Saturday, March 31, 2012

There’ll Be Some Changes Made

Happy Saturday, dear readers. Just checking in with you quickly about some changes I’ll be trying on the blog at least during the month of April.

I’ve decided that I’ll be reducing the Monday Morning Blues & Banjo Friday series to every other week rather than weekly. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, these series simply aren’t getting many readers at all, & the posts themselves—while generally enjoyable to write & research—are relatively time-consuming. The series will run in alternate weeks—for instance, this coming Monday I’ll run the Monday Morning Blues (with a brand new series starting up—stay tuned), but there won’t be a Banjo Friday on April 6th; then the next week it will be just the opposite.

All the other series will continue as they have been running—Barbie Angell’s & L.E. Leone’s poems will appear on alternate Tuesdays; Rose City Wednesday & Sunday’s Photo of the Week will continue to appear weekly.  There will be no regularly scheduled posts on Thursday or Saturday, but I will leave them open (especially Thursday) for things that may come up thru the week; that's also at least theoretically true for the open Mondays & Fridays. Anyhow, that's pretty much how things have been for a while.

This will mean I'll only be committed to writing two posts per week, & I suspect that will generally be a good change
for me at least.  But I assure readers—& also other people involved in the blog—that there are things the blog offers that continue to excite me, & that continue to fit into the rhythm of my life—which of course has changed very much over the past several months.  Maybe I feel the need myself to re-group some, & cutting back on the music posts seems a way to give myself a little space to do that. I have been very much absorbed in the question of “3-D” versus “virtual” life of late, & drawing back a little on the blog is also a way of addressing that question.

But if you know me at all, you know I’m a Heraclitean at heart—I believe very much in the concept of change—never stepping in the same river twice & so forth. So for now these ideas are a concept I’ll experiment with in April, & come May, we’ll see which direction we turn!

Have a nice Saturday, friends. I leave you with the great, unique & inimitable Fats Waller to tell you the rest of the story!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dreams & Hornpipes

A happy Banjo Friday to you, one & all!

I’ve written about Bill Keith before in the Banjo Friday space, but most of that writing has been devoted to his performance of music that’s outside the typical banjo repertoire. However, Keith’s playing builds fundamentally from the bluegrass tradition even when he travels far afield;  & his playing & techniques have contributed significantly to moving this tradition forward, while simultaneously opening up other musical avenues for the banjo to explore.

One of Bill Keith’s big contributions to the bluegrass repertoire has been his using his melodic playing style to further the banjo’s use in interpreting fiddle tunes. Of course whether you’re talking bluegrass or old-time music, the fiddle is the primary melody instrument , with the banjo & (in bluegrass at least) the mandolin playing important but secondary roles. There have been exceptions—Earl Scruggs was certainly the primary melodic mover & shaker for the Foggy Mountain Boys—but as a generalization about the genres it’s certainly true.

The fact is, the way a banjo & a fiddle produce sound are very different. Everything about a fiddle is essentially melodic, from the warmth of its tones to the sustain produced by the bowing; meanwhile, everything about the banjo tends at its base to be percussive—a banjo is, after all, essentially a drum on a stick with strings. Even the big resonator banjos favored in bluegrass have very little sustain—in other words, the notes die out quickly—& generally sustain is a hallmark of a melody instrument. To compensate for the lack of sustain, the banjo player has a simple expedient—play a lot of notes!

Now this has been going on for a long time amongst banjoists & neither Scruggs nor Keith, nor any of the innovators changed that fact. What they changed has more to do with the way those torrents of notes are generated. Scruggs style was based on syncopated patterns that played “arpeggios”—in other words, the single notes that form chords. In the sense that this is chord-based, one might characterize it as “horizontal” playing, because the left hand is fundamentally forming chords across the width of the fretboard. Keith’s innovation—in dimestore terms—was to produce the notes more in terms of scales than chords, so that the left-hand movement becomes “vertical”—in other words, the left hand travels up & down the fretboard.

I’d hoped to share a video today of Keith playing a banjo trio with Tony Trischka & Béla Fleck on “John Hardy”—the cut is from their 1980 Rounder album, Fiddle Tunes for Banjo. Sadly, I found out embedding is disabled on that video, but you can view it on YouTube here. However, I did find a video of Keith tearing up a couple of standard fiddle tunes in a medley of “Devil’s Dream” & “Sailor’s Hornpipe” (with rhythm guitar backing by Jim Rooney), & that’s a lot of fun as well!

Hope you folks have been enjoying Banjo Friday. Not to introduce a “buzz killer,” but I’ve noticed that the viewing stats for both of the regular music features, Banjo Friday & Monday Morning Blues, have been dropping steadily, & over the past couple of months are really quite low. At this point, they seem to be the least popular features on the blog, which puzzles me a bit. So if you enjoy them, please help to spread the word!

Thanks, & enjoy.

Photo links to its source

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mix 10 parts White Flour with 1 part racial injustice….

[Today's post, rounding off our month of promoting David LaMotte's White Flour project, is by Barbie Angell]

With just 2 days left of David LaMotte’s Kickstarter project for his children’s book, White Flour, John asked me to write a piece in support of this, and we hope to drum up some last minute support.  Yes, now is the time to discuss the ku klux klan, the Coup Clutz Clowns & what happens when hatred meets humor.

This past week, while I was catching up on Facebook & Twitter, I was horrified to discover that some people find the anti-Obama, “n-word” bumper stickers to be funny.  I was even more bothered by the fact that the rest of the posts were people shaking their head, but not completely outraged.  Have we as a nation become so complacent about racism that we no longer feel compelled to act against it?  Does it take the shooting of an unarmed boy to give us cause to raise our voices?  Do we have to encounter such extremes to become involved?  I think not.  I think we just don’t know what we can do….but I believe David’s book provides an answer and that is one reason I am so fully in support of it.
White Flour illustration by Jenn Hales.

White Flour tells the true story of a whimsical and effective response by counter-protesters to a white supremacists’ march in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2007.  The Coup Clutz Clowns, a group of local anti-racism activists, used humor and non-violence to reveal the silliness of the march, vanquishing hatred with laughter.

