Music Monday with Mary Cigarettes

cropped-0417001857.jpgI am out the door in just a few minutes with the youngest of my three incredible sons. I’ve been pretty busy lately, mostly in some very good and productive ways (look for an upcoming post about that called, “Where the Heck Did National Poetry Month Go?”), but also in some of those dull and plodding gotta-do-what-ya-gotta-do ways. One the good side there has been the “new” job (a year now this month!), and the newer job of free-lance editing with a lot of exciting stuff in the works for the near future.

The downside has to do with car repairs (the whole damn family’s cars! Seriously), and an old side-job that really should have ended a long time ago. Hard to say no though when the bills come to the door. Keeping lights on and such is important, but it’s not the whole picture. It becomes critical perhaps, the day-to-day, and sometimes it’s a little hard letting go of a sure thing (even if it is killing your knees!) that pays the bills for a risk that will make dreams come true. Sigh. Forgive the ambiguity, but as I said, I’m almost out the door this morning.

This week I want to share a few things that have been an encouragement, a life-line really for me. These include, of course, my sons, my Brian, poetry, and even a little bird-watching, but also some precious time spent with dear friends from over seas last month. I’ve been on a kick of reading tons of “mindfulness poems” lately, and I’ll share more of that too.

But for today, this Music Monday, here is a beloved man whom I cannot wait to one day meet in person. Mary Cigarettes has been so much more of an inspiration to me than he can know. The following videos are among the first of his that I watched several years back during post-forty life change. They still act as compass stars for me to keep me moving some nights. I forget that I have actually accomplished quite a lot, and have every likelihood of doing more if I don’t buy into my own self-criticism.

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My Mother and Richard Blanco’s, Picking Produce

way back when

That’s me to mom’s left, a hundred years ago. I don’t know these other people. Oh yeah, there is dad on her right!

I lost my mother when I was 19. I had run away from home for a year or so in my teens. My father and I did not get along, you could say, but that’s a very different story now, and not the story for today. I came back, fortunately before mom’s cancer returned. So I spent a lot of time by her bedside before she left. I was never quite able to let her go, not until years later.

Anyway, I have never felt like an orphan of any sort. I think she did her best to teach me everything she could before she left. I have always felt fortunate. I’m not kidding myself with the power of positive thinking here; I knew I was fortunate to have the relationship with mom that I did. Some people don’t have that, and let’s not fool ourselves, some mothers can be as awful as the stereotypical deadbeat dad. So yes, lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it, I was.

I remember going to the A&P Market with my mother when I was quite young. They had those coffee grinders at the end of the aisles, and I loved that smell of fresh roasted coffee. My brother Dennis was a produce manager there, as I recall and my uncle Jim too, though maybe that was a different store. But I remember mom there, picking through oranges and apples, and while she wasn’t remembering Cuba or some far off homeland the way Mrs. Blanco was in this poem, I know she was remembering something, her own childhood perhaps.

Blanco mentions Macintosh apples, and those were mother’s favorite. But maybe it was because they were cheaper. She had a large clan to feed, as you can see in that ancient photo above. I tend to go for Granny Smiths because I like that tartness. My youngest son recently said that whoever named Red Delicious apples had probably never tasted them. I wonder what sort of produce you might remember your own mother picking, or purchasing. What meaning does that memory have for you? Care to share in the comments?

For whatever reason this poem by Richard Blanco always reminds me of her, and what I wish I could say. Please be sure to listen to the audio as well. Blanco does a beautiful reading of this. Happy Mother’s Day.

The entire text of the poem can be found by clicking right here on Richard Blanco’s site. Below I’ll share the soundcloud file because I think his reading of this is just beautiful.

Cheap and Dirty, Wet and Muddy–Happy NPM

On March 31st it snowed here in Northumberland, Pennsylvania–those big wet white fluffy flakes that are really lots of little flakes sticking together (probably a metaphor in itself, but for another time), the snow-globe-ish magical snow fall of early spring. I have probably posted this piece before, but it’s the only April poem I’ve got in my repertoire, so pardon me if you’ve already seen or heard this. “April Snow” was the result of pondering long after the incident the poem references, so it’s not even about my ex; it’s about an ex-ex. But it’s really about a moment of clarity within me.

In his “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads,” Wordsworth said that a poem was “emotion recollected in tranquility,” and I really do think you need time for the wild emotions to settle down before you can learn anything from them. It was a warm day today, this April 1st of 2015, and so I decided a vigorous walk was in order. The cheap and dirty video and recitation below is the result.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and take a walk with me.

