American Idyll

yes, the river knows

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

We See This Empty Cage Now Corrode

Bob Dylan: Visions of Johanna

people keep telling me
you know,
you ought to stop writing
racetrack poems,
you have no idea
how boring they are.

well, I was at the track
the other day
and I had to go in
and take a piss.
I unzipped and stood there
grabbing and groping
and tugging.
I tugged and I groped and
I grabbed
and the guy next to me
"my god, you must really
have a lot of it..."
and I told him,
"nothing like that, sir,
I've got my shorts on
I got it out
from underneath
and pissed half of it
down my leg.
then I went out
and caught a
six to one shot
who won
by four lengths.

this is just another
boring poem.

--Charles Bukowski
I Can't Stop

Monday, September 11, 2017

My Radio Tuned To The Voice Of A Star

Paul Simon: The Cool, Cool River

moves like a fist
through the traffic
anger and no one can heal it
shoves a little bump
into the momentum
it's just a little lump
but you feel it
in the creases
and the shadows
with a rattling deep emotion
the cool, cool river
sweeps the wild, wide ocean

yes boss
the government handshake
yes boss
the crusher of language
yes boss
mr. stillwater
the face at the edge
of the banquet

the cool river
the cool, the cool river

i believe in the future
i may live in my car
my radio tuned to
the voice of a star
song dogs barking
at the break of dawn
lightning pushes the edge
of a thunderstorm
and these old hopes and fears
still at my side

anger and no one can heal it
slides through
the metal detector
lives like a mole in a motel
a slide in a slide projector
the cool, cool river
sweeps the wild, wide ocean
the rage of love turns inward
to prayers of devotion
and these prayers are
the constant road
across the wilderness
these prayers are
these prayers are
the memory of god
the memory of god

and i believe in the future
we shall suffer no more
maybe not in my lifetime
but in yours i feel sure
song dogs barking
at the break of dawn
lightning pushes the edges
of a thunderstorm
and these streets
quiet as a sleeping army
send their battered dreams
to heaven to heaven
for the mother's restless son
who is a witness to
who is a warrior
who denies his urge
to break and run
who says: hard times?
i'm used to them
the speeding planet burns
i'm used to that
my life's so common
it disappears
and sometimes even music
cannot substitute for tears

--paul simon
the cool, cool river

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Whatever Bottomless Gulf May Yawn

H.P. Lovecraft : The White Ship

in the throes
of a nightmare
when unseen powers
whirl one over the roofs
of strange dead cities
toward the grinning chasm
of Nis, it is a relief
and even a delight
to shriek wildly
and throw oneself
voluntarily along
with the hideous vortex
of dream-doom
into whatever
bottomless gulf
may yawn.

--H.P. Lovecraft


Monday, August 28, 2017

In Another Existence Perhaps

Tom Russell / Iris DeMent: Big Water

Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth
and the big trees were kings.
An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side.
The broadening waters flowed
through a mob of wooded islands;
you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off forever from everything you had known once--somewhere--far away in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one's past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.
--Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness

Thursday, August 24, 2017

But There Was Only The Darkness And The Stars

Ramblin' Jack Elliott: South Coast

That night they camped in a swale at the edge of the lake and shared the last of the provisions she'd brought. When he asked her would she not have been afraid to ride through this country by herself at night she said that there was no remedy for it and that one must put oneself in the care of God.
He asked if God always looked after her and she studied the heart of the fire for a long time where the coals breathed bright and dull and bright again in the wind from the lake. At last she said that God looked after everything and that one could no more evade his care than evade his judgement. She said that even the wicked could not escape his love. He watched her. He said that he himself had no such idea of God and that he'd pretty much given up praying to Him and she nodded without taking her eyes from the fire and said that she knew that.

She took her blanket and went off down by the lake. He watched her go and then shucked off his boots and rolled his serape about him and fell into a troubled sleep. He woke sometime in the night or in the early morning and turned and looked at the fire to see how long he'd slept but the fire was all but cold on the ground. He looked to the east to see if there were any trace of dawn graying over the country but there was only the darkness and the stars. He prodded the ashes with a stick. The few red coals that turned up in the fire's black heart seemed secret and improbable. Like the eyes of things disturbed that had best been left alone. He rose and walked down to the lake with the serape about his shoulders and he looked at the stars in the lake. The wind had died and the water lay black and still. It lay like a hole in that high desert world down into which the stars were drowning. Something had woke him and he thought perhaps he'd heard riders on the road and that they'd seen his fire but there was no fire to see and then he thought perhaps the girl had risen and come to the fire and stood over him where he slept and he remembered tasting rain on his face but there was no rain nor had there been and then he remembered his dream.