The clowns slightly altered the supremacists’ chants to make them a bit… better.  As the hooded marchers shouted “white power!” the clowns joined right in, shouting “white flour!” and pulling out bags of the stuff they had brought from home for a flour fight.  They walked a bit farther and decided they had heard wrong, and that the klansmen must be shouting “white flowers!” so they shouted that, and passed flowers out to the crowd …and it gets better from there (the full text of the poem is below).  The point is that rather than shouting down the shouters, meeting rage with rage, they simply refused to take such foolishness seriously.  Fight and flight are not our only two options, and humor, it turns out, beats hatred.  At least it did on that day. ~ David LaMotte

Do I propose we all dress up as clowns and take a stand if the klan comes to our town?   No.  But I do suggest that we teach our children the values that are so cheerfully and eloquently brought to light in White Flour.   Teaching our children that bigotry is wrong is only the beginning, but what an important beginning it is.   I’ve tried to explain it to my six year-old son, and it is a completely foreign concept.  He kind of understands that some people don’t like the little girl he has a crush on.  Since she is an African-American he knows they can easily see the difference in her skin color, but he doesn’t comprehend how that can be bad.  Explaining to him, however, that some people don’t like me because I’m a Jew, is altogether lost on him.  I don’t look any different than other white people, but I’m hated by some just the same.  As for explaining his Godfather, who is gay, or any of my gay, lesbian or transgendered friends (whom he adores), well, to him that’s just an ungraspable idea.   The fact that they love shouldn’t be a bad thing, no matter who that love is given to.

The other incredibly important lesson in David LaMotte’s poem, White Flour, is that the clowns are not reaching for violence to counter hatred.  They are reaching into their bag of tricks for humor, praise and peace.   David best explains this in an email discussion we had recently.
White Flour illustration by Jenn Hales.

Someone sent me an indie press article about the event and I was knocked out by several things: one, that the mainstream press had missed this.  Two, that it’s such a good example of creative nonviolence— finding a third way beyond fight and flight.  Three, that it was so effective. And four, that it’s so creative and funny.  I find it to be an accessible story for lots of audiences, but also extremely instructive, so I wanted to share it.

“Breaking the script” is a fundamental tenet of creative nonviolence.  Responding in ways that are completely unexpected breaks us out of our patterns and opens a conflict situation up to new possible outcomes.  I love what these folks did, and it’s been fun to track them down and have some conversations about it.  The original organizers are really excited about the book.

There are plenty of other examples of this in my own life and in conflict situations I’ve been around, but this is the most entertaining story I know to illustrate that point.

The first time I heard David perform White Flour, I asked him if I could get an audio version of it to send to my family and friends for Christmas.  Being such a wonderful friend and wanting to spread this story far and wide, he agreed without hesitation.  When I learned that this, my favorite poem of all time, was going to be turned into a children’s book, I was completely thrilled.  A few weeks ago, when he launched the Kickstarter project, I felt certain that it would be successful as long as people were aware of it.  This story is so important, especially for children.   It isn’t preachy or condescending; on the contrary, it’s fun and accessible.   It is, in my opinion, the perfect way to educate our children on bigotry and nonviolence.  Most importantly, it’s true.  It’s a piece of history that should be remembered.   Should be celebrated.  Should become a part of our national conversation about putting an end to racism.

When the White Flour project surpassed its goal of $18,500 in 12 days, I was amazed.  People really embraced this story.  They fell in love with the idea and wanted to share it with their friends, both in real life and online.  You may think that the story ends here, but it doesn’t.  David has gained some pretty impressive attention with this real-life story, turned into a poem, turned into a children’s book.  There is now talk of this book becoming a part of the 5th grade curriculum in schools in Texas.   He is in also in contact with a national publicist and has learned that several well-known artists in the music industry are planning to give testimonials about his book.
White Flour illustration by Jenn Hales.

Given all this inspiring news, White Flour is no longer going to be a little project that inches its way up a tiny hill.   No, that plan just isn’t what this book wants to do.   This is now the Little Book That Could and, with the help of 471 backers so far, this book fully intends to climb a mountain.   I truly believe that it can.   The original goal of $18,500 to print 2,500 copies of White Flour is a distant memory.  The top of this mountain is now $39,000 for an initial printing of 10,000 copies and a national publicity campaign.  This means that we need to continue to spread the word.   If this money is brought in strictly through pre-orders, at $25 each, we only need 412 more to reach this goal.

That $25 on the Kickstarter page not only orders the book and includes the shipping, but because of the way Kickstarter works you also get whatever was included prior to that level.  In this case, it would include:

$1 – SMILE! I will look up from my computer and grin and be thankful for your kind support. Then I will celebrate that there are people in the world who are happy to trade a dollar for a smile, and to help with an effort to tell an inspiring story with no tangible reward to themselves. You rock.
$5 – LAUGH! Loads of gratitude, plus a digitally (i.e. magically) transported scan of some book art to use as wallpaper on your computer screen.
$15 – CLAP! We’ll send gratitude, digital wallpaper and an e-book version of White Flour.
And, of course,
$25 – STAND UP! We’ll send the physical book and pay the postage (please add $5 if overseas) and we’ll send you the wallpaper image.
There are many other levels for this book, including autographed copies of the book, David’s award winning album, S.S. Bathtub, VIP tickets to one of his release parties and even the opportunity to have him perform for you.

I’ve gone on long enough about this book….and so I leave you with David LaMotte performing White Flour.  This book will go far, mark my words, The Little Book That Could will climb unimaginable mountains and become an essential tool to help keep bigotry out of the hearts of our children.

as always, thanks for playing. : )  you can find additional information about White Flour at
You can find David LaMotte at
on Twitter at
on Facebook at
and if you’re really lucky….at a venue near you.

[Thanks, Barbie! & dear readers, please consider supporting this worthwhile project!]

Text is © Barbie Angell 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bridgetown #2 – The Broadway Bridge

Welcome, my friends, to another Rose City Wednesday, Bridgetown edition!

Tho the gray skies & drizzle have returned now, we had some glorious weather late last week & into the weekend & I decided to make the most of it on Saturday with an excursion to another nearby bridge—no more chilly & slippery bridge outings for me! Indeed, Saturday was one of the finest days this year, & with only a sport jacket & light clothes I was almost too warm at points along the way.

The Broadway Bridge connects Northeast & Northwest Portland, following the large NE Broadway Avenue thoroughfare across the bridge that bears its name, at which point Broadway (now NW Broadway) veers off at a 45 degree angle southward, while NW Lovejoy continues more or less due west into the rather toney Pearl District.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Fremont Bridge & in the distance, The St John's Bridge-looking north from the Broadway Bridge

I caught the #4 Division bus near my place & got off at NE Vancouver & Weidler. From here it’s an easy downhill walk of about five blocks to the bridge. You could also take any Max line to Rose Quarter & walk from there north on Interstate; it wouldn’t be much further, & in fact that’s what I did in reverse heading home.

