Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 27 Sound Poem: Flowing Lava

The sound (and video) for Day 27 was flowing lava.  Pahoehoe lava, to be specific.  And, I knew that mainly because my oldest son, Zach, was obsessed with volcanos when he was younger.  As he learned, we learned, and in the process came to know a lot about volcanos.  Which led to this poem:

A Mind Like Pahoehoe

When his grandfather gave him a video
about the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s,
he memorized it right down
to the inflection and flow
of the narrator’s voice.
He threw himself into volcanos,
their names becoming household words:
Etna, Vesuvius, Kilauea,
Coatepeque and Arenal,
Pinatubo, Sakurajima,
and the nearly unpronounceable
Icelandic volcanos, whose names
he could rattle off with ease.

We learned the different shapes,
which he would model
in the infield during T-ball games,
till I moved him to right field
(for safety’s sake),
and the different types of lava:
comfortable-sounding pillow,
rough a‘a (useful in Scrabble),
smooth, fun-to-say pahoehoe.
We delved into tectonics
and subduction zones until
the Ring of Fire was more
than just a song, and in my mind,
Johnny Cash forever walks a line
around the Pacific Rim.

It’s been like this with everything
on which he’s fixed his gaze.
His mind is like pahoehoe,
relentlessly flowing,
consuming all in his path.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The poems keep a-rollin'... Days 24-26

I missed day 24.  The sound was that of a diver while videoing a green sea turtle.  I struggled with that one, drafted a few poems that never felt right, and reached the end of the day with nothing that I wanted to send in.  Ah well, one cannot be creative every day.

Day 25's sound was a Ugandan folk tune.  It was a frenetic song, played on panpipes.  I actually couldn't listen to the whole song.  But, in the bit to which I did listen, I heard sounds and rhythms similar to jigs and reels.  That led me to think about the commonality of music around the world, yielding this poem:

Listening to a Ugandan Folk Tune

In the panpipes' whirl of this Ugandan tune,
I see dervishes dancing to ecstasy.
I hear the frenzy of a jig or reel,
the familiar skirl of Highland pipes,
the atonality of an Asian song.

When our ancestors left the heartland,
did they carry a common tune,
whistled and hummed,
sung from band to clan
as they moved across the land,
carried down the ages,
coursing through our souls?

Day 26's sounds were from trains or subway cars.  I wrote a short poem, thinking of spring, open windows at night, and the sound of a train off in the distance:

Good Sleeping Weather

Spring peepers singing out back,
and in the distance,
a freight train's steady rhythm.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 23 Sound Poems: Smoke on the Water, or in a deep purple haze

The sound for Day 23 was a sound clip on Songsterr for Smoke on the Water.  This bastion of classic rock has been stuck in my brain all day today, ever since I started thinking about what to write.  And, the question was (besides "how do I get the friggin' song out of my head?") what to write?  The song makes me think of the 70s, a decade that really ought to  be forgotten (for the most part).  I liked Smoke on the Water way back in the 70s, but that was primarily in my junior high school days before I began developing a more, shall we say, discerning taste in music.  Before Punk and New Wave.  Before I began listening to DC-area progressive stations like (the old) WHFS or WGTB (anyone remember that?  "One Nation, Underground") and now WTMD.  Anyways... here's the poem in response (and for those who want to sing along, the syllables in each line fit with the rhythm of the song):

What is it about those notes?
They are stuck on my mind.
Simple notes to start the song,
’bout as basic as you’ll find.

Takes me back to junior high
in the nineteen seventies.
Years that I’d like to forget,
but these notes won’t let me.

Smoke on the water,
I rarely hear it played.
Cuz I only listen
to Indie rock these days.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 22 Sound Poem: Boots crunching in the snow and memories of childhood

Childhood Snows

Galoshes over plastic bags over shoes,
we crunch through the snow,
pull our sleds up the street,
candles in pockets to wax runners
so we could fly back down.
Throw snow balls at the plow
as it ruins our course,
run into the woods
when the driver stops.
Stomp down the snow,
make a new run--
watch out for trees,
turn fast at the creek.
Spend the whole day outside,
only go in when our mothers call.
Fingers and toes tingle and sting.
Hot chocolate after warm bath.
Hope that the snow doesn’t melt away.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 21 Sound Poem: Chinese folk music, the immortal Li Po, and me...

Day 21's Sound Poem prompt was a sound clip of a Chinese folk tune played on a traditional stringed instrument. I'm not sure which instrument, but the sound was typical of one that's played with a bow. I could also hear what sounded like birds, suggesting that the recording was made outside. The image that came immediately to mind was the time I saw a quartet playing on the sidewalk on a sidestreet in San Francisco's Chinatown, but also thoughts of other times I heard Chinese street musicians playing in San Francisco or Hong Kong. Thinking about that led to thoughts about Chinese poetry, San Francisco's poetry scene, the Beats, Li Po, Kerouac..... resulting in this poem:

Listening to a Chinese Folk Tune on the Internet, I Think of the Old Man Playing an Erhu in San Francisco’s Chinatown the Night I Walked Back to My Hotel from North Beach

Was that you Li Po, playing the erhu
in that alley in Chinatown?
The mournful tones as you
drew the bow across the strings
caused me to stop staggering
down the street.  I swayed slowly
as I held onto a lamppost and listened.

Where did you go, Li Po?
You vanished before I could ask
you to share cups of wine
with me and Kerouac at Vesuvio’s.
I followed the strains of your immortal tune
through the streets that night.
I never saw you again,
but in some ways I think
that was the night I embraced the moon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Day 20 Sound Poem: Choose your reptile

Day 20 Sound Poems over at Laura Shovan's page.  We had options today-- pick a reptile from amongst a collection of sound clips. See for links to the clips. Who could resist the cute gecko? Not me... and neither could many of the other poets playing along.

My poem is in the form of a Welsh englyn (although not a strict adherence to form).

Gekko gecko on my wall--croak, croak--
your name an echo of your call.
Fifteen minutes, I watch you crawl.
I must learn why you never fall.

Day 19: Stairwell in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, Austria

The sound for Day 19 in the Sound Poem series at Author Amok was a recording in a stairwell in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, Austria.  Various voices could be heard, although given the acoustics, distinct words were not detectable. The sound of dishes clattering also could be heard, as if tea and coffee and other items were being served in or near the stairwell.  The blending of voices produced an almost ethereal quality for me, and coupled with the opulence of the building, I decided to focus my poem on the stairs, the building, and the waning days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Here it is:

Stairwell in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Emperor Franz Joseph I commissioned the design and construction of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) in Vienna to house the imperial family’s vast collection of art and to make it accessible to the public. The museum opened in 1891. Less than 30 years later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist.

Listen. Can you hear their voices
from the past as they slowly ascend
these stairs, hands gracing the balustrade,
gazing in awe at the grandeur,
marble on marble, gold leaf and inlays,
a building as immense and eternal
as the Empire itself, a fitting frame
for the Emperor’s art, offered now to the people.

Look. These stairs that have borne millions,
the collection of peoples
on which the empire once hung—
these stairs, this building,
relics of an era that was in descent
even as they were new.