A year ago I was studying the Book of Judges with Rabbi Bronwen Mullin in the Artist’s Beit Midrash at my shul, Town & Village Synagogue. A year ago our … Continue reading Who Will Be Our Deborah Now?
As I write, my fingers light on the keyboard, I draw a sudden blank
My muse arrives, four pawed, fur coat silky to the touch
Like Calliope she approaches staring with frankness at my scribbled crank
Regardless of her harshness I welcome her presence which can be, at times, a bit much
Calliope, it’s been said of the muse, carried an assertive flair
Only the most worthy of artists could draw her favored hand
Such as it is with my black and white short-hair
Her business is her own, I gain favor only at her feline command
Who am I to have a muse such as her?
My feeble words cobbled in an unruly state
Structure aligns in the pattern of her fur
The author rises within me, articulate
A sonnet I have penned to my feline friend
Calliope transcends all realms of self – creativity has no end
“God bless you and your family; have a wonderful day.”
The mantra was part of him now. He’d said it hundreds of times daily for how long, he couldn’t tell you. Pan-handling in front of Pike Place Market was the most proficient career choice for Edmund. He set his own hours, enjoyed the fresh sea air coming in off the bay and had the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of interesting people who crossed his path as he blessed their comings and goings.
The streets of Seattle were Edmund’s ministry; his place where God resonated most powerfully. Whomever you believed your God was, is or would come to be, he was there to speak to you about that!
“How many people out there break the cardinal rule of judgement? Did you know that is a cardinal rule you shouldn’t break? Unless, of course, you’re God. Then, of course, you can break that judgement, right?”
It was in these moments that angels descended and danced around him while birds chirped and thunder hailed the truths emerging from his lips and heart in the middle of the market on a Monday morning. He would ask you for money, bless you anyway and go forth in life breathing, being, and watching you walk by trying to pretend you didn’t see him.
“Is there something that all of you expect me to do?” Edmund would ask “ ‘cause I’m not sure what it is. God bless you and your family; have a wonderful day.”
People flowed around him like water, diverging them as if he’d put his staff down and parted the ocean of humanity that surged ahead, bent on consumption like a swarm of locusts. Every once in a while a person would be caught up in an Edmund eddy and swirl about him as he caught them in his kind gaze, enraptured by his radical acceptance of who and what they were; thin, fat, rich, not-so-rich…and so it went day in day out for time eternal.
Edmond pressed on this day with his teachings and pan-handling, taking the souls passing him by as simply part of the whole process when a woman – middle aged, plump and unremarkable – approached him, caught in his vortex.
“Excuse me ma’am, do you have a dollar you can spare. If not that’s ok God bless you and your family and have a wonderful day.” His smile was full and kind on his face and then she took out a twenty dollar bill; clean, crisp and green as a verdant garden. She held it out to Edmond and smiled back at him. For a moment they looked at one another as though life-long friends. He took her money with gratitude equaling the generous act in which it had been given. Their heads bowed together in what first appeared as prayer, or was it a secret incantation of healing? Their voices spoke softly such that no one around could hear them any longer; hushed tones pulling you in closer in a market full of chaotic enterprise. Silent they stood, smiles lingering upon their lips. She wordlessly whispered her secrets to him and he took her confessional into his strong, street savvy arms, removing the pain she’d been carrying for far too long. For the exchange of a $20 he had released a lifetime of her anguish and she hugged him, joy oozing out between their embrace. From the corner where I stood witnessing the whole exchange it appeared that she’d given up something huge, that he’d absorbed a massive tumor of her grief. A bird chirped in the distance, the woman’s countenance expanded. Her face lit up in a radiant glow and all within a breath of a moment caught in your chest, she was a wholly remarkable woman in her full beauty and strength of being.
Edmond, the pan-handling preacher of Pike Place, raised his arms in an act of sanctification.
“Holy Mother of whatever God you choose to believe in…heal this sister of salvation and forgive her every iniquity in this world filled with thieves and liars. She is an innocent among the guilty, a survivor among the fallen, a triumphant warrior standing in the face of every obstacle. Bless her and be blessed BY her!”
The pair fell to their knees weeping for all the hurt in the world. Traffic stopped, people paid attention, birds began their incantation to heaven, lifting them up in a thunderstorm of emotion. Cascadia rose and fell shattering the earth then leaving it to settle into its new pattern on the shaken surface while underneath tectonic plates continued slowly colliding. Awareness reset itself. Truth prevailed once more over bull-shit reasonings of an unremarkable life, forcing back relentlessly absurd ways of being. Social norms folded back in on themselves, lost no more, appropriately sourced within the center of her authentic sense of self.
The woman rose from the ground, brushed the dirt from her skirt, adjusted her bra and walked on confidently. Edmond stood in the place he always stood watching the people he always watched when his eyes fell upon me.