Bicyclist approaching the spot where one would stop if the drawbridge were raising

The Broadway Bridge is reported to be one of the more popular bridges for bicycle crossings, & I must say that based on my one walk, this could well be true—the cyclists were out in profusion.  But the walkways on either side of the Broadway Bridge are reasonably commodious, & despite a fair amount of bike traffic, I never felt rushed or inconvenienced. & no doubt due to the fine weather, there were also a fair number of other pedestrians.

Inner structure, plus streetcar wires; this is a more accurate picture of the color--Golden Gate Red, AKA International Orange! The first two photos were shot somewhat into the sun.

The Broadway Bridge was opened in 1913; at the time, it was the longest bascule type bridge in existence (if you follow that last link, you’ll see a gif of how a bascule bridge works.)   Because the bascule mechanism is rather complicated, the Bridge has undergone a number of repairs over the years. However, the most recent work done on the Broadway Bridge (in the summer of 2010) is quite exciting to me as a person who relies almost exclusively on public transit. As you can see in some of the photos, the rails & overhead electrical system of the Portland Streetcar have been installed on the Broadway Bridge, & the Bridge is scheduled to start carrying streetcar traffic this September. This is great news, because it will be the beginning of the eastern expansion of the streetcar system. While the Trimet buses & Max light rail trains run thru all sections of Portland proper & into the suburbs as well, the Streetcar currently only runs on the west side of the city. I’m really looking forward to this change!  Interestingly enough, streetcars did cross the Broadway Bridge from when it was first opened until 1940.

Portland skyline looking southwest (taken from the south walkway)
The Steel Bridge - looking south from the Broadway Bridge

It was a beautiful day, & I feel I took full advantage of it—ended up walking about 20 blocks once I got to the west side until I reached Powell’s; but I confess I was a little wobbly by the time I made it all the way back to the other side. My timing was also good this time around—the clouds just began to come in around 4:00 p.m. just as I was setting foot back on the east side.

Western entrance to the Broadway Bridge

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

“New From Milton Bradley”

[Title aside, our favorite Rockstar Poet in Residence Barbie Angell is not playing games in today’s poem! But as always, she’s got something to say in her fun & unique way.]

New From Milton Bradley

It’s a world of utter mania
on an endless shopping spree.
It’s what no one ever told you,
it’s exactly what it seems.

There are no grand surprises
on the witness stand of life.
Its design is based on choices
not just the rolling of the dice.

And when it hands you lemons,
time and time again,
relax and put your feet up,
‘cause it’s a game you’ll never win.

It’s all about direction
and being honest with yourself.
It’s not about reflections
or the fickle fate of wealth.

But don’t misunderstand me,
I’m not saying that you’ll lose.
Be everything you can be.
Be the best you find in you.

So when the curtain finally falls
and the yodeling is done,
it’s whether you have lived your life,
not if you lost or won.

Barbie Dockstader Angell
© 2009-present

Monday, March 26, 2012

Any Womans Blues #20 – Roxanne Potvin

Happy Monday, friends! The Monday Morning Blues this morning is coming at you with another exciting performer in our Any Woman’s Blues series.

Roxanne Potvin is I believe the youngest musician profiled so far in the series—not quite 30 years old as of this posting. But despite that fact, she has already amassed an impressive resume as guitarist, singer, & songwriter. Potvin has released four albums, beginning with her self-produced 2003 release, Careless Loving, which contained a half dozen original numbers, as well as covers of tunes from the likes of Dinah Washington & Etta James. She followed this up with the 2006 The Way It Feels on Alert Canada, an album on which she was joined by several notables, including Bruce Cockburn & John Hiatt, & which also featured a cover from one of her guitar heroes
her version of Freddie King’s “Your Love Keeps Working On Me.”  This was followed by No Love for the Poisonous in 2008, also on Alert Canada, which was released to glowing reviews, & the 2011 release, Play in which Potvin moved more in the directions of folk & pop. Play was released on the Black Hen Music label.

In addition to those releases as a solo artist, Roxanne Potvin also collaborated with Sue Foley & Deborah Coleman (two guitarists who’ve been featured in previous Any Woman’s Blues installments) on the 2007 album, Time Bomb on Ruf Records. Time Bomb featured each guitarist as a soloist, & then brought the three women together to combine their impressive guitar chops on the final cut, “In the Basement.”

As one might assume based on her label, Ms Potvin is Canadian, born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1982. Her family moved to Ottawa when she was two, & she began singing as a young child. When she took up guitar in her teens, she was drawn to a number of noted blues players—Freddie King, whom she names as a special influence, as well as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed & Lonnie Johnson—but also to artists from other genres as well, including vocalists Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughn & Dinah Washington, & also John Hiatt & Elvis—& in recording her most recent album, she notes she found herself “going back to the Beatles & Beck.” She is currently based out of Gatineau, Quebec; her website is maintained in both English & French, & Potvin is herself bilingual.

We’ve got a couple of videos to showcase Roxanne Potvin’s talent, & I know you’ll enjoy them. The first video, “A Love that’s Simple,” focuses more on her wonderful vocal ability, while the second, “Caught Up,” not only features another great singing performance, but also some really nice guitar work. As you can see, Potvin plays a Telecaster. I’ve also seen photos & videos of her with an acoustic, but I’m unable to identify the brand or model. She gets a great tone out of the Telecaster; I really enjoy her direct playing style.

Happy Monday & enjoy the music!

Photo links to its source

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Photo of the Week 3/25/12

"Fremont Bridge" Bike Rack (with traffic)
NW 10th Avenue, Portland, Oregon
Saturday, 3/24/12

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ryan Cavanaugh & No Man’s Land

Oh wow—do we have an exciting Banjo Friday today!

We know that the banjo has a venerable history in the jazz tradition—after all, banjo & piano were stalwarts in the rhythm section of many early jazz combos. But those banjos were by & large either 6-string “guitar banjos” or 4-string tenors & plectrum models. The 5-string banjo wasn’t much of a factor in early jazz, for the simple reason that the 5th string, which acts as a drone in virtually all traditional playing styles, doesn’t fit with the chromaticism that jazz has tended to emphasize.

Of course, we also know that banjo playing styles have changed since the teens & 1920s. The development of Scruggs picking led to a different form of syncopation, & while most of the bluegrass repertoire relies on straightforward I-IV-V chord changes that allow for use of the drone string, Scruggs himself occasionally would play songs from “the Great American Songbook,” as well as ragtime progressions. In fact, “Salty Dog,” which is certainly part of the standard bluegrass repertoire, has a ragtime progression & probably originated in the African-American community.  More recently, players like Bill Keith, Tony Trischka & Béla Fleck have all incorporated many jazz elements into playing styles that, at their foundation, are built on bluegrass.

