Sunday, May 27, 2018

And it is his realm
from the scaled heights of oak branches
angling for the best sunlight
to the leaf beds in the shadows of twin trunks
where an ant courses around his languid resting profile
and along the cat paths connecting all his favored spots
Tsavo peers into a realm best experienced
as a shared cascade of signs flowing
into his accumulating sensorial awareness
the better to understand the grand minutenesses of realm.

Friday, May 4, 2018

T R U E   H O M E L A N D

Larry Piltz

Why is this sweet world we live in

so torn between chaos and Zen
with extremes at either end
like enemies and lifelong friends
starvation and stock dividends
a young child's death yet love transcends
are we really blowing in these winds
with not that much on which to depend
can we compromise in a scale of ten
must our safe place be a lion's den
and our safe word something to defend
must we wait around for the worst to begin
if peace breaks out don’t we all win
there's a lot to learn if we don't pretend
that chaos comes from some original sin
what starts the wars again and again
who stands to gain from this which men
they must not care we all are kin
nor care about the shape we’re in

It's hardly any mystery
what's up with all our history
I prefer a herstory
to bring about the best in we
much more than just a cursory
retelling from the nursery
but a story shared with honesty
and fearlessness to help us see
that greed is a type of sorcery
that mainly creates enemies

I'm not immune to tempting fate
and hope I'm not unfascistically late
to point out what I think is great
it's surely not resentment hate
exclusion some poor scapegoat's fate
instead we need to congregate
just inside an open gate
and share this world this very date

There's more than enough to go around
enough to make the world resound
with gratitude while love compounds
on openminded common grounds
employing hearts and minds unbound
many reclaimed from lost and found
this will bring a great reknown
a kind and generous rebound

Great wealth's goal is control and power
not to share but to hoard and glower
if you dare ask more per hour
and think for yourself and forget to cower
Regard the daisy be a flower
be pretty and sweet and don’t be sour
you look so nice from my golden tower
say how's that trickledown cold shower

And you'd better keep a smile
or be called disloyal and hostile
so be a threat not servile
give an inch take a mile
let's work our magic break the dial
be the resistance go mobile
and see it through with grit and style
though wealth reacts with gall and guile

It's not us seeking out to blame
there's someone seeking to defame
and bully good folks with his shame
and forcing a vile hatred game
and doing it in your good name

Who’s this bully this mark of Cain
is he a Christ a king to reign
he’s the one who truly loves your pain
and craves your loss ‘cause it’s his gain

The bully lives high above the laws
he commands the heights and admits no flaws
challenge him you’ll know his claws
his wealth and fame are his one true cause

It's the bully's con and you’re the mark
his thrill to keep you in the dark
to him we’re servants on his ark
to the new world of The Patriarch
a world of wars and oligarchs
a world of madness cruel and stark
for his own sake The Patriarch
keeps our sweet world his private park

The bully is who starts the wars
you fight to the death that's what we're for
there's always violence in store
cause bully needs a little more

Welcome to the USA Patriarch Act & Panic Attack
with spying dying and lying to your face and behind your back
it’s a crackdown smackdown trackdown and meltdown
I’m indicted with fiction though punished in fact
by death or internment in or deporting from my homeland

Does your brain contain some interesting thought
from a book you checked out maybe read or bought
or from some nice tune you were humming or sought
that’s the heinous crime that’ll get you caught
in the web of the worldwide homeland

Well your mind is free but what a twist
it lands you smack on that guest list
now rest assured you will be missed
when you get out of line in the homeland

Is speaking up a dangerous crime
say the thought and do hard time
then parable and verse and rhyme
pardon my grammar and my paradigm

Please just threaten me with jail
or make me watch you hurt a whale
so I’ll let you read my personal mail
watch the law go postal when justice fails

Better keep your faith cause you’ll lose your trust
think how you’ll feel right during your bust
you’ll swear the law’s moved beyond natural disgust
as it reads you its rights and insists on your trust

Who might it be who turns you in
your neighbor mother ruh roh my friend
is paranoia now a sin
the paranoids are still after me again

