adventures in dysthymia

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The song lyric/poem I shared a few days ago, 'Occasional Fortune,' is now truly a song, not that there's anything particularly distinguished about it. I went so far as to work up a simple midi-and-loops arrangement for it if I feel like recording. Which is not that easy to do right now, my studio being pretty much in mothballs. But I can do pre-production midi and such on this computer in the office.

Theoretically, I could also record, either on this PC or on my portable recorder, but it's not really practical with me needing to be where I can keep tabs on Mom. No locking myself away right now. And no recording late at night -- I'm not getting enough sleep as it is.

None the less, I signed on for an account at Sound Click if I should decide to upload some music some day. Now that my dial-up connection is a little better -- though still far from ideal and still, well, dial-up -- I might be able to put up some tunes. When and if  I have them.

At which time I would put up a link, of course. Haven't even created an artist profile there yet.

At any rate, although the actual recording of my long-put-off album is still not really feasible, I can and should start some pre-production. There is absolutely no reason not to work up midi arrangements, whether or not I use any part of them in the long run. They can serve as templates or as nothing more than scratch pads for ideas. So I am making a start on that. I suspect that I'll do almost all the playing on this project. Down the line, I'm hoping to do more collaboration or put together a group.

As long as they recognize I'm the star, of course! :D

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Squirrely

Each little boy squirrel
needs a squirrel girl;
she'll make his tail curl,

preferably.
They'd sit in a tree
and act squirrely,

going nuts together
and not caring whether
birds of a feather

can be furry.
There's too much hurry
and squirrels don't worry

anyway.
They chase and play,
They swing and sway

on branches high
and sometimes try
to actually fly

or at least they hop
to another tree top.
They chatter non-stop

as squirrels do
and so would you
if a squirrel too!

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Nonsense and nothing more.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Test Tubes

I had test tubes. Chemistry,
science. That was the thing
when I was a kid. I could

have been a chef, you know.
But no, the adults said,
that's not for you. You can

do better. It wasn't what
we were, then, before Emeril
or Wolfgang. Even before

Graham galloped across
television screens.
Oh, we had Julia, of course,

and her impeccably clean
purple towel. Although
the TV was black and white.

You can do better. College.
Maybe for the rest
of my life. Get a post.

No need to ever leave.
And so, I had test tubes.
But I never cooked up

anything I really
wanted in them.

Stephen Brooke ©2011


Not a poem that is about me, exactly, though in a sense all my poems are about me. That's inevitable. Yeah, I enjoyed cooking and did want to be a chef briefly at one point in my childhood but I never did (nor do I now) have any great passion to pursue it as a career. But the ideas here do come from some real life stuff.

Well, well, a real good rain this afternoon here on Peanut Road. It's very welcome. Just keep it up for a few months! Things are pretty uninteresting otherwise around here. Tucky is just part of the family now and doesn't hang onto me all the time like when she first came. She must have had some mistreatment along the way as she does shy away on occasion, especially when eating. Very cautious about chowing down if I'm near her and looks like she's worried I'm going to punish her for it.

Don't Park Under the Trees

The wind is warm and it will bring
robin and warbler, sparrow, waxwing.
Look out for those migrating flocks,
they pass through regular as clocks.
Leave their calling cards behind,
park your car and you might find
little gifts they have bestowed.
You may wish you had been towed!

Spring is riding on the breeze
and birds are everywhere one sees.
Therefore, I must ask you, please,
don't park under the trees!
Yes, it's time for the birds and the bees
and the pollen that makes me wheeze.
That's alright but I ask you, please,
don't park under the trees!

If it has feathers and a song,
it may be fixing to do you wrong,
and if there's an entire troop,
well, that's a lot of trouble and poop.
So, careful where your park that Bimmer
or don't complain, seethe or simmer,
when they give it a new paint job
with many a little purple daub.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Just a silly song. I came up with the idea back in the spring but didn't get around to working on it until now. With something like this there's a lot of leeway for revision or addition down the line, though one must be cautious not to belabor the joke. That's the biggest complaint I have with most of the humorous songs (or attempted humor) I've heard at live events -- they just don't know when to quit.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Occasional Fortune

I might be quite disappointed,
were I not a pessimist born,
by how things will often turn out--
I'd hang my poor head and I'd mourn.
But, ever expecting the worst,
I'll readily raise a glass
in toast to occasional fortune,
good luck and the smile of a lass!

They've told me the sky may be falling
and shown me a piece of it too.
Disaster must follow disaster,
there's not a darn* thing we can do!
But I've not been hit by one yet
and know all these things too will pass,
so, here's to occasional fortune,
good luck and the smile of a lass!

My attitude may seem unhealthy,
yet it helps to keep me alive;
how could a poor optimist ever
have hope dashed each day and still thrive?
Oh, life does go on, after all;
I'll smile for you, I'm not an ass,
and toast to occasional fortune,
good luck and the smile of a lass!

Stephen Brooke ©2011

* might use a stronger word there...

I ran this one off quite rapidly this morning. Inspiration striking and all that. It may be only a poem or it may be a song of a more folky persuasion. The feel is intended to be Irish and there are obvious influences from 'The Parting Glass.' 3/4 time here.

Nest

I'm a bird that has no wings
never flies, never sings,

lying broken on the ground --
fallen here and never found.

Don't return me to the nest;
I can not sing. I'll soon find rest.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Okay, so I did see a baby bird on the ground, fallen from its nest a few days ago. It's rather an obvious metaphor for what goes on in our own lives, isn't it? We've all fallen from our nests, blah, blah...yeah, that's kind of shallow and all. The memory percolated in my poetry-making pot a while and this is the cup I brewed. Well, more like a demitasse.

* * *

Had a decent little rain yester-eve, finally. The two previous days, although there were showers around the area, we received nothing more than a minute or two of sprinkles. The day before that, again, a nice shower. None of it has been enough to really make a dent in this catastrophic drought situation -- that's going to require some good steady rain, days worth of it. A tropical system is what we really need, not necessarily a hurricane, though!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Grumpy Old Man

Down a way, across the street,
lives the grumpiest old man.
He grumbles at his neighbors' kids
and at his neighbors, when he can.

Visitors are never welcome,
I can tell when I walk by.
His gate is always closed and locked,
His fence is very, very high.

Let me be, is all he asks,
But I can imagine that
it must be lonely living with
no wife, no kids, no dog nor cat.

We don't like him very much,
though we might if he would let us.
Since no one ever bothers him
he can't say that he's truly met us.

Would it be okay to call him,
if I promised not to shout,
but asked politely, at his door, 
Please, would you like to come out?

Maybe it would make no difference,
maybe he would stay inside,
but how could we know his answer
if nobody ever tried?

Someday, I'll go lots of places,
make friends with everyone I meet;
I'd like to start with the grumpy old man,
down a way, across the street.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A poem aimed at children. I don't think it killed any, though.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alien Women

Were I a Klingon, I would adore
the Duras sisters, Lursa, B'etor.
But being human, I know the score --
one would be lethal, two even more!

In every Vulcan, hidden away
is a Romulan -- there she'll stay.
There's the pointy-eared devil to pay
if they let her come out and play!

Ferengi women go quite nude
but it's not considered lewd,
nor is it even one bit rude.
It's the law -- they could be sued!

On star ships, men voyage far and near,
meet women quite unlike the ones here.
Blue or green, clad scanty and sheer --
Alien women, the final frontier!

Stephen Brooke ©2011


Yep, a poem inspired by Star Trek. If you could call this inspiration.

In Between

There was a beginning
and there will be an end.

A big bang and a slow
dissolution.

Aren't we lucky to be
living in between?

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A little musing, sort of in the form of a sijo. But shorter and different and stuff.

* * *

After cobbling together the last posted poem, Hunters' Moon, I was thinking of how similar the process was to the way I've painted in the past. Each word is a loaded brush, ready to create a new nuance of color -- or be painted over when it doesn't quite work the way I wanted.

I was never a fast nor facile painter. I agonized over my brushstrokes, building up a picture with them, one by one, rarely blending much or slopping on wet runny paint.

Is it any wonder that when I write I often have a list of words and phrases I might use, much like laying out a palette? The advantage of writing over painting is that it is far, far easier to fix when it doesn't go quite as desired.

* * *

I decided, since I'm getting more visitors to the blog these days (gotta keep up the fresh content!) that I might try putting some ads here. So there's an Amazon thingy up top now and maybe I'll add another 'recommendation' or two. Adding some to the website too, only stuff that I actually would endorse, no 'targeted' Google ads or any of that.