Well, now try to summon up an audio “picture” of great jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin playing a 5-string banjo: does that kind of blow your mind? If so, get ready to listen to the sound of Ryan Cavanaugh.  Cavanaugh is without question of the most singular talents in the banjo field today, & you can hear him in either bluegrass or jazz incarnations depending on whether you choose his 2007 bluegrass-flavored release Songs for the New Frontier or the rather amazing 2010 Ryan Cavanaugh & No Man’s Land; the latter not only features jazz sax great Bill Evans (& indeed, Cavanaugh has also toured with Evans & is featured on Evans’ latest release Dragonfly), but also features his regular backing band: Kevin Knapp on electric bass, Tyson Rogers on keyboards, Bryon Larrance on drums. The album is an EP, but a generous one—its five tracks clock in by my off-the-top-of-my-head” calculations at around 36 minutes. On four tracks, Cavanaugh plays a regular old acoustic 5-string, that at times is reminiscent of McLaughlin like lead lines & at other times might almost conjure sitar music—but all the while retaining at root its banjo nature. On the other track, “Johnny Mac,” Cavanaugh breaks out a Deering Crossfire, a fully electric banjo, & puts this instrument to wonderful use—the added sustain & bite are integral to the song’s sound. That’s the Crossfire in the first video below, tho “Grand Dragon” on the recording is played with an acoustic.

A review of Bill Evans’ Soulgrass show traces the history of bluegrass & jazz coming together, pointing out the importance of David Grisman’s “Dawg Music,” which among other things melded bluegrass & Gypsy jazz elements, thru the Newgrass revival & Fleck’s own playing, to these current incarnations involving Cavanaugh.

There are links to the Ryan Cavanaugh & No Man’s Land album on iTunes & AbstractLogix at the band page (link on the first mention of Cavanaugh’s name); the EP is also available at live shows & on Spotify.

The videos showcase two sides of Cavanaugh: both jazz & “traditional”—tho the duet in the second video between Cavanaugh & Rex McGee on “Angeline the Baker” is not like any version you’re likely to hear on someone’s front porch! The first is with his own group (with Kenny Anderson on sax), playing his tune “Grand Dragon” (as mentioned above.)  This is someone who looks to make a big impact on banjo music, so enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"White Flour"

We’ve been promoting David LaMotte’s Kickstarter project for an illustrated children’s book based on his poem “White Flour” this month—thanks to my friend & blog co-conspirator Barbie Angell for suggesting this! I’m happy to announce that David LaMotte’s Kickstarter is fully funded, & that the book will have an initial printing of 10,000 copies. However, additional pledges will help keep this a viable, ongoing project, plus you can get really cool stuff!

With David laMotte’s blessing, we’re posting both the text of the poem plus the promotional video for the project. If you’d like more information about David LaMotte, please visit his website, & also read Barbie Angell’s excellent write up about him last week on Robert Frost’s Banjo!


White Flour

The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be
In the hills of Appalachia, down in Knoxville, Tennessee
A dozen men put on their suits and quickly took their places
In white robes and those tall and pointed hoods that hid their faces

Their feet fell down in rhythm as they started their parade
They raised their fists into the air, they bellowed and they brayed
They loved to stir the people up, they loved when they were taunted
They didn’t mind the anger—it’s exactly what they wanted

As they came around the corner, sure enough the people roared
But they couldn’t quite believe their ears, it seemed to be… support!
Had Knoxville finally seen the light? Were people coming ‘round?
The men thought for a moment that they’d found their kind of town

But then they turned their eyes to where the cheering had its source
As one their shoulders crumpled when they saw the mighty force
The crowd had painted faces and some had tacky clothes
Their hair and hats outrageous, each had a red foam nose

The clowns had come in numbers to enjoy the grand parade
They laughed and danced that other clowns had come to town that day
And then the marchers shouted, and the clowns all strained to hear
Each one tuned in intently with a gloved hand to an ear

“White power!” screamed the marchers, and they raised their fisted hands
The clowns leaned in and listened like they couldn’t understand
Then one held up his finger and helped all the others see
The point of all this yelling, and they joined right in with glee

“White flour!” the clowns shouted, and they reached inside their clothes
They pulled out bags and tore them and huge clouds of powder rose
They poured it on each other and they threw it in the air
It got all over baggy clothes and multi-colored hair

Now all but just a few of them were joining in the jokes
You could almost see the marchers turning red beneath white cloaks
They wanted to look scary. They wanted to look tough.
One rushed right at the clowns in rage and was hauled away in cuffs

But the others chanted louder, marching on around the bend
The clowns all marched on too, of course, supporting their new friends
“White power!” came the marchers’ cry. They were not amused.
The clowns grew still and thoughtful. Well... perhaps they’d been confused?

They huddled and consulted, this bright and silly crowd
They listened quite intently, then one said “I’ve got it now!”
“White flowers!” screamed the happy clown, and all the rest joined in
The air was filled with flowers, and they laughed and danced again

“Everyone loves flowers, and white’s a pretty sort
I can’t think of a better cause for people to support!”
Green flower stems went flying like small arrows from bad archers
White petals covered everything, including the mad marchers

And then a very tall clown called the others to attention
He choked down all his chuckles and said “Friends I have to mention
That what with all this mirth and fun it’s sort of hard to hear
But now I know the cause that these paraders hold so dear...

“Tight showers!” the clown blurted and he hit his head in wonder
He held up a camp shower and the others all got under
Or at least they tried to get beneath, they strained but couldn’t quite
There wasn’t room for all of them. They pushed, but it was tight.

“White Power!” came the mad refrain, quite carefully pronounced
The clowns consulted once again, then a woman clown announced
“I’ve got it! I’m embarrassed that it took so long to see,
But what these marchers march for is a cause quite dear to me!”

“Wife power!” she exclaimed and all the other clowns joined in
They shook their heads and laughed at how erroneous they’d been
The women clowns were hoisted up on shoulders of the others
Some pulled on wedding dresses, chanting “Here’s to wives and mothers!”

The men in robes were sullen, and they knew they’d been defeated
They yelled a few more times and then they finally retreated
And when they’d gone a motorcycle cop called to the clowns
And offered them an escort through the center of the town

The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be
In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee
People joined the new parade. The crowd stretched out for miles
The clowns passed out more flowers and made everybody smile

And what would be the lesson of that shiny southern day?
Can we understand the message that the clowns sought to convey?
Seems that when you’re fighting hatred, hatred’s not the thing to use
So here’s to those who march on in their big red floppy shoes

David LaMotte
© by the author

Image links to its source

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ella Street Social Club

Good morning, friends, & welcome to this week’s edition of Rose City Wednesday.