A Modest Proposal For Religious Freedom Laws

David J. Bauman:

I think this is a good idea. You don’t believe in divorce? Just post the sign that your wedding chapel doesn’t do second, third or even sixth marriages.

I’ve been reading a lot of people’s thoughts on this, and frankly I understand the anger and frustration. I too grow weary of the need to defend my right to a hand-holding dinner for two.

I do not, however, want to sink to the level of fighting and name calling that many have. Some folks on the left are doing just that. I will resist that impulse, but as I said, I do understand. It’s not like there really is a middle ground. Is there?

Isn’t bigotry still bigotry, even if it comes from a lack of understanding? Even if it is the result of the same cultural brain washing many of us who grew up in the church endured? We can sympathize, even empathize, but why do we think we should compromise?

Is it ever ok to reserve the right to not serve blacks? Jews? Lefties? To not pay women equally? Blacks and Jews are not somehow inferior races to whites, and women are not some lesser class than men. So why have we allowed them, those kind religious folks, to convince us that they have a right to treat a trans man or woman, a gay man, a lesbian, a gender queer person, or a person of any sort, as if we are not all equal citizens? Is it because they have opressed us for so long that the kindest souls among us secretly fear that we really do deserve it?

Sometimes there is no middle ground. Sometimes the other side truly is wrong. But that’s no excuse to act hatefully ourselves. Let’s be dignified, even kind. But please, let’s do be strong and put our collective foot down. I can be kind to you if you think the world is flat, but I need not respect your opinion, and I will not tolerate your ignorant treatment of the rest of us who know that the world truly does rotate on its axis as it revolves around the sun–no matter what your regious leaders might tell you. I will be glad to talk to you, and if you refuse to hear, I will let you believe as you wish, but I will not condone your ill treatment of others, because there is never a time when that is acceptable.

Oh, and you, you who outright call me names, and would take away my rights, even my life if you could, well you just go ahead talking that way, but be honest about it. Post it on your door and in your window, and see how many friends you’ve really got.

Originally posted on Mommy Man:

Refuseservice1

In 1994, I moved to Los Angeles to attend film school, and I quickly discovered a local hangout called Barney’s Beanery. It was one of those places that hipsters would call a “dive”, which meant the décor was fashioned to look old and tacky but there weren’t actually any creepy drunks lingering around to bring everyone down. My friends and I used to hang out there and talk about movies, because we heard Shane Black went there to write, and because the menu was full of the kind of deep-fried pub food that we were too young to realize we shouldn’t be eating so much of.

Then one day, the one openly gay guy in my MFA program (I wasn’t yet brave enough to come out myself) told me why he never joined us when we went there.

“The owners are homophobes,” he said.

“No!” I insisted. “That’s impossible.”

He…

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Love Poems You Didn’t Write: Since Feeling is First

tumblr_mpsffcmQRE1styy8io1_500So I changed the title. Please feel free to submit a formal complaint to the management. You can consider this the fourth and final installment of the “Love Poems You Wish You Had Written” series for 2015. There is about a half hour left in the day of the man who died to marry people (or so the story of St. Valentine goes). My sweetheart is in a food coma on the couch and we haven’t even gotten to dessert yet. I guess I overdid it.

Having worked in the restaurant industry, at first by choice and then as a means of survival, the last place I wanted to be was out on the town tonight. So I cooked, oh boy did I cook. Brie with apricots, honey, pecans and golden raisins; Caesar salad with red onions and red romaine; and Brian’s favorite, chicken Parmesan with my own pasta sauce. Maybe it was the champagne that knocked him out?

I suppose this situation is an apt illustration for the principle in tonight’s poem. I enjoy cooking, the feeling of being creative in the kitchen, knowing that I’m giving people pleasure through that creation. If I started with the technique, and never got past it, the result might be a good dish, but I am guessing it would be missing something of the magic. Poetry perhaps is like that, if you’ll allow me the metaphor. First come the feelings, then the writing, then the honing and crafting and polishing to make it a piece of art.

And if you spend too much time analyzing, “paying attention to the syntax of things,” you’ll miss the magic, the fun of just wholly embracing (dare I say it?) “the joy of cooking,” glass of wine in hand, friends, family or lovers in the kitchen, or nearby, maybe strumming a guitar, playing the piano, petting the cat, losing a video game. Don’t suck the magic out of the art, out of the moment. Just enjoy it. Perhaps that is what Cummings is saying.

