Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The chatter of the soul

As long as I can remember, I have been writing down fetching things people say. My personal hell would be me clutching my pants pockets for eternity and finding no pen or paper, while fascinating folks are saying unforgettable things that all of us are bound to forget, if someone doesn’t write them down, now. In my crowds, that was always me.

I have done acres of personal testimony writing, delivering people’s stories in their own words, with a little editorial tune-up. I have done this for people who qualify as historic figures, such as the Ogoni leadership that fought Shell Oil and the Nigerian military dictatorship, and the widow of Charles Lee Thornton, the man they called Cookie who shot his way into and through a Kirkwood City Council meeting. I stood in one of the Meacham Park driveways where Cookie had parked heavy equipment in violation of pesky Kirkwood ordinances, and I wrote down every word his widow said while tears streamed steadily down her handsome, trembling face. We printed it as a commentary in The St. Louis American.

On my own time and dime, I rather like to drink carefully-made beer and wine, and fellowship with friends with amply-stocked minds and souls. When this was a rock and roll road show, we were forever traveling between gigs. The notebooks I kept in those days were known (in the beginning, officially, complete with roman-numeraled dog-latin names) as “gig books.” Nowadays, like a turtle in a notorious bluegrass banjo player joke, I am less and less likely to be on my way to a gig. And now I am more likely to be writing scraps of language on paper my daughter has been drawing on than in a dedicated notebook. But I still think of myself as keeping gigbooks. And when I take the time to type up my notes after a night out, I still think of them as gigbook poems.

Gigbook poems are not for everyone. Often I have been told, “I guess you had to be there.” But I think they capture the chatter of the soul. They strike me like little luminescent winks of actual people enacting their lives, in the middle of it and making it all up as they go along. This particular batch is from a night out with Joe Kessler, Brett Underwood, Lindy Woracheck and Agnieszka I am forgetting my friend’s last name. Actually, I think there were two nights, in a row. During one of them I called up Baba Mike Nelson, on an impulse, and he was working his way through the reality of a dream.


I am just working through the reality of the dream,
Accordion in my left hand,
Trumpet in the right. Sworn
To the drum. I play
The Gramophone.

It’s about partnerships, partnerships
That last. I made a connection
With you.

No more
I am the only one.
No more
I am the only transistor.



I always thought
It’s a lot better
To sneak in first
without them
Seeing you coming.
And when you
Do all that ,
You’re saying,
Here I am!
Here I come!



If you’re fucked up,
And walking back;
the rain
Got downtown. You been
Cooking on a postage stamp.
He made him look
Like a second baseman.
Went back there and
Still made pizza somehow.

My dad’s really hungry.
He had a high tolerance
For toxins, or so the legend
Has it. She wouldn’t tell me
what it was.

What Flood said last night.
“So, you had a heated agreement!”
Oh, he finishes my thoughts!
I like well spoken people!

Since the tree can’t actually talk,
Will you tell some of them to me?
Like: six foot Chers drink cans
Of aluminum beer, with two
Sorority girls on a Saturday night?

How would I have a good time
If I couldn’t smoke cigarettes or kiss
A boy? The guy
With the camera shit slung over
His shoulder never takes a shot.

What you get
Is what you see.



She ran with the damn
Bulls in Valdamolla. I’d
Love to meet you in Istanbul.
It’s somewhere between a Guinness
And a rug a dog’s been laying in
For a really long time. You know, Rasputin’s
Now, a pop star.

When they get kicked off the reservation,
They turn into capitalists.
Ward off the government.
Chug down some cherry juice.
Walks down Wyoming, I’m
Slumped against a grocery store.

I had a gash in my shin
That was bleeding into my shoe
She was going away.
She had bought me a book.
Felt like a thirdstring tightend,

No comments: