as i’ve taught my students about spoken word the last few weeks, one of the cool things is to find fresh poems for them to have as examples. i’ve shown them my good friend James Wilson and slam poetry sensations Taylor Mali, Sarah Kay, and Buddy Wakefield. this is a wonderful poem by Buddy. by the way, i’ve been careful to edit for the students. enjoy…
Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars (Hope is Not a Course of Action)
By Buddy Wakefield
If we were created in God’s image
then when God was a child
he smushed fire ants with his fingertips
and avoided tough questions.
There are ways around being the go-to person
even for ourselves
even when the answer is clear
clear like the holy water Gentiles would drink
before they realized
forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.
I thought those were chime shells in your pocket
so I chucked a quarter at it
hoping to hear some part of you respond on a high note.
You acted like I was hurling crowbirds at mockingbars
and abandoned me for not making sense.
Evidently, I don’t experience things as rationally as you do.
For example, I know mercy
when I have enough money for the jukebox.
You know mercy whenever someone shoves a stick of morphine
straight up into your heart.
It felt amazing
the days you were happy to see me
so I smashed a beehive against the ocean
to try and make our splash last longer.
Remember all the honey
had me lookin’ like a jellyfish ape
but you walked off the water in a porcupine of light
strands of gold
drizzled out to the tips of your wasps.
This is an apology letter to the both of us
for how long it took me to let things go.
It was not my intention to make such a
production of the emptiness between us
playing tuba on the tombstone of a soprano
to try and keep some dead singer’s perspective alive.
It’s just that I coulda swore you had sung me a love song back there
and that you meant it
but I guess sometimes people just chew with their mouth open
so I ate ear plugs alive with my throat
hoping they’d get lodged deep enough inside the empty spots
that I wouldn’t have to hear you leaving
so I wouldn’t have to listen to my heart keep saying
all my eggs were in a basket of red flags
all my eyes to a bucket of blindfolds
in the cupboard with the muzzles and the gauze
ya know I didn’t mean to speed so far out and off
trying to drive your nickels to the well
when you were happy to let them wishes drop
but I still show up for gentleman practice
in the company of lead dancers
hoping their grace will get stuck in my shoes.
Is that a handsome shadow on my breath, sweet woman
or is it a cattle call in a school of fish?
Still dance with me
less like a waltz for panic
more for the way we’d hoped to swing
the night we took off everything
and we were swingin for the fences
don’t hold it against
you know I wanna breath deeper than this
I didn’t mean to look so serious
didn’t mean to act like a filthy floor
didn’t mean to turn us both into a cutting board
but there were knives sstuck
in the words where I came from
too much time in the back of my words.
I pulled knives from my back and my words.
I cut trombones from the moment you slipped away
and I know it left me lookin’ like a knife fight, lady
boy I know it left me feelin’ like a shotgun shell
you know I know I mighta gone and lost my breath
but I wanna show ya how I found my breath
it was buried under all the wind instruments
hidden in your castanets
if you ever wanna know how it felt when ya left –
if ya ever wanna come inside –
just knock on the spot
where I finally pressed STOP
playing musical chairs with your exit signs.
I’m gonna cause you a miracle
when you see the way I kept God’s image alive.
is for anyone who needs safe passage through my mind.
If I really was created in God’s image
then when God was a boy
he wanted to grow up to be a man a good man
and when God was a man a good man
He started telling the truth in order to get honest responses.
I really shoulda wore my cross
but I don’t wanna scare the gentiles off.”
i have a few dreams for the creative things in my life. i want to make a record of songs written or co-written by me, and i want to make documentaries. i’ll be 43 this summer and sometimes i feel like the window is closing to do those things. there are a lot of songs, but i don’t know how many of them are album worthy, there are some great ideas for movies, but i often put those aside because of time and equipment contraints. i’ve written about fear before and that is a factor as well. i guess my question is, why haven’t i already started to make these dreams a reality? there can be a ton of excuses, but it really comes down to me just doing the things i need to do. not to worry about the money aspect of it. i could easily do a kickstarter campaign. not to worry about the creative part of it. i could easily ask a lot of my friends to contribute. not to worry about the equipment part. i have a good camera, all i need is a sound rig and a lens, heck i could even film on my iphone.
i wonder sometimes why God would allow me to have such great ideas, and not let me finish them, and i think it’s because He wants me to make them happen with other people. i realized this last week that creativity and the work can very easily be about one person. i naturally want the credit for greatness and i don’t have all of the tools to be great by myself. i have some of the components to make something great, but those components need to be shared with others while allowing others to share their greatness with me. i think that is why we need community. i love people, but often i will isolate myself from community. haven’t figured that one out yet. i do know that i am not an island and i need to create in the confines of community. i need to make the time to work with other people. i need that and so do they.
I tend to put down the auteur theory because a lot of people embraced it as a one man/one concept kind of thing, and making a movie is an ensemble. Clint Eastwood
i was watching a little bit of the Grammy Nominations Concert last night. there were some nice performances. as a result i went and looked up the nominees.
one of my chief complaints about the Grammy’s is that the voters really don’t listen to the more obscure categories. they typically vote on name recognition, so some amazing albums lose to artists who have won in the past, but don’t have the best work. i wish to be a Grammy voter that you actually had to listen to every entry and make a educated decision, but that just doesn’t happen.
this to say, i was a little disappointed with the offerings for Album of the Year. There are some amazing records out that obviously none of the voters heard or cared to listen to. i hope that Bon Iver, Foo Fighters, the Civil Wars and Gungor are recognized for there amazing work this past year. so Grammy voters, if you’re listening, just go take a second listen to those records. thanks.
when i started blogging, i wanted to have a “style”. i wanted to write well, but i wanted to do something a little different.
i’ve always admired the work of e.e. cummings(he’s actually my favorite poet, i bought his complete works a few years back). his orthography of not using capitalization or periods has always intrigued me. he’s quite a controversial poet who refused to back down from the subjects he wrote about. even though he used avant-garde style, his forms were traditional in a sense. he was a master of syntax and many of his poems are actually sonnets.
