Live Reading of “Drunk Me Some Wine with Jesus”

I hadn’t planned to read last night but was coaxed on stage where I belched my poem
“Drunk Me Some Wine with Jesus” to a somewhat inattentive audience who were [cue backwoods evangelical voice] more in-TENT on gluttony and idle chatter than they was in hearing that our Lord was a wine-bibber and a comm-U-nist.

And who could blame them?

Here’s the text of the poem:

Drunk me some wine with Jesus
At this here wedding in Galilee.
He saved the bestest for second
And provided it all for free.

So I quit my job on the shrimp boat
To follow him eternally,
No longer bound by then blue laws
enforced by the Pharisee.

And we had us some good times
Till then Pharisees done him in.
Ain't got no use for the religious right
After I seen what they done to him.

So when Paul Saul stole the show,
I sort of drifted away
Because he never quite understood
What Jesus was trying to say.

He was more like a Pharisee,
Dissing this, cussing that
Giving the womens a real hard time,
Gay-bashing and all like that.

So I drink at home most nights now
Trying to do some good,
offering the beggars a little snort
Whilst praying for a Robin Hood.

Drunk me some wine with Jesus.
I was the besets day I'd ever seen.
Drunk me some wine with Jesus,
Partying with the Nazarene.

By the way, the poem is sort of a riff on Ezra Pound's 
"Ballad of the Goodly Fere."

Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion

Ha’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
 For the priests and the gallows tree?
 Aye lover he was of brawny men,
 O’ ships and the open sea.

 When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
 His smile was good to see,
 “First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
 “Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.

 Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
 And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
 “Why took ye not me when I walked about
 Alone in the town?” says he.

 Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
 When we last made company,
 No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
 But a man o’ men was he.

 I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
 Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
 That they took the high and holy house
 For their pawn and treasury.

 They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book I think
 Though they write it cunningly;
 No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
 But aye loved the open sea.

 If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
 They are fools to the last degree.
 “I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
 “Though I go to the gallows tree.”

 “Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
 And wake the dead,” says he,
 “Ye shall see one thing to master all:
 ’Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”

 A son of God was the Goodly Fere
 That bade us his brothers be.
 I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
 I have seen him upon the tree.

 He cried no cry when they drave the nails
 And the blood gushed hot and free,
 The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
 But never a cry cried he.

 I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
 On the hills o’ Galilee,
 They whined as he walked out calm between,
 Wi’ his eyes like the grey o’ the sea,

 Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
 With the winds unleashed and free,
 Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
 Wi’ twey words spoke’ suddently.

 A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
 A mate of the wind and sea,
 If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
 They are fools eternally.

 I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin' they nailed him to the tree.



 

My Favorite Fascist

Digital Portrait by Cain and Todd Benson

The slough of unamiable liars,

    bog of stupidities,

malevolent stupidities, and stupidities, and stupidities.

                                                                        Ezra Pound, “Canto XIV”

“Make it new.”

                                                                        Pound’s advice to poets

Ezra Pound’s my favorite fascist,

ranting on the radio, 

With Usura

Hath no man

a Rashaan Roland Kirk 

tenor saxophone solo,

no Hieronymus Bosch tagging

boxcars, boxcars, boxcars.”

Compare that to what we have now,

Sebastian Gorka, Kayleigh and Kellyanne,

Devin Nunes suing a cow,

The man who would be Mango,

Adderall addled, sniveling and sniffing,

Mispronouncing Minneapolis,

clutching the podium as if he’s afraid

he’ll topple statue-like before the rabble.

Screech Me a Poem, Sugar Britches

yeats and maude

Yeats and Maude Gonne by Anne Marie O’Driscoll

Half close your eyelids, loosen your hair,

And dream about the great and their pride;

They have spoken against you everywhere,

But weigh this song with the great and their pride;

I made it out of a mouthful of air,

Their children’s children shall say they have lied.

                 WB Yeats “He Thinks of Those Who Have Spoken Evil of His Beloved”

A by-product of breathing, that mouthful of air, exhalation tracking up through the trachea,  plucking the vocal c[h]ords: vowels, consonants, syllables, words, words, words.  Say outloud the title of this post  – “screech me a poem, sugar britches.”  Dissonant, sharp, as unlovely as the scraping of a rake on gravel, echoing  Juliet’s lament as Romeo vacates their marriage bed:

It is the lark that sings so out of tune,
Straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps.

romeo-and-juliet-todd-peterson

Romeo and Juliet by Todd Peterson

Perhaps even more discordant is Gerard Manly Hopkins postlapsarian description of industrialization:

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

train-tracks-by-valerio-dospina

Train Tracks by Valerio D’Ospina

Who sez that poetry’s supposed to sound pretty?

Not Alexander Pope:

But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,

The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.

Nor that barbaric yawper Walt Whitman:

Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad disorder.

