Dusk to Dawn

digital illustrationCoal & Diamonds

Strangely enough, the bond of sleep, that weight of Lethe sitting on my soul,

Reminds me constantly to keep from letting diamond days turn back to coal,

For stillness rejuvenates bone and blood and sinew strong enough to bring me on,

And sleep is a portal through which a flood of musings sweep me forward to the dawn,

So rest is essential, and there I lie, seeming immobile while I dance at speed,

Or mounting on magical wings to the sky, to soar as sweetly high as I should need

To see in sleep, in my mind’s eye, new ways to spring from dark to day’s desire,

To find in the darkness of night what I love most amid the constellations’ fire

And planets and comets’ tails’ dross and stone what I can reinvent as suns for day,

My own coal-diamonds, blood and bone and sinew turned to chasing night away.digital illustration

For Ourrrrrrr Boisterous Friends

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I humbly make my contribution:

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How d’ye like the swash o’ my buckle?

All Hands on Deck

(and If You Ain’t Got Both of Yourn, Git Along Up There Anyhow!)

Methinks the parley perilous with pirates gaudy, garrulous,

spectacularly scare-ulous, with too much time to spare;

That’s when the day gets dicier, the swordplay sharply spicier,

and nastily not-nicier linguistics fill the air,

For pirates, though a jolly sort, think keelhauling the keenest sport,

‘n’ walkin’ the plank, starboard or port, a fine means to such ends;

So watch your tongue (and your nose ‘n’ ears) when a peg-legged, cutlassed cur appears

and he with his Hook-fist henchmen nears, for they are risk-fraught friends

Who’ll trim the hedges about your garden without so much as a beg-yer-pardon,

then trim you to size without regardin’ your nat’ral breadth or height;

So parley with care, and watch your purses, as well as the strength of your pirate curses,

or fall beyond reach of the leech‘s nurses ere day drops into night.

All this aside, and despite the urge a pirate may feel as a dramaturg,

he might invite you to join the surge toward a pleasanter thing to do:

Join with his crew, ye smirkin’ smarty, drink and be merry and join the party,

and dance and laugh like a loon most hearty, and talk like a pirate too!digital illustration

Hot Flash Fiction 8: Out of His Family Tree

Beau Bretagne has a twelve-gauge shotgun on the porch and has a ladder-back chair with one short leg, a chair in which he leans against a big old sycamore tree; he has fourteen perfectly good teeth and a wonderful, spotless complete set of the Great Books, and he has read the complete bindings of them more than once. He has the gift of playing the squeezebox in the Gilded Crescent’s Big Dog Zydeco Band so beautifully that dancers have passed out as often from dancing all night as from the vast quantities of moonshine they are drinking at the same time. Beau gets a lot of pleasure out of all this wealth, but most impressively, he has the envy of the entire county ever since he had the brainstorm to name his baby boy Xerxes Junior Bretagne so that he truly has something that no one else in that whole county has. Unless you count Beau’s two cousins Billy-john and Bart, whose sons also share this magnificent combination of names (modified for the Bretagne family’s convenience as XJ2 and XJ3), but since Beau doesn’t count these, why should you?digital illustration from antique photographs

Image/Self Image

digital illustrationBeauty is in the Mirror of the Beholder

Brenda, trendy modernist, zips through her ultra-racy home

Her super-powered vacuum on a wave of pearly foam;

Her sexy subatomic voice, her skirt of crisp chiffon,

Her to-the-minute kitchen wares, her wildly brilliant spawn,

Her microscopic facial pores, her savvy in her biz,

Convince nobody that she’s great, but make her think she is.

Electricity

Strung more tightly than violin strings, the two sweeping the darkened, smoky room in a feral arc know a dance that defies all others. Piazzolla provides the backdrop of sound, but the pulse is found far deeper inside–somewhere near the center of two souls, perhaps. Will the world implode in this, their passionate spin? Love, darkness and brilliance compel their moves; time will race or freeze and stars may blaze or die, but as long as the dance goes on, the night will be filled with mystery and animal joy that only these hearts could possibly make. Let the music stalk on, and learn to live and die of love: here in the night, the tango burning in these two will keep a world of beauty pulsing long beyond their lives.

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Love, or Something, Conquers All

Is there something else you want to tell me, sir? You say you are a musician, yet I distinctly recall that on evenings around the campfire you’ve always strummed off-key and your songs are always unrecognizable to your fellow players. You tell me that you are a skilled horseman, but I have known you to fall off every mount you ever met and the way you’re always sneezing makes me pretty sure you’re more a specimen of the allergic type than a cowboy of any real sort. As for your claims of being a king of the romantics, they strike me as far more hopeful than strictly factual, considering that you cannot read, write or dance, never remember to comb your hair or wash your face, and are cowed into stammering and foot-shuffling when actually in the presence of anyone even slightly ladylike.

Forgive me, then, if I tend to take your claims with a certain jaded skepticism. I am fairly certain I do not want to listen to you bash away on your two-stringed guitar, to watch you topple out of the saddle the instant your horse makes a move, or to wait for you to wrestle up the courage to make small talk while I dream of my escape from your company. And if you should persist in attempting to convince me that you are the master of the Wild West, I shall be reduced to the expedient of dispatching you with a hefty branch of mesquite laid across your noggin, stuffing you into a handy gunny sack and slinging you over the back of a mule headed toward some terribly remote corner of the prairie.

