Memorial to Donald Murray with Poems: His Time Was Write and Hard Wood Writing

Never a Day Without a Line
When a mentor passes on–A Memorial to Donald Murray

I heard it on the 11 o’clock New Years Day news. Donald Murray died of a heart attack at the age of 82. He had submitted his column ‘Now and Then’ to the Boston Globe the day before he died. He never stopped working, learning or sharing the knowledge he had gained.

My connection to Donald started from a Now and Then column that he had written in late winter which mentioned a spring writing class and one of his favorite bookstores on Water Street in Exeter NH. A heartfelt feeling took me there and I bought the book he suggested and left my information. Fortune smiled and on a Monday nights for six weeks I found myself at Don’s house in Durham with a circle of writers and novices of the craft. Don in his chair teaching by drawing us in and sharing his life and the work he loves. A large man in both stature and heart held court as we listened and learned in a circle where he made us feel equal. No pretense, just the spirit of a man open and true. His words ring true in my head: ‘Find your voice and tune it to the situation’
‘Writing is personal-be as true as possible’
‘The voice must sound like you, if not something is wrong-you may not be close enough to the material’
‘I still sometimes look at the world as a soldier’
‘Write with velocity and lower your standards’
‘Good writers see deep important things about the human condition. They articulate the human condition for those who can not’
‘Surprise is wonderful, I want to surprise myself some more before the road ends’

I met with him three times after the class ended. Twice for breakfast at ‘Young’s’ in Durham where everyone knows his name. The morning after class ended I picked him up at 5:45 AM. He told me he had stayed up all night as enthusiasm about the class, father’s day trip weekend prior, writing, and using his new art supplies would not let him sleep. He insisted on paying for breakfast and said that my turn was next. As I dropped him off at his house and told him to get some rest he answered, ‘after I write a little’. 82 years old, up all night and his motto, ‘nulla dies sine linea’ and work ethic still ruled.
For me he is gone too soon, too fast but he will always be with me. It’s his turn again to buy breakfast and he promised to come for dinner and meet my ‘Maria May.’
He believed in his family, his students, his friends and his colleagues. He gave us a confidence devoid of judgments that we could find our voice and tune it to the situation.
I offer a poem written with Donald in mind and submitted during what would be his last class. He had taken up drawing and painting recently for the sheer joy and surprise of it. The last line was added today.

Hard Wood Writing

Feeling lucid under pressure
Moments of sheer horror and panic do pass
Drawn on ousted emotions to draw-paint words to paper
Form scenes opened felt by me
Acts of art for others to observe-see
A word play called ‘New Hope Spring’
On a clean cool clear and cloudy canvass of Papyrus
Framed pages with words
Book cover borders
Times Temperaments Torments Trusts
Loss and Rebirth
Felt and Palpable on written page
Hopes spring grows and flows
Words in mahogany and oak
A writer’s true rings of hard growth memory
True to a vision of what has come to pass
Hard Wood Writing on soft textured page of one person’s past
Written Word Etched for Eternity by Scribed Survivor
Mahogany Voice Rises from Oaken Experience
From scribbler to Scribe the Survivor Crafts
The soft subtle textured pages of a life’s
Lessons Learned and Shared
Now and Then

His time was write

Found a mentor, ol’ sage, life almost spent

He opened his home, gave a last class

Unconditionally he let us in and shared a successful career

“Write Short, Write Quick,” the mentor said.

The world has changed–attention spans are short sighted

Draw them in, hold them, set them free, with words from the heart

An old man’s spirit shared

His time was write

Now and Then taught me ours is then and now

The road goes on and I will be one of Donald’s Acolytes–Apostles

Nulla dies sine linea–never a day without a line

Share a life til the road ends

To be taken up by a spirit who’s time is write

Copyright by Ken Pothier

Twenty Seven Year Old Dreams–Against The Wind

Going through the door to another time I find myself 27 years old again in summer.

Twenty Seven Year Old Dreams—Against the Wind

The fish were not coming near our boat yesterday. Perhaps the intensity of my dreams was keeping them away. I used an open ended roll of film and could have taken as many pictures as I wished. I did with my minds eye. Such a reality is felt out on the open sea. My dreams were out there, I could feel them pulling me on as I gathered strength for the storm.

