1993 Elektra album, Spinning Around the Sun.

Hope you enjoy the music.

Image connects to its source on Wiki Commons:
"Postcard photo of the California Zephyr on Denver & Rio Grande trackage along the Colorado River in Western Colorado. In this segment of the journey, the train was headed by Denver and Rio Grande locomotives."
Public domain per Wiki Commons.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Two Octets from Early July

Evening Walk Octet

one star breaks loose from the Big Dipper, becomes
an airplane, makes straight for the silver half moon,

tail light blinking red; there’s not a single cloud—
the avenue though is thick with cherry leaves

& streetlights fragment in the foliage &
the mirror of a parked black motorcycle—

yucca stems have collapsed under their own white
weight; you stop to touch the redbud’s dark heart leaves


Monday Morning Moody Octet

having written the identical poem
a thousand times over I’ve come no closer

to wisdom; the harsh hum of a lawn mower
comes right through the blinds & spins by my shoulder,

& my heart’s as black as this Year of the Horse
hoodie dated 2002 I’m wearing

despite the fact it’s July, the zodiac’s
shifted, the sky’s cloudless far as I can see

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, July 2, 2017


July is upon us, & so we’re introducing a new feature artist for the Sunday Music series. & it’s a bit of a shift from the music we’ve been featuring, as July’s artist is none other than the great Jimmie Dale Gilmore, founding member of the Flatlanders, a uniquely gifted singer & songwriter who works in the Americana sound—or as some have said, in “Country & Eastern music”, given Gilmore’s penchant for mysticism.

Today’s selection is from an eTown concert that paired Gilmore with Dave Alvin (with eTown’s Nick Forster on mandolin), & it showcases Gilmore’s terrifically soulful voice in his beautiful reading of Woody Guthrie’s song “Deportee” (music by Martin Hoffman). Of course no one needs to be reminded of the current relevance of this moving song.

The performance itself starts at 1:30, but what Gilmore has to say in the opening minute & a half is both interesting &—to my mind—important, so I invite you to listen to the entire video.

Hope you enjoy the music! I look forward to bringing you other selections showcasing Gilmore’s talents as both a singer & songwriter throughout the month.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:

Jimmie Dale Gilmore performs at the 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, 5 October 2014. Photo by David Becker [link provided for this user at Wiki Commons is empty], who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 Internationallicense

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Get Together

The performance starts at about 1:25, but I’d invite you to stick around for the opening remarks by Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore. For more Jimmie Dale Gilmore, be sure to check out the Sunday Music feature tomorrow & throughout July.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Peace art (collection of stones) in Näckrosen metro station, Stockholm. Photographed in April 2013. Photo by Sigurdas, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedlicense.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sauvie Island Eternal Return Octets

                        for Sandy

1. Convenience Store

parallel to candy bar racks, cardboard bins
filled with lead sinkers, pyramids & oblongs,

the addition of gravity to current,
carrying lures down to sturgeon depth; bobbers

meantime, red & white confections, put you in
mind of floating; we talk about watching the twitch

on still water as the fish nibbled sending
gray ripples out in circles a long time past

2. Pastoral

the llama watching a flock of sheep as it
kneels in the cottonwood’s shade hasn’t been sheared;

heat hasn’t started to shimmer off blacktop,
but an osprey rides a low thermal over

that hayed pasture; a kestrel swoops up, perches
on a power line, goes still against spotless

blue sky—it stretches deep in this heat; flowers
have replaced the engine of the red farm truck

3. Strawberry Picking

snow fields on the three mountains rise north & east;
scarlet hearts on their runners in rows lining

that knoll; juice on fingers, dust in sneaker mesh,
orange sun hat shading your face as you crouch—

light translated to that sweet taste on the tongue,
juice oozing from bags, the bottom layer pressed—

downhill, hydrangeas reflect sky, daisies
reflect sun as if this was a child’s painting

4. Multnomah Channel

bald eagle soars between sun & moored houseboats;
father, mother, children each casts a line from

rocks just down the channel from where we duck in
the cold wake the sailboat’s inboard engine

transmits to the shore; water that green black blue
the Chinese call nature’s color, at least in

translation; rocks sharp underfoot, cottonwood
pollen floating: lightness, risk, as if children

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

June Moon

(8 quatrains)

1. new moon

one blush rose blossoming east reflects the sun
in more than one sense; the white rose bushes bloom

fair weather clouds come to earth—flying straight west
above blacktop one crow carries the new moon

