Metamorphosis of the Vampire, 1857
Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Meanwhile from her red mouth the woman, in husky tones,
Twisting her body like a serpent upon hot stones
And straining her white breasts from their imprisonment,
Let fall these words, as potent as a heavy scent:
“My lips are moist and yielding, and I know the way
To keep the antique demon of remorse at bay.
All sorrows die upon my bosom. I can make
Old men laugh happily as children for make.
For him who sees me naked in my tresses, I
Replace the sun, the moon, and all the stars of the sky!
Believe me, learned sir, I am so deeply skilled
That when I wind a lover in my soft arms, and yield
My breasts like two ripe fruits for his devouring — both
Shy and voluptuous, insatiable and loath —
Upon this bed that groans and sighs luxuriously
Even the impotent angels would be damned for me!”
When she had drained me of my very marrow, and cold
And weak, I turned to give her one more kiss — behold,
There at my side was nothing but a hideous
Putrescent thing, ail faceless and exuding pus.
I closed my eyes and mercifully swooned till day:
And when I looked at morning for that beast of prey
Who seemed to have replenished her arteries from my own,
The wan, disjointed fragments of a skeleton
Wagged up and down in a lewd posture where she had lain,
Rattling with each convulsion like a weathervane
Or an old sign that creaks upon its bracket, right
Mournfully in the wind upon a winter’s night.
Le Vampire, 1857
Translated by Atti Viragh
You who, keen as a carving blade,
Into my plaintive heart has plunged,
You who, strong as a wild array
Of crazed and costumed cacodaemons,
Storming into my helpless soul
To make your bed and your domain;
— Tainted jade to whom I’m joined
Like a convict to his chain,
Like a gambler to his game,
Like a drunkard to his bottle,
Like maggot-worms to their cadaver,
Damn you, oh damn you I say!
I pleaded with the speedy sword
To win me back my liberty;
And finally, a desperate coward,
I turned to poison’s perfidy.
Alas, but poison and the sword
Had only scorn to offer me:
“You’re not worthy to be free
Of your wretched slavery,
You imbecile! — For if our means
Should release you from her reign,
You with your kisses would only breathe
New life into the vampire slain!”
You may read other translations of Baudelaire’s poems here, Les Fleurs du Mal.
Les Fleus du Mal, 1857, Charles Baudelaire, is the book of poetry I am secretly always looking for a vastly under priced first edition/early edition copy of, one with a beautifully embossed cover, in every scouring of every thrift or antique shop I enter. I have a paperback copy, Penguin Classics, containing the original verses in French, in addition to the English translations. I don’t know quite what it is about these verses that fascinates me so, as their lines do not seem to stay with me long after reading them, at least, not that I’m aware of. They are beautiful, horrible, poems. Influenced by the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Baudelaire was convicted on obscenity charges, for which he, the printer, and the publisher, were fined. Quite the interesting literary character, credited with coining the term “modernity,” about whom I am still educating myself. Interesting to me in this moment, however, as I am writing about vampires, are these two poems composed by Baudelaire about a vampire, that I’d read before however had not realized were written forty years prior to the publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in 1897. Forty years is a lifetime when you consider that Baudelaire himself did not live beyond age forty-six… that we know of.
This has led me to a poem by Lord Byron, The Giaour, 1813, these lines are known as “The Vampire Passage”, said to be the first reference to vampire lore in English literature ( I’m learning some things) according to that site/link. ( I found a pdf copy of the complete poem, it’s fifty-one pages long. Later for that, eventually.)
- “But first, on earth as vampire sent,
- Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
- Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
- And suck the blood of all thy race;
- There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
- At midnight drain the stream of life;
- Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
- Must feed thy livid living corse:
- Thy victims ere they yet expire
- Shall know the demon for their sire,
- As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
- Thy flowers are withered on the stem.”
Quite frankly, I’m reminded of my own first scribbled poem (along with several other of my poems and not at all to compare myself to Lord Byron other than talking subject matter) when I’d no idea whatsoever who Lord Byron was, or knew anything at all about writing poems. I thought poems had to rhyme and when pressed to produce one for a school assignment, I figured all poems were depressing or had to be “lofty” somehow. (Yes, this is well covered territory.)
“A flower starts out very small,
Then it will grow to be very tall,
then it will reach down and die,
Upon the ground, there it lies.”
It wasn’t fifty-one pages, but it got the job done, got an “A” for that in 1977. I had no emotion about that poem whatsoever other than wanting to be finished with the thing and being glad that I was. Looking at it now, that third line is strange to me, as though a flower were not wilting, as though it were tired of all that stretching upward toward the light. It rhymed. However, in some way, perhaps everything was right there in that first poem, these recurring themes in my own work. Perhaps it was always going this way, writing about vampires, and such.
I used a quote from Lord Byron’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, in The Slick Furies to begin Part Two of the book, “Among them, not of them, in a shroud.” Not because I was, or am, terribly familiar with that poem, but because I remembered that line, that quote as being something somewhat paraphrased or nearly so, from a scripture, “In the world, but not of it.”
I think, perhaps, what is of interest to me is the willingness of these writers to write such dark things at all. What is the light without the contrast? I feel at home with these discoveries, new to me. I am fascinated. The work continues.