Nor Ol’ Ez in St. Elizabeth’s Mental Hospital ranting his way to a Bolligen Prize:

the drift of lice, teething,

and above it the mouthing of orators,

    the arse-belching of preachers.

pound

Ezra Pound

Thanks to its Anglo-Saxon roots, English is well-suited to screech.  However, thanks to its French invaders, our language can also coo.  And don’t forget the ess-cee (sc) words of the Vikings with their skalds singing of skulls and skies and dragons’ scales.

English-speaking poets possess quite a synthesizer through which to sample sounds, orchestrating Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and French symphonically (Milton) or piping a simple Saxon tune in tetrameter (Anonymous).

Given global warmification/climatic alternation, the following worry may seem as trivial as the date of Alfred Tennyson’s death, but I wonder, given our beeping visual small screen secondhand exposure to actual sights and sounds, if off-the-cuff eloquence might become as rare as first edition Kafkas.

In my youth, among my compatriots, having a way with words held sway.  I think of Jake the Snake Williams politely stringing together sonorous sentences to a Jehovah’s Witness in Richland Mall explaining why he wouldn’t take the tract, and the fellow smiling, nodding his head, and saying, “Brother, you got you an excellent rap.”  Or Furman Langley lamenting in a Lowcountry gumbo of gullah-echo the legend of the Boo Hag.

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The “like-like” syncopatations of youthful inarticulation and the ubiquitous interrogative lilt of their declarative sentences gives me pause?

I guess it all boils down to a matter of culture.

Bewildered, bewildering primate.  Absinthe.  Circumcision.  Couplets.

Grudges., beliefs.  The war of my childhood, Europe tearing at itself.

 

Scarification.  Conceptual art.  Classic celebrated scholarly papers

On the Trobriand Islanders, more fiction or poetry than science.

 

Absorbed or transmitted always invisibly in the air

From a digital Cloud.  Visible and invisible in the funny papers . . .

                                                       from “Culture by Robert Pinsky

A Tiny Tribute to Ry Cooder

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Ry Cooder is an underappreciated American treasure. Although his exquisite studio session work (with bands as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, and Paul Revere and the Raiders) has been invaluable and his delightful original compositions often remarkable, it is his work as an archivist that has enriched my musical knowledge and refined my musical tastes.

Cooder’s an excavator of buried treasures, a discoverer of exotic, beautiful music, whether it be from the Mississippi Delta, Mexico, Cuba, India, or Sub-Saharan Africa. He’s sort of a medium – a vessel through which these songs are filtered and then transformed into a mode that preserves their essence but makes them new.

Check this out, for example, a cover of Washington Phillips’ obscure gospel song “Denomination Blues” from Cooder’s second studio album Into the Purple Valley, released in 1972.

 

This snippet embodies a remarkable paradox of Cooder’s music — his recordings of dated songs never sound dated — they sound the opposite of stale.

His fourth album, Chicken Skin Music, might be my favorite. On this record, Ry embraces both Hawaiian and Tex-Mex music. Essentially, he blends those formats into country and blues numbers. For example, here are legendary Hawaiian musicians Gabby Pahinui and Atta Isaacs contributing to this old Hank Snow tune:

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Chicken Skin Music also features for the first time now long-time collaborator Flaco Jimenez and his diatonic button accordion. Here they are doing Jim Reeves’ 1959 “He’ll Have to Go” in bolero rhythm.

 

Not to give you the wrong impression; the cat can also rock, as he does in this cover of Elvis’s “Little Sister,” from the 1979 album Bop Till You Drop, the first major label album ever to be digitally recorded.

 

Of course, in recent years, Ry’s justly become famous for his collaborations with Cuban musicians in The Buena Vista Social Club, the Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, and the Indian sitar player Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.

Here’s a short clip from the Touré collaboration.

 

Add to that concept albums like Chavez Ravine, My Name Is Buddy, not mention his work with Little Village, the band he formed with John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner, and you have a body of work deserving of some sort of Presidential Medal.

I bet in a 100 years Cooder’s recording will not have aged – and that’s always been the test of great art. So c’mon Obama, before it’s too late. Don’t let President Trump bypass Ry Cooder for Wayne Newton or some other lounge singer. Let’s get going.

Walt Whitman’s Boys

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It was you that broke the new wood.

Ezra Pound, “A Pact”

Old Ezra said to ditch the metronome
and use the musical phrase instead,
locked doors, keyholes, camisoles, not ideas.

Robert Lowell made it personal.
Mental illness was his muse,
his fingers trembling as the typewriter clacked.

Seamus Heaney brought us down to earth,
his pen scratching old words across the page,
bogs, tors, spades, blackberries, frogs.

But Old Walt Whitman was the daddy of them all,
whirling his words like a hurricane,
snapping trees, flooding streets, derailing trains.