2. waxing crescent

that single white rose by the front steps unfurls
new petals under the rosemary’s needles—

west horizon holds on almost white at dusk:
the crescent a lone petal in deeper blue

3. half moon

the rhododendron lets its petals fall off
to their mauve sleep along the walkway; brass wind

chimes play a lazy riff down the street; those white
clouds soar: half moon appears to sink on the slant

4. waxing gibbous

the big magnolia’s first white flowers gaze
south past the bus stop sign, almost shyly; this

violet light’s a bruise on the horizon:
the moon’s pupil looks in the same direction

5. full moon

in eight second story windows, just one light—
above the concrete, the shikimi’s leaves nod;

cedar boughs ripple against a dark sky where
the moon emerges as if between curtains

6. waning gibbous

leaves are black paper cutouts on this block past
the white reach of any streetlights; two rooftops

drawn in ink lines hemmed with a golden brushstroke:
moon just past full rises between their chimneys

7. last quarter

beyond green trusses of the Interstate Bridge
three geese fly south: shadows against overcast—

white sailboat mid-river is waiting for wind:
half moon drifts toward setting beyond white clouds

8. waning crescent

petals & leaves of the cirrocumulus:
the eyes can never visit the same one twice;

could cottonwood pollen fall from that distance?
blinded by the sun in search of the crescent

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Volunteered Slavery

We bring our all-too-brief series on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s music to a conclusion today—but it is a rousing conclusion!

This video shows Kirk in peak form, playing sax, a conch shell, a gong, police whistle, & eventually using a wood chair as a percussion instrument, destroying it in the process! The energy level is at maximum level, & also includes a great piano solo by Ron Burton, while Kirk wanders through the audience at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, led by his percussionist & sidekick, Joe Habao Texidor.

“Volunteered Slavery” is the title track of a 1969 Kirk album issued on Atlantic. He also played it as a coda to “The Old Rugged Cross” on his masterful 1972 release, Blacknuss (& I very much regret I wasn’t able to fit a cut from that album into this overview).

I hope you enjoyed these selections, & if you’re new to Kirk’s music, I hope this spurs you to explore his work further. Stay tuned next month for more Sunday music!

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Roland Kirk playing at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry UK, January 1972.” Photo by Kentrethewey [link provided on Wiki Commons is empty], who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

Friday, June 23, 2017

Backyard Loving-Kindness Double Octet

                        for Sandy

you & I talking over coffee, bench swing
rocking between sun & shade, the motionless

bicycle pinwheel in the garden, foxglove
flashes white facing east, purple facing west--

spider silk strung from the paperbark maple
to the rhododendron glistens, a live wire

vanishes as we turn our heads; such is light:
meanwhile we’ve each turned up in the other’s eyes

daylilies blossom in an orange circle
ahead of today’s heat; the future happens:

that frame hammock streaked with the ginkgo's shadow,
a rusted songbird’s mute note on the latticed

fence rail, that glass sun with curved black metal rays
& face; clematis twines on a bamboo pole,

& prayer flags reach from there to the pear tree:
light permeates ragged fabric, thread by thread

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dao De Jing 15

Dao De Jing 15

The ancient & skillful sages, subtle, mysterious, profound, were too deep to be fathomed. Because men could not fathom them, it’s best to describe their appearance:
Cautious as men fording a river in winter!
Trembling with fear at what surrounded them!
Grave & respectful as a guest!
Dispersing like melting ice!
Simple as uncarved wood!
Empty as a gorge!
Turbid as muddy water!
Who can turn muddy water gradually clear?
Who being quiescent can stir others to life?
Those who preserve the Way don’t desire fulfillment.
Not desiring fulfillment, they remain concealed & don’t ripen prematurely

Laozi, 道德經
Translation by John Hayes
Unlike with my original poetry & poetry translations, I don’t asset a copyright claim on my translation of the Dao De Jing. It may be freely used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Depiction of the Daoist immortal Lü Chunyang, also known as Lü Dongbin”: Zhang Lu (1464–1538) – Ink and light colors on gold-flecked paper; album leaf. Ming Dynasty.
Public domain.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Four Octets on the Way to the Solstice


1. Williams Ave Morning

the cartoon bee on the shop sign seems to fly
smiling into white birches, satisfied to

never land—katsura branches reach higher
than 10:30 sun, but its light penetrates

leaf skin on the verge of translucence, veined green
hearts—multi-dimensional curve & swirl of

black plum flattened to silhouette on pale green
fabric of a picnic table umbrella