I dreamed of hitting the road to island and mountain sanctuaries of spirit. Today I am on the road from Martha’s Vineyard Island to Jackson NH in the White Mountains. Dreams tempered and shaped by uncomfortable reality that I am rapidly moving toward even greater change. A soul searching vacation thinking about loose ends and trying to make amends to old friends. Sorting myself out in feeling thought and in running the roads and realizing that you just can’t have it all. You just don’t need it all. (Credit this line to Bob Seeger)

My traveling companions on the boat from the island were special people, a juggler and a fool. What eyes on the world. Felt good to meet them, share the view together for a short while. Foggy this morning yet we found light spots of life and laughed. Talked of serious things without being serious about it. The fool is a mirror of life reacting to what he sees and feels helping others to laugh at themselves and stop being so dramatic. Fools and jugglers are masters at getting others to lighten up. Take it easy and lighten up on your load. It’s not that bad if you take it slow, do your best and don’t forget to laugh. Move on in the face of change and uncertainty. I move on down the road to gather my backpack and head for the mountains.

What time is it anyway? What you make of it! Jackson NH, afternoon, it is time for getting my head together. My home customized Chevy Van is my room on wheels and feels so fine. The side door open acts as my window. The ride was smooth and timeless, an open day under high open sky. Listening to the music, taking it all in, learning to put it all together.

Knowing only that what has gone before my eyes this vacation has been beautiful. The realm of possibilities is immense and I became lost in the grandeur of an island dream. The road was open so I took it to the mountains to give ocean and island dreams room to expand. I have got to play my hand. Live free or you do begin to die. Shadow Captain and dark star are moving on and shining thru the fog to see beyond immediate reality. Blend of past present and future as the road and life go on. Balance is hard to maintain as situations shift and sway in the wind. I am holding on yet giving enough to maintain the balance. The summer wind today is clean and free flowing. I can see the love that will be.

Mountain day dream given room to expand brings me back to the island fair in West Tisbury. Such a wonderful parade of people and almost everyone makes an appearance. The island women are so natural and strong in their beauty. The island is reflected in them. They are so fine in country dress and bare feet. My dreams soar and time opens and my picture of the world becomes so close to perfect for a short part of the year. The fair is a celebration before the work of the harvest. It is a celebration of warm energy that has been built up thru the summer months. I was surely lost in the warmth. I could not open up to the possibilities the way wished not in the few days of vacation. Getting there gave me a time for reflection, a time open to looking at what has come to pass trying to shed light on what is ahead. It is a time to look at the whole of your existence in hopes of enhancing your reality. The broader the vision the wider the possibilities. Reflect and be glad for the way ahead. Dreams are never left behind. We are always moving toward them. We must do what we can, learn lessons and do some more. The pieces turn up as you go. Shifting and sorting, piecing it all together takes time.

Take it easy, take your time, have patience! The best is ahead but it will only be the best if we work towards making it that way every day. The road goes on, pieces of dreams to be found and mountain daydreams to give them room to expand.

