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...and they lived happily ever after. Smith & Lady: poets, artists, photographers & adventurers.
Our relationship was forged to the soundtrack of Yoko Ono's magic,
frenetic, love-laden song, "Walking On Thin Ice." ( play song )
 
   
 
 

Archive for May, 2011

MANNA STORMS FROM THE DIVINE

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

phone light

Dear Universe:

Here’s the quote you fed me this morn from my daily “Today’s Inspiration” newsletter:

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” – Alexander Graham Bell

That said, I should probably make this morning’s letter brief, stop thinking about phones, phenomenology and philosophy, and focus on work. I do not wish to feel a lot of anxiety this morning. It used to be that my flaming thoughts, the flaming creative thoughts, were mostly a joy. Now I see them as:

1) manna storms from the divine
2) manic storms

I get a lot of good thoughts from these manna manic storms. But I feel physically ill. My stomach hurts. I worry about the appropriateness of what I express. Please, let me be appropriate. Is there such a thing as appropriateness, or does the concept stifle? I think sometimes that expression is very important in making the Universe a more humane place to live.

Oh, that I would obsess over art! But I do not feel I have time for art. I feel hurried. I feel that I must chug out a large portion of work and promise for cash flow and karma, respectively.

Dear Universe-God-It-Ess, I need focus. I need only some obsession. Obsession is like focus. But obsession is compelled focus, whereas focus without obsession seems a tad more healthy. Can’t I give myself over to the manna storms sometimes? Aren’t they part of my participation in divinity?

I need to compartmentalize and to be productive in many areas, don’t I? Is the conventional wisdom wise? Why do I feel the need to hurry? Do I need to hurry? I have a list of promises I’ve made. I made one more promise yesterday as well but I’ve got a year to start working on it.

I’m being buried under my own creative compost and good intent.

. .

I have been thinking about memes and dreams. Memes are the fruits of processes, the underlying history not always obvious. I have been thinking that memes are valuable evaluated on their own. But then the underlying history can help one evaluate the consequence of spreading the meme–the underlying history is encoded in some memes depending on the sophistication of the meme’s exploiters and recyclers. These memes are fruits wrapped in vines. On what lode load rests a meme?

I cannot throw everything out because of tainted history. Even the concept of taint is repugnant to me–it requires conformance to some kind of virgin ideal.

This is the huge problem in human reason right this moment, I think. The fear of slippery slopes. The inability to think through complex things in a sequential order, shuffle it, think through it again, shuffle it, etc. We’ve got to get smarter. We’ve got to stop playing to an assumed “lowest” common denominator. We’ve got to assume that most can rise to a threshold that’s going to get us through our severe biosphere problems.

There’s a ridge one can walk for easy ethics, I think. And then there’s utility in footholds on the sides of the ridge. This is called moderation. Walking the ridge is called fear. Dualism is fear. The two-party dichotomy is fear. Either/Or is fear.

The history of memes, how they’ve been used in the past… is the history enfolded in the meme’s fruit on a quantum level? Does it depend on the mindset of the person eating the fruit? Does it depend on the mindset of community? I think so.

“One has to develop a memory,” I told Smith.

“I just stole mine from the Five & Dime,” he answered.

One also has to develop a dream…

. .

Dear Universe, thank you for everything, especially the sky and the lawns and the trees and the woods and the raw uncut metaphorical swaths that are left, the metaphorical wilderness that I’ve not yet explored. I’m thinking particularly about country music as a context in which to understand Smith more, as a springboard for another context in which to understand his biography (one of the projects I’m working on now.)

Dear Universe, thank you for my health, my intelligence, my luck, my love.

. .

 

morning moral

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Cain & Abel – foto by Smith

Wrote this a year ago, but my recent physical miseries and all the help and niceness I’ve received from people these past two weeks of hip replacement recovery reminded me of it.

You need to look past its simplicity because sometimes even in greeting card verse, there’s truth.

Of course, Cain killed Abel in a fit of God jealousy, so I’m not sure if that sours the subtext.

Abel’s Fable

Life is messy
People are frail
No one’s perfect
We’re all going to hell

So learn some compassion
Patience too
Help one in trouble
It could happen to you

— Smith, 2010


We’re all bozos on this bus – foto by Smith

 

Dear God-It-Ess-Universe

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Dear God-It-Ess-Universe,

Of immediate concern in the vicinity is the flooding that’s happening in the U.S.

And of course, the tornadoes.

