The Silence and the Violence of Rain

Unsaid

The surprise thunderstorm draped
our town in linen. Even the mansard roofs
softened, and the businessmen
on the Square stopped to spy
blouses of rain
fall off the old opera house.
But mostly—
the miracle of lightning
quieted us.
That split second of light and heat
leaving the scent of old newspapers and salt.

By Dave Malone

It’s an absolute downpour in Austin right now.  Hence the poem about rain.

The Silence and the Violence of Rain

Winter Song by Nico

Winter Song by Nico.  Most of the people I know, from Texas to Pennsylvania and beyond, are in a deep freeze.  The period between New Years and spring is the hardest part of the year as far as I’m concerned.  Even the great Hunter Thompson could not survive this season as he titled his suicide letter, “Football Season is Over.”  I’ve never really taken to winter, either to its sports or its color scheme.  However, there is a strange and dark poetry, a certain kind of magic, that winter can bestow, that I would be a fool to deny.  This song, from Nico’s timeless Chelsea Girl album, is a prime example:

Winter Song

The snow on your eyelids that curtsy with age
Is freezing the stares on tyranny’s wings.
The bitter is hard and the warmth of your skin
Is diseased with familiar caresses.

Withdrawing from splendor and royal decay
Among all the triumphs and jaded awards
The angry and blazing circus of sun
Blasphemes as the crown prince arises.

You cannot beget all the sins that you owe
To the people of paradise magic
Pretend to answer passion and form
With foreign rationalizations.

Primroses are the jewels that lurk
Among masks of pleasure that flicker with doubt
Embraces of fame that’s simultaneously fear
To advance and demand to be recognized.

The river shall flow through hollow green faces
Of caricature’s resentment etched out of the tongues.
Both reluctant princess asleep before birth
The classical sensitive failures.

The worshipping wicked cling to the dark of your heart
Lying there and wait with your angels
Moan and ravish from dawn to dusk
The avaricious young lovers.

the crunch

Too much
too little
or not enough

too fat
too thin
or nobody

laughter or
tears
or immaculate
non-concern

haters
lovers

armies running through streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking virgins

or an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe

many old guys in cheap rooms without
any photographs at all

many old women rubbing rosaries
when they’d prefer to be rubbing cocks

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movements of
the hands of a clock

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it blinking in neon signs
in Vegas, in Baltimore, in Munich

there are people so tired
so strafed
so mutilated by love or no
love
that buying a bargain can of tuna
in a supermarket
is their greatest moment
their greatest victory

we don’t need new governments
new revolutions
we don’t need new men
new women
we don’t need new ways
wife-swaps
waterbeds
good Columbian
coke
water pipes
dildoes
rubbers with corkscrew stems
watches that give you the date

people are not good to each other
one on one.
Marx be damned
the sin is not the totality of certain systems.
Christianity be damned
the sin is not the killing of a God.

people are just not good to each other.

we are afraid
we think that hatred means strength
we think that New York City is the greatest
city in America.

what we need is less brilliance
what we need is less instruction

what we need are less poets
what we need are less Bukowskies
what we need are less Billy Grahams

what we need is more
beer
a typist
more finches
more green-eyed whores who don’t eat your heart
like a vitamin pill

we don’t think about the terror of one person
aching in one place

alone
untouched
unspoken to
watering a plant
being without a telephone that will never
ring
because there isn’t one.

more haters than lovers

slices of doom like taffeta

people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other

and the beads swing and the clouds cloud
and the dogs piss upon the roses
and the killer beheads the child like taking a bite
out of an ice cream cone
and the ocean comes in and out
in and out
under the direction of a senseless moon

and people are not good to each other.

