Saturday Songs, and Poems in the Park

You and your crazyIt’s rare that I actually take a Saturday off, and so waking up slowly, coffee in hand I found myself reviewing some old videos, wondering why I’ve let some of them survive, when the recording quality was so bad. But sometimes it’s just the beauty of a live moment captured, not posed for, that really moves me.

Recently at the Cross Keys Poetry’s Art in the Garden (which ended up inside the library due to Thunderstorms), the theme was related to cats, and so for my contribution to the evening I recited Theodore Roethke’s “The Kitty Cat Bird,” a poem I did not yet know by heart back in 2012 when this poem was recorded.

This morning I stumbled across this video from three years ago. We might have been a bit flat, but this was my crazy family with chalk and guitar celebrating a Saturday of National Poetry month in the local park on King Street, across from the library, before I worked there. In many ways it was not unlike a normal day on the porch or anywhere with our crew. We  weren’t planned or poised; we were just enjoying ourselves on a sunny day in April. So here we are, without makeup and off key, but happy.

The poem in chalk was a bit from Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

Why Gun Violence Is A Heart Problem

David J. Bauman:

Okay, I’ve been trying to stay away from the politics lately. Not because I agree with that old rule about not discussing religion and politics. I think quite the opposite. We should talk about these things, and how can we learn from each other, how can we grow into a better knit, kinder people, unless we talk about the important things? But it’s been for my own peace of mind and blood pressure that I’ve tried to focus on the good and not get overwhelmed by the bad lately. So forgive me for a moment while we discuss my feelings on this, and why I like this pastor’s article.

Sure, you have the right to arm yourself. You do not have the right to do so with a tank, or a grenade launcher, however. Don’t talk to me about how you could kill someone with a fork. I can hear the angry young man at his keyboard now: “So why not ban forks!?” Let’s be reasonable here. When is the last time you’ve heard of someone murdering twenty some people in minutes–with a kitchen utensil?

Mankind has always had problems of the heart. That’s nothing new. FBI statistics on violent crime actually show a downturn for decades now though. So maybe the problem with mass shootings is not the same old heart problem, but the new technology of being able to easily kill many people in a very short period of time, and having that technology so easily available. And yes, sure it could be done with bombs, but notice, bombs, unlike guns, are not sold at Walmart.

And of course, criminals will always find a way to get guns, but do we have to make it easy for them? I cannot believe this debate is still going on to be honest. All I ask is that before leaving a comment you actually read this article, all the way through, down to the last couple of paragraphs. Then after you have read it, ponder it. Think before you hit that reply button. I find it tiresome how often on social media and even “news” sites people argue over headlines without having read. My blog will not become a place of reactionary debate, and mindless repetition of political talking points. If you comment without reading, it will be obvious.

My feeling is that we need to stop reacting to hot buttons, spouting theory instead of being practical and realistic. You want to fight tyranny? Good luck with your semi-automatic against soldiers and drones. That’s not how this government works, and you know it. The militias were not meant to overthrow the government, but to protect it. You want historical evidence of how our founding fathers handled rebellion? Look at the Whiskey Rebellion and see the reasons for having a militia.

Originally posted on john pavlovitz:

GunsHeartCredit

“This isn’t about guns at all. People who want to be violent will always be violent. This isn’t a gun problem, it’s a heart problem.”

Just stop it all already.

You and I both know that’s a lie.

We both know you’re not being completely honest here.

Yes, we all have heart problems but here’s the thing:

People with heart problems don’t mow down dozens of soft-faced first graders with a handful of rocks.

People with heart problems don’t often ravage movie theater goers with a bag of bricks.

People with heart problems aren’t purposefully murdering scores of strangers and co-workers and ex-lovers every single day with sticks and shards of glass.

People with heart problems aren’t ripping holes through other’s bodies on live TV with baseball bats they bought from Wal-Mart.

When people’s heart problems cause them to snap and to do the unthinkable in a moment of grief or rage…

View original 546 more words

Saturday Songs with Sophie Ellis-Bextor and the New Radicals

As we were inching closer to midnight, and therefore Saturday, Brian was prepping for a little visit to Philadelphia, a couple of hours away, by producing a “mixtape” for the drive. Something has him on a Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Gregg Alexander kick right now.

I woke up early this morning to find him wide awake and watching the movie Begin Again, a film whose soundtrack was mostly written and produced by Gregg Alexander, former front man of the New Radicals. You may remember their 1998 hit single “You Only Get What You Give.”

Well, thanks to Brian I was singing that song in my head, and sometimes out loud, for the rest of the day while working at the library. Not that I’m complaining. If I could decide what song would get stuck in my skull for a day, I couldn’t make many better choices. It’s such an encouraging, highly polished and produced number.

Now Brian’s mind is always working thematically it seems, making and following various connections. He’s been playing Sophie Ellis-Bextor for the last couple of days. She came out with her new album, Wanderlust in 2014, and since Alexander and Bextor worked together (Remember “Murder on the Dance Floor?”) it’s no surprise to me that he found himself watching the Begin Again movie this morning.

So for tonight, or this morning, depending on your time zone, the Saturday Song is two tunes; first Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2003 hit, “Mixed up World,” co-written with, and produced by Gregg Alexander, followed by my Friday ear-worm from the Young Radicals. Some very positive stuff from the late nineties and early two thousands.

I should mention how so often the music in your head can be such an incredible insight into the current soundtrack of your life. That in mind, what tunes are you hearing lately? Good things are in the works here in our world, but if you need a little lift and encouragement after a long week, maybe this will help get your heart set on the good stuff too.

