Sunday, May 30, 2010

three day weekends are heaven

Such a great Memorial Day so far- complete with beer gardens and staying up way way too late, long walks & parks & outdoor cafes & the boat basin with old friends, friends made on the subway & new friends. ah, freedom.

Friday, May 28, 2010

your glistening eyes show the hell you're gonna give 'em when they back off the mic for once and give it to a woman

Sometimes, I'll just be walking along, having a normal morning, and It'll hit me: the gratitude. This morning, it was Kate Floyd. I've been friends with Reverend Kate Hurst Floyd for about 11 years. She so honestly embodies everything earnest, seeking and cool I can think of in this life. Mild-mannered, sweet, genuinely compassionate, fiercely feminist and equality-oriented.
When you think about what organized religion needs in the 21st century, my answer is easy: Kate Floyd at the pulpit and anywhere else we can put her. She’s thoughtful and cutting and wise and never abrasive.

She’s one of those people you always kick yourself for not being able to spend more time with. She has a soft and understanding laugh. She is a comrade in faith. A simple faith in the world. 

And trust me when I say,  without exaggeration or dramatic flare, that I’m a Buddhist who persists in a belief in a God because of 3 books and 2 people, and one of those people is Kate Floyd.

If I could stream live over the internet her sermons, I’d do it. Oh, wait! I can.  If I lived in Chicago, I’d attend Methodist church every Sunday to hear her.

She and her grad school mates had a little dance that went the Indigo Girls’ “Pendulum Swinger.” It’s an adorable dance. And when it’s easy for me to sometimes feel pessimistic about the world, I think of this song and Kate dancing to it, and then I’m smiling ear to ear and laughing and crying a little bit on the street. Because I know there’s pendulum swingers out there like Kate, (that want to be friends with me!) who not only try to change the way things are with their "passion for justice" and brand of optimistic, diligent progress...but inspire me to swing that pendulum myself.

This video is a bit literal for me...I prefer just the lyrics. But this song could be about any time you'd hang out with Kate. :)

I meet you for coffee
We get together periodically
I got a bad case I can't shake off of me
The fevered walking round wondering how it ought to be
You work in the system
You see possibilities and your glistening
Eyes show the hell you're gonna give 'em
When they back off the mic for once and give it to a woman

I dream like a mad one
Brutal fantasies I catch as catch can
I'm a psychic and a laywoman
I see love and I like to make it happen
What we get from your war walk
Ticker of the nation breaking down like a bad clock
I want the pendulum to swing again
So that all your mighty mandate was just spitting in the wind

It doesn't come by the bullwhip
It's not persuaded with your hands on your hips
Not the company of gunslingers
The epicenter love is the pendulum swinger
She is she is she is

It's fine about the old scroll Sanskrit
Gnostic gospels the da vinci code a smash hit
Aren't we dying just to read it and relate
Too hard just to go by a blind faith
But they left out the sisters
Praying to a father god so long I really missed her
The goddess of benevolence
You should listen to your mama if you have a lick of sense left

Pushed under by the main press, buried under a code of dress
Relegated by the Vatican
But you can't keep a spirit down that wants to get up again

If we're a drop in the bucket
With just enough science to keep from saying fuck it
Until the last drop of sun burns its sweet light
Plenty revolutions left until we get this thing right 

Also see: these excerpts from my novel RISE: May 27th & May 19th

looting in lubbock-- an excerpt from Rise

Lubbock, Texas November 1999 

As the cuckoo clock announced six o’clock, they headed out the screen door, which slammed behind them.
            In Kate’s little red Honda, they arrived quickly at Jazz, where David’s sister Tanya ruled from behind the bar.
            All the walls were covered in deco-pauged sheet music from Jazz classics. Saxophones hung from the ceiling and all the seats were covered in purple vinyl. Meg had never been to New Orleans, but she imagined it was a lot like the restaurant David’s sister owned. Somewhere between old world manners and the schmaltz of Las Vegas.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hands to Break Thought