Les Metomorphoses du Vampire
La femme cependant de sa bouche de fraise,
En se tordant ainsi qu’un serpent sur la braise,
Et pétrissant ses seins sur le fer de son buse,
Laissait couler ces mots tout imprégnés de musc:
— “Moi, j’ai la lèvre humide, et je sais la science
De perdre au fond d’un lit l’antique conscience.
Je sèche tous les pleurs sur mes seins triomphants
Et fais rire les vieux du rire des enfants.
Je remplace, pour qui me voit nue et sans voiles,
Le lune, le soleil, le ciel et les étoiles!
Je suis, mon cher savant, si docte aux voluptés,
Lorsque j’étouffe un homme en mes bras veloutés,
Ou lorsque j’abandonne aux morsures mon buste,
Timide et libertine, et fragile et robuste,
Que sur ces matelas qui se pâment d’émoi
Les Anges impuissants se damneraient pour moi!”
Quand elle eut de mes os sucé toute la moelle,
Et que languissamrnent je me tournai vers elle
Pour lui rendre un baiser d’amour, je ne vis plus
Qu’une outre aux flancs gluants, toute pleine de pus.’
Je fermai les deux yeux dans ma. froide épouvante,
Et, quand que les rouvris à la clarté vivante,
A mes côtés, au lieu du mannequin puissant
Qui semblait avoir fait provision de sang,
Tremblaient confusément des débris de squelette,
Qui d’eux-mÂmes rendaient le cri d’une girouette
Ou d’une enseiga’, au bout d’une tringle de fer,
Que balance le vent pendant les nuits d’hiver.
Late last night I finished work on another collection of poems, “Thelxiepeia.” This group of poems started out with a different title. When I began editing I knew that many of the poems would not make the final cut. They seemed parts of two books jammed together in a way that didn’t fit and so I opted for a cohesive finished selection and a new title. Thelxiepeia, in Greek mythology, is one of the Sirens, creatures whose seductive songs and music lured sailors to crash their ships. Sirens were often represented as being part woman and part bird. How I happened upon this story of Thelxiepeia was that I was watching an old movie called “Xanadu”, in which a muse, Kira, whose real name is Terpsichore, the muse of the dance, emerges from a mural, and falls in love with a mortal. There are fantastic musical numbers, Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, with music by Cliff Richard, The Tubes, and ELO. I’ve mentioned this movie before as it has most everything in it that an adolescent girl in 1981, one seeking some escape from excruciating pain, could require of a movie. I still think it’s a beautiful film, though from a completely different point of view this many years gone now. In watching it again I thought to look up the names of the Nine Muses of Olympus, one of whom is portrayed, though it isn’t a speaking part, by Sandahl Bergman, who is better known for her roles in “Conan the Barbarian”, “All That Jazz”, and “Red Sonja.” This led to looking up the names of the Sirens, and the writing of the poem, “Thelxiepeia.” Thematically overall, the collection has to do with the subject of muses and myths, with the stories we tell ourselves so that we can find a way to tell our stories, and those things that help us along the way in that.
In writing these poems, in watching “Xanadu” whenever it was, these poems were written several years ago, and remembering again that time of my life, I understood again how it is that I became a poetess, a writer, and how much of that, for me, relates to, or has or is entrenched in, films and music in someway. In 1981 I turned thirteen years old. Over the course of exactly one months time, I went from being a normal, healthy kid, to being emaciated and barely able to get out of bed. Five foot eight, at that time, my weight dropped to ninety-six pounds at one point. I couldn’t go to school, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t not sleep, and after months of weeks of grueling visits to doctors, specialists, hospitals, they couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with me that they could diagnose as anything other than Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, since re-diagnosed as an adult as Still’s Disease, which is similar to Lupus. That’s back story, it took a year to recover enough, to be well enough again, to really return to school. Point being that I really couldn’t do much of anything other than watch television during most of that time. I didn’t have the ability to concentrate or focus enough to read books during that time as I was in too much pain, though I’d been an avid reader up to then. Being as I couldn’t really do much of anything else during that time other than watch television, many of the usual restrictions on what I was allowed to watch, were lifted. Nineteen-eighty and eighty-one weren’t bad years for film, though my viewing was limited to whatever cable movie channel it was that we had or whatever was making its “Network Television Premier” and that was usually about a year behind whatever was in the theaters. I’ve spoken before about watching the film “Altered States” and feeling a strange understanding of the transformation of the main character while wondering why in the world anyone would willing put themselves through what he does. ( It’s like “Jaws” in that you find yourself just wanting him to get out of the water.) Along those lines I also watched the other werewolf movies of the day, “An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolfen” and the like. The feeling that I had sometimes was very much that I didn’t want to be that, and that I was nonetheless turning into some inexplicable creature and the world was turning into a strange place that didn’t understand me, anymore than I could understand it.
Most of the time, I couldn’t hold a pen or a pencil, couldn’t do schoolwork, wore Ace bandages and wrist braces and homemade splints. I was in so much pain so constantly, the world slips away when it’s like that, for anyone experiencing anything like that I would guess. The way that everyone else keeps time is meaningless and useless and of no importance. On the better days, I’d wish I was at school, I’d think about all I was missing out on, dances, friends, boyfriends, classes I liked. I couldn’t ride my bicycle or play sports anymore and I’d always been the kid that was outside from sunup until dark, though really it was beyond wallowing. Whatever the future was going to hold for me was forever changed. My mother said, “You know, you could still write. You could try writing poems again.” I’d written poems in grade school, and for school, though I hadn’t considered “writer” or “poetess” as a job option outside of possibly being a journalist, a newswoman. And I thought, “I can’t even hold a pencil.” But she got a couple of small notebooks for me and I remember writing what I still consider to be my first serious poem, titled simply, “Alone”, while I was sitting in bed watching the film, “Private Benjamin.” That movie is a comedy, containing one of my all time favorite movie line exchanges.
