Sunday, April 25, 2010

JASMINE (a song by the Gothic Rangers)

[me & Robin]

Who is that walking through my pine trees?
Who is that walking with a hitch?
Is that the girl who put such a spell on me
That I don’t know if I’m between or betwixt?

Somebody said she is a mystery orphan
Someone said she was found in the grotto
They said she was reared by that old blind hexer man
Sporting a white top hat and a threadbare red tuxedo

Jasmine -- she is not ordinary
Jasmine -- she limped right into my heart
I’ve heard it said she was conceived while the stars were contrary
And I’m convinced she knows the subtle arts

I wonder if that ole Lou Cypher would grant permission
I wonder if he would let me call on Jasmine
You see, I am entranced by that girl’s imperfection
She conjures taboo freedom with that bewitching rhythm

Oh, mercy, he smiled on my request
Oh, mercy, tonight I’ll bring her a black rose
If I can find that path again through thick darkness
If I can find the nerve to knock on her door

Jasmine – she is extraordinary
Jasmine – walks with a bent hickory cane
I’ve heard the mean laughter down at the Ouachita ferry
But they don’t know that fairies halo the lame

words & music by Robert T. Buck

Saturday, April 24, 2010


In our village, evening comes early. The sun is never seen directly, only bathing the trees softly, as if implicitly, all day long. But there are shadows, and sometimes the summer wind tumbles through oaks and elms, moves beneath pines and magnolias, pushing dark green shadows slowly toward the old cemetery.

Down here in the South, the cities are typical, stressful and the towns are full of bitterness. Fortunately, our village – we prefer to so call it – is miles from anywhere. This place is not on any maps. It was built up with pieces left over from broken time. It is somewhere in south Arkansas.

Lonnie is black and drags his left leg. Something is wrong with Lonnie. He works at the Grocery & Gas and says, “Guh-guh-guh-guh,” when he washes your windshield. Marie is very beautiful. She has long black hair and a voice husky for seventeen. She runs the cash register inside, and Lonnie doesn't seem to notice that Marie is very beautiful.

Other small businesses are found on all eight sides of the main cross-streets that form the center of the village. Sleepy lanes lead to neat houses, where azaleas, irises, and climbing roses paint the lawns in summer hues. The school is humble but sufficient, and a small stuccoed bank handles the lazy commerce. Other stores satisfy the basics. And that church down the street? It's not really a church. It's just for show, so questions don't enter the minds of outsiders. It's used for something else. It was built in front of the old cemetery.

Not far from the cross-streets, a forest circles the village. Big hardwood trees grow thick amid the whispering conifers.

* * *

Evening comes early here. Amber bulbs glow from the twenty-eight street lamps. Every night after supper, all villagers gather in the fake church. Excerpts from Emerson and a poem by Poe are usually read. When the moon comes, a procession forms and moves down the street, toward the forest. Everyone is quiet, no one is laughing. Marie walks beside Lonnie, as if protectively. The children, watched over by a few elders, remain behind to play hide-and-seek in the cemetery night.

The tender is at his post each evening, deep in the forest, to make the ritual fire. It will burn in a secret clearing. We will sit cross-legged around the great blaze and watch silently as Lonnie lurches in a perambulation behind us. From a small bag, he removes a pinch of magic substance and places it in each mouth. We know from his relatives, now all dead, that this substance comes from a plant brought over here centuries ago from the Congo. Lonnie's blood-line goes way back. His forbears cultivated this secret plant in the depths of our forest. Only they knew – and only Lonnie now knows – how to recognize the plant and how to obtain its active ingredient, how to make it into a magic powder.

Time will slowly de-cohere and space will become layers of transparent silk. Lonnie will soon begin to whirl around in circles behind us – a limping dance with a complex, stuttered rhythm. Then, we'll hear him begin the song.

Under the influence of the powder and the ancient African melody, we will see things emerge from between the silken spatial layers, in the halo of disconnected time. These images are fragments of an old story. Very old. We have been collecting them in our memories and in our hearts for generations. This is much better, more immediate than dry reading in city books.