The love of truth it is your code
until persuaded  to implode
your confession due to electrode
oh that will be quite the shock to the homeland

What is the thing you don’t want to hear
on that midnight ride we’re conditioned to fear
that you're queer or some other phobic jeer
from our macho police in their bondage gear

Are you perplexed this very night
deciding between flee and flight
methinks the emperor’s wound too tight
a bully drunk with power's our plight

In ancient Rome when it started a war
dictators were chosen for what was in store
our chosen dictator makes war on the poor
freezes free choice then comes back for more

Are our laws meant to constrict and besiege us
with crude ultimatums both vague and egregious
what’s this lesson someone’s so desperate to teach us
that freedom’s a threat and a reason to seize us

My nation has those recurring dreams
where it divides into various teams
first a moment of silence and then the screams
it’s winner take all in freedom’s purges and schemes

Then the winners buy states with their pocket change
then too many are shackled and memory's estranged
and royal dynasties still become deranged
with headlines still shouting there’s nothing here strange

Now in the interest of my liberal press
I’d like to clear up this news media mess
by daring someone to please confess
rich conservatives own all the media good guess

So you’d better make that living will
and polish up your survival skill
certain preachers say there’s a time to kill
oh the thrills and the chills and whose blood will spill

Work on your table manners bub
you’re invited to the big country club
exclusive rights to that big hot tub
for the boiling in oil a la homeland

Oh say can you see the petroleum
and the rocket’s red glare crematorium
can you hear it above the delirium
as the Air Force bombs the stadium
oh how so proudly we've hailed
how advanced we’ve become
advanced like dementia
What homeland

Is this nation in the process of losing its mind
in compassion and sense is it lost years behind
does it yearn for respect only to find
instead the responses are given in kind

The patriaddicts aren’t like me
they wave the flag it proves they’re free
free to pay The Patriarch Fee
of whatever the Big Daddies say it should be
or else be labeled the enemy

Meanwhile the army's exported all loaded and locked
as Marines and sailors wave bye to the dock
and the next of kin just stand there in shock
look Wars 'R Us is issuing stock
buy yours now be the first on your block
no matter how deeply you and the homeland are in hock
and surprise the wars will come home knock knock
you'll be caught between the hard place and a rock
and you'll wonder how you could have believed all that crock

Propaganda is foreplay full speed ahead damn the prepositions
fight them there freedom's march us or them target acquisition
army strong army of one be all you can be Operation Revision
Defend der Fatherland Homeland Security sloganeering addiction
it's all bullying by bullshit psychological attrition
as the propagandists desperately avoid deposition
to question them they consider sedition
if you accuse them here comes your legal rendition
as martial law's invoked to crucify opposition

I try to ignore all the militarist poseurs
sitting in armchairs safe from exposure
cheering the killer robot bulldozers
but it’s getting harder to keep my composure

It’s Blood Sacrifice ordered by our leaders all hustlers
bloodletting daily by these genocidal rustlers
slaughtering people in unjust wars
families towns and cities always starting with the poor

Herding people with unmanned missiles
spewing through the air like bloody thistles
if you listen you can hear the ghastly whistles
as we turn people into ghosts and gristle

We use alienating lethal ideology
zombie all-devouring technology
and treat our war criminals as prodigies
who determine their victims by symbology

Wars are our fatal fashion shows
designed by fascistissimos
with runways launching deadly blows
with the perennial theme of Nihilism's Throes

We give cute violent names to our superweapon models
bombshells for the bloodlust which we coddle
so addictive I'll be shocked if they're not bottled
will we ever learn to pull back on that throttle

We worship our knockout sexy symbols
from pickup truck size to fits in a thimble
resist war culture and refuse to assemble
these future relics so dastardly nimble

The Predators  Cobras  Raptors  Grim Reapers
Tomahawks  Hellfires  Harpoons  Deep Sleepers
Stingers  Crusaders  Tridents  Intruders
why not one named for Jeb Stuart Magruder
Avengers  Black Knight  Shockwave  Javelins
rockets engineered for the bad guy travelin’
The Goodbye Weapon  America’s Ray Gun
and I’m sure those last two are totally way fun
The Punisher  Excalibur  Dread  Apache
and a gas that will make you throw up and die scratching
and remember Fat Man and the Little Boy
oh the nostalgia for some of our earlier toys
and the modern but milder Daisy Cutter
that cuts down a forest as if it’s hot butter