© Ken Pothier

Written yesterday and today

Loves Road Has Been Traveled

Roads have been traveled

Dues have been paid

Love; found, tossed, lost and found anew

On never straightforward paths of imperfection

A good feeling to know should grow

Love must be nourished to survive years and tears

Love must move forward

Lessons learned not lost

Life’s companions must be earned

In little compromises and winks of understanding

Definitive diplomacy with an eye to connection

Mindful consideration

Calm contemplation and thoughtful tenderness

Paths paved with kindness and sharing

Lead to a river of feeling

Cool waters

Carefully sipped from cups of joy

Language and Indigenous Peoples

Language and Indigenous Peoples
Native American Culture and the history of the first human beings to populate the America’s have always fascinated me. The book Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill took me into a world and let me live there in a spiritual journey which continues today. The main connection for me was the courage and altruism of the people living with and as part of the nature of the places they lived. A quote from the introduction follows, “The American Indian, even before Columbus, was the remnant of a very old race in its final stage, a race that had attained perhaps the highest working concept of individualism ever practiced. Neither the word ‘free’ nor any corresponding term occurs in the root language, in the primal concept: there never was anything for the Indian to free himself from. His was the spirit not seeking truth but holding on to truth. And his was the mind nourished on choice. Whatever he needed to know, nature sooner or later revealed to him. And that which he desired to know—the best way to achieve his maximum spiritual potential—was the only mystery he chose to investigate.”
I believe Hanta Yo means ‘Go forward’ in Dakota. Dakota is the name of the allied ones, the true name of the Sioux Tribe. “Linguists know that the; unique qualities of a particular language reflect the characteristics of its place of origin and the cultural context of the people who speak it” Nancy Lord goes on to say, “Languages…belong to environments in the same way that living creatures do, shaped by and shaping the places that spawn them, both in the words needed to identify and address the particulars of those places and in the structures needed to survive in them.” (pg 481) Often single words are used for phrases, descriptions and identification of the natural environment around the indigenous peoples.
Immigrants may have destroyed the way of life described but they adopted words and place names from the language of the Native Americans. Last year I attended a Pow Wow run by the Abernakis at the Mi Te Jo campground in Milton NH. The dancing and drumming tell stories which keep the culture alive. Native Americans culture is a language and includes music, dance, story-telling and art that are all part of the whole. Words for them are both mysterious and powerful.
It is sad that so many of the languages have been lost to time for a rich and wonderful history of the free and spiritual lives they led is also lost. The emphasis on nature is coming back and with the demise of our planet many are realizing the wisdom in the Native American way of life. I started a Database for this short paper which portrays how the natural environment was of great importance in words adopted and the meanings which described the nature of place. I will also bring in Art purchased at the Pow Wow and show how Art for them is also language.
Native American Language Influence
ID Tribe or Region Word or Place- Name-Definition- Remarks
5 Chippewa- hominy
6 Manhattan-papoose
7 Podunk- samp
8 Podunk- squash
9 Podunk- wampum
10 Eastern Tribes- caribou- Entered through Canadian French
11 Eastern Tribes- mackinaw-
12 Eastern Tribes- pone-
13 Eastern Tribes- Tammany- Entered through Canadian French
14 Eastern Tribes- terrapin-
15 Eastern Tribes- toboggan- Algonquin Tribe
16 West Indies- barbeque- Entered through Spanish
17 West Indies- canoe- Entered through Spanish
18 West Indies- cushaw- Entered through Spanish
19 Nahuat-Mexico- anaqua- Texas knock away tree
20 Nahuat-Mexico- coyote-
21 Nahuat-Mexico- peyote–
22 Choctaw- bayuk creek- Blend: Bayou w F de la Batre=creek of the artillary
23 Dakota- Minneapolis- minne=water+city=water city– Blend: with G/E (a)polis=city
24 Alabama- Alabama- state-tribal subdivision of the Creek Confederacy Indian loan of place name
25 Dakota- Minnesota- minne=water+sota=white, sky tinted or cloudy- Indian loan of place name
26 Dakota- Dakota- states- based on their word for friends or allies Indian loan of place name
27 Iroquois- Canada- from Kanata=settlement- Named by Jacques Cartier
28 Wakashan- potlach- feast-
29 Algonquin- hickory
30 Algonquin- chipmunk
31 Algonquin- caucus
32 Arawakan- Caribbean – sea and islands N. S. America throughout the Caribbean
33 Arawakan- hurricane
34 Arawakan- cannibal
35 Eastern Tribes- Massachusetts- state-from tribal name meaning large hill place- Indian loan of place name
36 Mohican- Connecticut- state &river from word for the long river- Indian loan of place name
37 Iroquois- Kentucky- from Kentahten meaning land of tomorrow- Indian loan of place name
38 Cherokee- Tennessee- from tanasi the name of a Cherokee village- Indian loan of place name
39 Algonquian- Mississippi- state &river from words meaning big river- Indian loan of place name
40 Ugakhpa/Quapaw- Arkansas- state-from word meaning downstream people- Indian loan of place name
41 Choctaw- Oklahoma- state-from words meaning red people- Indian loan of place name
42 Caddo &Allies- Texas- state-from word meaning friend or ally- Indian loan of place name
43 Iroquois- Ohio- state-from word meaning beautiful or beautiful river- Indian loan of place name
44 Chippewa- Michigan- state&lake-from word meaning great lake- Indian loan of place name
45 Iroquois- Lake Ontario- from word meaning sparkling or beautiful water- Indian loan of place name
46 Iroquois- Lake Erie- from word for long tail in referenc to the wildcat- Indian loan of place name
47 Chippewa- Wisconsin- state-gathering of the waters or grassy place- Indian loan of place name
48 Otoe or Omaha- Nebraska- state-flat or spreading water, ref. to Platte River- Indian loan of place name
49 Iowa– Iowa- state-from tribal land and river meaning beautiful land or sleepy ones- Indian loan of place name
50 Southwest Missouri- state&river-from tribal name meaning those with dugout canoes- Indian loan of place name
51 Sioux Kansas- state-tribe meaning people of the south wind- Indian loan of place name
52 Delaware Wyoming- state-from word meaning upon the great plain or large meadow- Indian loan of place name
53 Pima Arizona- state-from word meaning little spring placep Indian loan of place name
54 Ute Utah- state-from Eutaw meaning in the mountaintops or high up- Indian loan of place name

(North American Indian Culture, 2004 revised 2008)informational map from National Geographic
Edited by Clark C, E. P. (2008). Language-introductory readings. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.
Hill, R. B. (1979). Hanta Yo. NY: Warner Books with Doubleday & Company Inc.

