I just rediscovered this. I do hope you enjoy it. Turn up your volume. Masha: thank you so much. And Happy Birthday!!!
Federico García Lorca
It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth,
you stand there, silent, wondering … can I? …
will I? … what if I can’t? … then a voice breaks
the silence, but it’s no longer your voice.
The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark powers
volcanic within you, spewing forth their
lava of living words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, heart
by heart. Magic ends. The maelstrom calms.
Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell.
The Duende has left you. God is dead, deep
your soul’s black starless night. Exhausted,
you sink to deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the bottom of the bottle to save
your soul and permit you a temporary peace.
Comment: “Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende / All that has dark sounds has duende.” Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). García Lorca, an inspired and inspirational vocal performer, well understood those dark artistic powers that rise from a combination of earth, air, and fire to possess artists as they weave their magic, be it musical or verbal or a combination of both. Those who possess it know that they never really possess it, for it comes and goes with a will of its own and possesses them, body and soul, taking them over. Deus est in nobis / it is the god within us, wrote the Romans with their understanding of the power of performance. And they are right. Those who possess it are changed by it, no longer know themselves, turn into something other than what they are and becoming something special. “Ah would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us” (Robert Burns). But what happens to us when the wondrous gift is taken away, when drab reality takes over from the glory of the stage, the spotlight, the performance of the play? That indeed is the question. And the answer varies with each of us. I look with dismay on the comedians who, for one reason or another, when deprived of their audiences, have chosen the darkest of exits. The hollow shells of the performers who have given their all are sad things to behold. The existential emptiness that is left when the powers drain away is difficult to live with. That is why so many, faced with this darkness, akin to St. John of the Cross’ Noche Oscura del Alma / Dark Night of the Soul, chose not to live. That is not a choice that I will ever make. And I encourage all my friends to wait, to wait in patience and hope for the light, the glorious light and fire of the Duende, the Spirit that will return, will pluck us from the depths, and will raise us to the heights again.
Writing a Poem
The KIRA artists (Roger Moore, June, 2017) were invited to make a video on the ways in which they worked. Here is my KIRA video. This is the first time I have ever made a video of myself. I am not into selfies (wrong generation) and had to be ‘persuaded’ to do this. The instructions were simple: something easy that anyone could do under lock down or in a home-schooling situation. I hope you enjoy the show!
Just click on Teeth in the link above (2019, December).
Don’t forget to turn your sound on!
By all means copy and send to friends.
More to come. I hope.
Happy New Year.
appears from nowhere
holds you in its hands
molds you like putty
play dough or plasticine
till you bend to its will
is it a conundrum
like chicken or egg
the final product
laid out in all its details
or is it a process
step by step along the way
sometimes even the artist
cannot really say
yet shaping happens
maybe it happens each day
in a different way
a power descending
an angel entering
a vacant mind as if it were
an empty room
alive and well
and living in St. Andrews
Comment: The above verses express, in part, a conversation on the origins of inspiration and vision held around the dinner table at the KIRA residence in St. Andrews on 9 June 2019. Those who participated in the dinner discussion … de sobremesa, as they say in Spain, over the table top … included (clockwise round the table) Chuck, Masha, Heather, Susan, Geoff, Andrea, Roger, Evelyn, Perri, Faye, and Mel. If I have forgotten anyone, or placed them in the wrong seating order, please forgive me. I am growing old and my memory is not what it was. However, the arrival of inspiration, how we greet the artistic vision, what it means to each of us, whether it arrives in totality or in fragments, glimpses or a full vision, this varies for each one of us. More on this tomorrow when I write about Lorca’s duende, the dark earth power that takes over performance artists when they perform, filling them with fire and fury, then leaving them empty, drained of all essence, ripe for the old rag-and-bone man and his cart. The paintings, incidentally, are by my line-painting friend, Geoff Slater, who is also a muralist, indoor and out, and the photos are courtesy of Mary Jones, the much-beloved former Executive Secretary at KIRA.
Friday Flash Fiction
20 July 2018
LJ sat at a table in a dark corner of the Bistro. He held a plastic bag in his hands and moved what looked like dried brown fava beans, one by one, through his fingers. A priest at prayer, his lips moved in a silent mantra as he counted the beans: “… twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine.”
Robin and Will watched him closely, looking for the tell-tale signs that would announce LJ’s return to his former life.
Same-sex couples danced through the Bistro. They avoided this one corner that formed an oasis of severity amidst the gaiety and noise of Carnival celebrations.
“How much does he remember?” Robin looked at Will. Will shrugged and the two men exchanged worried glances.
A whooping conga of men dressed in garish, feathered costumes that revealed more than they concealed, approached the table where the three friends sat. The conga came to a stop in front of them.
“Now what have we here?” The leader asked. He turned to his followers flashing a white, toothy smile.