Today’s story begins on Twitter. Now if you know me, you know I’m a big fan of Twitter—I find it an exciting form of social media, & more importantly, I’ve met some really wonderful people there—in fact, one of this blog’s regular poetry contributors, Barbie Angell, is a great virtual friend who I first got to know thru Twitter.  But while I’ve met some wonderful folks that I first knew thru blogging in person, I hadn't yet met anyone I only know thru Twitter—that is, until last Sunday evening.

For quite some time I’ve followed the Twitter stream of guitarist/songwriter Daryl Shawn, & had also heard enough of his music online to know that in addition to being someone with interesting observations, he also has some very sophisticated guitar chops & a really interesting musical vision. Daryl contacted me a little while back & told me he’d be playing in Portland on Sunday March 18th at a venue called Ella Street Social Club, & invited me to come out for the show.

& this is of course, where we move from Twitter to Portland. Turns out Ella Street is rather unassuming, but fun & casual venue in the Southwest—well technically in the Southwest, but less than a full block from West Burnside, on 714 SW 20th Place. Ella Street has the feel of place where people like to hang out—not spiffy, but a great lived-in, or more to the point, partied-in, spot. The venue isn't large; there’s a jukebox in the corner, art on the walls (the current art includes paintings of pop stars from Jim Morrison to Bruce Lee, as well as some paintings inspired by comics, & rather amazing graffiti in the men’s room (I can’t speak for the distaff side.)  At $5 for a show, the cover charge is more than reasonable, & from what I see from online reviews, it’s a grand place to have a drink or three—since I’m a non alcohol drinker, I can’t speak to that, but I was treated to a club soda by the very nice young lady tending bar.

The building that houses Ella Street is unusual—& it wasn’t until I read one of the online reviews that the design all made sense—the Pennoyer Building, in which the club is housed, used to be a mortuary! Ella Street itself is accessed by a side door, however, as you can see in the photo leading off the post.

Other pluses? The sound in terms of acoustics was good, & the mix was handled well—I felt that Shawn’s really energetic & formidable playing were set off well by the space itself & the sound system. I would have liked to stay for the other two acts, but sadly, public transportation isn’t a fast way to travel, & Sunday night the service is somewhat limited. In this case, it was a train ride followed by a bus ride home, & I arrived back in North Portland only shortly before turning into a pumpkin.

If you’re local, I’d suggest giving Ella Street Social Club a try. You can find their entertainment calendar here, or you can “like” them on Facebook. I’ll definitely check them out again.

& please check out Daryl Shawn’s site; this guy is a serious musician who deserves more listeners.  A link to his music is here, & this page has links to his cds & mp3 on Amazon, iTunes & elsewhere. Here’s a couple of video clips of Daryl Shawn to give you an idea, but keep in mind these are definitely very “low fi” in comparison with what you’ll hear on his recordings—or live if he happens to come thru your town!  His current touring schedule, as well as info on past shows & other news can be found at this link.  Excellent guitarist & songwriter &
—as I've found when meeting people I'd previously known online, Daryl Shawn seems like a real good guy, too.

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Photos all link to their source

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


[L.E. Leone tells me this poem is based on a true event, to which I responded that she & her gal friend must really have loved the titular brick. Intrigued? Read on!]

Bitch stole our brick. It’s true
we have a lot of bricks, but
still. Who does she think
she is, taking that one
out of our wall &
carrying it around the
corner to her car, into the
passenger side window. She
dropped it on the seat, & drove

off. I saw this all and didn’t give
chase but now I wish I would’ve

…is the title of this poem, and the body goes like

                                One way of looking at it: She must
                                have really really needed that brick
                                pretty bad, to take it from under us
                                and in broad daylight. Another way

would be you fucking bitch, you
skinny skirted student of schooly
shit, goddamn it! Punk, you left a
hole in a wall like war does. Fuck

                                you. And your gold Toyota Camry,
                                license number VLS306, Louisiana
                                If I find your car I’ll jimmy into it &
                                throw that brick from the inside back


L.E. Leone

© 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Poor Boy Long Way from Home #12 – The Black Keys

Happy Monday to you all! I’m changing up the schedule a bit here on the Monday Morning Blues & using this post to bring the Poor Boy series to a close. Yes, this is the twelfth & final post in a series that has enabled us to see a blues song in various states of transformation from Bo Weavil Jackson’s 1926 recording to this almost contemporary version released in 2004 as “The Moan” on their EP of the same name by The Black Keys.

The Black Keys are a guitar & drum duo that hail from the U.S. Rust Belt—Akron, Ohio, in fact, & who bring a heavy duty, roots-based attack to a repertoire of mostly original material—but they do include interesting covers of diverse musicians, including Louisiana blueman Robert Pete Williams, the Stooges, the Sonics, & Mississippi Juke Joint bluesman Junior Kimbrough. Speaking of Mississippi Juke Joints, “The Moan” to my ear is heavily influenced by RL Burnside’s “Poor Boy Long Way From Home.”  The band members are Dan Auerbach on vocals & guitar & Patrick Carney on drums.

Recently, the Black Keys have won some relatively mainstream recognition, as their song “Tighten Up” won a Grammy for “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal,” & was also nominated for “Best Rock Song.” In addition, Brothers, their 2010 Nonesuch release on which this song appears won both “Best Alternative Music Album” & “Best Recording Package”—the latter refers to an album’s artwork, not to the actual recorded performances.

Auerbach & Carney bring a lot of energy to their version of the song (they actually claim writing credits for “The Moan”—I’ll just let you draw your own conclusions on that), & their grunge/punk-inflected version of old blues is one of the more interesting from a white band since Captain Beefheart’s massive deconstruction/reconstruction of blues—both covered & original—during his heyday. 

Next month there will be some changes in the Monday Morning Blues line-up—two new features will debut, & in addition to the Poor Boy series ending, the Blue Notes blues/jazz series also is going to go away, tho to some extent it may be incorporated into one of the new features
—stay tuned for details! Any Woman’s Blues will continue (at the rate of one post per month, I could keep this feature going a couple of years more at least!) & the Blues Guitar series will go at least one more month, tho I’m running a bit low on ideas of guitars that are very associated with blues performers.

In the meantime, enjoy The Black Keys & “The Moan”!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

“Soldier’s Joy”

Happy Friday! After a couple of excursions into the outer reaches of the banjo world, we’re about as traditional as can be this week—the only concession to my quirky tastes is that this old-time standard is being played two-finger style rather than the more common old-time clawhammer playing style.