A Letter of love to my daughter on her Birthday

I have written this letter in my head a thousand times for it is either my last hope fulfilled or my lost hope forever. Rebecca you have never been forgotten and you are thought of and loved by me each day. In my minds’ eye you are the one who always tried your best to be a good daughter and steer clear of trouble. I believe that you wanted nothing to do with making a scapegoat and victim out of me. Yes, you and I were both innocent victims of the madness and dysfunction which occurred. I believe you have survived the trauma and built a new life for yourself. I am proud of you now as I have always been for you doing your best under trying circumstances. I am glad that I was able to say, ‘I love you” the last time I saw you.

I reached out to J in November 2010 with a letter. It is 100% the truth but she rejected it outright in a letter from her lawyer threatening me. However, you are my daughter and daughters are forever. I have enclosed a copy of a framed picture of me on a birthday celebrating with my girls. It is next to my desk with other photos which I look at each day. Rebecca the love I see in your eyes is the love I feel for you. It is wrong to let that love be chained and imprisoned by a dysfunctional disconnect. I was never allowed to communicate my truth. I was shunned and abandoned by a family I truly loved and love still.

Each night I still say, “good night I love you.” Each morning I awake to another day without you.
I take some soulace in having kept journals each year of our life together as a family. I have taken a few quotes from the pages,
Journal pg.17-“Our family, It is an absolute wonder watching the girls grow and being a part of it.” [The saddest part is all that I have missed seeing in your lives during these years apart.]

Journal pg.41-“Today is warm, could be 60°with a touch of spring. H and Rebecca are playing make believe with their little people. J is registering Rebecca for kindergarten. I will miss having Rebecca around the house during the day-she is a part of the sunshine of my life. I will savor watching them grow and try to appreciate each trying stage of their development. It only happens once for each of them.”

Journal pg.44 from Girls Bikes and the Park-“Rebecca made an artwork out of junk-she can see the beauty in everything.”
[I too try to see the beauty in life. I live on a lake and the nature of the place gives some comfort.]

Journal pg.63-Rebecca’s 5th Birthday-“I feel wonderful about it being Rebecca’s Birthday-she lights up my life.” [I have missed so many and do not want to miss anymore. I have a hard time on your birthdays but pray you are well and keep you in a special place in my heart.]

Journal pg.81-“Sunny and fair for Rebecca’s graduation from Sunshine Nursery School, we have her home for the summer.” [Congratulations on graduating from UMA with honors in Comparative Literature]

I am doing a lot better since writing the letter to J in November. I had to rebuild my life and move on or my spirit would have perished in depression over missing you and your sisters. I retired from the Fire Dept.early [there were too many reminders in our home town] and returned to University to study English Language, Literature and Creative Writing. I have always been interested in writing and also wished to experience what my girls were doing. Finishing school in 2010 led to a deepening of depression as years had gone by with none of you reaching out to me. In November I started volunteering at the Veterans Health Center during the week. Two or three nights a week I volunteer at a Music Hall in NH and get to see the shows for free. Music has always been a spiritual connection in my life. Volunteering helped me get through the worst of it.

Now on a cloudy, foggy and misty early spring day as the first fisherman casts a line where the lake ice has left the western shore I cast a hope into the new season. Just as with fishing I know not if the line will reach you and if it does if it will be taken. Luck and hope are common denominators. I pray you get the letter and consider my truth with the perspective of critical thinking that you used to get honors at UMA.
I Love You-Dad
daughters and a fathers love are forever

Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry N.H. Review

Bassist

Yardbirds 2011

Yardbirds 2011

Jefferson Starship 2013

Jefferson Starship 2013

The Fixx Lead Guitarist

The Fixx Lead Guitarist

Duke Rubillard and Monster Mike Live

Duke Rubillard and Monster Mike Live

Saw Doctors Live

Saw Doctors Live

Ana Popovic??????????????