In the dream he was in another country that was not this country and the girl who knelt by him was not this girl. They knelt in the rain in a darkened city and he held his dying brother in his arms but he could not see his face and he could not say his name. Somewhere among the black and dripping streets a dog howled. That was all. He looked out at the lake where there was no wind but only the dark stillness and the stars and yet he felt a cold wind pass. He crouched in the sedge by the lake and he knew he feared the world to come for in it were already written certainties no man would wish for. He saw pass as in a slow tapestry unrolled images of things seen and unseen. He saw the shewolf dead in the mountains and the hawk's blood on the stone and he saw a glass hearse with black drapes pass in a street carried on poles by mozos. He saw the castaway bow floating on the cold waters of the Bavispe like a dead serpent and the solitary sexton in the ruins of the town where the terremoto had passed and the hermit in the broken transept of the church at Caborca. He saw rainwater dripping from a lightbulb screwed into the sheetiron wall of a warehouse. He saw a goat with golden horns tethered in a field of mud.

Lastly he saw his brother standing in a place where he could not reach him, windowed away in some world where he could never go. When he saw him there he knew that he had seen him so in dreams before and he knew that his brother would smile at him and he waited for him to do so, a smile which he had evoked and to which he could find no meaning to ascribe and he wondered if what at last he had come to was that he could no longer tell that which had passed from all that was but a seeming. He must have knelt there a long time because the sky in the east did grow gray with dawn and the stars sank at last to ash in the paling lake and birds began to call from the far shore and the world to appear again once more.

--Cormac McCarthy
The Crossing


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Return Of Many Happy Returns


Wynton Marsalis Septet: Happy Birthday

Once again
I have told you
so little,
and have asked
no questions,
and once again
I must close.
But not a single answer
and, even more certainly,
not a single question
shall be lost.
There exists
some kind of sorcery
by which two people,
without seeing each other,
without talking to each other,
can at least discover
the greater part
about each other’s past,
literally in a flash,
without having to
tell each other
all and everything;
but this, after all,
is almost an instrument
of Black Magic
(without seeming to be)
which, although
never without reward,
one would certainly
never resort to
with impunity.
Therefore I won’t say it,
unless you guess it first.
It is terribly short,
like all magic formulas.
Farewell, and let me
reinforce this greeting
by lingering over your hand.

Franz K.

--Franz Kafka
Letters to Felice‎

Saturday, August 19, 2017

As If The Things That Irritate Us Lasted

Gillian Welch / David Rawlings: I'm Not Afraid to Die...12/29/16

Keep in mind
how fast things
pass by and are gone
--those that are now,
and those to come.
Existence flows past us
like a river:
the what
is in constant flux,
the why
has a thousand variations.
Nothing is stable,
not even what’s right here.
The infinity of past and future
gapes before us
--a chasm whose depths
we cannot see.
So it would take an idiot
to feel self-importance
or distress.
Or any indignation, either.
As if the things that irritate us lasted.

--Marcus Aurelius

Monday, August 14, 2017

And On We Go Again

At daybreak we walk
down the bank of the river
on a little sandy beach
to take a view of
a new feature
in the canyon.
Heretofore, hard rocks
have given us bad river;
soft rocks, smooth water;
and a series of rocks
harder than any we
have experienced sets in.
The river
enters the granite!
We can see but a little way
into the granite gorge,
but it looks threatening.
After breakfast
we enter on the waves.
At the very introduction,
it inspires awe.

The canyon is narrower
than we have ever seen it.
The water is swifter.
There are but few
broken rocks in the channel,
but the walls are set
on either side
with pinnacles and crags.
Sharp, angular buttresses,
bristling with wind
and wave polished spires,
extend far out into the river.
Ledges of rocks
jut into the stream,
their tops sometimes
just below the surface,
sometimes rising few,
or many feet above;
and island ledges,
and island pinnacles,
and island towers break the swift course of the stream into chutes, and eddies, and whirlpools. We soon reach a place where a creek comes in from the left, and just below, the channel is chocked with boulders, which have washed down this lateral canyon and formed a dam, over which there is a fall of thirty or forty feet; but on the boulders we can get a foothold, and we make a portage. Three more such dams are found. Over one we make a portage. At the other two we find chutes through which we can run. As we proceed, the granite rises higher, until nearly a thousand feet of the lower part of the walls are composed of this rock.

About eleven o'clock
we hear a great roar ahead,
and approach it
very cautiously.
The sound grows
louder and louder
as we run, and at last
we find ourselves
above a long, broken fall,
with ledges
and pinnacles of rock
obstructing the river.
there is a descent of perhaps
seventy-five or eighty feet
in a third of a mile,
and the rushing waters
break into great waves
on the rocks,
and lash themselves
into a mad, white foam.
We can land just above, but there is no foothold on either side by which we can make a portage. It is nearly a thousand feet to the top of the granite, so it will be impossible to carry our boats around, though we can climb to the summit up a side gulch, and, passing along a mile or two, can descend to the river. This we find on examination; but such a portage would be impracticable for us, and we must run the rapid or abandon the river. there is no hesitation. We step into our boats, push off and away we go, first on smooth but swift water, then we strike a glassy wave and ride to its top, down again into the trough, up again on a higher wave, and down and up on waves higher and still higher, until we strike one just as it curls back, and a breaker rolls over our little boat. Still, on we speed, shooting past projecting rocks, till the little boat is caught in a whirlpool and spun around several times. At last we pull out again into the stream, and now the other boats have passed us. The open compartment of the Emma Dean is filled with water, and every breaker rolls over us. Hurled back from a rock, now on this side, now on that, we are carried into an eddy in which we struggle for a few minutes, and are then out again, the breakers still rolling over us. We find the other boats have turned into an eddy at the foot of the fall and are waiting to catch us as we come, for the men have seen that our boat is swamped. They push out as we come near, and pull us in against the wall. We bail our boat, and on we go again.

