Friday, May 23, 2008

The Sestina


I did it. I made it through the April "write-a-poem-a-day" month-long challenge. If you asked me what the hardest day was I'll tell you simply...Day 28...and the Sestina. I'd never heard of the form before and it required a bicycle tire pump to keep my left brain inflated enough to keep track of the formula.

You've got seven stanzas...the first six are six lines long and the seventh is three lines...six words are used to end the lines of the stanza and appear in a rotating math the seventh stanza two words appear in each line.

I know. My eyes were crossed by that point too! Making it through the challenge hinged on this though, so I was determined...grrrr. Many crumpled sheets of paper later I let go and let my mind create a painting. Once I had the visual, I picked six words from that visual and wrote them down in the order of the whole poem. Now I had the frame to hang a story on.

The Tulips

Sleepy morning had only opened one eye of light
while she'd been to market and back. Packages and tulips
litter the table, her hands cooling under running water,
knowing just which vase she wants, curving
through slices of sun, she opens
the cabinet and her hair falls.

Wave upon dark wave crests and falls
like carved mahogany polished with light,
one hand closing pulls it back, one hand opens
to the jar that will hold the tulips
waiting on the table, stems curving
to the sound of promising water.

She washes the vessel and halves it with water,
cuts the stem ends--a broken leaf falls,
behind on the white wall, her shadow curving,
but she doesn't see, eyes closed in the light.
The first time they met he bought her some tulips,
the magic phrase, "before the war," and her memory opens.

He told her he loved when a closed bud opens
and asked her to marry him down by the water,
he had hidden her ring inside one of the tulips.
She pushes him over, laughing he falls.
Remembering, she laughs with her ring in the light
round her finger, curving.

So long since she clung to him in their goodbye, curving
into the scratch of his uniform. Her mouth opens
to taste his promise on afternoon's light,
quenching her thirst with cool, clear water
she stirs the stew, awaiting the sound of his foot-falls,
the table set for two, with tulips.

He promised to come home if she kept tulips.
He had whispered it softly into her ear's curving,
"With two lips home waiting, a man never falls."
At the stroke of sunset the matchbox opens,
she flames the candle's glow on petals, glass and water,
a pleading, calling light.

A stub of candle's light kisses tulips
in a jar of water, abandoned lines curving.
The front door opens. Into his two lips, at last she falls.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Coyote Waltz

As a songwriter, it’s important to me to talk about more than just love in the romantic sense, though it could be argued that everything is about love. I didn’t just want to write about the back and forth, the comings and goings of lovers, which is another reason I left the more commercial business of music back east. I wanted to bite into bigger subjects sometimes. I wanted to talk about life, the universe, and everything; talk about my lifelong walk of spirit…without preaching a path to follow.

I love lyrics that can be understood in layers, for those who care to. As a performer it’s important, first and foremost, to entertain and not weigh down your audience with a lecture of life as you see it, or a sermon. That having been said, we all know of songs that managed to produce books in our minds, inside the slim four minutes they played.

Coyote Waltz can be seen as a nonsense performance piece. I often sing it straight after “Twisted” for a crazy little set-ender, the stand-up bass bringing in the jazz waltz. It can be left to enjoy just like that (I’m not selling anything, honest!) or the words can be heard with a mind to looking for and finding one’s spirit, within indigenous connections and the major religions. In these lyrics and the music sits my four-minute Theosophy Doctorate Thesis. First Nation stories talk of the coyote as a trickster, a teacher, even a creator…so he was perfect for a song…a waltz perfect for the twirling constancy of movement…the dance we are all caught-up in. What do you think it says?

Coyote Waltz copyright 2001 Lorraine Hart

Sometimes I dance with coyote
And fall on my ass…laughing
He’s a wolf
He’s a fox
He’s a dog
Oh my my my!

Sometimes I dance with coyote
And rise on my toes…gasping
He’s the truth in a lie
Such a fool
Ah…but who am I?

The fool is a wise man
And the wise man’s a fool
Our biggest lesson
Is our greatest tool
Every dance documents
The golden rule
That coyote can show me
Oooh…the jewel of cool!

As soon as he says it’s this
Baby…you know it’s that
Three hundred and twelve
All of them under one hat…