Ana PopovicThe Tupelo Music Hall –Review by Ken Pothier

Listen as they play–Play as you listen.
The music menu at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH is varied and delightful. It induces dancing, toe tapping, hand clapping and conversation. It is Americana, a cross–section of the heart of our country in which truth and light exude from the music. You cannot help but be moved by the sound and lyrics. The ‘live’ professional tight yet loose feel which is produced by musicians and artists that are at their best because they are doing what they love in front of an audience that understand and feel that spirit and joy. The Tupelo has fine acoustics in a cozy atmosphere. The musicians can see each face and feel the energy in a give and take that is missing in larger venues.
You want to call your friends and tell them something is going on that should not be missed–bring your enthusiasm, a voice, tapping fingers and feet, clapping hands. Revisit the days of connection, the time before technology took over and changed the way we interact. Rejuvenate your spirit and revel in the community of sharing the country’s past in the present. Return to the kick ass–kick up your heels feeling that helped move this country and gave life and spirit to its heart past. The backbeat of the Tupelo is that of a gathering of community, of friends, family and colleagues on the common ground of heartfelt sound that connects us all in a world wide web of the wonder of that coming together. The common ground of sound!
Come together right now. Dance, sing, move, feel this music from Americas’ Heartland and Heart. A combination of Blues, Folk, Soulful Gospel, Country, Rock, R&B, Southern Rock, Pop and Comic Relief is a taste of what is provided. All shine here in a live light that can touch us all. All are present day visits to our past.
One of the things that kept us moving forward in our national history was in the music of each period moving the generations along. Giving us hope, allowing us to hold to faith, getting us together and inspiring with a combination of words and music that refreshes spirit, boosts us up and pushes us along with the energy felt individually and derived from a synergy of the masses. These days we need this music again to inspire us to roll up our sleeves, go to work, and put the heart back in the heartland of America. So sing out with these consummate and caring professionals. They ‘get it’, and you should join in!
“So get up of your ass and dust off the past
Lift up your chin and turn it into a grin
Pull up your boots and get back to our roots
You live the blues, pay your dues, now go share the news
And kick up your heels in a new pair of shoes”
At THE TUPELO
Ken Pothier

The Diner

 

Mary Ann’s Diner

The Diner

I egress to an overnight frost, perhaps the last of this season. A different road is taken this early morn under cloudy sky. The rise and fall of hills–twists and turns of a never straightforward road. I pass old farms and churches’ spires. They mark time and my passing on the road to Mary Ann’s Diner and Family Restaurant. It is done up 50’s style. Choice of booths, tables for two and four squeeze in six in a pinch. The counter for single lonely souls lost in a paper, a cigarette, a dream. TV is on but no sound and here no one cares for that kind of news. The music here is fifties and sixties oldies played back to back in an endless flow from past memory to present thought, noninvasive in a subtle and seamless meld of years. I sit with the lonely souls at the counter with a local newspaper but it is hard to read with all the life and sound around me. I play name that tune–name that band–feel that memory–emotion with the music. The flow of music matches the life of the place and the quickstep of the waitresses. Full–bodied waitresses in long poodle skirts, bobby socks and soft shoes, friendly,

carrying their loads with big smiles. Coffee and ice water brought to me with never– ending refills. Ol’ style breakfast made to your liking. I order steak tips marinated in raspberry sauce with eggs over medium, home fries and raisin toast-$7.50. Smiles small talk and refills free and this diner’s experience priceless.

A place where you are always welcome a sanctuary of sorts. Local contractors make their plans for the day; count the week’s profit and loss. Workers of all sorts fill their tanks with good food and fuel for the day’s travails, still stiff from yesterdays work. They shake it off here and get it up to do it again in their own endless flow of work, recovery, work that makes this country run.

Couples meet greet hangout, form and break relationships in a life flow of the yin and yang-the profit and loss of love and affection. Families sit together and show the strain and gain of their growth over time.

Conversations of the day: weather, sports, family progress, accomplishment and setback, goals and dreams, gossip and truth all meld with the music of the place. Spring’s arrival and blossoming, another week removed from winter, a new season and a fresh if cool and cloudy day.

No promises made; however, those who stop at Mary Ann’s leave with a full stomach and a spirit filled with smell of coffee and good food, the sound of human contact and connection in varied form.

