Poems

Mind Your Brain

Nothing,

Truly,

Is strange.

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Poems

Beauty That Breaks

Beauty
That
Breaks,

The Sun
Goes down
On you, too.

In cold time,
The marrow
Gripped,
The heart’s storied bounty
Wrenched without ceremony,
And the soul’s triumph behind a heavenly body
Plunged from known existence.
(We know this)
But beauty has power
Like a godhead;
Breaks the self,
Fractures wit,
Tricks the mind by a tragic play of hunger laden dreams.

Thoughts build their aegis
Against the radiance
In a room
Under solemn dominion.
“In cold time,
Something else entirely,”
Screams an inner voice down the deep hollows.

In a hungry room of beaten beasts,
Beauty
That
Breaks,
You’re no home for rapacious hearts.
Where high tragic thoughts sired by the seeing mind
Defend their maker,
Beauty
That
Breaks,
I don’t fight, I don’t speak, I don’t move
Even when you move me.

Beauty
That
Breaks,
Love is the shield,
Kept me
From your reach.

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Poems

Headache At The Smithsonian

I.

Dinosaurs:
Nature’s titans,
Gargantuan earth-shakers on the roam;
Wanted nothing, left bones.

Man:
Roaming creature of reason;
Less mass but gifted with
Gargantuan consciousness;
With torturous thought that,
Like a hand become a fist fit for blows,
Attacks unknown;
Walled of mind
Behind the walls of his things,
Defines and protects desire.

Of Nature,
Man.

Like dinosaurs,
Receives, heeds the call to
Eat and fuck and keep it up;
Why is no thing
When calculating the answers to bitter need.

Unlike dinosaurs,
Torturous thought inward born—
Having attacked itself
Demands now additional sacrifice.

Unlike dinosaurs,
Reeks of inborn tyranny,
Superficial dominion fraught with unnatural demands
Too big for the Earth.

Of Nature,
Man.

 
II.

Walking, thinking
Torturous thoughts:

Our design and gift tending destruction,
Are we a born death wish from the heart of our Mother?

Our design and gift tending destruction,
Our desire Her desire wishing death from the core?

Are we a born fruitless death wish from the heart and core of our Mother?

Perennial fists of bitter need wrenching gifts from the open-palmed Earth—
That our nature?
That the drive in our mind?

 
III.

“Sing sorrow, sorrow: but good win out in the end.”

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Poems

Vending Machine Mantra

It could have said anything else.

Have a nice day Have a nice day Have a nice day

It’s automatic.
Programmable.

Outside the break room
Sickness spreads, I say it too.

Have a . . .

Programmable.

I put the words in my mouth,
Someone else’s voice.
I put the words in my mouth,
Someone else’s voice.
I put the words in my mouth:
Someone.
Else’s.
Voice.

Punch out, pull the plug
Punch out, pull the plug
Punch out, pull the plug

I put the words in my mouth,
And go back to work.

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Music Reviews

Ruins, by Grouper

Ruins CoverGrouper is Liz Harris, artist and musician from Portland, Oregon.

Comes Ruins (2014), Grouper’s latest following 2013’s The Man Who Died in His Boat. With the exception of the last track, “Made of Air,” Ruins was recorded in Aljezur, Portugal, in 2011 and released by Chicago’s Kranky Records on Halloween of 2014.

As voiced by the artist herself, the album was “recorded pretty simply, with a portable 4-track, Sony stereo mic and an upright piano.”

Melancholic. Penetrating. Remarkable.—These and like adjectives root in Ruins.

On the opening track, “Made of Metal,” Harris captures sharp sounds of the highly active life living outside her temporary residence in Aljezur. Sounds like what came before us: copious amounts of insects, frogs and birds all hungrily calling into the heavy night.

Composition-wise, Harris envelops listeners by expertly using a few, yet powerful, elements. But a handful of simple, pyre-like piano notes and one quiet guitar partnered with some tape loops and Harris’ hushed vocals, fill ears with somber tones.

The ache of inner emotional truth in the light of how things truly are, produce in Harris’ voice a wintry tone; painful remnants of passing love pall the power of her barefaced words with an icy fragility, as when in “Clearing,” the voice behind the words, “Every time I see you I have to pretend I don’t,” sounds as if singing the line is nearly too much; as if the singer isn’t just singing but experiencing anew the truth expressed through the words before us on tape, re-living ruins. Such also is the case in the dusky drift of knotted honesty and regret in the line: “Sometimes I wish that none of this had happened.”

It’s a perfect blend, Harris’ fragile voice and those skeletal piano notes. They sound inseparable, and the piano, though sounding as affected as Harris, provides just as strong a voice heard on the album as any other, even taking over instrumentals “Labyrinth” and “Holofernes.”

Though Harris’ words often sink from clarity deeply into the sound, their meaning masked in tone is as clear as the drops of rain falling from the thunderstorm that closes “Holding.”

Each track of the album runs its listener farther from private emotional turrets crumbling inside physical structures to the eleven-minute, disintegrative ending that is “Made of Air.” No words to anchor the feeling, no distinctive voice (guitar, piano) that so characterized the tracks prior, but sound and sound only—a pushing, pendulous, free flight to silence.

By its ethereal drift and telling title, “Made of Air” sounds the course of the elemental transition/decomposition of relationships, love and structures to a formless expanse, the great weight of ruins cast.

Yet, for all its weight in sound and feeling—seemingly filled by the inspiration of place and pain—, the overall languid feeling of Ruins does little to create any tension for listeners, filling ears instead with tranquility like a sleepy white-haired death from the bed.

Little fight from the ear as “Made of Metal” pumps out its final, and hard, heartbeat before the piano-etch of “Clearing” abruptly shifts tonality and Harris’ words, “Open up the window, try and let the light out” cuts a path through the aural brush to songs of grey stillness, bright pain, terrible longing and lonely beauty.

16mm Film by Paul Clipson for “Made of Air”

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