Saturday, October 13, 2007

"There's a Town I'd Like to Go Back To"

Friday evening, I surfed through to a blog that had yet another word association game/exercise: writing in response to five words. I was feeling up for a little riff, but then I looked at the words: vineyard, root, rescue, perseverance, and divided. I lost my riff-raff pretty quickly after that: too damn serious for this Friday night end of week noggin. So, for moi, I proposed the following. For y’all out there in Riffland, I say, go the vineyard route, steal mine, or just ante up your own five gems. Herewith:

jam: “Jam up and jelly tight.” Not a clue in the world what this means, but it sounds awfully fine, and I have invoked it reverently for years. It’s definitely got a George Clinton P-Funk attitude, though come to think of it, Lady Ivory (Teena Marie) could just as easily be the jelly AND the jam. She might prefer the honey comb, but it ain’t always about what’s in the jar, now is it? Mistress Google-a chimes in with a Tommy Roe hit from the 60s, and that’s about all I need to scurry right on along to:

uptight: Stevie (Little or Big) would have done a helluva lot better than “dizzy” Tommy with the jam, though Stevie, too, fell into oblivion with The 1980s Song That Shall Not Be Named, but way way back before he morphed into just plain awesome superstition ain’t the way el toro negro, he was jammin’ along to his uptight outasight beat, Motown horns thrown in for good measure, and I was riding along in the car around the nooks and crannies of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, falling in love with now Patty, now Judy, now Elaine, now Norma, now Jackie, now Susie (just as the Buckinghams dropped “Susan” into the airwaves). Remember a moonlit post-party stroll around the base (we were eighth graders, for godsakes!), Ms Norma’s white jeans were as white as that brilliant moon, against gorgeous coffee skin, what ever happened to the Supremes’ “Whisper You Love Me, Boy”?

flimps: Flower imps: Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Montgomery, Alabama: no, not a bunch of hayseed yahoos warping the Bard, but wondrous productions in that splendid theater. Black swans on the lake. Greta Lambert strutting her stuff in “School for Scandal,” “Hedda Gabler,” “The Tempest,” “Betrayal,” and glory beyond glory, “On the Verge.” It’s rumored there is theater to be had here in Tres Leches, but I fear shady comparisons to Alabama and the Oregon Fest as well.

cloister: Sounds like an orphan from the vineyard route, but think Poor Clares in New Orleans, site of some of the city’s best pralines. NOLA being the epicenter of all things praline (here in Tejas, it was always “pray-leen,” while in the epicenter it was “prah-leen,” like saying the quotidian “hummus” instead of the high church Armenian “hah-mōs”). If not the Clares, think Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or the dearly beloved Black Madonna right here in Tres Leches, site of the improvised nuptials of two of her pilgrims on March 8, 1998. Not a site for pralines, but the sweetest baby boy certainly came tumbling months later. Of course, in deference to Tres Leches’ own art of the praline, we cannot leave out Mi Tierra, a 24/7 Christmas-lit haven of generally dreadful and overpriced tourist food: still, there was that glorious 3.08.1998, where, at 5 o’clock in the morning, said pilgrims found succor in the red vinyl booth with some fine chorizo and egg tacos, and the coffee was fine (love, the eternal equalizer), and the first of many to come Patina poems rolling out on the napkins. Pralines bought at the “altar,” and then broken and dropped at various ancestral graves around the city: father and paternal grandparents at Fort Sam as the winds blew mightily, and then down to greet the Green Fairy and her parents (the maternal g/p’s, and come to the think of it, the maternal great-grandmother, too) at St. John’s Lutheran cemetery, eastside, South New Braunfels Avenue. This peregrination was also the day of being temporarily lost, and saying, “let’s stop at the first stop we come to for directions,” and the first stop was indeed a convenience store named “The First Stop.” Now that, pilgrims, is Prompt Succor.