Screaming Eagle  Strike Eagle  Falcon  Hornet
Viper  Venom  Growler  The Disemboweler
Lulu  Matador  Honest John  Ding Dong
Hound Dog  Little Dog  Little John  Lance
Davy Crockett  Condor  Red Snow  Red Beard
Blue Cat  Blue Fox  Blue Peacock  Blue Slug
Blue Danube  Blue Rosette  Blue Water  Blue Steel
Green Bamboo  Green Cheese  Green Flash  Green Granite
Green Grass  Indigo Hammer  Violet Club  Yellow Sun
Orange Herald  Locust  Fort Knox  Hellcat
Bulldog  Hercules  Herky Bird  Spectre
Puff the Magic Dragon  Wolverine  Snark  Slugger
Priest  Wolf  Lynx  Cougar  Fox  Buffalo
Stryker  Guardian Angel  Wrecker  Spooky  Spooky

We knowingly kill children with explosive clusters
no safety from them or the vile bunker busters
there's hot uranium spread among the living and the dead
what kind of mutant strain dreams that up in their head
there can never be enough grieving and tears shed

All the stealth machines glorified in magazines
the fire and forgets without care or regrets
the carriers the Harriers the hurriers the worriers
the minders the blinders the screaming Sidewinders
the brawlers and crawlers the brutes and the stalkers
our own Imperial Walkers
the sieges famines and plagues
these leaders should be in The Hague
with their cheerleader militarist poseurs
how would that be for closure

If you truly believe in fair or free trade
the flow of ideas and the progress we’ve made
then tell me why the de facto blockade
of justice and peace with this homeland charade

If you truly believe in a spiritual love
as on high so below not the pushing and shove
then why not remove your fist from your glove
extending your palm as below so above

Let’s settle now this whole debate
don’t tell me who to love or hate
but quit living to discriminate
our tolerance will keep us hopeful and great

So go ahead and raise my rent
blow my mind it has its bent
but when you come for the innocent
you've gone way too far dear homeland

Speaking of let's lift up high our frosted mugs
our pharmaceuticals and whiskey jugs
someday we'll work out all the bugs
and toast the victorious war against drugs
oh the euphoria Sisyphus shrugs
as The Master builds the usual cruel gulag
now have another slug and give your homeland a hug

Let’s have our real party on democracy's lawn
and celebrate each vote and each liberating dawn
all equal and free with no class lines drawn
no kings no queens no rook no pawns
won’t keep us in check 'cause it's all hands on deck

Now we come together as one
through times hard and fun
with no injustice undone
yes our work's just begun
and we don't need a gun
no violence none
'cause under one common sun
all living things run
in the one common band
in our hearts through the land
this our truth our demand
our promise our stand
and democracy's our plan
for our new homeland
for our True Homeland
everyone hand in hand
it's our land

Friday, March 16, 2018

My Memaw from Old Mamou
(A Song for the Old Bayou)

I love these days in my Texas hills
the laidback folks and quiet thrills
purple mountain laurel blooms and dry creek spills
bouquets of oaks, beaucoup les fleurs, endless limestone sills

But I miss my young and tender days
sweet fragrance of night, misty morning rays
folk songs of the storks on waterways
that lace the ground where I used to play

I want to be there and see mon cher
on your porch and take you to the parish fair
oh that face you bet I'll kiss
I'll kiss your hands and hair
even now my heart goes flying

Straight back to the arms of old Mamou
where love is slow like the old bayou
where my love still grows
je taime I love you
and I need to see you Memaw

My Memaw from old Mamou
without you what would I do
you're doing just fine it's true
but I need to see you Memaw

My Memaw from old Mamou
without you what would I do
you're doing just fine it's true
but I need to see you Memaw
my Memaw from old Mamou
my Memaw from old Mamou