Other than that, though, I suppose I don’t mind your company. A girl can’t be too choosy out here on the frontier if someone offers her his family fortune and she has her eye on a particular set of acres for ranching. Business is business, after all.digital illustrationOn Closer Examination

A fella whose flaws were prolific

And both manners and taste quite horrific

Filled my soul with alarm

But still had one great charm–

His inheritance, to be specific.

Wag if You Know What I Mean

photoA Whiff of Happiness

While all you two-legs types are mired

And wallowing in wintry fear,

I see spring’s hints and am inspired

To smell the happiness from here

What gain or merit mankind finds

In only frigid, dormant joy,

When you could wag those sad behinds,

Dance forward, every girl and boy—

Hold on to sorrow if you must,

While I lap up those thrills made dear

By breaking through the frozen dust:

I smell the happiness from here!

My Baroque Gesture

The first time I heard Early Music performed in period-appropriate style I experienced, not surprisingly I suppose, a full mixture of amusement, bemusement, mild horror and deep curiosity. It was in a performance of Claudio Monteverdi’s seminal opera Orfeo at the English National Opera; I was a mere college stripling who had probably not even heard the phrase Early Music at the time let alone known what it might mean, and ‘performance practice’ was in something of a time of transition. Anthony Rolfe Johnson sang the title role with, if I remember properly, a rather nice overall sound, but a straight-tone and senza vibrato style and a strangely stuttering kind of ornamentation that might well have been an authentic recollection of the opera’s original character and an accurate and historically informed version of the way it would have been presented by its composer and first performers. I, having never been taught such things, merely heard sounds quite foreign not only to my ear but to my concept of skilled and artful performance, let alone prettiness. I do remember thinking that either this was all far over my head (entirely possible) or it was a pointless and poor imitation of what the ENO imagined the average amateurish opera company of Monteverdi’s day must have been capable of doing (less likely), or poor Mr. Johnson, who later went on to receive his OBE, just plain wasn’t up to the job despite a naturally pleasant voice.

Years later, I may not be much smarter than the young squirt of those days, but I’m far more experienced and have heard worlds more music, both the great and the terrible and, of course, a massive quantity in between. And I’ve been taught a thing or two about the fine points of what is beautiful and magical when it comes to singing or playing with any amount of vibrato–or none–and the many elements that combine to create tone and color and variety and character in a performance. I’ve learned some useful stuff that changes how I perceive both the level of virtuosity in playing or singing and its aesthetic appeal, two aspects that do not always coincide in my ear, mind and heart but when they do, that combine to create a kind of joy that is virtually unattainable in any other way.

When my husband conducted a production of Orfeo over a quarter century after the first one I’d heard, I had a whole different understanding and appreciation for what the many performers were doing and why the stage director would expect them to do so both from a visual standpoint–training them, along with other coaches, in appropriate ways of moving and posing and gesturing as well as in those of vocal ornamentation, since she is a superb and well-trained Early Music singer herself–and an historically suited musical one. Just as there are countless styles and types of music known to us nowadays, which you can multiply by the number of individual teachers, performers and audience members to get a rough sense of the variety you’ll encounter, there were historical strictures and structures and stylistic trends and ideas that shaped earlier generations (centuries) of music and musicians and listeners, and while some have perhaps remained relatively unchanged since their inception, many more evolved over the ages. Our expectations of music have certainly changed, and our guesses as to how it was first conceived and perceived are only as good as the lines of scholarly inquiry and oral tradition can attempt to make them.

In all, it makes rich fodder indeed for both the ear and the imagination, and I for one am mightily pleased that I have had the opportunity to live a life immersed in all kinds of music and to learn along the way. I still like much of what I heard, whether ignorantly or not, in my younger days, and much of what I like now I learned to love along the way. While my form may be far from historically accurate or artistically impressive, I will still happily bow and curtsey to all the musicians who have shared their gifts with me in my life, and to all of those who work and are inspired to play more, to sing onward.graphite drawing

Dream Dancers

digital artworkCountdown to Dreaming

What sprightly sprites, by noon and night, what fairies of the air

Dance in my dreams? To me, it seems there’s always someone there

To twist and twirl, to whiz and whirl, to pirouette, jeté,

To bow and bend and to transcend mortality this way.

No one can see this dance but me, and only when I slumber,

When forty winks or nap, methinks, begins to unencumber

The dancing denizens of sleep, my own replacements for mere sheep,

And I must count them, lest my deep repose should lose their number.

Rain Dances

It dances across my imagination, rain. It is flowing and musical and magical and, most of all, it catalyzes cleanliness and growth that reawakens the graces of the living world in ways that very few other things can possibly do.photoIt is what I think of as the soundtrack to my dreams, rain. The softly bubbling, rippling, tuneful and prayerful sound of rain in the background, after even the slightest dry spell, is as lovely in its way as a kindly lullaby, as the warbling of some exotic winged thing in a  woodland on a magical evening, perhaps even as a gentle reminder that the creative spirit of the universe weeps both with sorrow and with joy in harmony with all her creatures.photoOn every greensward, in every park in Spring, the land smiles with contentment even while the rain still falls, when rain is in its right place. This is a gift happily awaited by all who thirst–every creature and all the sweet, sweet growing things that fill our garden world. Whether it is thought of as saving for a rainy day or being saved by a rainy day, as much as I bask in the sun at every opportunity, there will always be a part of me that relishes and desires the generous presence of a kindly rainfall.

(I’m pleased to say that it has been raining here for the last number of hours. Life is good.)