“Aunt Kissy: I hope my coat’s gonna be good enough. I had no idea it was gonna be so chilly.
Harriet Benjamin: It’s November here, Kissy.
Teddy Benjamin: It’s November everywhere, genius.”
But the film is ultimately about Judy Benjamin finding her sense of self, and the strength to be her own person, there was something in that that spoke to me beyond the ribald, raunchy, comedy, because in that place, the funniest thing in the world, isn’t quite so funny. In that place of so much pain, the funniest thing in the world seems illogical, senseless, and idiotic, I guess one way to put it would be like how the food fight in the film “Animal House” (1978), might not make you laugh if you’re not from a first world country where even waste is taken for granted, and what I was looking for were things that were hopeful in some way, or strong, resilient. It also may be that it was during that time that any remaining sense of humor I had, took a sardonic, somewhat self-deprecating, turn. I looked at the poem that I’d scribbled in the little notebook and that was the beginning, and I hope I never forget that moment. Additionally, it’s become evident to me that my brain might be hardwired for rhyme to some degree, and some of that comes from listening to music and song lyrics all my life. ( My father was a musician, both my parents could sing, there was live music in the house for much of my youth.) Eventually I was allowed to use my mother’s electric typewriter sometimes, when my hands were very swollen, as I could often still move my fingers on the keys for a while even if I couldn’t move my wrists or my hands, however much it hurt. I was a writer before that, but after that, I knew that I was, whether I’d claimed it or it had claimed me, and that was that. I’ve since tried not to be a writer a couple of times and that doesn’t ever work out. I used to say that my writing was my “human’s compensation,” like … yeah there’s all of whatever else there is, but then there’s my writing. God willing I’ll be able to keep writing and writing and writing. Human beings are resilient, and strong, courageous.
Finishing this collection of poems, and it isn’t quite as long as some of the others at only fifty-four pages, I could go right into editing another collection of poems but I found that I didn’t want to, I found myself wanting to work on some kind of story again, some fiction. Though really I am taking some time to organize and edit and clear the decks for the end of the year, hopefully do some fun things, spend some time with family. 2017 has gone quickly, hasn’t it? The last several years for me, I’ve realized, have been about finding myself as a writer again, finding my groove with it all, finding balance and self acceptance, allowing myself to be this and to honor it and the gift of it, to appreciate, and accept, and let be, my own muses. “Thelxiepeia”, I think, speaks very much to all of that. I hope to release it sometime next year, in early spring. I’m so grateful for this gift of being able to write, and I do consider it to be a gift. We all find inspiration or ideas in a lot of different things, people, places, it’s important to honor your muse(s), one of mine led me to Thelxiepeia. I’m uncertain in this moment if these poems were a farewell to the girl that I was or an homage, I feel like I can write about her, but I can’t ever again be her. I’m not sad about that, only grateful for having had the chance to be that girl, and to be looking now to the future as this woman. Becoming is ever ongoing.
great song from the film “Xanadu.”
How much work is involved in making a book, bringing a book to market, yourself?
I’d say that depends on the author. First you’ve got to write the thing and come up with, or out of it with, a final draft. I write it. I edit it. I format it. That is all me. I proofread it, again, and again, and probably again. I just finished the fifth page by page check of “Gold Mine”. I found a place in one of the pieces where “understand” needed to be changed to “understanding”. Spellcheck doesn’t catch that kind of thing, nor does it catch homophones, and sometimes a grammar check won’t catch those either. Editing poetry is far more tedious than editing stories or editing a novel. Editing a novel there is the forward motion of the story itself to keep you going, with poetry, each piece may be different, require different formatting. I also occasionally invent words and of course spellcheck doesn’t recognize those. I’m currently editing and publishing work from years ago, trying to get caught up. This is important, it doesn’t matter when a piece was written if it is good. No one looks at a Renoir and says, “That old thing?” Same goes for music and film, if something is good, then it’s good. Timelessness.
Making books this way is very much rebel book making. I’m not anti-establishment in that I wouldn’t ever say that I definitely wouldn’t seek to publish along traditional lines again. But, I am a person who believes in thinking for myself. I believe that my work is good, and I want to publish it in the way that I want to publish it, and in a timely manner. I’ve already vented my feelings about how I arrived at the decision to become an indie author. At this point I would say that it completely suits me. It allows for complete creative freedom and control. It allows for me to work at my own pace, or not work if I’m in too much pain. With my arthritis, I admit that I do always feel as though the clock is ticking on the longevity of my hands, I’ve got back and neck problems too ( as many writers do). Honestly, the physicality of my particular situation, I don’t know that I could do this any other way, it would have to be an unheard of super sweet deal of, “Sure, whenever, you want!” As yet, I am enjoying being an independent author.