Btw, I abandoned my occasional blog -- and membership -- at No Depression, the Americana magazine/community. I was there more than a year and it just wasn't worth it to me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hunters' Moon

Dark pines rise into the night,
edged with silver air
and winter's promise, crisp and keen
and chilling, as I fare

into this land where mountains grow
beneath the Hunters' Moon.
The thin clouds race across the sky;
the wind's a mournful tune.

Higher up, there lies a valley,
hollow as my heart,
hungry as the mouths of lovers
knowing they must part.

Forest stands as walls around
these paths, the moonlit rime
glistening like Heaven's stars,
all come to light my climb.

Does a lonesome lake still hold
its mirror to the sky
amid the tall veridian pines
that know the wind and sigh

to feel its careless, cold caress?
Would I hear the call
of the Great Horned Owl that hunts
and haunts across night's fall?

I knew a cabin, once, now dark
and empty as my soul,
when love and Summer was our world,
when my heart was whole,

and all I am and was still waits
there in reflections deep.
Now, the frost lies on this land;
my way grows ever steep.

To look into those depths again
and deeper yet, I seek,
and rest where I once knew myself,
where only life would speak.

Dark pines stand in silhouette
against ascendant light;
beneath the Hunters' Moon I find
remembered trails of night.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Rather longer and more of a story than my typical obscure metaphor-oriented poem. Of course, the story can be seen as one big ol' metaphor too if you wish. This sort of thing does take a bit more careful crafting than some. It certainly didn't roll off my fingertips and onto the screen!

And, yeah, it is still an early draft, pretty much, so it could change. Not that much though, I suspect.

Why forests and cold and lakes and stuff like that? I didn't think about it when I started writing but I've been reading Jack London stories lately. Some of that must have seeped into my brain.

The Court

Four Queens attend me: queens of earth and air,
of fire and water, ladies dark and fair.

Their eyes behold the every turn of fate.
Four youthful Pages at their sides await,

alike unto their mistresses in dress
and face, with wisdom theirs in no way less.

Four Kings most proud and mighty here hold sway,
just rulers yet hard men of war are they.

The elements must serve their each command.
With armored Knights of number same they stand,

their weapons and their tools beside them ever,
to see and know and act, to bind, to sever.

My Court, with staff and sigil, cup and sword,
does guide where I would stray, protect and ward,

advise most wisely when I know but doubt.
Though none might see what destiny deals out,

these images, these lords and ladies play
their game of choice and chance and come what may.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

If you don't get what I'm talking about here, the poem is about tarot cards. It was something of an exercise in trying to capture the feel of another time and place, the antique formal poetry of some Renaissance court and thus not completely 'serious.'

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Once upon a time, when I wrote poetry (or songs or stories or whatever) it was on sheets of notebook paper or, frequently, the backs of discarded letters or such. There were many crossings out and arrows pointing here and there and writing up and down the margins.

It took me a while to transition to the computer and word processing. Indeed, I went figuratively kicking and screaming (I'm much to polite to do it in reality). I still thought like a typist when I sat down at a keyboard, too.

That all did change eventually, as I figured out how to do the things I wanted to do in word processing programs. Now I do almost all my writing in Word Pad -- I find it easier to do the rough stuff in a program without all the bells and whistles. Not that Word ever whistled at me.

But I think I could quite easily go back to paper if need be. My methods have actually changed very little. I just found how to make computer do for me what paper did!

* * *

Once again on the solstice, I must point out that there is no 'official' first day of summer and I do not mark this as the season's start. As far as I'm concerned, the solstice is the middle of summer.

* * *

For my birthday, a couple months ago now, I indulged myself with an inexpensive Rover plectrum banjo. One-hundred and fifty dollars, new, complete with a 'composite' rim. That means plastic with, I assume, a bit of metal reinforcement. It looks like ABS to me, which is okay and perhaps better than cheap plywood, sound-wise.

For anyone who doesn't know what a plectrum banjo is, that's a four stringer with a scale about the same as the typical five string banjo. Tenors, also four string, are shorter and Irish Tenors shorter still. Their pedigree is mostly in jazz but they were not uncommon with the artists and groups of the late 50s/early 60s folk revival.

They also had a popularity with British 'skiffle' groups from around the same time. Lonnie Donegan played one.

Anyway, I rather like it. It seems suited to me (or vice versa). I keep it in 'Chicago tuning,' i.e. like the four high strings on a guitar, and either do my patented thumb-thing or play 'two-finger.' Not enough strings to play four-finger like I do on guitar!

It's fun and probably more suited to me than a five string banjo, since I have zero interest in playing banjo tunes or tunes in general. But it's just the ticket to accompany my singing of 'Rock Island Line.'

* * *

Wow, still incredibly, horribly hot and dry here. This is the worst summer yet since I moved to Peanut Road, though my first year here, five summers ago, came close in terms of dry weather. Not as hot, though.

The summer rains have popped up a little over the last couple weeks but not enough to do much in the way of drought relief. I water morning and evening and hope that the water table doesn't drop so low my well goes dry. There is rain promised as this week progresses, however, real rain. Let's hope, pray, do rain dances or whatever it takes!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Advice

Everyone could use some good advice
Life is sometimes just a roll of the dice
Brides and bridegrooms and even those who throw rice
Everyone could use a little advice

Never throw the first punch
Always throw the last
Don't get into a fight
Until your anger's passed

Never make a wager
If there's nothing to win
Don't think you can do right
By committing a sin

Before you start to walk
You have to learn to crawl
If you're gonna be big
You gotta start out small

Drop what you don't need
Before sleep every night
Then whatever's left
Must be what is right

Never be ashamed
To ask for what you need
Don't regret your choice
Once you do the deed

Take what life might give you
If and when you can
Tomorrow opportunity
May fill the other hand

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A song, of a sort of old-fashioned Country variety. The opening four lines there are bridge or chorus or whatever you want to name them. I'd probably start with them and repeat them somewhere a couple times or so among the verses.

Old corn-pone style wisdom, not to be taken too seriously and fairly conventional in its outlook. That's okay, it's just a song, after all.

Morning Star

Lonesome is the Morning Star,
last to fade, alone at dawn
but knowing a faint taste of day,
the first bird song, the little lights

that come to life in darkened houses.
So like the stars of night, they are,
her many sisters shining high.
She goes to join them now, farewell,

little lights, little stars
that shine below. Farewell, she fades.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A simple little thought in verse.

Sing No More

I will sing no more on the mountain;
I will sing no more of you.

The rocks have held me, dreaming,
as I wept in their arms.
The high snows are streaming
to a distant sea.

I will sing no more with my friends;
I will sing no more of you.

My heart has sailed away
on last night's full moon,
all that was yesterday
afloat upon its tides.

I will sing no more of tomorrow;
I will sing no more of you.

Sea and sky have faded
each into the other.
The dawn would bring you to me;
you wore the scent of gardens.

I will sing no more in the valleys;
I will sing no more of you.

Once night threw stars at me
as I slept in your arms.
You and I have faded
each into the other.

I will sing no more love.
I will sing no more of you.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

I think it's a love poem or something. Sometimes I'm too cryptic even for myself.

Pride

I have worshiped at the altar
of pride, the greatest sin,
sin of the great, or those who would
believe themselves to be.

I was but a slave who thought
I had set myself free,
deluded, drunk on life's sweet wine,
this world's heady din.

Pride held up its empty mirror
and I, a fool, was flattered
to see myself so nobly stand
against oppressive God.

I had done no more than choose
another master's rod.
that mirror holds no more deceptions;
with me, it now lies shattered.

Stephen Brooke ©1970

Now this is a really old one, written when I was twenty. It has many faults, the faults of a youthful writer. My newer poems have the faults of an old writer, of course!

The rhymes and structure are adequate, I suppose, but perhaps boring. Same with the vocabulary. It's too complete as it stands, too much a finished piece from that time in my life, to do anything more than spruce it up a little and send it forth to live with the rest of my poetry.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Seduction

Shall I seduce you with my words
or club you over the head with them?
These poems will have their way with you.

They will not take no as an answer.

I've filled them from my violent heart;
my every dark desire seethes
beneath their surface, honeyed-fair.

They call to you from darkened alleys.

Do not go with them, seeking night,
believing whispered words of love,
the subtle, sweet song of seduction.

They hide the hungry animal growl.

To love or force becomes all one;
my poems lounge in shadowed doorways
and lust to have their way with you.