The People will begin to appear. They look like us, but different. They laugh, and they mumble. They move, over thousands of years, toward the north. They bring with them effigies of their proto-gods. Ornately decorated, carefully attended. We sway in our circle, in thrall to the drug and melody. But they are not the only reasons for our calm rapture. We are captivated while learning this thing, incrementally: the Story. The Story of stories. And how that theme and those elements of plot have flowed nearly forever. Into all the shorter stories and poems.

It is about going. We and all of creation have been moving toward and ever deeper into the Mystery. Oh, how awful would it be to think we are merely tracing circles! Rather, through the efficacious qualities of powder and tune, we are given evidence that the People (and all the World) are spiraling toward a magnetic pole of yet-unknown significance. How poor a mystery story would be if the solution were too obvious!

* * *

Oh...I said that only Lonnie knows the secrets. But the rumor is that he has been teaching Marie the art of plant and song. We hope the old Story will continue....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Israel, forever

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of Israel's independence.

The Jews arose during hard times, amid the collisions of warring peoples. Early tribes grew, and populations formed distinct identities, as related to the lands they claimed and held. Gods were sought, bribed, and eventually attached to those lands – formal, mystical “seals” to establish coherence and to ritualize the forward movement of separate kingdoms.

The Jews arose during hard times. The factors of time, space, struggle, captivity, and freedom fed into the equation that would yield a tempered result: the nation of Israel. Rome put a temporary end to that. The Jews, deprived of their homeland, were dispersed over centuries, scattered to the four winds. In the normal course of things – the vanquished assimilate, are diluted of nationalistic energies – the fate of the Jewish nation would have been permanently settled. But Europe wasn't willing to let things be. Europe insisted on hating the vanquished, dispersed Jews. Europe wasn't finished with the Jews.

The God of those Jews had been refashioned, broken up into three Christian chunks: Job's nemesis, Jesus' manifestation, a mediating atmospheric. As papal Rome spread its monolithic culture (a Jew-despising culture) through Europe, it was axiomatic that organic principalities would protest and then revolt. Gold likes to gleam in local treasuries; gold resents being moved South. So fiefdoms recoiled and princes stiffened against Rome. A proto-capitalist culture emerged.

Thanks to Martin Luther, a general attitude of contempt for the Jews spread through Protestant time. Thanks to the greed of princes, a general attitude of envy toward the remarkable, evolution-tempered Jews spread through commercial relations.

Things came to a boil in the aftermath of WWI. A shattered Germany – its cultural hegemony refuted, its treasury depleted – gave rise to a form of bestial mysticism. This was a mysticism finding energy and inspiration from the Jew-despising sermons of Martin Luther. The Jews must be scapegoated and exterminated. All threats – social, commercial – to a pure German rebirth must be stifled. The Germans, with their cheap, occultist ideas about a blood-spirit, were too stupid to realize something important: they would be trespassing against a truly mystical world-force. The world built up the Jews through long evolutionary devotion. The slaughter of the Jews would profoundly disturb that natural, mystical devotion. It would alter the normal fabric of being. Things would be very different in the world after the Holocaust.

Nothing in particular will be said here about the Holocaust. Non-Jews who speak about it do violence to it. It was an enormity that opened up a space of great silence. The syntax and semantics of the Holocaust form an unspeakable language. All this non-Jew will say is that the catastrophe was of mythic proportions. And the mythic is a silent stratum giving rise to altered reality.

Oh! this writer sets himself up for the cynical response: you are romanticizing the Holocaust; you are an irresponsible emotional libertine to call the Holocaust a unique enormity; you are a giddy mystical fool to think that particular genocide has reordered the system of reality. This writer shall rebut the historically anemic and spiritually insensitive in this manner: you are a hypocrite to accuse me of mystical extravagance; you luxuriate in your own mystical forms, whether a belief in a benevolent Spirit or in a humanistic Progress; at least this writer's form of mysticism is grounded in the hard-Earth fact that the Jewish people are exemplary products of evolutionary frictions.

