Sunday, January 26th, 2014
So a couple of weeks ago I was writing a murder tune based loosely on iconic murder tune "The Banks of the Ohio" -- I came up with "Braddock" as a good name for a town to be the setting; did a little research and found there is such a town, and it is pretty ideally located on the banks of the beautifully named Monongahela River, one of the two principal tributaries of the Ohio. Came up with "Veil of Mourning", which John and I played at our New Year's jam. And weird, this story seems to be sticking with me -- I spent some time last week listening to "The Cuckoo, she's a pretty bird" in different versions including Richard Fariña's, "The Falcon"; and the thing to do suddenly seemed to be to write a new version of the Braddock story, called "The Buzzard" -- so that's what I did. Check it out:
It was fun picking up my guitar -- I have not played it in a while.
by J Osner
It's sullen entropy holds sway
decay is part of every system
sands of time just slip away
now vanished, now too late to listen
wax cylinder records the ticking
clock that measures out our days
you listen now, can't find the second
when your life began to play
so play it backwards, scratch the groove
so lose the time that you've been tracking
irreversible flow now cracking
stationary mass begins to move
now creaking, warming as it slides across
this muddy, fecund, fetid marsh
with nothing left to prove:
now found, now lost
Saturday, January 25th, 2014
My translation (current draft -- there are still a couple of constructions that I'm not 100% sure about to call this "final") of Karen Finneyfrock's astonishing What Lot's Wife Would Have Said (If She Wasn’t A Pillar of Salt):
Monday, January 20th, 2014
I have been translating two stories told in the first person recently -- "Power", by Javier Sáez de Ibarra (from Bulevar), is one that I did a pretty fast rough draft of several months ago and just recently revised -- it is narrated by a factory worker who is trying to project an unwanted level of intimacy with his titular co-worker; and "A few prosaic lines" by Marta Aponte (La casa de la loca) is the story (still not totally sure I have this straight) of the wife of a poet in a village outside of San Juan,
An interesting comparison between these two is how strongly I have to twist my sense of identity to say "I" like I mean it -- I find it quite easy to identify with the "I" in Power's "friend"'s story -- less so with the poet's wife on a personal level. With her I have a hard time finding a personal center; and yet the voice of this story is attractive to me as well. The story's climactic moment is a translation of Emily Dickinson being written onto the soles of her husband and son's shoes!
Tonight, when they walk into the club, my two men will be treading, without knowing it, on a few words stolen from the yankee poetess...
Friday, January 10th, 2014
Herewith two magnificent poems about Lot's nameless wife.
by Anna Akhmatova, translated by Richard Wilbur
The just man followed then his angel guide
Where he strode on the black highway, hulking and bright;
But a wild grief in his wife’s bosom cried,
Look back, it is not too late for a last sight
Of the red towers of your native Sodom, the square
Where once you sang, the gardens you shall mourn,
And the tall house with empty windows where
You loved your husband and your babes were born.
She turned, and looking on the bitter view
Her eyes were welded shut by mortal pain;
Into transparent salt her body grew,
And her quick feet were rooted in the plain.
Who would waste tears upon her? Is she not
The least of our losses, this unhappy wife?
Yet in my heart she will not be forgot
Who, for a single glance, gave up her life.
What Lot’s Wife Would Have Said (If She Wasn’t A Pillar of Salt)
By Karen Finneyfrock
Do you remember when we met
in Gomorrah? When you were still beardless,
and I would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing
you, when we were young, and blushed with youth
like bruised fruit. Did we care then
what our neighbors did
in the dark?
Cover your eyes tight,
husband, until you see stars, convince
yourself you are looking at Heaven.
Because any man weak enough to hide his eyes while his neighbors
are punished for the way they love deserves a vengeful god.
I would say these things to you now, Lot,
but an ocean has dried itself on my tongue.
So instead I will stand here, while my body blows itself
grain by grain back over the Land of Canaan.
I will stand here
and I will watch you
...or of course there's the Gang of Four...
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
WHEN WE PRACTICE zazen our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say "inner world" or "outer world," but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, "I breathe," the "I" is extra. There is no you to say "I." What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no "I," no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.
A swinging door has to be hung in a wall of some sort though, right?
Saturday, December 14th, 2013
I was briefly in touch with Roberto Bolaño's literary agent over the idea of my publishing Teach me to dance... The answer as it turns out is unsurprisingly "No, the estate has other plans for his early poetry" -- oh well, it was fun anyway to have that contact.
Saturday, December 7th, 2013
Lots of fun at the Mountain Station practice session today! Our practice set list:
Let's listen to "Birds in Perspex"! It is my favorite Robyn Hitchcock song; this is the first time we've ever played it and I think we did a pretty good job.
- Bethlehem Half-step
- Lonesome Nickel
- Talking Heads weirdness
- Meet Me in the Morning
- Birds in Perspex
- Been all around this world
- Cole Durhew
- I Can See Clearly Now/ Here Comes the Sun medley
- Why Don't We Do It in the Road jam
Monday, December second, 2013
Another Infrarealist poem: this is by Guadalupe Ochoa, one of the few female Infrarealists.
The Domestication of Lightning
by Guadalupe Ochoa/ tr. Jeremy Osner
the lightning of touch announces
the downpour engendered in our embrace
fiery water of our bodies
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Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.