My fable is born as my youthful ember dies
On the third night of fasting and praying, it's eleven o'clock
It's my hour of production.
Annus miribilus in an hour
I am not awake until 11. I am not alive until 11.
Neither are you.
Begin the amblings of my mind. Twiddling thumbs,
You're lurking in the corner.
Hands like feathers break thoughts like granite.
Enthrone your hands, crown them king & queen
Of thought.
All the blues and purples of your entourage
Blind me
Do you see yet? I have green eyes but I'm not jealous
Why should I be?
Should I lament because you tell me to?
God, have mercy, am I a disciple?
My dictionary smells of theology
My thoughts come out like cockroaches
When you turn out the lights
Words words
My dictionary smells like theodocy
The dictionary line up scrolls though my mind,
Down my brain, I can see the page
Anno Urbis Conditae
Annoy, annoyance, annoying
Annual Parallax

Wind blows loud outside to shake me, but it's a whisper
"Who killed Keats?"
"When you wake up, do you know it's the last day of your life?"
Who will write my elegy? elegy. effigy.
Praying over me, emery, gritty thoughts. Broken into
Granules bye you
Turns them into ephemerids
Day-long May flys
You put thoughts to rest, closed coffin, cold ground
but not me
You are the pretense, the pomp, and the presumption
Write 400 lines about a man he never knew?
That was you too.
God, have mercy, am I a saint?
"Who killed Keats?" asks Shelley, but he can't finish his sentence.
He is choked and drown by your hands.
And you killed Keats
And you killed Shelley
You killed Plath
You broke Buckley
You broke Holly
You'll break me too.
Hold me like a whisper, hold me like a story
Hold me like a poem and say it to my face
But no, you sneak away when I'm shattered
The Quick and the Dead-- You show no mercy to either

Leather books with browning pages
Light up quick like tempers, but burn slow like spring leaves
Is it raining yet to put you out?
Or build you up in puddles?
Will they write my name in water?
Scatter flowers that one swayed back & forth, back & forth
Like a pendulum, I welcome you, and despise you
Carry you over the threshold myself
And stuff you
And hang you over the mantle
God, have mercy, am I a hypocrite?
Who killed Keats? Who killed Keats?
It was you. It was you.
There are more answers than questions
The possibilities of the life you could have chosen.
More possibilities than choices, more choices than outcomes
More colors than royalty or peasantry
More colors than grief or consequence
Or months or seasons
You are brown and orange lie his Autumn,
But quicker and quicker
Leaves don't float like feathers
They drop like granite, like thoughts
Thoughts that snap when you step on twigs
SNAP you say, but with your hands that break thoughts,
Orphan them in a graveyard of ponderances.
Guess what time it is.

Your hands break thoughts like they break bread
Over a mahogany dinner table
With the sacrosanctity of family.
You betray family you abstruse folly.
The rogue wind dies down,
But the wreckage is still there.
Light it on fire,
With olive guitar strings & dove piano keys,
Your hands strum & play my failure
Your rogue hands anoint me-- blessed to live,
But cursed to watch, moved, but with dry eyes
God, have mercy, am I condemned?
Who will write my elegy? Will it be you?
Who will weep for me? Who will mourn for me?
Only you Only you.

How unoriginal is death!
Just like death! Makes me ill...
There'll be no more exclamation marks
No more punctuation
Save tears that tears that end sentences & happiness
As they fall on strands of hair
on bereaved shoulders.
Grate my knuckles.
Grate them raw, grate them bloody
Break my heart
To see them. Shut my eyes
See her face, open them, still she's there
My hands are shaking-- the wind is working
My hands are itching To write of boys--
Fifteen & weeping, "Why?"
Sad boys with sad eyes
Eyes that weren't born to cry
Eyes that weren't born to see young eyes sewn shut
Their jaws clenched, their shoulders slouched,
Their hands shoved in pockets
Your hands to break through--
Your hands to break thought
Hands that grip plastic steering wheels
Not tightly enough
...and now little hands, pretty hands, in little red gloves
All alone
And your hands that break solitude, break comfort
Your hands that sew my eyes open
God, have mercy, am I a witness?
A messenger to tell a tale of boys? And of girls too?
Why did I laugh tonight?
When no joy builds puddles high enough to drown you out
I'll write a poem that all will play
And none will hear
For most, it simply cannot matter
That her sleep and his poetry are halted