I am also then in charge of getting my work our there, that’s the part that really isn’t my favorite because I’m not a natural salesperson. I’m a writer. I don’t have a team of anyone standing behind me, or as yet, an established fan base, or a publicist. Keeping in mind that each part of the process is time and effort. If you’re a writer who is handing things off to an editor or an agent, if you have an established fan base, then you’re not wearing quite as many hats as someone who is doing everything themselves.
I can tell you that having made the decision, I’m calmer, less emotionally invested in the b.s., hypocrisy, and politics, of any given situation, because I don’t have to be. And yes, that is a luxury, one that I’ve gifted myself with by opting out of the usual route. It is also a grace, something that I’m lucky to be able to do and I don’t take it for granted, I’m happy for it for however long it lasts. I’m incredibly grateful for my husband in that, he’s been supporting my work in one way or another for a very long time. I do not regret opting out of, for the most part, the fray. Quite honestly, recent situations within the entertainment industry only reaffirmed my decision to go rogue, to go rebel, and do this myself on my own terms.
All of this is a learn as you go process. How much work?
Like I said, this is the fifth time I’ve gone through this manuscript page by page. That’s after having written it in the first place. So write it, then edit it, then spellcheck it, then grammar check it, then proofread it, (when you’ve got your final draft, or close to it, I say file your copyright,) then format it, then check your formatting to make sure everything looks as it should on each page, again, check your acknowledgments, your credits, your permissions if needed and you’ll be teaching yourself all of that too. Then you’re going to design your cover, or have someone do that for you. My philosophy about that is not to over think it, I’m a writer, yes I want the covers to look good/decent, ultimately that’s the wrapping paper, but I’m not an artist or graphic designer and I can’t afford to hire one as yet. I’ll get better at the covers as I go, ultimately, I am a writer and it’s the words that matter the most to me. ( It’s who you are inside that counts right?) But, you’re going to do that too, design your covers. Etc. Etc. Etc. It can all take anywhere from months to a few years. ( From what I’ve read around, going the traditional route to publishing a book, providing you get a book deal, is an average time of about two years from idea and pitch to finished manuscript and publication.)
It isn’t the way to go for everyone, or even most, perhaps, but it is working for me. Am I a selling millions of books? Well, not quite yet. There are no guarantees along those lines regardless of the publishing route you choose.
The cover of “Gold Mine” is a picture of an x-ray of the fused bones of my right hand and wrist, the cause arthritis ( Still’s Disease), from several years ago now, that’s it. I often wear a brace. The clock is ticking. “Gold Mine” is a collection of poetry and prose the last piece of which was written in 2009. Collections, whether it be poetry or stories, take longer to accumulate.
Each writer has their own goals in my mind for what they want to do and how they want to do it when it comes to their work. For now, this is working for me. “Gold Mine” should be available for purchase sometime in early November. There are several pieces from the book available to read for free here on this webpage, just type Gold Mine, into the search box, though I will list the links when the book is ready.
I’ve been doing some serious thinking about the world lately.
Can you hear the quiet?
This serious thinking isn’t a new thing for me. This bout of thinking began with the drug induced suicide of a rock star. I’m referring to it as drug induced because we’ll never really know and the fact is that those kinds of drugs can cause those kinds of thoughts, so, I think, in this case, give it the benefit of the doubt. Still though, I couldn’t figure out what it was about it that bothered me so much, I mean, I didn’t know Chris Cornell personally. I realized that it was that it felt like something of a betrayal, not that he owed any of us anything. But it felt like he was fifty-two years old and he had everything, he’d made it through when many of his contemporaries hadn’t, and, how dare he bail out, this icon of my generation. But then, remembering, it was probably the drugs. Then Powers Boothe died, but, he died in his sleep at sixty-eight years old and the general consensus seemed to be, “Good show!” Then a bomb went off at a concert, where kids where watching a former Nickelodeon star turned pop-princess perform, the bomb killed twenty-two people, the youngest victim of the Manchester Attack was eight years old. Then Greg Allman died. Then it was June. This week the President of the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and everyone lost their nut over it. If you’ve not read the agreement or anything about it and you’re interested in having an informed opinion, you should read it, and try to understand what it says and means, that’s my advice on having an opinion, take the time to educate yourself to figure what you actually think about whatever it is. At this point in the proceedings the internet became incredibly noisy.
Can you hear the quiet?
I got to thinking about some things, I’d been thinking about some things anyway.
Everyone is talking. No one is listening. Everyone has an opinion. Despite that, the first thing that I saw when I logged onto facebook was a post that read, “FUCK NO. Not again.” I haven’t read all the details of the latest incident in London. I’d gone out, to get some air, to get some quiet. To think. Despite my having gone out, and despite my sharing my thoughts on any number of things in the last day or so, this latest attack in London still occurred. Despite the multitude of opinions and thoughts offered up by everyone about everything, these things still happened, and they still happen.
Can you hear the quiet?
I know that venting and opinionating and ranting and all of that, can be a great stress reliever. You read this stuff, you hear about it, you’ve got something to say because it’s getting to you or everyone, you’ve been sitting in traffic for too long, or dealing with rude people or you feel helpless and powerless and it seems like the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and enough already! ENOUGH! The internet gets very loud with people saying, in their own ways, “Enough.” I understand that. I do. I’ve been sucked into that storm many times. It can make it tough to hear yourself think.
Are you free?
Are you a free person, a person who enjoys freedom? Is your mind free, have you freed your mind?
What does that even mean?