No matter what I cook, when I am proud and happy that my hubby is happy, I start to describe how I accomplished the meal, listing ingredients, bragging about the technique. But Brian invariably protests, “Don’t demystify it for me!” Isn’t that cute? He just wants to savor the magic. e-e-cs

Kathleen over at The Course of Our Seasons requested this poem by E. E. Cummings and I include for you the awful and silly reading I did of it on my balcony in 2011. I had my cool shades on, the flowers behind me; the sun was out. I was feeling goofy and springy because “spring was in the world,” and I was shooting for some novel way of reciting the poem, some unconventional approach.

Well, some people loved it, but the most fantastic response (I regret deleting it) was from a guy who said, “That was my favorite poem. You ruined it.” Ha! Well, you are welcome, friend. Sometimes that YouTube thing is just a vehicle of fun. Let’s not take it so seriously, even if we aren’t sure anymore if we were trying to be serious or not. God, I hope I wasn’t, because this truly is awful!

I must say though, I was proud that I memorized the piece–not one of my strengths, I assure you. The second video below is much more tame and balanced, by a lovely young man who is a complete stranger to me. I assume this was a homework assignment for him, but hey, guy, nice job! I like how he reverently recites the poem, not too much emotion, but not robotic either. He also has some insightful commentary after the musical interlude, which he ties to the poem quite cleverly.

As is often the case, I include the poem (this time at the top of the page) so you can follow. Whatever you did today, alone with your beautiful, lovely self, or in the company of those you adore, I wish you the happiest of Valentine’s days, or Valentine’s weekends now, since by my Eastern Standard clock it is now quarter past midnight. I wasn’t paying any attention.

PS. And yes, he wrote it “E. E. Cummings“.

 

Love poems you wish you had written 2015 #3 – W. B Yeats

David J. Bauman:

This was a lovely choice by Suzie’s fans. I may get one, possibly two more in before the weekend is out, but this simply, heart-wrenching piece by Yeats, read by Anthony Hopkins… oh you just shouldn’t miss it.

Originally posted on No more wriggling out of writing ......:

William_Butler_Yeats_by_George_Charles_BeresfordWell, haven’t I had some wonderful suggestions for this series of love poems for St Valentine’s Day and beyond? Donne, Auden and now Yeats. This one, I have to admit, is one that I have loved since my teens, with that vain hope that one day someone would write something like it for me….

Hey ho, such is real life that nothing has yet been forthcoming and a limerick might be the best I can hope for now. But that doesn’t prevent me, and it seems many of my Facebook friends, dreaming. This great poem – Aedh (or He) Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven was suggested by Jane Earthy, Ada Mournian and Deborah Metters, amongst others and it is one of those poems that itch to be learnt by heart.

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin in 1865 and became one of the foremost literary figures of the…

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Love Poems You Wish You Had Written #3–Thursday Edition with Carol Ann Duffy

English: Carol Ann Duffy (cropped)

Carol Ann Duffy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Suzie Grogan, alias Keatsbabe, we’ve started again in the memorable tradition of 2013, posting Love Poems You Wish You Had Written. But now it’s Thursday and I just cannot help but adhere to a more recent tradition here on the Dad Poet, the Thursday Love Poem!

Now, it’s been a while since our last Thursday Love Poem feature, since September in fact, so let’s review. What exactly qualifies? Well, a Thursday Love Poem is a love poem that is unique, not quite what you’d expect, a very different way of looking at love, and possibly not one fit for a Valentine’s Card. You can click right here to see all of the Thursday Love Poems we’ve shared, including Richard Blanco’s “Killing Mark,” my own poem about a Chinese cleaver, Dorothy Parker’s “One Perfect Rose,” and of course the TLP’s namesake, “Thursday,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

AND if I loved you Wednesday,
Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday–
So much is true.

And why you come complaining
Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday–yes–but what
Is that to me?

No, I don’t suggest you read that to your lover this weekend, but you really should read it out loud to someone, or maybe read it in public with your phone to your ear; read it as conversationally and causally as you can. You’re guaranteed to raise some eyebrows.

As I was pondering over what to use for this pre-holiday Thursday, the Thursday of Love, I stumbled upon a poem shared on Twitter. I cannot recall to whom I should be giving credit, but I was delighted to find this unique, and honest view of romance from UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, perfectly titled for this week’s edition of TLP.

Duffy has held the ten-year position of Poet Laureate since 2009, and she’s the first woman to wear the title. You can learn more about her work and listen to her read her poem “Syntax” over at the Poetry Archive, or you can check out her interview from September’s edition of The Guardian in which she assesses her first five years in office.

Now brace yourself. This poem might make you cry.

VALENTINE

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,
if you like.
Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

–Carol Ann Duffy
From New Selected Poems 1984-2004 (Picador, 2004). Originally published in Mean Time (Anvil, 1993).