“Let’s see what you’ve got, darling,” he reached towards LJ’s plastic bag.
“Don’t touch him,” said Robin, rising to his feet.
Three large men broke away from the line and two grasped Robin while the third put his arms on Will’s shoulders and held him in his chair.
“I’m warning you,” Robin said.
“Shut it,” said the leader.
LJ closed the plastic bag that held the twenty-nine fava beans and put it in is breast pocket, next to his heart.
“Don’t put them away, darling, they look delicious,” the leader grinned his enormous grin. He was a big man, not tall, but broad and heavy. “Give them to me, I want to eat one. C’mon, I’ll just pop it in my mouth and suck it.”
The Conga crowd roared their approval.
LJ got to his feet. He was a small man, but wiry. The night-fighter, they had called him. He was the one who slipped out at night through enemy lines and knifed the sentries. One hand over their mouths, one hand on his knife, all sounds extinguished till they relaxed, lifeless, then that one quick twist of the knife and the ear-lobe severed as the dead man was lowered to the floor.
“Wanna dance?” The conga leader wiggled his hips and ran his tongue over his lips, then puckered a little kiss.
LJ’s face turned red, the veins engorged, and his eyes stood out. Nobody saw him move, nobody ever saw LJ move. He grasped the Conga leader’s windpipe with his left hand and drew him forward until they were locked eyeball to eyeball. LJ’s night-fighter knife lay flat across the man’s jugular.
“LJ, no,” Robin screamed. “Not number thirty.”
LJ kept staring at the man he held. His knife disappeared.
“You’re not worthy,” he said, leering into the Conga leader’s purpling face. “You’d dishonor them.”
Will and Robin breathed a sigh of relief.
Comment: Bistro is the title story in a collection of short stories and flash fiction. Bistro, the book, was one of three finalists (and the only self-published book) in the New Brunswick Book Awards (Fiction, 2017). Bistro (the collection) is available on Amazon. The sound recording below is my own reading of the story and the opening cartoon, Belle Bottom Naval Gazing, is the picture on the cover of Bistro, the book. It is also my own work.
Monkey Visits the Snake Pit
Monkey’s masculine penis envy
focuses on the great snakes,
pythons, boa-constrictors, anacondas,
basking beneath hot-house lights
that maintain a rigid temperature,
desert and jungle warmth and moisture
ready at the flick of a switch.
They lounge in glass cubicles,
checking each other out
for size, weight, length, girth,
with a roll of the eye and a casual flicker
of a forked lightning tongue.
Fed for far too long
on fetched food
from the untroubled tenured trough,
many have become sedentary,
and much too comfortable
to even think about
renewing their lives,
or sloughing their skins.
Kinder Monkey Garten
Give him a magnifying glass
and monkey nit-picks!
He likes nit-picking.
Hunting for fleas,
he combs through the fur
of less fortunate monkeys.
Monkey see: monkey do,
and what monkey does best
is crack fleas between his nails
and stick his paw in the jam jar.
Here, in the Kinder Monkey Garten,
young monkeys learn monkey skills:
how to conduct monkey business,
how to throw a monkey wrench
into other monkeys’ plans,
how to wear monkey suits,
how to square round pegs
and fit them into triangular holes,
how to build better monkey traps,
how to reinvent the monkey wheel,
again and again and again.
Monkey likes to perch enthroned
at the top of the monkey temple.
Paradise is to squat
on the organ-grinder’s shoulder,
top banana that.
Monkey also likes to visit the rest of the zoo.
My front door stood open,
but I thought I’d left it
I tip-toed in and called:
“Is anybody there?”
‘… there, there, there …”
from room to room,
startled by shadows.
I opened doors,
looked under the table,
searched behind chairs.
Nothing. No one.
The house stood
still and empty,
save for the fear,
the silent fear,
like a remembered cancer
and occupied each room.
First published on this blog, Shadows, 27 April 2017. Here now with some minor changes and a voice recording.
Swine Flu Hits the Monkey Temple
(after a Fable by Lafontaine and with memories of Bakhtin
and his upside-down worlds of Carnival and the Antipodes)
Swine flu has struck the temple.
Unter– monkeys sniffle and grovel,
blaming each other for their snuffles.
They request a platypus duck to oversee a kangaroo court
with chief scapegoat monkey absent of course.
The unter-monkeys sit in a circle,
where all are equal but some are more equal than others.
They pass a lyre bird feather round and round,
weeping crocodile tears and lying through
the tight monkey grins of their alligator teeth.
A black-capped chickadee lends his cap to the platypus duck
who then pronounces sentence,
“There is no defence: guilty, in absentia, guilty as charged.”
“Fumer l’herbe d’autrui? Quel crime abominable!”* **
*”Smoking someone else’s grass, what an abominable crime.”
** “Manger l’herbe d’autrui? Qel crime abominable!”
LaFontaine: Les animaux malades de la peste.