I was thinking about the Terracotta Warriors, also known as The Terracotta Army. Qin Shi Huang ascended the throne at the age of thirteen and would become the first Emperor of China. The Terracotta Warriors are life-size sculptures depicting his army, his whole army. Each one is different, they were not cast from a single mold. They were buried with him, along with many treasures, in order to protect him in the afterlife. Qin Shi Huang believed that “Yes, you can take it with you” and he believed it, they believed it, so completely that he replicated his entire army in these terracotta statues, more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses, cavalry horses, as well as many other figures and statues. The scope of it is truly stunning, completely breathtaking, to contemplate.
My fascination with this subject isn’t new. I happen to have a Terracotta Warrior of my very own. I should name him. I’ll think about that.
What I got to thinking was about how Qin Shi Huang had the full conviction of his beliefs, or, did he have his army replicated you know, just in case? What about Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife, all the treasures sealed in their tombs?
Different people, peoples, believe all different sorts of things.
This got me thinking about the Ganges River. Do you know about the Ganges River? The Ganges River is sacred to Hindus, present day. Hindus believe that having at least their ashes thrown in the Ganges will end the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, allowing them to attain eternal liberation of the soul. Many unburned remains find their way into the Ganges, that is, the recently deceased are regularly, ritually, thrown into the Ganges. It is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. You can read about this, and you would look at it, and you would think that the solution, to begin with, seems simple. But, they believe what they believe, completely. The Most Polluted Rivers In the World.
This is where I’m not saying what I think about “science” that goes tripping off to Mars while we’ve got all kinds of problems right here on Earth.
Does me knowing about any of this, Does me getting stressed out about any of these things, does it do any good? Does one more voice added to the din do anything other than raise the level of noise pollution? The other day I took one of those just for fun quizzes about “What’s your purpose in life?” and it said that my purpose is to achieve world peace. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, probably, that isn’t “really” my gig in life, and that the quiz came up with that answer based on information gleaned from my having shared a picture of Sandra Bullock as “Miss Congeniality” with the caption “And world peace.” Isn’t it enough to just take care of our own families, our own jobs, houses, cars, lives? ( Don’t litter.)
Can you hear the quiet?
So there’s this story about this woman, about her whole family, and how they went into the Siberian Wilderness during Stalin’s reign, and how at 71 years old, she has lived in the wilderness all of her life. The world has gone on, but, her lack of knowledge about what has gone on in the world hasn’t prevented her from living, that’s her reality. You can read that here.
Well, you’ve got to be informed. You’ve got to know what’s going on in the world! You’ve got to CARE! How can you can not care!
Are you free? There are a lot of people in the world who don’t pay any attention to any of the societal uproars and they’re just fine, people who never watch the news, they look outside if they want to know what the weather’s like, live their lives disengaged from the din. I think, in some ways, the internet is a kind of a modern Tower of Babel, and certainly, babble. You’ve got all these people from everywhere in the world able to connect and translate, using their computers, everything into one language, whatever their language is, that makes it all one language, able to read about and know, instantaneously in real-time, right now, if there is a high-speed car chase happening on the other coast, three thousand miles away. News of something that affects them not one bit, something that they can do nothing about, but that the knowledge of adds to, perhaps, depending on how they’re wired, their overall stress and anxiety level. The internet takes us out of the reality of where we are in our own actual present, and takes us into the reality of the world, the internet can make it feel like something that happened on the other side of the world, happened across the street. What that does is, as it affects people, it changes the way that people then go out into the world wherever they are. People are taking that stress from those faraway events into their own lives and then regurgitating it back out into the world, perpetuating stress and discord.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s all the bullshit about the Paris Agreement! And some ass-hat celebrity decided to voice another opinion that I don’t agree with!” She said, as she threw her aluminum can into the trash.
Can you hear the quiet?
I’ve made a decision not to watch the news anymore. I’ve made a conscious decision to avoid the infighting that’s going on, whether it’s the Right calling the Left “snowflakes” or the other way around, or just the seemingly endless reposting of “he said this and then…she said this!” it is all fueling the fire, adding to the noise, raising the overall stress level, and exacerbating the strife, except for those who thrive on it and those releasing their own stress ranting, but really, it isn’t doing much of anything else. Is it fake news? On which channel? I’ve made a decision to disengage from the divide and conquer propaganda permeating the world these days. I’m sure I can find something better to do, and be happier doing it.
Also, for anyone who thinks that a person can’t create viable, relevant work or art if they are “out of touch”, disengaged from the noise, and/or so on, I’m just going to say google up famous recluses and you’ll find many a list of some folks who did all right going their own way and thinking for themselves. I’m not saying I’m a recluse, just not interested in the bullshit, nor in the misconception that it is necessary to the creation of viable art.
Many, many, years ago, I lived in the desert. Now, this isn’t about the desert itself, and that is very much part of the point, though the desert, at that time, was the conduit for this experience and learning. The population where I was at, at that time, was about 1,200 people, spread out over a pretty wide area. There was no cable t.v. A few people had satellite dishes and this was back when that meant the huge satellite dish installed at ground level next to the house. You could get bad reception on one or two channels if you had a decent antenna, generally speaking, it wasn’t worth the trouble. During that eighteen months, the only television that I watched was, when it was airing, during the season, a weekly half-hour comedy show, at someone else’s house, and their reception was equally bad. Never watched the news, I don’t recall the television ever really being on. Trying to get a radio station to tune was an equally sketchy endeavor, though sometimes, late at night, I could get KLOS out of Los Angeles to tune in for a couple of hours. I used to borrow my brother’s cassette player, at length, to listen to tapes. We, I, had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world, no idea at all. If they’d dropped the bomb, we would have seen the mushroom cloud, same as everyone else everywhere else who had watched the news every night and spent every day all stressed out about something that they would have ultimately as much control over and foreknowledge of, as someone who hadn’t been paying attention at all.