Little hands, pretty hands, in little red gloves
All alone
Hold her like a whisper, hold her like a story
Hold her like a poem-- in those hands that break dreams--
And look at her prodigal face
As youthful embers die: his and hers and mine
Three days they fast. Three days I fast
Quick, and the dead
You show no mercy to either
So break my hands with salvation if you do
Strong hands, roue hands, emery hands, praying over me
Who will write my elegy? Who will make my effigy?
Only you? Only you.

copyright 2000

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the sentimentalists

"If you wish to move a reader, write more coldly." --Chekov

There is this overarching, cool people, serious writer kind of thing that utterly loathes the sentimental. I suppose I can understand that to an extent. But I would go so far as to say that I am a sentimentalist writer-- at the least, walking right up to the line of it and peering over. Some will say that makes writing too feminine (gasp!). That it's purple. But maybe I'm purple. I'm not the only one not afraid to speak out about some sentimentalism. Two of my favorites, in fact, Charles Dickens and John Irving often make great use of it. And Irving has a whole essay about it

I think what people really don’t like is the weight you feel as a reader that something was laborious. You don’t want to see the strings, see a lot of effort in the writing. That you can’t be both natural and sentimental. I think people equate sentimentality with being manipulated. (Manipulation of your emotions also has a time and place, yeah? Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.)  Either way, I think you can be natural and sentimental. 
All I know is that I’ll do whatever I have to do to gut you. If it’s three words, fine. If it’s 300, that’s fine too.

But the best times of my life were when I was reduced to mush from what someone said. Sometimes these are private moments I have alone with a book or a letter. Sometimes they’re the conversations of a lifetime—on a couch, in a hotel bathroom, on the phone while I walk 40 blocks down Manhattan.

I don't want to write more coldly.
I want your heart on the table.
You decide how easy you’re gonna give it to me.

More Rise shortly…

Excerpt of Irving's "In Defense of Sentimentality" after the jump

baby photo update

AHH!! I can't handle her! She is too much. I love Tigerlily!

dulcius ex asperis

I've always been big into genealogy. I'm sort of my family historian. Then my dad caught the big and did a bunch of research on his own, giving us all a big book of our ancestry. I bet I could prove my relationship to just about anybody...hahhaa.
I wear this clan ring and people ask me about it all the time. So I've started researching the more ancient parts of Ferguson clan history, some of which I'll be rolling out here. But this weekend is the clan gathering in Stirling. Man, would I like to be there just to see what the thing is really like. My only knowledge of a clan gathering was the one depicted on my favorite TV show, Monarch of the Glen.

There's lots to say about our ancestors, but let's just say it comes as no surprise that many of our folks were the most well-known poets, philosophers & romantics in Scottish history.

Adam Ferguson the philosopher (1724-1816) and Robert Fergusson (1750-1774) the poet and mentor of Robert Burns. And in the realm of romance, the heroine of the song Annie Laurie was married to Alexander Ferguson of Craigdarroch.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

i always knew that empathy was dangerous...

As much as I love positive energy, I might love a well-worded rant even more. This is one of the best rants I've ever seen. And even more wonderful-- a multi-media rant.

