John Dillinger

It’s a simple point
In a simple plan
You take the money
Like slaughtering a lamb
A farmer watched his family starve
And only the rich can steal
So the fedora covers your eyes
And you forgot how to feel
They dropped you in a hole
Long ago
John Dillinger
Destroyer of the world

The police shoot, too
The police can shoot you
The nonviolent citizen
Who reads the news
So Dillinger went cold
After suffering in jail
Who’s the tormented and tormentor
Who’s the dragonhead and dragon tail
He liked Chicago
He liked to disappear
But to anyone paying attention
He’s still right here
At your side, tonight
Outside the Biograph
Strolling the sidewalk
Before the bloodbath
The G-Men scream
See! See! See!
See the color of the flood
The truth is red and mean
They dropped him in a hole
Long ago
John Dillinger
Destroyer of the world

And are they going to bury you
With that money
Johnny?
You know innocent got hurt
Innocent got slain
Over all that fame
I guess you’d say
You don’t care

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Native Celebration

(previously ‘This Way’)

………………………………

I feared a revolution

For I knew I would be a commander

Intuitively understood I would lead

A legion boot deep in blood

Down a hollowed street

The eateries turned holes

In the walls of a world that

Used to be

…………………………..

It started when they broke the lock

Invaded my bed kicked me in the head

Loaned me a chain then said

Your game, your time

Stand in line

…………………………..

Life was different but the seconds progressed

Into the present circumstance

My mustache gray

My holsters brown

My solutions black

Mastered with experience

………………………

Memories, though

Walking my dog

Down

A hill and feeling

Sin dry

Through the God in her eyes

And the setting sun above the tree line

And the paradise on city property

And the blue blanket of empty

Safety’s the highest priority

A God that gives permission

Was the God I believed in

………………………..

I feared it was always going to be this way

I had to stand above you

And choke the life out of you

To save a bullet

Your skin was forgiving

………………………

Later in the evening

During the Native celebration

That old song’s playing

And I can taste the vodka on my tongue

A tongue never forgets

A tongue never lies

I used my tongue

To commune with you

All those nights

Then, when

It was an explosion of light and noise

It was a fear of women

It was the dance-floor in Miami

Where I forgot my name

It was the promised change

It was peace at the apex

Of a swinging pendulum

Waving hello, goodbye

Hello, goodbye

………………………..

It was always going to be this way

……………………….

So tell me the dark matter

Holding the universe together

Can take a joke

Because I feared

A revolution

Coming to know

The self


A New Truth

(previously Melanie)

Midnight was written

Across the orange street

Under the paper moon

And the white screen

Owned your eyes

The screen was all

A spiral we demand

Because we get what we want

And you want the news about you

It says you need to hate me now

And don’t you?

But hey, I’m standing here with my

Mouth in my hand and I’m reaching

Reaching for you

The one with them

But I’m the one aware

They only see a shard of you

A convincing image

Like

That shattered champagne glass

On the cement

I really liked you, Melanie

And sometimes I hate me

Like you hate you

We’re trapped in the truth

Me, you

Caught in the light-tower together

You pull on my waist

While I guide my beam

Over the black waves

Searching for that second shipwreck

That the insurance man prophesized

Fact was the name of the first ship

Fact, with sea spiders crawling

Over her cutlery

In the dining room

A million leagues deep

Found and disavowed

So, there goes my light

Cast onto the ocean of indifference

In the name of a new truth

But that’s the lighthouse

And this is the street

Where I finally speak

To say your condescension

Is like condensation

Naturally occurring

Coming and fading

Water between the webs of my fingers

Then steam filtering through that bullshit bar

A cute magic trick

Performed to elicit my embarrassment

And accumulate their merit

They like it when city kids

Whore themselves before the neon altar

And confirm their suspicion

So they feel free

To educate me about my identity

Yet you’re above it, Melanie

Above every irony

Above every novelty

You are inconvenient

Like this conversation

Under the paper moon

On the orange street

Outside the bullshit bar

Look away, will you?

My love look away from that screen


Melanie

Midnight

On the orange street

Under the paper moon

The white screen

Owned your eyes

They told you the news

The news about you

Now you have to hate me

Don’t you?