Critic Edmund Wilson once commented “Mr. Cummings’s eccentric punctuation is, also, I believe, a symptom of his immaturity as an artist. It is not merely a question of an unconventional usage: unconventional punctuation may very well gain its effect… the really serious case against Mr. Cummings’s punctuation is that the results which it yields are ugly. His poems on the page are hideous.”
to me, that means Mr. Wilson just didn’t understand. he probably didn’t want to spend the time to labor over the beautiful words and tricky word play that makes cummings so wonderful to me.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
From “i carry your heart with me(i carry it in” (1920)
so that’s why i write in all lower case. it’s different and it’s an homage to one of my favorite poets. i do use punctuation, but only because i value the “pause”.
i’ll leave you with a few of my favorite cummings quotes.
“always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”
“America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to hell, of course, but at least she isn’t standing still.”
“be of love a little more careful than of anything”
“humanity i love you because when you’re hard up you pawn your intelligence to buy a drink”
i’ve been giving people snippets of Psalms on FB and twitter as i go through the 40 day reading plans in The Voice of the Psalms. it’s a great translation. today, there’s not enough room to post this whole thing and i didn’t want to put 20 posts up, so i’ll just link to here and you can read the whole thing.
Sing a new song to the Eternal One; Sing in one voice to the Eternal, all the earth.
Sing to the Eternal of all the good things He’s done. Bless His name; broadcast the good news of His salvation each and every day.
Enlighten the nations to His splendor; describe His wondrous acts to all people.
For the Eternal One is great indeed and praiseworthy; feared and reverenced above all gods, the True God shall be.
For all human-made, lifeless gods are worthless idols, but the Eternal plotted the vast heavens, shaped every last detail.
Honor and majesty proceed Him; strength and beauty infuse His holy sanctuary.
Give all credit to the Eternal One, families of the world!
Credit Him with glory, honor and strength!
Credit Him with the glory worthy of His magnificent name; gather your sacrifice, and present it at His temple.
Bow down to the Eternal, adorned in holiness; lay awestruck before Him, trembling, all people of the earth.
Shout out to the nations, “The Eternal reigns! Yes, indeed, the world is anchored and will not shake loose. He governs all people with a fair hand.”
And so, let the heavens resound in gladness! Let joy be the earth’s rhythm as the sea and all its creatures roar.
Let the fields grow in triumph, a grand jubilee for all that live there. Let all the trees of the forest dig in and reach high with songs of joy before the Eternal One, for He is on His way. Yes, He is coming to judge the earth.
He will set the world right by His standards, and by His faithfulness, He will examine the people.
i had stopped. one of my friends told me it was because i was depressed. i guess that could be true, but i really don’t know. in the midst of moving and starting over, all the books were packed away and it was easier to just not read. but after buying a bookshelf and unboxing the library, i am slowly getting back into the desire to pick up a book and delve into the pages.
i’m definitely reading passages from the Bible. i’m using The Voice of the Psalms.
where i used to read 4 or 5 books at a time, i’ve pared it down to two for now. i’m working my way through Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus an amazing book about technology and how it has turned consumers into collaborators. also on my nightstand is Ian Cron’s Jesus, My Father, and the CIA-a memoir of sorts. Cron’s Chasing Francis is one of my all time favorite books. i wrote about it’s initial impact on me here.
so my prayer is that i will continue to read. to continue to pursue wisdom. and that in reading that my writing will explode and become what i dream it needs to be.
in Davis Guggenheim’s documentary “It Might Get Loud”, U2 guitarist The Edge is remembering the labor he went through to write the song “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. he uses the analogy of a managed forest. when you look at it from one angle all you see is a mass of trees, but eventually you turn a corner and see that all the trees are in rows…clarity.
as he’s talking the camera moves to show us that all of the trees are in rows. it was a brilliant moment for me as the visual moved the story along.
i had a few moments like that this past week as i was able to attend the first ever re:createATX One Day conference.
listening to amazing artists like filmmaker Andrew Shapter who shared with us the importance of relationships and their influence on story. jazz trombonist Mike Mordecai and his friends who treated us to a beautiful afternoon of music. Rick Jackson, and executive who shared with us the excitement of Cinsay a new E-commerce company and the wonderful art of balance.
clarity…i started to see the forest in spite of the trees.
i also made the vocal team at Gateway Church. this was a very fulfilling thing for me as people that i love and admire made the decision that i have the skills to sing on a level that i haven’t had the opportunity to experience before.
clarity…moving in the right direction musically.
i also had some breakthrough in my personal life. a friend pointed out to me that i began most of my conversations with “i’m lonely”. he said that i needed to work on being content with myself before i went off trying to fill the loneliness.
clarity…i want to fill my life with good things and good people.
but the highlight of my week had to be attending the 1211 live taping at the original Austin City Limits studio. i mean i got to stand on the stage where Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Stevie Ray Vaughn and so many more of my musical heroes have stood and performed. although i was just there to watch and worship, it was surreal to think about all the amazing music that had been played in that very room, and we got to experience amazing, redeeming music that night as well as some beautiful stories.