"empathy leads you to very bad decisions...many times." --Glenn Beck

For the record, Glenn Beck made about 1000x what I made last year. Maybe if I can just find something absolutely ridiculous enough to say, I too can be experience the beautiful America he cries about so often.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

in 60 seconds

love this. I'm about done with SATC. Although, for the record, I'm for Aidan. I'd have been all about Aidan. Oh well. After curly hair and the writer thing, me and Carrie B wildly diverge. mercifully.

warrior princess - part two

  Zadie and Scotty saved Big Sky America for last.  Even though the rain had water logged the wood of the tree house, putting out most of the sparks with a little singe, they knew that Big Sky America would be different.
      Scotty stood poised over the fuse, waiting for Zadie to start their traditional fireworks song.
      “You have to sing it or it’s bad luck,” Scotty said. “And if you don’t, I won’t let you come back in my tree house.”
      So she stood up on the thick wrung of the tree house railing, where they had positioned the red white & blue rocket. With arms outstretched, she sang a non-sense aria she knew by heart.
      Scotty clapped and then steadied himself with the lighter he had taken from his dad. “Ready? One, two, now”
      The fire geyser of sparks knocked the whole thing off balance and it fell of the railing onto the wet wood of the tree house deck. Instead of shooting upwards, it spun streams of fire in colored circles around the children’s bare legs. Zadie could feel it singing her little legs and she smelled burnt hair. They both screamed and jumped, while the firework itself screeched and hissed it’s way dead.

       A moment later, Zadie saw her mother and Mr. Booter come running from Scotty’s house. Zadie’s mother looked like a dwarf below when she yelled, “Don’t make me come up there and get you. You know I don’t like heights.”
      Mr. Booter had already started climbing the ladder. “Are you kids okay?” he asked. When he got to the top, he stood staring at the burnt-out carcass of the Big Sky America.
      “You two are lucky this wood is so wet or else you might have burnt this house down with you in it.”
      Zadie knew she was in real trouble. Her mother would start yelling at Mr. Booter, and then later, she would yell at Zadie. And she’d really never ever be allowed to Scotty again this time. Scotty’s last memory of her would be a screaming girl with a horrible, ugly mullet.
      Zadie followed her mother with her head bent low, trying not to look at Scotty. But instead of going to their own house, her mother walked with Mr. Booter into Scotty’s house. After a confused moment, Zadie followed her mother in as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

warrior princess- part one

      The day they moved into the big old house outside Vancouver was Zadie’s fifth birthday and she cried because her mother barely spoke to her and because she missed the coziness of their apartment back in Portland. But Michael, her mom’s boyfriend, knew the importance of turning five, especially when it’s five going on forty five. Before Zadie went to sleep that night, he told her he had a present for her.
      He began by tucking her tightly under the covers. He sat down beside her on the bed and dimmed the light on the nightstand.
      “Now,” he said, “I want to tell you the story of the greatest warrior princess in all of forest mythology.”
      It sounded kind of boring to Zadie. She wiggled away from him under the covers.
      “I don’t want to hear about any woods.”
      “Ah, yes. Woods are scary. At least, they were, once upon a time, before the strongest princess in all the land—Princess Zadie—came to be their protector. And she was fierce and smart and very beautiful. She had the longest, blackest hair that curled in the rain. And she had very pale skin and rosy cheeks that almost glowed in the darkness of the woods.”
      “Well, wasn’t Zadie scared?” asked the real Zadie, nestling herself deeper into her pillow.
      “No. She had been a tree sprite before she was a princess, so she knew all the best hiding places. And like I said, she was very smart. Princes Zadie loved adventure and she saved the forest from many dangerous creatures.”
      After that first story, ‘Princess Zadie’ became the tradition for Michael and Zadie. He would always have a brand new one when he came back from his weeklong shifts on the fishing boat. Zadie would wait for him for him to come home in their front yard, at the beginning of a long gravel path.
                  *  *  * 

the fear of wasted time

I'll post a new short story (in installments) beginning tomorrow morning at around 8:30.

In the meantime, here are some Courtyard Hounds. Emily is no Natalie Maines...there's no searing precision, like Natalie. She doesn't just wring your heart out like Natalie. But Martie & Emily have always been great song writers & terrific musicians. And I'll take 2/3 of  the chicks on a mellow album over none of the chicks any day.