They will not take no as an answer.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

I may have stretched the central metaphor here a little thin.

Fragment

When all is illusion,
all becomes real,
the universe glimpsed
in the infinite shards
of a fractured mirror.

Once God held it, whole,
before his face and threw
it down, saying 'Look.
Here is the truth you seek.
Find yourself here.'

I have picked up a piece
and kept it by my heart,
believing in the truth
and in the illusions
I saw reflected.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

This kind of came to me all in a rush this morning so it's naturally on the rough side.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tomorrow's Sea

Dreamer, sail with me, across tomorrow's sea;
we both know this wind that blows for you and me.
Choose one distant light and tell it who we are;
take the helm, then, dreamer, steer us by that star.

Lonely have I voyaged on this sea before,
dreaming toward that harbor on its distant shore.
Captain of night's barque, in mists I've sought and sailed;
always it lay hidden, always have I failed.

Dreamer, can you see the hills above a cove,
sea-birds rising dawn-ward, rest for those who rove?
No more must we, yearning, sail a nameless sea
of regrets and losses; dreamer, seek with me.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Yeah, it's trochaic hexameter...or is it? There's a fairly marked break in the middle of each line so it could be written out in lines of three syllables. Oh, I'd lose the strict use of trochees that way, wouldn't I? Well, hexameter it is!

Once again, a poem that started life as some fairly old notes. Most of it is completely new -- I had like one couplet and a few phrases I'd jotted down in 2003.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Guide

There are totem animals and then there are the animal spirit guides. I wouldn't know about having a totem animal. That is something one inherits through ones clan, like a coat of arms or a tartan. I have a tartan, thanks to my Anglo-Irish Brooke ancestors.

On the other hand, a spirit guide comes to you. It chooses you but you must choose to allow it to lead you. It appears, usually, in the form of an animal, at least in shamanistic cultures. These days, we civilized Euro-Americans are probably finding our spirit animals via Native American traditions.

That's not necessary, of course. There are spirit guides of some sort in pretty much every culture. Not always animals, though.

I found -- or was found by -- my animal spirit guide nearly twenty years ago. He is a woodpecker. A pileated woodpecker, to be precise. Life was too busy before that to go looking for him but once I moved to Steinhatchee that changed. He came to me, laughing as woodpeckers will, to let me know.

Picus, the woodpecker, is also a minor god in the Roman pantheon, a companion of Mars and the god of manure! I suspect he's keeping a watch on my compost heap. :)

A woodpecker is a searcher. He digs into trees, looking for his meals. Spiritually, he digs through the layers searching for knowledge.

He is also a musician, obviously. A drummer, a dealer in rhythms, rather than the sweet songs of some other birds. Attuned, perhaps, to cosmic rhythms or so we might hope!

Do I believe there is an actual spiritual being out there in the guise of a woodpecker? Yes and no. I have created him out of myself and out of the universe. He is part of me but I am part of everything so I am also part of my spirit guide. I accept his existence on a mystical level.

Physically, a woodpecker is a woodpecker. His guidance must ultimately rise out of my own experiences and insights. He acts as a symbol, a tool for seeking within myself. And I will let him keep hammering away through all my dead wood.

I suspect there's quite a lot of it.

SB June 2011

addendum: By the way, in Christian tradition , ones Guardian Angel would qualify as a spirit guide. And they have wings, just like my woodpecker.

Wow, I just got online at 48.0 -- that's the fastest in over three months! Am I finally back to normal...or will it log me on at a tenth of that again next time?

Know Nothing

The only thing we know
is that we know nothing,
many a glib prophet
has declared.

Though I know I don't
know all, I know a little
and know that is far
better than nothing.

There lies a great, deep darkness
beyond my candle's glow
but here is light enough
that I can see

and know that I know something
and know that there is more
that I may never know
but might still seek.

Ah, yes, a little knowledge
may be a dangerous thing
but I'll not seek the safety
of dark rooms.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

As poetry, nothing special at all, but I guess I said more or less what I was trying to say.

MY DAD

An outdoorsman, in a slightly old-fashioned sense -- that might be the best word to describe my father. Horseman, avid angler for fish large and small, lover of far and lonesome places.

Not a camper, however -- Dad treasured his comfort!

A gardener. He loved to spend hours puttering about in the yard, in the garden. A carpenter and builder by vocation and perhaps by nature, a man who preferred the concrete over the conceptual, disinclined to believe in anything on which he could not lay his hands.

Always a nice guy except, perhaps, to himself. A man of hidden moods and depressions. A man who didn't drink or smoke or allow himself much in the way of vices at all, other than over-indulging his taste for flavorful foods.

A man who loved but was not demonstrative. A man whose taste in music tended to Sousa marches, who never sang but whistled frequently. Dad did not dance, if he could help it, but was athletic and nimble. He was a champion table tennis player in his college days.

In fact, he shaped his own custom handles for his personal ping-pong paddles. He also built his own fishing rods. Well crafted they were, too.

A man with no racial prejudices but who didn't understand why he couldn't call his black employees 'boys.' He called all the men who worked for him 'boys,' after all. A man who used profanity extensively but almost never spoke in anger.

A man who scoffed at all religion yet married a highly devout woman. Love does strange things to one.

It's going on six years since Dad passed away. His last five years were spent in bed or wheelchair, barely aware of what was going on around him. I was his caregiver as he slipped further away, day by day. Not a role I regret nor time I consider wasted.

He was my dad, after all.

SB 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Barack Obama: like Bill Clinton, but not as much fun.

Anyone who was paying attention during the last presidential campaign should have realized that Obama was essentially a moderate, business as usual sort of Democrat, i.e. not much different from Bill Clinton or Obama's primary opponent, Hillary Clinton. That's okay, I reckon, though certainly not the change for which many were hoping.

Anyway, I've nothing particularly against President Obama. I think he's done a decent job. I read an article comparing him (favorably) to Dwight Eisenhower and I can buy it. That's one Republican for whom I could have voted. I appreciate a cool head who can operate efficiently behind the scenes. Enough with the cowboys and playboys.

Yes, the economy is still pretty much a mess. I do not believe there is much the president or anyone else can do about that. Asking a politician can fix the economy is akin to requesting a chef to repair your car.

But both of them can help keep you fed until things are working again. I would consider this the proper action for government: not to tinker with the economy -- which is pretty much self-regulating in the long run -- but to ensure that people are not harmed too much by its ups and downs.

This is not to say that government can not and should not regulate and shape the economic picture, though I'm not sure how effective their actions often are -- even more so in this world economy. All the programs of FDR may not have done that much to bring us out of the Great Depression but they did do a lot to help citizens get by. That, at least, increased the confidence of the public which can ultimately help the overall picture.

As far as the Republicans looking to run against Obama go, I'm not impressed. Well, I'm not impressed much by either major party and am disinclined to vote for either as long as they accept corporate donations and remain in bed with the money interests. There is a perception by politicians throughout the spectrum that the nation and its welfare depends on big business and international competition. Where does that leave the rest of us?

As their employees, I suppose. That's not the world I'd be wanting. It shouldn't be surprising that I went over to the Green Party and haven't found any reason to leave.

But there aren't always Green candidates available, or viable ones. Chances are I would vote for Mr Obama again for lack of a better choice. Most of the Republicans offer nothing. Some of them seem utter dunces.

This should not come off as religious intolerance, but I could never vote for someone who believed in creationism. It simply shows an incapacity for critical thinking, an inability to form a logical conclusion from overwhelming evidence, and I would not want such a person in charge. Doubts about evolutionary theory, okay. Rejecting the possibility out of hand...no.

Too many Republicans (and yes, Democrats as well) take life and beliefs in general like that. They are true believers in whatever and will be doctrinaire about it to the end, whether it be unfettered capitalism or the desire to regulate us all for our own good.

That latter led to the Progressive elements in this country giving us Prohibition, by the way -- Woodrow Wilson's one enduring legacy.

So Obama is a bit boring. No sex, no sax, no playing, no play-acting on aircraft carriers. That's a good thing, I say. Keep me bored a while longer.

MORE STUFF About Freedom and all that...

...continuing what I wrote about libertarians and free will a few posts back.

Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Ben, I am sorry to say, was not being completely sensible the day he offered that oft-quoted bit of advice (especially for a fellow noted for wise sayings). The very definition of government means giving up some freedom in exchange for security.

The real question is where one draws the line. As in all things, there needs to a balance.

I do not recognize that anyone or any group -- even a voting majority -- has any innate right to tell me what to do. Whatever I do, it is for me to choose. Following the rules, however, allows society to function. After a fashion, anyway.