I am writing to let you know that I am concerned. I do not wish suffering for people. But of course I choose biosphere over people, if that choice has to be made in that way.

Perhaps extreme weather events are the only way we’re going to change, and perhaps people in the U.S. in particular need to be awakened to extreme weather events and their cause.

I think the best thing we can do is stop driving cars unless necessary, stop eating meat, unplug everything we can, and live within the rhythm of sun, moon and birdsong.

It’s reputed that meat, the desire for meat, is the cause of much suffering on this planet, both to our biosphere and to massive amounts of people and animals.

It takes so much more water, fertilizer, land space, vegetable matter to raise a pound of beef than, say, an equivalent amount, calorie-wise, of asparagus.

Forests are being clearcut in the Amazon to grow things to feed cows and to grow biofuel so that people can have luxurious lifestyles. The Amazon is the greatest area of lung on this planet. Please help us cease this clear-cutting by making wiser choices as ethical people and by creating better, more ethical opportunities for the people doing the clear-cutting as a vocation.

I am making incremental changes in my lifestyle to try to consume less, eat more locally, eat less meat, etc. Three weeks ago I bought four bags of magic beans. Two weeks ago I cooked two different things in the oven at the same time to save on energy consumption. The week before I learned how to make a healthy, inexpensive and tasty variant of hummus. This past week I’ve started to make my own bread.

I’m buying cage-free eggs from local farmers. The vendor at the West Side Market showed us pictures of the chickens. They are beautiful. They laze about in tall beautiful expanses of green grass. The egg yolks are bright, rich yellow, and I swear they taste extra fine.

I am soon getting half a share of produce from Geauga Family Farms. Pick up points are not limited to Geauga. There are points in Cuyahoga and Lake County as well.

I have doubled up duty on car rides. The two days I commute to work, I also do something special with Grandma. And I’m doubling and tripling up other car trips as well. I’ve started to consider only going to entertainment and poetry events in my local community as much as possible. My near goal is to commute with friends to get to events that are further out to minimize our impact on the environment and pocketbook. I aim to do everything I can do, within reason, yes, yet stretching my idea of reason to something that can effect change and help me live in a more joyful and reverent manner.

So what I’m asking you is to ease up on the floods and tornadoes, Universe. Have some faith in us and help us keep the faith by making immediate changes where we can perceive possibility for change.

Other prayers of note:

I pray for moderation, yet I pray to be possessed when I should be possessed.

I pray that I am ethical, calm, joyous, productive, and the same for Smith.

I pray that a certain family member starts writing a poem every day.

I pray that I finish my commitments so that I can feel more free to follow through on commitments to myself.

Thank you for the many, many blessings and miracles I receive daily from you-me-It-Universe.

Some private thoughts, hopes, thanks, prayers as well…

Love, Awomen and Amen,

Lady

LADY’S HUMMUS RECIPE

1# chickpeas, soaked overnight, rinsed, boiled in lightly salted water 1-2 hours until soft.
2 heads of garlic, roasted at 350 degree Fahrenheit 1/2 hour.
1/4 – 1/2 cup of your favorite vegetable oil (olive oil is a hoax perpetrated on the masses)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Squeeze roasted garlic out of its skin and mash in large bowl with fork, then blender. Squeeze cooked chickpeas between fingers as much as possible and put in the bowl as well. Add the other ingredients. Mix as much as desired (I like little chickpea bits left in mine.)

 

LETTER TO THE UNIVERSE – May 23, 2011

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

My morning ritual: I get up, the cat wades between my legs as I sit on the toilet, I urinate, I feed her, I drink water, I make coffee, I do three minutes of Yoga, I check Facebook, and I write a morning letter to the Universe. This is my time in the morning. My time to be ideal, to think, to visualize, to ask the Universe for favors, to promise favors to the Universe, and to start the day off in a constructive way.

With the devastation of such a large mass of our pollinating bees over the past couple years, one of the most important things to address in a letter to the Universe–from this corner of the Universe, at least–is the health of the bees.

Saw some bees buzzing angrily around a telephone pole this week. Thought perhaps they are angry about cellphones (reputed to be a cause of bee death) and are attacking anything associated with phones. Or maybe they’re just angry about our infrastructure/priorities in general. I’d be, were I a bee.

Bees are such important insects. Pollinating insects have tremendous implications for the existence of animals who eat fruit, such as humans. They are critical BEEDS, crucial to ensuring a healthy ecosystem for so many other species.