But allow me a few lines

_Listen_

All you do is try to impress them

But it’s just a shard of you

A convincing image

Like

That shattered champagne glass

On the cement

I really liked you, Melanie

But until now

I never had the words to tell you

Time and only time

Reveals every lie

And your condescension

Is like condensation

Naturally occurring

Coming and fading

Water between the webs of my fingers

Then steam filtering through this bullshit bar

A cute magic trick

Performed to elicit my embarrassment

And accumulate their merit

They like it when city kids

Whore themselves before the neon altar

And confirm their suspicion

So they feel free

To educate me about my identity

Yet you’re above it, Melanie

Above the cardboard sunglasses

And clothes with commands

But when I play ignorant

You encourage me with promises

Then grind your teeth when I have an opinion

It’s all so fucking inconvenient

Like this conversation

Under the paper moon

On the orange street

Outside the bullshit bar

Look away, will you?

My love look away from that screen


Popular Problems

To me, the only controversial part about the Grammys was ‘Popular Problems’ not being nominated. The album is completely hypnotic, weaving the personal and external, the historical and spiritual, the searching and the losing and rediscovering, the narratives we acknowledge then despise then transcend and back again and again and again, moment to moment.

I had a lot of trouble picking a song to accompany my brief testimony. I love ‘A Street.’ A meditation on the attractive qualities of war through a character simultaneously existing in the prism of post 9/11 New York and the Civil War. I love ‘You Got Me Singing,’ a song that closes the album on a high note while acknowledging that yes, a lot’s fucked up, but let’s survive anyway. I love ‘Samson in New Orleans,’ which acknowledges the impossibility of an individual bridging the gap between cultures torn by centuries hatred, while daydreaming about that possibility all the same, juxtaposed against the reality of that same individual’s relationship falling apart due to some sort of mutual disillusionment. (You said you loved the city. Or did you just pretend?) But you know what? I’ll share ‘Nevermind.’ I’ll share ‘Nevermind’ because it might be Cohen’s reply to Kurt Cobain name-checking him in ‘Pennyroyal Tea.’ I’ll share ‘Nevermind’ because it perfectly illustrates how to write a song behind the guise of a character, while still using personal insights to convey emotion. I’ll share ‘Nevermind’ because its written from the perspective of a vanquished culture commenting on an invading culture, one of the most consistent rhythms of human history. I’ll share ‘Nevermind’ because we’re always living the life we left behind: either through external history looming over our shoulder, like a patient shadow waiting for us to turn and look, or personal history lurking within. And I’ll share ‘Nevermind’ because it has these lines:

“Your victory
Was so complete
Some among you
Thought to keep

A record of
Our little lives
The clothes we wore
Our spoons, our knives

The games of luck
Our soldiers played
The stones we cut
The songs we made

Our law of peace
Which understands
A husband leads
A wife commands

And all of this
Expressions of
The sweet indifference
Some call love

The high indifference
Some call fate
But we had names
More intimate

Names so deep and
Names so true
They’re blood to me
They’re dust to you

There is no need
That this survive
There’s truth that lives
And truth that dies

Nevermind
Nevermind
I live the life
I left behind.”

And as for awards, yeah, sure, nevermind. But still, not even a nomination? Songs like this don’t get written every day.


Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III

After reading ‘Dirty Love,’ I’d have to say Andre Dubus III is a master of immediacy. But he’s also unique in making memory immediate, too. Usually in prose, even in great works, there’s a noticeable sag while describing the past, as if the moment had affected the character but had also become inflexible, a fixed proposition. Because Dubus maintains the intensity of his sensory descriptions while describing the past, we are treated to a double awareness of a character’s circumstances that does not quarantine memory. I realize after reading ‘Dirty Love’ that I have probably written scenes that treated memory like a trial exhibit instead of something alive. It’s not so much what a character can say after describing a memory, but how they can behave! To let the reader know they are attempting to break a mold the past had cast. Or that they have succumbed to the allure of external perception masquerading as identity. Especially in the last novella, we see characters communicating with their past through a behavior in the present. I guess we could do this automatically from a basic storytelling standpoint, (I think writing detailed scenes and getting to know your characters will bring up this depth naturally, even if there’s no specific intention other than putting forward an honest effort) but the simmering and subsequent explosion of memory, identity, decisions and consequences for characters in this book was remarkable to me.


Dr. Dog

tonight…. my lovely band… I remember when I found them and Man Man the same night on Myspace (!) in 2008. (after literally typing something goofily specific like ‘modern indie rock’ into the search engine) I listened to ‘Shame Shame’ last night and was surprised by my emotions. I guess it was the equivalent to seeing an old friend and having a long conversation, because you are both waiting for the same delayed train. And then you both seem to remember at the same time, without an acknowledgment being required, that nobody ever really leaves anyone. We can forget about someone for a long time, but they are always hiding somewhere, especially in songs. And ain’t it strange when that forgotten person is yourself?


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