[Instrumental Chorus]

When I get home you'll be sitting there
all cozied up in your sitting chair
you'll ask, are they treating my baby fair,
as you thread your fingers through my hair

I once knew well why I left home
and don't regret a moment's roam
but now it's clearer than any poem
I need to see my Memaw

My Memaw from old Mamou
without you what would I do
you're doing just fine it's true
but I need to see you Memaw

my Memaw from old Mamou
without you what would I do
and you're doing just fine it's true
but I need to see you Memaw
my Memaw from old Mamou
my Memaw from old Mamou

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

When Dylan's "How Many Roads" Became a One-Way Street

This is written in response to a recent online essay about Bob Dylan's detour into Christianity beginning in 1978, what might have caused his conversion, what it may have meant, and its contemporary and lasting effect on his music.  The essay link is at the end.

I had been introduced to the whole you-should-be-a-Christian thing at an early age in my small Southern hometown.  Baptists and Catholics predominated there, and my friends went to those churches and others.  I'd go drinking with them many Saturday nights and they'd go to church hungover the next day.  And we'd get drunk and go to Midnight Mass together on Christmas Eve.

So I had a pretty good idea of what being a Christian could mean and not mean.  Anyway, cynical Jewish me would never do anything so ridiculously rash, obviously stupid, or weirdly radical as convert to Christianity.  But a crush on a girl in college changed all that.  I was trying to get her to like me, to show her how daring I was, so I tried to accept Jesus.  It didn't work, but was a good college try. I didn't anticipate any further fallout.

There had been extenuating circumstances of alienation from a decent upper-ish middle class family and the continuous pressures of intense political times.  Trump times so far seem but a particularly nasty foretaste.  Mainly though, the future seemed an impossibly worrisome thing to have to deal with.

Basically no one does anything so radical religiously as Bob Dylan did or so many others have done if they actually believe they have a better alternative.  Well, that was my experience anyway.  'Accepting Jesus' had always seemed like the worst thing I could possibly ever do, even at the moment I tried it, except for everything else I could conceivably imagine myself doing in that moment.

What really drew me in deep enough to the whole crazy schmear to soon become associated with an off-the-wall organized group not unlike the one Dylan found was indeed Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, the book that helped hook Dylan into the wider flock. The world already seemed to be about to cave in on itself and everyone in it including me, and, as preposterous as Lindsey's general hypothesis is, it registered only slightly moreso on the Preposterous Continuum compared to much of everything else going on at the time.  It was really wild and crazy out there.

I had read the book before I found that group, which was not emphatically apocalyptic like Lindsey.  In fact, first impressions informed me that this group was anything but apocalyptic, seeming harmless and goofy but open-hearted and positive.  There were lay leaders and families with children, young marrieds, single people, mostly white but all races, several former Protestant ministers, other Jews, and a respected former student body president of the college I was attending.  So there was a sense of normalcy about it, and of hope.  There was also an attractive ad hoc zeitgeist and an easygoing atmosphere that presupposed the busy structured life of the members, many of whom lived together.

I think of it now as sort of a Zen Baptist fellowship of self-exiles and rejects from mainstream society.  It was live and let live, accept everyone as an equal, and basically learn to be glad to do what you're led to think is the best and right way to see and do things.  Luckily, there was not any harmful deviance going on at the leadership level or otherwise besides the casually enforced conformity.  The group met six days a week in one form or other, and it was an entirely pleasant experience if you bought into it.  Doubts were allowed but very subtly discouraged.

Overall, it was a sweet and sober experiment in dealing with existential uncertainty under the reliable auspices of a slow-moving gentle (Gentile?) zestfully clean mindwashing.  But it was by choice, and there were people there with whom I'd still be friends today if they weren't still such kooks!

This was all before Watergate purged the nation of much of its contradictory tensions.  In fact, one related thing that later proved to be a key departure point from my voluntary mindwashing and that helped propel me to just up and leave the group was that its genial leader one day, out of apparently nowhere, encouraged the group's members to support Nixon in the 1972 election because it would be best for the economy so that group members could more easily find jobs.  That was the last straw that broke the spell for me, a campus radical-lite, and my group participation had become less and less enthusiastic anyway.  I had never been able to swallow the group's particular Christian template and its 'unique' interpretation of 'end times', let alone digest it.