But my only true duty is this: to do what is right. To be able to do so is, I suppose, one definition of freedom. If one is prevented from choosing (or not choosing) the right thing, one is not free.

On the other hand, if some 'authority' stops me from harming someone else (or someone else from harming me!), is that acceptable? That is the security we expect from a government, isn't it? And have we given up freedom to have that security?

Strictly speaking, yes. But that person who might harm another is also taking away freedoms, via his or her coercion. So, in a sense, we give up one freedom for another.

It's always a balancing act and that slippery slope lies on either side. It would be far too easy to let ourselves just slide one way or the other -- to be doctrinaire, to be a 'true believer,' to think that blindly following a belief will solve all things. Even the libertarian who has such an attitude has given up his freedom in favor of a closed mind.

I would not call it a giving up of my free will, my individuality, to pay taxes or follow traffic laws. Those are just things we choose to do as part of functioning in our society. But they are a loss of freedom. Only we can decide whether we are giving up too much.

SB June 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sweep Me Up

Sweep me up. I'm ready to go
in your box, be stored away.
My heart's been carried around too long,
been in too many pockets. Sweep me

into your grandfather's cigar
box, the one you've kept for odds
and ends and it's familiar smell,
faded as the memories

you placed there. I will be among them;
just lift the lid, now and again.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Food Song

verse 1:
I know a rutabaga is a root,
But what a 'baga' is, I cannot say;
And while I'm on the subject, I must ask
Who eats those rutabagas anyway?

verse 2:
Something else that puzzles me is this:
Where did they come up with the name zucchini?
I do believe it is some kind of squash
But most are orange or yellow -- this one's greeny!

refrain:
Oh, why do butter beans taste better buttered?
Why do we always scream for more ice cream?
Why is it such a job
to eat corn on the cob,
And why does lasagna always get on ya?

verse 3:
Don't turn up your nose when you're served turnips
and there are far worse things out there than wurst.
Oh, no somebody put quiche on my dish --
I do wish that they had asked me first!

verse 4:
Bread is not a fruit so why is breadfruit?
Grapes are fruit and so it seems are grapefruit!
A man goes for mangoes and monkeys go for mangoes
so there's no reason not to give an ape fruit!

bridge (sorta):
I yam what I yam
and I yam not a yam
Oh, I'm a sweet potato
yes I yam!

there will be an instrumental break or two somewhere in there

repeat that refrain/chorus thing here, natch

Stephen Brooke ©2011

It's been a bit of a long road to this one -- parts of it have shown up in various guises previously but I always had this in mind! The music I have running through my noggin is fairly straightforward and simple. No point in dousing something like this in a soup of jazz chords, after all.

I finally finished with all my handwritten notes and poems and such from earlier days -- mostly 2001 to 2004. Some ended up as digital notes on the computer, ideas and partially finished pieces to pick up again some other day.

The rest are now finished poems. Some were pretty much ready as they were or required modest rewriting. Others were almost completely reworked or created from my jottings. This brings the total up to 695 poems in my database, again, not including haiku and such or most of my songs.

The Land of Small Demons

A constant sky holds tomorrow
in place, holds it like a careless
glove, toying with its mate,
only to drop it along the way.

In the land of small demons, the days
are taken by the crimson hills.
Behind the sun, beneath the moon,
jackals dig for the ragged scraps.

A great king crossed here once and claimed
all as his realm. His treasury
could not hold the restless sand
nor the stars of a desert night.

Three jewels sing in tree-top, envy
of the silent stone forest.
The small demons are nimble; they climb
in search of their shining eggs.

A poet wandered over thirsty mountains,
full of songs to an unknown love.
Far away, where the day
meets the sky, does she still wait?

Gasping across the dust, mermaids
flop toward their land-locked pools.
Alas, the demons drank them all
and pissed them into the fiery sea.

This treasured pain, I wrapped in shadow,
narrow behind me. The little demons
grasp for it; they have taken
my eyes as tokens for their games.

I hear them gambling, casting lots
over empty egg-shells. Discarded
as useless, come dawn, how shall
I find them in the endless sands?

The coupling of gods and men has left
both weary and neither satisfied.
None rest in the land of small demons.
None heed the singing of the jewels.

Look up to the mountains, your distant borders.
Do streams flow there, cool waters of life
and forgiveness? It is not far.
I've heard their song. It is not far.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

The title here -- 'The Land of Small Demons' -- has been in my notes for a rather long time, along with some scraps of concept and phrase. This lies somewhere on the border between surrealism and fantasy, I suppose, if one is inclined to label things. No doubt it will see rewriting in time -- a thicket of symbols like this usually needs some pruning.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

With Fathers' Day upcoming, I thought I'd post a song lyric that's not quite about my own father, but partially inspired by his life. Some of the details are lifted from Dad's story, like the LaSalle-based trailer, but the guy in this song is not James Reginald Brooke, just someone who lived sort of a parallel existence. This should be the title song of my Florida songs CD if I ever get it done.

SUNSHINE LAND

Right after the war, he loaded his Thirty-Eight Ford
And a trailer made from the back of a La Salle,
With his wife and kid on southbound Forty-One,
Headed no place special at all.

Worked for a while in Georgia as a carpenter,
Then he took his family and started south again,
Going on down to Florida, where he’d heard
A building boom was about to begin.

Moving to a Sunshine Land, moving to a Sunshine Land,
Where the girls are prettier and everyone is tan.
Living in a Sunshine Land, living in a Sunshine Land,
Building a brand new life out of palmetto and sand.

Had a daughter while they stayed in Jacksonville,
Got his builder’s license, joined a church.
Tampa was a good place, stayed there for a while;
Then he went on with his search.

He’d heard that times were good down in Miami,
Decided they should go and get their share;
So in Fifty-Two, he made another move
To see if life was sunnier there.

Moving to a Sunshine Land, moving to a Sunshine Land,
Where the girls are prettier and everyone is tan.
Living in a Sunshine Land, living in a Sunshine Land,
Building a brand new life out of palmetto and sand.

Never quite found what he was searching for;
I guess he just got tired of moving on.
Lived his life out in a Sunshine Land;
Hope the sun shines where he’s gone.

Stephen Brooke ©1990

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Journeyed

I have journeyed long,
without a destination,
on restless roads of night,
in sleepless desperation.

I have yearned for peace,
somewhere, peace to last,
all the endless miles
I've raced against my past.

And I could have stopped,
pulled it over, thought
'No more, I've traveled far
enough and have found naught.

'Let life and road go on
without me at the wheel.
My eyes have longed to close;
this highway's all I feel.'

'Just a little further,
around this shadowed bend'
whispered my heart, knowing
you were my journey's end.

On roads of night it heard;
it knew your distant song
as I traveled far,
as I journeyed long.

Stephen Brooke ©2002/2011

Another partially finished piece from the notes, now apparently completely finished. On looking at this poem I see that it could probably be developed as a song. Maybe the two middle verses with a different melody to serve as bridge or maybe some more words added. Or maybe just leave well enough alone.

HOUSE MUSIC

I've noticed, here and there on the internet, some mentions of Hugh Laurie's recent musical exploits. You probably know him as an actor from House or the older Jeeves and Wooster series or even way back when, from Blackadder (loved that show). And you probably are aware that he's a pretty decent musician.

Many of the remarks I've seen have been somewhat disparaging, stuff posted by those considering themselves 'real' musicians, calling Laurie an amateur, butting into 'their' business and stealing the limited gigs available to the true at heart.

Okay, as a musician, perhaps he is an amateur though he plays better than many professionals I've heard. I suppose it's the commitment rather than the skill level that counts for these folks!

But the thing is this: musicians are a dime a dozen. Hugh Laurie is an entertainer. It does not matter if there are thousands of starving musicians out there who can outplay him. They can't out-perform him and that is what people pay to see, mostly. It takes some charisma.

To turn this conversation to me -- I always manage to do that eventually -- I am a pretty gawd-awful musician. But I'm never 'myself' on stage. Myself isn't anyone you'd want to see or hear. I am essentially an actor when I get up and play, not a musician, and do not pretend otherwise.

Not on the level of Hugh Laurie, of course, music or entertainer-wise!

This train of thought just led me to a side-spur. Let me switch the tracks here...

I occasionally see complaints about people singing in 'ethnic' voices, trying to sound Irish/English/Jamaican/Afro-American/whatever. Some decry the lack of 'authenticity.' Some even seem to feel it's in bad taste.