The ground I stood upon was not the same as it was half-a-breath ago.
- Music in this audio piece is composed by Peter Michael von der Nahmer, performed by musicians and singers from the Aspen Music Festival – audio capture from the corner of Pike and First in Downtown Seattle June 19, 2017. All permissions cleared including this picture I took of “Edmond” – he was cool with it.
Author’s note: Waiting to catch the Light Rail to the Seattle airport I had time to spare and enjoy the last bits of my long weekend on the West coast when I heard this guy doing his thing on this corner. There was, indeed, a woman who came up to him, gave him money, talked with him for a while, and hugged him repeatedly. This interaction fascinated me as he looked so tough and she looked so unlikely to be hugging a homeless guy on the street so I riffed on the scene I had just witnessed and came up with this story. With a four-hour delay at the airport I set Mike’s music, Angel’s (parts 1-2), to my audio capture using the Hokusi audio editing ap in my phone. MMN
Today feels special like a birthday or a really cool new pair of shoes Something’s in the air saying “Today is the day! Get out and have fun – you … Continue reading Today Feels Special
This week I take a departure from my grueling self-imposed opera study/writing regime to share something I have been working on for a dear friend, a writer in her own very well deserved right, and someone who is an inspiration to me today and – I expect – for years to come.
Amy Gottlieb recently published a wonderful novel, The Beautiful Possible. She goes to all the funky, haunting, alluring places I aspire to and then some! Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book. It’s a great read!
Here’s the book trailer I made for her this week –
Class note: I am out of the country next week so there is a high probability that I will not be posting a micro opera – not unless something inspires me deeply and I have no choice but to post something…
will she or won’t she? Only time will tell.
A middle aged woman sits at a table with a journal open in front of her and a pencil in her hand. A light on the table illuminates the pages in a glow of warmth which washes up onto the woman’s face as she stares down at a blank page.
Here I am
It’s four AM
The house is quiet for now
I left my bed
So warm and cozy
The dogs won’t leave their lair to join me
In my cold endeavor
At my little desk
In the dark of night
Before the dawn’s floundering light
To be a writer is to be alone
A single entity who can dive into limitless waters of thought
Who can swim to the very bottom of the pond of possibility
And dredge up a moment’s consideration
For compilation in a composition yet to be named
No, there is more to this than meets the eye
I do not rise in the death of night
Out of some sense of obligation
I rise because I have no choice
My characters call to me
They disturb me from my sweet slumbering
Yearning for resolution of the situation I wrote them them into the night before
They all want to know – what happens next!
So here I am
It’s four AM
The house is quiet for now
And I – I cannot think of a thing to write
Weekly Reading Assignment : The origins of opera
The Cambridge book on Opera, chapter 2 covered the first operatic forms. Greek drama. It has been thirty years since I studied any Greek drama and I had to research the origins of strophe and antistophe, ‘cause I couldn’t remember what they meant. Strophe – to turn. Antistrophe – to turn back again as in a reply to stroph. I won’t get all up in this with you as I’m pretty sure if you’re actually reading this you DON’T want me getting all up in this. The operative thing here is that diving into the structure of Greek drama brought me to an unexpected place – PROSODY!
And where has the study of prosody lead me? To the basics of literary structure, of course. And then, just as quickly, to poetry. No surprise, really. My little web log entry tonight is actually a long-winded excuse to inform you (dear reader) that I abandoned my reading of chapter 2 and took a wild ride into the study of iambs and their many cousins: anapest, dactyl, trochee and others. I studied all this in college circa 1982 but today it lives for me as something completely new. Here’s what I did with what I learned.
Iambic dimeter – 2 iambs per line
There is a way
That I can write
Could be by day
Perhaps at night
There is one thing
That I must do
Put pen to pad
How ever bad
And write anew
Iambic trimester – 3 iambs per line
They’re working on the street
Jack-hammers on concrete
Ringing through the night
Who cares what time it is
Iambic tetrameter – 4 iambs per line
She stooped to pick the basket up
Filled with fresh washed cloths, it was
The weight of it surprised her some
As she carried it across the floor
Quite the shock for her to see
Two ears emerge amid the wash
Black and pink those ears appeared
In contrast to her nice black pants
Now covered in fur from waist to hem
The feline gave a quizzical look
Stretched its paw across her bra
To roll its head in its comfy bed
And reach its arm to touch her hand
As if to say “It’s all okay;
I’ll help you with the wash today.”
Iambic pentameter – 5 iambs per line
These walls contain so many stories told
Of love and life of a family growing old
Where once the toddlers played amid their toys
Two men now occupy the space of boys
This home is all that they have ever known
Of school and friends and kissing in the dark
We gave them all that they would need to live
And pushed to make the best of what we had
Today we must stand back and let them go
Into a world that we cannot control