For me, my joining the group hadn't been wholly a cry for help, though it was somewhat that.  I think it had mainly been an odd somewhat desperate exploration of a major part of the world previously denied to me about which I had become more curious than I'd realized.  What WOULD it be like to be a Christian, my unconscious was asking.  Would there be any relief?  AND there seemed to be an unconditional love for and acceptance of one another that I'd never experienced elsewhere.

That part I still believe was true enough, despite my complex emotional and psychological reasons underpinning that belief, and it felt like I thought a real family should feel, one that didn't tear you down behind your back and wanted to have your back when you needed it and also bothered to try and find out when that might be.  Also, any port in a storm.

So when Dylan's Slow Train album came out in later 1979, and a good six years had passed since I had returned to being a normal secular born-Jewish never-really-was-that-kind-of-Christian, lets-never-talk-about-this-again prodigal black sheep son, and a couple of years after I'd later married the college girl for whom I'd tried to accept 'the Lord' in the first place (she'd joined the group too, but we got together after we each had left it), the album made me giddily happy to see that I was not the only Jew to have fallen into the sincere but seemingly silly trappings of instant Christian religiosity.  DYLAN HAD!

I could hardly believe what I was hearing on Slow Train.  He really had gone Jesus freak.  And the songs were immaculately conceived and felt, Dylan actually translating for the world what it was like to feel free and freed for the first time.  It was iconic and real.  I could relate to it deeply and understood that he was both embracing and mining gospel traditions.  He was also becoming more musically authentic Dylan.

At that point I could see how this turn of his was to an even deeper embrace of the natural spirit of America.  It was the most radical thing he had ever done. It made going electric at Newport seem almost inconsequential.  He went to where early American slaves and especially many minority peoples still today are forced to go to blend in the best they can into the fabric of white America, and where many poor and less poor whites need to go for the elusive sense of warmth and belonging the country is again proving incapable of providing its forgotten and disadvantaged. It is where they have all gone like pilgrims for emotional relief and for hope and to pay homage to what should be.  They were trying to find and sustain their own better angels, as was Dylan.

I could also feel the familiar fury and brimstone of Lindsey's self-reveling co-optation of The Book of Revelations.  So I understood the urgency behind the songs but also recognized the lens of instability that provided the true focus for the book and underlay Dylan's conversion itself.

I only wished, or hoped, that he would soon or eventually move on to the next phase of his career where his newfound awareness would more directly help challenge the harmful traditions of patriarchy, sexism, and institutionalized capitalistic violence.  Oh well.  He's aged beautifully anyway, and I think his more deeply religious phase was a transition to a more honest portrayal of his more down-to-earth values and keener insights of the human condition, altogether an expression of his more authentic spiritual self.

Interestingly (to me), my post-group wife and I saw Dylan in concert in our adopted city Portland, Oregon in January 1979, during his first gospel tour, though I wasn't aware of it being that. I knew I didn't recognize the songs except for maybe one or two (Lay Lady Lay?), and I rationalized it was likely because he often played his songs differently than as recorded.  But it was energetic and enjoyable - it was Dylan! - yet enigmatic, and I remembered having enjoyed The Rolling Thunder Revue in Houston's Astrodome four years earlier a whole lot more. But hmm this Slow Train Coming was powerful and evocative of earlier revolutionary Dylan.

hen I bought Slow Train later that year, it hit me what it was we had witnessed.  It explained everything.  I could hear the hokey but sincere innocent catchphrases and generalized adopted language of new converts and the idiosyncratic phraseology of the particular strain of church people with whom he must have been interacting.  "Pressing on" and other such interpretive descriptions of spiritual process were everywhere, as well as deserved judgments upon the world ("it's a wonder we can even feed ourselves" writ religious large). The 'newborn Christian' enthusiasm and professions of unquestioned belief in the unlikely and unprovable were all accounted for.  It was so familiar.  Have faith, I told myself.  He will come back to us someday, an even better Dylan, he's on a journey.