But this also I consider acting. Do we complain when an actor takes on a role that requires a different voice? No, we applaud him if he pulls it off well. We should think no differently of the singer performing a song. That's a role, too.

The biggest complaint I might have about the current pop singers out there -- and this has been true for quite some time -- is that they're all about technique and forget to play the role. Their performances are empty. Their act is posturing, not heart-felt. The words could be (and often are) meaningless.

How we could use a Sinatra around now!

SB June 2011

The King Must Sing

A call from the Great, Grand High Frog
brought all, to the least polliwog,
before his throne, high on a log,
for he was the King of the Bog.

The King blinked his big, bulging eyes,
announcing, to each frog's surprise,
'I'm tired of just catching flies
or sitting up here looking wise.

'It's time that I act like a king,
and I know exactly the thing:
a leader's voice surely should ring,
so someone must teach me to sing!'

No, frogs cannot actually frown,
but some of their mouths did turn down;
they even asked 'What's with this clown?
His head is too big for his crown!'

For this task appealed to no one,
with most frogs preferring to shun
all work and just sit in the sun --
they're lazy sorts, when all is done.

One little tad finally spoke,
'Your Highness must certainly joke.
You already have a fine croak
and don't need the help of we folk.'

'Oh yes,' all agreed eagerly,
'You must set your royal voice free!'
and puffed him up with flattery,
so now the King sings constantly.

They soon recognized their mistake --
his bellowing made the swamp shake;
it wavered and often would break.
All night long he kept them awake.

They raised no more hale froggy cheers,
they cried in their cold froggy beers,
for his singing quickly brought tears
to frog eyes and even frog ears.

He wheezed like a broken down bus,
it couldn't be more hideous,
and led to a great froggy fuss.
Why, some even started to cuss!

But what can one do but just sigh
and live with what comes of a lie?
The Great, Grand High Frog sings on high --
the other frogs? They must get by!

Stephen Brooke ©2011

So, maybe a half or so of this was written out some years ago, maybe around 2005. Sat down and finished it this morning, with a few revisions of what was already there. Not what one would be inclined to call deep and meaningful poetry!

Written in strict trimeter, by the way.

Friday, June 10, 2011

JESUS SPEAKS

What did Jesus speak? The language, I mean. Aramaic, as is typically asserted? Or did he know and converse in other tongues as well?

Aramaic was, for a few centuries, the common tongue of much of the Middle East. In some areas, it was a trade tongue, a language people didn't speak at home but used to talk with those from other areas and cultures. For others, it was the birth tongue, what they spoke every day. The Jews had picked it up as their language while in Babylon and most who lived in Palestine still spoke it.

By the time of Jesus, Greek had been displacing Aramaic as lingua franca of the Middle East for over three hundred years. Eventually, it did so almost completely. That is until Arabic displaced Greek.

Greek was the language of government in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. It was the language of Herod and the Jewish royal court. It was undoubtedly the language of Jesus' trial before Pilate. You pretty much had to have Greek to get along, if you moved in anything more than local village society.

Greek was also common in Egypt, where Jesus supposedly spent his earliest years.

It is pretty likely Jesus knew and spoke Greek. He may or may not have taught in that language but I would guess that he occasionally did, especially in the more sophisticated towns such as Capernaum. He may well have used it in everyday conversation.

But it's also certain that he preached in Aramaic. It was what most of the crowds understood in the countryside of Galilee and Judea, and most certainly in Samaria. Though when teaching in a city such as Jerusalem, with visitors from all over, Greek might have been a more universally recognized choice.

A learned Jew, one who knew the scriptures well, probably would understand Hebrew, even if it was no longer the daily language of the people. There is some evidence that Jesus taught in Hebrew on occasion, perhaps when in the synagogues. This is based on linguistic analysis of certain sermons; however, it is not absolutely sure that they were actual sermons of Jesus. It's entirely possible that rabbinical discourses by others ended up in the Gospels, attributed to Jesus.

One question that would have bearing on all this is just where Jesus grew up and what sort of society he was moving in as a boy and young man. We're not absolutely certain where his home town of Nazareth was located. It may or may not have been the village in central Galilee that has long laid claim to being his home. It has some arguments in its favor: its name, of course, the fact that it has been a claimant from just a few centuries after the death of Jesus, and its proximity to some other towns mentioned in the gospels, such as Cana and Nain.

Aramaic was still the common language in such villages. If Jesus grew up there, that's what he would have been speaking every day.

On the other hand, the descriptions of Nazareth in the Bible do not exactly jibe with this town's situation. They would suggest that it was perhaps in the hills overlooking the Lake Galilee, relatively near to Capernaum and other Hellenistic towns, i.e. closer to the centers of culture -- Greek and otherwise -- in Palestine. If Jesus and his father were doing skilled construction work (they were more likely masons than carpenters), it would be a more likely area to find employment. There was lots of building going on around there, thanks to the Romans.

And there was lots of opportunity to learn, to exchange ideas, to discourse on a hundred different philosophies floating around the Hellenistic world. We do know that Jesus eventually headquartered himself in Capernaum.

Even the more rural Nazareth was not really that far away, a journey of a day or two, so if Jesus grew up there, it was not like he was out in the middle of nowhere, learning nothing but Aramaic and village life. People could walk across the hills to Capernaum or over to the seacoast. A construction worker seeking employment would be likely to do so.

Ah, but there was also Jerusalem. Remember the child Jesus speaking in the temple? Assuming it's a true story and not a legend tacked onto the Jesus story, it would look as though he was picking up much of his own people's tradition and knowledge too. I suspect that his mother, Mary, had some pull in the temple. She did serve there as a girl and quite possibly had contacts and friends among the scribes and such.

If one is not inclined to accept the whole virgin birth concept, it is also a likely source of Jesus' paternity and an explanation of the patronage of someone like Nicodemus. Having a father in the temple could explain many things, particularly one with a bit of power and wealth. Such a man could certainly persuade Joseph to overlook his wife's pregnancy, as well as arrange for some extra education and comforts for the child.

Or they could have simply been friendly towards Mary and her family. Either way, it would appear that young Jesus may have been allowed some privileges at the Temple -- and opportunities to learn -- that were not available to all.

Well, all we can say for absolute certain is that Jesus did speak Aramaic. Why? Because Matthew quotes some of the Aramaic words. Matthew and the other gospels were written, of course, in Greek though Matthew's book is aimed largely at a Galilean Jewish readership. So we can assume such readers knew Greek! It is a bit interesting that none of the New Testament was written in Aramaic, even though all of it was completed within about sixty years from his death.

On the other hand, the earlier text (the quelle) that seems to have served as a partial source material for the gospels of Luke and Matthew may have originally been in Aramaic (though they seem to have borrowed from a Greek text). Or it may also have been written in Greek but preserved much of the Aramaic speech of Jesus. Since the actual document no longer exists (so far as is known -- and it may not be a text so much as a collection or even oral tradition) and is known only through extrapolation from the gospels, its existence is an assumption -- an almost certainly correct assumption. This text, it seems, was essentially an account of the teachings and sayings of Jesus, not a story of his life and ministry like the gospels.

Unless a copy shows up some day, hidden perhaps in some Palestinian cave, we'll never know exactly. Some more conservative biblical scholars would deny that it ever existed. Incidentally, at one time it was somewhat widely believed that Matthew was originally in Aramaic and translated to Greek. This is quite discredited now, with the recognition of this earlier source.

I do suppose it does not matter that much. The teachings are more important than the language. I'm not one to take the gospels as, well, gospel. I'm quite sure there are inaccuracies in them -- stories and fables and parables that became attached to the Jesus account. This happens to pretty much all notable people as their story becomes legend. It was probably going on even during his own lifetime.

But knowing the language does help understand the thinking. The metaphors and symbols implicit in any language shape the meanings. Changing Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English has also changed the messages of Jesus, sometimes subtly, sometimes not quite so much. Modern translation efforts continue to improve our understanding, bring new nuances to these old texts.

Anyway, it's all knowledge and that's a good thing. The more we understand, the better we can deal with what we don't understand! Knowing what Jesus spoke may not help you get through today. Shoot, you may be an atheist, for all I know, and not care. But information is what any computer needs to function properly, including the human brain.

So, go forth and function!

Stephen Brooke ©2011

P.S. I write up stuff like this mostly to clarify my own thoughts, not to 'teach' anyone else. Take what you want from it, leave what you don't.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Laugh

Laugh with me. Laugh anytime,
when we work, play, make love.
The serious, the joyless --
I have known them. Let them
find their own misery.