What I was thinking was how quiet and peaceful that time was, in general. I thought, well, yeah, but there weren’t a lot of people out there in the desert. While that’s some of it, that isn’t the kind of quiet I’m talking about. There was an absence of external influence from the media, from popular culture, from society. What you find, also, is that you still manage to hear about the bigger things that go on in the world, through the periphery. It creates a peaceful mind, and a feeling of being very present in one’s surroundings. Is that “out of touch” with reality? Whose reality? I’m free not to watch the news. I’m free to disengage. You, ostensibly, can turn off the television anywhere, disengage from the “noise” wherever you are. I think that’s part of the problem with the world right now, we’re not, as individuals, obligated to take all that in. We’re not obligated to participate in the noise, especially if it does not serve us well. Some people thrive on it all. There’s that aphorism that says to take care of yourself, to nurture and feed your own soul, because what can you give if you haven’t taken care of you? How much more peaceful would the world be, if each person were at peace with themselves? I was thinking about that, at some point isn’t all the… social commentary, just someone else telling me how they think I should live MY life? (How many average people have it together enough that they should be telling anyone else – unasked- what to do or be or how to live?)(Personally, I’ve no use for the continuous spewing and promoting of the vitriol. In fact, I’ve had it with it. I’m going to quietly choose not to engage in it, whilst also dissociating myself from it and those who chose to engage in it because it is a choice. I’m not going to bother telling anyone how to behave, not my job. I’m saying this is what I’m doing. Each of us gets emotional on occasion, we all get defensive from time to time, making a habit of it makes that who you are. What’s that old saying? You never look good trying to make someone else look bad.)
I don’t know, but I can begin with me. If someone drops the bomb, I’m sure I’ll still see the mushroom cloud, same as everyone else. In the meantime, I’ll be happier, and that’s at least one person that I can improve the quality of life for. ( Really, don’t fucking litter.)
About 4 billion people in the world are NOT online and do not have internet access. Current world population estimated at 7.5 billion people. Between 600 million and 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water.
Grunge is the music that my generation created, whether the label of “grunge” is one that was met with approval or acceptance or not. Passionately philosophically divested in many ways from the heavy metal and “pretty” hair bands and glam bands of the heyday of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” of previous generations, the “heavy” in “Grunge” was born not only of a complete love of music, but of an emotional intensity extracted from a dissatisfied, sometimes bored, sometimes angry, raw, emotion, that infested not only the musical content itself, but the lyrics, which range from the poignantly poetic, the depressed and angry, to the sarcastic and sardonic, to the socially aware. Drawing on influences from both the punk sound and the likes of Black Sabbath, Grunge was music that was, and is, awake. Grunge said that whatever propaganda it was that the world was selling, they weren’t buying it, because it “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
“People were wearing flannel here long before grunge came out. It’s cold here. It’s a cheap and effective clothing apparatus for living in the Northwest. I don’t even associate it with a fashion statement or lack thereof. Eddie Vedder did more for flannel than anybody.” ~ Tad Doyle, from Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yam
“I think it’s come to mean alternative (grunge) in a way. I saw a grunge compilation album with a picture of a flannel shirt on the cover, and only half the bands were from Seattle. Now it seems like that word embraces anything that’s popular. You can watch a Tony! Toni! Tone! video and most of the people in there are wearing their version of grunge fashion. They look like they’re from Seattle, yet it’s an R&B song. So grunge has become an easy marketing reference, a handle for people who aren’t particularly interested in listening to music or what the bands do.” ~ Chris Cornell, Interview Magazine, 1994
What I remember about the beginnings of the stirrings of grunge, as it filtered down from the Pacific Northwest, was that it was only being played on alternative radio, or college stations. I remember hearing something about “grunge” having some claim on flannel shirt wearing and thermals and thinking, “We wear those here too (when it’s cold), well, some of us.” And no one quite being tuned into the fact that what was happening was a huge shift in our culture, this was music that was counter-culture. This was music that cared so much that it couldn’t care anymore what anyone thought of it. It was a generation rejecting a post 1980’s pretension that it couldn’t sink its teeth into as any kind of a viable reality, certainly not an affordable one, and what’s more, it didn’t want to. “Grunge” didn’t want to be labeled as anything other than music. It took the garage band to the warehouse and then on to the stadium. It wasn’t stoner-hippie music, it was “damn the man” music coming from my generation, a generation that wasn’t sure it was ready for that when only moments before we’d been tuned into Miami Vice, Magnum P.I., and Family Ties. Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and Pearl Jam’s “Ten,” broke in 1991, and so did Soundgarden’s “Badmotofinger,” and the tribute album, “Temple of the Dog.” While Nirvana and Pearl Jam stormed the airways into the mainstream with big hits there was something different about the voice of Chris Cornell, from the very beginning. This wasn’t music that was just willing to be dark, this was music that had jumped headlong into the primordial muck to mosh and try to body-surf through the ages. Balls to the wall, Grunge was the ultimate trust-fall. The song that stuck with me, that still stays with me from that time, that I’ve many a night before dinner said/sung, “Well, it’s on the table…” is Temple of the Dog’s, “Hunger Strike.” Then there was “Outshined,” with heavy lines that sound like a dirge and then it melodically takes flight, “it gives me the butterflies…” and traverses the depths again just as quickly.