As was the case when I used a video to illustrate my post about the two-finger style, the player is Richard Hood, who plays in The Bristol Brothers, & in also an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist.

But rather than going over old ground, I just want to note that “Soldier’s Joy is a venerable piece of music, both as an instrumental dance tune & as a vocal song. It was famously recorded as a vocal by Riley Puckett with Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers for Columbia in 1929. This version was a wild romp, with the concluding verse running as follows:

25 cents for the morphine, 15 cents for beer
25 cents for the morphine, they’re gonna drag me away from here.

“Soldier’s Joy” has remained a staple in old-time circles, & has crossed over to Bluegrass as well. But the tune itself is old, with British Isles origins; a hornpipe with antecedents in both Scotland & Ireland. Sheet music to the tune exists from the eighteenth century, & there are a number of variations that share parts of the lyrics & the tune, including “Hog-Eye Man” & “Love Somebody, Yes I Do.”

Given "Soldier's Joy" popularity as an instrumental tune, there are countless arrangements for all the instruments typically found in old-time music settings: fiddles, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, & guitars. The image at the top of the page gives hammer dulcimer tab above the standard notation. “Soldier’s Joy” is invariably played in the key of D.

But mostly, it’s a song to be enjoyed, & Mr Hood does a wonderful job on a vintage short-scale fretless banjo!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

David LaMotte, One of the Real Good Guys

[As promised, today’s post is by Barbie Dockstader Angell; she discusses her friend,  musician/writer/activist David LaMottte—including a great interview in the video below. That’s David in the photo to the right with Barbie’s own “Little Man.”]

I first met David LaMotte at Kinko’s, where I was working in 2000 in Asheville, NC. Most people who come in are stressed & hurried, but I could tell immediately that the smiling customer patiently waiting for me was not “most people.”

By the time he & I finished up with his project, I had his brand new album, Corners, in my hand; a gift from my appreciative customer. I put the cd in the stereo when I got home from work and I didn’t listen to much else for the next month. When I’d go sit somewhere with my discman & headphones to work on my writing, that cd was my first choice for the next year.

I was still quite new to Asheville when I met David, and he quickly became a friend. We have shared a great many wonderful times and some sad ones through these last 12 years, and always he has been ready with that same patient smile, willing to wait a moment so that we can both be completely involved in the conversation.

If you’ve met me in real-life, then I’ve already told you about David LaMotte. I am just that type of girl. There are a handful of writers, musicians and businesses that I seem to bring up in conversation all the time and he is most certainly one of them. Because aside from being a brilliant singer/songwriter & musician, he is also a children’s book author, humanitarian and founder of a nonprofit organization called PEG which builds schools in Guatemala. It seems like he does everything except moderate a Nobel Peace Prize nomination committee....oh wait, I’m wrong, he does that too.

If you think that I’m putting David on a pedestal, you would be wrong. I’m just incredibly proud of my friend because he saw that he could effect change as a full-time touring musician. As a performer myself, I can assure you that the spotlight’s glow can cause people to look up to the person on the stage. There’s an even greater responsibility there when some of those faces in the audience belong to children or anyone who is still searching for the person that they wish to become. And so I’m proud that David took that knowledge and ran forward, constantly finding new ways to improve the lives of the people in the world around him. Not as a man on a pedestal looking down, but as one who is doing the heavy lifting side by side with his community.

The video below is my first interview for an organization called Lingua Musica. We talk with artists about more than just their music, but what they are doing offstage as well. I was thrilled when David said he would be a part of our endeavor and taken in as always by the power of his words.

Underneath the video, you’ll see the link for his Kickstarter project. His goal has been funded for his new book, White Flour, but you can still use that link to pre-order this fun and inspiring story. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject, White Flour is the true story of the day the kkk came to Knoxville, TN to march....and were defeated with humor by a group of clowns. In addition, it happens to be my favorite poem of all time....and that’s saying quite a bit.

Here's the link Barbie promised to David LaMotte's "White Flour" Kickstarter project. Please consider pre-ordering the book & supporting this wonderful artist's important message!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bridgetown #1 – The Steel Bridge

The Steel Bridge looking southwest from Rose Quarter Transit Center
Portland is a city replete with nicknames. I’ve chosen “Rose City” for theWednesday series about this new home of mine, but there are a number of others: PDX (the airport abbreviation); Stumptown (looking back on the logging days); Rip City (related to Portland’s NBA team, the Trail Blazers); both Beervana & Beertown (due to the large number of microbreweries); & Bridgetown.

Why Bridgetown? Simple: as you probably know by now, Portland is divided into east & west sides by the Willamette River. As a result, counting the Burlington Northern Railway Bridge, there 11 bridges spanning the Willamette between the eastern & western sides.  In addition (again counting another Burlington Northern Bridge) there are three bridges crossing the Columbia river between Portland & Washington state.

A Green Line Max train heading east-all Max lines cross the Steel Bridge
These bridges play a large role in most Portlanders’ lives; in my case, the Steel Bridge, which connects the Rose Quarter in North/Northeast Portland with Chinatown & Old Town in Northwest Portland, is a bridge I cross at least a few times a week—if I’m going to the west side, chances are really high I’ll cross the Steel Bridge; & the bus line I use to visit my friends in Southeast loops thru the west side before heading back across (on the Hawthorne Bridge.)

So I’ve been across the bridge quite a few times either by train or bus; but I also knew the bridge has sidewalks for pedestrians & cyclists, so on Friday afternoon—a truly gorgeous spring day here—I decided I’d head out on an adventure the next day to walk the bridge & take photos for this post.

A zoomed in shot of Northwest Portland from the Bridge-note Union Station Tower
Zoom view of the Broadway Bridge & the Fremont Bridge-looking north

Of course, we know about the best laid plans of mice & men: Saturday started out gray & rainy—but the hourly forecast told me there should be a window of relatively better weather in early afternoon, so I headed out. My plan was to head to the Overlook neighborhood & take the Yellow line Max train from Overlook Park station to the Rose Quarter Transit center, & then hike across.

Steel Bridge looking north & east
The skies were quite threatening by the time I got to Rose Quarter, & as I headed up the bridge, the drizzle got more persistent. I found that getting back to the south side of the bridge involved a fairly long walk thru Chinatown & Old Town—& after hanging out for a bit in Waterfront Park, I began the ascent to head back east. By this time it wasn’t exactly a downpour, but it was rather soggy. & I discovered that the steel plates that form the walkway for much of the span are a bit slick in the rain—not the most comforting feeling when you can see a sliver of the Willamette below the guardrail some 70 plus feet below! But I lived to tell the tale.