Cry with me. One can not laugh,
truly, if one can not cry.
Cry for your losses, and mine,
remembering the laughter
and all that we have loved.

And love with me. Every song
will be a love song,
whether it laughs or cries.
We will laugh and cry with it;
we will love so long as it plays.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Suggested by -- but quite different from -- an idea I'd jotted down ten or eleven years ago. And a much better idea it is than the old one, too!

I finally cashed in an Amazon gift card I received on my birthday for a book of Don Blanding poetry, Vagabond's House. Early stuff of Blanding and with its faults, but fun to read if just for the sound of it. That's true of much of his poetry -- it's about the sound and color of words and rhythms more than any serious meanings or messages. He just seemed to love those exotic names and words.

There was some mention of this sort of thing in the essay on free verse I posted here a little while back. These poems are all (okay, mostly) about form, and that includes the sound and shape of words. Their meaning as metaphor and symbol is very much pushed to the background, though such are always there -- its an integral part of language. But Don Blanding could generally not be accused of being deep, though he does occasionally surprise one!

Full Moon Fever

How did this happen?
I thought it couldn't be
Full moon fever
has taken hold of me

Toss and turn all night
I'm a man possessed
When full moon fever
has you there's no rest

Infection is spreading
Burning up my dreams
Full moon fever
takes madness to extremes

Don't call me a doctor
know what I should do
For full moon fever
the only cure is you

Full moon fever
raging in my heart
Full moon fever
tearing me apart
Full moon fever
taking its toll
Full moon fever
body and my soul

Fire in my gut
demons in my head
Full moon fever
feels like my death bed

Sweating and groaning
need my medicine
Full moon fever
let the cure begin

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Yes, a song lyric of the more rocky-rolly sort. Or rootsy-bluesy maybe. Indeed, I could just repeat the first part of each verse and make it into a twelve bar blues. Though probably not -- I like it this way and heard the music this way. I wrote a bit less half of this sometime back -- maybe 7 or 8 years ago? -- and finished it off rather quickly this morning. Sometimes it takes that long to figure out what you're doing and once you have, things readily fall into place.

OF FLORIDA and elsewhere

Much of my younger life was spent in South Florida. Not the South Florida that probably pops into your mind, the beaches of Miami, the art deco hotels, the hot latinas (though I did know that world later). No, I was over on the Gulf Coast, where the Everglades meets the mangrove.

It's a different world, more akin to Tampa than Miami yet with a vibe all of its own. Of course, as with most of peninsular Florida, the influx of Northerners has had an homogenizing effect. A golf course is a golf course is a golf course.

Be that as it may. South-west Florida may have been where I did much of my growing-up but my roots are in the hill country of South-west Ohio. Culturally, that area has more in common with West Virginia and Kentucky than it does with the rest of the state.

Maybe that makes me a bit of hillbilly, eh? At any rate, I'm not particularly close to being a Florida Cracker. Oh sure, there's some of that -- couldn't grow up where I did without a little of it rubbing off on me. I knew a lot of old-time Crackers and their offspring.

But I was basically a water person. The beaches and bays were my life, not the interests of my more red-necky acquaintances. When I think of the rural life, my mind goes back to Ohio, to the Hocking Hills.

There, apple orchards stood below sandstone cliffs, where the vultures nested and launched themselves into a deep summer sky. There, one could explore caves and search for traces of Indian camps. There was swimming in the cold creeks, frogs and newts to catch by the springs, whip-poor-wills to sing you to sleep.

It's not a world I'll ever recapture, just as I can not walk the beaches and surf the waves I once knew. Panhandle Florida will never be the Hocking Hills nor will Panama Beach quite measure up to the Naples of old. But for that matter, the Naples of now won't measure up either and I'm sure the Hills would seem very different to me.

I do not particularly think of myself as a Florida artist or Florida musician. I've never been one to be loyal to a place. It's just a place and one place is pretty much as good as another. It's living with myself that's the hard part! I've written songs about Florida because, well, it's stuff I know.

Every change, every new place, every new relationship, is like a page in a book. You turn the page and go on reading. Does one regret that he can't stay on the same page forever? You'd never find out how the story ends.

I'm okay with where I'm living now. I'd kind of had my eye on Alabama when I decided to move -- particularly the Cullman area -- but here on Peanut Road turned out to be a good compromise. And, after all, the other stuff in my life would happen no matter where I was.

SB June 2011

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

LIBERTARIANS, Anarchists, Free Will and a Bunch of Other Stuff

Once upon a time, I was strongly attracted to the libertarian philosophy. After a while, however, I realized that most libertarians were not truly committed to personal freedom, but only to the degree that it benefited them. Most were unwilling to do away with the strictures and structures of private ownership and capitalism.

If libertarians truly believed in freedom, they would not believe in restricting others from using any resource, rather than protecting it through ownership laws. Or, even allowing for capitalism, they should not wish to keep such artificial structures as corporations, that allow investors to relinquish personal responsibility.

True libertarianism would be anarchism. I'm not necessarily opposed to an anarchist society (which of course still has societal guidelines even if there are no laws) but maybe not right now! The goal of Marxism, you may know, was to ultimately have an anarchist world. Anarchism might be described as libertarian communism.

Unfortunately, Marx and those who followed (more or less) his ideas, thought that a socialist state would eventually 'wither away' leaving the communist/anarchist society. It didn't work, did it? That's because you don't get rid of government by making it stronger, by centralizing authority. Any state will try to continue increasing its power.

I'm not particularly libertarian, in a political sense, anymore (even if my heart is anarchist). It won't work in a world where international corporations wield so much power. Oh, I'm all for personal freedom to do anything that doesn't hurt someone else. And I still very much dislike authority figures of any sort.

Indeed, all my life I have refused to do any job that required me to wear a uniform. I consider that a giving up of my god-given freedom and individuality. Actually, I've not been too good about working for anyone else in general. Needless to say, that made the military very much out of the question. I'd have to admit, that had as much to do with me refusing to serve as my beliefs in non-violence. No one should should have to put aside his free will and subordinate himself to another person.

After all, having been given free will, is it not a sin (i.e. a turning away from God/Being) to give up our freedom? Should we not strive to become who we are rather than subjugate ourselves to the will of others?

There is the idea of God as 'Lord,' the concept that we are subject to his will. Yet it is God who gives us our free will. God IS free will. He is Being.

We all share in that free will. God is within us all and each of us is Lord of his own destiny. Each of us must choose for our own self or we deny this gift.

Some might say they 'choose' not to use it and, thus, have exercised their freedom. Is this anything more than an excuse for their failure, their fear to be free?

As an aside here, this is why I somewhat disapprove of gambling. To gamble, to leave things to chance, is a relinquishing of our control and our ability to choose. I'm pretty tolerant of most things but gambling is not one of them. Not that I would prohibit anyone else from doing it but I will not be involved nor in any way promote it. I have chosen not to take gigs where gambling occurs. Good thing Vegas hasn't been calling!

I can not take responsibility for the world but I can take responsibility for myself. I can choose freedom for myself. I can put the idea into words, into art, for others to perhaps choose as well. And it may be futile task, most of the time, but so be it. I choose to do it.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Just as a little addendum to this ramble, I thought I'd include a song lyric from my anarcho-punk rocker days. Oh, wait, these are my anarcho-punk rocker days.

ANARCHY FOREVER

I don't need your rules, I don't need your fools,
Telling me what I've got to do.
I don't need your kind to make up my mind;
I won't get in line for you.

Anarchy forever. Anarchy forever.

I don't need your whores, I don't want your wars,
Go sell yourself somewhere else.
I won't go to work to support some jerk;
Turn off your time clocks and bells.

Anarchy forever. Anarchy forever.

Break all your laws, see all your flaws,
Didn't vote for you, don't tell me what to do.
I won't let you run my life.

I won't hear your lies, I won't let your spies
Watch me like I am a criminal.
Give me freedom now, don't care what you allow;
I'll tear down all your walls.

Stephen Brooke ©1988

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Those Pools

There are leeches in the creek.
If you stay out here where the sun
shines through to bottom it will be okay.
Just avoid those shadowed pools.

Even on a hot July day,
the water is too cold to go
seeking shade, back under the boughs
of overhanging hemlocks, dark

with the mysteries of forest. Stay here
by me on this gravel spit,
where the water laughs at the sun
and runs away in little ripples

down into its stillness of pools.
There are leeches in those pools.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A very quick and not very ambitious little piece. It references a childhood memory from the Hocking Hills -- I was jotting down something unrelated on that subject when the idea came to me.