2. 7th Ave Noon

the Japanese maple’s parasol: spring green
below, maroon up top; white pickup truck

in the driveway matches two calla lilies
by the house, at least in some sense; vanilla,

strawberry, chocolate balloons swirl on that
sandwich board’s ribbon as noon sun emerges

to cast the invisible robin’s shadow,
the one singing from the invisible tree

3. Glisan St Afternoon

near the bus stop the sidewalk’s strewn green with grass
a weed-whacker scattered there; elsewhere sharp black

angles of street signs, the power lines’ scalloped
edges criss-cross concrete; it’s different in

the sky: cotton rags of the cumulus clouds,
the poor at heart at the fringe of the high blue—

bamboo stands up in galvanized tubs above
barbed wire strands into irresistible light

4. Mississippi Ave Evening

at Beech St the sun has dropped below that brick
building, just the magnolia’s top boughs glow;

half a block north, white light halo envelopes
the ash tree,  blinding inflorescence of rays

intersects power lines; bus stop sign bends its
half-circle shadow up a plate glass door; my

shadow stretches past golden bamboo east to
the red metal bench where I saw us talking

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Crépuscule Sans Laisse

Some beautiful music for your day of endless twilight from Esmerine. Enjoy!

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
"Midsommar" ("Midsummer"): EvaBonnier; 1900 – oil on canvas.
Public domain

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bright Moments

It’s Sunday—& that means more Rahsaan Roland Kirk!

I don’t tend to think in terms of “favorites” when it comes to creative work—no “favorite” poet, musician, song, poem, etc. What speaks most directly to me at one point in my life is bound to change as time passes &, with that passage of time, my consciousness changes. But having said that, today’s song means a great deal to me & has for many years. I first heard it played at the Vermont Jazz Festival in the 1970s, a dark time in my life, a time very much in need of “bright moments”—there’s something about this music that speaks to me on the deepest level.

This performance is from Kirk’s Bright Moments album, recorded live at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner & released on the Atlantic label in 1973. Indeed, the record is a great introduction to Kirk’s music, as it covers a wide array of styles—from the transcedent post-bop flute playing of the title track to his tenor sax take on Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”, & a whole lot of greatness in between.


Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
"Roland Kirk at Ronnie Scott's Club" by Del de la Haye (Flickr name:del) who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Four Views of Arbor Lodge


1. Bus Stop

wisteria trailing from a galvanized
trellis quivers purple & green in drizzle

2. Construction Site

mourning dove perched on the cyclone fence cocks its
head toward stratus clouds gray as its feathers

3. Parking Strip

kale sprouts green & purple inside chicken wire,
the raised bed's earth black as the driveway puddle

4. Playground

yellow toy bulldozer sunk in sandbox mud;
wet tennis court transformed to green glass mirror

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Dao De Jing 14

Dao De Jing 14

Look at it, do not see, give the name beyond form;
Listen to it, do not hear, give the name beyond speech;
Seize it, don’t obtain it, give the name abstruse.

Looked at, it’s not seen & is named formless;
Listened to, it’s not heard & is named beyond speech;
Seized, it’s not grasped & is named abstruse.
These three qualities aren’t possible to investigate, so we mix them together to create the One.
Above it there’s no light & below it there’s no darkness.
Beyond measure, it has no name, & it returns again & again to nothingness.
It is named form without form, image without image, indistinct & dim.
Meeting it, there is no front; following it, there is no rear.
Follow the ancient Way & you can master the present.
To know the ancient beginning is to pick up the thread of the Way.

Laozi, 道德經
Translation by John Hayes
Unlike with my original poetry & poetry translations, I don’t asset a copyright claim on my translation of the Dao De Jing. It may be freely used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Wu Tang Cliffside Temple
Date    photo taken 1994 by Wiki User Fire Star [empty link on Wiki Commons].
This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Fire Star at the English Wikipedia project. This applies worldwide.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sleeping & Waking Octet

                        for Sandy

dried blush roses kept in a nightstand vase, blue
& white quilted bedspread, windows sloped to catch

the moon’s reflection of the white rose blooming
by the porch where the cat shuts its lunar eyes,

where bamboo chimes lend night a tongue; the alarm
clock’s chimes, aluminum birds singing in a

breeze, the one spinning holographs into flesh
here at the intersection of dreams & hands