I think visualization has a role in constructing a better reality. Here are some hastily drawn visualizations. I wish I could dedicate myself well to all causes:

A way things can work

A WAY THINGS CAN WORK:

Vision: One million more generations of great health for humans -> pollinating insects -> endless loop.

Another way things can work

ANOTHER WAY THINGS CAN WORK:

Goals: Happiness for Many & Happiness for the Individual.

Process: Think -> Prioritize -> Do -> Refine -> Endless Loop.

Visualization is important, and action is a way to follow through. I think I am not renewing my cellphone contract when it expires, and turning it off and just checking voicemail a couple times a day for now, and that I will return to a land line. The cell phone is too expensive, anyways. Am also thinking about returning to a wired network for our computers as I don’t know how all this wirelessness affects the insects or our health as well.

We’d do well to learn from bees. We can refine and humanize concepts of collaborative efforts. Collaboration does not need to be for tribe or nation over other tribe or nation. Collaboration can lend itself to a world civilization, a world society, a world organism that is not fighting itself, but finds itself on the mend.

Lady

 

fear ride

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Lady down by the pond – foto by Smith

Wasn’t sure I’d be alive to see this morning. Last night’s ride home was as scary a ride I’ve had as Lady expended inhuman heroics in keeping her eyelids almost half open for the 75 minutes she weaved us home at 65 miles an hour.

It was a long, hard maybe shouldn’t have been done day.

Lady awoke at 3am. She’s usually back in bed and asleep by 7pm. Trouble is she decided to drive out to her parent’s farm so she could walk around the pond and watch hummingbirds and Yellow Warblers as she did our laundry. Since I always do our weekly laundry, she had no data on how long multiple loads can take with one machine, so we didn’t get started back until 8pm, more than an hour past her bedtime.

And when Lady’s body decides it’s time to go to sleep, she’s gone — it’s like an off switch is thrown and it’s goodbye Jones.

The ride home was terrifying. I’ve watched Lady fall asleep enough times I can tell how far along she is by the slow-moving heaviness of her eyelids. Within ten minutes of our 75 minute drive back, she was already gone, her eyelids held not quite half-open by sheer will. I wasn’t sure we were going make it, became so worried I suggested we stop and get a motel room, but she just kept driving, staring ahead in dazed drone down the road at the tail lights of the car ahead.

We were in one of those Twilight Zone hell-loops I didn’t know how to break out of, especially since she insisted she could do it, would do it, and in fact was doing it. One of the longest 75 minutes of my life.

She was weaving within the lines, sometimes going over and jerking back. I felt helpless, even scared and told her so, which made her laugh and wake up for a few minutes. I always drive and she usually sleeps on our return journey, but the doctors say I can’t drive for another two months. Even so I suggested she pull off and let me drive with my ten-day old hip replacement — I figured it would hurt a lot and I wasn’t quite sure how I’d manage it, but at least we’d be alive. Also tried to get her to pull off and walk around the car a couple times or take a nap, but she was too far gone into getting the job done for me to get through to her. Plus she’s one of the very few people as stubborn as I am.

To keep her awake I became her personal non-stop talk and touch radio station, slapping the dashboard and her thigh in different rhythms, running my fingers through her hair, massaging the back of her neck, yowling loud nonsense, constantly asking her odd questions or telling her stupid stories, all the while making sure my left hand was never far from the weaving steering wheel and keeping one eye on the road and my other on her drooping dropping eyelids.

She told me today she felt like she was asleep and driving in a dream state.

What she did was beyond doing, yet she did it.

What she did was also scary and dangerous, and my description here doesn’t begin to capture my fear of being trapped helpless between here and there.

In a final joke reality played upon us, we had to make the bed with our just washed sheets after we got home before she plopped unconscious.

Today we’re both zombies.

As I get older, I’m finding these do-or-die madcap adventures less thrilling, less exciting, less fun — but they do make for good stories after.


land line – foto by Smith

 

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Smith’s telling me all kinds of stuff this morning…

I’m thinking of Sunday Morning Coming Down right now and it’s quiet, it feels like Sunday morning.

Kris Kristofferson was a Rhodes Scholar, which means you have to be pretty fricking smart. After he graduated in England, he came back to the U.S. and with all this college education and everything, he chose to get a job at Johnny Cash’s recording studio as a janitor because he figured he’d get a chance to slip Johnny Cash a copy of his songs he’d written.

And one of the the songs he slipped to Johnny Cash was Sunday Morning Coming Down which is one of the saddest, most heart-evocative songs I know.