I'm finding that the more I write, the more I write! Get in a groove, y'know? This is why I don't paint when I write (and vice versa). One just fills me up and there's no room for the other. Music sort of overlaps writing so it's not quite the same there. But some.

I would use MySpace if I could. Really. But with my dial-up connection and the changes they've made over there, the site is simply unusable for me. Or at least extremely frustrating. I'm pretty much of a missing person over there the last three months.

Now, some thoughts on a different subject...

ANOTHER MAGAZINE?

I've been giving definite thought to once again attempting a publication. This will not be in the immediate future, as the same considerations that led me to discontinue Peripheral Vision are still in effect. In time, though, so I'm setting down some ideas now:

THE ARACHIS REVIEW will be a literary magazine, but also perhaps a journal with a wider artistic reach.

Like Peripheral Vision, it should be somewhat remodernist/stuckist-oriented, but perhaps not to the same degree. I'm thinking the magazine will be a little more formal in general, a little more serious.

I do wish this new publication to be up-to-date. In that 'arachis' can mean a seed (besides being the scientific name for the peanut), I'm hoping for new growth here!

It will not be Post-Modern -- we're past that, I'm hoping, and ready to move on. The Post-Modern is no longer cutting edge -- that particular knife has grown dull. No Romantic pastiche, Gothic pretensions, etc. though formal verse will absolutely be welcome. I do want thoughtful essays, on writing, on art, on life. I definitely would like reviews, though not necessarily in the magazine proper.

Also in keeping with the Arachis/peanut references, I may choose to have a Southern slant to the contents. Is there a need for another regional magazine or should it be more universal? That's a decision that will come.

It will be an online magazine again -- it seems the obvious way to go these days -- and also again published in an ebook format, probably PDF as pretty much everyone can read that and it works with most ebook readers. Other formats might be a possibility as well.

Incidentally, the two issues of Peripheral Vision remain available as downloads on my site.

A related online community would be a possibility. Whether something like No Depression's site or simply a page at FaceBook or even an old-school Yahoo Group. I'll also be giving thought to placing a message board at the Insolent Lad site eventually (and not just for the magazine). I played with one there a few years back, just to familiarize myself with its operation, but never really opened it up to the public.

As with PV, it will be non-paying. I do suppose that could change if it were a unexpected success but we won't hold our breaths over that one, eh? I don't expect revenue at all and will probably eschew most or all advertising. If there are ads on the site (not in the magazine itself), they will be for products of the editors' choosing, not random Google or targeted stuff.

Now the big question: just why do we need this magazine? What is its purpose?

For one thing, much of what I read that claims to be 'cutting age' actually seems mired in conceptualism. Much of it is also overly-long, wordy and downright boring. Pretentious, even. If there is one thing I absolutely want to promote with AR it is a certain amount of elegance. I want the beauty of language and of ideas.

There is a need for work that says something, that does not simply present concepts and call them 'art.' I want to think the creator actually had something in mind other than being avant-garde or clever. Ambiguity becomes meaningless unless balanced by a point of view.

And a point of view can be rather off-putting without at least a little ambiguity. Ah, the duality of things! :)

Well, that's enough -- these are just some rambling thoughts about something I might do sometime. I will eventually need some little project to keep me out of trouble, after all.

SB June 2011

Monday, June 06, 2011

My Distant Love

a ghazal

With longing, I pen verses for my distant love,
the words that tell how I adore my distant love.

Across the separating night I sing to her;
I loved no other so before my distant love.

My words are but the messengers I send ahead;
to meet her kisses I implore my distant love.

Again, I'll hold her in the doorways of my arms;
then I, this Lad, will love the more my distant love.

Stephen Brooke ©2003

It's probably that I posted this in an earlier form, under the title 'My Valentine.' Dug it out of my scribbled stack of notes and rewrote it somewhat. Better now, I reckons.

Although I'm calling it a ghazal, I might do better to say it's in the form or style of a ghazal, since it is in English. Inevitably, changing the language of a poetic form also changes the form into something different. Just as I don't consider haiku to be truly haiku unless they are in Japanese.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

ME AND HIS LORDSHIP

I hadn't quite realized until recently, as I went through and cataloged my poetry while simultaneously reading Lord Dunsany's 'Gods of Pegana' just how much Dunsany's vocabulary has influenced my writing. It's perhaps more noticeable in work from a few years back than the most recent stuff, but it is most definitely there now as well.

There was a period when I tried to be 'modern' in the academic sense, when I wrote 'plain speech' poetry, but I guess that's not me. Nor anyone else, considering how well it went over. It's a good thing my roots hadn't dried up and died by the time I got back to them.

But it took some digging to find them. I discovered Dunsany somewhere around 1970, I suppose, having read Tolkien and progressed to the other great fantasy writers. I'm inclined to name Dunsany the best of them, though Eddison, Cabell, Lewis, or the Grandaddy of them all, William Morris, are all pretty darn good.

The Gods of Pegana and his other collections of short, witty, and often insightful stories are what I first discovered. The novels, including the truly excellent King of Elfland's Daughter, came later. Just for the heck of it, here's one of the stories from Pegana, which is out of copyright so I can do this!

----

THE RIVER

There arises a river in Pegana that is neither a river of water nor yet a river of fire, and it flows through the skies and the Worlds to the Rim of the Worlds, a river of silence. Through all the Worlds are sounds, the noises of moving, and the echoes of voices and song; but upon the River is no sound ever heard, for there all echoes die.

The River arises out of the drumming of Skarl, and flows for ever between banks of thunder, until it comes to the waste beyond the Worlds, behind the farthest star, down to the Sea of Silence.

I lay in the desert beyond all cities and sounds, and above me flowed the River of Silence through the sky; and on the desert's edge night fought against the Sun, and suddenly conquered.

Then on the River I saw the dream-built ship of the god Yoharneth-Lahai, whose great prow lifted grey into the air above the River of Silence.

Her timbers were olden dreams dreamed long ago, and poets' fancies made her tall, straight masts, and her rigging was wrought out of the people's hopes.

Upon her deck were rowers with dream-made oars, and the rowers were the people of men's fancies, and princes of old story and people who had died, and people who had never been.

These swung forward and swung back to row Yoharneth-Lahai through the Worlds with never a sound of rowing. For ever on every wind float up to Pegana the hopes and the fancies of the people which have no home in the Worlds, and there Yoharneth-Lahai weaves them into dreams, to take them to the people again.

And every night in his dream-built ship Yoharneth-Lahai setteth forth, with all his dreams on board, to take again their old hopes back to the people and all forgotten fancies.

But ere the day comes back to her own again, and all the conquering armies of the dawn hurl their red lances in the face of the night, Yoharneth-Lahai leaves the sleeping Worlds, and rows back up the River of Silence, that flows from Pegana into the Sea of Silence that lies beyond the Worlds.

And the name of the River is Imrana the River of Silence. All they that be weary of the sound of cities and very tired of clamour creep down in the night-time to Yoharneth-Lahai's ship, and going aboard it, among the dreams and the fancies of old times, lie down upon the deck, and pass from sleeping to the River, while Mung, behind them, makes the sign of Mung because they would have it so.

And, lying there upon the deck among their own remembered fancies,and songs that were never sung, and they drift up Imrana ere the dawn, where the sound of the cities comes not, nor the voice of the thunder is heard, nor the midnight howl of Pain as he gnaws at the bodies of men, and far away and forgotten bleat the small sorrows that trouble all the Worlds.

But where the River flows through Pegana's gates, between the great twin constellations Yum and Gothum, where Yum stands sentinel upon the left and Gothum upon the right, there sits
Sirami, the lord of All Forgetting. And, when the ship draws near, Sirami looketh with his sapphire eyes into the faces and beyond them of those that were weary of cities, and as he gazes, as one that looketh before him remembering naught, he gently waves his hands. And amid the waving of Sirami's hands there fall from all that behold him all their memories, save certain things that may not be forgotten even beyond the Worlds.

It hath been said that when Skarl ceases to drum, and MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI awakes, and the gods of Pegana know that it is THE END, that then the gods will enter galleons of gold, and with dream-born rowers glide down Imrana (who knows whither or why?) till they come where the River enters the Silent Sea, and shall there be gods of nothing, where nothing is, and never a sound shall come. And far away upon the River's banks shall bay their old hound Time, that shall seek to rend his masters; while MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI shall think some other plan concerning gods and worlds.