jicama: Have mercy, one of the best salads I have ever had was laden with it, but if pressed, I couldn’t tell you what the fruit itself looks like, though its flesh looks to me like a scrumptious pear. We had a pair of pears this past week for dessert that were dripping with their own natural honey. Jicama, the word, reminds me of jacala, the word. There are jacalas that dot the King William ‘hood here in Tres Leches: for unknown reasons, I think of cottages with coyote fences, in all probability a completely autistic association, a practice (hermetic, autistic, oft self-referential association) to which I am amply given. The word “association” invariably conjures up those warblers of the 60s who, beyond their own word associations (cherish, perish, garish), tossed off two very fine albums (Renaissance and the “Stonehenge” album) that, while breaking the syrupy Never My Love mold, still hastened their demise. Associate to association and Chicago’s Cryan Shames are never far behind, A Scratch in the Sky a masterpiece that never warbled very far beyond the Windy City itself, but certainly reached highly scratched vinyl status through infinite replayings on one Texas boy’s box, believe me, their Windy brothers the Buckinghams didn’t stand a chance, by comparison, though the confections of “Kind of a Drag” and “Don’t You Care” were praline enough. Who would have predicted the Zawinul-penned “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” to come tumbling out in the summer of, what, 1967? Rascals’ blue-eyed soul all over again. Nyro was rumbling in the fore, but I maintain the masterpiece is her middle-aged Angel in the Dark, just as Lady Ivory brought it all tumbling with her just shy of 50 throwdown CD La Doña. Avalanche of associations coming now: Johnny Guitar Watson’s “Ain’t That a Bitch,” TM’s “Ooh La-La-La,” Sergio Mendes/Lani Hall’s Equinox—the music never stops tumbling in Tres Leches. It’s all una ensalada, no?

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Blogger San said...

digging in the moonlit
for your old shoe
I didn't find it
but did stumble
on the root
of your grandmother's
weeping willow
then I found
of all things
my head
it sprang out
of an old
whose rusty crank
I turned
my head
it popped up
again and again
each time
it smiled at me
I smiled back
thinking now nice
and how rare
an experience
to resuce
one's own head
that's what I call
and to think
damn them
they said
we were divided

10:26 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

San: Nice. Very nice. I love the jack-in-the-box head, the rusty crank (what a great word: crank). We should all be so rescued.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Ya know, I'm sitting here reading San's poem and I just love it. I'm sometimes lost when it comes to sound poetry, although that is happening less now that I'm reading your work, Murat. I'm absolutely delighted that you two are having fun with words. Way to go guys! :) And San, I liked the smiling between you and your head with the rare experience of rescue. Too cool!


5:03 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Lee: A very cool poem indeed. I think most of the sense of "lostness" about poetry in general is when we assume (an assumption reinforced by dour word curmudgeons) that there are specific meanings to be "got." There may or may not: the important thing to remember is that we the readers are equal members in the chase: our poems are seen and "made again" by every reader. Boy, do I see that every day with my urchins.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Dear Murat, please forgive those word curmudgeons. I'm afraid I happen to be one. (wink) I'm not sure when or why other people have taken that path but for me I can see actual paintings in the words. They are the colors and textures of my emotion and life. My worst sin is that I can be so "wordy" that it is almost a disability. As a child I took to using them as paintbrushes with locks and keys. How many ways can I lock down a definition or subject so that you don't misunderstand. Even acknowledging that this approach to communication doesn't work well. It is hard to drop.

So I now see it was all the more a compliment and gift from you when you noticed how sparse my ribbon poem was in words. Thank you!

Peace & Joy!

6:23 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Re: Jam up and Jelly tight - link provided to song on Rhapsody in case you don't have a copy.

It was considered rather risque in my day.


6:27 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Lee: Second things first: couldn't abide Tommy Roe back in the day, but apparently some file opened up in my brain to download at least one of his songs. Mercy.

First things second (and more importantly): there is nothing curmudgeonly that I see in your approach to "wording": precision, accurate reflection of self and experience, these seem worthy and un-curmudgeonly goals. A desire to communicate this goal of precision, likewise. I deem "curmudgeonly" those who would insist that a poem is a thing to be cracked, and cracked specifically their way: it's a politics of power, whether it's played in the larger world or a classroom. I find that I, too, must resist curmudgeonly behavior when I drop a poem or piece of fiction in the laps of my urchins and they respond with interpretations or understandings beyond ANYTHING I could or would imagine. Even the most insistently curmudgeonly poets cannot control what happens once they set their poets in the river to float on their own. We grab them up as we will and make all kinds of associations beyond their wildest dreams, too. It's why I maintain that we as readers have an equal footing: we're not being written "at," we're being written "with."

7:02 PM  

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