Be Afraid, U.S. Interstate Sytem, I’m En Route

June 23, 2007

I know all sorts of useful things about vagabonding the States. For instance, I know that it is quite difficult to sleep squatting on the flats of your feet, huddled in a blanket. No matter what those mushroom pickers told me, I don’t think it’s actually possible to do for any extended time. Sure, I can fall asleep, but to stay upright’s the trick. I also know that Arizona kids sometimes slash not one, not two, but four tires if you refuse to buy them alcohol (not that I could have, I was nineteen, which, apparently, they didn’t believe). Quick hits of good advice:

1. Throw the game. Do not play pool for money at a bar where the owner also owns the trailer park out back.

2. Abstain. Or at least do not get drunk with strangers off-strip in Vegas.

3. Shove on. If you find assault rifle casings near an otherwise perfect campsite in the Sawtooth Range, all the “otherwise perfect” in the world does not outweigh the casings.

4. Look away, Dixie. It is impolite to stare at what might or might not be a polygamist family in the West Desert. You will probably be outnumbered and undergunned.  

5. Fido knows. If your dog hates someone, you should hate them too. 

I’ve gleaned this and more, but I also know the importance of good music for any trek. Before a trip I put together a few playlists meant to coordinate the tunes with the terrain. Sometimes this works, sometimes not so much. But as I get ready for my summer trip East, it’s come time to map the route, chart the anticipated playlist, and hit the local casino for some cheap cigarettes. This year’s playlist should be easy because I’ve got a destination which will channel the music selections through definite states, regions, and cities. One of these cities is Youngstown, Ohio, roughly twelve hours from my starting point. Here’s the song below from a live Springsteen concert in (serendipity!) Youngstown. The song (serendipity!): “Youngstown” from his 1995 accoustic album, The Ghost of Tom Joad

I’ll be scouring my collection for more music soon for this particular trip and will continue updating as the playlists come together. And, of course, I’ll worry so much about the playlists, I won’t remember to pack socks.     


Odds and Ends (and a Poem)

June 19, 2007

Find below evidence of my growing web-savviness in the Regina Spektor live performance of “Samson” I found on YouTube:

The quality leaves a bit to be desired, but I opted for this bootleg over both the music video (which is ok) and the produced live version from a music festival in April. I found this more real somehow. Whatever that means. If you like the song, you can get it here.  

Also, DawgE will live! She is without parasites or any real health problems. She had some gland issues that needed to be flushed out. And I should tell you that I did not enjoy putting a headlock on the poor girl as the vet swabbed out her rectal cavity with two well-lubed fingers. The dirty look afterwards, however, was masterfully expressive. Who needs language when you have daggers like hers? Plus, I got shunned for a few hours afterwards. We’re good now, though, thanks to a treat and a long morning run.

That’s about all on the odds and ends front. As for today’s poem, it’s a piece from Yusef Komunyakaa’s Talking Dirty to the Gods. A brief bio on Komunyakaa can be found here. Though this is not the poem I wanted to post, it’s a strong piece worth the time to examine. The book is taut, and Komunyakaa imposes a systematic design to both the form and organization of the individual pieces within the collection. Each poem is four quatrains long, which adds a cohesion and a design befitting the abundance of gods, goddesses, and the geometry of nature the poems tackle. Here’s the bibliographic information:

Komunyakaa, Yusef. Talking Dirty to the Gods. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

And here’s the piece:

Body of a Dog

(Cadavere di un Cane)


He’s chasing a hare.

In eleven or twelve countries

The philosophy of the hourglass

Has turned into weathered stone,


But he races the same sun

Through threadbare silhouettes.

If there were human prayers

Left, they wouldn’t reach him


In Vulcan’s dream come true.

Did he know when vicissitude

Eased over hills like mist or scent

Of a bitch? Given another month,


He would have made the boy

Into a very good master.

He’s treed his own ghost

In a nearby poppy field.   

With “Body of a Dog,” I think we’re being asked to confront our transitory existence on earth. Referring to the “philosophy of the hourglass,” “Vulcan’s dream” and closing with the surreal and vivid image of the dog in the “poppy field,” Komunyakaa uses the ethereal and lofty connotations in philosophy, dreams, and poppies to contrast against the penultimate sentence, which spans the end of the third stanza into the first line of the fourth and helps us realize more clearly the importance of the hourglass in the first stanza. If the dog were given that month, things would have been different. In essence, it’s potential unrealized. Time had run out for the dog (and the boy, too, in a different way), and as it is those plans are left unfulfilled. 

As always, there’s plenty more to say, but I will shut it here. Feel free to drop your own thoughts on the piece or question mine.    

Puddlehead Learns a New Trick

June 14, 2007

As I’ve mentioned in comments sections on a few other blogs, I’m newish to this whole blog thing. For that matter, I’m newish to just how much a laptop can do. Until recently, if it wasn’t email, a few poetry websites, itunes, or MS Office, I didn’t care. Or, more honestly, I was afraid of it. Technophobes are nothing new, and the Luddites come to mind. But, for my part, I’m flexible. I’m willing to admit my ineptitude and seek ways to fill in the missing information. Which is what I did today. I filled in a blank!

Backstory: I was listening to Regina Spektor’s album Begin to Hope this morning, and it dawned on me that I want to stream music on this blog. Sure, there’s the whole thing, but the options are limited. That I can “widget” a song is fine and dandy but I want to share my favorite music. Not something close to a song I love because it’s the nearest thing on sonific. So I did my homework.

It turns out that you can’t stream music without purchasing upgrades on wordpress. However, I did find a nifty little website that allows me to upload music for free that anyone can access and download for themselves (also for free). It’s a great way to share what we love, and I want to turn you on to a song that wrecks me every time it plays. 

As I mentioned, it’s off Regina Spektor’s album Begin to Hope. She’s a beautiful vocalist who’s voice carries over the top of the simple piano rifts in “Samson.” It’s a plaintive ode of sorts, and the line, “You are my sweetest downfall / I loved you first” rises into a heart-shattering breathy trill. Spektor sing-talks through parts only to break into brief moments of vocal undulations and a heavier piano that currents beneath her lyrics.    

When you click here, you’ll come to the site where you can download the song. The link is on the left hand side. It’s completely scanned for viruses and can be put right into your music file. I’m a sucker for strong voices and piano…Hope you are too. Come on back and let me know what you thought. And, as usual, more to come soon.