The nations of the world stand accused and convicted by nature itself for their behavior toward the Jews during the Holocaust. In the aftermath, nature itself would propel the survivors toward a return to justified soil, would arm their descendants in the perpetual defense of that justified soil.

The conflict today between the Israelis and the Palestinians was avoidable had the Arabs been mystically sensitive to the world reordering. The Arabs should have acquiesced peacefully to and in brotherhood toward the Jews who returned to justified soil. They chose not to do so. They not only resent the Israelis, they want them pushed into the sea. The Arabs and Iranians wish death to Israel, to the Jews. That's not going to happen.

Contending against the Jews is toying dangerously with deep, elemental – yes, mystical – forces.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Couple days ago, I was converting one-half of a built-in shelf unit into a clothes hanging space for my daughter. She had just moved back home and needed an additional closet. While at my workbench, I accidentally knocked a 1" Irwin wood bit off the edge. It fell and stuck point-first into the floor. That pleased me so much. That bit sticking into the floor.

It was like that scene in the BOURNE IDENTITY, when Matt Damon was leaning against the door jamb and holding a knife behind his back. He didn't want to alarm his girlfriend in the adjoining room that he suspected an assassin was somewhere in the apartment. So before entering that room, he let the knife fall at his side and stick into the floor, out of sight. I love it when that happens.

When I was a Boy Scout, we'd go on camp-outs in the deep cypress swamps near the Ouachita River. All of our spare time was spent throwing knives into dead cypress trees. Or playing "Chicken" when the scoutmaster wasn't looking: standing a yard apart with legs spread, a pair of us would take turns throwing a knife into the ground beside booted see who would lose their nerve and give up the game. Amazingly, no one ever got a knife into their foot.

I preferred knife throwing to firearms or archery. With a rifle, pistol, or revolver, the bullet moves too damn fast. You can't see it. You lose the sense of linkage, that palpable thread connecting you to the bull's-eye. Archery is better, but the arrow is still very swift, a blur. With a knife, you can actually see the blade flashing in its transit from hand to target.

My father showed me the method he was taught for his service in the Pacific during WWII. You stand with arm at your side, while holding the handle. Then in a fluid motion, you flex your knees and bring the knife back like a softball pitcher. And like that pitcher, you sling the knife blade-first in an underhand motion. But us whippersnappers always preferred the Hollywood technique: grip the blade and with a strong overhand delivery, fire the knife handle-first.

Yes...throwing knives. I bought some throwing knives a little later and would spend an hour each late afternoon in the backyard, throwing them at targets nailed to a tree. I wasn't very good at it. But whenever I stuck one firmly into the tree from 20 feet away, all felt right with the world in that moment. Why? Simple accomplishment? I don't think so. Some ancient survival residue stirred up in my young psyche? I don't think so. Looking back now, I believe it was something else.

I think it had to do with something more Zen-like: consciousness becoming unified with a selected aspect of otherness (tree) in terms of a mediating piece of reality (knife). Or maybe it had to do with Kant, with his mental categories striving to reach the essence of the noumenon -- the tumbling, flashing knife was slicing through philosophical space, was a symbolic linkage to radical otherness through holistic time. A plunge into the ineffable.

Or maybe it was just fun!

Friday, April 16, 2010


The unusual is always welcome,
is alluring like a dream on waking,
which was strangely forgotten
and beguiling for that reason.

Ah, Regina...she is a presence
appearing and somehow not,
inscrutable like a moon's ghost
gliding on soft gravity.

Does she laugh out loud
when something funny happens,
or is she always smiling
like the gist of a koan?
Does she sometimes weep
tears streaming through arteries
of time's transient heart? Or...
does she sigh alone blue sighs,
like marbling veins in the stoic
sculpted form of a thoughtful angel?