Johnny Cash was gonna sing the song on his show. His TV people came to him and said, “We don’t want you to say this line On the Sunday Morning sidewalk wishing Lord that I was stoned/ cuz there’s something in a Sunday makes a body feel alone.” We don’t want you to use the word stoned on TV.”

And Johnny Cash turned to Kris Kristofferson and said, “How do you feel about this? You wrote the song. What do you want me to do?”

Kristofferson said, “It’s your TV show. I would totally understand if you don’t want to use the word stoned.”

Everybody left it at that. And Johnny Cash went out there and sang it the way it was written.

I can’t believe Smith has all this shit in his brain, but I sure do enjoy it.

Sunday Morning Coming Down by Kris Kristofferson

Well I woke up Sunday morning,
With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes,
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
An’ I shaved my face and combed my hair,
An’ stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I’d smoked my brain the night before,
On cigarettes and songs I’d been pickin’.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid,
Cussin’ at a can that he was kicking.
Then I crossed the empty street,
‘n caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken.
And it took me back to somethin’,
That I’d lost somehow, somewhere along the way.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.

In the park I saw a daddy,
With a laughin’ little girl who he was swingin’.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school,
And listened to the song they were singin’.
Then I headed back for home,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin’.
And it echoed through the canyons,
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.

Do do do do do do do do,
Do do do do do do do,
Do do do do do do do do,
Do do do do do do do.

To fade…

 

Better day ahead

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Brighter days ahead for me – foto by Smith

Healing body stealing hibernating sleep.

Sit in chair.
Drop off to sleep.
Snap awake.
Look around.
Where’s Lady?
Oh yes, she’s in bed for the night.
Drop to sleep.
Snap head up.
Where’s Lady?
Oh yes. . .

Repeat endlessly

Take two illusions and call me in the morning.

I’ll be typing a letter and whamsnap wake with sore awkward neck, look around confused, look down to see laptop monitor filled with endless pages of 333333333333333333333333333333333333333333 or ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;.

My body’s stealing every second of reality it can to heal itself.

It was magic at first. Doctors told me if I were seriously motivated, I could get out of the hospital in 3 days — all I had to do was stand up on my own the day of the operation, walk a few dozen steps my second day, and navigate stairs on my third.

After my 90 minute operation, I stood on my own and took a couple steps. On second day I walked around the floor and up and down steps and they sent me home where I slowly climbed three flights of steps and began exercises.

Within 2 days I’m effortlessly doing whatever they throw at me, including walking with two crutches, one crutch, no crutches, a cane.

Four days after my body was first chopped and channeled, we went out to a party.

Each day was leaps and bounds better than expected, much less than feared.

Then today body says WHOA, easy magic effortless healing time over — from now on you must pay one heal at a time like mere mortals; every time I slow or sit, I fall asleep, awake with molasses brain on cricked neck.

Pain, sleep, molasses, confusion. My leg’s swollen thigh to foot like two sausages stuffed into a single casing not quite big enough for one. When the doctor took off my bandage he said “it’s going to look like you were hit with a truck, and we were the truck.” Bright purples mottled with ugly yellows greens and browns round and round from top on down. My genitalia appear to be imperfectly preserved grotesque purple-black Barney the Dinosaur fossils.

And yet, I’m amazed. Nine days after cutting, I can walk on my own, feel less pain than I did before the operation because this is mere flesh pain, not my previous 6 year bone grinding against bone pain. These doctors are wizards dealing in real magic.

This time next week I’ll get the 27 steel staples removed. They warned me not to remove them myself, as if I’d go down to Office Max and get a giant steel staple remover or something — although they might have a point since I have taken my own stitches out in my youth.

But whatever the minor cost of current curse, I’m happy because I’m maybe two months away from having a life again — and this time it will be a life better used because as Ral Donner sang in 1961, “You don’t know what you got until you lose it.”

I had, I lost, I’m regaining, and I’m bloody well going to work it well for the betterness called Lady and her scamp.

Blue ball, anyone?


Better days coming – foto by Smith

 

Lady Shanghai

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

a tune from my Lady – foto by Smith

Peter Ball took a recording of Lady K reading three of her older poems and incorporated them into his own new music/word/voice, creating a Kafka’s Lady web of words by way of The Lady From Shanghai.

So here via Lady K, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth and Peter Ball is Apartment One’s latest tune — Lady Shanghai at reverbnation.com/mutantsmith. (just click PLAY).

(Actually there are two totally different versions – see songs #1 and #19).