A man sits at the counter alone; two bikers who have hardly touched their breakfast are leaving in a hurry. I move to the space provided and find out why they are moving on. The man in his 30’s is a local and a regular. He is also manic–depressive, schizophrenic, Bi-Polar or all of the above. He immediately talks to me at breakneck speed in a flow of words that have meaning but make no real sense. In ten minutes he goes from being the reincarnation of Jim Morrison of the Doors to a Naval Academy graduate at the head of his class. He had a busy night at a secret NATO meeting with CIA, FBI and national security

 

types. The meeting ended early when the Russians did not show up. He tells me he is still in the military and I ask in what way? He says that he is in deep too deep undercover and secret. He moves from booth to booth asking for a cigarette as I move over one stool at the counter. I can listen better and finish my breakfast from this vantage point and the waitresses understand that I cannot solve this man or the nation’s problems today. I must finish and join the workers soon as schedule intrudes on the seamless flow of music and conversation. Connections made and lost–hope for the lonely soul at the counter that tomorrow he will find communication, connection, and peace. Hope for the man with the paper that he will turn the page to someone’s smile and a new start. All in sanctuary found at a 50’s style diner, oldies playing as full–bodied women in long skirts serve up a new day.

 

The Lyrics and Lanquage of Music

  

 

 

 

Lyrics in the music of a life

“Time may heal, time may steal, time to decide and every thought of you casts its own shadow and everything I wanted is subject to review as time the conqueror closes in on a life.” Words paraphrased from the first and title song of Jackson Browne’s newest creation, Time the Conqueror[1]. Many times in my life the language of lyrics have been the music that kept me going in hard times, that helped me celebrate joys and accomplishment, that helped me lift my head when others harsh words beat me down and sucked the life out of any possibility of spontaneous action or creativity. Lyrics well written and found in a timely fashion are an unbroken thread that permeates my long and winding road in getting to this point. A time which finds me lost and searching when I should be enjoying the fruits of past labors, a time when I know exactly where I wish to go and how to get there. I find that word-processing my thoughts while listening to a brand new selection of music and lyrics from one of my favorite singer/songwriters helps heal fresh wounds and leads me back to that road I was on. Once again focus returns and creativity flows. It has always been this way for me, life and people knock you down, you listen learn and move a little to the groove and move on.

            The Language of Lyrics, lyrics to go with the music of life, a writers blues survival. Rock and roll rebellion, the angst of punk, rap, hip-hop, the grunge of rainy day alternative rock, the blues based feel of southern rock, dance, and disco, pop, folk, country, reggae, rhythm and blues, soul, the cool of jazz, international flavors and the music of cultures all carry their own language and lyrics for those who listen closely.

Inspired by returning to University, tested, enthused, pushed to creativity and thought in a natural high derived from writing odds and ends, bits and pieces of a life lived, observed. A large part of what has kept me going over the years and the tears is the music of my life pulling me along with the thread of a lyric put to soothing melody or vibrant rock beat. It has kept me sane after separation and divorce from a post traumatic, obsessive compulsive, politically correct, emotionally special needs wife, supported by me in so many ways. She abandoned and left me in the downward spiral of a parental alienation syndrome from my three girls and in an avalanche of emotional pain that I never saw coming. Naïve, I believed that truth mattered when a first, false, unnecessary and unjust restraining order was filed only to be told by two lawyers that truth has nothing to do with the law. A reprimanded judge, (Heffernan-MA) who never should have been allowed again on the bench to decide RO’s “had no choice but to extend the RO” and destroy any chance for communication and connection with my family.  My life changed forever though I had never broken the sacred trust between Man and Wife, Father and Child. Truth lost except in the words of my journals righting it out, touching truth and reality in the only ways left. Writing, listening, learning and moving on from an emotionally dead man walking to an inspired man talking, the thread played a large and critical role in my survival.

The thread began with a sleepover listening to the 45 revolution per minute records of an older friend of the family. It was a time when Elvis Presley was King, a rebellious young man from Mississippi ahead of his time, raw, energetic, an original leader of the baby boom generations search for meanings of their own. The rock n roll era began when I was young but far from rebellious, I was hooked when a muse arrived in the guise of a portable record player and two long playing records, Chubby Checker Twist and Introducing the Beatles-VJ Records. “Do You Want to Know a Secret” grasped the thread of lyrics for me and never let it go. Love Rain or Me (The Who), Let it Be (The Beatles), to Great Big Sea (Band from Newfoundland), a palpable connection in 45 flip sides, artist, producer, label, LP-long playing records, album cover art, jacket liner notes expanded my universe and pulled me beyond a household of 9 children and a High School away from my home town which I had no say in attending. It carried me to a job at 16, girls, and a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport with slush box on the floor, bucket seats trimmed in chrome and best of all a radio with rear speaker featuring reverb. The lyrics of the thread playing in the background were touching and intertwined with first loves. I bought my first three albums with that first paycheck, The Animals-Hits, Dave Clark Five-Best of, and The Rolling Stones. The sound and lyrics of The Animals: House of the Rising Sun with Gary Burton singing blew me away in the power of a bands performance touching words.