----

Almost as much prose poems as stories, these early tales of Lord Dunsany (his actual family name was Plunkett but if you could use your ancestral title and style yourself Lord Dunsany instead, wouldn't you?) certainly influenced Tolkien's tales that grew into the Silmarillion. They also had a pretty deep impact on a young American writer named Lovecraft -- less evident in his later, better known horror stories, but still there. Very obvious in early work, such as The Dream Quest of Unknow Kadeth.

But I was talking of vocabulary, by which I mean not only words and turns of phrase but also a vocabulary of ideas, of metaphors. All of the elements that make up our 'style' (or lack thereof). Oh, I'm quite aware there are literally thousand of such influences for anyone who writes seriously, for we've almost certainly read seriously as well! A few are bound to stand out.

Such as Robert Frost, whom I quite consciously emulated early on. That's a good way to end up writing lots of boring blank verse unless you are, of course, Robert Frost. And even he didn't always manage it. Or Jorge Luis Borges, who made and makes a lot more sense to me than most modern poets and had much to do with me rediscovering the land of symbol and metaphor.

And even those we rather dislike...I never cared for Whitman. Still don't and I've gone to pains to avoid sounding/writing like him, i.e all that sentimentality wrapped in grandiosity. Sort of like a Tchaikovsky symphony.

My copies of Dunsany had been destroyed by flooding in '93 so it had been a while since I'd read Gods of Pegana. I suppose that's why I was a bit surprised when I noted the obvious influences on my own stuff. I just didn't realized I'd internalized quite so much of his philosophy. The style and wit, yes, I knew that -- that's a pretty obvious sort of thing.

Well, now I suppose I'll have to go out of my way to avoid sounding like Dunsany. I am going to be self-conscious about it...at least for a while.

THE LATEST RAMBLE

It has been extraordinarily hot here on Peanut Road but, as I hoped for a post or two back, the summer rains are finally showing up. Oh, they may be fitful for a while and it will continue to be hot -- and occasionally hotter -- but at least we're getting some afternoon showers (and storms) to cool things down.

And also to water the many plantings, though I'm not ready to stop with the hose yet! At least I'll feel able to transplant some of the flowers now. Any trees or larger bushes will need to wait a couple months. Unfortunately, Tuck and his buddy from next door -- a smaller puppy of similar age -- have been tag-team digging in the garden and flower beds. They're just a couple of rambunctious teenage boys.

If only I could train them to dig out the weeds and leave the veggies!

There is fruit coming on some of the trees. It looks like I'll get my first tiny crop of peaches. I have the Three Ps growing here -- peaches, pecans and pears. All well-suited to a deep-south garden. There also is a bumper crop of the tiny wild cherries. I've several small seedling cherry and pear trees I'll be setting out in the fall (probably).

As far as berries go, not much this year. I picked wild blackberries when they were in season but didn't get much off my own brambles. The blueberry patch has a total of one berry. They'll do better eventually, as will the elderberries when they get a little bigger. And I do finally have healthy hazelnuts and may be separating some that have come up from the roots for planting next year.

I really don't like having big oaks in the yard and am gradually eliminating them. Cut a smaller one down last year and ringed a medium-sized red oak so it's now a dead tree for the woodpeckers to play with. I've tried ringing the rather substantial live oak out front but it doesn't seem to have worked so far. Deeper cuts, maybe? In the mean time, I'm cutting out many of the lower branches to let some light through. I'd much rather have flowers and fruit trees in my yard so I'll get all the oaks down eventually.

addendum: taking down those big trees should also improve my television reception!

* * *

On the subject of really hot weather, sort of, I just couldn't stand having my long-ish hair so I've cropped it pretty short again. Not buzzed or anything, just my typical short Caesar cut. It works okay for me. It also works with a beard so I'm not shaving -- except 'around the edges' -- for a few days now. I'll shape it later, when I decide just what I want. Maybe that 'Dr Mark Sloan' look...or is that 'Dr Benton Quest'? It's a good choice for someone with a relatively thin beard and the mustache and goatee look is, well, sort of common these days. Dated, even. :)

Anyway, it's a pain to shave when it's really hot as the face is inclined to be sweaty and sticky. I sometimes wonder why guys shave at all. Seems a bit unnatural. Even perverse, maybe -- why do we want to look like girls?

Okay, I suspect we're actually trying more to look like boys, i.e. more youthful, but even so it hardly seems worthwhile. Just why do men have beards, anyway, and women (most of 'em!) don't?

Just off the top of my head (I suppose I could research it but don't really care THAT much), I can think of two reasons. One would be to protect our throats in battle. It's hard to sink ones teeth in an enemy's throat when there is a thick beard protecting it.

The other is a little more subtle: it hides our expressions, making it harder for others to tell what we're thinking or feeling. This could also be an advantage for 'aggressive' males. I guess, though, we want to know how the women-folk feel about things.

* * *

Once again thinking about publishing stuff. Books, magazines, web sites and all that -- I may put something up here in a while about ideas for a magazine but I've no intentions of trying to put one out again as long as my current situation continues.

Books and such are another matter. I have been sending out material to magazines again. Not that faithful about it, I'm afraid, and easily distracted! But I also do intend eventually to publish some of my own stuff (or even someone else's). Who knows when?

I've once more been thinking about fonts, too, as I like my stuff to look good, if and when it gets out there. These days, one ideally would employ fonts that look good both on paper and on screen. Some simply work better in one application than the other. One of the best and most versatile all-purpose fonts I've found would be Palatino Linotype (or the almost identical Book Antigua). Looks good online, looks good printed. And it's installed on most PCs so it's web-safe (though if a font is embedded in a PDF that is no longer a consideration). Been using it a lot lately for my own word processing purposes.

As long as I'm on this general subject, when I first had a website -- the original Insolent Lad or maybe the second generation version -- I worked up my 'tile set' for use. It was just a set of graphics with various colors and sizes of a decorative (and rather simple) tile design. They've been sitting in my files for a few years now and I'd kind of like to use them again somewhere on the site. All my main pages -- the ones linked to domains -- are already designed to my satisfaction so these would have to go in some subsidiary section where I want to 'color-code' the pages. Maybe an archive of my writing? Perhaps when I get a magazine going? Don't know...just have a hankering to use 'em!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Pianist

I can't resist my pianist,
maybe it's how her fingers
caress the keys and always please
and how the music lingers.

I get such thrills from her trills,
all those riotous runs;
As I live, there's thanks to give
to Steinway or his sons!

I have good cause to wish she'd pause
so I might lean in and kiss her,
but my pianist will not desist --
more often than not, I miss her!

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Man of War

Man of war, sleep well to night,
find peace where you lay your head;
the legs of dream may carry you
to dances with the dead.

I'm not the one to judge you, brother,
I'm not the one to ask;
the place to search is your own soul,
Man's solitary task.

You need answer to yourself
only, and your god,
if there are sins to be forgiven,
regrets for paths once trod.

I can not lead you home to rest,
your heart's where that land lies;
man of war, find sleep tonight
and peace when you close your eyes.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A little ballad-like poem, developed from a phrase or two I've had sitting in my notes for years. I do suppose it could be sung if I had any ambitions in that direction. Themes here -- redemption, finding forgiveness within oneself -- that tend to pop up somewhat regularly in my stuff (though maybe not so much these days as they used to).

Extraordinarily hot here on Peanut Road (and lots of other places, apparently). Should be up around 100 again today and once again break some records. But not by that much -- we often have pretty hot weather this time of year, before the summer rains move in. They'll come and maybe soon -- rainy season is here in peninsular Florida so it's just a matter of time till it reaches us. I hope so anyway!

In the mean time I'm watering for 45 minutes to an hour morning and evening, hitting everything in the yard every two days. Much of what I have planted would definitely die otherwise and some of it probably will anyway. It's best to water when it's a tad cooler and shadier out, of course, except that the gnats are swarming by the thousands then! And now we have mosquitoes adding to the mix. Where the heck they've come from when there hasn't been any rain is a mystery.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Nice Guy

I'm not a nice guy
but I play one on television.
You've seen my show.

I should win an Emmy
for fooling so many,
even if only

for half an hour at a time.
Anger fuels my acting,
sublimated rage

against my world,
against myself.
The balance is not easy --

to be perpetually pleasant
or let too much
of me, the reality,

through to my audience.
That narrow line
between interesting

and frightening is ever
the mark on my stage.
The nice guy knows his cues.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

a bit of throw-away free verse