When Lady first came into my life, I called her Kafka’s Lady because she was so film noir foreign movie strange.

As I became used to her strangeness, she became Lady Kafka.

As I grew to accept her strangeness, I called her Lady K, which soothed some way to Lady as we daily lay.

But now that I know just how truly full of otherness and multiplicities and strange superpositionings she really is, she’s all of the above simultaneously, and then some.

My companion, my friend, my partner, my other, my weirdness — my wife


Lady K at craft fair table in Kirtland UU Church – foto by Smith

 

My back porch pedaling Paradise

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

My Back Porch, 1996, 13″ x 13″ – assemblage & foto by Smith

I have the above piece in this Friday’s

PEDALING ART: A Celebration of Bicycle Art and Culture
Wall Eye Gallery
5304 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, Ohio

They asked us to include a paragraph on what bicycles meant to us, so I wrote this.

From 1953 through 60, I lived on a 40-acre alfalfa farm in an area called Paradise Prairie, nine miles southeast of Spokane, WA and eighty-one miles west of the Idaho panhandle Bitterroot range of the Rocky Mountains where I was born.

What greater gift for a future poet and artist than to be born in Bitterroot, raised on Paradise Prairie?

And in the Heart of the Inland Empire in the Great Pacific Northwest back in the Norman Rockwellian innocence of the 1940s as well. Even David Lynch would itch envy.

I was 7-14 years old and my bicycle was my Golden Rocket to the 2-room white wood school house, the 4-H Club, the Grange, the 2-room white wood church — all one to seven miles away. The school had grades one through four in one room, fifth through eighth in the other, 36 kids in all.

My bike was my magic carpet through this Paradise — if I weren’t up a tree or roaming the woods, I was bicycling to school, to friends, to church, to our landlord’s barn to bare the breast of his daughter.

And I still remember standing straight up on the pedals, thighs gripping the seat prong, arms flung straight out, the bike and I flying ever faster down the steep curving rock strewn dirt road hill, riding that pre-edge thrill between heaven and hell.

— Steven B. Smith, 5-17-2011


New Era – foto by Smith

 

Down and Outs Club

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Pain proxy (ceiling of Chiplis’ art studio) – foto by Smith

Chiplis, our found-neon sculpture artist friend, gave a Life Celebration Party yesterday to commemorate his full recovery eleven months after being seriously shot twice in an unsuccessful robbery of his cell fone.

Lady and I figured it’d be great to caboose on his train to celebrate my own new life celebration. Unfortunately we stayed 2 hours instead of planned 20 minutes and today is sore gray cool sleepy and wet . . . a take the day off or else kind of day.

Still it is almost magic that four days after major surgery to chop and channel my chassis, we went out and socialized. Some of today’s surgical procedures approach wizardry.


Chiplis in his Tremont art studio – foto by Smith

And a great shout out to my wife Lady K aka Kathy Ireland Smith for the love and care and tenderness and support she’s surrounded me with this past week. It’s been hard hard weary worry week for her, yet she made it easy on me. She’s my dream meme, my partner dream, my life scheme, companion supreme. May my surgery take some of the worry from her load.


Worn and weary high voltage Lady at Chiplis party – foto by Smith

Peter Ball sent me a gentle funny new cool song yesterday titled Down and Outs Club with delightful vocals by Rick Wagar and Peter — and he did me the honor of including small snippets from my old 2005 gravelly cancer-ridden voice box. My raspy words sneak in and out of odd places at odd times. The tune’s infectious and put a smile on my face and a beat in my bounce.

So I added it to reverbnation.com/mutantsmith even though I’m but a blip in the whole of the flow, but what a delightful flow.

Peter included this news flash when he emailed me the song:

Down and Outs Club News Report:

Cleveland poet Steven B. Smith joins cast of new Apartment One release “Down and Outs Club”.

Asked if he was pleased, Smith responded: “Go away, kid.” Major guffaws from the studio audience followed.

Peter Ball quipped, “Scoring Smith for this song is a major coup. He used to jam with Bill Haley and the Comets.”

Peter’s referring to my attempt to interview Bill Haley for a Baltimore newspaper — here’s a snippet from my memoir:

In the early 70s I went backstage to interview Bill Haley of the Comets. The usher took me back and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Haley, this man’s here to interview you for the paper.” Haley looked me in the eye and said, “Go away, kid. I’m counting my money.” And that was it. The sad part is I could have interviewed Little Richard instead.


VerCity (detail of Chiplis Studio) – foto by Smith

 

 
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