The soulful anguish, the raw ache, the depth of emotion of Chris Cornell’s voice is at the beginnings of a musical revolution. If Kurt Cobain burned out, and Eddie Vedder became, to some, something of a musical statesman, if Dave Grohl became the embodiment of no-nonsense getting up and getting on with it while still having a good time, Chris Cornell became the poet laureate of grunge. To say now that some of his lyrics are haunting is obvious and redundant, his lyrics and vocals were always haunting.
“I’m not a lyric writer to make statements. What I enjoy doing is making paintings with lyrics, creating colorful images. I think that’s more what music and entertainment should be.” ~ Chris Cornell
Is fifty-two years old, young? Is fifty-two years old, old?
Fifty-two years old is a person in my peer group, completely my generation. Chris Cornell had gotten sober. I’ve noticed lately that’s kind of a thing with my generation, if you’re of my generation and you partied as a teenager, or in your twenties, drank your way through your thirties, at some point in your forties, you run up against sobriety. In the 80’s we used to sometimes jokingly say, for one reason or another, “It was all the drugs I did in the 60’s.” even though, or because, that’s when we were born. Now, as middle-aged adults, we can say, “Well, it was the 80’s” and that passes as a cultural definition of excess. Grunge was the antidote for the 80’s, a coming of age emotional release, that for many of my generation has ultimately given way to sobriety becoming its own kind of rebellion. I think my generation fluctuates between, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” and “This World Is Hard, Don’t Bullshit Me.” Does it ever turn out the way that any generation thinks that it will? I’m finding my peace through the acceptance of this world is hard, but it is still beautiful.
I’m upset about the death of Chris Cornell in a way that I can’t quite explain. I think that I’ve listened to “I am the Highway” about I don’t even know how many times now, I love that song. I’m looking at the world starkly, that’s what works for me, I’m not a puppies and kittens and rainbows kind of gal, I’m the other side of that coin, even though I am certainly a romantic. The world needs both, balance. But I’m thinking about that too, the world, and what are any of us doing here. Earlier today, I saw a news story about how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is flattered by those who think he really should run for president, how “popular” an idea that is to some, and that he, The Rock, told GQ magazine that a bid for the White House is “A real possibility.” I don’t think that’s even the least bit funny or amusing. I thought it was deep down sad that that is where the mindset of anyone in this country is at, not that former actors haven’t taken up political office before, and not that I don’t like The Rock, as an actor, and hey, he might even be great at being president if that were to happen, but it’s this idea that celebrity, that “popularity,” rules the day. It’s boneheaded. I was thinking about how, in the same interview from 1994 where Chris Cornell talked about how you could watch a Tony! Toni! Tone! video and see a grunge fashion statement, Kim Thayil said that they had taken to avoiding wearing flannel in order to try to help distance themselves from what had become cliché, because it had become popular in the mainstream. What was the very antithesis of fashion, became fashion, and then the people for whom it was a usual mode of dress, they abandoned it, I was thinking how messed up that is. I was thinking that it’s awful that not even six months into the current administration the fighting between political parties has reached epic proportions and it is beyond pathetic to the point of being ludicrous. Everyone has an opinion, including me, and I thought, that’s it, this is it, the exact moment when I ceased to engage in political discourse, the moment when I heard that The Rock was seriously considering a run at the White House. I thought of the movie “Idiocracy” and of Flint, Michigan, and Brawndo, it’s popular, it’s what plants crave. Everyone seems to be feeling instead of THINKING. Has the world always been this crazy? Has the world always been this dumb? I think, it’s important to remember to find healthy ways to keep from feeling overwhelmed and to disengage from the din.
The last thing that I read about the death of Chris Cornell was that he may have taken an extra Ativan or two. ( Rolling Stone.) Ativan is used to treat anxiety. You never know what someone else is going through. Addiction is a big demon. You think, the guy had everything. But there’s no judging that, for anyone, what is everything? I think, am of a mind, to say, stick around, fight, see what happens, to hell with ’em! But there’s no judging that for anyone either. I don’t want to descend into a discourse on battling dark times, just, there’s no judging what it’s like for any other human who isn’t feeling great or well or thinking clearly. Reports of his last show in Detroit have been that something wasn’t quite right with him. I haven’t watched the concert footage and don’t know if I will. I thought about, wondered about, how far away do those guys get from where they started? How far away does anyone get from who they began as, if they get where they think they wanted to go? It seemed to me that Chris Cornell stayed pretty true.