By Charles Bukowski.  I used to read a lot of Bukowski the last few years I lived in Pennsylvania.  I wanted to post something of his here, so I started reading some of his poems tonight.  Even though I read many, I kept coming back to this one, which was actually the first one that I read.  The language is so visceral.  It’s beautiful and vulgar at the same time.  If you have ever watched the show Deadwood I believe you will understand that even vulgarity, taken far enough, used in the right way, with the right combination of words and meter, can become something truly beautiful.  At least I do…

Death, Mortality, Abraham Lincoln, and His Secretary of War

disunion_jamie_cabinet-blog427

If you want to know why Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is such a thing of beauty, look no further.  The following two pages (at least on my Kindle) shows you how jam packed this book is with ideas and humanity.  Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton were polar opposites in personality, but were a perfect team when working together.  The one thing they both personally shared was a deep understanding of mortality due to the fact that both of them suffered the tremendous loss of loved ones.  As well as losing family members, Lincoln’s first love died when he was young.  Stanton lost his first wife at an early age.  Excerpt:

That Lincoln was also preoccupied with death is clear from the themes of many of his favorite poems that addressed the ephemeral nature of life and reflected on his own painful acquaintance with death.  He particularly cherished “Mortality,” by William Knox, and transcribed a copy for the Stantons.

Oh!  Why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of lightning, a break of the wave,
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

He could recite from memory “The Last Leaf,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and once claimed to the painter Francis Carpenter that “for pure pathos” there was “nothing finer…in the English language” than the six-line stanza:

The mossy marble rest
On lips that he has prest
  In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
  On the tomb.

Yet, beyond sharing a romantic and philosophical preoccupation with death, the commander in chief and the secretary of war shared the harrowing knowledge that their choices resulted in sending hundreds of thousands of young men to their graves.  Stanton’s Quaker background made the strain particularly unbearable.  As a young man, he had written a passionate essay decrying society’s exaltation of war.  “Why is it,” he asked, that military generals “are praised and honored instead of being punished as malefactors?”  After all, the work of war is “the making of widows and orphans – the plundering of towns and villages – the exterminating & spoiling of all, making the earth a slaughterhouse.”  Though governments might argue war’s necessity to achieve certain objectives, “how much better might they accomplish their ends by some other means?  But if generals are useful so are butchers, and who will say that because a butcher is useful he should be honored?”  

Three decades after writing this, Stanton found himself responsible for an army of more than 2 million men.  “There could be no greater madness,” he reasoned, “than for a man to encounter what I do for anything less than motives that overleap time and look forward to eternity.”  Lincoln, too, found the horrific scope of the burden hard to fathom.  “Doesn’t it strike you as queer that I, who couldn’t cut the head off of a chicken, and who was sick at the sight of blood, should be cast into the middle of a great war, with blood flowing all about me?”  

One Hand is Kind, One Hand is Cruel

Baby, let me remind you
You’re ahead one
And behind two

I’m the kind to lay it on the line
But this world is as vicious as love is blind

One hand is kind, the other is cruel
You can have the Kingdom, but may never rule
One hand is cruel, the other is cruel
You can enter the Court, but only as a fool

Baby, let me explain
Most are only as generous
As they are vain

I’m the kind whose always on time
You’re the toast of the town, but there’s another in line

One hand is kind, the other is cruel
You can have the Kingdom, but may never rule
One hand is kind, the other is cruel
You can enter the Court, but only as the fool

Oh I’ll caress your neck
But if you ever talk back, if you ever talk back…
I’m the kind that lays it on the line
Time after time, after time, after time…

Another set of song lyrics from the distant past.  I found some old demos and I clearly don’t have any other blog ideas yet.  Hey, at least I’m honest!  The idea at the time was that the God of the Old Testament was talking to mankind in the form of a relationship song.  However, I think that unless I explained that it just comes across as a piece of sexist clap-trap.  Hey, again, at least I’m honest…

Going Back to Love

Looking for the days of wine and roses
The bounty after the flood
All of my past ventures have failed me
So I’m going back to…
Looking to put some food on my table
And get these boots out of the mud
I heard this town’s looking for a troubadour
So I’m going back to…

The last refuge of the poets
Seeking shelter from irrelevance
The last refuge of the meek
Seeking quarter from ambition