Mom Meant Well, a Poem Called “Stray”

English: Daedalus and Icarus by Anthony van Dy...

Daedalus and Icarus by Anthony van Dyck. (Toronto) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just like Daedalus advising his son Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, your parents meant well when they told you not to talk to strangers. But I remember questioning this when I was quite young. Isn’t it colder the higher you go? Wouldn’t he have to leave the atmosphere in order to get close enough to the sun to melt the wax? Yes, I watched Star Trek. And even, as a child I was bothered by the science, or more precisely, the lack of science in the Icarus story. But undoubtedly, his dad and my mom meant well.

As Kyle Hill from Discover Magazine told us last time, flying as close to the sun as possible (presuming that means not flying so high we can’t breathe) is actually what we should do. Wax at low altitudes will melt under the sun’s heat much faster than it will in the frigid upper atmosphere. So while it’s good to be cautious, being irrationally so is dangerous in the real world–even if the danger is in never trying, out of fear, and therefore never learning how high you can fly.

Similarly, while caution has its place, and your parents once had the right to tell you what to do, you will miss out on so much by being timid. Not talking to strangers is among the rules, along with not flying too high, that you should learn how to break. You’re a grown up now, better able to assess risk and reward. Work it out for yourself and trust yourself. Take the leap. I have met some of the most beautiful souls on the planet by waving aside the cautions against talking to strangers. As a matter of fact, my best friends were all once far away strangers, and had I not dared to trust my own instinct in such matters, well this would be a lonely life.

So, yes, look both ways before you cross the street, but go swimming right after you eat. Be curious. And whenever you get the chance, talk to strangers. You’re life will be so much more beautiful by doing so. And if you should land in the sea, you can learn how to swim.

This poem first appeared in Contemporary American Voices last year in June alongside the poetry of Brian Fanelli and Jason Allen.

Stray

In the Bible it happened—Fishermen, Levites
They just went away and kept on going
.
—William Stafford, from “Saint Mathew and All”

He asks me with a grin,
What advantage do you
young guys have over me
?

He stands there with his neat blue
cap and casual shoulders.
I cannot think of one.

Certainly not smarts, I say.
Wisdom would be the word, but seems
too cliché, too patronizing.

Not charm, for sure. I follow him
toward the door, while a clerk
shouts to me, holding up my bag.

He smiles and waits
as I retrieve my groceries.
When I was a boy, he says,

my mother’d make a list,
and I sat reading comic books
while the grocer filled the sack
.

We pass a few moments in the parking lot,
lingering for what reason, wondering aloud
where we had parked. I could leave
more than what I’d bought.

Someone else would eventually find
the car. My inadvertent tempter smiles

again. Take care now, friend.
And I think, one could do worse
than follow to strangers.

© 2015 by David J. Bauman

First printed in Contemporary American Voices, June 2014

Saturday Song–Wings with Gilbert and Carpenter

Icarus and Daedalus

Icarus and Daedalus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So you’ve heard the myth, the warning about getting too proud of your accomplishments. At the very least they sternly told you to be very cautious; don’t be foolish and attempt the impossible. The myth of the fall of Icarus, who either ignored, or in that moment of elation, simply forgot the warnings of his father Daedalus.

When they escaped imprisonment on the wings that Daedalus fashioned out of wax and feathers, the wise father told him to not fly too high, for the wax could melt, and not to fly too low or he could up in the sea, the feathers weighted down with water.

But Icarus was an enthusiastic young fellow. Isn’t that the sort of thing we old folks tell our youngsters? Learn from us; be safe; don’t push yourself beyond your own limits. Do you ever wonder if maybe their limits are greater than we imagine them to be? And even if we prove to be right, why should their fall be seen as failure?

No one else ever flew so close to the sun, so why judge this accomplishment only by its conclusion? Often those who critique our failures are not even so brave as Daedalus, who managed his flight well enough at a lower altitude. No, our harshest critics have never even attempted naked flight, having remained ever so judgmentally on the ground. Who is to say their choice was wiser? As the opening line of Jack Gilbert’s poem says, “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.”

Just last year in Discover Magazine, Kyle Hill wrote and recorded this delightful little essay, which cites a “scholarly” paper that takes a very different, and decidedly optimistic look at the flight of Icarus through the lens of science. Well, of course, you have to get past the whole wings-made-of-wax business, and assume Daedalus and Icarus could actually get lift and make the flight in the first place. But once you suspend your disbelief in the commencement of the entire escapade, it seems that physics may have actually been in Icarus’ favor. Maybe, just maybe, you should “throw caution to the wind,” and as Hill says, “Fly as Close to the Sun as You Want.”

I’ve been listening to the gentle voice of poet Jack Gilbert tonight from a 1995 recording. Unfortunately I could not find a reading of “Failing and Flying” in his own voice, so I decided to record it myself. For a richer reading check out Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac from over five years ago. As is his habit, Keillor lists the poem first, but reads it last, so if you truly are not interested in the rest of that day-in-history, you can skip ahead to about the 2.5 minute mark.

To read along with me, I would encourage you to visit the archives of Paul Scot August’s wonderful blog, Poetry Saved My Life, where you can also learn a bit more about Gilbert who sadly passed away in 2012, leaving behind a legacy of awards and beautiful, soulful poems.

After the poem, just jump right into tonight’s Saturday Song as Mary Chapin-Carpenter, which follows in the same spirit with one of my favorite songs ever, “Why Walk When You Can Fly?”

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