Facts & figures on the Steel Bridge, in digested form (thanks, Wikipedia!):

The Steel Bridge is a through truss, double lift bridge…. the only double-deck bridge with independent lifts in the world and the second oldest vertical-lift bridge in North America, after the nearby Hawthorne Bridge.

The bridge was completed in 1912…. Its name originated because steel, instead of wrought iron, was used in its construction, very unusual for the time [actually the current bridge, constructed in 1912, took its name from the 19th century bridge it replaced.]

The lift span of the bridge is 211-foot long. At low river levels the lower deck is 26 feet above the water, & 163 feet of vertical clearance is provided when both are raised. Because of the independent lifts, the lower deck can be raised to 72 feet, telescoping into the upper deck but not disturbing it. Each deck has it own counterweights, two for the upper & eight for the lower, totaling 9,000,000 lb.
Waterfront Park to the right, the Burnside Bridge, Southeast Portland (left) looking south-note raindrop smudge!

The Bridgetown feature will continue as part of the Rose City Wednesday series at (I think) irregular intervals. Not all of the bridges are “walkable” (& if you’ve seen the Fremont & St John’s Bridges, you know that’s a good thing), but as much as is feasible I’ll try to make expeditions across the ones that are open to pedestrians to get “up close & personal” photos. However, I think I’ll wait until a much more dry day for the next bridge excursion!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


[I love this poem & this drawing by Barbie Angell, & I know you will, too.  Please stay tuned, because there's an announcement following the poem!]


She’s living in a song
Somewhere inside a phrase.
A simple soft menagerie
Not breathing till he plays. 
She’s safe inside the tune,
        No fears can catch her now.
Amidst the chords and melodies
Until he takes his bow.

Creation of his mind
Someone he almost knew
Attached by dreams and sealing wax
The fortunes of our youth
Creation of his mind
In search of something true
And if you listen carefully
Someday he’ll sing of you.

She comes to life on stage
Each heartbeat is a note
Given birth to on the page
By the lyrics which he wrote.

And every heartache she endured
And every love she left
Is heard upon the radio
At the listener’s request. 

Barbie Dockstader Angell
© 2009-present 

Barbie has shared with me that her poem “Muse” was inspired by David LaMotte’s song “Janey” from his album Corners—you can hear the song at this link; in addition, the drawing that accompanies it—which is one of my favorites of all her great illustrations—was inspired by David LaMotte’s song “S.S. Bathtub” from his album of the same name.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about David LaMotte in the next week & change here on Robert Frost’s Banjo. Barbie is writing a post about Mr LaMotte that will appear on Thursday in support of one of his current projects, a children’s book based on his poem, “White Flour.” This is a really worthwhile endeavor, & I encourage you to check out the project’s Kickstarter page & also stay tuned forBarbie’s more in-depth write up this Thursday!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Miss Gibson's Jumbo Sound

“I woke up this morning with the Monday morning blues,” as Mississippi John Hurt sang, “I couldn't hardly find my Monday morning shoes.” Yes, another week is right on us, folks. But at least we have some fine music to help you thru.

It’s the time of the month when we consider one of the classic guitars that contributed to the great blues sound. Actually, today’s guitar is usually associated with county music, but it’s also been employed by some blues musicians, including one of the foremost blues & ragtime guitarists in the history of this music. The guitar is the Gibson J-200, & the guitarist to whom I refer is the great Reverend Gary Davis.

Gibson introduced the :Super Jumbo” in 1937 as a top-of-the-line guitar. The prototype was built to the specifications of the “Singing Cowboy” Ray Whitley, who wanted a guitar with a 17” lower bout (the bottom part of the guitar’s traditional “hourglass” shape); as such it was over an inch wider than a Martin Dreadnought (which measures 15-5/8”); in addition, the Super Jumbo had a flared upper bout, as opposed to the dreadnoughts “sloped shoulders”; the Martin is 11-1/2 inches across the upper bout, as opposed to the 12-1/4 inches for the Gibson; the body is also a full inch longer than the Martin. This essentially made a flat-top guitar that had the dimensions of the powerful Gibson archtop jazzboxes like the L-5.

 Other country stars soon were ordering similar guitars based on Whitleys—these included Gene Autrey, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers & Ray “Crash” Corrigan. The Super Jumbo appeared in the Gibson catalog for sale to the public in 1938.

Besides the old singing cowboys already mentioned, other big stars of both country & rock have used the J-200; these include Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris & Pete Townsend. But we’re interested in its use as a blues intrument, & in addition to the very notable Reverend Davis, we find that “Hacksaw” Harney (second video below) used one pretty much exclusively, & that Mance Lipscombe, Brownie McGhee & the famed blues mandolin player Yank Rachell also made at least occasional use of this model.

A flat-top guitar with these dimensions is going to be a powerful instrument; it also will have both outstanding bass & treble response. As with the dreadnought size, which shares those general characteristics, this makes the J-200 very effective as a rhythm instrument in country music where the “boom chicka boom chicka” rhythm is really enhanced. But when we think of acoustic blues guitar, we think primarily of fingerstyle playing, & in general one thinks of smaller size guitars for that—something like the 00 or Classical size, which is between 2 & 3 inches smaller than the Jumbo in all dimensions. Still, in the hands of the Reverend Gary Davis, his “Miss Gibson” played some of the most intricate fingerstyle blues & ragtime you’ll ever hear. & as you hear in Harney’s “Down South Blues,” he also used the big guitar to great musical advantage.

Three videos this week, mainly because both of the Reverend Gary Davis ones are short. I thought it was important to find live videos of the Reverend playing, just to watch the ease with which he plays these intricate figures—not to mention the way he uses “Miss Gibson” as a drum during the final chorus of “If I Had My Way”—AKA “Samsion & Delilah.”) Great music in all three—enjoy!

Photo of Reverend Gary Davis & "Miss Gibson" links to its source

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Photo of the Week 3/11/12

Gulls Taking Flight Off the Willamette River
Taken from Waterfront Park
Portland, Oregon

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Raintown Reviewed

Hi folks! Just a quick Saturday post to say that, while there was no new poem in the Raintown series this week, I was very honored that poet/musician Andy Rojas wrote a review of the most recent poem in the series, "Raintown #9," on his blog teopoet-poettop today. Mr Rojas' reading of the poem is careful, thoughtful, & astute, & I was flattered by his interest in this poem & the Raintown series. Please swing by his blog & read the review if you have a chance—& while you're there, take a look around at some of Mr Rojas' own poems, his other reviews, & writings about poetics. An excellent blog for those interested in poetry.