Those like that!
She is unique, and she is
unusual. The soul she is
comes to art because she is
kindred to that pulse and color
moving in a flowered morning,
moving in impassioned paintings,
moving in an evening's music.

It is good that she is here
on this planet hanging briefly,
as time tocks out its dull strokes
so expected and so usual. Her time
is different, is complex, is startling
in its ephemeral bouquet.

when she shows her cloistered smile,
when like the moon's shyness might spin
round on a magical breeze...
a grace is shown to the sad world,
granting us a remembered glimpse
of an unfathomed dream.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Dogwood blossoms floating
everywhere in the forest,
amid the early color of oak leaves...

I could take a photograph,
but this aching would not show up
on the pure, technical image.

These dogwood blossoms appear
to be suspended, hanging like wishes
amid Spring's mad plunge
through weary time's branching.

Yes, like wishes, vague white pieces
of a puzzled yearning to gather you
forever into my aching hands.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I have built a high stone fence
around your anti-Eden. That garden
holds no flowers, is without breezes.
I can't breathe with you there.

Yes, this old world comes to abattoir,
but I will shun your nightmare arboretum.
The gloom that hangs there strangles me.
I require instead a trancing air.

Others like your stark design,
the formal lay-out running through
old sin and coming blood.
Still others sneak in like thieves
crawling through a warping gate,
hoping you are God but not
that God who dammed Hell with acids.

Though I'm free-form like a lunatic,
I'll not be so wanton with my senses.
If you spoke of peace and love,
you also glared with righteous sword.

Yes, I pass by time to time
and spy you brooding in the briars.
Everything is so damn ethical with you!
Where's the goddamn artist in you?

My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
And left me strange outside this fence?

The atoms blinking in my brain
build gardens up from different soil.
Flowers sprout in pastel shades
and smile forever in the mystic,
soft drizzling rain.

I know I'll die perplexed, unsaved.
I know you meant well robed in ethos.
But I'm for beauty and have saved
many flowers for my sarcophagus.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Who gives a damn about my love?
How could I engrave my words
on eyes that would not blink?
What metaphors might fall as tools
on tidal sand to let me build
a lighthouse looking oceanward
to send a signaled beam?

Or shall I speak of a sad garden,
where the Blue Flower's shadow
seeps into the loam of time?...

Maybe this is better:
a dreaming ghost that shuffles,
searching for a touch unknown
in tense corporeal days.

No...those eyes could never love me.
So why sift the moon's faint dust
for words that teem with dark magic?

Layers of desire were forged
without words, so let them be
unspoiled, not given into cloying art.

Who gives a damn about my love?
Why speak of this at all?
One pair of eyes never closes
but glows contented, filled with life...
would shatter on these bad words:

my heart is like a dead red rose.

No one gives a damn about my love but me...
so speaking, I converse with myself
to preserve the withered petals.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


חול המועד פסח

Because of the Diaspora,
when weary families trudged
and wept and laughed
and found strength together...

Because they thrived amid pogroms,
spittle, flung stones, and curses...

Because Martin Luther hated,
inspiring Nazi doctrine...

I wish to be a Jew.

Because Persians and the Arabs,
bitter, apoplectic, envious,
dream of final death to Israel...

Because I grew up in a town
that burned with paranoiac fever,
that looked askance at the Feinbergs,
who were the only ones...

I wish to be a Jew.

Because the subtle words I love
were wrought in Ashkenazi rooms,
where souls too deep for me to fathom
touched mine over candled time...

Because Mahler knows me more than
angels weeping blood on crosses...

I wish to be a Jew.

Because of someone dear to me,
who graced me with an ancient smile,
whose name is fearless, making her
the tempered sister of Europa...

I wish to be a Jew.

* * *

This early April night falls cool
and dark on arid gentile land. I am
alone, but thought brings festival,
imagination voices, candles from my wishing.

I am content in my dispersal, breaking
off a piece of matzo, pouring this glass
of laughing wine, reclining with a sigh.

So let me, this one night,
pass over and be a Jew.