The gorge is black
and narrow below,
red and gray
and flaring above,
with crags
and angular projections
on the walls, which,
cut in many places
by side canyons,
seem to be a vast
wilderness of rocks.
Down in these grand,
gloomy depths we glide,
ever listening,
for the mad waters
keep up their roar;
ever watching,
ever peering ahead,
for the narrow canyon
is winding,
and the river is closed in so that we can see but a few hundred yards, and what there may be below we know not; but we listen for falls, and watch for rocks, or stop now and then, in the bay of a recess, to admire the gigantic scenery. And ever, as we go, there is some new pinnacle or tower, some crag or peak, some distant view of the upper plateau, some strange-shaped rock, or some deep, narrow side canyon.
Then we come to another broken fall, which appears more difficult than the one we ran this morning.

Doc Watson: Deep River Blues

A small creek
comes in on the right,
and the first fall
of the water
is over boulders,
which have been
carried down
by the lateral stream.
We land at its mouth,
and stop for an hour or two
to examine the fall.
It seems possible
to let down with lines
at least part of the way
from point to point
along the right-hand wall.
So we make a portage
over the first rocks,
and find footing
on some boulders below.
Then we let down
one of the boats
to the end of her line,
when she reaches a corner of the projecting rock, to which one of the men clings and steadies her, while i examine an eddy below. I think we can pass the other boats down by us and catch them in the eddy. This is soon done and the men in the boats in the eddy pull us to their side. On the shore of this little eddy there is about two feet of gravel beach above the water. Standing on this beach, some of the men take the line of the little boat and let it drift down against another projecting angle. Here is a little shelf, on which a man from my boat climbs, and a shorter line is passed to him, and he fastens the boat to the side of the cliff. Then the second one is let down, bringing the line of the third. When the second boat is tied up, the two men standing on the beach above spring into the last boat, which is pulled up alongside ours. then we let down the boats for twenty-five or thirty yards by walking along the shelf, landing them again in the mouth of a side canyon. Just below this there is another pile of boulders over which we make another portage. from the foot of these rocks we can climb to another shelf, forty or fifty feet above the water.
On this beach we camp for the night, We find a few sticks which have lodged in the rocks. It is raining hard and we have no shelter, but kindle a fire and have our supper. We sit on the rocks all night, wrapped in our ponchos, getting what sleep we can.

--John Wesley Powell
journal entry for August 14, 1869

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Like The Sand When The Whirlwind Breathes

Bob Marley: Ride Natty Ride

And when he had put his hand
on mine with a cheerful look, wherefrom I took courage,
he brought me within to the secret things. Here sighs, laments, and deep wailings were resounding through the starless air; wherefore at first I wept thereat. Strange tongues, horrible utterances, words of woe, accents of anger, voices high and faint, and sounds of hands with them, were making a tumult which whirls always in that air forever dark, like the sand when the whirlwind breathes.

--Dante Alighieri

fire by head like an orange

Sunday, August 06, 2017

And The Walls Are Vertical From The Water's Edge

Old and In The Way : Land of the Navajo...1/10/73

Canyon walls, still higher and higher, as we go down through strata. There is a steep talus at the foot of the cliff, and in some places, the upper parts of the walls are terraced.

About ten o'clock we come to a place where the river occupies the whole channel, and the walls are vertical from the water's edge. We see a fall below, and row up against the cliff. There is a little shelf, or rather a horizontal crevice, a few feet above our heads. One man stands on the deck of the boat, another climbs on his shoulders, and then into the crevice. Then we pass him a line, and two or three others, with myself, follow. We pass along the crevice until it becomes a shelf, as the upper part, or roof, is broken off. On this we walk for a short distance, slowly climbing all the way, until we reach a point where the shelf is broken off, and we can pass no farther. Then we go back to the boat, cross the river and get some logs that have lodged in the rocks, bring them to our side, pass them along the crevice and shelf, and bridge over the broken place. We go on to a point over the falls, but do not obtain a satisfactory view. Then we climb out to the top of the wall, and walk along to find a point below the fall, from which it can be seen. From this point it seems possible to let down our boats with lines to the head of the rapids and then make a portage. So we return, row down by the side of the cliff as far as we dare, and fasten one of the boats to a rock. Then we let down another boat to the end of its line beyond the first, and the third boat to the end of its line below the second, which brings it to the head of the fall, and under an overhanging rock. Then the upper boat, in obedience to a signal, lets go. We pull in the line and catch the nearest boat as it comes, and then the last. Then we make a portage,
and go on.
--John Wesley Powell
journal entry for August 6, 1869

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