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jinzhu Ridge

Jinzhu Ridge

sandalwood & goldenrain shine at the empty bend;
kingfisher-green swirls in the stream’s ripples—
a secret way opens to the Shang Mountain path:
not even the woodcutters can know of it

Translation by Jack Hayes
© 2017
based on Wang Wei: 斤竹嶺
jīn zhú lĭng

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
"Sunset Landscape": Ma Lin; ink & color on silk – 1254 CE
Public domain

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Serenade to a Cuckoo

We continue our series on the music of Rahsaan Roland Kirk with a live performance of his wonderful composition, “Serenade to a Cuckoo”.  This piece first appeared on Kirk’s all flute album, I Talk With theSpirits, released on Limelight in 1964. Although this album was later re-issued on CD, it’s currently out-of-print, which is absolutely criminal. If you can find a used copy at your local music store, I’d encourage you to pick it up—great music.

Indeed, while Kirk is most renowned for his reed playing, he was also one of the best jazz flutists, as inventive on that instrument as he was on the sax. This is a beautiful rendition of the song, & also features a brief concluding interlude on nose flute—& no feature on Rahsaan Roland Kirk would be complete without the nose flute making an appearance.

Hope you enjoy it!

Image links to its source at Wiki Commons:
“Roland Kirk playing at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry UK, January 1972, with Henry Pete Pearson (bass), Rahn (Ron) Burton (piano), Joe Habao Texidor (percussion), and unidentified drummer.” Photo by Kentrethewey [link provided on Wiki Commons is empty], who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Interstate Ave Celestial Terrestrial Double Octet


water tower rises west, green oval sun
in the wrong quadrant; seen through a barred window

the model train at rest, the trestle crosses
painted water empty; its boughs a veil that

weeping birch turned Mater Dolorosa shades
the convenience store; the man in his sky blue

jersey in the motel parking lot sweeps pink
rhododendron petals into a dustpan

six white birches stand upright in white morning,
last month’s catkins dried against the pull box lid;

clover froths up from the parking strip; the train’s
bell rings in a time signature I can’t count,

its passengers facing both north & south; just
one maple it passes is wrapped in unlit

lights; water tower rises next to the firehouse:
round green sun in stasis in the eastern sky

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017



Qutang in the night: its waters black;
within the city, the watch changes—

shaded, shaded, the moon sinks in fog;
shining, shining, stars near the tower—

life faltering, accepting less sleep;
mind fragile, hating to know sorrow—

ramparts spreading in mountain valleys;
Peach Blossom Spring existing nowhere

Translation by Jack Hayes
© 2017
based on Du Fu: 不寐
bù mèi

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Clouds Rising from the Green Sea”, from a series of paintings of water: Ma Yuan, circa 1225 CE. ink on silk.
Public domain

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Inflated Tear

This week’s Sunday Music post is late indeed, as it’s well into Monday afternoon out here in Portland, Oregon. But while today’s post is both late & shorter than I'd have liked, I didn’t want to miss a week, & am really excited about this month’s featured artist.

In fact, in June I’ll be featuring music from one of my all-time favorite musicians, an artist I was privileged to see perform live twice way back when—Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

If you love jazz, if you love great music, if you love singular & powerful expressions of the artistic spirit, then Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s music is for you. Kirk played with passion, virtuosity, & almost unreal inventiveness. A master on reed instruments, a talented composer, & indeed, a visionary in his ability to connect popular music of his day with the most up-to-date currents in jazz (as for instance on his Motown-inspired 1971 album Blacknuss), Kirk brought a complex musical vision to bear throughout his work.

Of course Kirk was known for his ability to play multiple reed instruments at once, as well as his incredible ability to use circular breathing in his playing. But it’s important to stress that these techniques went far beyond showmanship, & were integral to the symphonic imagination found in his playing & composition.

A truly great artist. As was the case with Arvo Pärt, such a short series is only going to give the most bare bones introduction to his music, but if you aren’t familiar with Kirk, I do hope these posts inspire you to seek out more of his music. & if you already know his work, I know you’re going to enjoy them & be moved by them!

Here Kirk plays his composition “The Inflated Tear” live around the time the piece was written.

Note: No post tomorrow (Tuesday 6/6/17) to give this post a full day plus to “headline” the blog.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Roland Kirk, "Rahsan Roland Kirk" Live im Großen Sedesaal des NDR Hamburg, 1972. Photo by Heinrich Klaffs [also here], who makes this image available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Genericlicense.