Bruce Springsteen strengthened my lyric thread with his life and our times written out, put to music and brought to a climax in concert with the E Street Band. Jackson Browne was contributing writer on a story about Springsteen in Rolling Stone Magazine. I was overjoyed when discovering this connection between two of my top lyric writers and musicians. I have taken selective quotes from the article and cannot outdo Jackson Browne’s portrayal of feelings (shared entirely by me) about the ‘Boss.’  Bruce Springsteen is the “Embodiment of rock and roll…combining strains of Appalachian music, rockabilly, blues, and Rhythm and blues, his work epitomizes rock’s deepest values: desire, the need for freedom and the search to find yourself. All through his songs there is a generosity and a willingness to portray even the simplest aspects of our lives in a dramatic and committed way.”

Jackson Browne on Bruce in concert, “…He had this descriptive power—it was just an amazing display of lyrical prowess live…”“It was drama, his approach to music, something that he would expand on many times over, but it was there from the beginning.” No concert is the same. “It was obvious that they were drawing on a vocabulary. It was exhilarating, and at the bottom of it all there was all this joy and fun and a sense of brotherhood, of being outsiders who had tremendous power and a story to tell…indistinct utterances have been magnified to communicate volumes……Bruce has always had enormous range in terms of subject and emotion…He is always working on a very large scale, a scale that is nothing short of heroic. He is one of the few songwriters who work on a scale that is capable of handling the subject of our national grief and the need to find a response to September 11th.[2] His sense of music as a healing power, of band—as—church, has always been there, woven into the fabric of his songs, He’s got his feet planted on either side of that great divide between black & white gospel, between blues and country, between rebellion and redemption.” The Rising on Columbia Records was Bruce’s answer to the events of 911, a short review from RS follows, “After everything fell down on September11th, 2001, Bruce Springsteen made the rock & roll we needed most–fifteen songs about getting up again—with the greatest backing combo in the world, the E Street Band. This Reborn in the USA swings between extreme despair (“You’re Missing”) and Irish wake (“Mary’s Place”). But in the grainy force of Springsteen’s voice and the muscular exaltation of the music, the power of ordinary men and women to build a new, atop so much loss, rings loud and true.”[3] Healing power drawn from lyrical truth found in focused listening just happens when the music touches you for his is an honesty which comes thru loud and clear. He is someone you can trust and believe in. As a retired Fire/Emergency Medical Response Captain, Springsteen’s lyrics in The Rising were palpable as he describes the thoughts and feelings of a firefighter responding to the twin towers in N.Y. 345 Firefighters lost their lives that day wearing the Maltese cross of their calling and as the men climb the towers their thoughts turn to their loved ones. Parenthesis added by me as the lyrics strengthen the thread.

The Rising

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me

Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind

I make my way through this darkness

I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me (duty)

Lost track of how far I’ve gone

How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed

On my back’s a sixty pound stone (SCBA air tank)

On my shoulder a half mile of line (folded pack of hose)

Come on up for the rising

Come on up lay your hands in mine

Come on up for the rising

Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning (firehouse)

Bells ringing filled the air (alarm bells)

Wearin’the cross of my calling (FF Maltese Cross)

On wheel of fire I come rollin’ down here (Fire Apparatus)

Chorus repeats

There’s spirits above and behind me (the already dead)

Faces gone black, eyes burnin’bright (fear in others faces)

 

May their precious blood bind me

Lord, as I stand before your fiery light

I see you Mary in the garden

In the garden of a thousand sighs

There’s holy pictures of our children

Dancin’ in a sky filled with light

May I feel your arms around me

May I feel your blood mix with mine

A dream of life comes to me

Like a catfish dancin’on the end of my line

 

Sky of blackness and sorrow

Sky of love, sky of tears

Sky of glory and sadness

Sky of mercy, sky of fear

Sky of memory and shadow

Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight

Sky of longing and emptiness

Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life

Chorus repeats[4]

