In Darkness

It’s been a dark day

Awaiting fresh poppy deliveries

To hang and dry

To crush with mortar and pestle in hopes

Of visiting vexed vixens

Intent on mixing oils with petals

On canvas

To burn matches

Create riddles wrapped in enigmas

Suffering fools

Wedged between reality and surreal dreams

Of flames nipping on toes

Licking the spines of escapees running

Running with leaden legs

In terror

Horrid images of melting faces

Sinister clowns

Laughing murderously in captivity

Pacing as lions before the raw flesh

Devoured in torn chunks

Pulling and ripping as the mane waves

Gloriously in slaughter

An epitome of beauty

Repulsive synchronicity

Until contented satiated fullness

Awaits passing prey

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye: 50 Years of Words and Music

Friday night I watched the streaming broadcast starring Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye along with their band mate Tony Shanahan as they performed and reminisced about their half century of song making and writing.

Watching this half century performance sans live audience brought to me feelings of both joy and melancholy.

In the quiet evening of my small home office, I teared up hearing her sing one of my personal favorites, a song entitled Ghost Dance popularized on the album Easter. But a clear highlight of the evening was her performance of Birdland from the Horses album. That one demonstrated the pure power of her lyrical poetry accompanied by Lenny’s guitar through diminuendo and crescendo blending its story; a sight I imagine paralleled the St. Marks Church show where Patti and Lenny performed poetry together for the first time in ’71.

Skavlan showreel circa 2017

During Friday’s streaming show it seemed that in Patti’s mind at least she was performing before a live audience. While the show was broadcast live and we, her audience watched from our devices, we weren’t there to scream, clap, shout, dance and give her the electric energy feedback on which live performers feed. And after saying “thank you” at the end of the first couple of numbers as any performer might do upon the crowd’s applause, she even commented on it. Aside from mentioning at the outset their proven good health and removal of masks for the show, this other moment acknowledged the strangeness of a pandemic performance.

Other show standouts included the Ballad of a Bad Boy, her tribute to Sam Shepard (who she described as a good man but also a bad boy) and Lenny’s World Book Night an unexpected but welcome diversion.

I’ve been a Patti Smith fan since ’78 when with a $6 dollar ticket in hand, I drove my uncool-body-style ’74 stick shift Mustang to see her band perform at the Science Center on the campus of Montgomery County Community College with my best girlfriend. There I’d fallen in love with punk, kept the souvenir buttons she’d tossed to the fans at the end the show and dreamed of a life for me as a rebel poet, a writer.

I followed her career, read her books and in 2019 snagged a 2×3 foot foam board poster advertising Year of the Monkey. The latest, Patti Smith on Patti Smith edited by Aidan Levy sits atop my current stack of new books to read.

As the Pram Rolls Full Circle

Lately I have meditated on clarity in an effort to conjure specific memories. I have purposefully attempted to attach sights, sounds and smells to each so that they become vivid.

The result of one such attempt is a poem that I wrote and posted this weekend called The Pram. For illustration, I added a stock photo that looked as similar to the one I recalled as I could find.

I received an email from my mom (who read the poem) with this photo attached.

Snoozing on the porch

This is me in the pram.

I remembered.

Mind blown.

The Pram

Lying on my back
On thin foam makeshift mattress
Combed cotton coverlet close to skin
Sounds drift on summer breeze
Birds chirp
Familiar voices and foreign ones float
Interrupted by distant staccato airplane motor
Eyelids heavy I drift
Comforted by nearby walls
Retractable sunshade
I peer upward to glimpse sky
Viewed through mosquito netting
Quivering green leaves shuffling overhead
Squinting in bright green-blue refracted light
Inhaling synthetic scent of bleached white plastic
And clean air and baby powder
Falling downward into cavernous
Dreams
Chilled by air
Warmed by sun
Wholly content
Until squeaky springs
Jar my body
Casting rest aside
pram 1