I’m going back to love

Looking to find favor with the weaker sex
Butter and not guns
I’ve never been much of a fighter
So I’m going back to…
Looking for something I can believe in
They kicked me out of Christiandom 
But in my own way I’m a missionary 
So I’m going back to…

The last refuge of the poets
Seeking shelter from irrelevance
The only way they can connect
To the huddled wretched masses

I’m going back to love

No more science, no more reason
I’m not a man for all seasons
No more science, no more reason
No more evolution

I’m going back to love

Lyrics to a song I wrote some time in the distant past.  I think I was reading a lot of Flannery O’Connor at the time, though I can’t be sure.  A cynical narrator that can’t be trusted, using the thing that brings people together to enrich and ingratiate himself.

The Poetry of Insanity

Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep…he should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No panther claws should rip open his throat–that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes and gobble up his balls and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It’s no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me. – Klaus Kinski in Kinski Uncut.

Your god is a mushroom cloud.  The Church of the Nuclear Christ.  Mushroom Cloud Messiah.  The fallout mission.  That would put the real fear in you.  Yes, forget this Christ guy.  He died for you.  Now you die for me.  That would be real cool to see you praying to an ICBM missile.  Watching you on television, kneeling to a perfect, gleaming warhead.  Now that’s a real idea.  Guaranteed destruction.  Forget the second coming.  You give me the missiles and I’ll melt heaven.  I’ll blow your saints to Lawndale.  That would be great to see you grovel in front of a god that you could see, that you could touch.  Only an idiot would believe that some god in the sky is going to wreck the place.  Let me give you something that you could really believe in.  Don’t you want, don’t you really need something to believe in?  Something solid?  Something to calm your nerves?  Yes, look to me.  Let me supply you with your faith.  The Church of the Real Deal.  Have mercy?  Why?  You’re into destruction.  Forget needles and suicide.  I am offering you something better.  You love to be controlled.  You dig ownership and control inflicted upon you.  Now you can kneel and confess and pray and grovel to something that offers you ultimate carnage without judgment or concession.  Isn’t that what you want?  Yeah it is.   Henry Rollins from Get in the Van

Oscar was not into serious street-fighting, but he was hell on wheels in a bar brawl. Any combination of a 250 lb Mexican and LSD-25 is a potentially terminal menace for anything it can reach – but when the alleged Mexican is in fact a profoundly angry Chicano lawyer with no fear at all of anything that walks on less than three legs and a de facto suicidal conviction that he will die at the age of 33 – just like Jesus Christ – you have a serious piece of work on your hands. Especially if the bastard is already 33½ years old with a head full of Sandoz acid, a loaded .357 Magnum in his belt, a hatchet-wielding Chicano bodyguard on his elbow at all times, and a disconcerting habit of projectile vomiting geysers of pure blood off the front porch every 30 or 40 minutes, or whenever his malignant ulcer can’t handle any more raw tequila. – Hunter Thompson on Oscar Zeta Acosta in Rolling Stone Magazine (As a side note I wanted to find something on Oscar from Revolt of the Cockroach People, one of his autobiographies and a masterpiece of insanity, but I found nothing online that suited my needs.)

I love the poetry of insanity.  I love it when a writer writes as if they have no concern of how they are perceived by the general public in their lifetime or after their death.  There is some kind of noble truth to letting all of your perversions and impulses hang out.  But it is more than this.  Vulgarity and insanity, when pushed far enough, become a kind of poetry.  The show Deadwood understood this.  Although Deadwood used Victorian language at times, it also trafficked in in a kind of vulgar language that reached the heights of art.  Total commitment.  It is taking the crude language and taboos of the day and making something beautiful out of them.  It is the language of freedom, giving up the most important earthly possession of all, your ego, and the willingness to be liked, and casting it aside.  I want peace and justice and love to become a reality for mankind on a daily basis.  However, this kind of language serves a purpose in that no matter how counterintuitive that is.  It frees the mind to go beyond the norms of everyday groupthink.  The writing itself might not be more than a personalized truth, but it allows for a wider circle of exploration.  Out there in the deep dark woods of the night might be a glimmer of truth that sets you free.