A Shimmery, Summery Sound

I hope, for you,
the singing of the insects is
a shimmery, summery sound

I hope the water that trickles
across the slippery rocks
brings you something that can pass for peace

I hope the light
that filters through
the endless rows of branches,
casts its longest shadows
on the grass that almost tickles
your bare toes and heels and arches
in a way that makes you
smile

 

IMG_4119

The Presence of the Past

History is the process of the past negotiating its terms of surrender to the future.

Although the past cannot defeat the future, it will do, and is currently doing, all it can, to break as many hearts as possible in the present. Cruelty seems to be the guiding principle of those in power, in the USA and across the globe, as they confront the horror of knowing that their power will soon be gone forever.

church

This is nothing new. In 19th Century Europe, monarchies crumbled under a rising tide of democracy. In the 21st, with a little courage and devotion to honesty and justice, we might see white male privilege go the way of kings, kaisers, and czars.

See if you recognize our current situation in these words that Victor Hugo wrote in 1862:

The past, it is true, is very strong right now. It is reviving. This revivification of a corpse is surprising. Here it is walking and advancing. It seems victorious; this dead man is a conqueror. He comes with his legion, superstitions, with his sword, despotism, with his banner, ignorance; within a little time he has won ten battles. He advances, he threatens, he laughs, he is at our doors. As for us, we will not despair.

We who believe, what can we fear?

There is no backward flow of ideas any more than of rivers.

But those who do not want the future should think it over. In saying no to progress, it is not the future they condemn, but themselves…There is only one way of refusing tomorrow and that is to die.

He concludes that chapter of Les Miserables with this observation of the relative powers of the hopes of the future and the fears of the past:

The ideal…thus lost in the depths – minute, isolated, imperceptible, shining, but surrounded by all those great black menaces monstrously amassed around it, yet no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.

Temple of Hera2

I Never Knew Your Name

When I say I never knew your name, I am not talking about the one your parents gave you. I am talking about the one you gave yourself. You know the one I mean, the one that bubbled to the surface of your life on a hot summer night, like this one, when you were all alone in your room, feeling inexplicably sad but hopeful.

This name was not one that you had heard before, yet you instantly recognized it as yours.

Although at that time I was hundreds of miles away from you, and had not met you, and could not hear the name you gave yourself, I felt the reverberations of its echo.

When I am calm enough, I still can.
6

The Thing in Me

thing

The thing in me that
your long look kindled,
that grew and blossomed
under the soft light
of an all-forgiving sun
will not wither
will not die
but also will not grow again

The thing in me that
made me feel like something new
has turned around to look at me from the other side
and makes me feel like something old

The thing in me that
keeps me warm when the sun goes down and
keeps me cool when everything boils,
that keeps me calm when the bullets fly and
alerts me when the whole world sleeps
has reached the end of the circle and
like a song at the end of a verse it
has come to a chorus that will repeat
until the fade

Bands of Co-Conspirators

band collage3 (1)

I have been making music for over 40 years and have had the good fortune in that time to have worked with some insanely talented people. In my college dorm, in my wife’s office, even in my parents’ basement, I found musicians, singers, and songwriters who astounded and challenged me. It is impossible to say how much I learned from each of them. I only know that every note I play comes from a foundation we built together.

I was tempted to harangue some, all, or as many as I could persuade, of my previous co-conspirators, to join me for this show, but new phases sometimes require new faces. My instinct this time around was to work only with artists I hadn’t worked with before.

The first one added to the roster for this show is a man, like me, who has played for many years with many bands. His bands include Letters From Home, The Providers, and the Snook Brothers. He is the wonderful guitarist Vinny Armanino. How wonderful? You can pick up a ticket and find out. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Get your tickets here.

Vinny and I – and the rest of the fife and drum corps jug band orchestra and fellow-travelers – will spend the next month preparing a uniquely memorable experience for each member of our audience. We would love to see you there.

Here is a recording by one of the 1990s version of my co-conspirators named Late Model Humans, performing one of the songs that will be featured at the show: You’re The Only One (I Think).

In your chain I’m just a link
A valentine that isn’t pink
Like all the others in a blink
I’m gone like water down your sink
But if you’ll give me one more drink
If you’ll just give me one more drink then I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think
You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

Next time we’re down at the bar
And you say this time I’ve gone too far
That I just want to drink and play guitar
Like I’m some kind of fucking star
I’ll pound down another drink
I’ll pound down another drink and I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

What can I do to make you stay
Why do I always have to say
You’re the only one for me, girl
Why do I always have to say
You’re the only one, you’re the only one

This is no ordinary thirst
I’m fighting off the family curse
And still I know it would be worse
If I was alone in this universe
A universe as black as ink
But if you’ll give me one more drink then I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

Coming Full Circle in NYC

band_pics

Thirty five years ago, I moved to New York City, into a friend’s apartment at 4 Saint Mark’s Place. On September 22, I will be performing a show at the Kraine Theater, four blocks away from that first apartment. I’ll be playing songs that I wrote during the years I lived in Greenwich Village, songs I wrote when I lived on the Upper West Side, and ones written in my current home in the Bronx.

Get your tickets here.

The city has changed a lot since my first days here, hanging out in clubs like the Ritz, the Limelight, Danceteria, and CBGBs, finding new experiences that seeped into my songs. In music I found the power of melody and poetry to inspire and soothe and reveal and heal. I would love to share some of these experiences with you in the city that always will be home to me.

Here is a recording from the mid-nineties, by an early incarnation of Late Model Humans, of one of the songs I’ll be performing: New York City.