I made up my mind not to watch anymore news today, I don’t know if I’ll watch any tomorrow either. Am I obligated to? Am I obligated to pay attention to the mess or to be a voice for anything? I straightened up my house, did laundry, made some food. I looked at a catalog, thought about ways to decorate, about how much I like flannel shirts and don’t give a flying fig if they’re fashionable or not, ever. I thought about the irony of the fact that the renaissance of coffee-house culture was spawned at the birth of grunge, the Seattle Sound, and how that gave way to the very corporate Starbucks, something that is the antithesis of everything grunge was about. Grunge, though, outgrew the label, the terminology, and grew into itself from those roots, the bands and musicians that emerged from that era, are the creators of the musical landscape of my generation. I gathered up some cd’s, made a plate of chicken and rice and sat down to write something about it all.
Chris Cornell’s music has seen me through many a long night writing, and, providing that I have anything to say about it, it will see me through many more seasons to come. An important artistic voice of my generation, a musician, a poet, a soulful singing prince with an intense Jesus gaze and flowing locks, an originator and innovator, of not only musical change but of a cultural shift in awareness, Chris Cornell left us with many gifts, he will be missed. The world is a hard place, but it is still beautiful.
Carry on, my friends. Get up. Go on.
The Promise Lyrics
If I had nothing to my name
But photographs of you
Rescued from the flames
That is all I would ever need
As long as I can read
What’s written on your face
The strength that shines
Behind your eyes
The hope and light
That will never die
And one promise you made
one promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
As we’ve always done
And you said
“The poison in a kiss
Is the lie upon the lips”
Truer words were never shared
When I feel
Like lies are all I hear
I pull my memories near
The one thing they can’t take
And one promise you made
one promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
As you’ve always done
The books still open
on the table
The bells still ringing
in the air
The dreams still clinging
to the pillow
The songs still singing
in a prayer
Now my soul
Is stretching through the roots
To memories of you
Back through time and space
To carry home
the faces and the names
And these photographs of you
Rescued from the flames
And one promise you made
one promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
And dare to rise once more
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
And fill the world with life
As we’ve always done
Why should we pretend we are not devastated? These lives, these loves, the lovers into friends, and friends, into lovers? Why should we pretend our passions do not drive us to distraction?
Because these pretensions are the foundations of the world.
What is the world, that we cannot take it, and have it and keep it? What is the world but someplace to paint our legends on? A canvas unforsaken like the dawn of ever after, it is ours but here we sit and ponder it, and do not live but die a thousand times a day for want of all that more that is no more than love and feeling home within a lovers arms, and on clean sheets, and driving ’round familiar streets, we long for safety. Oh, but then to look into your eyes and know that you are mine, and there’s some understanding, but I can hear you laughing, because is it as serious as all that?
It never is in the beginning, the sinning, but then is that even what it is? Should we pass judgment, or should we just live, and love, the way we want to? I dream a better dream, with you next to me.
We seek a comfort and a shelter from the world, in each others arms.
We seek a fortress, in the dark.
~ Teri Skultety
You know what a woman wants? A badass son of a bitch who can make the trip and still treat her like the most precious being on the planet. A man who’s really a gentleman, even if sometimes she doesn’t act like much of a lady. She wants a proper rescue. She wants gallantry and chivalry and decency, chemistry and, understanding.
She wants a knowing look exchanged before you take her hand and jump together. She wants thunder storms and sunny weather. She wants you to remember her birthday with an obscure book mentioned once in passing. She wants you to give her a wild flower. She wants you to carry her if she cannot walk. She wants you to be there every time she falls and understand what it means every time she gets up. She wants you to grab hold of her hips, pull her up against you, look her in the eye and not lie, when you tell her she is everything. She wants a fortress in your arms. She wants a connection with you so strong that people take a step back when you exchange a glance, and gasp, when they see the two of you slow dancing together. She wants you to read her mind and respect her privacy, or at least, her illusion of it. She wants to be able to be quiet with you, and know, and believe. She wants fireworks. She wants sunsets and sunrises. She wants happy, naked, joyful dancing, and to feel like she is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. She wants you to push her on the swings and carry her into the waves and fall with her on the beach and kiss her until she can barely breathe, your hands moving over her rib cage, across her belly and down between her thighs. She wants to take your breath away with her smile. She wants you to notice the subtle change in her expression that escapes every other eye but tells you that she needs the reassuring squeeze of your hand, or that it’s time to leave the party. She wants to know that you know who she is so that when you touch her it becomes an expression of your appreciation of her. She wants you to make love to her. She wants you to fuck her. She wants your admiration and your awe. She wants you to look at her and say, “No one can hold a candle to that woman.”
She wants your praise, your encouragement, your faith and your belief, because if you believe in her, she can do great things. She wants you to know when she can’t make it on her own and she wants you to give her some help without making her feel like she’s a failure. She wants you to know how hard it is for her to ask for anything. She wants her name tattooed on your heart. When you say her name, she wants you to say it with a sense of possession and knowing and belonging. She wants you to put her first and she wants to never doubt it. She doesn’t want anyone else to ever doubt it either. She wants you to be able to fix the car, the sink, and hammer a nail straight like a real man, without complaint. She wants you to love her cooking and take her out to dinner. She wants you to be the one who measures up, never wants to let her down even if you sometimes do. She wants to inspire that want in you, because you inspire it in her.
She wants to be cherished. She wants a man who knows how fragile she is, and how strong. She wants a man who understands that “I love you” should never be used as a band-aid or an apology or an excuse or a manipulation or a last resort. She wants to know it her bones that your love for her is true. She wants you to forgive her. She wants you to be her salvation. She wants to be enough.
She wants something legendary, even if no one else ever knows the story.