Have a nice Saturday—we now return you to your regular programming!

Friday, March 9, 2012

“Gun Street Girl”

Welcome to Banjo Friday, friends, where we look at the banjo in all it’s weird, wonderful & wild manifestations!

Speaking of weird & wild, the banjo doesn’t get much more so, at least in contemporary music, than it does in today’s song, “Gun Street Girl” from Tom Waits’ 1985 masterpiece, Rain Dogs.  It’s my idea of a desert island album: diverse, unique, & always sounding “new,” with a high degree of musicality in the compositions & arrangements, & high musicianship in the performances. 

To my mind, Waits has always been a “roots” musician, to some degree similar to Dylan, tho I would argue that Waits’ musical foundation is wider than Dylan’s, & his musical palette, at his best, more colorful & more diverse. While Dylan looked back very much to folk tunes, country blues & an old time country sound, Waits has also included more jazz, soul, & Kurt Weill/cabaret elements in his music.

“Gun Street Girl,” however, is about as stark & haunting a piece of post-modern Americana  as you are likely to hear. Recorded as a trio with Waits singing & playing banjo, backed by Greg Cohen on upright bass & Michael Blair playing percussion on iron bars, the song moves thru a surreal & disjointed tale of love gone wrong & a man on the lam across a landscape from some Americana nightmare fairy tale peopled by people named Shadow & Slaughterhouse Joe; with bull-whipped dogs & second-hand Novas; where the Burlington Northern is "pulling out of the world."  In an otherwise astute song review on Allmusic,Bill Janovitz makes the claim that the man is on the lam “after killing his lover.” I’m not sure I find that explicitly in the lyrics—we do hear that “a Gun Street Girl was the cause of it all,” & “I’ll never kiss a Gun Street Girl again,” & there’s the disturbing & at the same time almost cartoonish Miss Charlotte lyric toward the end, but I’ve always heard the story as more of a “Betty & Dupree” tale (“Betty told Dupree, ‘I want a diamond ring,’”—you know the rest of the story: the hapless Dupree steals it & ultimately goes to jail); in that case, the Gun Street Girl is the motivation for some unspecified spree of crime & madness. But the narrative is deliberately stripped of connective tissue, like a film filled with compelling & disturbing images that suggest more than tell an actual story.

I haven’t checked this for certain, but having looked at the sheet music for Gun Street Girl, I strongly suspect Waits’ banjo is in standard G tuning (tho I also believe it’s not actually tuned to concert pitch.) He’s singing the song in D [music theory alert, folks], & the key of D in the open G tuning is highly modal, both because it’s very simple to play D as a “power chord” in which there’s no third to indicate either a major or minor tonality (tho the banjo itself doesn’t play a D minor chord, Waits frequently sings an F natural, or minor third, in a melodic gesture that's characteristic of both Appalachian tunes & old blues); it also lends itself to a suspended chord where the G is integrated into the D chord. In fact, it is essentially a two chord song—D(omit 3rd) & Dsus4 when the G comes prominently into the harmony.  A banjo tab version appears to be available from the Banjo Newsletter, but that is a paid subscription site.

By the way: the song is 4:37—so it ends almost 2 minutes before the video actually stops rolling.  Amazing piece of music, & an amazing setting for the banjo!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Salt & Song

[Thanks & gratitude to my friend Brittany Newmark for making her latest poem available to Robert Frost's Banjo.]

Salt & Song


What if you were to sing to me?

Would that be so hard? Am I asking for so much?
                Make it in illo tempore
                and only in a woman’s voice,

Let her voice taste of salt
                                            and smell of chalk and
                                            let us know the hunger behind the voice
                                            In fact let us hear it once and
 then instantly be ground down to dust and course grains

                                    as if some terrible desolation is visited upon those
                                                                                                                        that even heard her voice
                                                because it will happen soon enough.

                                                Oh look at us.  Oh hold us tight

No one shall be amazed
                                    when they realize that it will be
the voice of a woman that calls us home and soothes our reckless past. 

This is the caesura I speak of . . .

My opus, will knock down barn doors,
will call a hoedown,
will spread it wings, arch its neck and coo like a fat grey pigeon,
                                                                                    in the next life.
In the meantime we wear the error of our ways like a black eye patch
Heroic and elegant that invariably leads to
some gossip that is told before we even enter a room
and gives us a kind of cachet in certain circles.
In truth we should be overlooked (we have done nothing worthwhile)

Except for the fact that
                                    the Google camera watches us from nearby trees and poles,
                                    Its heart is breaking and it cries its eyes out, for us.
But we do not have the technology yet to tell it that it will be okay. 
It will all be all right,

as soon as we . . .


Oh ye of little faith
Praise the salt,
                    Lick it off the back of his neck,
                                                                                And listen
It tells the story of old wounds and of lives not yet born
                                    It tells the story carried in the DNA
                                    That we don’t talk about don’t dare tell the unborn what will happen in
                    this life.

                                    They say each of is visited by an angel in the womb and shown the whole
                    expanse of the world and the angel strikes our baby lips and we forget the vision,
                    lose sight of the world.

                                    Maybe that’s what going on
Because salt is human, the brine of our being and memory an empty room.

There was a time when I walked around hearing the sonorous calls
Of men like some kind of evangelism. Tonight, America is tired
                                                                                                                and bored and angry
The voice now that fills the gaping yawn on the radio speaks of
the religious oppression, and the caller,

                                    “Caller from Athens, Ohio,
                                                                        Yes you’re on the air”

The voice fills the air with enough sexuality for me to admit, yes my pain
                                                                            Is of a sexual nature, identity by rote.

                                                                            We are going off the grid,
Can no longer bear the roar from the black helicopters


In the morning I will place the white tulips and the Asian Iris in a cream colored pitcher that holds milk or hurts
that pours out the sad chronic fatigue

We don’t have the technology yet to address the pain, so we treat it like hunger
With daily bread.

What a loss:
And the only words of the song I remember,
                                                                        Oh my you have a pretty face,

How would it be if we got to see our own lives open like a secret note passed
Out of the camera shot?
Or as a sweep panorama seen at the great distance, like from the
                                Deck of the Starship Enterprise
The newest among us, how awed and baffled they must feel with their eyes flooded

And any memory of the eternal
                                                                wiped clean
Can we tempt fate, or hum and tap our lips to forget what we have seen and then

                                Admonish each other for not feeling the right sorry.
I know what to do because
If I went into the coffin business people would stop dying.

Brittany Newmark
©  2012