Sunday, January 01, 2006


One cold night in December, I sat on a stage in a small community theater in East Texas and read some of my poetry and prose to a shivering crowd. I used a microphone and a small, 1970s-era amp to help my voice carry to the back of what once was a church sanctuary, built 115 years ago.

Still fighting a cold, my props were a bottle of water, which I never drank from, and a bottle of too-sweet cough syrup, from which I occasionally soothed my throat. On the table: the white loose-leaf binder which held the hour-and-15-minute script for the "Stolen Lies" monologue.

Before the show, for myself as much as for the audience, I played a half-hour compilation CD that moved from traditional folk into Latin Goth-pop, jazz and blues, back to traditional folk and to modern folk-pop: Darcie Deaville doing "Wayfaring Stranger," Tim O'Brien's "A Few More Years," Gropius' "Swich Licour," Charles Mingus' "Cryin' Blues," Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez' "Elzick's Farewell," and Terri Hendrix' soothing "Quiet Me."

The lighting, which I'd set myself, was a little too dim. That, combined with the lingering head cold, forced me to struggle from time to time over a few of the words.

The next morning, I found a poem in my computer from one of the young women who attended. It's the first poem, as best I remember, I've read about myself – and about the writer, of course – that I didn't write myself. The young woman told me that it had been a long time since she'd wanted to write, but that she "reconnected with that aching beauty of poetry and wanted it to come through my own fingers."

She wrote:

"I watch the man alone
reading, stumbling here
(then there)
over words of ambiguity
and re-discovery
Visiting old visions of crumbling
brick and finding --
new meaning?
in them, or in us,
those who draw in choice phrases
like tenuous streams of smoke
from behind our tepee fingers
and carefully approaching eyes --
and alone I watch the man"

Later that day, I got an email from another woman who told me the reading made her want to write again. A week or so later, I got an email from someone else – someone who was not at the reading, but who I've known for several years now – complimenting something I'd written, and noting that it inspired her.

I am pleased that I can inspire anyone.

Inspiration is as good a subject as any for the first day of a new year.

I recently put a modified photograph of a girl – still in high school, she's not likely really a woman yet – on my computer as the desktop screen. The photo is iconic for me; it's not about the girl herself; I don't even know her name; she represents inspiration. One day I shot photographs in the band room at Canton High School. She played trumpet, and looked so proper – like a "good girl" who’d always done everything she'd ever been told to do in her young life. I let my imagination think of the trumpet in biblical and jazz contexts, and of the girl – de-personified – as an abstract sort of angel.

Using both the biblical and jazz notions, I wrote this poem, "Revel," that some of you may have read online or in my Eve's World chapbook:

Jazz trumpet
through a window
during mid-day sun

over and over again,
each time new,
never losing
the basic feel of sadness
mixed with anger

sounds of
hail and fire
mixed with blood

hiss of fire
cast into the sea

of a shooting star

twilight coming
to question mankind
bottomless pit
of a heroin haze
desperate notions
of a final revenge

pale angel
in black cotton;
quiet, she trembles,
a small book
open in her hands

on the low curb
of a rundown street
on the edge of a city
at the end of time

to the trumpet
as thousands of stars
slowly push the sun
below the horizon

she has
a new face, untouched
by the aging trumpet's
earthly anguish;
eager to appease

at her feet,
in the winds' swirls
of the street's trash
and broken glass,
is her small purse

the purse holds
seven golden vials filled
with the wrath of her god
who considers us all
to be his own children

Grace be unto us all, and peace . . .

Jazz trumpet
through a window
during midnight's cool,
the basic feel of sadness
mixed with anger

of a shooting star

Grace be unto us all, and peace . . .

pale angel
in black cotton;
quiet, she trembles,
on the low curb
at the end of time

Grace be unto us all, and peace . . .

I wonder, still, if that pale angel in the poem did what she was told and opened the seven vials, or if she, for the first time, refused. That's a heavy burden for any character, and, lest anyone think I'm insane, it's totally imaginative. I might explore what happens next in some poem(s) or even prose during 2006.

From a digital photograph of the girl – young woman – I cropped across her face, in left profile, from just above her eyes to just below her nose. Basically, what is left to see is what would be covered by a blindfold. I enlarged the photo until the digitalization just began to show in spots. The essence of face in this photo reminds me of one of those Renaissance paintings of an angel.
As a desktop image, the photo covers just a little more than a third of the screen, against a black background with only a few program icons down the left side of the screen. The angel's eyes watch the icons. The image replaces the red dragonfly that's been on the desktop for months now, and will itself, I'm sure, eventually be replaced.

The image inspires me. It is a visual reminder of one of the ways we let inspiration wash over us, and cleanse us.

Have a good year in 2006.