I'm not the biggest music afficionado, especially from the technical point of view, but I was in a band in 1975 that moved from Louisiana to Memphis because Memphis' Ardent Records producer Ron Capone, who won an Emmy for Isaac Hayes' Shaft album (and engineered also at Stax and for Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, Tower of Power, the list goes on) had invited us to record our songs for free in barter for being house session band at Ardent.  We played on demo projects for Steve Cropper (of the Stax house band, Booker T & the MGs, and the Blues Brothers band) on demos, for instance.

So at that time, in the enlightened musical presence of masters who'd worked with legends, I inadvertently experienced an enlivening touch of a venerable musical tradition, and I think this exposure later helped me recognize, at least for my own purposes, something of what Dylan was doing musically and personally.  It was a sea change of Parting-the-Red-Sea caliber, and it must have been incredibly tumultuous for him, all of it, and I could readily imagine the strange but promising impact he had begun having on other musicians, a kind of creative tumult of its own.  Yet the courage he showed in that phase was undeniable and indelible.

Funny (to me), I felt more 'saved' listening to Slow Train in 1979 than I had felt the entire year I was in the alt-Christian group.  But it was not because of his songs or salvation (though the songs, wow, just terrific!).

It was because someone as amazing as Bob Dylan had gone down that track too, had given in to the gravitational pull for a new exploration and hoped to find something that worked better for him than his life had provided him at his own juncture, that he was actually doing something brave and true to his wizardry nature and was still a freewheeling chameleon willing to take on the approbation of others because it didn't really truly harm anyone and it could give inspiration to a whole new generation of fans and musicians, and in his creative process it helped catalyze something culturally and musically important, though still not well-defined, that was not all that different from going electric at the legendary Newport Folk Festival in 1965 (the 1979 Dylan probably upset a new generation of musical Pharisees).

So Dylan helped me salvage my soul, or more clearly, helped me reclaim my fuller self-esteem from the murky miasma of lingering guilt and memory of previous shunning that was thrust upon me innocently by family and friends.  Not that I blame them, or anyone resenting Dylan for baptizing his music in the Holy Ghost.  They couldn't help it either.
The essay responds to this post.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Rise and Fall of Breath

My intention was to write a poem
about practiced expansive meditative thought
as a curative antidote to rash
often harebrained reactive notions
and thought patterns that rise seemingly
from some sort of inner idiot savant
but not always the savant part
alternately at times unrealistically hopeful
and quixotically irrational at other times
though usually mundane or whimsical,
but first began watching and then experiencing
the steady soothing rising and falling and rising
and falling and rising...

Sunday, October 22, 2017

                                                      Thirteen to Seventeen Spiders

Surface water is the background of the photo, meaning the camera is pointing downward.  If you click on the photo, you can see that what is illuminated is the immediate ongoing work
of 13 to 17 spiders, that I was able to locate, who were busily and quickly working in one overall extended area on a series of smaller interconnected webs, each spider in its own particular area.

hey came from and went in various directions, usually separately, but sometimes one would intersect with another.  Then there'd be a momentary delay while they determined who would proceed first.  It appeared friendly enough but a bit hasty so as not to interrupt the flow of work.

All of the spiders were in motion except for a larger one or two, and you can see these fairly easily.  It is unknown why they remained motionless.  My speculation is they are alphas. Or maybe they were just resting.  Perhaps it was a family activity.  The others appear as blurs in the photo.  Overall it was a hubbub of activity.

I'd like to understand how the blueprint for something like this operates and from where it originates.  Everything seems random and chaotic though apparently has purpose if not meaning.  Yet in the end it's a perfect, or perfect enough, construction for its purpose.

It feels familiar though I can't quite put my finger on why.  All I really know about it is that if disturbed the web will be rebuilt again in one configuration or another, either in the same place or nearby.  Hardy little critters these spiders, though mysterious as the night is long, which is a prime time for their web-building by the way.

PEER OF THE REALM And it is his realm from the scaled heights of oak branches angling for the best sunlight to the leaf beds in the s...