I recommend this one, The Fear of Wasted Time:

Goodnight for now! Tomorrow: Warrior Princess

"There is nothing wasted in Buddhism."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

the real america

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
On Topic: In the News - The Real America
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Personally, I've had about enough of being called Un-American. Yeah, so I'm moving to Scotland (in part because teabaggers and death threats against presidents and senators makes me sick) There are certainly 2 Americas. I don't argue with that. But I've had enough of hearing that my America isn't the "REAL America."
As though the sacrifices and priorities of New Yorkers and Washingtonians are less meaningful or less valuable than the sacrifices and priorities of Alaskans or Texans or Kansans (Kansas-ans ??).

It recalls my favorite New Yorker article of all time, which made me cry (again) several days after the 2004 election.

And, of course, the lovely Jon Stewart also noticed.

Indeed, there are 2 Americas. But the insistence that one is real and one is...what??...they never say...fake?? is not only preposterous, but  insulting.

Here in the big coastal cities, we have reason to fear for the immediate safety of our lives and our families—more reason, it must be said, than have the residents of the “heartland,” to which the per-capita bulk of “homeland security” resources, along with extra electoral votes, are distributed. It was deep-blue New York (which went three to one for Kerry) and deep-blue Washington, D.C. (nine to one Kerry), that were, and presumably remain, Al Qaeda’s targets of choice.

In the heartland, it is claimed, some view the coastal cities as faintly un-American. The terrorists do not agree. They see us as the very essence—the heart, if you like—of America. 

Trapped in lament/To the poet's core

Mayer, despite his propensity to spontaneously combust on the pressure of his own thought pattern whenever prompted to speak in any other form than lyrics, has a knack for choosing covers.

I really do think he's a genius. Particularly when he lets the guitar do the talking.

Now, I have a soft-spot for the guy because 1. I actually kinda get his logic most of the time (not the napalm thing, but the other stuff). It almost always comes out wrong, but I see what he's getting at. And 2. probably most importantly, I feel attached to him because, amongst everyone I know, I take credit for "discovering him" in 1999. That sounds kind of ridiculous (nobody discovers anybody) but I did befriend him at a coffee shop in Little Five Points in Atlanta one hot July day in 1999. I went up to him largely because I thought he was cute and tall and had a downright buttery voice. But even more than that, I went up to him to make someone else jealous.

It worked. John & I pseudo (pseudo pseudo) stayed in touch for a number of years (I promoted Room For Squares in Japan) and later on that day in L5P, the boy I was trying to make jealous actually kinda fought with 2 other boys for the privilege of buying me a dress (Which I still have.)

But anyhow, John always puts out an album of what I need, when I need it. This winter, the stellar cover of "I'm On Fire" was one of the best things about his new album and I've noticed for several months that he's been pairing the song in concert with joke, straightup heavenly...Emmylou Harris song, "Where Will I Be."

I like the weight he adds to the song. John's version feels very repentant, very of the human element. Of the body. Wounded in a different way. Emmylou's is  so light-winged, which is part of what's great about the song might fly away.

I remember Emmylou Harris very vividly from childhood. Especially this song. I remember wishing I could have a mother like Emmylou Harris, soft and soothing like she was: one part, like, medicine woman or hippie tree-nymph and one part bless-her-heart gospel mother. Like you think she's going to smell like patchouli, and instead she smells like jasmine.

I love questions not phrased as questions. I love that "Where Will I Be," somehow doesn't sound like a question ever in this song... just a looking out, into the distance.

We listened to a lot of Emmylou while we were waiting for TL  to arrive.
And I'm thinking of her now on this perfect Friday evening, along with John and his great taste in covers.

Happy Weekend. Enjoy the original after the jump.

The streets are cracked
And there's glass everywhere
And a baby stares out
With motherless eyes
Under long gone beauty
On fields of war
Trapped in lament
To the poet's core

Oh where oh where will I be
Oh where oh when that trumpet sounds 

Why Stop Now?

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