 

Not long before the 2004 election, Bruce for the first time took a political stance and endorsed John Kerry for president. An addendum of his words in Rolling Stone, September 2, 2004 is attached. He expresses my desires for a president who, “places a priority on fairness, curiosity, openness, humility, concern for all America’s citizens, courage and faith.” This is another juncture where my feelings and the lyrics of Bruce and Jackson Browne intersect. Both write about the historic winds that surround us with focused concern. On the Iraq War of choice Bruce wrote the lyrics to Devils and Dust-2005[5] and Last To Die-2007[6] in which he paraphrases John Kerry’s words to a congressional committee during Viet Nam. My wife and I stood up front with the firefighters for Kerry at the last big rally in Manchester days before the election. The rest is History.

Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake

The last to die for a mistake

Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break

Who’ll be the last to die, for a mistake

-From the same album and the song Magic

Trust none of what you hear and less of what you see

This is what will be, this is what will be…

…and the freedom that you sought’s

Driftin’ like a ghost amongst the trees

This is what will be, this is what will be

 

Jackson Browne’s song The Drums of War[7] intertwines with the thread of my feelings facing another four years under Bush and at War:

…time comes when everything you ever thought you knew

Comes crashing down and flames up in front of you

Roll out the drums of war

Roll back the freedoms that we struggled for

What were those freedoms for?

Let’s not talk about it any more

Roll out the drums of war

Whatever you believe the necessary course to be

Depends on who you trust to identify the enemy

Who beats the drums for war?

Even before the peace is lost

Who are the profits for?

And who are they who bear the cost

When a country takes the low road to war

Who gives the orders, orders to torture?

Who get to no bid contract the future?

Who lies, then bombs, then calls it an error?

Who makes a fortune from fighting terror?

Who is the enemy of truth and justice?

Where are the courts, now when we need them?

Why is impeachment not on the table?

We better stop them while we are able

Roll out the drums of war

 

            The last line is a call for a revolution of ideas and it has started with the campaigns of 2004 and 2006 leading up to this critical election and the choices to be made by the voters of this country. I feel a need to speak up for the truths I see, a need to build bridges of connection and communication, understanding and reason. The truths of Bruce and Jackson’s lyrics strengthen and intersect with both History and how I feel. They don’t know me from a hole in the wall but over the years they have touched me deeply and I am grateful. It is better to write than wallow in grief, to speak up and stop the thief, to feel the fire in your belly and shed light on the liars.  Our country changed with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and John Kennedy. All were leaders I believed in and feel as if we have lost great potential for this country in the years since their passing. Jackson Browne touches on this and the connection of today’s History to the 60’s in the song, Off Of Wonderland[8]:

…there was change in the air

It was love everywhere

Living off of Wonderland

Ankle deep in contraband

Working on a life unplanned

Didn’t we believe in love?

Didn’t we believe in giving it away?

That didn’t really leave us with the love

To find our way

After RFK and Martin Luther King

 

Do you feel it today?

Love is still on the way

Coming over Wonderland

The world is in your open hand

Once again it’s at your command

 

Didn’t we believe in love?

Didn’t we believe that love would carry on?

Wouldn’t we receive enough

If we could just believe in one another

As much as we believed in John

Do you want to know a secret? (I believe that) before time the conqueror turns us to devils and dust a rising will occur over the great seas and that love will reign over us. That the ideals and ideas of the founding fathers of this country will be the last to die as the drums of a war of revolutionary idea wins. A global world will be built with magic, off of a wonderland thread of dreams picked up from the language of lyrics in music that connects us all. We will construct a house of the rising sun of reason, live in peace and let it be.

Language is the thread! Peace is the answer!


[1] 2008 Jackson Browne-Time The Conqueror-Inside Recordings. L.L.C.

[2] Rolling Stone-Issue 946—April 15,2004 by Jackson Browne

[3] Rolling Stone-Issue 912/913—Dec 26, 2002 by Fricke, David

[4] 2002 Bruce Springsteen-The Rising/Columbia Records N.Y.,N.Y. http://www.brucespringsteen.net

[5] 2005 Bruce Springsteen-Devils and Dust-Columbia Records

[6] 2007 Bruce Springsteen-Magic-Columbia Records

[7] 2008 Jackson Browne-Time The Conqueror-Inside Recordings. L.L.C.

[8] 2008 Jackson Browne-Time The Conqueror-Inside Recordings. L.L.C.