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.

Wild World

I strolled through the market
Glancing at random for treasure

A summer breeze lilted
Coaxed Hollywood style
By a shoulder high
Wind maker

Lost in knick knacks
Hand-crocheted doilies
Paperback books
Brick-a-brack
Old postcards and Coca Cola memorabilia
That beckoned me
To buy

The shop keeper placed
Tea for the Tillerman
On the turntable
With a click and spin
Wild World
Drifted in waves over shelves full
Of antique toys
Old license plates
And furniture that once
Held someone else’s junk

dock kids

And it’s breakin’ my heart you’re leavin’
Baby, I’m grievin’

Turned corners and wound through
Dream catchers and feather boas
Reflected from framed
Prints depicting long forgotten
Scenes in black and white

It’s hard to get by just upon a smile

Melancholy overwhelmed me
I remembered a love letter
Corny and romantic all at once

Plagiarized words
Designed to steal my heart
But it was already stolen

But just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world

*Italicized lyrics ~ Cat Stevens
©50Figment 2016 ~ Kimberly Kratz

After the Museum is Closed

Prompt #1: You hide inside a museum until the building is closed and everyone is gone. What is the first thing you do? Don’t forget to watch out for the security guard.
Suppose I have some inclination
As to the security guards’ whereabouts
I will elude them to avoid inevitable questions and suspicion.

I bear no mal intent towards works of art or artists, wishing to cause no damage
Rather preferring to silently meditate upon statues, sculptures, and paintings.
Without the crowds who clatter and clomp along extended marble corridors
Chattering to one another

“Shall we go to the Egyptian Wing now?”

“Isn’t this breathtaking?”

“The line to the Special Exhibition is endless.”

“Mommy pleeeeease can we stop at the gift shop?”

Statue Pose

All create echoes of superlatives reflected and amplified

Yes, I wish to sit in silence to inhale art or
Run in socks screaming through long hallways flanked with galleries
Slip into a doorway and wait
Holding my breath as guards rush to determine the source of screams
Fruitless foraging for intruders or angels
Defeated by silence until

I slink into a tube radio exhibit to find a power source
Quietly connect to converter and amplifier
With gentlest twist ON
Alighting orangey glow until glass warms
Testing volume at the lowest level determining which point
Will raise curiosity to locate the source of
Lake Woebegon broadcast as I tiptoe off to a new adventure